Faith & Social Justice: In the spirit of Richard Overton and the 17th C. Levellers

Brief Birther Update: The “Kenyan Birth Certificate” is Fake, Folks

Again, the “birthers'” claim that Barack Obama is not a natural born citizen is not about the facts, but about their deeply racist belief that he is not “entitled” to the White House.  But now they are pushing a “Kenyan birth certificate” that they claim is “real” while the Hawai’ian birth certificate is fake. Once more, folks: EVEN IF Ann Dunham had given birth to Barack Hussein Obama in Kenya (a place she never visited), he’d still be a natural born citizen because SHE was a U.S. citizen and never renounced that citizenship–just as John McCain is a natural born citizen even though he was born in PANAMA!

But this “Kenyan birth certificate” is fake for the following reasons (at least)–no matter what Orly Tate says:

  • Although the document circulated is dated February of 1964, it says “Republic of Kenya.” Kenya did not become a Republic until DECEMBER of 1964 (and Obama was born in 1961–Did it take 3 years to get an “authentic” birth certificate?).
  • The document is dated 5 August 1964, a Saturday, but Kenyan public offices are closed on Saturdays.
  • The registrar is supposedly someone named “E. F. Lavender.” According to friends from that part of Africa, “E. F. Lavender” is a well-known brand of SOAP in Kenya.
  • The document looks shiny new.  Unless Kenya was using acid-free paper for official documents way back in 1964, then this document should look far more aged–like my birth certificate from PA looks.
  • Hospital officials in Kenya say that have no listing for any “Barack Hussein Obama” born 04 August 1961–but the Honalulu hospital in Hawai’i DOES.

But don’t let the facts get in your way, birthers.  After all, you didn’t let the facts get in the way when you believed Jerry Falwell’s “The Clinton Chronicles” videotape charging Bill Clinton with several rapes and murders as governor of AR and got the AR state police to cover it up.  You didn’t let the facts stop you from believing the “Swift Boaters” claiming that the genuine war hero (and later peace hero in the Winter Soldier hearings) John Kerry was a coward who didn’t deserve his medals, but that the chickenhawk George W. Bush, who loved the Vietnam War as long as he didn’t have to go and fight, WAS a hero.  You can believe anything in spite of the facts. Watch going too close to the edge of our flat earth, fools.

    August 2, 2009 Posted by | U.S. politics | 16 Comments

    Is DOMA Unconstitutional?

    From my series on GLBT inclusion in the church and other posts, regular readers will not be surprised that I believe that the 1996 law known as the [sic] “Defense of Marriage Act” or DOMA is unjust since it prevents the federal government from recognizing same sex marriages (even from states where they are legal) and from granting the normal federal rights which go with marriage (e.g., spousal benefits from Social Security; joint tax filings;).  But is it unconstitutional as well?  I write as an amateur.  I am neither a lawyer nor a constitutional scholar.  I invite those who are to check my reasoning.  But I think DOMA is unconstitutional.

    First, let it be noted that in 1996 when DOMA was passed, not one state in the U.S. allowed same-sex marriages.  And most gay rights activists were focused on other issues than marriage equality.  But there was a fear that Hawai’i’s Supreme Court was about to rule in favor of same sex marriages (it didn’t) and DOMA was passed as a kind of preemptive strike. It was also designed very politically to hurt then-Pres. Bill Clinton because Republicans assumed he would veto it and then Sen. Bob Dole (R-KS) would campaign against him with that wedge issue all year.  But Clinton knew how to protect himself and so he calmly threw gays and lesbians under the bus by signing DOMA and robbing Dole of an issue.

    We now have 6 states (MA, VT, ME, NH, CT, IA) which recognize same-sex civil marriages.  I expect the following states to follow within the next couple of years: NY, CA, NJ, WA,  and RI.  Several others will move to have civil unions,  which is often a first step to same-sex civil marriage.  New York and the District of Columbia have laws recognizing same-sex marriages performed in other states.

    The Constitutional issues surrounding DOMA are mostly tied up with the “due process” and “equal protection” clauses of the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which relate to the definitions of “marriage” and ‘spouse” in DOMA and the “full faith and credit clause” which refers to powers reserved to the states.  Public acts by one state must be recognized by the other states and by the federal government, unless those public acts are unconstitutional.  Supporters of DOMA argue that there is no right to marriage and thus DOMA is constitutional. But Loving v. Virginia (1967) found that marriage was an inalienable right–this case killed state laws that forbade interracial marriages. 

    Defenders of DOMA reply that marriage has traditionally been defined as between a man and a woman. They imply that this definition has never been modified over the entire length of human civilization. This is patently false. Marriage has had numerous definitions.  In some societies plural marriages are still recognized as is concubinage, but these have long been banned in the United States.  Marriage today assumes that both parties are adults and legally able to enter into contractual relations, but traditionally women were married when they were barely post-pubescent (the Virgin Mary was probably no more than 14) and given away by their fathers to much older men–which today would be considered child abuse and pederasty.

    Supporters of DOMA reply that if same-sex marriages are recognized the door is open to “marriages” between humans and animals (bestiality) or incestuous marriages (which have been rejected previously by courts).  But in Lawrence v. Texas (2003), which struck down state “sodomy” laws forbidding same-sex acts between consenting adults, the Supreme Court seems already to say that gay couples are NOT the same as pederasts or those practicing bestiality or other obscenities to which conservatives often  compare them. 

    The logic of Lawrence v. Texas combined with Loving v. Virginia seems to me to give strong grounds for believing that DOMA is unconstitutional.  But defenders of DOMA claim that without something like it the religious liberty of those who believe same-sex marriage to be sinful will be violated.  I don’t think so. No church, synagogue, mosque, etc. which disagrees with same-sex marriage could be forced to perform them or allow their facilities to be used for them. The First Amendment protects them–just as it did for churches, etc. which believed that interracial marriage was wrong in the wake of Loving v. Virginia. Most churches and other religious institutions CHANGED their views and accepted interracial marriages, but neither change nor resistance to it is properly the concern of the courts or the secular government.

    In fact, I would  argue that DOMA (and state bans on same-sex marriage) violates the religious liberty of faith groups who recognize same-sex marriages, like my church.  We can perform same-sex “weddings,” but our rites do not have the force of law. (Perhaps the solution is that the government should get out of the marriage business altogether and allow “marriage” to be a completely religious practice with no legal dimensions.)  Also, Christian marriage is not identical to legal marriage and never has been. Legal marriage allows me to sue my wife if I no longer want to live with her–not much Christian to that.

    Nevertheless, as a civil, legal, matter, it seems to this amateur that the Defense of Marriage Act is  unconstitutional.

    August 2, 2009 Posted by | civil liberties, courts, GLBT issues | 12 Comments

    Title List: Popular Culture and Philosophy

    This is not the first time  I’ve plugged (free of charge) the Popular Culture and Philosophy series of books by Open Court Press, but they are just so much fun that I can’t resist listing all the titles (and subtitles–which often involve puns). I wish there was a series of theology and popular culture books that was this well done and  this much fun.  Some of the authors of the chapters in these books are Christian, but many aren’t.  Good stuff.

    1. Seinfeld and Philosophy: A Book About Everything and Nothing. (2000). Ed. by William Irwin.
    2. The Simpsons and Philosophy: The D’oh! of Homer. (2001).  Ed. by William Irwin, Mark Conard, and Aeon Skoble.  (This is my favorite to date.)
    3. The Matrix and Philosophy: Welcome to the Desert of the Real. (2002). Ed. by William Irwin.
    4. Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Philosophy:  Fear and Trembling in Sunnydale (2003). Ed. James B. South.
    5. The Lord of the Rings and Philosophy: One Book to Rule Them All. (2003). Ed. by Gregory Bassham and Eric Bronson.
    6. Baseball and  Philosophy: Thinking Outside the Batter’s Box (2004). Ed. by Eric Bronson.
    7. The Sopranos and Philosophy: I Kill, Therefore I Am. (2004). Ed. by Richard Greene and Peter Venezze.
    8. Woody Allen and Philosophy: You Mean My Whole Fallacy is Wrong?  (2004). Ed. Mark T. Conard and Aeon J. Skoble.
    9. Harry Potter and Philosophy: If Aristotle Ran Hogwarts (2004), Ed. David Baggett and Shawn Klein.
    10. Mel Gibson’s “Passion” and Philosophy: The Cross, the Questions, the Controversy (2004)., Ed. Jorge J. E. Garcia.  (I hated this film, which I saw to review, so much that I haven’t yet read this volume.)
    11. More Matrix and Philosophy: Revolutions and Reloaded Decoded (2005). Ed. William Irwin.
    12. Star Wars and Philosophy: More Powerful Than You Can Imagine (2005). Ed. Kevin S. Decker and Jason T. Eberl.
    13. Superheroes and Philosophy: Truth, Justice, and the Socratic Way(2005). Ed. Tom Morris and Matt Morris.
    14. The Adkins Diet and Philosophy:  Chewing the Fat with Kant and Nietsche (2005). Ed. Lisa Heldke, Keri Mommer, and Cynthia Pineo.
    15. The Chronicles of Narnia and Philosophy: The Lion, The Witch, and the Worldview (2005). Ed. Gregory Bassham and Jerry L. Walls.
    16. Hip Hop and Philosophy: Rhyme 2 Reason (2005). Ed. by Derrick Darby and Tommie Shelby. Foreword by Cornel West.
    17. Bob Dylan and Philosophy: It’s All Right, Ma (I’m Only Thinkin’) (2006). Ed. Carl Porter and Peter Venezze.
    18. Harley-Davidson and Philosophy: Full Throttle Aristotle (2006). Ed. Bernard E. Rollin, Carolyne M. Gray, Keri Mommer, and Cynthia Pineo.
    19. Monty Python and Philosophy: Nudge, Nudge, Think, Think! (2006). Ed. Gerry R. Hardcastle and Geoorge A. Reich.
    20. Poker and Philosophy: Pocket Rockets and Philosopher Kings (2006), Ed. Eric Bronson.
    21. U-2 and Philosophy: How to Decipher an Atomic Band (2006). Ed. by Mark A. Wrathall.
    22. The Undead and Philosophy: Chicken Soup for the Soulless (2006). Ed. by Richard Green and K. Silem Muhammad.
    23. James Bond and Philosophy:  Questions Are Forever (2006). Ed. by James B. South and Jacob M. Held.
    24. Bullshit  and Philosophy: Guaranteed to Get Perfect Results Every Time (2006). Ed. by Gary L. Hardcastle and George A. Reisch.
    25. The Beatles and Philosophy: Nothing You Can Think That Can’t Be Thunk (2006). Ed. by Michael Bauer and Stephen Bauer.
    26. South Park and Philosophy: Bigger, Longer, and More Penetrating (2007). Ed. by Richard Hanley.
    27. Hitchcock and Philosophy:  Dial M for Metaphysics. (2007). Ed. by David Baggett  and William A. Drumin.
    28. The Grateful Dead and Philosophy: Getting High Minded About Love and Haight (2007). Ed. by Stephen Gimbel.
    29. Quentin Tarantino and Philosophy: How to Philosophize with a Pair of Pliers and a Blowtorch (2007). Ed. by Richard Greene and K. Silem Muhammad.
    30. Pink Floyd and Philosophy: Careful With That Axion, Eugene! (2007). Ed. by George A. Reisch.
    31. Johnny Cash and Philosophy: The Burning Ring of Truth (2008). Ed. by John Huss and David Werther.
    32. Bruce Springsteen  and Philosophy:  Darkness on the Edge of Truth (2008). Ed. by Randall E. Auxier and Doug Anderson.
    33. Battlestar Galactica and Philosophy: Mission Accomplished or Mission Frakked Up? (2008). Ed. by Josef Steiff and Tristan D. Tamplin. (The revamped series was one of the few works of popular culture in America asking hard questions about the so-called “Global War on Terrorism,” and doing so with great science fiction.)
    34. iPod and Philosophy: iCon of an ePoch (2008). Ed. by D. E. Wittkower.
    35. Star Trek and Philosophy: The Wrath of Kant (2008). Ed. by Jason T. Eberl and Kevin S. Drecker. (I can’t wait to read this one.)
    36. The Legend of Zelda and Philosophy: I Link, Therefore I Am (2008). Ed. by Luke Cuddy.
    37. The Wizard of Oz and Philosophy: The Wicked Wisdom of the West (2008). Ed. by Randall Auxier and Phil Seng.
    38. Radiohead and Philosophy: Fitter, Happier, and More Productive (2009). Ed. by Brandon W. Forbes and George A. Reisch.
    39. Jimmy Buffett and Philosophy: The Porpoise Driven Life (2009). Ed. by Erin McKenna and Scott L. Pratt. (OK, I love Jimmy Buffett, but I can’t stand Rick Warren and that is the WORST pun I have ever seen.)
    40. Transformers and Philosophy: More Than Meets the Mind (2009). Ed. by John R. Shook and Liz Stillwaggon Swan.
    41. Stephen Colbert and Philosophy: I Am Philosophy (And So Can You) (2009). Ed. by Aaron Allen Schiller.
    42. Supervillains and Philosophy: Sometimes, Evil Is Its Own Reward (2009). Ed. Ben Dyer.

    Forthcoming in 2009: These works do not yet have sub-titles.

    • 43.  The Golden Compass and Philosophy Ed. by Richard Greene and Rachel Robison.
    • 44. Led Zeppelin and Philosophy Ed. by Scott Calef.
    • 45. World of Warcraft and Philosophy Ed. by Luke Cuddy and John Nordlinger.

    Forthcoming Titles for 2010 and Beyond:  These works have not yet been assigned editors and authors, but have been approved as topics for the series.

    • Anime/Manga and Philosophy.
    • Soccer and Philosophy.
    • The Rolling Stones and Philosophy.
    • Martial Arts and Philosophy.
    • Twilight and Philosophy.
    • Monk and Philosophy.  (I’m going to assume that is about fictional detective Adrian Monk and not about the resident of a monastery.)
    • Doctor Who and Philosophy.
    • The Boston Red Sox and Philosophy.
    • Facebook and Philosophy.
    • Futurama and Philosophy.
    • The Onion and Philosophy. (Most humorous fake news website ever.)
    • Rush and Philosophy. (I’ll pass.)
    • Breaking Bad and Philosophy.
    • The Dark Tower and Philosophy. (I would have thought Stephen King as a whole would have rated a work, not just his fantasy series.)
    • Dune and Philosophy.
    • Neil Gaiman and Philosophy. (Who?).

    You can suggest other titles at the website of Open Court Press.  Be prepared to argue the case.  I, personally, have suggested volumes on Mo’Town, Ray Charles, Bruce Lee (I think Lee  himself impacted the culture and raised philosophical questions beyond just  martial arts), and Columbo.


    August 2, 2009 Posted by | books, philosophy, popular culture | 2 Comments