Tag: Religion/Belief

Jim Crow in Pink?

Last week, the Kansas House passed a bill that would basically provide legal protection for religion-based anti-gay discrimination.

On Wednesday, the Kansas House passed HB 2453, which offers legal protection to individuals and businesses that refuse service for same-sex couples, specifically those looking to get married. Under the bill’s language, individuals, businesses and government employees would be immune from legal reprisal for refusing service if they have “sincerely held religious beliefs” opposing customers’ orientation. HB 2453 was approved by the Kansas House 72-49 and is set to move on to the state senate.

Note: it has died in the Senate. For now. Religious institutions themselves have always enjoyed a ministerial exception to anti-discrimination law, an exception that SCOTUS recently upheld 9-0. This law and others like it would be the first to grant the exception to private individuals and businesses.

According to the text of the bill, HB 2453 would prevent any legal action against groups or individuals who “provide any services, accommodations, advantages, facilities, goods, or privileges; provide counseling, adoption, foster care and other social services; or provide employment or employment benefits” to couples.

This measure was cast by its supporters as a move against discrimination. Specifically, discrimination against those with religious objections to homosexuality. In fact, a number of states are now considering these measures.

A few thoughts:

First, I don’t buy the idea that anti-LGBT-discrimination laws are themselves a discrimination against people of faith. There is no law that forbids someone with anti-gay beliefs from living anywhere or doing business with anyone. They aren’t confined to anti-gay ghettos. They are being forced to do business with someone whose lifestyle they object to. That’s bad enough; let’s not pretend that not being allowed to discriminate is a form of persecution.

Supporters of the bill argue that they are being forced to “celebrate” a union they see as immoral. But Kristin Powers picks that part:

It’s probably news to most married people that their florist and caterer were celebrating their wedding union. Most people think they just hired a vendor to provide a service. It’s not clear why some Christian vendors are so confused about their role here.

Whether Christians have the legal right to discriminate should be a moot point because Christianity doesn’t prohibit serving a gay couple getting married. Jesus calls his followers to be servants to all. Nor does the Bible call service to another an affirmation.

Adam Hamilton, pastor of the United Methodist Church of the Resurrection, the largest church in Kansas, pointed out to me what all Christians should know: “Jesus routinely healed, fed and ministered to people whose personal lifestyle he likely disagreed with.” This put Jesus at odds with religious leaders, who believed they were sullied by associating with the “wrong” people.

Now you can argue that laws forbidding discrimination against gays violate people’s right to freedom of commerce and association. I’m sympathetic to that argument. I have never been completely comfortable with anti-discrimination legislation in the context of private transactions. I think it was justified in the context of the Civil Rights movement for reasons explored by James Joyner: the institutionalized government-supported edifice of racial discrimination was so massive that it was unfair to expect blacks to patiently wait for generations until “market forces” brought it down (assuming they ever did).

Is the institutionalized discrimination against gays that severe? Gays would probably say it is; but I’m not convinced. Take the recent case in New Mexico: the court decided that a photographer could be forced to work a gay wedding despite her moral objection the union. Does she not have the right to decide what and whom she will photograph? And, as a purely practical matter, do you want your wedding photographed by someone who thinks what you’re doing is wrong? Are there no wedding photographers who will do a gay service? When my dad was growing up in Atlanta, there were people who wouldn’t do Jewish events. But there were enough who would that it wasn’t a problem. Must we decree universal tolerance?

All that having been said, the idea of encapsulating a “right to discriminate” into law makes me nervous. If someone proposed a law to give people a right to discriminate against interracial couples, it wouldn’t fly. If someone proposed giving Catholic photographers the right to discriminate against couples who were remarrying after a divorce, it wouldn’t fly. If Muslims petitioned to be allowed to refuse to service non-Muslims, we’d be screaming about sharia. But because it is gays and because not being allowed to discriminate is now being cast a form of oppression, these bills are popping up all over the place.

Religion can not be a duck blind for bad laws because, very quickly, almost anything will be swept into it. There were many people who cast slavery in religious terms, arguing that God himself had wrought slavery because black people were inferior and because they were being punished for the sin of Ham. Jim Crow segregation was supported in religious terms for the same reasons. Pharmacists claim they shouldn’t have to fill prescriptions for birth control if they have a moral objection. Economic issues are frequently cast in religious terms — from both right and left.

I really feel like we’re opening a can of worms here. Indeed, several bills have been hastily withdrawn and rewritten because people realized they were far too broad (Arizona’s law, for example, could have been interpreted to let non-Christians refuse service to Christians). How does someone show that their refusal is based in religion and not just bigotry? Does this only apply to Christians or does it apply to Muslims as well? What if people have religious objections to re-marriage or marriage after pre-marital sex or inter-religious or inter-racial marriage? And how far does this extend? Can you refuse to rent an apartment to a gay person because he might bring his gay partner over? Can you refuse to serve a gay couple in your restaurant because giving them a salad would be “celebrating” their union? Can government grants be withdrawn from businesses that invoke this religious exemption? These are all issues that will come up if these bills pass.

(The gripping hand here is that the Republicans have to know that — whatever your opinions of the laws’ merits — these laws will never hold up in the courts. The courts have traditionally upheld anti-discrimination legislation even in private transactions. At the very least, no lower court will allow this; it would have to go to SCOTUS. Given that, it’s possible this is all just pandering to the conservative base. If so, it’s stupid pandering. Poll after poll shows that young people — the future voters — are much more supportive of gay equality and that anti-gay legislation turns them away from the GOP. The fraction of Americans who oppose gay marriage has been falling steadily for ten years. In red state Missouri, thousands of people — including many devout Christians — turned out to support Michael Sam against the Westboro Baptist “Church”. So the GOP might gain something in the short term. But they will lose more in the long term. Still … I’ll give them the benefit of a doubt and assume there’s an actual principle behind this.)

The more I turn this over, the more I think it’s a bad idea. No matter how much supporters dress these laws up up as a religious freedom bills, they are still designed to give official legal protection to discrimination. I don’t think that’s a place we want to go, not unless you’re willing to challenge the entire basis of anti-discrimination law. It’s one thing to defend people’s freedom to transact business with whom they wish; it’s a bit more to provide official sanction for a very specific discrimination.

Saudi Justice

Ah, Saudi Arabia:

A Saudi court jailed a Lebanese man for six years and sentenced him to 300 lashes after convicting him of encouraging a Saudi woman to convert to Christianity, Saudi dailies reported Sunday.

The same court sentenced a Saudi man convicted in the same case to two years in prison and 200 lashes for having helped the young woman flee the ultra-conservative, US-backed Sunni kingdom, local daily Al-Watan said.

The July 2012 case caused a stir in Saudi Arabia, which applies a strict version of Sharia that stipulates Muslims who convert to another religion must be sentenced to death.

The woman, known only as “the girl of Khobar,” was granted refuge in Sweden where she lives under the protection of unspecified NGOs, according to local press reports.

This is not out of left field. Not only does Saudi Arabia live under Sharia law, polls shows that a substantial number of Muslims support the death penalty for leaving Islam, ranging from 4% in Kazakhstan to majorities in Malaysia, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Egypt, Jordan and Palestine. (That comes from a rather alarming Pew report (PDF)).

One of the few legitimate points that Bill Maher has made is that we can not view all religious extremists as the same. No matter how extreme the Religious Right might or might not be, none of them are calling for the death penalty for leaving Christianity and very few even support Dominionism. Muslims in the US and Europe are far less likely to support such radical views. But where Islam has real power — the Middle East and central Asia — these views are common.

Francis I

There’s a new pope in town and, by the Church’s standard, he’s pretty revolutionary:

  • The first non-European Pope since the 5th century.
  • The first Jesuit Pope.
  • The first original Papal name since the 10th century (I don’t count John Paul as original).
  • I find the Jesuit thing the most surprising. I never thought we would see a Jesuit Pope. He’s 76 so we’ll see how much of an influence he has. But my first impressions are positive. There’s some noise on Twitter about him opposing abortion, same-sex marriage and contraception (Twitter, apparently, is shocked that the Pope is Catholic; no word on how Twitter feels about what bears do in the woods). But my first impression is positive. I think it was a good choice.

    Hey Mr DJ: Excommunicate and Exterminate Edition

    Three significant departures in the past week:

    1) My wife’s grandfather died. He was a good, noble man. A veteran of WW2 and a true pillar of his community.

    2) The freakin-a-Pope has hung up the big hat. His legacy was a short one, historical only in the nature of his departure. He ruled a grand, but troubled institution. Yet nothing indicated that he was a bad man and he faithfully and humbly served as Pope, knowing all along that his would be a short tenure sandwiched between to far greater ones. I doubt he’ll live much longer too.

    3) Ray Cusick, designer of Dr. Who‘s Daleks. Clunky, crazy-ass props–and the most ruthless and effective antagonists in the history of television. I don’t know much about him personally or what not, but I love the Daleks.

    So what does the passing of these three men have to do with each other? Nothing that I can think of. Gramps wasn’t Catholic and I don’t think he was a big fan of British sci-fi either. What I do know is that just more decent men have moved on and the world somehow feels emptier or weaker for it.

    Gramps was a strong, kind man at a time when younger men are soft and selfish. But he always treated everyone with respect and I never heard him speak a bad word about anyone in the years I knew him. Pope Benedict showed humility in a time when everybody is a fucking big shot and the most infantile and vapid become celebrities to instead retire into obscurity. Mr. Cusick made something that was both new and enduring and died at a time where nothing in the arts is original or especially uplifting.

    I’m not looking for songs of mourning, really. I will hear the hymns next week at the funeral. Celebrate their lives instead. What they lived through, what they stood for, and what we’d like to see brought back into style. Bring in the music of:

    1. The Strong, the Silent, the Dignified. Veterans and Farmers.

    2. The Faithful, the Humble, the Gracious. Clergymen and their Churches.

    3. The Creative, the Daring, the Lasting. Artists and Their Works

    Skaro Bonus: Music for facing off against the evil, otherworldly empire…or being it.

    The Saints are Coming by The Skids

    Goodbye Yellow Brick Road
    by Elton John

    Ave Maria by Chris Cornell

    This is Why We Fight by The Decemberists

    Skaro Selection: 10,000 Years by High on Fire

    History Existed Before Bible Says Pat Robertson

    Holiest of Shits!

    Look, I know that people will probably try to lynch me when I say this, but Bishop [James] Ussher wasn’t inspired by the Lord when he said that it all took 6,000 years. It just didn’t. You go back in time, you’ve got radiocarbon dating. You got all these things and you’ve got the carcasses of dinosaurs frozen in time out in the Dakotas.

    They’re out there. So, there was a time when these giant reptiles were on the Earth and it was before the time of the Bible. So, don’t try and cover it up and make like everything was 6,000 years. That’s not the Bible.

    Yeah.  Pat Robertson is, uh, totally right.  At long last, a major fundamentalist Christian leader has come forward on this stupidly needless and divisive topic.  The Bible isn’t a science book.  Anyone who has read it should know that.

    For a long time, people misunderstood the concept that the Bible is the only book you really need to read.  In a way, that’s so.  The Bible (at least the parts in red letters) is about living in peace with our fellow human beings, practicing compassion, and other hippie stuff.   When Christianity went off the rails is when believers began pretending like it was the final authority on all things and the only book you should ever read.

    I applaud Robertson for speaking up about this.  It’s a major crack in the wall, in my opinion.  At last: Science and Faith no longer have to be at war and the media won’t be able to make GOP politicians look like dumbasses by asking about the age of the Earth.

    Bizarrely, we will have Pat Robertson to thank for beginning the change in thinking of those theological circles.

    The Salafists Honor 9/11

    Well, at least the Egyptians decided to do something to honor the day:

    Angry protesters climbed the walls of the U.S. Embassy in Cairo on Tuesday and hauled down the American flag, replacing it with a black standard with Islamic emblems, apparently in protest of the production of a film thought to insult the Prophet Mohammed.

    The incident prompted a volley of warning shots to be fired as a large crowd gathered outside, said CNN producer Mohammed Fahmy, who was on the scene.

    The replacement flag read, “There is no God but Allah and Mohammad is his messenger.”

    Others expressed more general grievances about U.S. policy, chanting anti-American slogans and holding up bits of a shredded American flag to television camera crews in front of the embassy.

    This is supposedly anger over an anti-Muhammed film, but I can’t find any details what precise film they are objecting to. There are vague rumors of some Coptic-funded thing as well as an association with Terry Jones, the guy who burnt a Koran. But that sounds more like an excuse to attack Coptic Christians than anything else. I wouldn’t be surprised if there is no such film.

    I also can’t believe protesting today is a coincidence. The entire world knows what today is the anniversary of.


    Earlier this week, the Left Wing Echosphere was atwitter at the news that a Louisiana school eligible for vouchers had a fundamentalist religious science agenda that teaches, among other things, that the Loch Ness Monster is real and its existence refutes evolution. “Oh, Woe!” they cried, “our tax dollars are going to teach students this rubbish!”

    Now never mind that, with hundreds of schools eligible for vouchers, you’re almost certain going to find some that are run by whack jobs. I’m sure there’s a school out there that will teach that Marxism works. The more important point, which I hinted at on Twitter, is expanded on by Neal McCluskey.

    First, no matter how loudly government-failure deniers might protest — the government is omnipotent, dammit! – government schooling does not overcome religious belief. The latest Gallup poll assessing views on human origins came out a few weeks ago, and found as it has since 1982: The vast majority of Americans believe that God created human beings, and a plurality believes that God created us in our ”present form.” Only 15 percent hold that human beings evolved without any divine involvement. And this is with roughly 85 percent of students attending public schools.

    Next, take a look at overall science achievement. According to the latest National Assessment of Educational Progress results, only 32 percent of U.S. eighth graders are “proficient” in science. And private versus public schools? 43 percent of private school students are proficient, versus 31 percent for public schools. A significant part of the difference is likely that private schools tend to serve better prepared kids, but the data certainly doesn’t suggest that public schooling beats private when it comes to science instruction.

    Finally, there’s the reason government schools are so inept at teaching science: All people, no matter what their beliefs, are forced to support public schools — a perfect recipe for wrenching conflict. To avoid war without end, some 60 percent of high school biology teachers gloss over the mega flash-point that is evolution. The result is that no one, no matter what their beliefs, gets coherent biology instruction.

    When discussing vouchers, liberals like to pretend there is some system of idealized perfect schools that we are draining money away from. This is simply not the case, especially in the low-achievement state of Louisiana. Bobby Jindal has seen the state of Louisiana schools and decided that tweaking it at the edges is simply not an option. A game changer is needed.

    An unfortunate side effect is that few schools won’t teach science. Well, guess what, friends? The public schools aren’t teaching science either. Many, if not most, of the students in the public schools are as ignorant about evolution, cosmology and astrophysics as if they’d been educated in a fundamentalist rain barrel. You can site bad examples from the private sector all day; I will site the overall massive improvement in all phases of education, including science, that the private system has over the public system.

    When it comes to policy, we can’t get bogged down in letting the perfect be the enemy of the good. We have to look at the big picture. And the big picture is that Louisiana’s public schools are not cutting it in any dimension: science, reading, math, you name it. Maybe the great voucher experiment won’t produce the stunning results its supporters think it does. But we’ve got to try something other than pouring more money into the same rathole. And there are very good reasons to believe that this particular something is a good thing.

    There’s one other point and it’s the one McCluskey makes last: the current public furor over teaching evolution in our schools. The libertarians have been talking about this for some time, saying we could diffuse the evolution debate by privatizing schools. I didn’t agree at first but am now coming around to that point. Half of Americans do not believe in evolution. I’m beginning to think that at least part of that is because of the deliberate politicization of the science. There is tremendous political benefit in making science a point of contention, and not just for the Religious Right. Whether portraying ones self as a stalwart against evil secular atheists or a stalwart against dogmatic religious fundamentalists, the evolution controversy empower politicians. It is always the case: when the politicians manage to divide us against each other, both sides win. If you think that the Democrats would rather the evolution issue go way, you simply don’t understand how the political mind works.

    Perhaps, by moving science out of the public sphere, we can take some of the ardor out the debate. We can stop the acceptance of evolution from being absurdly equated with being a Democrat. And, in the long run, I think that will better for the science as well as the schools.

    They smell weakness…

    The world’s biggest gang of Knaves, thieves, child molesters, murder lovers, and murderers is at it again. The assholes that are defending Assad’s efforts to keep the Syrians oppressed, while killing thousands, now are demanding Americans be put on trial for the Koran burning incident that was used by members of the “religion of peace” to commit violence and murder infidels. Yeah sure, we will get right on it. As soon as you also demand that we prosecute every foreigner that burned an American flag or beheaded an American citizen, you assholes. The world truly doesn’t deserve the peace Americans have sacrificed to give it. And have no doubt that it is Americans that have prevented the scumbags of the world from dong the usual butchering that history clearly shows us is the human condition.

    Frankly, we need to be demanding the Afghanis and the UN both kiss or ass for trying to make things better for them. We should stop trying to be liked and get on with the business of being feared. The scum of the earth will never appreciate or like those that are ahead of them, but they sure as hell will behave if they fear you. Ask the western media if you want proof on how they pretend to be though on religion, but seem to avoid doing that one the one needing it the most. And that is because they fear the insane bastards that belong to that religion. Obama needs to tell them to kiss his ass, not appologize.

    Useful Idiots

    Although Lenin gets credit (probably not deserved) for coining the phrase, the basic premise reveals mountains concerning the human condition. I always liked the phrase ,”The path to Hell is paved with good intentions”, another window which we can peer through, but to get seemingly good/honest people to do your bidding, to garner unwitting support for a malignant cause through charitable/peaceful acts, genius.

    The latest example of a truly useful idiot comes from Hollywood land, where idiots rule and high falutin’ causes pointed anywhere near world peace and understanding, beating those swords into plowshares, are de rigueur:

    Sean Stone, son of controversial director Oliver Stone, converted to Islam in Iran last week and says he’s already experiencing a Hollywood backlash.

    Maybe the “backlash” he is experiencing has more to do with the dogma practiced in Hollywood as learned through the old USSR, that religion of any kind is a weakness and a disease, the sooner eradicated the better.

    I consider myself a Jewish Christian Muslim.

    Now I want to give him a hug, how noble and worldly (and stupid). I’m trying to wrap my brain around that. The Koran teaches that all infidels should be killed, umm, does that mean that the Muslim side of him wants to kill the Christian side? This is like saying that you are a both liberal and conservative, a vegan and a carnivore, can like Kate Upton and Marrisa Miller (OK, that one is a bit hazy).

    Interesting that he chose a country like Iran to convert to that religion of peace, the same country that has probably more blood on it’s hands (through it’s backing and support of every terrorist organization on the planet) and that same place where the destruction of Israel and all Jews in general stokes their nuclear ambitions.

    Here is Sean on The Factor last night, Ahmadinejad is just misunderstood, yeah, that’s it.

    “I don’t care if I get criticized. If I can open up a debate about religion and create some understanding, then it is worth it.”

    They aren’t criticizing you, they are laughing at you, laughing at your stupidity naivete. First off, to think that you converting to Islam will somehow make for a better world, a world more peaceful and tolerant, that is just goofy, and sooooooooo Hollywood.

    But here is the bigger picture, wake the eff up, those Iranian enablers of yours would separate your head from your neck if it not for your conversion, and just remember, don’t even think about changing your mind, they are the exact antitheses of “pro choice”, their dopey apostasy laws mandate that you lose your life if you have a change of heart. Obviously, Sean, you did not think this one out very well.

    And why the trip to terrorist land for his conversion, he couldn’t find any Islamic mosques here in America?

    Yes, Minister

    SCOTUS is issuing rulings left, right and center. And today it issued an important one that was also a defeat for the Obama Administration:

    In what may be its most significant religious liberty decision in two decades, the Supreme Court on Wednesday for the first time recognized a “ministerial exception” to employment discrimination laws, saying that churches and other religious groups must be free to choose and dismiss their leaders without government interference.

    “The interest of society in the enforcement of employment discrimination statutes is undoubtedly important,” Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. wrote in a decision that was surprising in both its sweep and its unanimity. “But so, too, is the interest of religious groups in choosing who will preach their beliefs, teach their faith and carry out their mission.

    HuffPo has the details.

    The unwanted minister in this case was Cheryl Perich, a “called” — or ordained — teacher at Hosanna-Tabor, a Michigan church and grade school that is part of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod. In 2004, she went on disability leave for what was soon diagnosed as narcolepsy. Per its policy, the school asked her to resign once her absence exceeded six months, but she refused. Rather than submit to the school’s request that her complaint be handled according to the church’s tenet of internal dispute resolution, Perich threatened to file a complaint with the EEOC under the Americans with Disabilities Act. In response, the Hosanna-Tabor congregation rescinded Perich’s call, which drove her to follow through on her EEOC threat.

    The implications of this decision are broad, establishing a “ministerial exemption” to discrimination laws which enshrines the ability of religions to limit their clergy to those they consider acceptable. There’s another layer to this, however. One of the concerns that opponents of gay marriage have is that churches could be forced to accept such unions. This decision puts an undisputed kibosh on that. If religious organizations can employ whom they chose, they will be free to marry whom they choose. This decision was unanimous, indicating the Court overwhelming favors the ministerial exemption and is likely to for decades.

    The Obama Administration argued against the ministerial exemption, an idea that has previously been supported. They bet on the wrong side on this one. Big time. Their own judges rebuked their attempt to split hairs on who was a minister.

    Update: Via Allahpundit, I’m reminded of Walter Olson’s great commentary on this matter some months ago. Read it.