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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?

Read more at New Rambler

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

How the U.S. Can Strike at Iran without Risking War

In his testimony before Congress on Tuesday, Michael Doran urged the U.S. to pursue a policy of rolling back Iranian influence in the Middle East, and explained how this can be accomplished. (Video of the testimony, along with the full text, are available at the link below.)

The United States . . . has indirect ways of striking at Iran—ways that do not risk drawing the United States into a quagmire. The easiest of these is to support allies who are already in the fight. . . . In contrast to the United States, Israel is already engaged in military operations whose stated goal is to drive Iran from Syria. We should therefore ask ourselves what actions we might take to strengthen Israel’s hand. Militarily, these might include, on the passive end of the spectrum, positioning our forces so as to deter Russian counterattacks against Israel. On the [more active] end, they might include arming and training Syrian forces to engage in operations against Iran and its proxies—much as we armed the mujahedin in Afghanistan in the 1980s.

Diplomatically, the United States might associate itself much more directly with the red lines that Israel has announced regarding the Iranian presence in Syria. Israel has, for example, called for pushing Iran and its proxies away from its border on the Golan Heights. Who is prepared to say that Washington has done all in its power to demonstrate to Moscow that it fully supports this goal? In short, a policy of greater coordination with Jerusalem is both possible and desirable.

In Yemen, too, greater coordination with Saudi Arabia is worth pursuing. . . . In Lebanon and Iraq, conditions will not support a hard rollback policy. In these countries the goal should be to shift the policy away from a modus vivendi [with Iran] and in the direction of containment. In Iraq, the priority, of course, is the dismantling of the militia infrastructure that the Iranians have built. In Lebanon, [it should be] using sanctions to force the Lebanese banking sector to choose between doing business with Hizballah and Iran and doing business with the United States and its financial institutions. . . .

Iran will not take a coercive American policy sitting down. It will strike back—and it will do so cleverly. . . . It almost goes without saying that the United States should begin working with its allies now to develop contingency plans for countering the tactics [Tehran is likely to use]. I say “almost” because I know from experience in the White House that contingency planning is something we extol much more than we conduct. As obvious as these tactics [against us] are, they have often taken Western decision makers by surprise, and they have proved effective in wearing down Western resolve.

Read more at Hudson

More about: Iran, Israeli Security, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Syria, U.S. Foreign policy, Yemen