Rabbi Shimon Cowen and Arthur Abba Goldberg
Rabbi Shimon Cowen (left) and Arthur Abba Goldberg

Witherspoon Institute’s blog is featuring a post by Rabbi Shimon Cowen and Arthur Abba Goldberg. Their article is titled: “Restoring the Political-Moral Center.” Some background is in order (please bear with me):

Cowen is Australia’s Tony Perkins. He is affiliated with the Australian Family Association. He has written that the “…pretext of preventing the bullying of school children with homosexual behaviours, is seeking to legitimate homosexual behaviour in the earliest stages of child education.” This moron has compared homosexuality to ­incest and bestiality, saying just because people have gay urges doesn’t justify acting on them. Cowen is a proponent of reorientation or “reparative” therapy. Intentionally misinforming the parents of gay kids makes Cowen a sociopath and a bigot. That makes him immoral.

Cohen is a convicted felon (wire fraud, mail fraud and nearly a score of conspiracy counts). At his sentencing the prosecutor, K. William O’Connor – Assistant US Attorney, said that Goldberg was “a man who habitually took advantage of people who were economically dependent upon him; that he did not hesitate to lie or cheat or cover up to achieve his criminal aim. His greed has cause incalculable harm…”

Out of the hoosegow, Cohen reinvented himself in 2000 as the head of JONAH (Jews Offering New Alternatives to Homosexuality). JONAH was in the reparative therapy business until SPLC put them out of business in 2015 when JONAH lost a civil suit for consumer fraud. Cohen was exposed for the grifter that he still is. He moved his racket to Israel.

Their polemic at Witherpoon is painfully verbose (it is also painfully nonsensical). I have economized on relevant quotes as much as possible. They write:

Until the second half of the twentieth century, the major parties of the left and the right in the United States and in other advanced Western democracies operated within a framework of shared basic moral values. These universal ethical values—which predate, but were authoritatively reiterated at, Mount Sinai over 3000 years ago—constitute the common root and the enduring shared values of Judaism, Christianity, and Islamprohibits. …

So, around 1950 we started to go to hell in a handbag.

As laws of a Divine covenant, they found deep resonance in natural law traditions from Cicero to the American Declaration of Independence with its reference to, and reliance upon, “Divine Providence.” Indeed, an Act of the US Congress in 1991, on a bipartisan basis, recognized how these “ethical values and principles . . . upon which our great nation was founded … have become the bedrock of society from the dawn of civilization, when they were known as the Seven Noahide Laws.” …

That is all nonsense. The act of Congress that they are referring to is Public Law 102-14, 102d Congress, 1st session, H.J. Res. 104 “to designate March 26, 1991, as `Education Day, U.S.A.’.” It was a harmless bit of puffery that did not create law. We are a secular society. Our Constitution prohibits laws in recognition of religion. Period.

In recent decades, however, a new secular, hedonistic, materialistic worldview has emerged, which is supported by elites within our judicial system, media, and educational institutions. It has achieved significant success in pulling the major political parties away from the moral center of traditional universal values that were based on the Seven Laws of Noah. But this now “politically correct” mentality has produced a serious disconnect between our political establishments and ordinary citizens, many of whom experience with unease the dissolution of traditional values, family, and community. These citizens seek a return to more traditional universal moral values in order to produce just and cohesive societies, to protect spiritual and political freedoms for all citizens, and to anchor our political-moral center.

We progress as our understanding of the world around us progresses. Religious nutters said about the same gobbledygook when women got the right to vote. Those citizens who want a return to traditional values are a diminishing lot. Younger people are increasingly less willing to be slaves to superstition prescribed in ancient scrolls.

Where is the outrage over real immorality?

I don’t see any conservatives taking on the Walton family for their avarice. Walmart employees consume nearly 20% of the country’s food stamps. In 2014, Forbes reported “Walmart’s low-wage workers cost U.S. taxpayers an estimated $6.2 billion in public assistance including food stamps, Medicaid and subsidized housing.” Workers require welfare to get by while the Walton family is worth nearly $150 billion. Where is the outrage over that immorality? Where?

But I digress. They continue:

Today, we face the ultimate choice between these two opposing worldviews—the traditional spiritually embedded worldview that has anchored our society and the secular hedonistic materialistic worldview that has unmoored it. …

Only for those people who are dividers. Religious people would happily coexist with the secular majority if they would simply stop trying to impose their religious values on others. But (in this country) Evangelical Christians cannot do that. They feel that they are called upon by their god to “save” everyone else so that they can be “born again” in order to go to heaven when they die. When those on the receiving end of the bullshit push back we end up with crazy religious people (including these two cashews) claiming that we are going to hell in a handbag. Conservative Christians like the DeVos family are among the most hedonistic in our society. Hedonism is not an element of secularism.

… It was unthinkable that either party would validate homosexual practices as co-normative with heterosexual ones up to their enshrinement in same-sex marriage, or endorse abortion on demand, let alone enforce such practices by government edicts involving punitive compulsion to comply. …

They are correct. That is because it was widely believed that sexual orientation was a chosen behavior. We treated gays like perverted drug addicts (these two people still do). As a society we once wanted to have complete control over “the weaker sex.” There was a large segment of society that believed that women should not have careers. Some people still do treat women as inferiors. Much of that stems from religious belief. It is how we have men obsessed with controlling uteri. Cowen and Cohen would prefer that we were all dumbed-down in order to comply with their religious precepts.

But today, with respect to the universal ethical values of civilization, our major parties have become, in moral terms, fringe parties. As former United Kingdom Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sacks observed (paraphrasing Yeats), “The center no longer holds. Things are falling apart. Anarchy is loosed upon the world.”

Please. Gays and reproductive choice are not destroying us. Income inequality is destroying us and it is rooted in fundamental immorality. I am a fierce capitalist but things have gotten way out of control. One of these days I will post my treatise on employee participation, taxes, stock options and obscene executive compensation.

These advocates of the new “politically correct” ideology seek to prohibit all religious teaching in schools and universities—even if it is optional—for fear that it may derail their movement. They also want to end state and local support for religious schools, even though a very significant majority of taxpaying Americans are religiously affiliated. This movement knows that traditional morality has its roots in religious tradition and education, and its goal is to destroy the transmission of these values by crippling religious education.

Don’t you hate it when an Australian and an Israeli lecture us about the flaws in our Constitution? Or perhaps they are simply ignorant. Our Constitution prohibits religious instruction in public school. Where on earth do they get the idea that is is legally permissible to subsidize religious schools with tax dollars? We are resistant to the persistence of religious conservatives who challenge the Establishment Clause. Many religious people understand that the best way to protect freedom of religion is to resist efforts to transform out secular society.

Our academic institutions have never been as politicized as they are today. Hedonistic secular materialism, with its omnisexual, genderless “utopia” has taken root, and is strongly cultivated, in universities, where academics must march to the beat of political correctness on pain of losing their research funding, academic contracts, and career advancement. …

I have no idea what they mean by an omnisexual, genderless utopia. Nor do I understand why that would be utopian. In fact, I don’t know of any advocates of an omnisexual, genderless society. Thus the rest of this is, well … bullshit.

The court system has contributed greatly to the revolution against universal ethics. The courts have effectively changed the constitutional protection of the free exercise “of” religion into a freedom “from” religion. Their interpretation of the Constitution is no longer anchored in either the words or the original meaning of the Constitution.…

Beyond that, this phenomenon infringes on democracy. In his powerful dissent from the Obergefell decision, Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia insightfully stated, “To allow the policy question of same-sex marriage to be considered and resolved by a select, patrician, highly unrepresentative panel of nine is to violate a principle even more fundamental than no taxation without representation…

Scalia’s originalism was based on a myth. It would have prohibited the Court from reaching the correct decisions in cases like Loving v. Virginia and Brown v. Board of Education. And, yes, it would prohibit the correct ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges. Honestly Rabbi Cowen, just because gay marriage (using his presumptive term) is legal doesn’t mean that we are going to force you to gay marry. Moreover, there is nothing in Obergefell that changes free exercise of religion in any way whatsoever.

In historical terms, radical secularism is a fringe phenomenon that became “mainstream” and pulled the major parties out of the moral-political center. Such radicalism ultimately does not fit with the overwhelmingly religious character of human history and society.

“Radical secularism?” Where on earth did that come from? As a society we are becoming less religious. We no longer accept that bad things are “acts of God” to punish us for [fill in the blank]. Historically religion was the underpinning for ethnic cleansing of Native Americans, the enslavement of black people and then institutionalized racism as segregation. We no longer accept the false proposition that “good” people must be religious people. Many religious conservatives have been, and are, terrible, immoral people.

Contemporary populism is a reaction against a regime of “politically correct” values. It is driven by populist discontent with the radical secularist uprooting of community and traditional values. …

Exactly who are these contemporary populists? Is this Donald Trump’s ignorant, poorly educated base of trailer denizens? I do not know.

America’s constitutional principle of separation of religion and state was not intended to exclude religiously inspired values from the public square nor from observance in public institutions. What it meant was that the government could not prescribe adherence to a particular religious sect, or require its officers to be of that religion. …

Ugh! Nonsense! The Establishment Clause means exactly what it says:

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion…”

Moreover, the only mention of religion in the original text of the Constitution is that “no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.” The word “ever” emphasizes the importance that the framers put on this clause within Article Six. There isn’t a single reference to God in the Constitution.

Citizens must work to recreate a political culture where civilization predicates itself on a belief in G-d and the principles He laid out over 3,000 years ago. …

Not going to happen! We are increasingly unwilling to be slaves to 3,000 year old chronicles of questionable provenance. We no longer require the existence of a deity to explain the natural world. The purpose for religion is, and always has been, to provide a path to an afterlife. If you follow the rules you are off to paradise when you expire on earth. The only difference between these guys and Tony Perkins is the rule set. Cowen, for example, keeps Kosher. Perkins does not. Our political culture is increasingly secular because we have advanced as a society.

A combination of grassroots movements, religious institutions, and visionary politicians who unabashedly promote traditional morality will either bring the major parties back to the true moral-political center or replace them with new political parties. Such parties could represent right and left, yet they could each operate within the bounds of the Noahide universal moral values—the concepts at the core of the most influential faith traditions of the Western world. …

In other words, fuck the Constitution. Little wonder why these two immoral misfits find a home at the blog of the Witherspoon Institute.

By David Cary Hart

Retired CEO. Formerly a W.E. Deming-trained quality-management consultant. Now just a cranky Jewish queer. Gay cis. He/Him/His.