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Defending Child Rape with Religion


Q:  When is a pervert not a pervert?

A:  When he says God made him do it.

That about sums it up for the defense in the notorious, and now happily over with, trial of Warren Jeffs.  Jeffs, 55, was the head of a sect (implausibly) claiming to be an offshoot of the Mormon Church.  Part of the religious "duty" incumbent on Mr. Jeffs, as church leader, was to "marry" what he referred to as "child brides."

In the language of normal people, what that means is that he picked out little girls to rape.  Today, he got a life sentence plus 20 years for raping two of them, one aged 15 and the other 12.  The story is here.

I'm going to stay far away from making any general comments about religion.  I will say that, like anything else, it can be abused and distorted.  We see this all the time in the death penalty debate, where religious hucksters like Sister Prejean cloak themselves in sanctimony to look down upon the Less Enlightened of us  --  admittedly a big majority  -- who support capital punishment.  Hey Sister, where's that ever-popular-with-liberals separation of church and state when you need it?

The distortion of religion in the Jeffs case is too blatant to need discussion, but it's not too blatant for the defense to claim that the indictment was religious "persecution:"

Jeffs claimed his religious rights were being violated. Representing himself after burning through seven high-powered attorneys, he routinely interrupted the proceedings and chose to stand silently in front of jurors for nearly half an hour during his closing arguments. He called just one defense witness, a church elder who read from Mormon scripture.

For the second time today, I have occasion to give thanks that I made my living as a thoroughly secular prosecutor.   


As execrable as Sister Prejean can be, she's not in the same ballpark as Jeffs, an evil sexual predator. In fact, I think there is a strong religious argument against capital punishment, and I am willing to accept the bona fides of those (such as the Pope) who advance it. What is unacceptable, as you rightly point out, is the moral preening of the Sister Prejeans of this world. Sister Prejean thinks nothing about distorting the facts of capital punishment, and that is simply unacceptable given her station.

I believe the Pope has congratulated states that have abolished capital punishment, but whether Church doctrine opposes it in all instances is unclear to me. I believe that shortly before becoming Pope, Cardinal Ratzinger wrote that capital punishment and warfare do not carry the same moral weight as abortion and euthanasia - and that there may be “a legitimate diversity of opinion among Catholics” on the death penalty and war but not on the latter two issues.

I also believe that Catholic misgivings about the DP are rooted in notions of the sanctity of human life. If, as the majority of deterrence studies show, the DP saves vastly more life than it takes, things become a good deal more complicated.

I of course do not in any way hold myself out as an expert on Catholic doctrine. Perhaps some of our readers know the issue and will chime in.

Religious is just an part of life its not life, for me our work is only religious the work which we do is only our god and religious for me.

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