HEARTS | "moral leaders"

Dr. Laura Schlessinger: queen of hearts
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In a deck of cards focused on politics, Laura Schlessinger may seem to be an odd choice for Queen of the faux moralists. Her public reputation is based on her views on religion and morality rather than politics. But the Radical Right has politicized morality and religion to a degree we have not seen since before the American Revolution. In doing so, they have bitterly attacked all Americans who live their lives differently. They call their attack on other ways of life a "culture war," although it is a pretty one sided one. Dr. Laura has been a field marshal for the Right in its attack on those who live differently. And they support her enthusiastically.

Schlesinger is one with Robertson, DeLay, Falwell, and Reed, among others, in arguing that only the most traditional moral behavior (as they define it) counts as truly moral. Everything else is error or worse. Like the Fundamentalist Christians that she may soon be joining, now that she has abandoned Judaism, (see below), for Dr. Laura "literally" interpreted Scripture is the absolute word of authority, and not to be questioned.

This argument is most convincing when you haven't read much Scripture. Someone, possibly Jack Ballinger, wrote an open letter to Dr. Laura that was reproduced extensively on the web. It cleverly exposes the problems facing any literalist using of Scripture as a moral guide. We cannot do better than this letter, and so reproduce it here:

Dear Dr. Laura,
Thank you so much for doing so much to educate people regarding God's Law. I have learned a great deal from your show and I try to share that knowledge with as many people as I can. When someone tries to defend the homosexual lifestyle, for example, I simply remind him that Leviticus 18: 22 clearly states it to be an abomination. End of debate. I do need some advice from you, however, regarding some of the specific laws and how to best follow them.

A) When I burn a bull on the altar as a sacrifice, I know it creates a pleasing odor for the Lord (Leviticus 1: 9). The problem is my neighbors. They claim the odor is not pleasing to them. Should I smite them?

B) I would like to sell my daughter into slavery, as sanctioned in Exodus 21: 7. In this day & age, what would be a fair market price for her?

C) I know I am allowed no contact with a woman while she is in her period of menstrual uncleanliness (Lev 15: 19-24). The problem is how do I tell? I have tried asking, but most women take offense.

D) Leviticus 25: 44 states that I may own slaves, both male & female, provided they are purchased from neighboring nations. A friend of mine claims this applies to Mexicans but not Canadians. Can you clarify? Why can't I own Canadians?

E) I have a neighbor who insists on working on the Sabbath. Exodus 35: 2 clearly states he should be put to death. Am I morally obligated to kill him myself?

F) A friend of mine feels that even though eating shellfish is an abomination (Lev. 11:10), it is a lesser abomination than homosexuality. I don't agree, can you settle this?

G) Leviticus 21:20 states that I may not approach the altar of God if I have a defect in my sight. I have to admit that I wear reading glasses. Does my vision have to be 20/20 or is there some wiggle room here?

H) Most of my male friends get their hair trimmed, including the hair around their temples, even though this is expressly forbidden by Leviticus 19:27. How should they die?

I) I know from Leviticus 11:6-8 that touching the skin of a dead pig makes me unclean, but may I still play football if I wear gloves?

J) My uncle has a farm. He violates Leviticus 19:19 by planting two crops in the same field, as does his wife by wearing garments made of two different kinds of thread (cotton & polyester blend). He tends to curse and blaspheme a lot. Is it really necessary that we go to all the trouble of getting the whole town together to stone them? (Lev. 24: 10-16). Couldn't we just burn them to death at a private family affair like we do with people who sleep with their in-laws (Lev. 20: 14)?

I know you have studied these things extensively, so I am confident you can help. Thank you again for reminding us that God's word is eternal and unchanging."

Any decent person would agree that, whatever Exodus or Leviticus may say, selling our daughters into slavery is beneath contempt, killing people who do not observe the Sabbath is murder, and a God who does not want His altar to be visited by people with poor sight is not worthy of worship. How do they know this? Because they know that morality is rooted in respect, compassion, and concern for others, and because any God worth worshipping has to act at a higher ethical level than humans. Anyone who grasps these simple truths will be careful about denouncing others who live differently, but are not predatory on others.

Dr. Laura's famous intolerance and vitriolic denunciation of others who live differently from her is famous. She frequently calls her call-ins "selfish," "sluts," "stupid," "termites" or "pigs." This list is not complete. She uses these terms on people she has not met, and who have only a brief moment to describe their problems. Here are some examples:

"When we have the word homosexual, we are clarifying the dysfunction, the deviancy, the reality. We change it to the word gay, it makes it more difficult to pinpoint the truth. So one of the things that the homosexual agenda did was to change the name. Just like somebody complained to me yesterday about ethnic cleansing, that it sounds like washing machine as opposed to murder. They were right. Ethnic cleansing sounds nice. Murder is the truth, homosexuality is the truth. Gay isn't." (Dr. Laura's radio show, August 13, 1999)


"I'm sorry, hear it one more time perfectly clearly: If you're gay or a lesbian, it's a biological error that inhibits you from relating normally to the opposite sex.
Laura Schlessinger on her Web site, http://www.drlaura.com, Dec. 8, 1999

The comparison is interesting in a sick sort of way: murder is to ethnic cleansing as homosexuality is to gay. But there is a deeper problem here. If homosexuality is a "biological error" albeit one apparently found in other species worldwide, who is the author of that error? And why should those victimized by that error be attacked by those who claiming to follow the teaching of its "Author?"

And for a different example:

"If she was my daughter, I'd probably put her up for adoption. Poor Sara doesn't get it. When she makes her marriage vows and her husband has sex with everybody else, let's see if she thinks that this philosophy works.'' (Newsweek, March 20, 2000)

'Poor Sara' here was a 14-year old eighth grader who wrote a prize-winning essay against censorship of the Internet. In the essay, Miller wrote, "Nobody's values are wrong, too strict or unfit. No one is perfect. People should be able to live by the values they make for themselves." If Dr. Laura had bothered to read the entire essay, which seems reasonable if you are going to use it to recommend kicking someone out of their family, she would have seen that Miller's argument was that people are able to judge for themselves whether the content they view on the Internet is acceptable to themselves and appropriate for their children.

Transcript of Dr. Laura's diatribe:

Letter by Richard Blumenthal, Connecticut's Attorney General, to Dr. Laura: http://www.snet.net/features/network/articles/1999/11170106.shtml

Of course Dr. Laura's tactic is a time worn method of the Radical Right: take a quotation completely out of context and then use it to beat up on views they oppose. Views so distorted that in truth almost no one can be found who believes them. Needless to say, the Christian Right admires her tremendously, because her methods and conception of "morality" is so similar to theirs. Thus the Traditional Values Coalition executive director Andrea Sheldon Lafferty, said "Dr. Laura represents the values and beliefs of millions of Americans." This seems to us a libel on millions of Americans.

But let's probe more deeply here.

These angry irruptions of vicious tantrums by right wing "culture warriors" are perfect examples of those with beams in their own eyes attacking the motes in the eyes of others. The very nastiness of these attacks suggests a deeper bad faith on the part of the self-appointed zealots and advocates of "morality. As this site demonstrates beyond doubt for Bennett, Robertson, Falwell, Reed and others, these people are hypocrites. We suggest this is one reason why they point so loudly towards the failings of others. To distract others, and perhaps they themselves, from the lack of integrity in their own lives.

Certainly Dr. Laura's own life has been anything but spotless by the standards she applies so ruthlessly to others. Slate reports:

over the past few years, thanks largely to Vanity Fair and an unauthorized biography, damaging story after damaging story has trickled out about Schlessinger. She's a divorcee. She carried on an affair with a married father and eventually broke up his marriage. Then she lived with him for years before they married. She got pregnant before they married. She posed for nude photographs. She talks nonstop about the importance of honoring parents and family, yet has not spoken to her own mother or sister for 15 years.


Schlessinger responds with considerably more tolerance for her past than for others' present. For one thing, her past only emerges when others bring it up. She doesn't refer to it to make points, until she is confronted by it. Then, rather than taking responsibility for her past indiscretions, she blames them on her former atheism or her dead mother's desire to live in isolation from her daughter. This story is particularly sad. When her mother was found dead, police initially thought she had been murdered. The reason was the elderly woman had been dead for three months and apparently was a sloppy house keeper, so they thought her place had been ransacked.

Despite her great wealth, her claims about family values, and her Jewish faith, Dr, Laura hadn't taken the time to check on her elderly mother, or have someone else check. When her death was first announced, this paragon of family values said, sadly, that her mother had died as she had lived, alone. Thus she lost a powerful opportunity to develop that most fundamental foundation to any true morality: compassion.

As our other cards concerning Radical Right religious leaders also show, these people have a strange view of how to relate to God. On August 5, 2003, Dr. Laura opened her program announcing she has ceased practicing Judaism. "My identifying with this entity and my fulfilling the rituals, etc., of the entity... has ended."


She gave an interesting reason. In return for being a Jew, "I don't get much back. Not much warmth coming back [from her community]."


Apparently, religion should pay not in closeness to G-d, nor in personal transformation. It should pay in warm fuzzies. We can be sure that Dr. Laura would have failed miserably, had G-d made the same wager over her He reportedly made over Job.

Dr. Laura is apparently now contemplating turning to Christianity. We may suspect it will be the "Christianity" of Robertson and Falwell and similar types. There she will find the "warmth" she must seek, surrounded by her allies in the Religious Right. But her fog of self-righteousness will keep her from finding God. For many of us, religion offers a larger and more compassionate context from which to view our lives and the lives of others. But this transformative dimension seems lost on Dr. Laura. This is why she is so popular with those who worship politics, power, and the imaginings of their own minds, and call it God.

More on Dr. Laura:

American shadow

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