Politics & Policy

Keep That Wall High; Joe Biden, Warmonger


Last night’s 60 Minutes was classic.

A young man who wanted to join the Jesuits was sexually harassed by his “superior(s)” in the order. The young man left the order — understandably — because he couldn’t handle the disgusting overtures. Now, he is suing; claiming that civil sexual harassment laws should apply to the Jesuit order specifically and the Catholic Church generally. The Church says its internal workings are protected by the First Amendment — as do most courts. Go ahead and sue the offending priest if you must, but we’re immune, they say. The lawyers exclaim: Unfair! An institution cannot brazenly practice sexual harassment behind its walls! No institution can be lead-lined against the X-ray vision of the state.

Sniff, sniff. You smell that? That’s the made for TV movie coming down the pike. Noah Wyle will play the noble, gay, would-be priest; his dream of caring for the Third World snatched away by the clawing hands of lascivious priests and their corporate lawyers. Jack Klugman will reprise his (Quincy-like) rage and incredulity: “You mean my son can be denied punitive damages just because of this thing called the First Amendment? Don’t preach to me about your high walls damn it! This is my son’s life you’re talking about!”

Well, there is a high wall. But before we get into that, I should say that I think the Pope should be free to have the offending harassers (if they are guilty) put on the rack (if they go voluntarily) if he thinks that’s the best course of action — and the government should be powerless to stop it. The Church’s business is the Church’s business. That anybody needs to hear this from a guy named Goldberg is doubtful to be sure. But what is so amazing is that the idea of religious autonomy is seen as controversial.

The young man’s lawyers say that religious institutions can’t hide behind the “smoke and incense” of the First Amendment. What?

I am against the popular interpretation of the so-called high wall between church and state. For most of its two-hundred-plus years we did just fine with a pretty low wall with a lot of doors and windows in it to boot. There were established state churches in Massachusetts and elsewhere. Presidents often declared days of fasting and prayer.

But we’ve got that high wall at the behest of liberal lawyer activists, and at the very least, it would be nice if it worked both ways. If it keeps religion out of “public” institutions it should keep the government out of religion. The Ten Commandments is considered a subversive document. School prayer is the canary in the coal mine of fascism. The First Amendment protects Nazis marching in Skokie but not Nativity scenes in front of the Chamber of Commerce.

So be it. If public institutions must be purged of the religious, then religious institutions must be allowed to deal with things as they see fit. Otherwise, OSHA will be measuring the pews, Justice will be applying quotas to the priesthood, and the EEOC will be suing for women priests.  


We hear so much about the craven, “Clinton-hating,” neo-isolationist Republicans. Where is the criticism of the newly minted warmongers of the Left?

Joe Biden made a national name for himself by stealing lines from British “statesman” Neil Kinnock. Alas, it cost him his shot at the presidency. So maybe that’s why he’s sounding so Churchillian. Yesterday on Meet the Press Biden explained that “The only reason Milosevic is even talking about talking is because he’s being hurt badly.” Biden, a new-found champion of peace through strength, total victory, and bombing people to the negotiating table made this case for winning at all costs:

“Look, you have probably the only three people in Washington here who think we should go straight to Belgrade and arrest Milosevic. But let’s not kid each other. We’re the only three people. The rest of this is malarkey. The Republican Congress won’t even vote for the bombing. The NATO forces won’t even go along with the idea of ground troops. And whether or not the president will or will not is not relevant. The question seems to me is: What is the definition of victory?”


 “[W]e should announce there’s going to be American casualties. We should go to Belgrade and we should have a Japanese-German style occupation of that country.”

For some reason it did not occur to Russert that this was somewhat in contrast with Mr. Biden’s views during the last American war. During floor debate over the Gulf War, Biden said:

’’Only one question must be answered at this historic moment and that is, what vital interest of the United States of America justifies sending Americans to their death in the sands of the Saudi Arabian peninsula, no matter what slights to our national pride or prestige have occurred, nor what emotional crisis may have developed among our leaders as a consequence of anger and frustration and . . . not . . . whether a letter was left on a table.’’


“President Bush, if you are listening, I implore you to understand that even if you win today . . . you still lose . . . You have no mandate for war . . . the nation is divided.

“The sons of this generation are patriotic, as are the daughters. We will finish it, but for God’s sake, do not start it unless you think it is a vital interest, which I feel strongly it is not.”

And of course:

“The president says he’s angry and impatient, but, God bless him, so are all of us. But is that a reason to send a whole generation to war?”

Senator Biden voted against sending troops to the Gulf.


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