Yale IV 2014 Quarterfinals

THW facilitate religious proselytization in areas of high socio-economic deprivation.

Opening Opposition

Mr. Speaker, organized religion is the single most powerful right wing institution in the world. In the face of humiliating inequality, they offer nothing but a humanizing discount, periodic acts of public philanthropy, and a promise that things will get better in the future. What we’re opposing in this debate is soma* because we believe that comfort is no substitute for dignity and upward social mobility that you better get when you have state provision of welfare.

First a note on their model. Because they took a cowardly stance where they fail to differentiate themselves from the status quo. In the vast number of countries there aren’t these barriers of entry that exist at the moment. So what that actually means for them to actually access any of their benefits means they have to do things like give money for churches to set up infrastructure in those areas, give them use of state infrastructure and like local town halls in order for them to hold services. Hopefully, DPM corrects that or at least rises up ….

What are we proposing by comparison. We’re going to match every dollar every bit of support they give to institutions for public and secular organizations like public education, civic engagement that police programs run sometimes and secular systems of welfare. I’m going to give you three arguments for why that’s preferable to religion.

One, why is this in principle, an unacceptable degradation of the principle of church and state. The reason why this is a fundamental part and a cornerstone upon which democracy is based is because we say that hegemonic resources of the state ought to be divided. That it ought not endorse one normative view of the world. Why is that the case.

One, because in the vast number of instances, questions of religion are inadjudicable to the state in a way that policy decisions are. No one has the ability to know whether there is an afterlife, whether God thinks in a certain way, we don’t think that’s appropriate.

Second, because there’s no such thing as an impartial policy when it comes to the state favoring religions. At a minimum, you disenfranchise atheists and humanists who reject the premise of religion, in a more reasonable concession in how their model will work, they’ll exclude minority religions in the way they preference Islam and Christianity over Christian Science or anything else.

The last reason why it’s inappropriate because it’s fundamentally oppositional and zero sum. So once you endorse one particular religion and say that their view is correct, you discount the others because that’s inbuilt into the ideology of these religions. We that it’s abhorrent on principle to prey upon the single most vulnerable people and prey on their urgency and desperation to change their mind.

Second Argument. This harms the poor. Four reasons.

One, the church is a center right organization. This has been historically the case in that they’ve been born out of aristocratic classes and linked with that. But beyond that, the reason why it continues to be a stronghold for the right in most liberal democracies is because it’s socially conservative and it is only the republicans and it is only the right wing parties that still speak to their particular view of the way social movements should be organized.

The other reason is that they believe in a minimalist conception of the state. By definition, they believe that church is a source of legitimacy and a way of organizing civic life in a way that other people don’t and where secularists prefer the state. What does that mean. That means that poor people are encouraged to vote for their oppressor. Right wing organizations that don’t support wide spread forms of welfare and redistribution. We think particularly in areas where gerrymandering is becoming significant, those marginal votes are becoming important. Poor people are more likely to vote right.

Second, it encourages imprudent practices with/among poor people. Because these people aren’t going in and providing welfare with no strings attached. They are encouraging people not to use contraception in certain countries. They’re encouraging people not to take up certain jobs but rather work within the church. Those imprudent practices harm the ability of the poor to transition into society.

Third argument. This leads to the division of communities. In direct refutation to what they say. Because it’s simply not true that just because you’re homeless you don’t have any friends, right. There is a community that helps themselves and supports themselves. Particularly where they are located by geographical location. What changes under their side is some people belong to a particular religion, others to a different one and that leads to greater divisions.

Last reason why it harms the poor is that it blurs the line of accountability. So when something is going wrong in your local community, rather than speaking to your government, you put that impotence on the church instead. We think it is the duty of the state to look after its citizens and that kind of blurring is harmful to their ability to hold governments  accountable and gives the government an excuse to skirt their responsibility.

Third argument. This harms religion. Because state and church and the separation cuts both ways. That it is to preserve the legitimacy of the church as much as it is to preserve the independence of the state.

POI: If you’re so concerned about the separation of church and state and religion playing such a central role, what do you do about countries like Eritrea, which basically only allows proselytization for Islam and ban other countries from having Christian organizations involved …

Answer: Well that seems like a terrible bastardization of like the concept of church and state and that’s why we would oppose it right? And so like, on the scale of Eritrea to now, you guys are closer to what your point of information pointed out

Third argument, why this harms religion. This should be an interesting extension.

One, it saps legitimacy away from the church. Because the existence of the church as a separate entity of the state claims that you have shelter from state hegemonic power and we give you different sources of legitimacy. Where you force them to cooperate in worse off areas, it makes the value of religion instrumental to the purposes of state action like promoting welfare. We think that harms their ability to proselytize and go out into communities and engage meaningfully, particularly when the individuals in that community are disenfranchised  from the state. Moreover, you lose a bargaining chip in your dealings with the state where they can constantly hold this particular view over you  and say we will remove this from you if you don’t compromise on other issues that you care about.

Mr. Speaker, this is not only a dangerous degradation of the fundamental concept of church and state, but more importantly it oppresses the poor by drugging them with Soma rather than giving them a meaningful way to get out of poverty. We’re very proud to oppose.



*Soma is a muscle relaxer that works by blocking pain sensations between the nerves and the brain.


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