Thursday, December 06, 2007

Romney on Religion

Former Massachusetts Governor and Republican Presidential hopeful Mitt Romney today delivered a major speech detailing his views on church and state, as well as how his faith would inform a Romney Presidency. (Audio and transcript from NPR here.) The speech contained a few interesting points:

1) Invoking JFK, Romney admitted to being a "candidate from Massachusetts," a fact he had heretofore been trying to hide by disavowing just about everything he did as Governor of the Bay State. Indeed, the Founding Father cited most in the speech is another Massachusettsite, John Adams.

2) The basic note Romney struck was "render unto Caesar." He would make policy judgments based on policy considerations and the interests of the people, not taking instructions from his church. At the same time, he would not disavow his Mormon faith. Okay, so far so good. But then to drive the latter point home, Romney said: "Americans tire of those who would jettison their beliefs, even to gain the world." It's hard to read that as anything other than a description either of how Romney ran for office in Massachusetts or how he's running for President. Either he jettisoned his deeply conservative views on social issues to win elections in Massachusetts (only to find them again later), or he is now jettisoning his quite liberal views. Or maybe it's a trick statement: In neither case was he trying to gain the world: just one state or one nation.

3) Trying to head off the fear that many Americans would find Mormon beliefs weird (an unfair charge if ever there was one; all religious beliefs are weird to those who don't share them), Romney said: "There are some who would have a presidential candidate describe and explain his church's distinctive doctrines. To do so would enable the very religious test the founders prohibited in the Constitution." Great. So how come the preceding paragraph includes the following: "I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God and the Savior of mankind." Is this not a "distinctive doctrine?" Or is it okay to say this because it will appeal to the Republican base that shares these beliefs?

4) There is also a strong nod to conservative monotheism in Romney's speech. He says he admires aspects of other faiths, and then lists various Protestant sects, Catholicism, Judaism, and Islam. No mention of Hinduism or Buddhism, and the Judaism he describes is only orthodox Judaism (if that), since Romney praises "the ancient traditions of the Jews, unchanged through the ages."

5) Whereas JFK came out for strict separationism, Romney repeats a standard conservative talking point, lamenting that "in recent years, the notion of the separation of church and state has been taken by some well beyond its original meaning. They seek to remove from the public domain any acknowledgment of God. Religion is seen as merely a private affair with no place in public life. It is as if they are intent on establishing a new religion in America - the religion of secularism."

6) Overall, it's hard for me to know what the effect of this speech will be. As a secular liberal, I'm pretty clearly not part of the intended audience, so I can only guess, but I don't know that Romney said anything here that would put aside the worries of the conservative Christians who think that Mormonism is not actually a form of Christianity. I just don't get Romney's argument for why such people should prefer him to Huckabee, whom they regard as one of their own.

37 comments:

Bella said...

Please note that the proper term for those from Massachusetts is "Massachusettsian" (mass-a-CHOO-shan). Although, in New Hampshire, the term "Masshole" is also in common usage.

Sobek said...

"I just don't get Romney's argument for why such people should prefer him to Huckabee, whom they regard as one of their own."

The argument is this: (1) Huckabee is virtually a Democrat other than on abortion and guns, so (2) the only reason to prefer him over Romney is because Romney belongs to a wierd religion. But (3) it's not really all that wierd, so that's not a good reason.

Whether you accept any or all of those premises is a different matter (most of my conservative friends who are leery of Romney have their doubts about (2)). But that's how I understand the argument.

Caleb said...

I think that your paranthetical in point three might not be entirely correct.

"Weird" could mean two things: unfamiliar, or, inexplicable. If you meant the second, then I guess you could argue that all religious beliefs are inexplicable to those who do not hold them (although it might have to be limited to those who do not hold any religious beliefs, since anyone holding religious beliefs could probably see justification for some belief in someone else).

If weird means "unfamiliar", I'm not sure that's the case at all. There are, I would argue, many places in the world where you could become intimately familiar with the manifestations of religious belief without sharing it. Mormonism is concentrated in a small geographical area, and so could be weird and unfamiliar to other Americans in a way that "Christianity" would not be.

Jamison Colburn said...

I read "weird" in the post to take the sense that "weirdo" takes, meaning "weird" beliefs are those that seem foreign and even a little deranged. And I think it perfectly captured the ersatz nature of Romney's ploy. I'm a little more worried than Mike, though, having witnessed how well such tactics worked for him here in MA. The speech reminded me of how "weird" I've always thought left-leaning legal philosophers are who want more religious discourse in the public sphere. This is precisely what we'll actually get. Terrif!

egarber said...

He says he admires aspects of other faiths, and then lists various Protestant sects, Catholicism, Judaism, and Islam.

One thing I've noticed about some conservatives down south: unfortunately, there is a growing anti-Muslim backlash among them. Some on talk radio, along with others, are having great success conflating Islam and terrorism.

I'm of course not saying this applies to all Republicans. But what I am saying is that even a subtle plug of Islam could hurt Romney in some places.

IMO, there's little logic behind faith litmus tests. But the dynamic is nonetheless very real come election time.

Paul said...

IMO, there's little logic behind faith litmus tests.
__________

I am not sure that is right. Putting aside my actual beliefs and desires - an openly atheist President who would use the pulpit to remind everyone on a regular basis that doing away with all religions (at least all the monotheistic ones) would cure most of the world's problems - I think a litmus test on religion is not unfounded in logic.

Observation of a "standard" religion - which for the US means Protestant or Catholic - is at least a designation of conformity. I think you can make both positive and negative considerations from that, but whatever value you place on it religion is a great indicator of that trait.

It is impossible to come to religious beliefs from a viewpoint of reason. Thus, a person who holds such beliefs does so because (s)he chooses to conform to the beliefs of his or her society.

Initially, that society is the family. Eventually (at least sometime considerably before one runs for national office), that society becomes the nation. Ones' choice of religion tells something non-trivial about a person that I think could as rationally form the basis of a litmus test as any particular "substantive" issue.

Sobek said...

For the record, I subscribe to (1) in general, although it goes too far as a generalization. I disagree on (2). Objectionable as Huckabee's record is to a conservative, it has been solid on guns and abortion, and those are two very big deals for conservatives. Romney says he has changed his mind on both, and if true, that's all well and good. But is it true? Without a record, it's hard not to be nervous. As for (3), I agree with those (here and elsewhere) who point out that all religions are wierd.

Anil Kalhan said...

even a subtle plug of Islam could hurt Romney in some places.

Except that here, as with so many of Romney's views, it's a flip flop.

Caleb said...

Paul,

I'm not sure I entirely agree. First, I'm not sure that abolishing religion (whatever John Lennon suggested) would end global warming, feed the world's hungry, or - in any real sense - end any of the political conflicts that are ongoing in the world.

Secondly, I would argue that any beliefs (religious or not) can be an indicator of conformity. Conformity is dependant on the circumstances; if you are surrounded by Christian beliefs, then having Christian beliefs could be a matter of conformity. Of course, if you hold some of the beliefs, but differ from the majority on others, then even if you are "Christian" it wouldn't be a question of conforming. Similarly, if everyone around is non-religious, then having religious beliefs would be non-conformist. Of course, in that environment you could still choose to be non-religious (and therefore not be a "conformist").

On that measure, the litmus test of religion doesn't - to me at least - seem to measure very much unless we know the content of a person's beliefs and how they formed them. Since that is almost impossible to really know, I'm not sure that it would make sense.

After all, the fact (as far as I know) that no male presidential candidate has appeared at an event in a skirt suggests, to some degree, that they are all conformists, but I doubt it would be a useful test either.

Paul said...

"unless we know the content of a person's beliefs and how they formed them."
__________

Where a person's religion is concerned, unless that religion is different from that of his or her family, is there really any doubt about hoe it was formed? Do you believe Romney is Mormon for any other reason than that he was "raised" to be a Mormon? Are there even other plausible explanations? I mean, it's not something you reason through and decide "yeah that's the one that makes the most sense."

Once you get passed that, e.g. the guy is Mormon because that's what he was told was right as a child, I don't see how his Mormonism doesn't become important in considering him as a candidate. It is not a matter of "taking orders from the church;" it is a matter of conformity with those beliefs.

Caleb said...

First, I should point out that I'm not a Mormon and I'm not trying to defend Mormonism.

As for whether an individual can hold the same religious belief as his family without it being a matter of conformity, yes - I think it's entirely possible. As I pointed out before, if you believe differently from your parents on some points, but fall within the same fold, that could be a non-conformist approach. Similarly, you could - I would argue - arrive at the same beliefs as your parents through a reasoned process (otherwise, there could be no "reasonable" believers - which is a very strong statement to make). And, I'm not sure what there is to stop the same logic applying to children of secular parents? As for Mormonism in particular, isn't it one of the fastest growing religions in the world?

As for his beliefs being important, I do agree. I'm not sure, however, that they should be the basis of a test for office - whether failing the test would be cause by having religious beliefs or by not having them. I think the ideal situation would be that a candidate could explain his or her beliefs as part of the reasons for the policies he or she chooses - if religious reasons are motivating a policy I want to know about it, but I don't want them to automatically disqualify that policy (after all, if a candidate feels it's a religious imperative to lower trade barriers to the developing world, I can get on board with that for other reasons).

Paul said...

otherwise, there could be no "reasonable" believers
_______

Well, yes, that is of course true. I would think it is apparent that faith and reason are incompatible. You do not come to a religious belief by logically/rationally/reasonably analyzing a situation and determining through reason that religion X is correct.

That does not mean that people of faith are otherwise reasonable/rational, etc. But I think it is clear that those people did not come to their beliefs through a process of reason.

To be clear, I am not using any of this in a pejorative sense. I just thought it was clear and understood that to have faith in something necessitates a lack of fact and reason. If you have fact and reason then no faith is required.

Paul said...

if a candidate feels it's a religious imperative to lower trade barriers to the developing world, I can get on board with that for other reasons
______

Maybe, but it could also be dangerous to do so. I think the Republican Party is facing a significant and long term lull in its power as a result of similar choices made during the 1980s. Look at Sobek's reply in this tread. He suggests that "abortion and guns" are two issues "very important to conservatives."

As a conservative and a guy with a lot of like-minded conservative friends, I can assure you that my idea of conservatism is radically different from Sobek's. I am staunchly pro-choice and mostly indifferent about gun control (in addition to being for strong animal rights, pro-gay rights and pro-environment). The issues that I care about are all related to fiscal policy and foreign policy. In the 80's fiscal conservatives such as myself were joined with religious conservatives to form a convenient alliance against a party/philosophy that happened to embody both socially and fiscally liberal policies. We were successful, but now the GOP is largely fractured and is likely to become more so. There really is no longer a conservative party. There are two big government parties, one of which wants a lot of religious legislation and one that wants a lot of socialist programs.

So sure, you might be able to "get on board" with a bible thumper whose religion dictates (s)he support lowering trade barriers to the third world, but once that objective was completed you might find yourself dissatisfied with what you have left.

Sobek said...

"There really is no longer a conservative party. There are two big government parties, one of which wants a lot of religious legislation and one that wants a lot of socialist programs."

I agree, and I think Huckabee represents the worst of both. He's a nanny-stater (he now supports a federal smoking ban), soft on foreign policy (willing to shut down Gitmo just because of it's symbolic value -- never mind that America's enemies will find something else to latch onto), and a tax-and-spender. A pro-life and pro-gun stance simply doesn't redeem him in my eyes. And, to the extent he's willing to implement his pro-life stance via the federal government, I again disagree with him, because big government is big government, whether I like the result or not.

Sobek said...

Egarber said: "One thing I've noticed about some conservatives down south: unfortunately, there is a growing anti-Muslim backlash among them."

Today Powerline blog pointed out that "It is perhaps worth noting that the toll in Sunday's shootings (at two Colorado churches) exceeded the combined total in all 'hate crimes' against Muslims in the six years since September 11."

egarber said...

Today Powerline blog pointed out that "It is perhaps worth noting that the toll in Sunday's shootings (at two Colorado churches) exceeded the combined total in all 'hate crimes' against Muslims in the six years since September 11."

I didn't say physical backlash -- as if to mean conservatives had returned to lynching or something close to it as a tool to show their disgust.

What I meant is that many conservatives down here have no cultural or religious tolerance at all for Muslims living among us. They think the U.S. is a Christian nation and that Muslims are trying to erect sharia here in the states (ridiculous for a multitude of reasons). They distribute literature and have teach-ins about the "threat." They believe that Muslims must be militant -- if they are to be true to their corrupt and violent religion.

They also think the government should perform heavy surveillance on mosques. And they want Muslims profiled extensively.

Against this backdrop, forgive me if I'm not willing to pat my conservative friends on the back for not shooting up mosques.

And BTW, there are many hate crime accusations out there against Muslims. They may not be pursued, and they may not involve actual murder; but I think we'd be surprised by the actual number of intimidation complaints out there.

Again, I'm not trying to implicate all conservatives; I'm merely reporting my observances.

Sobek said...

I haven't lived in the South since '05 (N'awlins, to be specific), but when I was down there the most hostility toward Muslims came from liberal Democrats.

"They think the U.S. is a Christian nation and that Muslims are trying to erect sharia here in the states (ridiculous for a multitude of reasons)."

First of all, there's no anti-Hindu or anti-Buddhist backlash, so whether they think this is a Christian nation or not is irrelevant. It's more of an anti-people-who-want-to-indiscriminately-kill-Americans backlash. I'm on board with that sentiment.

And whether you like it or not, a disproportionate number of Muslims fall into that crowd. I'm not tarring all Muslims -- on the contrary, I've never met a Muslim I didn't like (okay, one, but he was probably just a jerk). I'm just saying that the numbers don't lie.

More to the point, I once spent a lot more time worrying about anti-Muslim "backlash" than I do now, but I've since run out of energy to care. Unless and until Muslims make more of an effort to publicly condemn mass-murderers in their midst, why should I care?

egarber said...

I haven't lived in the South since '05 (N'awlins, to be specific),

Don't get me wrong, the South has its share of tolerant folks. And we have some cool cities too -- I live in the Atlanta area.

but when I was down there the most hostility toward Muslims came from liberal Democrats.

The intolerance I observe is overwhelmingly Republican -- typically evangelical Christians and neo-con hawkish types.


"They think the U.S. is a Christian nation and that Muslims are trying to erect sharia here in the states (ridiculous for a multitude of reasons)."

First of all, there's no anti-Hindu or anti-Buddhist backlash, so whether they think this is a Christian nation or not is irrelevant.

I know what you mean, but I think it is relevant -- because if southern Christians ever felt that another faith was trying to erode Christianity's preferred status, I think we'd see the same thing.

In other words, I think there is a sense of entitlement among many southern Christians; many feel that they deserve preferential treatment over other faiths in the public square. Take this paraphrased conversation, which I've had in various forms with friends:

Me: So if you think separation between church and state is misguided, does that mean you'd be ok if a majority Muslim locality decided to teach Islam in public schools?

Friend: No. Because we're a Christian nation. It's always been that way – our law is based on the Bible.


It's more of an anti-people-who-want-to-indiscriminately-kill-Americans backlash. I'm on board with that sentiment.

We all are on board with that sentiment. The question is whether we should allow ourselves to get sucked into the kind of intellectual laziness that leads to mega-scale stereotypes.

And whether you like it or not, a disproportionate number of Muslims fall into that crowd.

And what percentage of the world’s 1.2 billion Muslims are members of Al Qaeda -- .001%? And further, what percentage of American Muslims (in the millions I think) are members?

I'm not tarring all Muslims -- on the contrary, I've never met a Muslim I didn't like (okay, one, but he was probably just a jerk). I'm just saying that the numbers don't lie.

Agreed. And if one is trying to justify stereotyping a billion people, the starting point number should be Al Qaeda membership as a percentage of all Muslims.

I'm just saying that the numbers don't lie.

So that’s the test we should apply to find sympathy for those advocating what I mentioned before – profiling, surveillance, religious tests, etc.? Because there are violent Islamists out there somewhere (and because some folks think more Muslims should speak out), it’s ok to weaken constitutional values and clamp down on a particular group of believers? Sounds like the seeds of fascism to me.

(I’m not saying you agree with those harsh measures – but I sense you do sympathize with the viewpoint. My apologies if that’s wrong).

More to the point, I once spent a lot more time worrying about anti-Muslim "backlash" than I do now, but I've since run out of energy to care. Unless and until Muslims make more of an effort to publicly condemn mass-murderers in their midst, why should I care?

Why do you assume there aren’t Muslims speaking out? They actually DO – via vehicles like CAIR and inter-faith organizations. I’ll certainly grant that the mainstream media and talk radio don’t give such statements much attention, but there are voices of moderation out there.

Sobek said...

"No. Because we're a Christian nation. It's always been that way – our law is based on the Bible."

I'm familiar with the argument, and I agree with you that it's crap. I heard a lady on a radio talk show go so far as to claim the Constitution is based on the Ten Commandments -- she was soundly rebuffed by the host).

"And what percentage of the world’s 1.2 billion Muslims are members of Al Qaeda -- .001%?"

A very small percentage, whatever it is. Still, the percentage -- however miniscule -- is higher than the percentage of Hindu members of al Qaeda. Or Buddhist members of al Qaeda. Or Zoroastrian members of al Qaeda.

Look, I agree with you that not all Muslims are terrorists. As I said before, almost every Muslim I've ever met was cool. That's not my point.

"So that’s the test we should apply to find sympathy for those advocating what I mentioned before – profiling, surveillance, religious tests, etc.?"

I'll just say it this way: 100% of the 9/11 hijackers were Muslims. 100% of the London bombers were Muslims. 100% of the Madrid bombers were Muslims. 100% of the Cole bombers were Muslims. 100% of the Khobar Towers bombers were Muslims. 100% of the Kenyan embassy bombers were Muslims.

After 9/11, Bush was chided for failing to "connect the dots." Then the chiders spent the following six plus years trying to make sure the government has no power to connect any dots. The Constitution, as they say, is not a suicide pact, and so it doesn't necessarily require that we collectively turn a blind eye to reality.

"(I’m not saying you agree with those harsh measures – but I sense you do sympathize with the viewpoint. My apologies if that’s wrong)."

I'm gradually getting sold on it. I used to be far more quick to defend Islam in general as against the actions of a few.

"Why do you assume there aren’t Muslims speaking out?"

CAIR is far too interested in finding and freaking out about Islamophobia to effectively rehabilitate the religion. Their defense of the flyin' Imams -- who very obviously manufactured a controversy just for the lawsuit -- is unjustifiable.

"...but there are voices of moderation out there."

I know it, and theirs are some of the voices I most like to read. Here's one such voice of moderation, discussing his experience with the anti-American primary plaintiff in the flying imams case:

http://www.meforum.org/article/1809

egarber said...

I'll just say it this way: 100% of the 9/11 hijackers were Muslims. 100% of the London bombers were Muslims. 100% of the Madrid bombers were Muslims. 100% of the Cole bombers were Muslims. 100% of the Khobar Towers bombers were Muslims. 100% of the Kenyan embassy bombers were Muslims.

Circa not too long ago in our history, and it would have been possible to say that 100% of black lynchings were carried out by white Christian men. Would that metric justify the conclusion that society should therefore be suspicious of all white men? Hell, forget the past – even today you could say that 100% (or close to it) of hate crimes directed at black people are carried out by white males (supremacy groups, etc.). Does this ratio tell us anything about the larger white population?


." Then the chiders spent the following six plus years trying to make sure the government has no power to connect any dots.

We know that members of both parties failed to even read the Patriot Act before it was enacted. And we also know through various accounts – Jane Reno’s testimony that agencies already had the power to share intelligence, the failure of FBI agents to understand the FISA law when Moussaoui could have been arrested, etc. – that there were ample powers on the books to prevent 9-11. We simply hadn’t focused on the right priorities.

In the end, our leaders' first instinct was to blow holes through the constitution, not protect it.

BTW, how come you and I always end up finding each other for lively debate on this blog? Of course, it's good -- I like the counterpoint.

Sobek said...

"Circa not too long ago in our history, and it would have been possible to say that 100% of black lynchings were carried out by white Christian men."

Yes. In the past. And if a detective were investigating the lynching of a black man in Alabama in 1952, complete with the charred remains of crosses on his front lawn, and the detective did not automatically assume that the perpetrators were white Christian men, he would be an idiot.

Similarly, if a cop saw a group of white Christian men in the back of a pickup, with an unusual amount of laundry, a kerosene-soaked cross, and a bunch of shotguns, at 1:00 p.m., and he didn't draw certain conclusions based at least in part on their ethicity, he would be an idiot.

"Would that metric justify the conclusion that society should therefore be suspicious of all white men?"

If you're trying to prevent lynchings in 1960s Alabama, then yes. If you're profiling hispanics under those circumstances, you're an idiot.

"Hell, forget the past – even today you could say that 100% (or close to it) of hate crimes directed at black people are carried out by white males (supremacy groups, etc.)."

Black on black violence is more pervasive than white on black violence. Still, if your target is hate crimes against blacks, and if you refuse to acknowledge that the likely perpetrator of such crimes is a white guy, you are an idiot.

"Does this ratio tell us anything about the larger white population?"

No. But it does tell you who to watch, if you're trying to prevent certain types of violence.

Suppose I'm a cop in Nowhere Mississippi, and I have received a credible death threat against a black minister. I go to his church on Sunday morning as the locals start pouring in to worship. Because of local demographics, the church-goers are exclusively black. Then two hilbilly-looking white guys show up. Are you telling me I shouldn't give them a bit more than the customary low-level scrutiny? Maybe a pat-down? I think profiling the white guys is entirely justifiable in this case, and if I fail to search them, and they do in fact commit violence against the minister, I would fully expect to be declared an idiot on national television after the fact.

"We simply hadn’t focused on the right priorities."

Exactly my point. If I spend all my time frisking the black folks entering the black church with a black minister -- so much so that I can't focus on the two out-of-place-looking white guys, then I'm clearly focusing on the wrong priorities.

"BTW, how come you and I always end up finding each other for lively debate on this blog? Of course, it's good -- I like the counterpoint."

Because you're respectful and interesting, so I keep talking to you. And there aren't many conservatives around here, so if you want a debate, I'm pretty much your only option. And I appreciate the counterpoint, too. If I only wanted to hear people reinforcing my worldviews, there are plenty of other web sites I could frequent.

hahamoudi said...

Keep it up, egarber, as a Muslim who gets very annoyed every time I'm profiled at an airport, I would intervene but you're doing such a nice job advocating my cause I'm staying out. I try telling the guards I'm a law professor, I was born here, I went to all the right schools and did all the right things, hell I've even tried I'm a Shi'i, those 9/11 dudes think I'm worse than all of you, but none of it seems to work. Maybe I'll direct them to my blog next time, and start posting all the nasty comments from some about how much of a hopeless infidel I am. That should get me cred.

Only one point--the number of Muslims responsible for 9/11 (100%) is no more relevant than the number of Muslims responsible for Oklahoma City (0%). The real issue is the number of American Muslims in particular who advocate, support or really don't decry such activities and I think the Pew Research Poll had favorability ratings for Al Qaeda at something like 7%.

Anyway, going back to Mike's original point, as someone who knows at least a bit about religious orthodoxy, I can't believe Romney's speech would satisfy anyone. It sounds like what you're supposed to do in his universe is not really care too much about the finer points of Christian doctrine and just sort of hold together on the broad Jesus thing and somehow bring that into the public square, perhaps expanded when convenient to include some sort of vague monotheism.

But the thing is, the people I know who like to hang together on God and say that all ways of worship are the same way to the same end, etc etc are leftie Unitarians. The true believers of any faith don't say that, they're either salvific exclusivists or at least think they're way is the straight and narrow and everyone is far off kilter. You can't go to an Orthodox Jew and convince him a school is faith based because it mentions God a few times, and you can't convince the true believer Protestant that the second coming in Jackson City is anything but a deviant heresy. So I don't get it, because I can't see how it satisfies anyone.

HAH

Sobek said...

"...hell I've even tried I'm a Shi'i, those 9/11 dudes think I'm worse than all of you, but none of it seems to work."

You have my sympathies. My dad's, too. He's on a first-name basis with some of the security guys at his local airport because of the titanium in his knees.

By contrast, you apparently do not have the sympathies of all Arabs:

http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9807EEDF1E3DF935A35751C0A9649C8B63&n=Top/Reference/Times%20Topics/Subjects/S/Security%20and%20Warning%20Systems

(If you can't get the link to work, it is an Op-Ed in the NYT, dated 2/6/02, by Fedwa Malti-Douglas. Key quote: "Was I surprised and upset? Who would not be? But I wanted to get home safely, too").

So let me ask you this, Professor: in my hypothetical scenario described above, concerning a threat against a black minister in rural Mississippi, would you chide the police for giving white men more scrutiny than blacks? If so, why?

"So I don't get it, because I can't see how it satisfies anyone."

Two reasons: first, the point was not unity of doctrine. It was the role of religion in politics. And the same "vague monotheism" which protects a Mormon's right to participate in politics also protects a Jehovah's Witness, a Christian Scientist, a Methodist, a Lutheran, etc. Second, the speech seemed more designed to get Romney in front of a crowd, dominate a news cycle before the Iowa caucuses, and show everyone he can deliver a passionate speech.

As to the latter point, Huck's continuing surge suggests the speech was a failure.

egarber said...

"Circa not too long ago in our history, and it would have been possible to say that 100% of black lynchings were carried out by white Christian men."

Yes. In the past. And if a detective were investigating the lynching of a black man in Alabama in 1952, complete with the charred remains of crosses on his front lawn, and the detective did not automatically assume that the perpetrators were white Christian men, he would be an idiot.


But that officer wouldn’t (or shouldn’t) automatically assume all white Christians were in on the offense. Rules of evidence, probable cause, etc. would kick in – and would thus narrow the investigation. The officer wouldn’t be justified in simply going door to door and forcibly entering all white owned homes without cause. [BTW, I’m no expert on what the constitutional precedents are here; I’m only employing my logic and values.]

Similarly, if a cop saw a group of white Christian men in the back of a pickup, with an unusual amount of laundry, a kerosene-soaked cross, and a bunch of shotguns, at 1:00 p.m., and he didn't draw certain conclusions based at least in part on their ethicity, he would be an idiot.

Same answer as above – even so, it wouldn’t justify hammering all white Christians under color of law. And it certainly shouldn’t lead rational human beings to relegate an entire population to second-class status – where one's identity and character as an individual (i.e., his dignity) are stripped by mob fear, and where one's biases and motives are pre-judged.


"Would that metric justify the conclusion that society should therefore be suspicious of all white men?"

If you're trying to prevent lynchings in 1960s Alabama, then yes. If you're profiling hispanics under those circumstances, you're an idiot.


Really. ALL white men? I can't agree with that logic.

"Hell, forget the past – even today you could say that 100% (or close to it) of hate crimes directed at black people are carried out by white males (supremacy groups, etc.)."

Black on black violence is more pervasive than white on black violence. Still, if your target is hate crimes against blacks, and if you refuse to acknowledge that the likely perpetrator of such crimes is a white guy, you are an idiot.


I never said that law enforcement can’t explore certain assumptions when investigating a crime – in this case, examining local white supremacy group activity, etc. My bigger point is that a net ensnaring all members of a group is recklessly wide and over-broad. I may miss the established law here, but I can’t imagine that probable cause can be established by mere membership in a group.


Suppose I'm a cop in Nowhere Mississippi, and I have received a credible death threat against a black minister. I go to his church on Sunday morning as the locals start pouring in to worship. Because of local demographics, the church-goers are exclusively black. Then two hilbilly-looking white guys show up. Are you telling me I shouldn't give them a bit more than the customary low-level scrutiny? Maybe a pat-down? I think profiling the white guys is entirely justifiable in this case, and if I fail to search them, and they do in fact commit violence against the minister, I would fully expect to be declared an idiot on national television after the fact.

Good hypothetical. Still, in my view, the proper law enforcement response would be added security across the board – where everybody is thoroughly checked. Now, if the threat is traced credibly to a white supremacy group, that might open the door for probable cause against our hillbillies.

But in the larger sense, we’re not talking about this kind of intimacy between actors and threats. A general risk of terrorism isn’t enough to justify the wholesale profiling of Muslim Americans. Even when we’re scared (maybe especially when we’re scared), the rule of law and constitution places the burden on the government to deny liberty; it’s not the individual’s affirmative responsibility to prove his / her rights exist.

"We simply hadn’t focused on the right priorities."

Exactly my point. If I spend all my time frisking the black folks entering the black church with a black minister -- so much so that I can't focus on the two out-of-place-looking white guys, then I'm clearly focusing on the wrong priorities.


No. I meant that there was enough power on the books to prevent 9-11 without wholesale profiling and fishing expeditions.


Because you're respectful and interesting, so I keep talking to you. And there aren't many conservatives around here, so if you want a debate, I'm pretty much your only option. And I appreciate the counterpoint, too. If I only wanted to hear people reinforcing my worldviews, there are plenty of other web sites I could frequent.

Yes. Likewise. You are a good debate contact. Who knows? Maybe one day, we’ll actually agree on something :)

Maybe Prof Dorf can help us out on the established precedents regarding profiling, etc.

egarber said...

Even when we’re scared (maybe especially when we’re scared), the rule of law and constitution places the burden on the government to deny liberty;

damned grammar (place, not places):

Even when we’re scared (maybe especially when we’re scared), the rule of law and constitution place the burden on the government to deny liberty;

egarber said...

As to the latter point, Huck's continuing surge suggests the speech was a failure.

That's amazing. Did I see that he's second now nationally? But at the same time, I'm not surprised. I watched Rudy on MTP Sunday. He's got so much baggage that they probably only spent about 10% of the interview discussing substantive issue positions.

hahamoudi said...

Let's see, if there is a claim that some white supremacists are going to kill some black minister, would I oppose extra scrutiny (like an extra patdown) to some off looking white dudes walking into a black church where nobody knew them and there were no other white congregants?

My answer is no, I think that's fine. I'd say that even if they weren't hillbillies but a nerdy looking white professor and his goofy assistant from Pittsburgh doing research on something. So yes race clearly played a role in my answer.

Still I would oppose some sort of blanket search of all white homes in the area, for example. That I would find morally repugnant because it's too much of a dragnet based on nothing but race.

There's something else too, though. It seems to me that if law enforcement is going to be effective in the instance you mention, it does have to look for white people. But at the same time, to be effective and normatively acceptable, it's going to have to narrow that down. You shouldn't be running around searching every white dude in the area for the moral reasons that egarber raises, and moreover, you're sort of wasting your time if you do on hardly anything constituting a lead. (I'm using the second person, sloppily, I don't mean you personally, I really mean "security personnel")

I am not a security threat. Neither is your dad. There are clearly Arabs and Muslims who are. If they belong to some mosque where security thinks for valid reasons there is trouble, or even if the security folks have a credible threat that the specific plane I happen to be scheduled to fly out on is going to be hijacked by jihadists who speak Arabic and I'm talking to my wife on the phone in Arabic, then by all means let them pull me out of the line and hold me up for the hour or two it should take to make it completely obvious I'm not the problem, and then I'll go home. But the idea that we profile so many clearly harmless guys with an Arab name on so many flights is not only normatively repulsive to me, I'm not sure it works. It's sort of a sign post to Osama--get the converts out, they won't search them, they're busy with the law professors and heart surgeons named Mahmoud and Abbas.

It's not my field though so my remarks could be naive. Apologies if they are.

HAH

Sobek said...

"But that officer wouldn’t (or shouldn’t) automatically assume all white Christians were in on the offense."

Agreed. No going door to door. But if you're posted at the most likely place of attack (here, the doors of the church), you can give extra scrutiny to the white folks who voluntarily approach. And I'm no expert on Fourth Amendment stuff, either. I only practice civil law, although I like to read the SCOTUS criminal stuff when I have time.

"Same answer as above – even so, it wouldn’t justify hammering all white Christians under color of law."

I don't follow you. You're mixing technical legal terms ("color of law") with coloquial terms ("hammer"). No one should be biased against all Muslims because of the actions of a small percentage, but bias is not the color of law. Heightened police scrutiny, however, is not necessarily aimed at "all Muslims." It is aimed at "swarthy Muslims who enter an airport," for example. And even then the "hammering" only consists of a hassle in getting past the metal detectors. That's not exactly the same as stripping you of civil rights (patently unconstitutional) or denying you a job.

"Really. ALL white men? I can't agree with that logic."

But at least you would be suspicious of the guys in the truck, right? At least in part because it's nighttime in Mississippi in the 1960s. By contrast, a bunch of rednecks in a truck with shotguns in, say, northern Idaho in 2007 at 2:00 in the afternoon does not necessarily merit scrutiny.

All I'm saying is that context matters. If you have young, Muslim-looking male in an American airport in 2007, giving him an extra two minutes of scrutiny seems perfectly reasonable. Following him home from the airport after he picks up his wife and kids is not reasonable. Where the likely perpetrator of a crime is a white, Christian male, then scrutinize the white, Christian male. Same with the Hindu or the Buddhist.

I have a serious problem, however, with a climate in which security guards must give the Muslim less scrutiny because of his appearance, simply to avoid giving offense.

"Still, in my view, the proper law enforcement response would be added security across the board – where everybody is thoroughly checked."

I disagree for two reasons. First, very few law enforcement agencies in America have the resources to boost security across the board after every hint of a threat. When allocating limited resources, the best result comes with the most efficient allocation. By contrast, inconveniencing everyone equally is extraordinarily inefficient, and no less objectionable because of intrusive government than close scrutiny of the most likely suspects.

"But in the larger sense, we’re not talking about this kind of intimacy between actors and threats."

I agree, so let me expand the hypo a little bit. I'm a security guard with no notice of a possible threat, standing outside a black church. I know that other black churches in the county have been attacked by white supremacists recently, but I have no specific reason to believe this church will be attacked. Sunday morning the usual black parishioners come to church, along with two bubbas.

Can I, at the very least, keep an eye on them throughout the service, even if I hurt their feelings? If it looks like one of them has a s.o.b. (small of back) holster, can I frisk him? Isn't it better to offend two white guys than to watch them snap, start shooting people, and have to bring them down after the damage is done?

Finally, from Hahamoudi, "Still I would oppose some sort of blanket search of all white homes in the area, for example."

I agree with you completely, and for the reasons you state: it's morally repugnant and not very effective or efficient.

"It's not my field though so my remarks could be naive. Apologies if they are."

Not my "field," either. I'm just a civil litigator. Prof. Dorf is kind enough to let me comment here anyway, so I'm sure he'll extend the same courtesy to you.

And as-salaam alaykum, yaa ustaaz.

egarber said...

Sobek:

I think my problem with your position is that it's too slippery for my tastes.

To me, law enforcement should have two basic choices:

Either

1. An officer acts on probable cause and singles out an individual**

Or

2. Scrutiny is applied equally.

** In your church case then, I think the only way you can single out the bubbas in a search is if in some way probable cause (or whatever the courts might call it) can be invoked. And I'm guessing PC is broad enough to cover a good bit. Otherwise, I think you have to apply the rules equally.

Sobek said...

That's fine. You (basically) asked me whether I would support profiling if it negatively impacted white folks, and my answer is yes -- where the circumstances are such that profiling makes sense, regardless of the targeted group, and even if I were a member of the targeted group.

Before 9/11 I once walked into an airport holding an Arabic-language newspaper. It turned out one of the screeners was born in Syria. We chatted for a bit in Arabic (okay, so some of my Arabic was a tad mangled, but still), and it was pretty fun.

Those days are gone now. I'm sad that they are. I would love to believe in my heart that there is no more reason to suspect the young Arab than the young anybody-else. I earnestly hope that day comes again soon, as it has come for Germans and Japanese. I look forward to the day that Ramadi is as tourist-trappy as Vienna. Some of my favorite buildings in the world are mosques, like the Great Mosque in Esfahan.

But optimism doesn't bring that day closer. Realism does.

In World War II, we entered the conflict slowly, but once we were in we fought to win, and to win decisively. In Korea, we fought to stalemate, and fifty years later nothing has improved. War is a tragic thing, but sometimes it is a necessary thing, and when it is, we must fight to win, and to win decisively. It prevents bloodshed in the long run, and is more likely to lead to peace and prosperity than decades of low-intensity conflict.

egarber said...

Good discussion Sobek.

Though I don't disagree with your war theory as a general proposition, I think our current foreign policy / military use is horribly misguided.

But I'll find you on a different thread to get into that more.

In the meantime, I might have to go out for the Falcons coaching job tomorrow. A dreadful season just got much worse -- Coach Petrino abruptly resigned today.

ouch.

see ya!

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