Partners - Stock market, economic and political commentary by Patricia Chadwick

Archive for June, 2015

Marriage — Both a Civil and a Religious Institution

Monday, June 22nd, 2015

Perhaps it’s hubris on my part to write a blog about the definition of marriage with the Supreme Court only weeks or perhaps even days away from ruling on the matter (Obergefell v. Hodges), but I have to admit being flummoxed by the state of near hysteria that has been generated in this country over the definition of the word.

It seems to me that, in our culture and under our system of government, marriage has two definitions. It is (a) a civil contract and (b) a religious institution.

This distinction is based on the premise of the separation of church and state as a fundamental tenet underlying the first amendment of the Bill of Rights of our Constitution.

Religions that practice in the U.S. are free to define marriage within the context of their own principles and philosophy. It is not unusual for some religions to deny, or require a special dispensation for, couples seeking to marry if they do not share the same religion. The government (AKA the state) may not ordain what constitutes a valid religious marriage.

To the best of my knowledge, every state in the union accepts as valid the marriages performed by members of religious groups (except for polygamy which was outlawed by the U.S. Congress in the late 19th century).

The other side of that coin is that the state governments have the authority to establish their own criteria for civil marriage. In the past, many states required blood tests to help maintain public health and safety, but over time, nearly every state has abolished that requirement.

Today more than a handful of states (some of them in the heart of Bible Belt America) allow for common law marriage, but most do not. But that does not in any way require a religious organization to sanction common law marriage (and few do).

Most religions condemn adultery; many also condemn common law marriage. But there hardly seems to be a wave of hysteria over the fact that such “sinners” might be customers of religious-minded business owners. The issue has only arisen over the discussion of same sex marriage. It seems a bit hypocritical to me.

If the self-righteous are truly honest in their claim that their religious freedom is threatened by the requirement that they might be “forced” to do business with sinners, they should be willing to post in their place of business a sign that might read something like this:

Please note: We value our customers and want to give you the best service. However, if you have ever engaged in any of the following acts that we consider to be sin, please be advised that we do not wish to have you as a customer.

Following would be a list of everything they deemed to be a sin.

That would be honest and forthright and truly nondiscriminatory, allowing them to bear the commercial impact of choosing to deal only with those they considered to be sinless. It would also put them out of business in about a day.

Nearly forty years ago, a gay friend of mine with a serious heart problem told me of his concern that should he die before his partner, the inheritance taxes would force the sale of their modest weekend cottage in the Hudson River valley. In my mid-twenties at the time, I was haunted by the gross unfairness facing so many Americans. Some fifteen years later, my friend’s heart gave out as he sipped a martini during a Sunday lunchtime in his beloved retreat. His partner never had to face the loss of his home, as he succumbed to cancer three days later. They were spared the heartache they feared.

Much progress has been made since then, which is good. Let’s hope that the impending decision by the Supreme Court will put an end to the chimera that freedom of religion can deny citizens their civil rights.


© Copyright 2015 Patricia W. Chadwick

Memorandum to: Admiral Michael S. Rogers, Director of the NSA

Tuesday, June 2nd, 2015

Dear Admiral Rogers,

Despite the fact that Senator Rand Paul achieved his objective of preventing a renewal of the Patriot Act, I want you to know that I give you authority in your capacity as head of the NSA to gather the data from my various telephones that you deem necessary to protect me (and all Americans) from the growing dangers of terrorism.

And if Congress passes a watered-down version of the Patriot Act, thereby restricting your organization’s ability to collect the data, you have my permission to continue acquiring whatever data you need from my telephones.

And by the way, Admiral, I have spent the last week questioning numerous friends and acquaintances on this issue. The political spectrum of my friends is wide indeed, ranging from the uber right-wing Tea Party to Libertarian to Republican to Democrat and even radical left-wing socialists.

While not all those I contacted feel as I do, the vast majority are in agreement. I was surprised to find that most of those who took issue with me on this matter are in fact Democrats, hardly a group of fans of Senator Paul. They said it was a distrust of government that led them to their point of view.

It’s understandable that many people distrust government, but we know it’s the venality of politics, not our structure of government that is at fault. Back-room deals, pork barreling and too much quid pro quo — all for the purpose of self-perpetuation in government.

Back to the issue at hand, I find it implausible that the NSA has either the interest or the capacity to sit around all day listening to the content of my (notice the emphasis on ‘my’) myriad phone calls — to family, doctors, coworkers, service providers, restaurants and friends here and abroad. It would take armies of government employees to achieve that level of scrutiny, far more than the 35,000 to 40,000 people who work for the NSA. I suppose conspiracy theorists might argue that the listening could be farmed out to “subcontractors.”

I took the time to listen to Senator Rand Paul on Sunday, and there is no doubt that he is earnest in his belief that the gathering of telephone data (note: just the gathering of the data, not eavesdropping) is a violation of the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution, which states “The right of the people to be secure … against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated ….”

I am no constitutional lawyer. But like most of my friends and acquaintances, I expect the government to do everything in its power to keep us (and in fact the free world) safe from an enemy that is at war with our values, our form of government and our way of life.

I view the gathering of telephone data as one tool in our government’s arsenal. It hardly seems like an “unreasonable seizure.” In fact, I can see no way in which my liberty is curtailed by it; rather, I feel more secure in the knowledge that the government is doing everything in its power to track and destroy those who would wage war on us.

Thank you, Admiral, for your years of service to our country. I hope you will be granted the tools necessary to fight an enemy we know is growing stronger by the day.

© Copyright 2015 Patricia W. Chadwick