Monday, April 04, 2005

With Two You Get Eggroll, Chairman Mark

Is Mark Hyman an ill-informed windbag, or does he just play one on TV?

Hyman’s recent commentary comparing the American Civil Liberties Union with Communist China is so rife with mistakes that it’s difficult to judge whether Hyman knows the truth and is simply being dishonest, or whether he’s actually as ignorant as he appears to be.

Hyman’s problem this time with the ACLU is their claim that they have voiced criticism of the United States’ record on human rights:

The ACLU states it wants to "…hold the United States government accountable under universally recognized human rights principles…"

Those Geneva-Convention-loving bastards! How dare they have the chutzpah to want their country to act in accord with basic human dignity?!

In a rather flaccid attempt at guilt by association, Hyman notes the ACLU recently partnered with the Open Society Institute:

The Society's mission statement claims, in part, that "…in the
United States, the dominant values have become those of market fundamentalism, which rejects a role for government and poses a threat to political quality, public services, racial justice and the social safety net."

And? It’s not clear whether Hyman is questioning the claim that market fundamentalism is the driving force in American society or the idea that this might not be a good thing. Apparently in his mind, however, this statement is so obviously beyond the pale that it not only invalidates anything the Open Society Institute might say, but the ACLU as well on the basis of their willingness to fraternize with such a group.

Hyman could offer a counterargument challenging either or both premises of the Open Society’s claim (admittedly this would be difficult, and would still leave the question open of why this invalidates the ACLU’s stance on human rights in the United States, but let’s not get greedy). But instead he digs into the right-wing reactionary collection of greatest hits and offers a tired bit of red-baiting, comparing the ACLU to Communist China :

Not unlike the Communist Chinese, the ACLU abhors individual
religious freedom and it supports only those civil liberties that fit its narrow political agenda.

This still fails to suggest what is so scandalous about suggesting the United States should comport itself along accepted norms of basic decency, but it’s also just wrong.
The ACLU’s position on religion is not only quite clear, but should be one that any true conservative would embrace. The ACLU believes that individuals should be allowed to practice religion without the interference of any large institution, particularly the government. Last time I checked, the cornerstone of conservative thought was that individuals should be unfettered from government regulations. That’s the ACLU position on religion in a nutshell.

“But wait,” the Hymans of the world will say, “that’s just a nice way of saying that there should be no public display of religious belief at all. The ACLU wants to keep people from expressing their religious beliefs!”

Nothing could be further from the truth, and the facts bear this out beyond any doubt. Like or loathe the ACLU, you can’t accuse them of not supporting religious expression when it’s done by individuals. The problem comes when expressions are made on behalf of the government. Yes, the ACLU has challenged placing the Ten Commandments in courtrooms, but consider the following:

In 1986, the ACLU defended the right of a Jewish man to wear a yarmulke while on duty with the Air Force. The ACLU believed that the man shouldn’t be told not to express his religious beliefs as long as it didn’t interfere with his duties. By the way, the conservative Rutherford Institute supported the Air Force position.

But surely that was just because the guy involved was Jewish? The ACLU hates Christianity, right?

Nope. Within the last year, the ACLU defended the right of Christians to perform baptisms in a public park in Virginia. The ACLU defended two jurors who were removed from a jury because of their religious activities (one of them had done missionary work; the other was a Muslim woman who wore religious clothing). When the city government of Lincoln, Nebraska was using zoning laws to try to shut down a Presbyterian church, the ACLU came to the defense of the church. The ACLU also defended a Catholic man who was punished by a court for not completing a drug rehabilitation program that included overt efforts to convert him to the Pentecostal faith. For additional information on the many ways the ACLU has defended individual religious liberty, see the Media Matters story on this issue.

Hyman ends his commentary with the following:

Come to think of it, it's next to impossible to separate the
rhetoric of the ACLU, the Open Society Institute and the Communist

Let’s see: when individuals voice their personal opinions against the government in China, they get run over by tanks. Meanwhile, the ACLU comes to the defense of individuals whose rights to personal religious belief and expression are infringed on by the government.

On the other hand, Hyman attacks groups that champion individual liberty, human rights, the ability to criticize government, and the right of people to not have their religious beliefs infringed on by the state.

Mark, is that egg fu yong on your face?

And that’s The Counterpoint.


Post a Comment

<< Home

Cost of the War in Iraq
(JavaScript Error)
To see more details, click here.