Privacy: what's so damned hard about it?

Trigger Warning:
I'm going to rant a bit about the right to privacy today. I get a little profane, and I mock the shit out of evangelical/fundamental Christianity. If this bothers you, skip this one. It also meanders a bit and touches on equal protection under the law-- something that often goes hand in hand with the right to privacy.

"Although not explicity [sic] stated in the text of the Constitution, in 1890 then to be Justice Louis Brandeis extolled 'a right to be left alone.' This right has developed into a liberty of personal autonomy protected by the 14th amendment. The 1st, 4th, and 5th Amendments also provide some protection of privacy, although in all cases the right is narrowly defined. The Constitutional right of privacy has developed alongside a statutory right of privacy which limits access to personal information." Cornell University Law School's page on Privacy. (Emphasis added)

And in case you're not familiar with the Constitutional Amendments noted above, here they are:

Amendment 1:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people to peaceably assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

Amendment 4:
The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

Amendment 5:

No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.

[If you go to the University of Missouri-Kansas City's site, they have a fantastic section on "Exploring Constitutional Conflicts" that deals with the Right to Privacy. It lists the court cases that helped frame the right to privacy, although I believe that Roe vs. Wade (410 US 113, 1973) ought to be included in his list. It appears to be something used for teaching a class, and so I can see how further rights to privacy like abortion, marriage and the right to die would be added in later, or as an aside, as the right to privacy has expanded over the years. You can also see an annotated copy of the US Constitution here.]

That's pretty easy, isn't it? The right to be left alone. This was expanded to include the ability to make love to any consenting adult-- with any bits, as well as the ability to use contraception without permission from the state. There are a lot of things we do every day that are protected by the right to privacy-- everything from discussing our sex lives with our doctors, to refusing to place our kids in religious training, to enjoying conversations with friends in the privacy of our homes without worrying about some asshole from the state coming in shouting at us for not being patriotic enough. We don't have to quarter soldiers-- that means having them shack up with us against our wills. We don't have to hope that no one notices our subscription to Playboy, or our online porn habits.

We have privacy.

The right to be left alone. It's a beautiful thing, for people who understand it, anyway. I know an awful lot of fundamentalists who cling to that harder than they cling to "For God so loved the world, that he sent his only son*..."! That's their go-to phrase when they want the gubmint outta their bidness! Several other Amendments are included in the list of ways in which the Constitution ensures privacy; often the 3rd, 14th and even the 9th.

I remember the first time I heard it; I was about 8 or 9 and my mother was talking to a social worker. She used to run a state-licensed day care, and so there were regular visits. They had to make sure she wasn't keeping a bazillion kids (I think she was allowed to watch 9 or 10), that they were clean, and well-fed, and to occasionally re-evaluate the food assistance she got, because a couple of the kids' were being paid for by the state. The social worker has asked to see my homework, and so I showed it to her. I remember it was mathematics, and probably long division or fractions (I was ahead of my grade level for a time in elementary school math). The social worker asked why we weren't in school, as the laws in Michigan at the time were pretty murky about home-schooling.

My mother stood there and acted like she'd been slapped! It stands out in my mind, her martyrdom in the kitchen, "We have the right to be left alone! The Supreme Court said so. I also have the right to teach my children according to my beliefs, and the state cannot interfere!" The social worker was pretty shocked, all she'd asked was why. A lot of kids are home schooled these days, as they were in the 80's because of learning problems or other reasons. I didn't think it was a terrible question, but I guess my mother thought it was Persecution, with a capitol P.

I have noticed that this is something that fundies cling to for themselves, their religion, way of  life, and their beliefs, but something that they don't want for others. If you don't believe me, ask one of them about how they feel about privacy and "religious upbringing". Then ask them about privacy and abortion. 

If they're honest, they'll tell you there are three kinds of abortions that they would allow: rape, incest and theirs. Most likely they won't be honest, they'll tell you that abortion is murder and blah blah blah while secretly thinking about the time they took their kid in, or went themselves, to the clinic-- because they're righteous, not like those sluts they had to sit with in the waiting room! This means, of course, that this private, medical procedure, in their eyes, is not private at all-- if you're the one getting it.

It is pathetic! This attitude of "it's OK for me, but not for thee" shit that fundies embrace. I fucking hate it, so much! The idea that their religion makes them perfect, and therefore they have to cram it down the throats of everyone else that really gets me, especially when they are more than happy to embrace something-- as long as it's just for their use.

Want or need another example? Take a look at the assholes protesting any mosque or Muslim community centre being built. They call themselves christian, and claim that Islam is against their religion-- so they don't want it near them. Never mind that Muslims are awesome, and have deeply held beliefs of their own, and have the right to worship as they please; or that all many religious persons might want is a place to get together to worship-- the xians don't want it, so they are being persecuted if anyone gets to worship in a way they dislike, so get rid of it! They have freedom of religion. and speech and the right to assemble!  But don't you dare step foot in their church, or walk up to them as they're protesting, and tell them they're being persecutory! They have the right to be left alone! They're merely exercising their 1st Amendment rights.

Hence this quasi-rant on privacy.

Last night, a woman I went to high school with posted a vile jpg on her Facebook. I keep needling her, and I have expect her to de-friend me any moment. Surprisingly she hasn't, but I think she has the visibility of her posts, with regards to me. That means I can't see her posts and therefore can't call her on her shit, and ask her serious questions about the stupidity she's peddling. Yes, I mean serious.

The graphic,which I won't share, because I refuse to have that shit anywhere near my name has a listing of things she wants for the 2012 election. The plethora of exclamation points, odd capitalisation and caps-lock at the end are in the original. The shouty tone really gets me.

Besides the President gone-- I suppose she wants a monarchy, or Jesus to be the President, she lives in South Carolina, so it really is hard telling; she wants the following:
"Borders: Closed!
Language: English!
Culture: Constitution, and the Bill of Rights!
Drug Free: Mandatory Drug Screening before Welfare!
No Freebies to: Non-Citizens!
ALSO----- [yes, there are about 5 dashes in the original. The formatting drives me crazy!]
BALANCED BUDGET!
TAX REFORM!"

So I commented. "All I ask, and I've asked before: what right will you give up, as you're asking others to give up their right to privacy?"

The silence is deafening. Even the crickets gave up chirping.

I've asked before, as she seems rather obsessed with people "on welfare" pissing in cups on command. I'm not sure what she considers welfare, but given her propensity to talk about Jesus, and her othering people of colour, the poor and me and my queering up her page with equality rants I'm pretty sure welfare is when other people need help-- not like when her husband got hurt and was on disability until he got better, or public schools, or firefighters, or cops, or the road commission, that's all OK; She doesn't even take into account the fact that she works for a goddamned utility company! That there be Socialism according to the most libertarian of libertarians!!

Nope, others only need apply. I guess I'll pee in a cup, in solidarity, if I can. I don't know about you, but when I have to go to the doctor, and I know they're going to want me to give a urine sample, even after half a gallon of tea, I some times can't go. Something about knowing I have to pee in that cup! Argh!

I've had this same conversation about marriage equality, too, though. I remember having to explain to my mother and grandmother-- of all people-- that if they can claim privacy for themselves, and equal protection under the law that this also applied to gay people (this was around the time my grandparents were trying to get themselves barred from Canada before they decided to obey the law!) "You can't have it both ways," I said, exasperated! "If you want to be married, and have the government recognise it, and even bless it with tax deductions and special 'married filing jointly' status, then you absolutely cannot bar any other adults from getting married and having the same things. You can't tell them no, they have the right to privacy-- just like you! You really want the government telling you who to marry?!"

My mother sputtered about Leviticus, and so I looked at her like she was a moron, I couldn't help it! "The US Constitution is the Supreme Law of the Land. Not the Bible. Leviticus doesn't mean anything in the realm of privacy and equal protection. Not a thing."

"Well, it should!" My grandmother pipped up.

"Then stop eating shell fish, wearing mixed fibres and cutting your hair. Oh, cover it in church, too," I said. "That's just for starters. Have you stoned anyone lately for working on Saturday? Killed adulterers? Forced a rape victim to marry her rapist?"

They walked away in a huff. But I get that a lot when I try to explain that there really is only one set of laws... there isn't a set for fundies, and then their interpretation for the rest of us. It's ridiculous!

It's the same way when church-schools get nailed for not being academically rigorous enough: they have the right to be left alone!The First Amendment means they have freedom of Religion! Cue outrage and gnashing of teeth, but still huge enjoyment from their persecution! But of course, the moment the local public school wants to teach evolution, or comprehensive sex-ed they come out of the woodwork to protest. "What about the children!" and "This is against my beliefs!" This disregards the beliefs of people like me who want our kids having a good handle on science, especially evolution, and how in the fuck to use a condom!

Heaven forbid that a local groups wants to start a movement to punish churches for politicking! The IRS can't get involved, they have the right to be left alone! But damn those atheists all to hell for warning them that getting into politics is against the law for a tax-exempt organisation. Fundies want it both ways.

I've come to the conclusion that the right to privacy is something that religious fundamentalists just cannot understand. Probably they lack the ability to understand the law as it stands, rather than how they want to use it.

If religious people want to be governed by a book written by a couple hundred authors-- many of whom pretended to be some one else, which is Lying last time I looked-- from a couple thousand years ago, that's fine with me. The Ultra-Orthodox Jews do just fine living apart from modern society and according to their book. The Amish and Mennonites do the same. But here in the states, I've noticed a relative lack of Amish or Orthodox coming to my door to pester me into going to their church, voting according to their narrow mindset or protesting abortion. I have never seen a group of Mennonites shouting abuse at women who get their health care at Planned Parenthood. I've never seen a group of Amish women claiming that JCPenney needs to be boycotted because they have *gasp* lesbians in their advertising, and if you don't, then you're an eeeevil humanist. I've never seen an Amish or Mennonite woman protesting anything, come to think of it. That's the domain of fundie-xians.

I've said it before, and I'll say it again:
Religion is like a penis.
It's absolutely OK to have one.
It's OK to be proud if it!
It's not OK to whip it out and try to throat fuck me, and everyone else with it!

If people don't want the right to privacy to extend to medical procedures they don't like/agree with/believe in, then why aren't they protecting plastic surgeons who specialise in breast augmentation or lipo? If privacy is against their religions, then why are they using it as their right to be left alone? Why aren't they protesting doctors who deliver babies conceived through IVF or surrogacy? Why aren't they holding their adulterous representatives, pastors and ministers accountable for fucking around? Why aren't they protesting companies that make food with shellfish and pork? Why aren't they writing letters about sausage being an abomination?Why no "Down with Bacon" signs? That shit is explicitly spelled out in their book...

Those of us who know the score, know it's not privacy that they have a problem with. It's that other people are able to utilise privacy, not just them. That means they can't know everything about their neighbours! And if they can't busy-body their neighbours, how can they know they are being righteous! Or browbeat them, shame them, ostracise them in public, for not being righteous! The horror! Other people can't make their own decisions without fundie input! That'd be freedom for everyone and we can't have that!

Remember, today's fundies are the spiritual descendants of the Puritans and Calvinism, at least their interpretation of Calvinism, as well as the Anabaptists Calvin hated so much (I'll talk about that another time). "Puritanism: The haunting fear that someone, somewhere, may be happy", and hating them for it! (quote attributed to H.L. Mencken from his A Book of Burlesques  published in 1916, course the last bit of that sentence is me!)

If I could say one thing to anyone trying to force others to live according to their theocratic desires it would be to recount this:

When I gave a speech once about marriage equality and afterwards, I opened the floor to questions; I was asked about freedom of religion. See the questioners religion told her that we queers are evil and blah blah blah [I specifically remember she used queers and evil!].

I replied that my religion called for dancing naked, outdoors around bonfires a handful of times a year. "Should I force my beliefs on you and make you dance with me to celebrate the turning of the seasons?"

When she sputtered no, and was pretty embarrassed I went on, "Then why would you seek to force me to live by your beliefs? I don't think being gay or lesbian, bisexual or trans-person is a sign of evil. A person just is; we just are! By forcing others to live under your book or your beliefs, you are taking away our rights. The 1st Amendment guarantees me the right to worship as I please, or not, if I please. It does not allow you to force me to live by your beliefs. Only allows you to hold them, without government intrusion. Please, do the same for others: if you don't want to marry a woman, don't. For some of us, that's exactly what we do want, what we dream about. Just don't try to force other people to live according to your creed. It is oppressive, and persecutory."

Enforcing the right to privacy does not take anything away from a religious person. It forces them to behave and not be so fucking nosey. They can't be Puritans and police each other, and the rest of us. They have to let us exercise our right to be left alone!

If you really want to live in a theocracy with religious policing, and everyone spying on everyone else to make sure everyone is good, and behaves, I'd recommend the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, or the Islamic Republic of Iran. Perhaps the Islamic Republic of Pakistan? I hear it is lovely this time of year, and not nearly as dessert-y as KSA. They've got them some theocracy in spades! If Islam isn't your bag, and maybe you don't look good in a keffiyah or hijab, then I'd say try the Vatican-- you just have to wear shirts with sleeves and cover your knees there, I guess. Vatican City is a christain-theocracy. Hey, in Vatican City, the Pope speaks to God! That puts the crazy in theocrazy, if you ask me. But it's a theocracy, based on the Bible, and I'm sure you'll fit right in. Italian isn't too hard to learn, from what I've picked up of it. I'm sure you'll get on like a house afire!

Until the right to privacy, amongst other things, is no longer used as a bludgeon by the religious Reich against the rest of us, I'll keep shouting about it. I cannot force anyone to dance nekkid with me, or have sex without guilt, or celebrate the Goddess' bounty, nor would I!

If you want to believe christianity, then that's cool. If you want to celebrate the nebulous nature of the Divine with me, that's cool too. But don't ever try to force me to live according to the 10 Commandments you don't follow. You can go fuck yourselves. I have the right to be left alone, too. Even, and most especially, if you don't like it.







* In case you're not familiar, this is the first phrase of John 3:16. Christians use it as a way of showing us heathens that God loves us so much he gave up his kid, by letting him be killed in one of the single most heinous fashions, as a blood-sacrifice to be atonement for the "sins" of the world. I never could figure out if that meant that the Christian-God is a blood-thirsty asshole, or some cruel despot who'd even kill his own children.

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