Overheard (December 2021)

A court that gets off the path of liberty expansion by reversing Roe will lose its most precious means of establishing legitimacy.

Noah Feldman, in his column, “If the court reverses Roe, its very legitimacy may be at risk.”

Bloomberg, 10-24-21


It used to be that when many people thought about evangelicalism, they conjured up an image of a fiery preacher imploring them to accept Jesus. Now, the data indicate that more and more Americans are conflating evangelicalism with Republicanism — and melding two forces to create a movement that is not entirely about politics or religion but power.

Ryan Burge, a political science teacher at Eastern Illinois University and author of The Nones: Where They Came From, Who They Are and Where They Are Going, in his op-ed “Why ‘evangelical’ is becoming another word for ‘Republican.’”

The New York Times, 10-26-21


The decision in Does suggests that there is, at least, some limit to the court’s willingness to carve out legal exemptions for religious conservatives.

Ian Millhiser, in his article, “The Supreme Court finally decides the religious right asked for too much,” regarding Maine’s vaccine mandate for health care workers.

Vox.com, 10-29-21


A ruling requiring religious exemptions will upend public health law. . . . A decision by the Supreme Court that rejects its own precedent on vaccine mandates and ignores the distinctions between medical exemptions and religious exemptions will reverberate far beyond the Covid-19 pandemic. Whether or not the court intended to unsettle the constitutionality of vaccine mandates, it has done so.

Wendy Parmet, law professor at Northeastern University School of Law, in her op-ed column, “A dangerous Supreme Court fight over vaccine mandates looms.”

The New York Times, 10-31-21


The cases before the Supreme Court this fall are cause for alarm. Let’s make them a rallying cry for demanding reproductive freedom as a fundamental human right — and not just a privilege dependent on your race, where you live, whom you sleep with or how you define your identity.

Kathryn Kolbert and Julie F. Kay, in their op-ed column, “Roe is as good as gone. It’s time for a new strategy.” Kolbert, the co-founder of the Center for Reproductive Rights, argued Planned Parenthood v. Casey before the Supreme Court in 1992. Kay is a human rights lawyer who argued against Ireland’s ban on abortion before the European Court of Human Rights.

The New York Times, 11-1-21


By exploiting the provisional nature of scientific knowledge, its inevitable updating and the realities of the scientific funding structures, conspiracists eroded the trust of some susceptible individuals in the recommendations of public health authorities about lifesaving behaviors, including mask wearing and vaccination. Their success in doing so made community immunity, and with it an end to the pandemic, more elusive.

Kathleen Hall Jamieson, in her article, “How conspiracists exploited Covid-19 science.”

Nature.com, 11-1-21


First, personal choice is fine — as long as your personal choices don’t hurt other people. I may deplore the quality of your housekeeping, but it’s your own business; on the other hand, freedom doesn’t include the right to dump garbage in the street. . . . Vaccination, then, should be considered a public duty, not a personal choice.

Paul Krugman, in his column, “No, vaccine mandates aren’t an attack on freedom.”

The New York Times, 11-1-21


Church figures have browbeaten elected officials over Covid restrictions, built powerful institutions in parallel to secular government, harassed perceived opponents, and accumulated land and businesses in pursuit of a long-term goal of transforming America into a nation ruled according to its own, ultraconservative moral precepts.

Jason Wilson, in his article, “‘Make it a Christian town’: the ultraconservative church on the rise in Idaho.”  The article shows how the influential Christ Church leader in Moscow, Idaho, aims to establish a Christian theocracy in the town.

The Guardian, 11-2-21


When you see how hard it’s been for governments to get their citizens to just put on a mask in stores, or to get vaccinated, to protect themselves, their neighbors and their grandparents from being harmed or killed by Covid-19, how in the world are we going to get big majorities to work together globally and make the lifestyle sacrifices needed to dampen the increasingly destructive effects of global warming — for which there are treatments but no vaccine? That’s magical thinking, and it demands a realistic response.

Thomas L. Friedman, in his column “The climate summit has me very energized, and very afraid.”

The New York Times, 11-10-21


It takes astonishing conceit to believe you — and the minority of people who think like you — know God’s will better than all others. Radical Christians show key narcissistic traits, including overconfidence in their beliefs and lack of interest in the views of others. 

Psychologist Thomas Smurthwaite, in his article, “The perils of American fundamentalism.”

Medium.com, 10-28-21


The fixation on race and Christian nationalism has serious ramifications for American political life. White evangelical Christians are fighting an impossible crusade against demographic inevitability. . . . Because they can never win (at least in a democracy with free and accurate elections), their political venom will not abate.

. . . There is nothing Democrats can “give” them (e.g., jobs, cheaper health care) to satisfy their need for white Christian ascendency. 

Jennifer Rubin, in her column, “America cannot give evangelicals what they want.”

Washington Post, 11-9-21