Thursday, November 17, 2011

Washington Post Conservative Columnist Michael Gerson Promotes Symbolic Wars of Religion

Another Downward Move for a Once Great News Organization

The Dismal Political Economist has received many inquiries from readers who request information on why he is so critical of the Washington Post.  The reason is this,   The WaPo was once a great newspaper, but in recent years it has tried to recast itself as an organ of Conservative position in its political and editorial coverage.  It employees a number of Conservative columnists, most of whom are simply incapable of presenting a coherent and consistent argument for their positions.

There is Charles Krauthamer, formerly a very good and well respected Conservative who today has such an uncontrollable hatred or Mr. Obama that he is unable to say or do anything without spewing that vitriolic assessment.  There is George Will who has just a passing relationship with journalistic ethics and there is Jennifer Rubin whose background as a Hollywood lawyer somehow qualified her to write opinions for the Post.

Another of the Conservatives brought on board by the Post is Michael Gerson, formerly of the George W. Bush administration.  He writes recently about the Obama administration’s assault on the Catholic religion.  The basis of his complaint is that HHS under the leadership of Kathleen Sibelius (a Catholic by the way) has ended support of a program administered by the Catholic Church.

the American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts brought suit against the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), seeking to eliminate a grant to programs that aid victims of human trafficking. Because Catholic programs don’t refer for abortions, the ACLU alleged that public support amounts to the establishment of religion. . . .

The Obama Justice Department defended the grant in court. But last month, HHS abruptly ended the funding. . . . HHS announced it was giving preference to grantees that offer “the full range of legally permissible gynecological and obstetric care.” This was described by one official as “standard procedure.” So it is now standard procedure in the Obama administration to deny funding to some Catholic programs based solely on their pro-life beliefs.

No Mr. Gerson, it appears to be standard procedure to deny funding because the programs will not refer for the full range of legally permitted care, that is, they are not funding programs which deny women their legal rights.

Mr. Gerson’s conclusion

Broadly applied, the HHS policy would amount to systemic anti-Catholic bias in government programs.

Mr. Gerson apparently feels that the proper role of Government is pro-Catholic bias, which was probably his position when he was in the White House.  One imagines he is pretty upset that the Constitution gets in the way.

Of course it is the poor who will suffer (it is always the poor)

The main victims of this assault are not bishops but the poor and vulnerable. USCCB-sponsored human trafficking programs, for example, provide employment assistance, legal services, child care and medical screening. But because case managers won’t refer for abortions, HHS would rather see these programs shut down in favor of less effective alternatives. This form of anti-religious extremism counts casualties.

So somehow not funding programs sponsored by the Catholic Church is anti-Catholic bias and harms program recipients.  Goshm, let’s see if anyone can think of another example where dogmatic adherence to a particular position with respect to reproduction rights results in denying needed services.  Oh yes, Planned Parenthood.

Republicans want the government to completely defund Planned Parenthood health care services to millions of women, even though those services have nothing to do with abortion which Planned Parenthood provides under separate and separately funded programs.  But nowhere in Mr. Gerson’s rant against the government not funding Catholic Church programs does he even mention the issue of not funding Planned Parenthood services, even though the principles that he argues for require that he take that position.

Because Mr. Gerson produces such a biased and one sided argument, and because he inserts his own and religious preferences into the argument, and because his position is for Government support of a particular religion, he forfeits all right to be taken seriously.  That, of course, just puts him in the same company as the rest of the Conservative pundits hired by the WaPo.

And just in case anyone is wondering about the “persecution” of the Catholic Church by government, there is this story from Kansas City.  A bishop in that city was indicted in Jackson County, for failing to report sexual abuse of children by a Priest.  In neighboring Clay County

In a deal to avoid a second round of criminal charges, a Roman Catholic bishop in Kansas City has agreed to meet monthly with a county prosecutor to detail every suspicious episode involving abuse of a child in his diocese for the next five years.

And as one observer noted

“There’s no one else that they would make this kind of a deal with but a bishop,” said Marci Hamilton, a professor of public law at the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law at Yeshiva University, who has written about the church and child abuse cases. 

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