Dispatches from the Creation Wars

Goodbye, Scott Bloch

Scott Bloch has been fired as the head of the Office of Special Counsel, the executive agency that investigates all cases of discrimination within the government. Bloch has been under investigation for a variety of things ranging from anti-gay bias to obstruction of justice. Sandefur, who knows Bloch personally after both were Lincoln Fellows with the Claremont Institute, says good riddance:

First, Bloch is one of the most extreme theocrats I have ever met. During our time together in the Lincoln Fellows program six years ago, Bloch made it clear that he sees his Catholic faith as fundamentally opposed to the legacy of Enlightenment political philosophy, including the Declaration of Independence and the principle of separation of church and state. These things were, he repeatedly argued, rooted in Protestant bigotry against the church. When I mentioned that, among other things, the Pope had sworn out a death warrant on Elizabeth I, Bloch brushed it off. “Well, he didn’t have the authority to do that.” Oh, I see. He knows better than the pope–and finds such squabbles irrelevant in the face of the allegedly thoughtless bigotry of English and American classical liberals. I do not consider this a minor or academic issue. Bloch is the most extreme anti-secularist I have ever had close contact with. When folks at the Claremont Institute are trying to persuade you to be a little more secular, you’ve gone over some deep end, somewhere, no? Bloch is among the leaders of the very worst elements of religious conservatism in the United States. (And, of course, any critique of his extreme theocratic ideology he simply rejected as “anti-Catholic bigotry,” a concept whose abuse I’ve blogged about before.)

And that explains, I think, the other two points: second, Bloch’s intense ideological hostility to homosexual equality explains his efforts at OSC to restrict the use of civil rights laws for gays complaining of discrimination–even in the face of direct orders to the contrary from the George Bush White House. Again, when folks in the Bush Administration are trying to persuade you to be a little less hostile to gay rights, you’ve gone over some deep end, somewhere.

Finally, Bloch’s religious blinkers also explain his willingness to lend the credence his office to the Intelligent Design movement (knowing, of course, that he lacked jurisdiction) and to the anti-vaccination fanatics. Both reveal a scientific illiteracy that is borne not of ignorance but of intentional, ideological blindness; the latter incident was particularly irresponsible. In the former case, of course, Bloch simply employed the clever, if unoriginal, political device of simultaneously admitting a lack of jurisdiction while taking political sides.

He also has an interesting take on why Bloch ended up in the position he did:

It’s a good thing that the Administration is letting Bloch go; he was an inappropriate hire in the first place. But it’s symbolic, I think, of the underlying problems with the religious right within the Republican Party. The Party coddles, and at times encourages, the most extreme elements of theocracy, yet is embarrassed whenever people like Bloch proceed to implement the more controversial (which is to say, the most important) elements of that agenda. Reminds me of the old story of the man who finds a tiger cub in the jungle, and is astonished to discover that it talks. He converses with it about art and philosophy; they play chess and share favorite passages from The Odyssey. The man takes the tiger cub home with him and raises it, teaching it things and introducing it to life in the big city. Years later, when it has grown up, it one day bites him. Bleeding, the man says “Why did you bite me?” to which the tiger replies, “You knew I was a tiger, didn’t you?”

The Republican party’s relationship with the religious right is a combination of sincere ideological commitment to mysticism and the eradication of Enlightenment principles–and an insincere, even cynical desire to exploit those who share that mysticism. In Bloch’s case, that tiger bit the Administration time and time again, and it is only now getting around to doing something.

I think he’s exactly right here. I don’t think Bush or Cheney really gives a damn whether anyone is gay or not, nor do I think either one has any real desire to see gays discriminated against. But they have to pander to those who do in both small ways and big ways. That’s why there are so many voices now from Republicans saying, in essence, “we want our party back.”