July 9th 2013

On Valuing Women

By MarieAlena Castle

[Letter to the Minneapolis Star Tribune]

It’s disturbing that there is even a controversy over abortion. Aren’t women valued at all? They are society’s child bearers, so you’d think that would count for something and they would get decent treatment. But it doesn’t work that way, and so they are subjected to the endless legislative brutality we’ve seen in these anti-abortion laws.

 

Roe v. Wade was a bad ruling because it assumed what societies have always and everywhere assumed – that women are something of a public utility to be controlled and regulated because they are the community’s breeding stock. The Supreme Court should have dismissed Roe v. Wade on the basis that abortion is not the government’s business; it is a medical matter involving a woman’s bodily functions to be resolved between the woman and her doctor. By creating a totally unnecessary regulatory structure, the Court opened the door to all the modifications, restrictions and bureaucratic hoops to jump through that regulations invite, and that we have today, with more on the way.

 

Let’s make one thing clear: Abortion never kills a baby – it only keeps a baby from forming by stopping the gestational process. It takes time for the “ingredients” to come together and that doesn’t happen until sometime in the third trimester. By then, we are dealing almost always with a truly wanted baby, so if something goes wrong it is heartbreaking for the parents. If the fetus has to be removed, it is a serious medical procedure for women, certainly not something a legislature is equipped to deal with – or public opinion polls for that matter.

 

Why is abortion anyone’s business? What would happen if women were valued and respected, with no laws regarding abortion imposed on them? Women would terminate pregnancies that were disastrous for them as the situation required – almost all during the first trimester, some in the second trimester for medical reasons, and very rarely in the third trimester for severe medical reasons.

 

What humanitarian reasons exist for the punitive, patriarchal restrictions we have now? The fetus neither knows nor cares. A few women may regret their abortions, but they should take this up with the clergy who guilt-tripped them, not their legislators. As for society, far more damage is done in terms of social welfare costs and dysfunctional families by prohibiting abortion than by allowing it. Only abortion for sex selection is socially harmful when it is done to avoid having girl children in societies such as ours that devalue and mistreat women. But the problem is patriarchal sexism and the solution must address that.

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May 2nd 2013

Why the Media Cover Sexuality Stories

By MarieAlena Castle

Mark Jacobson is right that media coverage of human sexuality is “boring and stupid” (letter, May 1, Minneapolis Star Tribune). It really is nobody’s business what anyone’s sexual orientation or activities are as long as no one is hurt and they don’t do it in the street and scare the horses.

The media shouldn’t have to cover this, but they do because the religious right thinks it is their business, not ours. They constantly work for more and stronger laws to force all of us to conform to their fictional, mythical, irrational ideas about sex and sexuality. So the media have to let us know if we are going to be forced to live and even sometimes die by religious beliefs we don’t accept and may even abhor.

Let’s hope the Supreme Court will finally realize they are not there to put harmful dogma-based laws into government but to keep them out. That includes all the unnecessary, stupid and harmful laws we have restricting gay rights, reproductive rights, end-of-life rights, and stem cell research – plus  a lot more that the media would do well to inform us about.

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September 2nd 2012

The Consequences of Same-Sex Marriage

By MarieAlena Castle

Dr. Kion Hoffman (Minneapolis Star Tribune, 2 Sep 12) deplores the consequences if same-sex marriage is approved. He is right; there will be consequences—just as there were consequences when civil rights laws were passed. No doubt there were town clerks who lost their jobs when they refused to marry mixed race couples. No doubt religious charities could no longer provide adoption services when they refused to place mixed race children for adoption. No doubt there were parents distressed when their children were exposed to public classes about racial equality and justice. All because the traditional views about race had been overturned by law. But that is the price some people have to pay when they are no longer allowed to hurt innocent people by forcing their irrational beliefs on others. Just as society has survived and improved in the absence of punitive racist laws, so will it survive in the absence of punitive marriage laws.

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May 20th 2012

Assisted suicide a civil right

By MarieAlena Castle

I am a life member of Final Exit Network (FEN). Since my organization supports the work of FEN, I occasionally get calls from people considering a self-deliverance. (We don’t call it suicide because that suggests tragic, irrational haste. Self-deliverance is anything but that.) They never want, nor do they get, anything more than someone who will listen to them with sympathy and understanding when no one else will. They come to their own conclusions because it’s their life and they know better than I or anyone else under what terms they want to end it.

The FEN volunteers, of course, do more. Every effort is made to ensure that a client’s condition is hopeless, diagnosed correctly, unendurable (for the person!), and the decision to self-deliver is made calmly and rationally—and with no pressure or coercion whatsoever. There is no hands-on assistance at any point in the process. During a self-deliverance, all FEN actually does is provide a comforting presence so the person does not have to die alone. Certainly, having this ultimate control should be one’s final civil right.

Minnesota’s statute essentially requires that anyone doing a self-deliverance must die alone to avoid legally endangering a loved one. People who make and enforce such a cruel law are the ones who should be charged, as they obviously care nothing about the person’s rights or wishes. Yet, invariably, the persons charged are those who really do care, with a compassion that overrides the fear of legal persecution.

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April 24th 2012

Leviticus in the constitution? Why not Sharia law also?

By MarieAlena Castle

It was good to see the letter from Marcy Brown regarding the Bible and gay marriage because it brings the issue into focus. Yes, the Bible definitely opposes it—and that is precisely why the voters of Minnesota should not. We have a secular constitution that keeps religious dogma and government operations separate, for good reason. It prevents a lot of divisiveness and social chaos (the kind we are suffering from now with the religious right’s politicized extremism). Amending the state constitution by writing the Book of Leviticus into it violates that separation, just as writing Sharia law into it would. From a secular perspective there is no valid reason to oppose same-sex marriage. On the contrary, there are very good secular reasons to legitimize it. Religions that follow the Bible have complete religious freedom to continue to oppose same-sex marriage for their members, but not for everyone else.

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March 12th 2012

What to do about tax-exempt non-profits. If you have a solution, let us know.

By MarieAlena Castle

Jason Lewis is exactly right about the unfair tax exemptions for nonprofits (“One’s break is another’s tax burden,” Minneapolis Star Tribune, 4 Mar). We all pay more because they pay nothing. However, there is little chance of getting relief for the burdened. This is because religious groups are also designated nonprofit and it’s all or nothing. The U.S. Supreme Court in its 1970 Walz v. Tax Commission of the City of New York decision ruled 8 to 1 that religious organizations can be tax-exempt. This was extended to all nonprofits because not to do so would be unconstitutionally discriminatory.

What is often overlooked about the ruling is that it did not say (as many suppose) that churches must be tax-exempt, only that they could not be denied tax exemption if secular nonprofits were exempt. States were free to tax or exempt all or none. The states chose to exempt all. Because both groups, secular and religious, want to keep their exemptions, it is unlikely that any fair-taxation effort can be effective against that combined force.

It appears that Lewis would like to deny exemptions only to the unworthy (in his view) secular nonprofits. Unworthiness certainly does exist, but it abides in both religious and secular nonprofits. There is no hope of ever determining where the unworthiness line would be drawn, so the burden continues.

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March 4th 2012

Tax-exempt non-profits

By MarieAlena Castle
[Sent to the Minneapolis Star Tribune today. As usual, don't hold your breath waiting to see it in print.]

Jason Lewis is exactly right about the unfair tax exemptions for non-profits (“One’s break is another’s tax burden” Mar. 4). We all pay more because they pay nothing. However, there is little chance of getting relief for the burdened. This is because religious groups are also designated non-profit and it’s all or nothing. The U.S. Supreme Court in its 1970 Walz v. Tax Commission of the City of New York decision ruled 8 to 1 that religious organizations can be tax-exempt. This was extended to all non-profits because not to do so would be unconstitutionally discriminatory.

What is often overlooked about the ruling is that it did not say (as many suppose) that churches must be tax-exempt, only that they could not be denied tax exemption if secular non-profits were exempt. States were free to tax or exempt all or none. The states chose to exempt all. Because both groups, secular and religious, want to keep their exemptions, it is unlikely that any fair-taxation effort can be effective against that combined force.

It appears that Lewis would like to deny exemptions only to the unworthy (in his view) non-profits. Unworthiness certainly does exist, but it abides in both religious and secular non-profits. There is no hope of ever determining where the unworthiness line would be drawn, so the burden continues.

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February 14th 2012

Contraception as health care

By MarieAlena Castle

[I sent this to the Minneapolis Star Tribune but it was not published. (A couple of good ones were, however.)]

Anthony Morley asks whether contraception should be covered by health care insurance (Feb. 13), since it only prevents conception and does not treat or cure any illness or disease. Yet childbirth, which also does not treat or cure any illness or disease, is routinely covered. The reason (which should be obvious but apparently is not) is that pregnancy and childbirth are inherently life threatening physical conditions. Without good pre-natal and obstetrical medical care, the death rate for women is 1 in 16. Controlling pregnancy through contraception can be critical to preserving a woman’s health, sometimes her life, and often her ability to function productively in society. It is necessary medical care, not an elective.

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January 14th 2012

ANSWERS FOR DAN NYE

By MarieAlena
[I sent the following to the Minneapolis Star Tribune in response to the opinion piece referenced.]

Here are civil answers to the questions Dan Nye asked about homosexuality (1-14-12: “Six Questions for supporters of same-sex marriage to ask—forthrightly”)

1. Our ancestors were wrong about many things, such as slavery and subjugation of women. We abandoned those ideas because they allowed the mistreatment of people for no worthwhile purpose. That change was innovative and progressive. We are now abandoning the mistreatment of homosexuals for the same reason.

2. Our sexual organs (the external ones we control) exist for several functions, only one of which is reproduction. They certainly exist for pleasure, and so are used primarily for that. The male penis has three functions—urination, pleasure and reproduction. The female clitoris has only one function—pleasure. Homosexuality squares with all of those functions (although reproduction is usually—but not necessarily—achieved indirectly through sperm donation).

3. The human sex drive, being stronger than needed for reproduction (thus suggesting its primary human purpose is pleasure), can indeed be misused. It is more extravagantly misused by heterosexuals, especially in sexual exploitation of women, but can be misused by homosexuals as well. Controlling one’s sex drive is a common issue for everyone, regardless of orientation.

4. Yes, adultery and pedophilia are morally wrong because they harm people. Bestiality? We’d have to check with the beast in question as to any harm done. It’s just disgusting (or possibly hilarious) to most of us. Yes, those behaviors are probably natural for those who engage in them, but we need to prohibit only those that are harmful. Adults can deal with adultery on their own. Pedophiles, however, have to find a way to control that tendency or we lock them up to ensure the safety of our children. But homosexuality? What is there about it that is harmful when it’s between consenting adults? All it really amounts to is scratching an itch. Heterosexual behavior offers a lot more opportunities for immoral (harmful) behavior.

5. When has homosexuality harmed society in any way? It has never been or ever will be prevalent because it involves only a small percentage of the population, is not catching and can’t be taught because it’s a natural orientation, just one of nature’s variations. Heterosexuality has caused far more harm by subjugating women and overpopulating the planet.

6. Some religious people may believe homosexuality leads to perdition, but that is no basis for discriminatory laws against homosexuals. All such laws would be a most egregious unconstitutional establishment of religion with no valid secular justification whatsoever. The Book of Leviticus may have a place in some churches, but there it should stay. It does not belong in our laws, and certainly not in our state Constitution.

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November 19th 2011

Willful Ignorance or Mindless Cruelty?

By MarieAlena Castle
[Letter to the Minneapolis Star Tribune]

It is with a cold chill that I read Stephen Heaney’s defense (“Freedom of conscience is under assault,” Nov. 19) of the Catholic Bishops’ campaign claiming they are the victims of religious discrimination because the new health care reform regulations require all of the insurance plans to cover contraceptives with no co-pays, as well as sterilization. They see no reason why coverage should be mandated to deal with something that is not a disease but a “natural condition.”

Are they so deep into misogyny or so willfully ignorant that they do not see the mindless cruelty their “freedom of conscience” inflicts on women? For the government to grant religious facilities a “conscience clause” is to deny their non-Catholic women employees and health care or welfare recipients a service for which they have a right and a critical need. Pregnancy may be a natural condition and not a disease, but it is far from harmless. It is inherently life threatening. Without good medical care 1 in 16 women die from its complications. Obstetrics/gynecology is not only a medical specialty but has the highest medical malpractice insurance fees because of the many things that can go wrong with this “natural condition.” Ob-gyn doctors, as a routine precaution, consider the onset of labor as a disaster waiting to happen.

There is also such a thing as coerced pregnancy from rape and incest and psychological abuse. Religious institutions often provide social welfare services for these women under contract with the government. If the Catholic bishops have their way, there will be government-funded denial of contraceptives to prevent a coerced pregnancy, as well as the “morning after” pill following such coercion and, of course, denial of an abortion, even in serious life-threatening circumstances. Yet, according to the Catholic bishops, it is their religious freedom to brutalize women that is under attack. This is not a freedom any government should support.

Women need contraceptives to protect their health and wellbeing, as well as the wellbeing of their families. Without them, they have no effective way to control their lives. This is legitimate health care that cannot rationally be rejected for insurance coverage by government – certainly not as a preferential favor for religion. If religious facilities choose to reject such coverage for doctrinal reasons, they should also reject any government funding that supports their other social services.

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