web analytics
May 30, 2015 / 12 Sivan, 5775
At a Glance
InDepth
Sponsored Post


Home » InDepth » Op-Eds »

Vicente Fox, Drugs, And The Secular Theocratic State


In 2001, Mexican president Vicente Fox made something of a splash when he, contrary to his campaign rhetoric, came out in support of the decriminalization of small amounts of illicit drugs for personal use. Fox noted that, despite the number of people imprisoned for drug trafficking, and despite the legal penalties for the possession and use of substances, drug use was going up, not down.

Does this scenario sound familiar?

In the United States, at least, the criminalizing of drugs – and this includes alcohol, too, for the period of 1920 to 1933 – was very much the product of a religious crusade. This is vital in considering the role religion should play in present-day government, or if it should even play a role at all.

This might sound odd coming from an adherent to a religion that makes little distinction between the civil and the religious. In Judaism, laws concerning property rights are just as much a part of the Torah as laws governing sha’atnez. There are not separate judicial systems for “religious” and “secular” law; rather, Judaism is an all-encompassing system that demands rigorous observance, whether a rule is delineated as between man and man (bein adom l’chaveiro) or between man and God (bein adom l’Makom).

But the interlocking feature of civil and religious law is very much a characteristic of theocracy, or at least of a self-governing community, such as existed for Babylonian Jewry during the time of the Talmud Bavli, but that we don’t have today. Clearly theocracy is not wrong; indeed, observant Jews the world over pray three times a day for the ingathering of the Jewish exiles to the Land of Israel and for the restoration of the Davidic dynasty – for a time in which theocratic rule will both be the norm and be perceived as just.

In the present day, without the proper conditions, however, theocracy, as I argue in the second chapter of my book Orthodox Judaism, Liberalism, and Libertarianism, is problematic. As I note there:

“When a society moves away from simply protecting the individual’s right to act as long as the individual is not harmful to others and protecting people from injurious behavior initiated by others – from assault, thievery, fraud, deceit, slander, and the like – and into the realm of the economic and the moral, countless problems result. It is only too easy for a country to enmesh itself in a morass of rules, regulations, expropriations, and programs from which it cannot extricate itself.”

But move toward a theocracy it does, albeit something I term a secular theocracy. In a nutshell, from both sides, special interest groups are determined to have their agendas legislated at taxpayer expense, dictate morality, and have us abrogate the use of individual conscience, often in the name of protecting ourselves from ourselves.

In a place and time where the standards of morality may vary from religion to religion, from culture to culture, even from individual to individual, legislating morality is tricky, if not impossible. We may disagree with someone’s belief or practice, but we have to be very careful, lest someone disagrees with our belief or practice, and tries to legislate it out of existence. Of course, that is something that has already been done in Switzerland and Sweden with shechita.

While we, as part of a community, may feel something is morally wrong – take the illicit drug example above – it is also important to realize that making laws based on one’s religious beliefs has consequences, sometimes quite dire.

Thus, the Harrison Narcotic Act of 1914, while on its face designed to fulfill “international treaty obligations,” was spearheaded by the Reverend Charles H. Brent and William Jennings Bryan, men of great religious conviction and prohibitionist tendencies – in other words, special interests who wanted to ban or regulate substances based on their deeply-held religious beliefs. The United States was now able to regulate opiates and coca-leaf derivatives, but we also got more than we bargained for: black markets in opium, heroin, and cocaine; more addiction; wasted federal funds used to police drug traffic and imprison those who were now criminals; and the introduction of impurities into illegally trafficked substances.

The era of Prohibition, launched by a constitutional amendment no less (the Eighteenth), was the product of a very zealous religious Temperance Movement. Widespread sobriety would now become a reality, tipplers would be on their way to reform, and religion would play a much greater role in society. Instead, there was a massive increase of crime, gangsterism, alcoholism, and yet more wasted federal funds.

About the Author: Michael Paley, a young and talented writer with an eclectic range of interests, died tragically in December 2006.


If you don't see your comment after publishing it, refresh the page.

Our comments section is intended for meaningful responses and debates in a civilized manner. We ask that you respect the fact that we are a religious Jewish website and avoid inappropriate language at all cost.

If you promote any foreign religions, gods or messiahs, lies about Israel, anti-Semitism, or advocate violence (except against terrorists), your permission to comment may be revoked.

No Responses to “Vicente Fox, Drugs, And The Secular Theocratic State”

Comments are closed.

Current Top Story
What's happened to NYC's Celebrate Israel Parade?
Israel Rejects as ‘False’ UJA Federation’s Claims about Israel Parade ‘Inclusion’
Latest Indepth Stories
Keeping-Jerusalem

For a peace treaty with the PA, half the Israeli public would agree to divide the Jerusalem

As for the president’s new, softer tone vis-à-vis Prime Minister Netanyahu and Israel, this is most likely being driven by the results of the recent Israeli election.

What especially appeals to us is his grand – some critics would say extravagant –view of what the borders of Israel should look like.

There was something else of great importance in play – something we would have liked to see him take into account before deciding to stand with the boycotters.

The establishment of Hebrew University was a cause much beloved to Einstein who in 1923, during what would be his only trip to Eretz Yisrael, delivered the university’s inaugural lecture on Har Hatzofim (Mt. Scopus) and, discussing the theory of relativity, spoke the first few sentences of his address in Hebrew.

The Golden Square wanted Germany to destroy the British and Jewish presence in their country. The Third Reich craved what was beneath the ground – oil.

Ida Nudel’s account of how the Soviets persecuted and punished her was far worse than imagined.

Swim4Sadna is an annual event benefiting Sadna, an integrative special-ed community in Gush Etzion

Prof. Wistrich, was THE foremost historian of anti-Semitism; committed spokesman & advocate of Jewry

Jewish Voices for Peace’s 2015 Haggadah is a blatant anti-Israel screed crying, “L’chayim to BDS!”

On his shloshim, I want to discuss a term I’ve heard countless times about Rav Aharon: Gedol HaDor

After obsequious claims of devotion to Israel, Obama took to criticizing Israel on peace process

Mr. Obama, Israeli voters have democratically chosen to apply Israeli sovereignty over Judea&Samaria

Netanyahu so disdains Shaked’s appointment he completely ignored her after the swearing-in ceremony

More Articles from Michael R. Paley
Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach

“A Torah insight explains that though we think people fear darkness, in truth they fear the light.”

In the fall of 1993, I had the wonderful experience of interviewing Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach. Both a controversial personality and a dynamic presence, Reb Shlomo never lost his unqualified love for his fellow Jew, though he was well aware the feeling was not always reciprocal.

Just a month after being diagnosed with cancer, and now practically confined to a bed as a method of pain control, I couldn’t sleep, so I picked up the Maharal’s Drush Na’eh l’Shabbos T’shuvah, which I had been hoping to read prior to Yom Kippur.

The singer and political activist Bono recently caused a stir when word got out that his California-based venture capital firm, Elevation Partners, invested around $300 million in Forbes magazine, and, more significantly, that his band’s company, U2 Unlimited, which holds the rights to U2’s master tapes, moved to the Netherlands to pay a lower corporate tax rate.

In 2001, Mexican president Vicente Fox made something of a splash when he, contrary to his campaign rhetoric, came out in support of the decriminalization of small amounts of illicit drugs for personal use. Fox noted that, despite the number of people imprisoned for drug trafficking, and despite the legal penalties for the possession and use of substances, drug use was going up, not down.

Is this something the Jewish community should be concerned with, or, should we keep our noses out of such matters – at least until it affects one of our homes or businesses?

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/opinions/vicente-fox-drugs-and-the-secular-theocratic-state/2006/07/19/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: