Educate, not legislate, on morality

Oh those devilish details… once again they’ve given us Virginians a chance to shine in the international spotlight. “Legalized rape,” … Continued

Oh those devilish details… once again they’ve given us Virginians a chance to shine in the international spotlight.

“Legalized rape,” Liz Winstead shrieked in The Guardian, referring to the Virginia General Assembly’s now notoriously defunct SB 484.

Who knew that when Virginia’s social (i.e. Christian) conservative legislators were mandating a woman’s “right” to “informed consent” before having an abortion, they were mandating vaginal probes?

The conservative legislators apparently didn’t.

Steve Helber


State Sen. Janet Howell, D-Fairfax, left, looks at the vote tally board as a vote was taken on a bill requiring an ultrasound before an abortion on the floor of the Senate at the Capitol in Richmond, Va., Tuesday, Feb. 28, 2012. the senate passed an amended version of the bill. State Sen. Richard Saslaw,D-Fairfax, is at right.

The result of these folks’ (which includes our governor) silly inattention to detail has made Virginia a laughingstock. The Washington Post’s Anita Kumar described the embarrassment caused by SB 484 in a recent article:

The italics are mine. Because that sentence goes to the heart of what bothers me about conservative Christians’ proclivity for mixing their faith with their politics. They appear to think that religion gives them license to legislate in ignorance; that everything they personally oppose on religious grounds (abortion, stem-cell research, gay marriage, the right to die) really is bad; that if they oppose it, God opposes it, and to hell (so to speak) with everyone who thinks differently. To hell, even, with reality.

I say different strokes for different folks is fine until people get themselves elected to office. Then their right to remain ignorant goes out the window; replaced by my right to trust that anyone in elected office will at least make a good faith effort to understand what is really going on.

The problem exemplified by the SB 484 debacle is that a lot of conservative Christians in the Virginia General Assembly don’t get this. They are legislating personal beliefs without bothering to check facts. This is how we got SB 484.

Good governance, on the other hand –which is the true business of Virginia’s governor and General Assembly – requires informed examination of complex issues. Don’t be a politician if you don’t want to assume responsibility for understanding what you are doing. Be a preacher if you want the buck to stop with the answers and explanations provided by religion.

It’s obvious in hindsight that when conservative Christian legislators showered SB 484 with their support, they did so based on incomplete, cherry-picked information. They had come up with a way to obstruct a woman’s legal right to choose and so felt no obligation to understand fully what they were legislating. They knew what was right according to their religion, and, by God, the rest of us should be forced to get in line.

Such ill-informed shenanigans may strike the rest of America and the world as very funny, but they strike me as perfect examples of how dangerous it is when fundamentalist religion gets mixed up with politics.

If God is, God is in the real world; a place where prickly, unpleasant, confusing issues have to be dealt with straightforwardly.

If our governor and General Assembly members truly want to serve anything other than their own comfort — indeed, if they truly wish to serve God — they should educate themselves fully before they legislate.

Martha’s note: This essay is a feature of Faith Unboxed, an ongoing, civil, respectful conversation about faith I invite you to participate by sharing your own ideas and experiences (either here or on the Web site), rather than by denigrating the ideas and experiences of others.

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  • WmarkW

    Although I agree with the general thrust of the article, I think it’s a rather extreme form of line-drawing to characterize a required insertion of medical probes as “rape,” as a prerequisite to having other medical devices inserted to perform an abortion.

  • SimonTemplar

    Someone should send the memo to Mr. Obama.

  • di89

    OK, let’s make all men have a colonoscopy before they are allowed to have a vasectomy and see if that changes your tune.

  • david6

    Do you ever read any news?

  • ccnl1

    For your education–

    The Brutal Effects of Stupidity:

    : The failures of the widely used birth “control” methods i.e. the Pill ( 8.7% failure rate) and male con-dom (17.4% failure rate) have led to the large rate of abortions and S-TDs in the USA. Men and women must either recognize their responsibilities by using the Pill or co-ndoms properly and/or use safer methods in order to reduce the epidemics of abortion and S-TDs.- Failure rate statistics provided by the Gut-tmacher Inst-itute.

    Added information before making your next move:

    from the CDC-2006

    “Se-xually transmitted diseases (STDs) remain a major public health challenge in the United States. While substantial progress has been made in preventing, diagnosing, and treating certain S-TDs in recent years, CDC estimates that approximately 19 million new infections occur each year, almost half of them among young people ages 15 to 24.1 In addition to the physical and psy-ch-ological consequences of S-TDs, these diseases also exact a tremendous economic toll. Direct medical costs as-sociated with STDs in the United States are estimated at up to $14.7 billion annually in 2006 dollars.”

    And from:

    Consumer Reports, January, 2012

    “Yes, or-al se-x is se-x, and it can boost cancer risk-

    Here’s a crucial message for teens (and all se-xually active “post-teeners”: Or-al se-x carries many of the same risks as va-ginal se-x, including human papilloma virus, or HPV. And HPV may now be overtaking tobacco as the leading cause of or-al cancers in America in people under age 50.

    “Adolescents don’t think or-al se-x is something to worry about,” said Bonnie Halpern-Felsher professor of pediatrics at the University of California, San Francisco. “They view it as a way to have intimacy without having ‘s-ex.'” (It should be called the Bill Clinton Syndrome !!)

    Obviously, political leaders in both parties, Planned Parenthood, parents, the “stupid part of the USA” and the educational system have failed miserably on many

  • Catken1

    Gee, do you even recognize the difference between a procedure you seek out and one that is forced on you by government? Or is your view of women so low that you do not recognize that we have the ability to consent to anything, thus denying us any agency at all?

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