Fisking Der Spiegel on South Dakota

The Front Lines of the Religious War in God’s Own Country,” by Frank Hornig, translated by Christopher Sultan, Spiegel Online, 13 March 2006,,1518,405690,00.html (from RadioActive Chief, also at Albert Mohler, Forest Nymph, Lost in Media, Titus One Nine).

A stray link over at JRR alerted a German article on the .

The wrongness of the article extends from geography, to politics, to everything in between.

Begin rant:

Phillips Avenue in Sioux Falls, South Dakota — located in the heart of the flat Midwestern prairie

Philips Avenue is in the heart of Sioux Falls, South Dakota, which lies in a huge bowl surrounded by “hills.” You have to travel a long distance, certainly longer from Foss Field to downtown Sioux Falls

Foss Field to Philipps Avenue

to get to even the rolling prairies of South Dakota.

That’s why Sioux Falls appears to have no skyline — the tallest buildings are about level with the land outside the city.

— is a sleepy thoroughfare.

If “sleepy thoroughfare” equals “the heart of downtown of the largest city in the state,” yes.

There are a few businesses along the street, a couple of restaurants, and a souvenir shop which struggles to attract customers.


From the DTSF Business Directory. Those not on Philipps are about a block away

Cafe 334
605.334.3050334 S. Phillips Ave.
Food N’ Fermentation
605.332.4338212 S. Phillips Ave.
605.334.0386301 S. Phillips Ave.
Touch of Europe
605.336.3066337 S. Phillips Ave.
Coffee ‘N Clay
605.367.1100324 S. Phillips Avenue
De Hoek
605.334.2942200 S. Phillips Ave.
Falls Landing Restaurant
605.373.0153200 E. 8th St.
Hamburger Inn
605.332.5412111 E 10th Street
Kaladis Coffee Legend & Bistro
605.977.0888121 S. Main Avenue
Leonardo’s Cafe at the Washinton Pavilion
605.731.2384301 S. Main Avenue
Mama’s Ladas
605-332-2772116 W. 11th St.
Ming Wah’s Chinese American
119 W. 10th St.
Park Place Cafe and Terrace
605.339.2000100 W. 8th St.
Phillips Ave. Diner
605.335.4977121 S. Phillips Avenue
River Walk Cafe
605.339.4824196 E. 6th St.
Sanaa’s 8th Street Gourmet
605.275.2516401 E. 8th St. Suite #100
Skelly’s Pub and Grill
605.221.0244130 S. Phillips Ave.
Soda Falls In Zandbroz
605.331.5137209 S. Phillips Ave.
The Cookie Jar
605.978.0991125 W. 10th St.
Uncle Angelo’s Italian Buffet
605.330.0331230 S. Phillips Ave.
Zandbroz Variety
605-331-5137209 S. Phillips Ave.

But last Thursday, this dreary provincial boulevard


A boulevard?

Philipps Avenue

Nope, because it’s not divided.

became the dividing line separating two irreconcilable camps in the city — and it became the most recent front line in an ongoing war that bisects the entire nation. For about an hour, opposing groups of demonstrators swore at one another across the street, launching a new round in an old dispute that has long since expanded into a cultural battle — a bitter fight that has raged for decades between conservatives and liberals, devout Christians and women’s rights groups.

Setting aside the idea that “women” or “women’s rights” includes only one ideological perspective (an error also made by Misquoting Jesus), the conservative v. liberal divide simply does not describe South Dakota. The Mount Rushmore State is prairie populist, which is why the state constantly sends Democrats to Washington and republicans to Pierre.

By signing the bill into law, Rounds threw down the gauntlet not just to the majority of Americans — two-thirds of whom are pro-choice — but also to the United States Supreme Court, which established the constitutional right to abortion more than 30 years ago in the landmark decision “Roe vs. Wade”.

Also ignoring the article’s questionable definition of “pro-choice,” the important piece here is the reference to the United States Supreme Court. To paraphrase Tom Barnett, the United States is an economic and political union of fifty member states, and when push comes to shove, Massachusetts and South Dakota can each have the laws they want.

With the bizarre exception of abortion.

South Dakota’s law is an attempt to correct that.

The burning issues dividing America today are the extent to which right-wing fundamentalists should influence public life, and the relevance of religious morals in a nominally secular country.

The article’s confusion of evangelicalism and fundementalism is as typical as it is misguided.

the separation of church and state

Considering that South Dakota former four-term Governor and former Congressman is a self-described “Jewish Lutheran” and son of one of the Nuremberg prosecutor, and the South Dakota capital building yearly is decorated with a Menorah, the author’s sectarian view is bizarre.

in a nominally secular country.

Nominally secular? Nominally? Where is America or South Dakota described that way? Certainly our united States are at least nominally Christian or nominally faithful, but nominally secular? How strange.

Thelma Underberg, director of the regional pro-choice movement, has been fighting to uphold abortion rights for more than 40 years. For Underberg, professional and economic equal opportunity and a woman’s right to choose are inextricably linked. When the Supreme Court passed Roe vs. Wade in 1973, enabling women to obtain abortions legally anywhere in America, Underberg celebrated. “We thought we had won,” she says.

But now, sitting in her windowless office, she says she doesn’t understand the world anymore. The 74-year-old has three children, four grandchildren and two great-grandchildren, and she is active in her church. Yet while she outwardly resembles her opponents in the pro-life camp, she refuses to speak with them. “You might as well be talking to a wall,” she says.

Rarely does one read such classic examples of self-referential cognitive loops. A fighter thinks he wins, he ignores reality, and then loses. Interesting.

The climate began to deteriorate in South Dakota sometime in the mid-1990s, says Underberg. The churches, led by the Catholic Church, began politicizing the abortion issue and endorsing candidates who were willing to oppose abortion. Apparently the strategy worked. South Dakota’s state legislature ratified the new law with a majority of 50 to 18 votes. “The dividing lines didn’t run between the parties or the sexes,” says Democratic state legislator Elaine Roberts. In the end, religious faith was the deciding factor — and the crevice which has been slowly wedging American society apart for several years came into sharp focus in South Dakota.

The ban is supported by members of both parties and sexes. Considering the hysteria, that’s important to remember.

The religious war in the Midwest is gradually threatening to become a burden for Bush, himself a born-again Christian. At least five other states in the American Heartland have backed South Dakota’s radical approach. But such extreme positions are unlikely to sway a majority of moderate Republican voters in urban areas. States with larger populations, critical in election season, like Pennsylvania and Ohio, could easily revert to Democratic control if the Supreme Court ever decides to overturn its 1973 landmark decision.

A reversal of Roe v. Wade would de-federalize the issue, sending abortion back to the 50 united States of America where it belongs. Abortion is only a federal issue, at all, because of the Supreme Court’s overstretch in the 1970s. There is no reason for thinking it will remain so.

Two-thirds of Americans are against a tightening of the current liberal laws on abortion. Nevertheless, the abortion rate has consistently declined since the 1980s, even without a ban, and has almost returned to its level in 1973, when Roe vs. Wade made abortion legal.

Most Americans believe partial birth abortions should not be legal.

But any moderate, reasoned approach to the issue has long been shunted aside

Here, the article is somewhat right. The Supreme Court, by removing abortion from the democratic process, has prevented the emergence of a stable center. That is a true loss.

2 thoughts on “Fisking Der Spiegel on South Dakota”

  1. I’m always entertained when you rant about others’ relativism. Looking forward to cries of charlatanism at the nice cooks at China Express when you return from the Far East 🙂

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