May 1, 2013

Of Course You Have Religious Freedom. Except When the State Says You Don’t: Deconstructing the Absolute Statism of Combox Junkie Doug Indeap, If That Is His Name

Jimbo Wales at a special session of Wikimania 2006 · Gregory F. Maxwell, 6 August 2006 · GNU Free Documentation License 1.2

Jimbo Wales at a spe­cial ses­sion of Wiki­ma­nia 2006 · Gre­gory F. Maxwell, 6 August 2006 · GNU Free Doc­u­men­ta­tion License 1.2



OUG INDEAP IS, APPARENTLY, A LAWYER. (Or is his real name David Ivester? See here, where the pic­ture iden­ti­fies him as “David Ivester,” but where he’s addressed at the bot­tom of the page as “Mr. Indeap”; see here, where both names appear through­out the com­box; see, finally, my own ear­lier post here, where the same pic that iden­ti­fies him as “David Ivester” on the first link iden­ti­fies him as “Doug Indeap” in my own combox.)

At any rate, if you go to the search engines under “Doug Indeap,” you might have a dif­fi­cult time fig­ur­ing out where or what his prac­tice is. I don’t doubt that he has one. (David Ivester is an envi­ron­men­tal, not a Con­sti­tu­tional, lawyer.) But if the pages and pages of returns from Google are any indi­ca­tion, his alter ego Doug Indeap spends a pro­fuse vol­ume of time trolling Catholic and con­ser­v­a­tive blogs and using the com­boxes to instruct us all in his own firm belief in sta­tism and, in par­tic­u­lar, a squeez­ingly cramped and claus­tro­pho­bic inter­pre­ta­tion of first amend­ment reli­gious free­dom. His view of reli­gious free­dom can be summed up sim­ply: Of course you have reli­gious free­dom; except when the state says you don’t. As an indi­ca­tion of how remark­ably pro­lific his com­box trolling has been, I present—for the mar­vel­ment of readers—a (par­tial) list of all the blogs on which Mr. Indeap has made his ele­vated views and exis­tence and pos­si­bly fic­ti­tious name known:

Return to Rome, Frank Beckwith’s blog on Patheos
Bernard, in an arti­cle by Burt Prelutsky


I could have expanded this list over sev­eral vol­umes of printed text until I had a ver­i­ta­ble Ency­clo­pe­dia Brit­tan­ica of trolling; there are pages and pages of these hits, if you sim­ply do a Google search for Mr. Indeap’s name. Pre­pare to be astonied.

With all this pro­lix trolling, Mr. Indeap was bound to dis­cover Logos & Muse

My point here, though, is not so much to prove Mr. Indeap’s pro­lix­ity; or to expose his weird dopple­ganger ten­den­cies; or to revisit the dis­cus­sions about reli­gious free­dom that have already occurred on other blogs; but instead to address the sta­tist assump­tions he gave vent to, this past week­end, in my own com­box, on this post. The post had to do with the fir­ing of Catholic school gym teacher Carla Hale by the Dio­cese of Colum­bus, Ohio, after she was dis­cov­ered to be actively engaged in a “spousal rela­tion­ship” with another woman. Specif­i­cally, I wrote the arti­cle in order to defend Bishop Camp­bell against the threat of a law­suit for vio­lat­ing anti-discrimination laws. My argu­ment was, and is, that the state can make any such law it feels necessary—with respect to sec­u­lar insti­tu­tions. But it is over­step­ping its first amend­ment lim­its if it believes it may apply those laws to reli­gious insti­tu­tions whose moral views hap­pen to con­flict with a sec­u­lar state.



ON THIS POINT, Mr. Indeap felt it nec­es­sary to instruct me on a par­tic­u­lar legal the­ory of the first amendment:

Con­fronted by ques­tions about the gov­ern­ment requir­ing or pro­hibit­ing some­thing that con­flicts with someone’s faith, the courts have gen­er­ally ruled that under the Con­sti­tu­tion the gov­ern­ment can­not enact laws specif­i­cally aimed at a par­tic­u­lar reli­gion … but can enact laws gen­er­ally applic­a­ble to everyone.

The logic, if such there be, seems to be to cramp first amend­ment pro­tec­tion to the mere assur­ance that a par­tic­u­lar reli­gion is not tar­geted by laws that apply only to itself. In other words, the state can not force the Catholic Church to pay for con­tra­cep­tive devices unless it forces every­one else to as well. Then, all bets are off. But that would reduce reli­gious free­dom to the level of mean­ing­less­ness. Pre­sum­ably the state could pro­hibit church atten­dance if it pro­hib­ited it to all reli­gions equally—just as long as it doesn’t pro­hibit only Catholics, or only Bap­tists, from going to church.

Lying at the back of this seem­ingly care­ful (if I may say so, lawyerly) dis­tinc­tion is a desire to give reli­gious free­dom as nar­row and neg­a­tive a con­struc­tion as pos­si­ble.  In the Founders’ view, reli­gion is a pos­i­tive value to the health of a free peo­ple, and the point of the First Amend­ment is to give reli­gion lat­i­tude and limit the state.  In the new, sta­tist view, reli­gion is a nui­sance to be swat­ted at, and the point of the First Amend­ment is merely to keep the swat­ters inside the foul lines.  Reli­gion, not the state, is lim­ited; a reli­gion is pro­tected only from being specif­i­cally tar­geted. Thus is reli­gion co-opted by “law” into a sta­tist, sec­u­lar cul­ture, and has no defense against a gov­ern­ment that is hos­tile, not to some par­tic­u­lar reli­gion, but to all reli­gion. It has no defense against a gov­ern­ment that wants to make the whole of soci­ety sec­u­lar, that wants to sec­u­lar­ize all reli­gions equally. In that sort of sta­tist world, by Mr. Indeap’s own admis­sion, “con­sci­en­tious objec­tors” are not to be tolerated.

Mr. Indeap continues:

Ulti­mately, the gov­ern­ment must be able to enforce the law, and it can­not always con­form every law to the myr­iad and some­times con­flict­ing reli­gious beliefs of every­one. Oth­er­wise, if each of us could opt out of this or that law with the excuse that our reli­gion requires or allows it, the gov­ern­ment and the rule of law could hardly oper­ate.

Note once more that the state is made the arbiter of the high­est good, and the oppo­si­tions of reli­gion are described as an “excuse.” The assump­tion lying behind this idea is that the “law” is a reflec­tion, not of any par­tic­u­lar moral good, but rather of what­ever the state hap­pens to want to do. The gov­ern­ment exists to “enforce” the law (i.e., its own will), and the high­est objec­tive is the “oper­a­tion” of the will of the state. The exis­tence of reli­gious peo­ple is to be under­stood as an inconvenience—a hin­drance to the smooth and unfet­tered oper­a­tion of the state’s will. In the first para­graph of his sec­ond com­ment, Mr. Indeap admits as much:

I under­stand and heartily agree [lip ser­vice] that the First Amend­ment guar­an­tees indi­vid­ual free­dom to exer­cise one’s reli­gion. My point [Here comes the qual­i­fi­ca­tion; watch:] is that that free­dom (like most) is not absolute. The law lim­its it.

Mr. Indeap, you have it exactly back­wards. The pur­pose of the law is not to limit the First Amend­ment; rather, the pur­pose of the First Amend­ment is to limit the law. But I hope the reader has noticed, through­out this dis­cus­sion, how Mr. Indeap has been dis­cussing reli­gious free­dom, not in the con­text of the First Amend­ment, but rather in the con­text of case law. He doesn’t say, “The First Amend­ment says”; or, “the Found­ing Fathers intended”; but rather, “the courts have ruled,” or “the law has said.” One of the rea­sons the First Amend­ment exists (and it is not the only rea­son, but it is one of the great­est) is because of the lim­it­ing ten­dency the exis­tence of a reli­gious peo­ple puts upon the state. Reli­gion is one of the great­est checks to an out-of-control, sec­u­lar state. Reli­gion is a guar­an­tor of free­dom, because its ulti­mate end is the Good, rather than power for its own sake. When reli­gion is lim­ited, the power of the state nec­es­sar­ily becomes absolute. Mr. Indeap seems to like that idea, but the Found­ing Fathers hated it. It is not the pur­pose of the state to limit reli­gion; it is the pur­pose of reli­gion to limit the state.



MR. INDEAP PROCEEDS in his sec­ond com­ment to dis­cuss, specif­i­cally, the HHS man­date. (Though what the HHS man­date has to do with the sit­u­a­tion in Colum­bus, I leave it to him to explain.) He has a par­tic­u­larly egre­gious con­de­scen­sion toward its oppo­nents, which I make clear by my emphases and com­ments:

Notwith­stand­ing the arm wav­ing about reli­gious lib­erty, the health care law does not force employ­ers to act con­trary to their con­sciences. [So the man­date is not manda­tory. Got that? Good. I am glad you do; for I sure don’t; though I have tried hard to find out.] Under the law, employ­ers have the option of not pro­vid­ing health plans and sim­ply pay­ing assess­ments to the gov­ern­ment. [Oh that explains it! What a great lover of reli­gious lib­erty is Lord Cae­sar Obama! He gra­ciously allows reli­gious employ­ers the free­dom to choose between act­ing con­trary to their con­sciences and going broke. He’s Wilber­force and Wal­lace rolled into one!] Unless one sup­poses that the employ­ers’ reli­gion for­bids pay­ment of money to gov­ern­ment [See how the issue is being manip­u­lated here?] the law does not com­pel them to act con­trary to their beliefs.


Some nonethe­less have con­tin­ued com­plain­ing … but [this is] a gripe com­mon to many taxpayers—who don’t much like pay­ing taxes and who object to this or that action the gov­ern­ment may take with the ben­e­fit of “their” tax dol­lars. [Love the insid­i­ous use of scare quotes! The pro­lix Mr. Indeap doesn’t really believe that the fruits of my labor belong to me; instead, they belong to the state, and the only ques­tion is how much of those fruits the gov­ern­ment per­mits me, in its vast char­ity, to retain.]


In any event, those com­plain­ing made enough of a stink that the gov­ern­ment relented [Untrue. That was a ruse.] … Nonethe­less, some con­tinue to com­plain, fret­ting that some­how ser­vices they dis­like will get paid for and some­how they will be com­plicit in that. They evi­dently believe that when they spend a dol­lar and it thus becomes the prop­erty of oth­ers, they nonethe­less should have some say in how oth­ers later spend that dollar.

(A par­en­thet­i­cal note here. The first para­graph of the above dia­tribe is a favorite of Mr. Indeap’s, judg­ing by how often he has used it, in one form or another, in his exten­sive com­box activ­i­ties. You’ll find the same para­graph, nearly word-for-word, with a few minor adjust­ments, on:

Dat­ing God
Choice in Dying
Cri­sis Mag­a­zine
Heritage.Org “The Foundry”
The Polit­i­cal House­wyf
The Pro­gres­sive Catholic Voice
Heart­land News (as “David Ivester”!)
At the Turn of the Tide
Kresta in the After­noon
Mon­day Morn­ing Min­is­ter
Catholic Ethics
God­fa­ther Pol­i­tics
Cranach: The Blog of Veith
Xenia Cit­i­zen Jour­nal
Rea­son Being
The Blaze
Swim­ming Against the Cur­rent
Catholic News USA
Stand Up for Reli­gious Free­dom
CNN’s Belief Blog
Urban Grounds
God Dis­cus­sion
Pro Life Cor­ner
Amer­i­can Daily Her­ald
Quiet, Divin­ity, and Grace
Urban Faith
The National Catholic Reg­is­ter
Gate­way Pun­dit
Reli­gion News
The Right of Way
McHenry County Blog
The Line in the Sand
The Wash­ing­ton Post
Texas Insider
Polit­i­cal Rav­ings of a Mad­man
Hol­ly­wood Repub­li­can
South­ern Orders.

Again, this is a char­i­ta­bly par­tial list.)



“It is not the pur­pose of the state to limit reli­gion. It is the pur­pose of reli­gion to limit the state.”

BUT TO RETURN. Other sites—such as Cri­sis Mag­a­zine in the link I pro­vided in the blockquote—have done a fine job in point­ing out how the HHS “com­pro­mise” was a ruse, and I’m not going to add to what oth­ers have already said along those lines. What I want to point out here are two things, apart from Mr. Doug “Dopple­ganger” Indeap’s habit­ual cut-and-paste pla­gia­rism of him­self in com­boxes all across the vast and var­i­ous fruited plain. The first is the vis­ceral con­de­scen­sion toward Catholics and other oppo­nents of the HHS man­date. Their objec­tions, in Mr. Indeap’s view—far from being legit­i­mate and grounded in seri­ous con­vic­tion about the moral law—amount to noth­ing more than “arm wav­ing” (his favorite expres­sion), “com­plain­ing,” “grip­ing,” “mak­ing a stink,” and “fret­ting.” That sort of atti­tude is very dan­ger­ous toward reli­gious lib­erty, in that it looks upon reli­gious peo­ple as trou­ble­mak­ers and incon­ve­niences to the smooth and unques­tioned func­tion­ing of state power and state control.

I also want to point out the dif­fer­ence between the “assess­ments” that reli­gious employ­ers might be forced to pay, and what Mr. Indeap describes as “spend­ing” a dol­lar. Star­bucks sup­ports same-sex “mar­riage,” which I oppose; occa­sion­ally, however—because I hap­pen to like Starbucks—I will buy a cup of cof­fee there. I do so with the under­stand­ing that the money I pay for the cof­fee might not always go to pur­poses I hap­pen to favor. But that is very dif­fer­ent from the state telling me that I am oblig­ated to pay for the “wed­ding” of a same-sex cou­ple, and that I am cer­tainly free to opt out if I choose, but I would have to pay an “assess­ment” of x amount of dol­lars. In the for­mer case, I am spend­ing my own money out of my own lib­erty. In the lat­ter, I am hav­ing my money con­fis­cated from me by force. In such a fash­ion the state per­se­cutes and con­trols the religious—by threat­en­ing to tax or fine their busi­nesses out of exis­tence, and thus ruin their very livelihoods.

That has hap­pened before.  It was how the state of Eng­land per­se­cuted Catholics dur­ing the Recusancy.

The bot­tom line in all of this dis­cus­sion, how­ever, is that Mr. Indeap does not appear to like the First Amend­ment very much. He con­de­scends to it, but in the end what he says amounts to what I have stated in the title: Of course you have reli­gious free­dom. Except when the state says you don’t. That is the atti­tude, the phi­los­o­phy, that we face; and which we must peace­fully but firmly oppose.