DAVID ROSMAN: Personhood campaign would force religion on all citizens

Wednesday, November 9, 2011 | 4:58 p.m. CST; updated 10:53 a.m. CST, Thursday, November 10, 2011

The controversial abortion referendum that failed on Tuesday in Mississippi raised a serious question about the definition of personhood.

But the question is not, "When does human life begin?"


Related Media

It is rather, "Whose definition must we accept to determine when life begins — religion or science?"

As with other attempts to change abortion laws, Initiative 26 would have required Mississippi to alter Article III, section 33 of its Constitution by redefining a person as "every human being from the moment of fertilization, cloning or the functional equivalent thereof."

There were so many problems with this proposal they cannot be discussed in a single 740-word column.

Beyond the issues of women's rights and birth control, it appears this proposed amendment would sanction human cloning. It also questions the legality of the death penalty.

Most important in the discussion is the issue of Biblical law versus secular law. This is not an anti-religion argument, but a discussion about the Constitution and the First Amendment.

It is a discussion of the dangers of allowing religion to control the lives of American citizens. Even Missouri citizens.

Although Initiative 26 failed in Mississippi with more than 55 percent voting against it, there is a strong possibility a similar movement could arise in Missouri.

Keith Mason of Personhood USA, a group behind the initiative, told Bloomberg News that regardless of the outcome, momentum is growing for legislation across the country. 

If you believe that the anti-abortion advocates are not making this a religious issue, read the placards held by the protesters in front of the Planned Parenthood centers in Columbia, Jefferson City and elsewhere.

Almost all have religious overtones, asking us to pray to end abortions.

The American View, an unabashedly Christian-conservative website, recently posted a series written by Les Riley, the gentleman who worked to place the Mississippi Personhood referendum on the ballot. 

Riley wrote, "With God's sovereign help we hope to 'turn the mid-South upside down with the full-orbed Gospel of Life' ... We will likely be outspent about 10-1 in the political campaign, but 'the weapons of our warfare (are) not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strongholds' — II Corinthians 10:4."

A bit of a misquote, by the way.

In the Bible's New International Version, II Corinthians furthers states: "5) We (will) demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.

"6) And we will be ready to punish every act of disobedience, once your obedience is complete."

Not exactly a message of peace and forgiveness.

The conservative movement has usurped religion to take away individual rights, the right to believe or not believe in our own version of God or religion.

As the religious-conservative movements scream louder, their message is being forced into the mainstream American ethos. It appears to violate one of the conservative movement's basic tenets: Keep government out of my personal business.

In Missouri, we are in danger of having the conservative-religious mindset take over and judge the daily activities of all citizens of this state. This is a direct violation of the First Amendment's guarantee that religion will not intrude on our rights as citizens of this great nation.

(Before you complain — yes I have read and studied the First Amendment.)

By forcing a religious-based issue onto the ballot, Jesus' own warning to keep church and state separate, Matthew 22, is also being disregarded.

If I were a person of religious-conservative politics, I would believe that advocates of personhood amendments would also suffer the fate of 2 Corinthians.

I am not saying that religion should be abolished. Far from that. I am saying we should allow individuals to follow their own conscience, whether extremely devout or atheistic.

By taking away the individual choice of belief, we are taking away the freedoms that Americans and Missourians so cherish.

Let it be known to our 2012 legislators in the Show-Me State: I will be the loudest voice in opposition to forcing religion, any religion, on the citizens of this state or taking away the rights of women to choose.

David Rosman is an editor, writer, professional speaker and college instructor in communications, ethics, business and politics. His new book, "A Christian Nation? An Examination of Christian Nation Theories and Proofs," is available at, CreateSpace eBooks and

Like what you see here? Become a member.

Show Me the Errors (What's this?)

Report corrections or additions here. Leave comments below here.

You must be logged in to participate in the Show Me the Errors contest.


Joanne Schrader November 10, 2011 | 2:08 a.m.

Science had already decided for decades that human life begins at conception. You can consult any number of medical textbooks on embryology and see that it is an accepted, established, scientific fact. When a living sperm fertilizes a living egg, a chain reaction begins. A new living human being is formed. Even at the embryonic stage, these cells contain DNA that is uniquely human and unique to that person. We know these cells are living by the fact that they are growing, dividing, and organizing themselves. You cannot trace your development back to anything other than a human embryo.

Prior to the development of the microscope, it was religion that fixed the beginning of a new human life at later stage of prenatal development.

The medical texts to which I refer existed prior to the Roe v. Wade decision in 1973. One government or another has disenfranchised Blacks, Jews, Irish Catholics, Native Americans, Japanese, etc. by declaring them as non or subhuman. This was done to deny them equal protection and justice under the law. What happened to pre-born babies as a result of Roe v. Wade is no different. The Personhood amendment is an attempt to codify what science already tells us and to rectify an unjust Supreme Court decision.

As one of the advocates who holds a placard outside of Planned Parenthood, I can tell that not all of our signs are religious in nature. Just because religious people are behind a movement does not discredit the science behind our views. Religious people were at the vanguard of the civil rights movement of the 1960s. The right to life is a basic, individual, human, and civil right. Praying to end abortion in Columbia has been a successful campaign. Fewer than 150 abortions will take place this year compared to a time when Planned Parenthood did 700 abortions. There are also pro-life atheists.

(Report Comment)
Joanne Schrader November 10, 2011 | 3:01 a.m.

As a Political Science major who graduated at the top of my class, I can tell that you are misreading the First Amendment. What you are attempting to do is to bully religious people and institutions into silence by denying our right to freedom of speech on the social, political, economic, moral, etc. issues of our day. We have the same right as everyone to have our voices heard in the public square. Others may not like or disagree with our message, but we refuse to be silenced.

When you say that individuals should be allowed to follow their own consciences, I hope you mean a properly formed conscience. There have been individuals who have thought there is nothing wrong with what they are doing while they commit genocide, torture, and other crimes against humanity. Shall I name off a few megalomaniac dictators of our time to prove my point?

It is funny how you bring up the conscience of atheists because I would argue that the existence of our conscience points to the existence of God.

Are you for or against the federal government intrusion on the rights of religious people and institutions not to provide abortions, contraception, sterilization, and other forms of healthcare that are in violation of deeply held convictions? Do you protect the right of pro-life pharmacists and other medical personnel not to be forced to do something against their will and conscience?

We may cherish choice of belief in this country. A person may believe whatever he/she wants. However, the ability to choose and act on that belief is not sacrosanct. People choose to do what is wrong for themselves and others, so the state steps in and says when you choose to kidnap, rape, murder, steal, etc. you violate our laws. That is why the state takes away a perpetrators' freedom despite the perp's beliefs. The state must protect its people, especially the most vulnerable including pre-born children.

(Report Comment)
Ellis Smith November 10, 2011 | 4:41 a.m.

@ Joanne:

Well said. Possibly the greatest perversion of any word in our language is application of the word "liberal" to such a narrow-minded, doctrinaire group of people.

Once (historically) there really WERE those whom the term fit, and they did the term justice. The current crop bear no relation to those historic persons.

(Report Comment)
Hank York November 10, 2011 | 10:15 a.m.

"As a Political Science major who graduated at the top of my class, I can tell that you..."

(Report Comment)
Hank York November 10, 2011 | 10:17 a.m.

And yes, Ellis. Liberals would indeed be much more broad minded were they to accept the shackles of religious dogma and subsequently shove the same down others throats.

(Report Comment)
Michael Williams November 11, 2011 | 8:18 a.m.


Dave won't declare if the death of a pregnant woman and her fetus by another's hand is a single or double homicide.

You see, if he says it is a double homicide, he is forced to admit that the fetus is indeed a human being. After all, the act of "homicide" by definition ONLY applies to humans and no other organism.

If the fetus is NOT a human being, then our laws should state such an event is simply a single homicide. A dead fetus is simply an ancillary event to a single homicide and has no legal import. But, for some reason, Dave will not support this position. Publicly, that is.

(Report Comment)
Derrick Fogle November 11, 2011 | 12:03 p.m.

"Miscarriage or spontaneous abortion is the spontaneous end of a pregnancy at a stage where the embryo or fetus is incapable of surviving independently, generally defined in humans at prior to 20 weeks of gestation. Miscarriage is the most common complication of early pregnancy.[1][2]"

Medical research indicates that shortly after the onset of fertility in females, over 10% of all fertilized embryos, i.e. unique life, end in miscarriages. This rate rises with age, surpassing 80% near the onset of menopause.

These are God's / Mother Nature's abortions. They outnumber all human-provided abortions combined. "Every conception is sacred" flies in the face of how messy biological reproduction actually is. Conception even produces deformities, and other 'defects' like (Gasp!) gayness.

If we passed a law like this, would we put God on trial for murder? No, we'd just punish women who suffer the heartbreak of miscarriage. That's sad.

If we want to minimise human-provided abortions, let's start with a strong message of abstinence. It's been proven to be the first best prevention measure.

BUT... when the message of abstinence starts breaking down in the face of biology and hormones, we need to emphatically add the message of contraception! It's also been proven that education and access to contraception is the second best prevention method, and becomes first best after a certain age range. I like the "If you're not ready for contraception, you're not ready for sex." message.

Since the "Abstinence until marriage" has not been very successful in stopping abortions, I'm willing to lower the bar and shoot for "Abstinence until contraception." I know that doesn't help people who are really just upset that people have sex, but really... is hatin' on sex more important than actually reducing abortions?

(Report Comment)
Michael Williams November 11, 2011 | 12:42 p.m.


I agree with much of what you say. Is there a difference between a "natural" miscarriage versus one performed by the hand of man?

I also agree that abstinence is the best method, and contraception is the second best method.

Abortion does not *have* to be just a religious issue where "people who are really just upset that people have sex". It's a secular issue as well, and I think this is where most folks (not all, and you do see the more obviously passionate/activist religious folks demonstrating....OccupyGod?) are coming from nowadays. There are huge penalties, social, financial, and personal, that stem from having children outside of a stable "family" that can commit to taking care of same. Everyone pays for promiscuity or non-use of contraception/abstinence in ways too numerous to count. Personally, I think the option for an abortion simply compounds/extends those penalties.

This article is about religious folks not foisting their wishes onto the non-religious. Few of David's ilk wish to discuss non-religious folks foisting their wishes onto the religious. In the same way that non-religious folks fight to keep God (or god) from influencing their lives and that of their children, religious folks do exactly the same thing in trying to protect themselves and their children from what is perceived as a secular free-for-all. One approach is PC...the other is not.

Unfortunately, chaos always wins over order. Until some reset button gets set and folks start looking for a referee.

(Report Comment)
Joanne Schrader November 11, 2011 | 1:09 p.m.

The Personhood Amendment does not mention religion. Mr. Rossman only brings it into the picture as a means to discredit the amendment.

Mr. York, the links you included in your response are not authoritative sources. The authority on interpretation of the First Amendment and Constitution is the Supreme Court. By reading Supreme Court decisions and the Federalist papers, we come to a proper understanding of their meaning.

If everyone in society were to follow his/her conscience without the benefit of laws, we would have chaos because each person's conscience may differ.

Yes, medically speaking miscarriage is spontaneous abortion. What happens naturally is a lot different than the deliberate and direct act of causing another human being to die. You and me dying of natural causes is not the same as someone else coming into our home and hacking us to death.
The Personhood Amendment would not punish mothers who miscarry. That was not done when abortion was illegal; it would not be done now.

I like the message if you are not ready for the possibility of parenthood, you are not ready for sex. No method of contraception is 100% effective even when used correctly. In fact, most of the people getting abortions used contraception the month prior to the pregnancy. If Planned Parenthood's promotion of contraception and sex education as a means to avoid pregnancy was successful, they would not be performing a greater number of abortions every year. Source for the last two assertions: the Guttmacher Instittue and Planned Parenthood's annual reports.

(Report Comment)
Derrick Fogle November 11, 2011 | 7:05 p.m.

@Mike: Good points. The only counterpoint I have left is that, once pregnant, the option of abortion is *always* there. It can be violently oppressed, it can be morally implored, but it can't truly be taken away. This goes back to earlier statements I've made on the subject: You can't force a positive outcome; you can only force a negative one. It's a core tenet of moral quandaries: choosing the lesser of two evils.

"Abstinence Until Ready for Parenthood" is an incredibly lofty goal. In the real world, it works exactly the opposite: If you're ready for sex, you're ready for parenthood, whether or not you're actually ready for parenthood. That's why this is a centuries-long running debate.

The element of responsibility appears to be what sticks in people's craw. While religion and responsibility are tightly intertwined, I agree with Mike that the responsibility transcends the religion.

My opinion is that casual, consensual, contracepted, recreational sex is a far lesser evil than abortion. Therefore, by the time the abstinence angle starts deteriorating in the face of human reproductive compulsion, I believe the focus of responsibility should be shifted to contraceptive use, instead of abstinence.

(Report Comment)
Michael Williams November 11, 2011 | 8:31 p.m.

Derrick: The element of responsibility appears to be what sticks in people's craw. While religion and responsibility are tightly intertwined, I agree with Mike that the responsibility transcends the religion.

I'm unsure what you mean. To me, it means that if folks party to a pregnancy (male and female) lived up to their *real* biological responsibility and allowed a human life they started to grow and live, then the abortion question would become extinct.

PS: Back to my earlier response to Dave....I believe in double homicides because I believe the fetus is a human being. Because I believe a fetus is a human being, I simply cannot support a charge of single homicide. There is a logical consistency here.

To believe a fetus is NOT a human being demands that one NEVER support a charge of double homicide, even if the mother wants to bring her fetus/child to birth. Without human status, the fetus is simply an appendage with no legal rights and can be aborted upon demand. Homicide pertains only to human beings. Hence, to support abortion, you have to give up the notion of a double homicide.

(Report Comment)
Derrick Fogle November 12, 2011 | 2:19 p.m.

The fact that sex is a fundamental biological requirement for the survival of our species has not changed. It's the relative value of each additional human that's seen a sharp decline. Witness all the anger over welfare babies, almost certainly destined to spend their entire miserable parasitic lives being a drain on the working class. Every conceived human sacred and special and valuable and wanted, my butt. I've heard and witnessed plenty of evidence to the contrary from the very people who claim that moral ground.

If the double homicide premise is accepted as fact, every singe miscarriage is a potential manslaughter case. There was absolutely nothing, not a single word, in the Personhood amendment language that would have exempted miscarriage from criminal suspicion. What if the woman drank alcohol? Ate poorly? Did other drugs besides alcohol? Exercised in the heat? Was there *anything* the woman could have possibly done that would have contributed to the death of that person? A person has died. The cause needs to be investigated. The mother, and God, are the only 2 possible suspects. Anger and disappointment can be taken out on the mother. God? Not so much.

Anyone who claims this cloud of suspicion won't arise, won't be acted on, is either lying, or grotesquely naive. It already does happen. This is just another control issue, cloaked in crocodile tears of morality. The infinitive end game is virtual imprisonment for every woman who has sex, to make absolutely certain that no unborn child's death goes un-prevented. And why? So we can imprison them if they make mistakes, poison them with toxins, mangle them in car accidents, send them off to war to kill and be killed? The myriad ways which we're OK with children dying once they're born exposes the moral bankruptcy of the personhood concept.

"In America, sex is an obsession, in other parts of the world it's a fact."
– Marlene Dietrich

(Report Comment)
Michael Williams November 12, 2011 | 7:02 p.m.

Derrick: Sorry I didn't respond earlier. I was at, as someone else posted, OccupyDeerCamp.

My discussion about single versus double homicides is more about intellectual clarity than support for or against. I did state my beliefs, but in this discussion I'm not pushing them.

No person in favor of "choice" can logically support a charge of double homicide even if the mother wishes to carry to full term. A homicide by definition always involves a human being, not a cow, rose, or paramecium. Human beings have a right to life. To a person in favor of choice, the fetus has no such rights....ergo, it is not a human being. Without a "human being", there can be no homicide.

Hence, I can respect the opinion of "choice" (but not necessarily agree) if that opinion also carries with it only a single homicide charge. That is, any act (deliberate or otherwise) that involves the death of a fetus never involves murder of any type.

So far, I'm unable to find any folks that believe in "choice" that will give up the double homicide option.

And I think that is fuzzy and illogical thinking.

And THAT is my only point to Dave.

(Report Comment)
Derrick Fogle November 19, 2011 | 3:08 p.m.

CNN has a video story about the cost (not value) of children right now:

(Report Comment)

Leave a comment

Speak up and join the conversation! Make sure to follow the guidelines outlined below and register with our site. You must be logged in to comment. (Our full comment policy is here.)

  • Don't use obscene, profane or vulgar language.
  • Don't use language that makes personal attacks on fellow commenters or discriminates based on race, religion, gender or ethnicity.
  • Use your real first and last name when registering on the website. It will be published with every comment. (Read why we ask for that here.)
  • Don’t solicit or promote businesses.

We are not able to monitor every comment that comes through. If you see something objectionable, please click the "Report comment" link.

You must be logged in to comment.

Forget your password?

Don't have an account? Register here.