Saturday, January 29, 2011

The Sacred Oath of Hypocrisies

In writing the last post I came across this quote from former Chief Justice William Rehnquist writing for the majority in a case that, in part, challenged the use of school vouchers at parochial schools in Ohio:
"The incidental advancement of a religious mission, or the perceived endorsement of a religious message, is reasonably attributable to the individual aid recipients not the government, whose role ends with the disbursement of benefits."
I was struck by the logic of the argument here: that since the government isn't giving the money directly to the parochial school, the possible religious proselytizing that may result is on the person going to school, not the government, because the government responsibility "ends with the disbursement of benefits". And Kennedy, Scalia, and Thomas, the only conservatives of that year who remain on the Court today, all signed off on the opinion. The argument itself is flawed to me, or else why bother codifying laws against criminal facilitation, conspiracy, or being an accessory? Still the way Kennedy phrased it, basically saying "this is how I want it and so this is how it shall be" is particularly royal. So neat.

Except that, according to conservatives now, when it comes to vouchers to individuals who need health insurance who might use some of the money to purchase legal abortion, suddenly the government's role does not end with the disbursement of funds, because even if it gives money to recipients without directing what health services that money is to be spent on, somehow it becomes culpable, and meow meow meow. And the Constitution. And also Henry Hyde. The difference, of course, is that the government wouldn't have been giving those vouchers with the knowledge that they would be used for abortion, but with the knowledge that they could be, in some circumstances, some day, by some people. The difference is that while there is precedent for a Constitutional prohibition against supporting a particular religion via government monies, there is no similar law telling government not to support the public health via monies. Rather, the Constitution specifically states that the government has the power to lay and collect taxes to provide for the general welfare of the United States. And if you're going to object on the grounds that the money is used to snuff out human life, you better do something about the money the government uses to put people to death in the name of the State--including "innocent life".

Not that they should lose any sleep over it. The Supreme Randians have demonstrated in the past they are not above doing a 180 so they can flog their own ideologies, so it will be interesting to see, should this issue come before them, how they manage to argue themselves out of the precedent they set in 2002.