Gods, Dogs, and Civil Rights

History, I believe, furnishes no example of a priest-ridden people maintaining a free civil government. This marks the lowest grade of ignorance of which their civil as well as religious leaders will always avail themselves for their own purposes. Thomas Jefferson

In a clear blurring of the lines between “church” and state, and with a straight face, Florida recently argued that dogs should be used as contraband-detection tools that do not require a warrant because their sense of smell is not a “technology,” but is a god-given gift. I mean, holy crap, what’s next? How about arguing that since God gave certain people cancer, he obviously meant for them to die, so why should they be entitled to health care? Christian Scientists believe something along this line, why shouldn’t the government?

JUSTICE KAGAN: Mr. Garre, this is what we
said in Kyllo. And I’m just going to read it. We said,
“We think that obtaining by sense-enhancing technology
any information regarding the interior of the home that
could not otherwise have been obtained without physical
intrusion into a constitutionally protected area
constitutes a search, at least where, as here, the
technology in question is not in general public use.”
So what part of that do you think separates
your case from this one? In other words, what part of
that language does not apply in this case?

MR. GARRE: Well, first of all, Franky’s
nose is not technology. It’s — he’s using — he’s
availing himself of God-given senses in the way that
dogs have helped mankind for centuries.

http://www.supremecourt.gov/oral_arguments/argument_transcripts/11-564.pdf, p. 16. Kyllo v. The United States involved the use of thermal imaging of a private home to detect extraordinary levels of heat emanating from the home that would indicate the presence of equipment used to grow marijuana. The Supreme Court rejected the argument that the technology didn’t enter the house, but rather detected heat coming from the house, and that its use didn’t require a warrant. I am baffled how the United States government knew that wire taps – detecting communications coming from a home – require search warrants, but didn’t know that thermal imaging would also require one.

But, that’s how the system works. Make the arguments, don’t worry about how absurd, and see what happens. It’s otherwise known as throwing shit against a wall.

Ok, enough background.

Drug sniffing dog takes a break

© All rights reserved by dixonhamby

It is 2012, and the State of Florida has actually used God as expressly acting on behalf of law enforcement. This strikes me as dangerously divergent from respecting – and I use that term loosely – a person’s right to believethat God gave dogs a keen sense of smell.

I am talking about the difference between the constitutional prohibition on trespassing on one’s right to believe in a god that hates witches, on the one hand, and actually drowning innocent people in an attempt to find the real witches.

There have always been people who have seen the absurdity of using deities as the basis for societal laws. And there are also those who, admirably, separate their religious beliefs from a need to foist them upon the rest of us. They live their lives in harmony with the rest of the world. For example, there are many Christians who would never marry someone of the same sex, but who understand that some people are gay, in love, and want to marry each other. And they don’t think that the terrorist attacks of 9-11, or hurricane Katrina, are God’s punishment for allowing gay people to live. (I will discuss that bullshit in another article. Suffice it to say here that Pat Robertson, and his ilk, are no better than neo-nazi, Tom Metzger, and his ilk, when they incite others to act.)

Then, there are people who confuse their right to (mistakenly) believe that morality is exclusively God-given, with their non-existent right to claim that God means to make tools available to mankind to enforce laws they think are just.

“God gave dogs noses, gave man dogs, and gave all but criminals, a right to privacy?” Of course, I do not mean to say that criminals should be permitted to roam the Earth wreaking havoc with impunity. I mean only that it is not ok to use God as a law-enforcement tool.

It leads to this axiom: If the witch drowned, then she wasn’t a witch after all. No harm, no foul, right?

As Richard Dawkins has often said, “You can’t argue with God. Why? Because you can’t.”

Game. Set. Match.

You lose.

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