Let’s declare Victory, but let’s not go home. We still got a lotta work to do.
Yesterday the commissioners voted 3-2 in favor of signing a letter-of-interest informing the Montana Dept. of Health and Human Services that they would accept the Title X grant this summer when it’s time to renew. The grant, just below $40,000 this year, has funded our Family Planning Clinic for almost 40 years. Hundreds of low-income people, overwhelmingly women, have depended on this service to meet their most basic health needs they could not otherwise afford, for decades. In Commissioner Iman’s own words, "This is the very lowest level (of heath care) at the very least cost." Simply signing an agreement accepting this longstanding federal grant would seem, to any reasonable person, the least our commissioners could do for their constituents.
Not so according to two commissioners, and a couple others wavered in their comments before voting in favor.
Let’s admit up front that it’d be a good thing to call and thank commissioners Iman, Chilcott and Foss for ultimately supporting our Family Planning Clinic (this year). But it would be equally as good a thing, and probably a more productive thing, to recognize yesterday’s vote for the critical reminder that it was. In terms of reproductive issues, our Ravalli County government is just one vote short of becoming a theocracy, and on many other “social” issues not even that. And that’s with five commissioners. Imagine how it would have gone if the two nay-sayers were sitting on a three-person board.
Commissioners Stoltz and Kanenwisher voted their religious dogma, which in these days of willful intellectual carelessness combined with unchecked anti-democratic recklessness also passes as their politics. Let’s look at that. But before we do, let’s remember that Chilcott made sure we heard that he was also concerned with what he called "the state appearing to assert itself between a parent and a child", and that Foss made sure we heard that part of her decision was based on our (corrupt, venal, spineless?) Congress’ banning the distribution of the “morning after” pill for women under seventeen. In other words, at least four out of our five sitting commissioners believe at some fundamental level that a society can’t have too many kids born to parents who don’t want them. Why? Because then these unwilling parents can turn around and assert what Kanenwisher continues to insist on calling their “fundamental inferred constitutional right” to “parent”. I guess.
Kanenwisher has used the phrases “parental rights” and “fundamental inferred constitutional right” interchangeably at least ten times in my hearing. After about the fifth time I started doing a little research as to what planet this concept comes from, and here’s a thumbnail of what I came up with, and what I think is in store for Ravalli County—and our country-- if this theocracy trend continues.
Parentalrights.org is an organization founded in 2006 by Michael P. Farris, who also founded the Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA). Both are well-connected far-right organizations (are we tired of those yet?) and both predictably take a fundamentalist approach to both “parental rights” and home schooling, insisting in both cases that their narrow, biblically-based definition of “parental rights” is “inferred” in the U.S. Constitution and is therefore inviolable. Farris’ Parentalrights.org has been one of the main pushers of the so-called “Parental Rights Amendment” to our constitution since it was first introduced in 2008. This proposed amendment is largely a reflection of the traditionally-allergic reaction the American Far-Right has to the United Nations in general, and to the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child in particular, which was adopted by the General Assembly in 1989. Proponents of the amendment, which apparently include theocratic aspirants like Commissioner Kanenwisher, assert that the “state” should never be allowed to get in between the “sacred” bond between parent and child.
Sacred? Let’s connect a few dots here and then draw our own conclusions. Michael Farris, one of the main influential far-right cheerleaders of the “Parental Rights Amendment”, can claim positive results to many religious-extremists litmus tests. One significant example is his signing onto the Coalition on Revival’s 1986 COR Manifesto. In fact he sat on its steering committee for several years. Here’s, in part, what the COR Manifesto says:
"We deny that anyone Jew or Gentile, believer or unbeliever, private person or public person is exempt from the moral and juridical obligation before God to submit to Christ's Lordship over every aspect of his life in thought word and deed." Another COR requirement is that one be "willing to submit to the hierarchical order that God has created in which we are willing to submit as to Christ to employers, civil government, and church leaders, and within families, wives to their husbands, and children to their parents."
This document, as are many other far-right religio-political documents and tenets, is a classic reflection of Christian Reconstructionism, a theological movement whose leadership has also been represented on the COR steering committee.
Reconstructionism, for its part, is a truly dangerous, over-the-edge-of-the-world movement that has been incorporated into political movements such as the Montana Constitution Party and other so-called “libertarian” political movements, although few admit to the charge because Reconstructionism is so demonstrably extreme. Nevertheless, all you have to do is look at most far-right religio-political movements in America these days and find reconstructionist dogma either whole-hog or in bite-sized installments, that (for instance) assert that the laws of Old Testament Israel should apply today, providing a biblical blueprint for society. Pure Reconstructionism embraces a wide use of the death penalty — not only for such crimes as rape and murder, but for blasphemy, heresy, astrology, and homosexuality — in accordance with what they call "biblical law" — a notion which largely grows out of biblical accounts of the judicial application of the Ten Commandments.*
So, does Commissioner Kanenwisher’s truly-bizarre tenet of “inferred fundamental parental constitutional right” have a direct DNA link to the truly-bizarre, openly-promoted and well-financed tenets of fundamentalist Christian Reconstructionism? Well, here are a few dots. Throw them in a glass of water and go get some litmus paper.
Commissioner Stoltz, who rarely says anything in public, ironically said it best yesterday in summing up this constitutional crisis of disingenuousness: “It's like putting poison in our cookies. How much poison will we eat until we've had enough?" Unfortunately, he was talking about his perceived constitutional right to interpret the constitution as a hairdryer that would make the founders’ powdered Rosicrucian wigs stick straight out in a friz, which same hair dryer he further feels constitutionally-entitled to beat us all over the head with just for good measure. I’m talking about the real constitution, and the real Rosicrucian founders who inserted Article 6 in that document as a hedge against the fundamentalist/ theocratic tendencies they recognized in our national darker nature even way back then. Duh.
So yes, we can breathe a sigh of relief for the hundreds of low-income folks who will not have the rug pulled out from under them this time. We can also see this whole farce as a classic example of why, at this point in time for Ravalli County, we need five commissioners, because this, folks, was a close call.