Friday, March 20, 2015

Rebutting Rabbi Sasso

In the Indystar today (why do I read it when I'm at my parents' home on my day off?) there is an editorial from "Rabbi Emeritus Sandy Sasso" telling us we should reject 'religious freedom' legislation.  It simply needs to be rebutted.

1) Sasso: The Religious Freedom Restoration Act is contrary to the Exodus of the Israelites through the Red Sea.

Me: This makes no sense whatsoever.  There is no attempt to explain this metaphor and it completely fails.  The only thing I can think is that she's trying to say, in a roundabout way, that you are somehow anti-semitic if you are for RFRA.

2) Sasso: The bill seeks to exempt individuals, including businesses and corporations, from any statute that "substantially burdens" their religious freedom.  The government would then have to prove that there is a compelling reason to require that burden."

Me: YES!  That is a great idea!

3) "In practicality, it means that business owners can refuse services or the selling of products to those who engage in legal practices that the proprietors deem contrary to their religious beliefs, such as the celebration of a gay marriage"

Me: a) why rephrase this?  It seems like she thinks we are all simpletons who need her helpful rephrasing.  There is nothing confusing at all about #2 above.  #2 above is not calculus.

b) If the acts in question weren't legal, there would be no need to discuss religious freedom in the first place.  If religious freedom is in jeopardy, it is because an act is legal that the religion disagrees with.  You wouldn't need an RFRA to protect churches from being forced to traffic cocaine because cocaine is illegal.  Churches only need protected from things that ARE legal.

4) Sasso: "Some say the bill is needed to protect people who strictly interpret the Bible"

Me: Nice.  Demonize the other side.  Those who think differently than Rabbi Emeritus Sasso are "strict interpreters" of the Bible.

5) "because those individuals don't want to bend their religious beliefs"

Me: The word "bend" is quite wrong.  It gives the impression that everything is relative, so our beliefs are "bendy" as in asking Catholics to violate their religious is simply asking them to "bend" something.  It isn't "bending" their beliefs, it is BREAKING their religious beliefs.

Everyone seems to get this with Islam - "Hey, muslims are offended when you draw the Prophet, so let's not do that, okay.  They take that really personal."  No one says Muslims should "bend" on their beliefs...but everyone else's religious beliefs are "bendy"???

6) Sasso: "This bill focuses solely on the public sphere"

Me: In the public sphere you have PEOPLE who have beliefs, and people who run companies have beliefs.  Don't buy their stuff if their beliefs upset you.  If you don't like Chik-Fil-A's stance on things, don't eat Chik-Fil-A.  It is really quite simple.

7) Sasso: "This legislation is dangerously ambiguous.  It leaves it to the courts to decide what a sincerely held religious belief belief is and what a compelling state interest is."

Me: Yes.  This is a grown up question, and a question that we ought to be able to debate and discuss in a court of law.  If the courts don't decide that, who should?   The courts are exactly where these questions need to be hammered out, and if legislation needs to develop out of those court discussions, then that is fine.

8)  Sasso: "Does a man's belief that he may attribute, albeit erroneously, to the Bible allow him to beat his wife?"

Me: Who are you trying to sway here, Bart Simpson?  This is such a sophomoric argument, and frankly it is childish journalism and a travesty of logic that wouldn't have been found in serious editorials even a decade ago.

Yeah, the courts are going to rule that a guy can beat his wife!???!  Come on.  Be serious and talk about this issue with seriousness.

9) Sasso: "Can a pharmacist who does not believe in birth control be allowed to refuse to sell it to a client"

Me: "YES!"  Let's have that discussion.  Sasso mentions it like it is such a slam dunk no brainer ridiculous example of "biblical fundamentalism" when in fact it is a very serious question that needs to be discussed.  That Sasso and others find this to be an obvious example that needs to be rejected illustrates precisely why the bill is needed.

10) Sasso: "Common sense and good will should lead to the defeat of this bill."

Me: WOW!  Paint the other side again using sophomoric debate strategies.  So those who are for the bill lack common sense and good will.  Very good.  Again, this would never be in a serious editorial until newspapers had to start competing with bloggers.  This is terrible journalism.

11)  Sasso: "We crossed the sea to freedom once; let's not have to do it again."

Me: ????????  What in the world does that mean?  Again, in her mind, apparently if you are for RFRA you are equivalent to the Egyptian anti-semites.

It is hard to read articles/stories or listen to speeches that the author or speaker THINKS pack a punch when they really don't.

Sasso's editorial is illogical, and it also is not very effective writing.  The end of an article or speech like this should at least pack an emotional narrative punch, but not only does this line not make sense, it is tough to read because you can tell Sasso DOES think it packs a punch, and that makes it even more painful.


  1. I also, like Rabbi Sasso, find these new RFRA bills as seriously problematic in many ways. Maybe going through your list of issues might highlight them better.
    1. The metaphor is about escaping persecution obviously. As gays are escaping systemic legal abuse, RFRA laws are trying to build a loophole to continue discrimination. While I think that you are being a little hysterical in your reaction, it does make me think why not the Jews? What in this law prevents anti-semitism in public business from occurring again?
    2. Again, unless you can explain why it’s a “great idea!” for public businesses to refuse to perform interracial, interfaith, or heck even build separate lunch counters on the basis of religious beliefs again then supporting these laws is completely incorrect.
    3. A) Most people have a 6th grade reading level. They aren’t stupid of course, but not everyone has had access to good education. I advise patience and generosity, many articles also try to explain issues while arguing for one side or another.
    B) Discrimination lawsuits that have recently been in the news have been about public business breaking public accommodation laws (or tax laws) that have existed for decades. None of them have involved an actual non-profit church. Your spin on this is completely incorrect invention.
    4. If you see that as offensive to your side I guess that’s a fair criticism. Many religions are proud to be known as “fundamentalists” or “strict interpreters” of the bible. I could have made the same mistake not knowing it was offensive.
    5. Okay, here is another big issue of mine. Those who say that they cannot participate in same sex weddings (as if selling flowers or baking a cake is really “participating”, good grief!) have no morality clauses with other weddings. They sell to Joe Whoever on his 5th marriage with no issue. Nope, it’s only about the gays. The animus is truly revealed, and no law should be (legally cannot be) based on animus. Oh, and the Prophet Muhammad images are everywhere in America. In Islam Jesus was a prophet, his image is EVERYWHERE! I’ve never heard a complaint and I live in an area with a large Muslim population. I don’t get this conflation.
    6. Yes, public business owners have religious beliefs, but their business in IN THE PUBLIC. It’s basic civics to know that we are a diverse country, and a long held American value is that we should be welcoming. Unfortunately abuses occurred, most famously during the Civil Rights movement, that highlighted how wrong it is to single one group out just on the basis that they are in that group. Again, unless you can justify repealing ALL anti-discrimination laws your argument fails.
    7. Yes, but HOW? Judges don’t arbitrarily make decisions, they are based on law. Leaving such things entirely ambiguous means it can be interpreted in many ways, which bring us to…
    8. Why not?!? The extreme example highlights the fact that just because you feel this is ridiculous that it could never happen. Yet you cannot point out any limitations preventing such issues. That’s the problem with this laws ambiguity, it can mean anything. In fact, that’s the point!
    9. Really? It’s okay to refuse to dispense legal medications with a doctor’s prescription? Maybe it’s also okay to deny children medical treatment because their parents are gay? You really think the public wants such laws that could limit basic care and treatment? You made my argument for me.
    10. Yes, this bill defies common sense. See above.
    11. Sigh…I'll just let that one go

    1. 1) The fact that the courts of law will weigh decide that no authentic religious expression would ever involve anti-semitism

      2) Our courts will ultimately have to decide what is authentic religious freedom and what is not...this law simply states the obvious in that regard. Can I be anti-semitic because of my religion? Can I discriminate based on race because of my religion? Can I refuse to sell pills that kill children in the womb because of my religion? Can I be compelled to provide a service for something that my faith teaches to be inherently wrong? We'll see.



      5) In the thought of the Church, same sex marriage is contradictory to nature in the mind of most Christians, and is a different level of offense against God beyond a man and a woman remarrying

      6) Nope. It isn't one or the other. The courts and legislatures will either choose to recognize some expressions of religious freedom as valid and others as invalid, or the identity of this country will change dramatically

      7) Do we not already decided, as a society, that some claims to religious freedom are valid while others are not? We currently say polygamy is invalid, but we say it is okay (currently, in some places) to exempt oneself from making a wedding cake for a gay wedding.

      8) same as 7

      9) Yes. I shouldn't have to dispense a pill that kills children if I don't want to.

      10) Thanks for making the point - there is no real debate in this argument at the civil level - one side wants to discuss the issue and the other says "be quiet, anyone with common sense knows we're right." That is the kind of civil discourse this country was founded on (not really)

      11) Okay

    2. 1) Courts do not decide what is an “authentic” religion or not, nor does society in general. Any church can apply for tax exempt status without having to pass an “authenticity” test. Again, these are ambiguous standards. Of course a business can be anti-Semitic if using RFRA protections. Remember, most Jewish people in America support same sex marriage. A Jewish gay couple could be having a Jewish wedding based on their strongly held religious beliefs and be denied. You might believe that it is only because they are gay, but the wedding is not only an expression of their love but also of their religious commitment. The issue is a bit deeper than your portraying. I’m also having issues with your “authenticity” standards, where are you getting that?
      2) Okay, really… Please explain in any state RFRA bill that outlines these “authenticity” standards. What are the limitations? What is an “authentic” Church, or an “authentic” religious belief? Honestly your appeal to authority on this is absolutely shredding the 1st Amendment. Stop wasting taxpayer’s money on something that is based on unconstitutional standards.
      5) Religions embracing same sex marriage is hardly a belief on the fringe. Lutherans, Episcopalians, UCC, Presbyterians, most Jewish denominations, Quakers, and I have to say Methodists and many Evangelicals are not far behind. I wouldn't play the popularity card here, poor form. Also, let’s not forget that the “natural law” argument has been thoroughly vetted as an anti-marriage equality argument and repeatedly dismissed. It is the height of anti-intellectual nonsense to base marriage on procreation when procreation is always a choice in marriage.
      6, 7) No No No! More ambiguous morality tests. Honestly, do you really what the “authenticity” of your religion to be left to a judge? You might as well be posting a selfie of yourself burning the Constitution.
      9) Umm, okay quick biology lesson. Birth control doesn't cause abortions. Even emergency contraception doesn't cause abortions. Talk about sophomoric attempts to demonize your opponents, sheesh. To the point, people do not want ambiguous morality standards applied to their healthcare. Although I love that you doubled down on this, great for my argument. Please carry on.

      Despite my snarky tone I appreciate the debate. Thanks

    3. 1) I can't marry four women (yet) even if my religion is for it. Why? Law decided I can't

      2) a discussion we have been having as a country and need to continue to have

      5) The immorality of same sex sex isn't why the Church works for the protection of marriage, but the immorality of same sex sex (and thus calling it a marriage) is a very legitimate reason for a person not to participate in an event that they don't want to.

      6,7) It already happens! Can I sacrifice people as part of a religious service? Can I sacrifice a dog as part of a religious service? Can I marry 4 women because my religion says so? The courts and legislatures will continue to be where these issues are hashed out - what is valid religious expression and what is not. You can say you don't like it that way, but it has been going on for decades, if not for hundreds of years in the USA

      9) Oh yes it does. It was listed, for many years, as a side effect of the pill. It is conveniently covered up by most today, but preventing implantation continues to be a side effect of the pill -

  2. 1. RFRA bills are for allowing exceptions to what's illegal, that's the whole point! If public discrimination were legal we wouldn't be having this discussion. RFRA laws were initially (I believe wrongfully) enacted because someone was fired for taking an illegal drug during a religious ceremony. Polygamy is illegal, but not because it was deemed an "inauthentic" religious practices, but because it violates our belief of equality and human rights. Marriage between 2 people is upheld because it is egalitarian, and same sex marriage follows this. Marriage between 3 or more people has been shown to be inequitable especially to women and children with disastrous results of arranged marriages, child rape, ect. That has been shown over and over again in history. That being said it is ironic that you bring this up because a very ambiguous RFRA law would increase the chance of polygamy to be legalized in some areas because they could then force the religious issue.
    2. Your continued ambiguity is very disconcerting.
    5. Bizarre statement that opens the door to a host of issues... That aside, baking a cake is not participating in a wedding . I wasn't married by my florist, get real. I have to say that your expectation of extreme religious tolerance to the point of freedom of discrimination without subjecting yourself to that same standard of tolerance is very hypocritical. Many religions have examined for decades now the issue of homosexuality and same sex marriage and have come to the opposite conclusion of the Catholic belief. Your silence on their religious freedom and strongle held belief about marriage is deafening.
    6,7. The issues you listed are not illegal because of illegitimate religious beliefs, but because they violate human rights, animal rights, ect. Providing legal loopholes for religions are great ways to limit human rights. Your again making the same mistake that because an activity is illegal it will automatically be exempt from RFRA, it isn't. That's the whole point. It makes illegal things vulnerable to exemption with no clear description of limitations.
    9. No, it just doesn't. That video is completely incorrect. Here is a generous interpretation (overly generous if you ask me) of research of birth control pills done by Christian doctors:

    If you prefer youtube videos here is a good one that explains emergency contraception:

    1. 1) how dare you say that polygamy is inequitable to women and children - are you saying a dad and three mom's can't raise a kid as well as two dad's?

      2) This is not ambiguous - everything under the sun is "religious" according to some wacko religion or another so of course the state has always decided what are authentic religious expressions and which ones aren't

      6,7) Exactly...they are illegal even though some religions want to do them. Those religions want to be protected from the law in their regard but the state has said no

      9) terminating pregnancies has been an acknowledged side effect of the pill from the beginning although it is hushed up now because the pro-life movement has called attention to it. The pill has a third mechanism - preventing implantation. Since life begins at conception, the pill causes abortions by preventing fertilized eggs from implanting.