CHURCH AND STATE.The Maine Issue
A referendum of great national importance, which nonetheless received little national notice, took place on November 2, 1999, when 45 percent of Maine voters--an unusually high turnout in an off-year election--defeated 55 percent to 45 percent a ballot initiative aimed at banning late-term abortions. Often incorrectly called by the nonmedical term partial-birth abortion partial-birth abortion
A late-term abortion, especially one in which a viable fetus is partially delivered through the cervix before being extracted. Not in technical use. , intact dilation and extraction Intact dilation and extraction (IDX or intact D&X), also known as intact dilation and evacuation (intact D&E), dilation and extraction (D&X), intrauterine cranial decompression and controversially in the United States as (D&X) has become the latest target of the religious right campaign to ban all abortions. (This campaign is discussed by ethicist eth·i·cist also e·thi·cian
A specialist in ethics.
Noun 1. ethicist - a philosopher who specializes in ethics
philosopher - a specialist in philosophy John Swomley in his new book, Compulsory Pregnancy: The War Against American Women, from Humanist Press, 1999.)
The Maine referendum is important because it marks the third voter defeat in one year for an attempted ban on late-term abortions. In November 1998, voters in Colorado and Washington State defeated similar proposals, despite massive propaganda campaigns by the religious right and opinion polls supposedly showing majority support for such bans.
The Republican-dominated Congress, catering to the religious right, has repeatedly passed such bans, only to have them vetoed by President Clinton for failing to include an exception for physician-determined medical necessity. The Senate has subsequently been unable to cobble together cobble together
[-bling, -bled] to put together clumsily: a coalition cobbled together from parties with widely differing aims
Verb 1. the two-thirds vote needed to override these vetoes.
The Maine vote was a defeat for the Christian Civic League of Maine (which succeeded in 1998 in defeating a state gay rights law in a referendum that pulled in only 30 percent of eligible voters), Pat Robertson's Christian Coalition Christian Coalition, organization founded to advance the agenda of political and social conservatives, mostly comprised of evangelical Protestant Republicans, and to preserve what it deems traditional American values. , and the Roman Catholic Diocese of Portland
1. of the Catholic church in neighboring Quebec, Canada. Portland pollster poll·ster
One that takes public-opinion surveys. Also called polltaker.
Word History: The suffix -ster is nowadays most familiar in words like pollster, jokester, huckster, Patrick Murphy
Maine's pro- and anti-choice sides each spent an estimated $1 million on their campaigns--a lot of money for a small state. Political scientist Richard Maiman wrote in the November 3 Portland Press Herald The Portland Press Herald (and Maine Sunday Telegram; collectively known as The Portland Newspapers) publish daily newspapers every day of the week in Portland, Maine, USA. :
The [pro-choice] No on 1 Campaign's single most effective move was to transform the election from a referendum on [late-term] abortion into one on abortion itself, by asserting that the ban would really be much more sweeping than the Yes Campaign claimed. This put the supporters of the ban in the painful and somewhat embarrassing position of having to argue that they did not intend to eliminate all abortions, or even most abortions, a claim that many Maine voters may not have found all that convincing. Why would the pro-life forces spend so much money challenging a seldom-used medical procedure if they didn't have something bigger in mind? It may well be the case that the Yes on 1 Campaign started out wanting nothing more than a symbolic victory, a demonstration of its grassroots strength. Their opponents appear to have used that very strength to help defeat the ... ban by suggesting an ulterior motive behind the ballot question.
Maine Secretary of State Dan Gwadosky said that more people voted on the abortion rights referendum than on any of the other eight measures on the ballot, including one to permit medicinal use of marijuana, which passed 61 percent to 39 percent.
The bottom line is that Maine voters--like those in Colorado and Washington State in 1998--showed that people from coast to coast, whatever they may personally think about abortion, prefer that government keep its nose out a woman's decision whether or not to continue a problem pregnancy and away from a physician's clinical judgment as to the best way to look after a patient's health. The Maine vote was also a vote to protect women from governmental imposition of sectarian medical codes.
But winning a few battles doesn't necessarily mean winning the war. Reproductive freedom is far from safe. State laws continue to impinge upon that freedom, many communities have no medical facilities for abortions, and poor women are increasingly disadvantaged in obtaining adequate reproductive health Within the framework of WHO's definition of health as a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being, and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity, reproductive health, or sexual health/hygiene care. In November 1999 the Republican Congress succeeded in burdening U.S. foreign aid with unreasonable restrictions on family planning family planning
Use of measures designed to regulate the number and spacing of children within a family, largely to curb population growth and ensure each family’s access to limited resources. . The 2000 presidential and congressional elections could determine whether reproductive choice remains a constitutionally protected right.
Bible and School
The Bible and Public Schools: A First Amendment Guide is a pamphlet released November 11, 1999, by the Freedom Forum's First Amendment Center and the National Bible Association and endorsed by eighteen religious and educational organizations. The guide is primarily the work of the Freedom Forum's Charles Haynes, who was the spark plug spark plug: see ignition.
Device that fits into the cylinder head of an internal-combustion engine and carries two electrodes separated by an air gap, across which current from a high-tension ignition system discharges, creating a spark of similar guides issued in recent years on religious issues in public education.
Haynes declared at a press conference that the guide is a "historic breakthrough," adding that, "after more than 150 years of bitter conflicts, we finally have a broad consensus on the constitutional and educational place of the Bible in public schools."
In all fairness, I must say that the guidelines aren't really bad. They state that "any study of religion in a public school must be educational, not devotional de·vo·tion·al
Of, relating to, expressive of, or used in devotion, especially of a religious nature.
A short religious service.
de·vo "; teachers for a "Bible class" must be selected in the same way as other teachers; "the Bible may be used as a primary text, but preferably not the only text for a course"; "supernatural occurrences and divine action described in the Bible may not be taught as historical fact"; and "students should be exposed to a variety of religious and secular biblical interpretations and translations."
As far as they go, the guidelines make sense. But they don't propose adequate safeguards to ensure balance, fairness, objectivity, and inclusiveness. Nor do they provide educators with the tools to prevent "Bible classes" from being merely Pollyannaish fluff or low-key indoctrination in·doc·tri·nate
tr.v. in·doc·tri·nat·ed, in·doc·tri·nat·ing, in·doc·tri·nates
1. To instruct in a body of doctrine or principles.
2. . Educators aren't helped to deal with the stormy controversies over the evolution of the Bible in its assorted variations. And placing the Bible itself at the center of what ought to be taught "about" religion is itself seriously out of balance.
Yes, public schools should do more to alleviate ignorance about religion, but it must not be done unless the resulting curricula are completely balanced, fair, objective, and inclusive--religious warts and all.
Haynes and Company have not shown that they can do this, as I have previously pointed out in this column. Furthermore, while Haynes has stated that all "stakeholders Stakeholders
All parties that have an interest, financial or otherwise, in a firm-stockholders, creditors, bondholders, employees, customers, management, the community, and the government. " should be heard in the shaping of policy on religion in public schools, once again he has demonstrated hypocrisy by purposely ignoring the humanist, Unitarian Universalist, and freethought portions of the religio-philosophical spectrum.
Edd Doerr is president of the American Humanist Association The American Humanist Association (AHA) is an educational organization in the United States that advances Humanism. It is the original Humanist organization, and embraces secular, religious, and other manifestations of Humanist philosophy. , executive director of Americans for Religious Liberty, and the author or coauthor of numerous books and articles on church-state separation.