From Burning Bushes to Crying Babies

For everyone who thought the culture warriors on the religious right would take a back seat at the Texas Legislature during this once-a-generation budget crisis, ladies and gentlemen, we give you exhibit A:

During last week’s debate in the Texas Senate over the “sonogram bill” — legislation that would require a doctor show a sonogram and play the heartbeat of the fetus to women seeking an abortion — Senator Dan Patrick, R-Houston, offered a little nugget that makes it clear that his bill has less to do with “empowering women” with information (as he has claimed) than imposing his personal religious beliefs on women in the state.

While responding to a question from another senator, Patrick was briefly interrupted by a crying baby in the audience. Here’s what he said:

You know, so often in life we try to do things on our timing — there’s the hand of God right there, with the cry of a baby who says, ‘vote for this bill, let’s get it moving. Let’s get the 24 suspended, 21 votes suspended. But life is about God’s timing not our timing. This bill wasn’t right in 2007 and it obviously wasn’t right in 2009. This is God’s time to pass this bill.

You can also watch the video below.


TFN takes no position on this bill; we do not advocate on issues of reproductive rights. But we do have a position on politicians who see faith primarily as a weapon to attack those who disagree with them. We believe the cynical use of faith to advance a political agenda is both corrosive to democracy and shows profound disrespect toward the diversity of religious opinions in this state.

As with many self-righteous Texas politicians before him, Sen. Patrick has decided that appropriating God to score political points and smear his opponents is good politics. And maybe it will work in the short term. But we should all be nervous when the power of government is used to privilege the personal religious opinions of one person or group. That’s precisely why the Founders separated religion and government in this country in the first place.

24 thoughts on “From Burning Bushes to Crying Babies

  1. The concept of “separation” of religion and government is a popular political myth. The Constitution prohibits a religious test for public office, and the 1st Amendment says that the freedom of religion and of free speech shall not be abriged.

    The efforts to “separate” religion from govenment haa resulted in the repression of religous expression when used in a governmental enviironment. Repression in the name of freedom is classic Orwell.

    Likewise, freedom of speech is subject to civil and criminal prosecution if the “speech” offends some jerkwater jurisdiction. Thus speech is now parsed between offensive and unprotected speech vs protected unoffensive speech. There is no need for a Constitutional guarantee of inoffesive speech.

    Whatever happened to “I don’t like what you say, but I will defend your right to say it”?

  2. You’d think Texas politicians would have better sense than that. He stepped in it. He got it all over his ostrich skin boots, or whatever.
    That will not survive Constitutional scrutiny.
    Slam dunk.

  3. Gordon, I think you missed the point of the article.

    You can’t impose your religious beliefs or even your own sense of morality on other people, it doesn’t work.

    Requiring doctors to show women a sonogram when they request an abortion does not equal less government interference in private lives. Isn’t that a republican principle?

  4. Yep. You said it.
    Whatever you may thind of the bill, saying “I’m right because God is on my side and not yours, so there” (with or without one’s tongue stuck out) is an unworthy debate tactic.

  5. Gordon,

    So you don’t mind pressing YOUR particular religious beliefs on others in the name of freedom of religion or speech.

    Do you mind if others press their religious beliefs on you, even though you may disagree with those beliefs and find them offensive?

    Would you only tolerate Protestant/Christian beliefs pressed on you or would you also be respectful to Hindu, Jewish, or (drum roll please) Muslim values and beliefs (which may actually not differ much from your own)?

    I think I know the answer to that one.

    Do you think it might be possible for you to have a rational, adult conversation directly about issues only without interjecting religion, self rightously brow beating others with your relious beliefs, or attempting to disaparrage others relious beliefs?

    Hmmm, …probably not.

  6. Gordon Fowkes clearly has refused to read about any of the Supreme Court rulings in the 220 years since the first amendment stated that Congress shall make no law regarding the establishment of a state religion. State-approved religious expression is BY DEFINITION establishment. That is not a myth, that is the ruling of many pre-Scalia Supreme Courts.

    SO, government (public) schools, parks and buildings are not to favor one sect over another. It is not a myth – it is the law.

  7. I dont understand how liberals oppose this bill. I thought they were for the rights of people. seems like they care less for the people inside of woman.

  8. Truth,

    I think I can sum it up for you in a few bullet points.

    1. These women do not a child. These are unwanted pregnancies.
    2. Women do not make these decisions lightly.
    3. The state has decided to encourage women to have children they clearly do not want.
    4. But the state does not want to give any financial or healthcare aid at all once the child is born. “We made sure you got here kid, now you are on your own.”
    5. And these children are born into homes where they are not wanted. What kind of life and upbringing do you think they will receive?

    Have you ever thought that forcing women to have babies they really don’t want may create a much bigger problem for society in 15-20 years? How many more jails are you willing to pay for?

    So how can abortion opponents want to save unwanted pregnancies on one hand and not fund additional social services that will clearly be needed on the other so as to keep society from incurring a huge financial and social cost later?

  9. My views on religion are clearly ambivalent, but my views on freedom of speech is straight forward. One has to show harm by one’s utterance with intend to do so in a particular case before consequences can be established by law. That’s what the laws of slander and libel are all about.

    Not long ago in the case history of the Supreme Court, speech was only considered subject to litigation if a “clear and present danger” was attached. This was exemplified by the example of yelling “fire” in a theater.

    It has only been in the last few years that speech has become subject to proscription if it might create discomfort in someone sometime. Such are the hate laws, and in civil law of objectionable speech such as verbal curses which once were considered only is associated with actual witchcraft.

    The freedom of speech does not create a corresponding protection of the occasion of hearing, seeing or reading. If it were, the Constitution would have created a freedom from speech. Freedom from speech is not an included protection from freedom of speech unless the laws concerning libel, slander, and/or a clear and present danger.

    Neither does freedom of speech protect a speaker from competing speech, like heckling, save as might be considered disorderly conduct. That’s a slippery one, but one heartily embraced by hecklers of a wide variety of activist causes older than the forums of Athens and Rome. Bad manners perhaps, but free none the less.

    The absurdity of the concept of “forcing” one to believe anything against one’s will is manifest. One can be forced to show obedience or acceptance, but that is subject to practical cosnsiderations of peronal wellbing, for which fakery is clearly acceptible.

  10. Truth,

    One other thing.

    I can’t help but notice that if there were no unwanted pregnancies then there would be no abortion clinics. They would shut down all by themselves.

    So if the abortion opponents were really serious about eliminating elective abortions, they would be pushing sex education, contraception and birth control at every turn. Which of course they oppose.

    What kind of schizophrenic logic is that?

    Which is the greater sin? Promoting allowing access to sex education and contraception or having women elect for abortion once they have an unwanted pregnancy?

    Did you know that teens account for only about 20% of all abortions? Women 20 and over account for 80% of all abortions. Teenagers are not the ones having al these abortions. Adult women are.

  11. An unborn child is not a wart, tumor, or callus to be excised for health or beauty reasons. Creating children is an essential part of survival of the species, breed, tribe, clan and/or family. It is at the core of life itself.

    The survival of most of God’s creatures aka nature is feed, breed, and multiply according to some very precise and often complex behaviors. The Monach Butterfly takes three generations to go from Mesico to Canada and one generation to fly back to Mexico. Salmon swim horrific rapied going upsream to spawn in the exact same pleaces they were spawned.

    Whether God created every species at once as our friends in SBOE would have it, or evolved through natural selection, the process is controlled by instructions coded in DNA. What differs homo sapiens from the rest is that humans are probably the least equipped beings on birth. Three year old horses race in heart pounding competition, humans are just getting the opposing thumb thing working enough for parents to baby proof the house.

    the biggest cnanges in the human recycling process include the decrease in infant mortality by about two thirds (it used to take six births to get two to puberty, not counting the mortality rates in childbirth) and chod labor laws which turn children from economic assets to financial liabilities. In more primitive parts of the world, children are cheap farm labor, and the more the better.

    The lowered mortality rate and loss of economic value in modern industrialized parts of the world have universally led to a serious decline in birth rates well below the level to sustain the current population levels.

    I think that perspective puts the issue of freedom of choice vs the life issue in a more, albeit callous, view.

  12. Piedmont, You don’t understand that to many people, an abortion, a fertilized egg that doesn’t implant, a period, a birth control pill, and a sticky tissue are all the same in God’s eyes. It’s probably somewhere in the bible and it’s definitely in Monty Python’s “The Meaning of Life” during the musical interlude “Every Sperm is Sacred”. People are supposed to suppress their God-given urges. It’s a test. Or something. Hell, I never figured it out either.

  13. Texas legislatures are likely watching two bills that are working their way through the Iowa legislature. The first would define “personhood” as beginning at conception, which is of course an overtly religious belief. The second would expand the right to protect life – to expand the right to kill an intruder entering your home, for example, and make it legal to kill anyone who is threatening to take a life anywhere in the state of Iowa. In other words a license to kill abortion providers.

  14. This issue is about the forcing of one’s religious views on another. In this case, on all women.
    There is a view that came from religious authorities, that “life” begins at conception. That is, a “soul” is imparted to the zygote, by “God”.
    This is a religious view.
    In reality, through the ages, childbirth was a function of the feminine sector of society. Children were born at home. Midwives were women, usually grandmothers, mothers, older sisters, etc. Whether a deformed child was kept alive at birth was a matter which they decided in private. Many, many women died in childbirth.
    Male doctors started being involved in childbirth in the 19th century, mainly.
    Women started going to hospital in the 20 century for childbirth. My mother and father both were born at home.
    After the Christian Right lost the desegregation battle, they took up the “social morality” banner. They jumped on the abortion issue and started exploiting it.
    There was a report done in the early years, in which anti-abortionists were asked about contraception, sex education, etc, as a way to prevent women from even having to make the decision about whether to choose an abortion or not. They were overwhelmingly opposed. They didn’t want other people to have premarital sex, or sex that didn’t include the chance or “threat” of pregnancy.
    They want to force their religion on others.
    The idiot state senator is entitled to his freedom of speech. That’s not at issue. What’s at issue is whether this is about forcing women to conform to a particular religious doctrine. His speech makes it clear that’s exactly what is at issue. Forcing a sonogram on the patients will be seen as a violation of their civil rights.
    Women hopefully will wake up and realize that if they let this trend continue, they will never have equal rights with men.

  15. The forcing issue, once again. It seems that women are incapable of sufficient free will to ward off religious views which are or are not, politically correct. The abortion issue is not one of forcing a religion, but on banning certain medical procedures which intentionally terminate a pregnancy and as an elective procedure.

    The rationale for or against abortion on other than medical grounds have been grounded in competing political hype. The argument that the Christian Right is forcing their religious views on the unwilling is about the same argument that the Right uses that the Left is forcing homosexuality on the heterosexusal. Both arguments assume the innocent are absent free will.

    What passes for dialogue becomes diatribe in the dark.

  16. Gordon – Do you mean “women are incapable of sufficient free will to ward off religious views” when they are forced on them under cover of law, or do you mean something else? OF COURSE the proposed law will impose a religious requirement on women. That is actually the point.

    And are you really saying that passing laws that allow gays to have all the rights of other citizens “is forcing homosexuality on the heterosexual”? That, too, is nonsense.

    In fact, the only reason I am writing an answer to you is that your crazy sounds a lot like Beck, and if you get a show, I want you to have me on.

  17. TXSwede, to your question is no and no. The assertion that one forces another an opinion assumes that the other is incapable of free will. One can be forced to bow and scrape, smile and nod, or spout whatever gibberish is necessary to avoid the gibbet, all the time loathing the toadying.

    It is easy to assume that others are so gullible as to believe anything whilst is is not gullibility but servivability that matters. Thus in academia, or corporate climate, it is wisest to regurgitate whatever is necessary to get a good grade or a steady source of pay.

    The Right’s assertion that the Left is forcing homosexuality on heterosexuals is actually a form of homo eroticism, They get off on it.

    I am to old and feeble to have my own show, although I have had a regular sound bite from time to time. And, true to form, many say they are not sure whether I am mad or just kidding. The answer I give is that it isn’t important that you know I am nuts, it is important that I do.

  18. Conservative Republicans cannot understand how unwanted pregnancies produces abortion. Conservatives have caused more abortions than Liberals. Planned Parenthood has prevented millions of abortions because they have prevented millions of unwanted pregnancies. A person is no more or no less of a Christian if they are Pro-Life or Pro-Choice. Conservatives also associate birth control, stem cell research, and evolution to abortion. Both Adolpf Hitler and Saddam Hussein were survivors of abortion. (Their mother’s wanted to get an abortion but could not) Those who are pro-Life would say the Hitler and Hussein had a right to be born. Those who ae pro-Choice would say that Hitler, Hussein, murders, rapists, and those on death row should never have been born in the first place. Hitler proved that one can be anti-abortion but no pro-Life. In Nazi Germany if a white ayrian woman had an abortion she was put to hard labor, if she had a second abortion she was put to death. (Hitler was try to create a “Master Race”). Also, Conservative Republicans don’t care about kids after they are born. They are cutting back on eduation for kids, health care for kids, and support giving them unsafe toys. And they want more kids to be born. They are like deadbeat dads who want more kids to be born, but don’t want to help raise them.

  19. Gordon you said “the lowered mortality rate and loss of economic value in modern industrialized parts of the world have universally led to a serious decline in birth rates well below the level to sustain the current population levels.” And you are absolutely correct.

    But in the US, as the middle class and above have fewer children, the percentage of taxpayer liabilities, welfare recipients, continues to increase while the percentage of assets, future taxpayers, declines. And restrictions on abortion, especially in the southern states which have the highest poverty and ignorance rates in the nation, the taxpayer burden is becoming excessive. Yet if you move across the south, from Texas though the Carolinas, you’ll find the states that have put up the high-test barriers to abortion and continue to devise new ways to implement further restrictions. But take a look at high school graduation rates; Alabama, Mississippi, Georgia, Louisiana and South Carolina are always between 40th and 50th in the nation. It’s the worst of both worlds. I don’t mind my tax dollars going to help the less fortunate but at same time we should use common sense and make every possible effort to interrupt the cycle of poverty. It’s better to not replace disappearing assets at all than to replace them with liabilities.

    Of course acting fiscally responsibly is strictly the domain of fiscal conservatives; religious conservatives could not care less if we become a welfare nation. Case in point their effort to de-fund Planned Parenthood last week, the “evil” Planned Parenthood that spends a large portion of their funds handing out contraceptives to girls and women who can’t afford to buy them.

  20. Well spoken, Robert. There is an over-arching relationship between the backlash of radical religious right patriarchialism, gun worship, suppression of women’s rights, increased misogyny and domestic abuse of women, and the neglect of children. In 200 years this will be a major theme of history studies of this period.

  21. There is a correlation between poverty and a higher and less safe birth rate. Many of the poor are operating on the older paradigm that one should get pregnant early and often. The old social network that supported that sort of higher birth rate was the extended family all living in the same complex.

    The young parents, once the child was weaned were expected to work on the family farm (or on the local laird’s land) while grandparents looked after the kids. That older paradigm placed experienced parents to handle the kids. It is likely an axiom somewhere that should say that kids old enough to have kids aren’t old enough to raise them. Were it not for the wisdom of the grandparents, I expect the infanticide rate would have been much higher. Likewise the nutty ideas that some parents get about how ot raise children create more dents in a child’s psyche than would have happened with experienced parents.

    Thus the nuclear family is not the optimum family to raise a new generation while the extended more experienced family is under utitlized. The modern paradigm not only mitigates towards a too low birth rate, it raises the kids in a substandard environment.

    Family planning as restricted to birth issues, isn’t anywhere near what is needed to provide a less dysfunctional home environment. I have been divorced three times, and my kid’s mother, five time which adds up to seven step parents for my children. It hasn’t been fun trying to do some vestige of parenting.

    Unwanted births is a miniscule problem compared with the default dysfunctional nuked family of modern the modern industrial/commerical world. The demise of the family farm where the extended family worked, played and lived has taken the farm out of the family.

    On the farm, cooking dinner was a full time job for several people. One raised the food one ate, and made goods to sell in the local market. The family was not only a place to raise kids, it was an economic unit in which everyone had a part.

    Add canned goods, a refrigerator and a microwave and the entire female contingent of the family is unemployed, and bereft of a sense of belonging, value, and place.

    And it is no longer possible to go back to those halcyon days of drought, storm, market prices, and avaricious land grabbers. Those who prattle on about family values should reflect on what is needed to rebuild the economics of family life to replicate the environment in which the human race evolved/planted. And that requires a lot more thought than sound bites.

  22. Gordon, I agree with the assessment of extended families being the best environment, in practice. Unfortunately, we can’t force society into that mold, so we’re going to have to do the best with what we’ve got. The first thing is to re-value the child, the future generation, and to invest seriously. The “family values ” crowd have a silly notion of recreating a crystalline, inert replica of the ’50’s Ozzie and Harriet model, and any serious social scientist knows that’s folly. Societies evolve constantly, as organisms do. I think we will return to some kinds of “family farm” templates, which will be facilitated by modern technology.
    I think we’ll also revisit the “co-operative”, the commune, and the kibbutz to some limited degree. Future society will be flexible, smart, able to take different forms to fit different contexts.

  23. I am getting worried about Gordon. Looking back on it now, my My Aunt Launa’s slow descent into dementia actually began in her late 50s or early 60s. She slowly quit being the person I had grown up around by doing things that I saw as being weird, but most people apparently did not—-for example—maybe talking nonstop for an hour about all the parameters and permutations involved in the design and manufacture of a Tylenol bottle—or maybe a chicken salad sandwich.

  24. Having grown up in a Ozzie & Harriet neighborhood, it seemed ideal. But there were some other signs now forgotten, like the local radio and TV ads for yoor very own bomb shelter. Bomb shelter ads ranked right up there with used cars, denture cream, and shaving lotion. Juvenile delinquency was the rage, all due ot the A-bomb and the pending sense of doom.

    The growth of a new middle class stemming from the GI Bill, and not serious economic powers overssas. Thus the extended family that held society togehte prior to WW2 went quietly into the dark. The concepts of commune, kibbutz, or cooperative to try to resurrect the extended family doesn;t have the cachet that striking out on one;s own.

    The first step in dealing with the rise of the dysfunctional family is to recognize the causes and symptoms before setting up a Five Year plan.

    The most likely course of action is inaction in which dysfuncional families become the norm which will necessarily lead to corrective action on the abnormal functional famlies.

    The Theatre of the Absurd has arrived ….. again.