Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Should we not vote for Gingrich because of his past marital problems?

My good friend Francis Beckwith asks the following question, which he calls "uncomfortable and awkward," about Newt and Callista Gingrich on his blog today:
So, let me ask it again in a more extended fashion: Are conservative Christians, who believe in the morality of the natural law and all that it entails about marriage, family and civil society, prepared for America to have a First Lady who was a home wrecker and was once the President’s mistress, with her husband as the national standard bearer for the causes of life, conjugal love, and the common good?
This is a legitimate question, and my answer to it is that I would rather not have such people--sinners--occupying the White House. Adultery is a violation of one of the Ten Commandments and is a mortal sin. On the other hand, I would rather not have a person who is a polytheist in the White House either. Mormonism is essentially polytheistic, a violation of another of the Ten Commandments, and also a mortal sin.

I would far rather have a non-sinner in the White House. As soon as anyone spots one, I'd like to know about it.

But there is an important difference between the two scenarios above--the Gingriches and the Romneys. It is that the former are repentant, and the latter are not. And so I'm not clear on how unrepentant and continuing violation of the first commandment is less problematic than the repentant violation of the sixth commandment.

In fact, if we are looking for God's own attitude toward the relative sinfulness of these two particular sins--polytheism and polygamy--it is not too difficult to see where the greater problem lies. God frequently penalizes individuals--and the nations they lead--for committing the former, but does not seem to have much of a penchant for penalizing an individual or nation for the latter.

In fact, if multiple marriage disqualifies one for public office, it is instructive who is thereby disqualified. We can start with David and Solomon. In fact, it would be an interesting question to consider how a guy with 700 wives would do in the Republican primary. In fact, with the kind of extended family that implies, one wonders if there would be any way he could lose.

I do not believe that the relatively greater divine distaste for polytheism over polygamy is an indication that polygamy was morally acceptable, but it does seem to pose a serious problem for anyone who wants to argue that serial monogamy (which it seems is less of a sin than polygamy) is any more problematic than polytheism.

I have pointed out elsewhere that I agree that character matters, but that I also think that conversion matters more. Not only has Gingrich publicly admitted that what he did was wrong, but as a Catholic convert, you have to do this little thing that involves going into a little room and spilling out your guts--including sexual sins--in detail to a guy on the other side of a panel, who, once you are finished, absolves you of your sins.

I too, like Beckwith, wish that Gingrich had been a little more contrite in his answer--as he has already been when he has discussed this elsewhere. I too, like Beckwith, think he should have been more sensitive about the pain he caused his wife. Maybe St. Augustine was being a little too self-obsessed himself when he said pretty much the same thing about the concubine he abandoned--it pained him.

In fact, it kind of bothered me that Ronald Reagan was a divorcee.

This is not a trivial problem. Gingrich's past bothers me. So does Romney's present. Maybe Santorum's future should concern me as well--he seems pretty squeaky clean so far, but who knows.

One of them will win the Republican nomination and face Barack Obama, who, incidentally, is neither a serial monogamist nor a polytheist.

Should I vote for him? It's an uncomfortable and awkward question.

38 comments:

Art said...

Adultery is a violation of one of the Ten Commandments and is a mortal sin.

Um, adherence to the First Amendment is a violation of one of the Ten Commandments (at least) and is thus a mortal sin.

The real question is - how can one vote for a candidate like Newt who is so blatantly opposed to the Constitution, and (if the campaign rhetoric is to be believed) would violate the oath of office from the get-go?

KyCobb said...

Martin,

"One of them will win the Republican nomination and face Barack Obama, who, incidentally, is neither a serial monogamist nor a polytheist.

Should I vote for him? It's an uncomfortable and awkward question."

So what is more important to you, religion or policy? If you would vote for Romney, a Mormon, over Obama, a Christian, why not vote for Romney over Gingrich, whose negatives are so high its extremely unlikely he can defeat the President. Now that I've put it that way, you can't possibly vote for that Mormon over Newt! Go Newt Go!

"And so I'm not clear on how unrepentant and continuing violation of the first commandment is less problematic than the repentant violation of the sixth commandment."

BTW, thanks for pointing out the fallacy often repeated by socons that the Ten Commandments are the foundation of our laws. Four Commandments, if instituted into law, would violate the 1st Amendment guarantee of freedom of religion.

Lee said...

> Um, adherence to the First Amendment is a violation of one of the Ten Commandments (at least) and is thus a mortal sin.

Which one?

KyCobb said...

Lee,

"Which one?"

Actually, four. "Thou shalt have no other Gods before me", "Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven images", "Thou shalt remember the Sabbath and keep it holy", and "Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain."

Anonymous said...

Callista is a cyborg with a Tiffany's addiction who converted Newt to Catholicism while they carried on a six year adulterous affair which began in the workplace. I'll take a Mormon over this train wreck any old day.

Joe_Agnost said...

I wouldn't care about his personal life at all if he hadn't spent a lot of his career meddling in everyone else's personal lives. Newt is a real scumbag and a hypocrite - I think that much is clear.

Lee said...

You're going to have to explain how those commandments are violated by the Constitution.

Lee said...

> BTW, thanks for pointing out the fallacy often repeated by socons that the Ten Commandments are the foundation of our laws. Four Commandments, if instituted into law, would violate the 1st Amendment guarantee of freedom of religion.

Okay, I think I'm following this. You are saying simply that is the commandments were incorporated into the civil or criminal code, then they would be unconstitutional.

Certainly, Congress and the President need no additional help to violate the Constitution.

Tell you what. Instead of worrying that a cabal of Christians are going to take over the government and pass the Ten Commandments as federal law, why don't you worry about something that really could happen -- namely, allowing Sharia law to make inroads in the U.S.

KyCobb said...

Lee,

"Tell you what. Instead of worrying that a cabal of Christians are going to take over the government and pass the Ten Commandments as federal law, why don't you worry about something that really could happen -- namely, allowing Sharia law to make inroads in the U.S."

That's hilarious, Lee. Muslims make up less than 1% of the US population, and the GOP is bent on tearing down the wall separating church and state and writing as much Christian theology as it can into the Constitution, and we are supposed to be worried about sharia law? Do you live in an alternative universe?

Terry @ Breathing Grace said...

I am one who has a problem with Newt's past and have said as much on my blog. But it isn't so much about his past as it is about his insistence that none of it matters more than the issue when he is asked about it. He didn't offer Clinton the same courtesy.

But more importantly, and serious look at Gingrich's record, political shenanigans, and associations puts to rest any notion that he is a true conservative. He looks more like a progressive when you take hard look at him.

Style over substance, Newt is. And I think what we know about his personal life is indicative of something we can expect to see in his public service. Inconsistency.

Joe_Agnost said...

Lee wrote: "Instead of worrying that a cabal of Christians are going to take over the government and pass the Ten Commandments as federal law, why don't you worry about something that really could happen -- namely, allowing Sharia law to make inroads in the U.S."

As KyCobb already wrote - that is truly hilarious. I (almost) can't imagine a more ignorant statement being made.

Here we've had multiple Christian Dominionists running for president - with still-running Santorum stating flatly that he wants America's laws to conform to God's laws - and you think we should be worried that Sharia is coming to town? Insanity and willful ignorance - that's what your statement is Lee.

Lee said...

Well, Ky, since you are opposed to insanity and willful ignorance, you should check out the following links...

http://www.tampabay.com/news/courts/civil/appeals-court-wont-stop-hillsborough-judge-from-considering-islamic-law/1198321

http://shariahinamericancourts.com/

"The study’s findings suggest that Shariah law has entered into state court decisions, in conflict with the Constitution and state public policy. Some commentators have said there are no more than one or two cases of Shariah law in U.S. state court cases; yet we found 50 significant cases just from the small sample of appellate published cases."

"Others have asserted with certainty that state court judges will always reject any foreign law, including Shariah law, when it conflicts with the Constitution or state public policy; yet we found 15 Trial Court cases, and 12 Appellate Court cases, where Shariah was found to be applicable in these particular cases. The facts are the facts: some judges are making decisions deferring to Shariah law even when those decisions conflict with Constitutional protections."

There don't have to be a lot of Muslims in the U.S. for court cases to start laying down unfortunate precedents today which, presumably, future courts will have to consider. But you're a lawyer, right? You know that already. So willful ignorance is not your problem on this issue.

And do you think the number of Muslims, due to immigration, in this country over the next few years is going to...?

a. Increase
b. Decrease

Lee said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Lee said...

Please consider my previous post as a response to Ky and Joe, and apologize for any inaccurate conflation.

Joe_Agnost said...

@Lee:

I suppose if you don't consider the source of your information it would appear scary... but, fortunately, the source is a total fraud. See the link at the end of this comment for my evidence that "shariainamericancourts" is a total fraud.

There is simply no reason to fear sharia coming to America - none.

http://scienceblogs.com/dispatches/2011/06/the_fraudulent_sharia_in_ameri.php

Joe_Agnost said...

In fact Lee, just in case you don't bother checking out the link I provided I will paraphrase part of it below:

shariainamericancourts.com has a state-by-state list of what they claim are sharia rulings in American courts. The very first one Ed (of the website I linked to) looked at was his home state, Michigan.

The very first case they site comes to the exact opposite conclution they claim - the courts explicitly REJECTED sharia and ruled in favor of the wife (against the husband who wanted sharia). This is evidence that sharia is NOT gaining ground in America.

Lee said...

Joe, sorry, your link isn't working for me.

> There is simply no reason to fear sharia coming to America - none.

Is it because no court in America is deferring to it?

Or not enough Muslims live here (or are ever going to live here) to make it an issue?

Or because sharia is good and therefore there is no reason to fear it?

Or that the statement that Judge Richard Nielsen invoked sharia law was fabricated (in which case, I suppose, the Tampa Bay Times reporter, William Levesque, made it all up)?

That article starts with this paragraphs:

> "A Florida appeals court appears to have cleared the way for a Hillsborough judge to use Islamic law to decide a key issue in a lawsuit involving a local mosque."

Here's the link again...

http://www.tampabay.com/news/courts/civil/appeals-court-wont-stop-hillsborough-judge-from-considering-islamic-law/1198321

So you're saying, what? That this didn't happen?

Joe_Agnost said...

That link again - broken up this time...

http://scienceblogs.com/dispatches/

2011/06

/the_fraudulent_sharia_in_ameri.php

Lee said...

Here's another one:

http://www.secularnewsdaily.com/2010/07/28/nj-judge-oks-rape-of-wife-by-muslim-citing-religious-belief-overturned-on-appeal/

> "A trial judge in NJ refused to issue a restraining order in a case of domestic violence and marital rape because the defendant, a Muslim, claimed that his religion gave him the right to sex on demand and complete control of his wife. An appeals court overturned the verdict."

> "This court does not feel that, under the circumstances, that this defendant had a criminal desire to or intent to sexually assault or to sexually contact the plaintiff when he did. The court believes that he was operating under his belief that it is, as the husband, his desire to have sex when and whether he wanted to, was something that was consistent with his practices and it was something that was not prohibited."

Fortunately, an appellate court overturned this decision.

Can we count on them always to do so?

Joe_Agnost said...

So Lee's latest evidence that Sharia is being used in American courts is a case which ruled EXACTLY opposite to that (after appeal)! Damn that's funny. By ~not~ allowing sharia law you think that this is evidence that sharia is somehow going to be used?? Really?

Read my like to 'dispatches' and you'll see just how ridiculous shariainamericancourts.com is - and how much of a fraud they are.

Lee said...

> So Lee's latest evidence that Sharia is being used in American courts is a case which ruled EXACTLY opposite to that (after appeal)! Damn that's funny.

I see. The appellate court ruled differently, and its time for Joe to do his touchdown dance.

But Joe said, "There is simply no reason to fear sharia coming to America - none."

I would call this "some reason to fear sharia." "Some" is greater than none.

Because we can't always count on appellate courts doing the right thing. Correct? Or is that the theme of your next assault, that appellate courts are always right and will always be right?

Joe_Agnost said...

Sharia law would be unconstitutional... if there was any chance of a religious law being used in America the Christians would have done it years ago. The Christian "taliban" is a far scarier thought than sharia-law in this country. Just listen to Rick "frothy mix" Santorum for a few seconds and you'll hear what I mean.

KyCobb said...

Lee,

Concerning the story in the Tampa Bay Times, it said the appellate court denied the petition to prohibit the judge from using sharia law without comment. It appears that the appellant filed an interlocutory appeal, which means that the petition was filed before the judge entered a final order in the case. Interlocutory appeals are normally not allowed, and that may be the reason the appellate court denied the petition. Another possibility is that the appellant was seeking a writ of mandamus, which one can not obtain if one has a remedy on appeal from a final judgment. Since the appellate court did not file a written opinion, its ruling cannot in any way be interpreted or cited as an endorsement of the use of sharia law in American courts.

The article also said,]: "Nielsen limited his use of Islamic law to deciding whether arbitration by an Islamic scholar mediating a dispute between the mosque and ousted trustees followed the teachings of the Koran."

This must mean that there was a written contract between Muslims agreeing to arbitration of mosque disputes by an Islamic scholar. You are apparently taking the position that private religious institutions cannot agree to resolve internal disputes in accordance with their religious beliefs, which I believe would be a violation of their first amendment rights. Lee, you don't really want to take the position that churches are prohibited from resolving their internal disputes in accordance with their Christian beliefs, do you? That would mean you disagree with the recent Supreme Court ruling that churches are immune from discrimination suits pursuant to the ministerial exception. Is that really the position you want to take?

KyCobb said...

Martin,

How do you feel about Lee's proposal that women should be able to sue the Catholic Church for sex discrimination because it won't ordain them as priests?

Lee said...

> Sharia law would be unconstitutional...

Well duh. Of course it would be. I didn't say that it would ever be constitutional. But as long as judges like that New Jersey fellow exist, there is a risk that the courts will set some bad precedents and tolerate it.

> The Christian "taliban" is a far scarier thought than sharia-law in this country.

So you're saying Christians in this country are as dangerous as a group that flies jet planes into buildings and cuts peoples' heads off to make a point.

Have fun splashing around in your fever swamp, Joe.

Lee said...

> How do you feel about Lee's proposal that women should be able to sue the Catholic Church for sex discrimination because it won't ordain them as priests?

Delusional, as always. I don't think I said anything of the sort.

Lee said...

> This must mean that there was a written contract between Muslims agreeing to arbitration of mosque disputes by an Islamic scholar. You are apparently taking the position that private religious institutions cannot agree to resolve internal disputes in accordance with their religious beliefs, which I believe would be a violation of their first amendment rights.

In this matter, it would seem to me that the government lacked the jurisdiction.

Anonymous said...

http://www.businessweek.com/news/2012-01-25/gingrich-gets-boost-from-casino-billionaire-s-10-million-bet.html

KyCobb said...

Lee,

"I don't think I said anything of the sort."

"Others have asserted with certainty that state court judges will always reject any foreign law, including Shariah law, when it conflicts with the Constitution or state public policy"

The Catholic Church's ban on women priests is a law promulgated by a foreign head of state which conflicts with public policy prohibiting sex discrimination.

Lee said...

> The Catholic Church's ban on women priests is a law promulgated by a foreign head of state which conflicts with public policy prohibiting sex discrimination.

I'd love to hear you argue that point of view in the courts. It would be interesting to see how far it got.

The good news is that, at least today, when a Catholic priest forces sex on someone, it's illegal.

KyCobb said...

Lee,

"I'd love to hear you argue that point of view in the courts. It would be interesting to see how far it got."

That's my point Lee. If the Catholic Church can handle internal disputes in accordance with its traditions, so can a Mosque. The fact that a dispute over control of a Mosque will be arbitrated by an Islamic scholar is no more a threat to US law than the Catholic Church determining who can be ordained a priest in accordance with its traditions.

Joe_Agnost said...

Lee wrote: "So you're saying Christians in this country are as dangerous as a group that flies jet planes into buildings and cuts peoples' heads off to make a point."

No. I'm saying that ~many~ Christian Dominionists (like Rick "frothy mix" Santorum" are as dangerous as the Taliban. They're actually more dangerous in that they actually wield power in this country.

TC said...

In this matter, it would seem to me that the government lacked the jurisdiction.

Lee, you're absolutely right. It's called the "ministerial exception": the establishment clause prohibits the government from telling a religious institution who they can and cannot hire. The government cannot select personnel for a religious institution. The exception has been around for a long time in the circuit courts, but the Supreme Court has officially recognized it several days ago.

Lee said...

> That's my point Lee. If the Catholic Church can handle internal disputes in accordance with its traditions, so can a Mosque.

I'll be sure to let the Baal worshippers know that the child sacrifices can continue. Maybe they can rent the Hollywood Bowl next weekend.

I mean, after all, nuns can't become priests in the Catholic Church. Quid pro quo!

Lee said...

> The government cannot select personnel for a religious institution. The exception has been around for a long time in the circuit courts, but the Supreme Court has officially recognized it several days ago.

Thanks for the info, TC!

Hey, KyCobb, I thought you were a lawyer!

KyCobb said...

Lee,

I am. I was the first one on this thread to point out that the Supreme Court recently affirmed the ministerial exception.

Lee said...

> I am. I was the first one on this thread to point out that the Supreme Court recently affirmed the ministerial exception.

Is the ministerial exception an invasion, so to speak, of Christian law into the secular arena? That is, do the courts affirm that cases in this area use Christian law as its standard?

Or is the ministerial exception a nod to our very own constitutional law and it simply defines personnel decisions by the Church as outside the jurisdiction of the courts?

The reason I ask, of course, is with regard to the Florida mosque case. Not having the benefit of your legal training, it would nonetheless seem to me that the court should either have:

a. Made a ruling in accordance with American law; or

b. Declared it lacked jurisdiction and withdrawn from the case.

But it seems the answer, in this case, was c -- which was to admit sharia law as material to a case being ruled on in an American courtroom.

If this is correct, seems like the wrong answer to me. What if a mother superior had sued the Catholic Church because of the glass ceiling? Would the same judge have admitted Catholic law as material to his decision? Or would he have said, "Not our jurisdiction?"

The end result might be the same for our hypothetical, oppressed mother superior. But I think I see a difference. Sometimes it seems more important how an outcome was arrived at, than which outcome actually took place.

KyCobb said...

Lee,

"Or is the ministerial exception a nod to our very own constitutional law and it simply defines personnel decisions by the Church as outside the jurisdiction of the courts?"

I haven't read the opinion. Normally this sort of thing wouldn't be a case of lack of jurisdiction, but rather the Church having an affirmative defense it can assert to have the case dismissed.

" The reason I ask, of course, is with regard to the Florida mosque case. Not having the benefit of your legal training, it would nonetheless seem to me that the court should either have:

a. Made a ruling in accordance with American law; or

b. Declared it lacked jurisdiction and withdrawn from the case."

This case involves a fight over Mosque assets worth millions of dollars. A similar legal battle has been going on for years over control of Episcopalian Church assets. http://www2.timesdispatch.com/news/2012/jan/11/episcopalians-win-suit-over-control-7-va-churches-ar-1603637/
If in such cases, courts simply said, "we don't have jurisdiction, figure it out for yourselves", then a legal means to resolve disputes over vast amounts of property no longer exists, and you have anarchy. Thus by necessity, the courts will have to pass judgment on such disputes. When disputes between private parties exists, unless there are specific laws detailing how property will be allocated, as when a person dies without a will, Courts look to what agreements exist between the parties. Assuming the Mosque bylaws call for arbitration by an Islamic Scholar in accordance with sharia law, then a court would normally enforce that arbitration clause, just as it would enforce an arbitration clause in a contract between corporations.