Sex, Law, Religion—and a Secularist’s Morality Tale

In Sex in the Constitution, Geoffrey Stone—formerly dean of the University of Chicago’s law school—explains how the American legal system dealt with attempts to regulate sexual relations from colonial times until the present day, giving particular attention to the ways legislation regarding sex ran up against the religious freedoms guaranteed by the First Amendment. Andrew Koppelman finds the book “a remarkably clear articulation of a very common [but] crude view of the appropriate relation between politics and religion”:

Stone thinks that the controversies over legal regulation of sexuality were, at their core, religious. . . . The struggle is one between good secularism and bad religion. . . . The struggle is not only about sexual freedom. It is also about containing the dangerous power of religion. . . . [T]he book reads like an indictment of the dangerous and tyrannical impulses of religious dogma. Yet the religious are not the bad guys in the story of modern sexual liberation. . . .

[For instance], Stone emphasizes the [Constitution’s] framers who sought to contain religion for rationalistic reasons. But American disestablishment was equally the creation of dissenting Protestants who thought that state support tended to corrupt the true faith. Religious fanatics like John Milton and Roger Williams advocated disestablishment a century before the Enlightenment. The Christians’ indispensable role in disestablishment presents a problem for Stone’s vision of a politics purged of religious influence. . . .

[But the more important question is this:] how bad is it if a law’s supporters are religious? Stone notes that when Californians voted against same-sex marriage in 2008, “the voting patterns made crystal clear” that the law was “a successful effort by persons holding a specific religious belief to use the authority of the law to impose their belief on their fellow citizens.” . . . The argument implies that the support of religious people is a kind of constitutional poison, contaminating and invalidating otherwise legitimate statutes. Of what use then is their right to vote?

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More about: American law, First Amendment, Religion & Holidays, Secularism, Sex, U.S. Constitution

The Impossibility of Unilateral Withdrawal from the West Bank

Feb. 19 2019

Since throwing his hat into the ring for the Israeli premiership, the former IDF chief of staff Benny Gantz has been reticent about his policy plans. Nonetheless, he has made clear his openness to unilateral disengagement from the West Bank along the lines of the 2005 withdrawal from Gaza, stating the necessity of finding “a way in which we’re not controlling other people.” Gershon Hacohen argues that any such plan would be ill-advised:

The political and strategic precepts underlying the Oslo “peace” process, which Gantz echoes, vanished long ago. The PLO has unequivocally revealed its true colors: its total lack of interest in peace, unyielding rejection of the idea of Jewish statehood, and incessant propensity for violence and terrorism. . . . Tehran is rapidly emerging as regional hegemon, with its tentacles spreading from Yemen and Iraq to the Mediterranean Sea and its dogged quest for nuclear weapons continuing apace under the international radar. Even the terror groups Hizballah and Hamas pose a far greater threat to Israel’s national security than they did a decade ago. Under these circumstances, Israel’s withdrawal from the West Bank’s Area C, [the only part still under direct Israeli control], would constitute nothing short of an existential threat.

Nor does Israel need to find a way to stop “controlling other people,” as Gantz put it, for the simple reason that its control of the Palestinians ended some two decades ago. In May 1994 the IDF withdrew from all Palestinian population centers in the Gaza Strip. In January 1996 it vacated the West Bank’s populated areas (the Oslo Accords’ Areas A and B), comprising over 90 percent of the West Bank’s Palestinian residents, and handed control of that population to the Palestinian Authority (PA). . . .

This in turn means that the real dispute between Israel and the Palestinians, as well as within Israel itself, no longer revolves around the end of “occupation” but around the future of eastern Jerusalem and Area C. And since Area C (which is home to only 100,000 Palestinians) includes all the Jewish West Bank localities, IDF bases, transportation arteries, vital topographic sites, and habitable empty spaces between the Jordan Valley and the Jerusalem metropolis, its continued retention by Israel is a vital national interest. Why? Because its surrender to a potentially hostile Palestinian state would make the defense of the Israeli hinterland virtually impossible—and because these highly strategic and sparsely populated lands are of immense economic, infrastructural, communal, ecological, and cultural importance, not to mention their historical significance as the bedrock of the Jewish ancestral homeland

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More about: Benny Gantz, Israel & Zionism, Two-State Solution, West Bank