On Left-Wing McCarthyism and My “Farcical” Take on Ted Cruz

Cruz founders

A couple of weeks ago a friend called my attention to a Facebook post criticizing my Washington Post article about Ted Cruz’s dominionism.  It was written by Robert Gagnon, a New Testament professor at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary and, from what I have been able to glean from his Facebook page, an ardent Cruz supporter.  (I could be wrong about his support of Cruz.  I am happy to be corrected).

I have never heard of Gagnon before, but when I looked at his Facebook page I noticed that he is very popular among Christian conservatives for his defense of traditional marriage.   Some of my friends and colleagues (in real life) are friends with him on Facebook.  Since I respect many of the folks who follow him on Facebook, I concluded that I needed to take his criticisms seriously.

Then today I learned that Gagnon and his colleague Edith Humphrey had taken to  Christianity Today to respond to my recent piece, “The Theology of Ted Cruz.” Their essay is entitled “Stop Calling Ted Cruz a Dominionist.” In the essay that compare me to Joseph McCarthy and say that my take on Cruz is “farcical.”

Here is a response to their piece.  Sorry for the bullet points, but I am at a conference this weekend, making it hard to craft something more formal. It looks like Christianity Today is going to give Gagnon and Humphrey the last word on this issue.  I understand why this is the case.  But if they would allow me to respond I will be happy to write something more formal.  Here goes:

  • I share Gagnon’s and Humphey’s (and Robert George–although it’s not clear if the article actually quotes George since there are no quotation marks) concerns about the overuse of the word “dominionism.”  I actually wrote about that here.
  • I agree with Gagnon and Humphrey on the point that Ted Cruz is a strict constitutionalist.  (Who wouldn’t?)
  • When Robert George says (again, is this him or Gagnon and Humphrey?) that Cruz is “not a dominionist; he’s a constitutionalist” I got a bit confused.  I would argue that it is possible to be both.  For example, Glenn Beck, a Cruz supporter who has introduced the Texas Senator at rallies , believes that the Constitution is inspired by God, that Ted Cruz is anointed by God to be President, that God took the life of Antonin Scalia as part of His plan to make Cruz president, and that Cruz will restore the United States to a Christian nation.  Is this a case of guilty by association? Probably.  But when Beck and Cruz appear on the same stage it raises legitimate questions.  Does Cruz also believe all of these things?  Is Cruz willing to denounce or separate himself from Beck’s constitutionalist dominionism even it means possibly losing the support of Beck’s large following?  I seem to remember John McCain denouncing  Rev. John Hagee in 2008.  I also remember Barack Obama denouncing Jeremiah Wright in the same year. Both of these candidates were accused of being “guilty by association” with religious leaders.  Both eventually cut ties.
  • Is religious liberty an issue for Christians right now?  Absolutely.  I am bothered, for example, by last year’s case at Gordon College.  Faith-based institutions that hold traditional views on marriage based on deeply held religious convictions should be not be punished for those beliefs.  The same goes for the various issues related to contraception, Obamacare, and the Little Sisters of the Poor.  This is why I argued in my Christianity Today piece for something akin to a “principled pluralism.”  In order for this kind of pluralism to work we need to figure out some way to live together amid our deepest differences. But, as I also I argued in the CT article, Cruz seldom talks about specific cases where non-Christian groups are facing discrimination. Yes, he opposed Ben Carson’s view that a Muslim could not be President, but at the same time he proposed religious profiling in Muslim communities.  One could make a pretty strong argument that Muslims are facing just as many threats to their religious liberty as Christians.  It would seem that someone as deeply committed to the First Amendment as Cruz would also be talking about these threats.
  • In his interview with Megyn Kelly before the Wisconsin primary (picking up at the 17:40 mark of the linked video), Kelly asked Cruz what he would say to an atheist who felt uncomfortable with other students praying to God at a school function.  Cruz said that an atheist in this situation has the “right not to participate” in the prayer, but “does not have the right to silence everyone else.” It appears that Cruz is suggesting that religious liberty issues should be decided by an appeal to democracy, or the idea that the majority of the people at a school function have the privilege of exercising their religious beliefs regardless of whether or not that exercise violates the conscience of another student. This approach seems to run roughshod over minority rights.  (James Madison had a thing or two to say about this).  I wonder what Cruz would say if the majority of students in the classroom decided to pray to Allah and a Christian student in the class was offended by this.  Would Cruz say that the complaint of the Christian student was the equivalent of a “heckler’s veto?”  I am guessing that Cruz would be screaming bloody murder because this Christian’s religious liberties were violated. Perhaps I am wrong about this.  Whatever the case, I would like to hear Cruz address such a scenario.
  • When Megyn Kelly asked Cruz if his faith informed or inspired his policy, Ctuz dodged the question.  When Kelly asked Cruz general questions about his faith, he stated openly that he is a Christian.  He also said that he is not “running for pastor-in-chief.”  In the interview with Kelly he said that as President of the United States it is not his job to preach, evangelize or tell people that they are going to hell.  This, in a nutshell, is Cruz’s understanding of the separation of church and state.  Ministers have jobs to do.  Presidents have jobs to do. And those jobs are different.  No argument here.  In fact, I think John Winthrop, the first governor of the Puritan Massachusetts Bay colony and the great defender of his settlement as a “city on a hill,” would have said the same thing.  Winthrop was not a clergyman, he was a political leader.  His job was to govern.  It was the job of the ministers in the colony to preach.  But anyone familiar with the story of 17th-century Massachusetts Bay knows that Winthrop and the clergy worked together–the religious arm and the civil arm, so to speak–in building a civilization that privileged the Puritan’s particular brand of Christianity.  Don’t get me wrong, I am not saying that if Cruz becomes President he will start punishing non-Christians. What I am saying is that the claim that he is not going to be a”pastor-in-chief” is different from the practice of employing his religious beliefs to shape public policy, especially if he is working with the model made popular by the Christian Right in the 1980s.
  • I should also add that I have no problem with a faith-informed presidency.  I think that Barack Obama Christian’s faith played a role in his presidency.  Back in 2008, at the Compassion Forum at Messiah College, I listened to Obama lay out, in very specific ways, how his faith would inform his time in office.  Now I want Cruz to do the same and stop hiding behind this “I am not a pastor-in-chief” line.
  • Gagnon and Humphrey suggest that Cruz’s support of Israel is based entirely on “analytical and strategic grounds.”  Perhaps.  But Cruz’s close ties to Larry Huch, a so-called “Hebrew Christian” who pastors a large megachurch in Texas, makes me wonder if there is a theological basis for his strong commitment to Israel and his desire to move the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem, which he is always quick to describe as the “once and eternal capital of Israel.”  See my post on this here.
  • Cruz needs to answer for his connections to David Barton.  Over the last couple of weeks Barton has been talking openly about Seven Mountains Dominionism.  He is opening schools at Bible colleges around the country to teach this view. Let’s not forget that Barton runs a Cruz super-PAC.  This means that Barton, an outspoken dominionist, is raising a lot of money to get Cruz in the White House.  Guilty by association?  Perhaps.  Only Ted Cruz can set the record straight. Let’s remember that this guy is running for President of the United States.  I think he needs to come clean on his connections to people like Barton and Beck.
  • And what about Rafael Cruz?  His sermons and public statements sound a lot like dominionism to me.  He believes in the “end times transfer of wealth.”  He believes that his son is anointed to be President.  Let’s just say he is controversial.  Ted says that his father has been a great influence in his life.  Here is what Gagnon and Humphries write about Rafael: “One might not be comfortable with the style of worship or preaching, or agree with the biblical interpretation, the prosperity gospel, or eschatological scenarios. What is preached, however, amounts to an encouragement to his congregation to determine their gifts (administrative or spiritual), to be active and pleasant in their work places, and to influence society for good.”  This is their way of dismissing some of these out-of-the-mainstream beliefs. I guess the readers of our respective CT articles can decide.
  • And what about carpet-bombing and Cruz’s failure to uphold a consistent ethic of life?  Again, you can be the judge.  Cruz is fond of talking about killing terrorists and “carpet-bombing.”  Other times he says he will protect women and children.  As someone who believes in the dignity of all human creation, this does not sit well with me..
  • I am also bothered by Cruz’s Christian nationalism.  He believes that the United States was founded as a Christian nation and must be “restored.”  I still want to know what he means by this since there are some historical problems with such an assertion.
  • I am also uncomfortable, as a Christian, with the way Cruz mixes politics and faith.  I will stand by my conviction that politics do not belong in churches.  Neither do nationalistic displays.  (And this does not mean that I do not love my country!)  When Megyn Kelly asked Cruz to explain his God and country language, Cruz said that when he is on the campaign trail he focuses his message on “jobs, freedom, and security.” This seems disingenuous to me.  As Kelly notes (and as I referred to in my CT piece), Cruz manipulates scripture to suit his political ends, he brings his political team into churches to show people how to go to the polls and vote [presumably for him], he talks about leading a spiritual awakening that he subtly connects to his winning of the presidency, and he even told his supporters to “strap on the full-armour of God.”  (This phrase comes from Ephesians 6:11-12. It is worth quoting the verse in full in order to illustrate my point: “Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes.  For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.”  I will let you draw your own conclusions on this one).
  • Ted Cruz stands unapologetically for many things that are important to evangelical Christians and to the God they worship and serve. At the same time he appeals, like his political rival Donald Trump, to our fears, anxieties, and idols.As we think about Cruz’s candidacy, let’s remember that “perfect love casts out fear (1 John 4:18), even when it seems that our country is on the edge of “the abyss.” Let’s also remember to be “anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God.” (Philippians 4:6-7). After all, as Christians, it is God, not the government or its leader that is the source of the “peace which surpasses all understanding.” And, perhaps most importantly, let’s remember that the United States, while a great and exceptional nation, is not the Kingdom of God. As the Apostle John reminded us, “Dear children, keep yourselves from idols.” (1 John 5:21).

So where does this lead us?  Gagnon and Humphrey want us to ignore the issues I have raised in my two articles on Cruz.  I want Cruz to address these issues.  These questions will not go away, especially if Cruz manages to take the GOP nomination away from Trump at a contested convention.

 

21 thoughts on “On Left-Wing McCarthyism and My “Farcical” Take on Ted Cruz

  1. xianatty
    APRIL 9, 2016 AT 3:31 PM
    Jon – The “quickening” standard is only one part of the rule. Under the “born alive” rule as described by both Coke and Blackstone the killing of a quickened fetus by either the mother or someone else was considered a type of misdemeanor.

    Very hideous” misdemeanor. Justice Blackmun conveniently left that part out of the majority decision in Roe v Wade, and this misrepresentation clearly persists to this day, as though it were abortion is like speeding or jaywalking.

    “Life is the immediate gift of God, a right inherent by nature in every individual; and it begins in contemplation of law as soon as an infant is able to stir in the mother’s womb. For if a woman is quick with child, and by a potion, or otherwise, killeth it in her womb… this, though not murder, was by the ancient law homicide or manslaughter. But at present it is not looked upon in quite so atrocious a light, though it remains a very heinous misdemeanor…”

    http://tinyurl.com/hm5z82l

    As for statutory law in England after Blackstone:

    http://www.abortionrights.org.uk/history-of-abortion-law-in-the-uk/

    1803: The Ellenborough Act – abortion after ‘quickening’ (i.e. when movement is felt at 16-20 weeks) carried the death penalty. Previously the punishment had been less severe.
    1837: The Ellenborough Act was amended to remove the distinction between abortion before and after quickening.
    1861: The Offences Against the Person Act: performing an abortion or trying to self-abort carried a sentence of life imprisonment.

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  2. I see 7 Mountains as a subset of Dominionism. What complicates that interpretation, though, are those 7 Mountainers who say they want to shape seven key spheres of society but who avoid the language of domination or dominion. But certainly there are plenty of people/ groups for whom Dominionism and 7 Mountains are part of the same integrated system. I really do think the issue of terminology is an important one, precisely because when journalists and pundits lump these ideas together too quickly it makes it easy for political figures to say “That description does not fit me me because I don’t believe in X” even if they firmly believe in the related or similar idea of Y–which is what I think the CT article about Cruz was doing. I found the following historical sketch on the early history of the movement quite interesting: http://herescope.blogspot.com/2011/09/who-invented-dominionism.html

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  3. “It appears that Cruz is suggesting that religious liberty issues should be decided by an appeal to democracy, or the idea that the majority of the people at a school function have the privilege of exercising their religious beliefs regardless of whether or not that exercise violates the conscience of another student.”

    That is not what I, and probably most other viewers who took his words at face value, heard. I see no reference to majorities in Cruz’s remark, not even between the lines. What he was saying is that the exercise of religious speech in public places does not constitute a violation of the conscience of those who opt to not participate in such speech. The latter are free, and welcome, to abstain. Others are free, and welcome, to join in.

    If my child were in a public school, I would encourage her to not participate in the pledge – I’m not a natural Cruz constituency. But I do think his comment on this matter was a lot more straightforward, a lot more libertarian and a lot less ill-intended than you make it sound. (Actually, I wouldn’t be surprised if he would defend the rights of Muslims to public prayer as well, and suggest that Christians present simply abstain but not stop those of other faiths.)

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    • “That is not what I, and probably most other viewers who took his words at face value, heard. I see no reference to majorities in Cruz’s remark, not even between the lines.”

      Cruz is a brilliant constitutional lawyer. When he talks about the law, he’s talking *as a lawyer* about it. In order to understand him, one must understand the relevant law. Thus, the unspoken idea of “majorities” comes from the line of cases he’s referencing when he says there shouldn’t be a heckler’s veto to school prayer or to the Pledge.

      In Abington v. Schempp, 374 U.S. 203 (1973) (quoting West Va. Bd. of Ed. v. Barnette, 319 U.S. 624, 638 (1943)), the Court held:

      “The very purpose of a Bill of Rights was to withdraw certain subjects from the vicissitudes of political controversy, to place them beyond the reach of majorities and officials, and to establish them as legal principles to be applied by the courts. One’s right to . . . freedom of worship . . . and other fundamental rights may not be submitted to vote; they depend on the outcome of no elections.”

      In Schempp, the Court found unconstitutional state laws requiring a daily reading of the Bible and of the Lord’s Prayer *even when students were excused from attendance.* That’s the “veto” he’s talking about. This is the line of cases that “constitutional conservatives” want to overturn. David Barton rails against these cases regularly.

      Also, when Cruz uses the term “heckler’s veto,” that’s from a completely different line of cases having to do with free speech in public places like a street corner or park. That line of cases has nothing to do with the school prayer, Bible reading, and Pledge cases because public schools are *not* “public spaces.” They are controlled by the government so that, when the school speaks through teachers or administrators, or by endorsing student speech, it is *government* speech. It’s an Establishment Clause violation.

      But, Cruz appears to want to apply the rule of public spaces to schools. By doing so, he buries the fact that such a rule allows a majority to take dominion of a school, through state or local governments or school boards, and to use the power of that government to impose their religious view on any minorities. Under his view, everyone has their role. He’ll likely never answer a question about the particulars of any of the variations of dominionism. As he said, he’s not running for pastor-in-chief. But, he’s not above signaling to the dominionists that he will help shape the federal courts to help them prevail.

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      • Well said. This is what is particularly disconcerting to me about Cruz’s reasoning. Walking away from a street preacher in a public park is not the same as walking away from your son’s or daughter’s graduation ceremony. Conflating these two is not a libertarian position, as it forces religious minorities to make a scene (and thereby create a basis for further marginalization) as a condition of absenting themselves from religious activities that violate their consciences.

        I’d be much more persuaded by Cruz’s appeals to “religious liberty” if he were willing to defend the conscience rights of the Muslim parent in rural east Texas with the same vigor as those of the anti-gay Christian wedding caterer in Massachusetts. The fact that he’s not suggests that he envisions a state that confers certain legal privileges onto Christians that it otherwise does not extend to members of other religions. While that may be a soft form of dominionism, it still sounds like dominionism to me.

        Besides, as a Christian who holds to the regulative principle, my conscience is violated when Christian rites are used to cloak otherwise non-religious activities (e.g., high school football games) with the aegis of divine approval.

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  4. One last thought: The terminology is complicated further by differences between the origins of the ideas and later developments and between the theologians who developed the original ideas and the popularizers who mix them all up (no inherent problem with blending ideas; it’s what people do). What if we reserved the term “dominion theology” for those who specifically use the terminology of dominion, as in Christian dominion over creation; Christian Reconstructionists for those who specifically want to implement “biblical law” (meaning, codifying into American law specific commandments found in the Torah and elsewhere); and Christian Americanists (or something similar) for the masses who think in a more general way that American law and government should reflect [Christian] “biblical principles?” Those distinctions gloss over a lot of important differences and nuances, but they’re better than lumping everybody together with the same term. Or do they oversimplify things too much?

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  5. John, I think the questions you raise here about Cruz are fair, reasonable, and informed, and I share them. I do not think the Christianity Today piece did justice to your body of work on the larger context here. I do agree with both the CT article and with you, however, that the term “Dominion Theology” is used too loosely and that it’s too “elastic” (the CT article’s wording, which I think works well here). There are multiple ideologies and theologies at play with different antecedents and intellectual genealogies but that frequently overlap, and some writers lump them all together as “Dominion Theology.” I’m not sure whether it’s best to think of them in terms of a Venn diagram with both significant overlaps and differences or as subsets of a single larger category. While the histories of Dominion Theology and Christian Reconstructionism have frequently intertwined and they’ve long been identified with each other, one could argue that they’ve also taken their own particular turns at times. I would suggest that neither term is necessarily appropriate for a Christian Americanist ideology that combines classic notions of American exceptionalism with the beliefs that America was founded to be a Christian nation (didn’t someone write a great book about that?) governed on “biblical principles” and the idea that the Constitution and Declaration of Independence are based on or inspired by the Bible (usually the Protestant version, of course). Some of those ideas pre-date both Dominion Theology *and* Christian Reconstructionism; I’m indebted to your work and that of Steven K. Green for understanding that. I refer to that ideology as Christian Americanism, b/c “Christian nationalism,” for me, doesn’t sufficiently convey the *Americanness* of it all. (I’ve also seen someone suggest “Biblical Constitutionalism” for that group.) Christian Americanists are the bigger and older group, and many of them would definitely not accept some of the classic theological details of Dominion Theology or Christian Reconstructionism (here I’m thinking of post-millennialist and pre-millennialist debates). Thus, I don’t think journalists should automatically lump them all together unless there is explicit and identifiable overlap of ideas and people, as there often is–and that is exactly what your argument shows. Much of Barton’s written work comes across as reflecting longstanding themes of Christian Americanist ideology, but as you point out, he’s increasingly blending it with explicitly Dominionist ideas (though I doubt he accepts the whole theological package of the latter). So while I don’t believe in guilt by association, I DO believe in presidential candidates making it clear where they stand in relation to the groups (or in the case of Barton, super-PACs) that are sending them money. I don’t know if Cruz is technically a Dominionist, but he sure sounds like a Christian Americanist–which is cause for serious concern given the stances toward other religions (including other Christians) and religious “nones” often found in those circles. For this reason, I found many of the arguments in the Christianity Today article unpersuasive. Bottom line: I think your questions are fair game. The charge of “Left-Wing McCarthyism” is an attempt to change the subject, not to answer the questions. One last note–the CT article claims that “Dominion theology and dominionism were terms coined in 1989 by sociologist Sara Diamond,” as if these are concepts developed by a secular scholar rather than by particular religious thinkers. That claim is inaccurate. H. Wayne House and Thomas Ice published Dominion Theology: Blessing or Curse? An Analysis of Christian Reconstructionism (note the equation of the two groups) in 1988, and it is easy to find multiple other references in Christian Right literature by the same year. In fact, Dominion Theology was already so well known by then that Hal Lindsey saw the need to denounce it in a radio message. I bet the tape is still out there somewhere….

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    • Mark: Thanks so much for this context. Excellent. The last thing I wanted to do with these pieces on Cruz is get involved in a debate about the meaning of dominionism. I deliberately tried to avoid the term “Christian Reconstructionist” and thought “dominionism” might be appropriate since this is what Barton, Rafael, Huch, and others seem to be peddling. Barton talks openly about the 7-Mountain Strategy. But I do understand the nuance here. I DO see a lot overlap between Christian nationalism and dominionism. When people like Barton and others talk about “returning” and “restoring” I want to know what they mean. As a historian, I must ask “return to what?” Restore what? They believe that America was founded as a Christian nation and they want to reclaim that faulty view of the founding in America today. That seems like some form of dominionism to me. Cruz rhetoric is similar. Until he denounces the views of the director of his super-PAC it is hard to interpret this rhetoric in any other way. The McCain and Obama precedents I worth noting here. And if Cruz somehow gets the nomination, I can’t imagine a scenario in which Hillary’s people will not raise this issue and force him to say something about it.

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  6. John, my last name is HUMPHREY, not Humphries. With regards to Robbie George’s quote, we have asked the CT editors to please restore the block quotes around quotations so that they are more clear. Robbie wrote to us personally on this matter, which is why you can’t trace it.

    We feel that your response has ignored OUR critique: for example, Ted EXPLAINS what he means by using the term “carpet-bombing”: and he is certainly not “fond” of the term, but has studiously avoided it in the past months. You overlook his explanation of this (admittedly idiosyncratic) use of the word, which he has specified means to vigorously attack ISIS. Again, as for Raphael, yes, he has some odd eschatological beliefs, as do many evangelical sectarians (I am theologically critical of this as Orthodox). And he believes his son is anointed. Raphael, in all this, does not call on CHRISTIANS to assume the wealth, but believes God will do this. ALL THIS IS BESIDE THE POINT. Cruz said explicitly in Milwaukee that he would never say God told him to run, and that the proper response to that kind of rhetoric is from the voter is “I will believe that when God tells me to vote for you!”

    Yes, he is looking for restoration BY CONSTITUTIONAL means and by PUBLIC DISCUSSION OF ISSUES whereby a consensus comes in LOCAL areas–the power of the states. Asked about abortion rights this week, he said that the decisions would be at the state level. One requires a strong federal government in order to bring about the kind of control Dominionists are feared to support! I won’t do a blow-by-blow response to all your points, as I am also out of town this weekend: but please note we did not say that Cruz’s support of Israel was SOLELY on strategic purposes: but these are substantial!

    You are right, we should not be consumed with fear as Christians, nor should we put our final hope in “princes, in sons of men.” But, I respectfully suggest that fear-mongering takes different shapes. What if Cruz is simply shining light on current problems that are evidently growing worse, and asking the public to face these honestly, and what if the charge of Dominionism and its attendant bugaboos is itself a means of raising the anxiety level of those who would otherwise consider his suggestions on their merits?

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    • Hi Edith: First, I am SO sorry about misspelling your name. I corrected it in the post. Thanks for the clarification on the George quote. I am a big fan of his work and glad he has weighed in. I appreciate the comments. Safe travels.

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    • Ted Cruz’s father’s name is Rafael, not Raphael. It’s the Spanish spelling.

      You said: “Asked about abortion rights this week, he [Cruz] said that the decisions would be at the state level.”

      Right. He would leave the “decisions” to the state level but he would leave only one actual option for them to consider because he has endorsed the radical, hard right notion (and supports federal legislation to state) that a fertilized egg is a “person” with all the rights of born persons under the 5th & 14th Amendments. http://www.personhood.com/cruz_unborn_are_absolutely_persons_under_14th_amendment

      That’s not “restoring” anything. That’s a radical departure from several centuries of common law tradition that held that one must be “born alive” to be considered a “human being.”

      My point is not to hijack this post into a debate on abortion. It’s only to make the point is that Cruz is much harder right, and much more duplicitous, than you & your co-author acknowledge.

      I did read Cruz’s oral argument in the Hayes case & it’s every bit as brutal as it’s been portrayed. The “alternative” you point to would have kept the man, who had already served longer in prison than the law allowed, in prison for possibly years more while the “alternative” option wound its way through state & federal courts.

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      • Jon – The “quickening” standard is only one part of the rule. Under the “born alive” rule as described by both Coke and Blackstone the killing of a quickened fetus by either the mother or someone else was considered a type of misdemeanor. (There’s lots of dispute about what punishment actually applied, but that’s a separate topic.) The other part of the rule held that if the fetus was harmed but was born alive before dying, that was murder. Murder was generally defined as the unlawful killing of a human being or of a life in being. Thus, under the “born alive” rule, one was not a human being unless one was first “born alive.” The crime of abortion — the killing of a quickened fetus — was distinct from the crime of murder — the killing of a human being.

        Murder is still generally defined under penal codes as the unlawful killing of a human being. Defining “person” or “human being” as existing from the moment of fertilization and as possessing all the rights of a person under the 5th and 14th Amendments, as the federal “personhood” idea Cruz supports does, would, contrary to the common law, make *all* abortion (and some forms of contraception), not just a crime, but the specific crime of *murder.* That’s a radical departure from the common law.

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      • It’s also worth noting that the common-law rule isn’t necessarily making a theological judgment. It’s also taking account of certain pragmatic considerations concerning availability of relevant evidence, etc. If we were to define “life” as commencing at conception, then almost any miscarriage would need to be investigated as a potential homicide. Because the reasons for miscarriages are still poorly understood, this would open the door to selective prosecutions, and the like.

        Further, abortion has merely become something of a tribal totem. To be a “real evangelical,” one must recite certain talking points about abortion. When I ask people about those averments, there rarely seems to be any understanding of what those averments actually should mean when the rubber meets the road. After all, they’re not intended as policy positions; they’re intended as litmus tests for tribal loyalty. And, among the cognitive elite, opposing abortion has taken on much the same totemic role.

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      • “It’s also worth noting that the common-law rule isn’t necessarily making a theological judgment.”

        True, though I have read some articles arguing that the common law “born alive” rule is roughly based on Exodus 21:22-23. It’s interesting to compare older and newer translations and commentaries.

        Agree with you about the evidentiary issues. It’s what makes the personhood bills so dangerous. They envision a vast expansion of government power over women’s bodies and health.

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    • Cruz’s comments in Wisconsin about decisions on abortion being made at the state level were disingenuous at best — he said that in the absence of Roe v Wade, those decisions would be made state by state. But the truth is that Cruz does not advocate simply for overturning Roe. He supports a constitutional amendment that would ban abortion nationally. His position is even more extreme than that – he says Congress can sidestep Roe by passing a law declaring that fertilized eggs have all the legal rights of persons under the 14th Amendment, which would surely criminalize abortion in every state.

      Cruz has openly embraced the support of Christian nationalists and dominionists. It is beyond ridiculous to label John Fea’s exploration of these issues as some kind of left-wing McCarthyism.

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      • Cruz’s comments in Wisconsin about decisions on abortion being made at the state level were disingenuous at best — he said that in the absence of Roe v Wade, those decisions would be made state by state. But the truth is that Cruz does not advocate simply for overturning Roe. He supports a constitutional amendment that would ban abortion nationally.

        These are not contrary positions. Neither is it self-evident that abortion should not be banned. The argument is that such moral distinctions–questions of what is right and wrong, and what evils should be permitted and which should be proscribed] should be left to the people, not 5 unelected members of the Supreme Court.

        FTR, 60% of Americans favor banning abortion in the 2nd trimester [which correlates to “quickening”] and 80% favor banning it in the 3rd trimester [“late-term abortion]. That the people cannot ban grave evils [or “very hideous misdemeanors”] is a perversion of the Constitution/14th Amendment.

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