Bill O’Reilly vs. Townhall Ideologues

It didn’t take long for Fox News personality Bill O’Reilly to draw the ire of a few ideologues who write for Townhall.com.

In his criticism of Mr. O’Reilly, Townhall columnist Kevin McCullough* states the following:

The original basis for most of our basic laws stem from the ten commandments. The original version of any form of recorded law is the Bible, and the founders of the United States sought the God of the Bible (Nature’s God) in establishing the most moral system of law our world had ever seen. So to assert–as O’Reilly clearly did–that the Bible can not so much as even be a piece of the discussion ultimately dooms, what is largely an issue that is based on moral behavior, to be decided upon entirely secular or non-moral, amoral, or immoral viewpoints. To refuse even citation from the Bible, is to also arrogantly assume that 5000 years of humanity that observes its moral code from the Bible, was unenlightened and unworthy of a voice in a discussion as important as this.

Apparently, Mr. McCullough lacks knowledge of the origins of human law. First of all, the Bible isn’t the original version of any form of recorded law. The oldest surviving recorded law is the Code of Ur-Nammu, with the older Code of Urukagina being referred to in other ancient writings.

Also, it is a fallacy to claim that 5,000 years of humanity observed its moral code from the Bible. Modern humans have been in existence for well over 100,000 years, and they inhabited plenty of places outside of ancient Israel. From a global perspective, only a fraction of humanity has observed any moral code recorded in Hebrew scriptures.

Furthermore, Mr. McCullough repeats an oft-cited claim that our nation’s laws are based on the Decalogue of the TANAK (a.k.a. Old Testament).  That claim isn’t supported by the U.S. Constitution, and it would be a violation of the First Amendment for any legislative body within the USA to use religious laws as civil laws.

Although Mr. McCullough disagrees with Mr. O’Reilly, at least the former didn’t throw a fit worthy of Chris Matthews. That task was carried out by Townhall columnist Doug Giles*, who had this to say:

According to Bill O’Reilly, pundits cannot appeal to the Bible any longer for public policy regarding homosexuals that want to get married. At least I think it’s just in regards to homosexual marriages. Hell, I don’t know when and where we can use the Scripture any longer. Can we still use it in church? Does anyone know?

Apparently, Mr. Giles didn’t understand the point that Mr. O’Reilly is making. Right now, the U.S. Supreme Court has the task of determining whether or not bans on same-sex marriage violate the U.S. Constitution. Mr. O’Reilly’s point is that the Bible cannot be cited in legal arguments against same-sex marriage, because the U.S. Constitution doesn’t allow purely religious laws to be turned into civil laws. In his controversial discussion with Laura Ingraham**, Mr. O’Reilly explains that a legal case against same-sex marriage has to be based on something other than Bible verses.

Mr. O’Reilly is correct about the inability to use the Bible to make a legal case against same-sex marriage in the USA. Ironically, Mr. O’Reilly’s critics are overlooking the non-biblical case against same-sex marriage that Mr. O’Reilly makes. He states, “Now, there is a strong argument against gay marriage; that it expands marriage opportunity to just one group, gay people. That excludes all others who may want to marry under different circumstances. Also traditional marriage has been a societal stabilizer and in many states it’s favored by the majority of the folks.”

Now, some people (such a McCullough and Ingraham) may object to Mr. O’Reilly’s use of the expression “Bible thumpers” because the expression is not politically correct among certain Christians, but the expression describes how certain opponents of same-sex marriage are perceived by proponents of same-sex marriage. The unpleasant reality is that a person is seen as a “Bible thumper” if that person relies solely on the Bible to make a case against same-sex marriage. You don’t eliminate such an unpleasant reality by denying its existence.

This brouhaha about same-sex marriage in the USA has revealed a difference between the American way, as spelled out in the U.S. Constitution, and the Christian way, as spelled out in the New Testament. The former permits people to not govern their sexual behavior according to the New Testament. One simply cannot promote the entire American way while promoting the idea of codifying New Testament teachings into American civil law. The two simply do not mix. Granted, some New Testament teachings may have equivalents in American civil law, but the latter are independent of the former. The latter merit their existence without the Bible.

Thankfully, it isn’t the mission of the universal Church to coerce non-believers in Jesus into conforming to the rules of conduct that believers in Jesus are supposed to follow. Instead, the mission is to share good news about God’s plan of redemption for all humanity, and that good news can be shared even if same-sex marriage were permissible under civil law. The Gospel of Jesus Christ survived Roman persecution and the Spanish Inquisition. It can certainly survive any SCOTUS ruling about same-sex marriage.

Bill O'Reilly

NOTES

* I will say this much in defense of Townhall columnists Kevin McCullough and Doug Giles. Neither is a Christian minister, and neither claims to use his Townhall column to promote the Gospel of Jesus Christ. So, I give them some slack whenever they mention religious issues, just as I want some slack to be given to me.

** Bill O’Reilly’s controversial argument with Laura Ingraham can be seen here by clicking here. I don’t particularly agree with the way that Mr. O’Reilly responded to Dr. Ingraham.

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  • herddog505

    Upon morality, religion, democracy and the law:

    1. Morality may come from religion. It may also come from secular beliefs in how a person ought to behave as a member of civilized society. I trust that atheists believe that murder, for example, is immoral despite not believing in a supreme being(s);

    2. Different religions – even different sects within the same religion – can have some pretty widely varying views on how society ought to be ordered, on what is “right” and what is “wrong”. Further, religious views can evolve over time (one can argue whether that’s a good thing or not, though I certainly hope that some of the more extremist Muslim sects “evolve” PDQ such that they stop thinking that they need to kill people who don’t agree with them);

    3. People’s votes are influenced by their personal beliefs, which certainly include their religious beliefs. They are at liberty to vote on the grounds of what their faith teaches them (in the case of some of my in-laws, this includes voting to prohibit the sale of alcohol in their home town);

    4. Where this become tricky is the law. While I believe that our laws are made by the people based on majority rule, there is also the need to NOT trample on the minority. I hate to use a liberal buzzword, but tolerance is – or should be – a virtue that Americans ought to practice a bit more. I may not LIKE what other people think or do with their lives. I may even be utterly bewildered or outright disgusted by it. However, I ought to tread very cautiously before I start voting to make it illegal, if for no other reason than I would appreciate it if people didn’t treat me in that fashion (as lefties are trying to do with my guns, actually). I think that the Founding Fathers recognized this when they wrote the Bill of Rights: they understood that people, in the heat of passion, could easily vote to create a despotism or theocracy or some other form of government that would ultimately be damned unpleasant for quite a lot of people, and so they tried to fix it such that, in certain key areas, we CAN’T do it.

    On the particular subject of gay marriage, it strikes me that, as with owning a nasty ol’ assault weapon, an American shouldn’t have to go crawling to his government to get permission to live his life in a certain way, and that includes deciding who he wants to marry (assuming that we’re talking about mentally competent adults). Barring some solid evidence that gay marriage is genuinely harmful to society, I can’t see why we should ban it any more than we ought to ban divorce*, having a drink, reading Lady Chatterly’s Lover, ordering a Big Gulp, owning an AR-15, being a communist, or voting democrat^.

    ===

    (*) Though I think that this ought to be harder to get, and people ought to think twice and then twice again before doing it if they have children.

    (^) Now, this is REALLY bad for our country.

    • JWH

      or voting democrat^.

      Americans should always vote for democrats. They may not vote for Democrats, but they always ought to vote for a democrat.

    • Scalia

      herd, to my knowledge, there isn’t a law anywhere in this country that “bans” gay persons from exchanging vows with one another. If they want to call themselves “married,” that is their business. So, no liberty in that regard is being infringed.

      A state-recognized marriage is another matter. Until of late, marriage has always overwhelmingly involved men and women because humans are overwhelmingly heterosexual. Commitment and fidelity are virtues and provide a stable environment for the rearing of children. A state’s interest in promoting marriage in one way or another stems from a state’s need of self-preservation. Stable families and an optimal environment for the socialization (not socialism) of children is good for the overall health of the state. Hence, the promotion of traditional marriage is a beneficial reciprocal relationship (e.g. see Augustus’ marriage laws).

      There is simply no compelling state interest to promote gay marriage, other than what now exists: the personal liberty to call any non-conventional relationship anything one wishes. And since legal mechanisms are or can be utilized or implemented to address property distribution, there is no logically compelling reason for the state to include non-conventional groups within the rubric of marriage.

      The objection that the exclusion of groups such as homosexuals is a violation of equal protection is non sequitur. If an equal protection claim is sufficient to fundamentally change the definition of a legal term, then there is no logical defense against any redefinition of said term. Why can’t roommates be legally recognized as married? Why does “erotic love” have to be the standard? Why must it be restricted to humans? Who says that “consent” must be the standard (for those wishing to marry their pillows and such)? Answers to these and similar questions involve an appeal to one’s definition of marriage, and if one has already conceded that a fundamental redefinition is justified on equal protection grounds, then the logical extension of that position is to render the term in question as meaningless.

      As I’ve stated elsewhere, when “marriage” means everything, then it means nothing. If the state is going to hand out benefits to those who are married, then everybody can redefine that term and appeal to equal protection to access those benefits. If one insists on a strict definition of “marriage,” then the original objection is undermined for that very reason.

      In sum, there is no law prohibiting any couple from exchanging vows, legal mechanisms are or can be constructed for property division, and equal protection guarantees either have nothing to do with homosexual “marriage,” or they logically render state-recognized marriage as meaningless. Let’s just call everybody married lest we violate the Constitution.

  • Par4Course

    O’Reilly’s point was simply that in America citing (“thumping”) the bible is no way to win an argument on a public policy issue like same-sex marriage. While I side with the believers on the cases argued to SCOTUS recently (I support Prop 8 and DOMA), I also agree with Rush that gay marriage is inevitable. It’s adoption will not end Christianity (or any other religion) or the “institution of marriage.” There are currently many dangers threatening our country and our way of life but same-sex marriage is not one of them.

    • Phil Snyder

      Same sex marriage will not destroy “the institution of marriage.” The rampant “serial monogamy” (one spouse – at a time) combined with easy divorce, and lack of stigma for having kids outside of marriage (all done by heterosexuals) have destroyed “the institution of marriage” far more than any group of determined political activists could – no matter what their sexual orientation might be!

      • herddog505

        I agree.

        O’ course, if one DOES remark that all these things are bad, it’s “prude!” and “Victorian hypocrisy!” and “Bible thumper!” and even “misogynist!” as if chastity and fidelity are mental illnesses.

  • Wild_Willie

    I have been on this site for years. I do disagree at times with the post but this is the first time I think an author is trying to distract from the only problem with O’Reilly’s comment. You made an attempt to bring it up, but as a writing gimmick of ‘bring up the others point’ to dismiss it. Calling someone of Christian Faith a ‘Bible Thumper’ of ‘Holy Roller’ is a purely deragatory term. Bill knows it, the Christian community knows it and so do you. It is like telliing a Mexican he/she is a beaner or wetback. The Christian community does not disagree with the thesis of Bill’s comment, but they ask for an apology for his slur. He refuses to give it or even admit it. That is how a controvery grows. I myself emailed O’Reilly to tell him I thought he was better than that. He is now up there with Sharpton, et.al.. He needs to get this behind him. I am sure his ratings are faultering. No one wants to be called names, ever. ww

    • herddog505

      Good point.
      I mean, except for the bit about not calling people names; it’s one of my favorite pasttimes.

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