In “The power of persuasion” (Feb. 10, 2010, Gazette), Scott Jones paraphrases theologian Tripp York as arguing that “when some in the pro-life movement resort to the coercion of laws they are exhibiting a subtle atheism because they assume that the power of the state must be used to compel people to behave.” Allegedly, “the proper response” is to “witness to a way of life, rather than trying to impose it on others who disagree.”
There is nothing inherently atheistic or inappropriate about using state power to compel people to behave. Jones himself resorts to the coercion of laws when he advocates hate crime legislation because he assumes that the power of the state must be used to compel people to behave toward homosexuals and racial minorities.
Rather than simply witnessing to a tolerant way of life, Jones is trying to impose it on others who disagree.
If Jones thinks pro-lifers are incorrect in believing abortion is murder, he should argue that. Advocating state coercion to prevent what one mistakes to be murder does not exhibit “subtle atheism,” but that one is mistaken about what is murder.
Jones writes, “In Roe v. Wade, the United States Supreme Court did not take a position on the difficult ethical issue” of abortion, but on “who should decide this issue,” and ruled “in the tradition of American conservatism “¦ that this difficult ethical question was for the individual, not the state.”
Abortion is ethically difficult only because it is homicide and therefore at least plausibly murder.
Other than the killing of slaves and Native Americans more than a century ago, when has America allowed the individual rather than the state to decide questions of homicide and murder? And if the court took no position on abortion, why did it qualify “who should decide this issue” based on trimesters and viability?
Jones argues that, “State power should not be used to coerce behavior on this particular issue, around which there is so much disagreement based on core ethical, philosophical and theological beliefs.”
Tremendous disagreement once surrounded the once “difficult, ethical question” of the humanity and rights of African-Americans and currently surrounds same-sex marriage. Does Jones think it was wrong to use coercive state power to end slavery, lynching and segregation?
Why does Jones applaud the Iowa Supreme Court for using state power to coerce Iowans into recognizing same-sex marriage when 65 percent of Iowans oppose it? Now that same-sex marriage proponents have failed to persuade California voters to reject Proposition 8, where is Jones’ denunciation of the court case against Proposition 8 that would force recognition of same-sex marriage on California’s unpersuaded majority? Where is Jones’ denunciation of eightmap.com’s “guerrilla” tactics to intimidate Proposition 8 supporters?
Note Jones’ double standard.
When opponents of abortion and same-sex marriage persuade legislatures to pass laws Jones dislikes, that is “coercive,” “subtle atheism” and evidence of unpersuasiveness. But when proponents of abortion and same-sex marriage fail to persuade the public or its elected representatives to pass laws Jones likes, he applauds judges for using coercive state power to impose his position on those who disagree.