Bedroom rights

Posted: May 04, 2004 12:00 AM
I am in favor of the First Amendment guarantee of free speech, with one exception. Nobody should be permitted to say flat-out that "the government should stay out of the bedrooms of America." What if a civil-rights hate act was being conducted in the bedroom? For that matter, what if Daddy was forcing his way with a 10-year-old girl? Or Mom was starving her 10-month-old boy?

The phrase is an idiotic invocation of a taboo whose single purpose, in current usage, is to illegitimize concern about sexual activity. Said John Kerry, "Abortion should be rare, but it should be safe and legal because the government should stay out of the bedrooms of America." Just by the way, the bedrooms of America aren't where abortions are had; they're where seeds are planted that lead to abortions.

That government should stay out of the bedrooms of America has come to mean an ever-increasing area of official non-concern. There is to be no concern over sodomy in the bedroom. But are there limits? What about incest? We know that infanticide is just plain illegal, even if undertaken in the bedroom -- provided the infant is at least 1 day old. If the infant is minus 1 day old, it's all right to snuff him/her out, and go to church on Sundays.

We bump now into a second maxim, to which insufficient thought is given. "John Kerry is a believing and practicing Catholic," said his campaign spokesman David Wade. "His faith has played an important role in his life, but he also believes in the separation of church and state."

Well, so do us guys, Wade. But when John Kerry approaches the altar rail to present himself for communion, why are so many people saying that he should be given communion? If we have a separation of church and state, then the right of the church is to decide who does and who does not receive communion. If you are saying that a member should be given communion even if he counsels laws that violate rights believed by the church to be universal, then you are not arguing the separation of church and state. You are arguing the supremacy of the state. State believes abortion OK; therefore, church must not discriminate against anyone who also says it is OK.

Or is the complaint against the Catholic Church that it is laying down laws not only for Catholics, but also for non-Catholics? But if the moral commandments of a church extended only to the treatment of its own members, then it would be fine to ignore the rights of people who were merely, oh, Hindus, or Jews. It is another thing, of course, to limit the sanctions of a church to its own members. A Catholic bishop would be presumptuous if he announced that Al Franken would not be welcome at the communion rail. It is widely understood, and not resented, that only Catholics go to the Catholic communion rail, the same kind of thing as only Democrats go to Democratic caucuses.

But now we have a Nigerian cardinal in the Vatican who has reaffirmed the right of an American Catholic bishop to deny communion to someone who votes in favor of permissive abortion laws. The organization of the Catholic Church is centralized. The pope is the head of the church, but bishops are vested with authority that is theirs, and includes, in this case, the authority to deny communion to those who flout precepts thought by the bishops to be central to moral obligations.

The difference between giving communion to John Kerry, presidential candidate, and giving communion to John Doe, who voted for a local abortion law, is that Kerry is a public figure, and therefore a transgressor whose transgression is a public act, inviting reprisal, like the protester who draws attention to himself by proclaiming his defiance. To upbraid a bishop for denying communion to a public figure who espouses permissive abortion laws is to upbraid him for upholding the doctrine of the separation of church and state. If the churchman allows himself to be governed by state practices, he violates that separation.