A.J. DiCintio
Religious extremism in Oregon
By A.J. DiCintio
December 4, 2011

When Oregon's Governor John Kitzhaber recently granted a twice-convicted murderer a "temporary reprieve" from the death penalty (i.e. for the duration of the governor's term), he was buffeted with criticism from supporters and opponents of capital punishment.

Regarding the first camp, there is Dennis Prager, whose piece at nationalreview.com denounces the statements the governor made in defense of his decision as being "devoid of reason."

With respect to the second, law professor Arthur B. LaFrance (oregonlive.com) argues that "conscience and morality" require [any moral governor] to commute the sentence of every prisoner on death row.

As those two reactions reveal, there are, at the most basic level, two irreconcilable positions regarding the death penalty. Moreover, the dispute, like the one between pacifists and their opponents, has been and, most likely, will forever be the subject of contention.

Now, while my opinions on the question coincide with those held by Mr. Prager, I'm not going to repeat them here because it is essential the public be made aware of two other points that apply to the governor's action as well as the professor's opinion about universal commutation.

First is this general observation:

Ultimately, attitudes about capital punishment are based upon metaphysical beliefs that can no more be validated by scientific inquiry than articles of religious faith.

Problem is, unlike religious folks, leftist materialists routinely deny or ignore the "religious" quality of the myriad social and political beliefs they hold . . . with such dogmatic fervor, by the way, they will use every gun at the state's disposal to force them upon their fellow citizens.

To illustrate this anti-intellectual and cowardly behavior, we need only consider that whenever the NY Times publishes an article about capital punishment, we are certain to find liberals, many of whom certainly anoint themselves as entirely scientific in their thinking, writing the editor to decry the penalty as "inhuman" or "inhumane" without ever producing one bit of science in support of those terms.

Second is this reality, one of crucial importance in a democracy:

Because they contradict the basic principles of democracy, the behaviors practiced and advocated by Governor Kitzhaber and Professor LaFrance constitute instances of truly dangerous religious extremism.

Consider, for example, that when Jefferson wrote that "governments are instituted among men," he meant the citizenry, not governors who abuse the powers granted to them in order to place their religious beliefs above a law enacted, as Washington put it, "by an explicit and authentic act of the whole people."

In fact, no matter how much politicians or judges may pervert language to convince us otherwise (consider, for instance, Barack Obama's medieval baloney about "empathic" judges), what Governor Kitzhaber has done contradicts the fundamental principle of democracy excellently captured by Washington when he reminded his fellow citizens that "The very idea of the power and right of the people to establish government presupposes the duty of every individual to obey the established government."

In the case under discussion, the people of Oregon have spoken through a law that represents an "explicit and authentic act" on their part.

The courts of Oregon have agreed that that law has been correctly applied.

Even the perpetrator of the heinous crime has asked to be put to death.

But demonstrating the dictatorial impulses that underlie every socio-political system ever devised in the minds of true-believing leftists, the governor, according to the NY Times, responded to a query about whom he consulted before issuing an order worthy of the vilest autocrat with "mostly myself."

Here again he evinced the anti-intellectual cowardice rampant among leftists when he failed to answer honestly by admitting, "I came to the decision entirely according to the religious dogmas I hold."

The good news is, however, that the activist governor's own words reveal the truth about his anti-Jeffersonian devotion to rule by the first person singular. (Here, I can't resist tooting my own trumpet by pointing out I have previously employed "rule by the first person singular" to describe the perverse theory of government held by liberal judges devoted to "judicial activism.")

With thanks to Dennis Prager for enumerating the five reasons Oregon's chief executive gave for his action, the truth follows:

"I refuse to be part of this compromised and inequitable system . . ."

"I do not believe that [previous executions he permitted to go forward] made us safer."

". . . I don't believe [previous executions he approved] made us more noble as a society."

"[Oregon has an] unworkable system that fails to meet basic standards of justice." (Here the governor conveniently forgot to precede his statement with the honesty of "I believe.")

". . . I simply cannot participate in something I believe morally wrong."

The only surprising thing about those dictatorial invocations of the pronoun "I" is that the governor didn't add another by appropriating the all-time favorite line liberal judges use to disguise their dictatorial activism:

"I ruled in harmony with evolving standards of decency that mark the progress of a maturing society."

However, it is possible the governor eschewed that assertion because he knows decades of polling (see Pew Research for details) reveal Americans have consistently favored the death penalty by landslide proportions. In fact, Pew's latest research finds it supported by 62% of the public, including 78% of Republicans, 62% of Independents, and 50% of Democrats.

Of course, I'm just being sarcastic about Governor Never Should Have Run/Never Thought of Resigning because activists hell-bent on imposing the dogmas of the religion called Liberalism upon the nation are so extreme in their certainty they find nothing embarrassing in the most stunning insults they deliver to morality and intellectuality.

Consider, for instance, that liberal activist justices of the Supreme Court, whose rulings affect 308 million people as opposed to Oregon's 3.8 million, make tiny potatoes of anything Merlin ever mumbo jumboed when they assert not just that the Constitution's words radiate "emanations" that create "penumbras" capable of conveying injunctions but that they can perfectly translate those exquisitely detailed commands to the people, whom they regard as repulsive yahoos desperately in need of dictatorial rule.

Finally, these critically important thoughts come to mind.

If a Republican, Conservative, Independent, or Libertarian governor would point to his religious or ethical beliefs as the reason for his blatant circumvention of a law that represents "an explicit and authentic act of the whole people" and point to Governor Kitzhaver's act as precedent, all angry, mocking, hectoring, name-calling hell would break loose in every precinct of Liberaldom, especially those in the media and academia.

But more important than recognizing a mountain of reeking hypocrisy piled higher every day by liberal elites is remembering this:

An enormously consequential election in which We the People get to have our say about an insidious extremism that detests Jefferson's fundamental beliefs about power, rights, and liberty is coming up next year. . . in Oregon and every other state.

© A.J. DiCintio


The views expressed by RenewAmerica columnists are their own and do not necessarily reflect the position of RenewAmerica or its affiliates.
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A.J. DiCintio

A.J. DiCintio posts regularly at RenewAmerica and YourNews.com. He first exercised his polemical skills arguing with friends on the street corners of the working class neighborhood where he grew up. Retired from teaching, he now applies those skills, somewhat honed and polished by experience, to social/political affairs.


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