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State of the Debate
George Pyle
George Pyle has been a newspaper writer in Kansas, Utah, Upstate New York, and now Utah again, for more than 30 years - most of it as an editorial writer and columnist. Now on his second tour of duty on The Salt Lake Tribune Editorial Board, he has also done a stretch as a talk radio host, published a book on the ongoing flaws of U.S.agricultural policy and, in 1998, was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for Editorial Writing. His most active bookmarks are Andrew Sullivan, Christopher Hitchens and Tina Brown. And he still thinks the Internet can be used for intelligent conversation and uplifting ideas.

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This weekend's column: Faith does not set policy ...

Above: It's about half the sky.

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Faith does not determine government policy - George Pyle, The Salt Lake Tribune

If you believe in anything, you are probably paying for something that violates those beliefs.

Right now, your tax money is going to provide someone, who may not deserve it, with a welfare check. And to keep someone, who may be innocent, on death row. It’s going to fire Predator drones at supposed terrorists half a world away. And to subsidize frou frou arts projects that you wouldn’t walk across the street to see.

You might be offended by half of those. Or all of them. You might shrug it off, on the mathematically valid theory that your personal contribution to those efforts, and to all the other things you wouldn’t choose to spend your money on, if anyone asked you about it, which they didn’t, is too small to matter.

Or you might speak out, vote, run for office, and do all the other things that our supposed taxation-with-representation system provides so we can at least bend the trajectory of public policy.

Just don’t say a particular government policy should be changed because, and only because, it violates a religious belief. That hasn’t been enough to stop capital punishment, ban abortion, prohibit blood transfusions, forbid the eating of pork or allow fathers to murder their daughters for disobeying them.

This debate played out on the Opinion pages of The Salt Lake Tribune, among other places, recently as verbal ninja Maureen Dowd, New York Times columnist, took on the hierarchy of the — of her — Roman Catholic Church. And as Bishop John C. Wester, head of the Salt Lake City Catholic diocese, responded a few days later.

Dowd called out the church for its stance, shown to be unsupported by even its own membership, that contraception is in any way immoral. Wester clung to the argument that Obamacare rules forcing his church’s ancillary charitable organizations to offer insurance policies that include birth control are a violation of the church’s religious freedom.

But churches don’t have religious freedom. People do. ...

- The Politics of Religion - New York Times Editorial

Thirteen Roman Catholic dioceses and some Catholic-related groups scattered lawsuits across a dozen federal courts last week claiming that President Obama was violating their religious freedom by including contraceptives in basic health care coverage for female employees. It was a dramatic stunt, full of indignation but built on air. ...

- Why we are suing the government - Catholic Sentinel/Our Sunday Visitor Editorial

The Catholic Church in the United States is in the midst of a historic conflict that it did not initiate, that it cannot avoid, and that -- if lost -- may have serious implications for the ability of all churches to define themselves and to live their faith in the public square. ...

- For contraceptives, a Catholic exception? - Los Angeles Times Editorial

Roman Catholic groups want a blanket exception from democratically enacted laws, and regulations to implement them, that the courts may find troubling. ...

- How Obama Set a Contraception Trap for the Right - Andrew Sullivan, Newsweek

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