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Claire Snyder-Hall
Claire Snyder-Hall
Claire Snyder-Hall is a political philosopher, writer, activist, and practitioner of Conservative Judaism.

Opposition to Gambling: From Right to Left


by: on August 19th, 2011 | 4 Comments »

When I was a little girl, my mother made me return my school-issued raffle tickets to my third-grade teacher and tell her my parents don’t believe in gambling. It was a hard thing to do at the time, but I believe it built character. It also left me with a deep-seated opposition to legalized gambling. While I am not as absolutist about it as my mother, I just do not believe that it is right to look to gambling as a way to solve our social problems, whether it is school funding or a lack of jobs.


Mobilizing the Base: The Importance of Voter Registration


by: on August 11th, 2011 | 2 Comments »

The Christian Right is already starting its Get Out the Vote Campaign, and the Religious Left should be doing the same.

The right-wing Faith and Freedom Coalition (FFC) is calling on conservative churches to get people registered to vote:

Are you sure all your friends, family members and fellow church attendees are actually registered to vote? You can fix that.

Sadly, about half of U.S. churchgoers still aren’t registered to vote. That means millions of conservative people of faith and Tea Party friendly voters are forfeiting their voice at election time. In order to restore America’s greatness and founding principles, we must have every member of our grassroots team on the playing field and ready to make an impact in 2012. The time to start organizing our team for game day 2012 is now with a voter registration drive.

By hosting a voter registration drive, you can help your fellow citizens make their voices heard in elections that determine whether our country honors the sanctity of life and marriage, confirms judges who won’t legislate from the bench as judicial activists, reigns in out-of-control spending which burdens future generations and stands up for our ally Israel.


Who Talks About “Cultural Marxism” Anymore?


by: on August 8th, 2011 | Comments Off

Beyond a few academics, who talks about cultural Marxism anymore? I actually hadn’t heard the term used in contemporary politics, until right-wing terrorist Anders Behring Breivik invoked it in his 1518 page manifesto against Islam and multiculturalism.

So imagine my surprise, when I came across an attack on “cultural Marxism” on the Family Research Council website this morning! The article is titled “Activists’ Game Plan Against Religion, Life, and the Family: The UN, the Courts, and Transnationalist Ideology.” The article begins with an attack on the famous 19th century work by Frederick Engels, The Origins of the Family, Private Property, and the State (1884), but focuses mostly on contemporary international law and the right-wing battle against feminism and gay marriage. Although the author doesn’t seem to know what “cultural Marxism” actually is, the invocation of the term is striking, in light of recent events.


Should a Submissive Wife Run for President? The Case of Michele Bachmann


by: on August 4th, 2011 | 1 Comment »

In the Christian Bible it says, “Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is head of the wife, as also Christ is head of the church; and He is the Savior of the body. Therefore, just as the church is subject to Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in everything” (Ephesians 5:22-24).

Michele Bachmann says she is a Biblical literalist and claims to be a submissive wife. As documented on the Slate website,

In a speech at a mega-church in the Minneapolis area back in 2006, Michele Bachmann explained her decision to pursue tax law. It wasn’t her choice, exactly. God had already told her to go to law school; God had also told her to marry a fellow named Marcus Bachmann. Now Marcus told her “to go and get a post-doctorate degree in tax law.” This was not a particular desire of Michele’s (“Tax law? I hate taxes!”), but she was certain God was speaking through her husband. “Why should I go and do something like that?” she recalled thinking. “But the Lord says, ‘Be submissive wives; you are to be submissive to your husbands.’”

Bachmann’s speech was captured on video and is available for viewing on YouTube.


Right-Wing Extremism: From Norway to the U.S.


by: on July 28th, 2011 | Comments Off

The shocking acts committed in Norway by Anders Behring Breivik put right-wing extremism back on the radar of threats we should be concerned about.

One might refer to him as a right-wing Christian terrorist. While I believe that Breivik violated the tenets of Christianity when he engaged in terrorism in Oslo and massacred children at a Labour Party youth camp, he explicitly claims the mantel of Christianity, believing he acts to defend European Christendom from Muslim immigrants and multiculturalism. Thus he is similar to “Islamic” terrorists, who violate the principles of Islam yet explicitly claim to be acting in the name of Islam. If we use the religious label in one case, we should probably use it in both cases.

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) ought to be monitoring right-wing extremists, but apparently they are not currently doing so. According to the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), right-wing violence is on the rise. As Mark Potok explains in “The Year in Hate & Extremism,”


Opposing Free Contraceptives? Does the Christian Right Want to Lower the Abortion Rate or Not?


by: on July 21st, 2011 | 6 Comments »

There was good news on the front page of the New York Times this week. Apparently, “a leading medical advisory panel recommended on Tuesday that all insurers be required to cover contraceptives for women free of charge as one of the several preventive services under the new health care law,” and the Obama administration is “inclined to accept the panel’s advice.” Even better, no Congressional approval is required.

As Senator Barbara Mikulski put it, “We are one step closer to saying goodbye to an era when simply being a woman is treated as a pre-existing condition. We are saying hello to an era where decisions about preventive care and screenings are made by a woman and her doctor, not by an insurance company.”

Affordable contraceptives are sorely needed in the US, where “nearly half of all pregnancies” are unintended, and “about 40 percent of unintended pregnancies” end in abortion. Since women living in poverty are four times more likely to become pregnant unintentionally, there is reason to believe that price is an issue.

Because making contraceptives more accessible should decrease the number of abortions, the Christian Right ought to be rejoicing about this proposed policy. Strangely, however, the Family Research Council (FRC) opposes it. It is not strange that the Catholic Church opposes the measure, since they consider contraceptives immoral, but Protestant Christianity allows for the use of birth control. What gives?


Feminism, Gender Politics, and the Budget


by: on July 18th, 2011 | Comments Off

Do feminist organizations have anything to say about the battle over the debt ceiling? If they do, it certainly hasn’t gotten much coverage. It seems that they should, since many of the budget cuts proposed by the Republican Party and the Obama Administration will slash funding for programs that meet human needs (and employ women).

Well, as it turns out, feminist organizations do have something to say about the budget. The National Organization for Women (NOW), for example, makes the following point:

Very soon, members of Congress will reach an agreement on how to reduce the federal deficit. As much as $4 trillion could be cut from the federal budget over the next decade. These cuts will touch upon virtually every program that serves and employs women. Currently, some negotiators are refusing to accept new taxes to raise revenues as part of the package, which could result in deep benefit cuts to Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and an array of other critical safety net programs. The economic well-being of women, communities or color, persons with disabilities, low-income earners and their families are at stake.

In response NOW, along with the National Council of Women’s Organizations, is asking our elected officials to “Respect, Protect, Reject” – to make sure “women are respected” in budgetary negotiations, “that programs which disproportionately serve and employ women are protected,” and that “any effort to undercut these programs [is] rejected.”


President Obama Could Use 14th Amendment To End Debt Ceiling Crisis!


by: on July 7th, 2011 | 3 Comments »

The good news is that President Obama has the power to end the potentially disastrous battle over raising the debt ceiling! The bad news is that he has yet to act on it.

If Obama could end this crisis, why wouldn’t he? Why would he instead propose taking money out of the economy during a recession by cutting spending and raising taxes? This will only make things worse, which is obvious if you know anything about the basic principles of Keynesian economics.

Again, the President has the power to solve the debt ceiling crisis without capitulating to the Republicans, who seem determined to tank the economy. What am I talking about? Well, according to the Washington Post, the President could simply rule the debt ceiling unconstitutional because Section 4 of the 14th Amendment says the “validity of the public debt of the United States . . . shall not be questioned.” This tactic has been suggested by “law professors, Democratic senators, and liberal commentators,” such as Katrina vanden Heuvel, as well as by Secretary Geithner as far back as May.


Is the New York Marriage Decision Really a “Mixed Blessing”? Some Thoughts on Domestic Partnerships and Civil Unions


by: on July 1st, 2011 | Comments Off

In a well-received Op/Ed piece in the New York Times, Columbia law professor, Katherine M. Franke explains why she considers the New York marriage decision a “mixed blessing.” Why does she say that?

First, Franke is concerned that the decision to allow same-sex couples access to civil marriage in New York will most likely lead to the elimination of domestic partnership status. She sees this as unfortunate because having domestic partnership as an option provides “greater freedom than can be found in the one-size-fits-all rules of marriage.”

Second, Franke does not think people should be “forced” to get married in order to access their partners’ health insurance and other benefits. She believes domestic partnership ought to be an alternative way of accessing benefits for both gays and straights.

Finally, she does not want to “celebrate” the idea of having the state sanction and regulate personal relationships.

A lot of my friends recommended this op/ed piece on Facebook, but I found myself less than convinced by Franke’s claims for a number of reasons. First, while Franke insists that “domestic partnerships and civil unions aren’t a consolation prize made available to lesbian and gay couples because we are barred from legally marrying,” in most cases, that is exactly what they are.

This seems to be the case even in New York City, where Franke resides. According to the City, domestic partnership status is available only to “couples that have a close and committed personal relationship” and who “live together, and have been living together on a continuous basis.” It is not available to anyone who “is married or related by blood in a manner that would bar his or her marriage in New York State.” While it is open to gay and straight couples alike, the status seems to be aimed at those who are living together as if married, rather than alternative domestic configurations.

To give another example, my home state of Delaware just legalized civil unions for same-sex couples precisely because such couples are prohibited from marrying. The new status will provide all the state-level benefits of marriage, but because civil unions have no federal status, none of the federal ones. While I am happy that my relationship will soon have some legal protection in Delaware, I am not happy to be relegated to second-class status. But it was the best we could do politically.


The Christian Right on Gay Marriage in New York


by: on July 1st, 2011 | 5 Comments »

Since I monitor the Christian Right for Tikkun Daily, I had to ask myself this week: What does the Christian Right (CR) think about the recent decision of the New York legislature to allow same-sex couples access to civil marriage? Their websites were actually less focused on this issue than I thought they would be, but those who did comment seemed to offer two major lines of attack.

The first argument, advanced by the National Organization for Marriage (NOM), Family Research Council, and others, says the people of New York don’t want gay marriage and so the legislature shouldn’t have legalized it. Since we claim to be a democratic society, this makes sense as an argument. However, this criticism is not actually the principled argument that it at first seems to be because Christian Right spokespeople appeal to the will of the majority only when it serves their purposes.

That is to say, if you look at the arguments against gay marriage made by the Right over time, they change depending on the circumstances. When the courts order marriage equality, the CR says “leave it to the legislature.” When legislatures legalize gay marriage, then the CR demands a referendum.

For example, Maggie Gallagher from NOM, who is now pushing the will of the people argument, previously criticized the Massachusetts Supreme Court for overturning the laws passed by the legislature.

Well what if the people decide they want gay marriage? Would the Christian Right then drop its opposition to marriage equality?