Notes and Comment Blog

Our short and pithy observations on the passing scene as it relates to the mission of Butterflies and Wheels. Woolly-headed or razor-sharp comments in the media, anti-rationalist rhetoric in books or magazines or overheard on the bus, it’s all grist to our mill. And sometimes we will hold forth on the basis of no inspiration at all beyond what happens to occur to us.


Hey Christina Hoff Sommers

Jul 27th, 2014 3:17 pm | By

Christina Hoff Sommers seems to be getting more unpleasant – or maybe just more active on Twitter, or maybe just retweeted by more people I happen to see. At any rate I find her increasingly unpleasant. I saw one tweet of hers this morning that was so obnoxious I replied to it.

Christina H. Sommers ‏@CHSommers 4h
Hey feminists, will you stop making recklessly false claims like/ “Women own only 1% of world’s property.”http://m.theatlantic.com/sexes/archive/2013/03/women-own-1-of-world-property-a-feminist-myth-that-wont-die/273840/ …

Ophelia Benson ‏@OpheliaBenson
.@CHSommers Hey Christina Hoff Sommers, will you stop bashing “feminists”?

Someone replied to me and Sommers favorited her reply. Of course she did. I replied back. Sommers won’t be favoriting that. (Nor will Paul Elam, who chimed in.)

Vandy Beth Glenn ‏@RedVelvetCakes 3h
@OpheliaBenson @CHSommers Ophelia, what did she say about “feminists” that is untrue?

Ophelia Benson ‏@OpheliaBenson
@RedVelvetCakes @CHSommers That they all, generically, make the claim she cites. Replace “feminists” with “Jews” & see how it sounds.

Sommers was once a philosopher. That’s kind of sad.

Updated to add:

Sommers replied. Dishonestly.

Christina H. Sommers ‏@CHSommers
@OpheliaBenson Wow! So criticizing your brand of evidence-free feminism is analogous to anti-semitism. Muddled thinking, Ophelia.

So, naturally, I replied.

Ophelia Benson ‏@OpheliaBenson 3m
@CHSommers No. That’s not what you did. You didn’t criticize a particular brand of feminism. You said “Hey feminists” – just that.

Don’t call me muddled because you overstated your case. That’s not respectable.

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)



What have you got against flamingoes anyway?

Jul 27th, 2014 10:35 am | By

Latsot (Look at the state of that) lists some of the tropes, in a comment at oolon’s place. Quoted with permission.

It would be too depressing to describe all the ‘arguments’ against rape culture I’ve seen, but it might be fun to list some of the tropes. For an especially masochistic definition of ‘fun’. Some of these you’ve already mentioned.

1. Women all the time be faking accusations
2. Being falsely accused of rape is worse than being raped
3. Someone you admire once accused someone of rape so accusing people of rape is always bad (never quite understood this one)
4. You SJW types say you should always believe the victim no matter what (rather than you should always believe the victim PROVISIONALLY unless there’s a good reason not to, which is what we actually tend to say)

5. The slymepit has lots of examples of FTBullies behaviing badly, therefore…. and I get a bit lost here… people who rape or threaten rape or enable rape are…ok…?
6. FTBullies are evil. Therefore anyone evil is an FTBully. Therefore FTBullies are evil. Why are they evil? Mostly because they are not fans of rape culture apologists.
7. He was joking when he threatened to rape someone or said he was glad they were raped.
8. It wasn’t a real threat because it was on the Internet.
9. He kindasorta said he was sorry when the entire internet condemned him so he’s presto-changeo forgiven by the internet jesus.
10. He hasn’t said anything unbelievably shit in the last fortnight, so he’s totally not a horrible bigot.
11. Look over there, a FLAMINGO.
12. What have you got against flamingoes anyway? I’m not changing the subject, YOU ARE. I don’t even know of ONE flamingo who’s a rapist.
13. Being liberal is somehow and inexplicably a bad thing
14. Caring about people is somehow and inexplicably a bad thing
15 Atheism is only about not believing in gods. Unless we are telling off believers for the same things we refuse to tell non-believers off for.

Your turn.

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)



In a material world of blind indifference

Jul 27th, 2014 10:08 am | By

One rather peculiar response from a reverend:

@CLGrossman @RichardDawkins @OpheliaBenson Well said but why/ How? In a material world of blind indifference who decides what is is “civil”[?]

That’s not peculiar for a reverend*, of course, but it’s peculiar in itself.

Who decides? Human beings decide. We decide because we’re the ones affected. We decide because we want various things. We want to be able to have reasonable conversations. We want to be able to talk without fistfights or insults or taunts. We want at least a minimal baseline of peace and co-operation.

That’s who decides. The people who have a stake decide. That’s true even in a material world of blind indifference. The material world is blindly indifferent to me (and you and us and them and her and him), it’s true, but that doesn’t mean we are all indifferent to each other or to ourselves.

That’s true even if you do believe in a god. In that sense it actually is somewhat peculiar for a reverend to ask the question. Does he really think atheists are blindly indifferent because the material world is? Has he never met a single one?

 

*His profile says he’s Vicar at Christ Church Lye, in the West Midlands.

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)



Haw haw

Jul 26th, 2014 2:17 pm | By

Not everyone is board, but we knew that.

notev

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)



Joint statement by Ophelia Benson and Richard Dawkins

Jul 26th, 2014 12:02 pm | By

Joint statement by Ophelia Benson and Richard Dawkins

It’s not news that allies can’t always agree on everything. People who rely on reason rather than dogma to think about the world are bound to disagree about some things.

Disagreement is inevitable, but bullying and harassment are not. If we want secularism and atheism to gain respect, we have to be able to disagree with each other without trying to destroy each other.

In other words we have to be able to manage disagreement ethically, like reasonable adults, as opposed to brawling like enraged children who need a nap. It should go without saying, but this means no death threats, rape threats, attacks on people’s appearance, age, race, sex, size, haircut; no photoshopping people into demeaning images, no vulgar epithets.

Richard adds: I’m told that some people think I tacitly endorse such things even if I don’t indulge in them. Needless to say, I’m horrified by that suggestion. Any person who tries to intimidate members of our community with threats or harassment is in no way my ally and is only weakening the atheist movement by silencing its voices and driving away support.

Also posted at RDF.

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)



Decks

Jul 26th, 2014 10:37 am | By

Have a friendly set of caricatures, for purposes of comparison. Crispian Jago’s deck of “Skeptic” cards from 2011. (Some of the people in the deck don’t fit the category very well – Dennett, Aaronovitch, Grayling, Hitchens, Peter Singer, Andrew Copson – they’re not primarily skeptics, not professional Skeptics.)

The caricatures are done by Neil Davies.

Here’s Anthony Grayling:

H/t Catherine Xanthë

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)



Crucified in the main square

Jul 25th, 2014 3:41 pm | By

ISIS have also been using crucifixion as a punishment. What history wonks they are.

A man has survived being crucified by Isis in Syria, after the jihadists raided his village and nailed him to a cross for eight hours.

The unnamed man from Al-Bab, near the border with Turkey, was crucified as a punishment, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

He managed to survive the ordeal.

But eight others who received the same punishment did not survive. The men, from Deir Hafer in the east of Aleppo province, were subjected to the same treatment and crucified “in the main square of the village, where their bodies will remain for three days”, the Britain-based monitor said.

It’s a very horrible way to die – slow torturous suffocation as the weight of the hanging body compresses the lungs.

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)



Good idea

Jul 25th, 2014 3:19 pm | By

From Blue Nation Review:

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)



So close

Jul 25th, 2014 12:50 pm | By

Greta has a terrific post on the question of what will you accept in an ally before you decide that’s not an ally after all.

I’ve been thinking about that a lot this week, as you’ve seen, and also as you haven’t seen, because I’ve been doing it out of sight.

Here’s a crucial bit of Greta’s post along with my response posted there and on Facebook:

In many instances, of course we can agree about some things while disagreeing about others, and agreeing when someone says (X) doesn’t automatically mean you agree when they say ( Y ). But when someone crosses a clear line into vile and unacceptable behavior, the community needs to make it clear that this behavior is unacceptable and will not be tolerated. We need to show that some lines absolutely should not be crossed, and that if people cross them there will be consequences. Supporting someone’s work when they’ve acted abhorrently means there are no consequences.And that’s especially true in the case of rape threats, persistent harassment of women, and other misogynist behavior — because in the atheist community, we don’t, unfortunately, currently have a clear ethical standard that this is unacceptable. We have a culture in which it’s depressingly common for people to engage in this behavior, and for other people to defend, rationalize, trivialize, dismiss, or victim-blame it — without consequences, or without serious consequences.

Leaders in the movement do this, and remain leaders. We need to change that culture. We need to make it unmistakably clear that we do not tolerate this behavior. Promoting people’s work who engage in this behavior is tolerating it. And tolerating this behavior helps perpetuate it.

Yes yes yes yes yes.

The sad thing? (A sad thing.) I was working on it. I was talking to one of those leaders – one of the Leaderest of them – about exactly that, and what a good thing it would be if he did make it unmistakably clear that we do not tolerate this behavior. He said he would consider it; he even asked me to suggest some wording. He even suggested we sign it jointly. He even sent me a revision for my opinion. I said it’s great, let’s do this thing.

Silence.

So close. We were so close.

That. I thought it was going to happen. It would have been a game-changer. It should have happened. It should happen. But – silence has fallen.

So damn close.

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)



A Muslim woman is not allowed to marry a non-Muslim

Jul 25th, 2014 11:55 am | By

But there is one good thing: Meriam Ibrahim and her family are safe, out of Sudan.

Meriam Yahia Ibrahim Ishag flew to Rome with her family after more than a month in the US embassy in Khartoum.

There was global condemnation when she was sentenced to hang for apostasy by a Sudanese court.

Mrs Ibrahim’s father is Muslim so according to Sudan’s version of Islamic law she is also Muslim and cannot convert.

She was raised by her Christian mother and says she has never been Muslim.

Welcoming her at the airport, Italy’s Prime Minister Matteo Renzi said: “Today is a day of celebration.”

Then she went to meet with the pope, which doesn’t sound like fun to me, but maybe if I’d been in her situation it would seem like the best fun in the world.

Lapo Pistelli, Italy’s vice-minister for foreign affairs, accompanied her on the flight from Khartoum and posted a photo of himself with Mrs Ibrahim and her children on his Facebook account as they were about to land in Rome.

“Mission accomplished,” he wrote.

A senior Sudanese official told Reuters news agency that the government in Khartoum had approved her departure in advance.

Mrs Ibrahim’s lawyer Mohamed Mostafa Nour told BBC Focus on Africa that she travelled on a Sudanese passport she received at the last minute.

“She is unhappy to leave Sudan. She loves Sudan very much. It’s the country she was born and grew up in,” he said.

That’s sad. It appears that Sudan did not love her back, though.

A last twist of the knife:

Last week, her father’s family filed a lawsuit trying to have her marriage annulled, on the basis that a Muslim woman is not allowed to marry a non-Muslim.

And you’re not allowed to leave Islam, and you’re in Islam if your father is a Muslim, even if you never even met the guy. But there is no compulsion in religion. Uh huh.

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)



“We’re sure ISIS will follow through”

Jul 25th, 2014 11:08 am | By

As many people have pointed out here, and far more have pointed out elsewhere, the report that ISIS had ordered all girls/women aged 11 to 46 to undergo female genital mutilation may be a hoax. (Some have said it simply is a hoax, but that’s not clear yet.)

But at least it’s not purely a Western media hoax. Al Arabiya is taking it seriously. Yesterday it reported the same story I got from the BBC:

Staff Writer, Al Arabiya News
Thursday, 24 July 2014
The al-Qaeda-Inspired Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) has ordered all girls and women between the ages of 11 and 46 in and around Iraq’s northern city of Mosul to undergo female genital mutilation, the United Nations said on Thursday.

“It is a fatwa (or religious edict) of ISIS, we learnt this this morning,” said Jacqueline Badcock, the number two U.N. official in Iraq.

“This is something very new for Iraq, particularly in this area, and is of grave concern and does need to be addressed,” she said, according to Reuters.

“This is not the will of Iraqi people, or the women of Iraq in these vulnerable areas covered by the terrorists,” she added.

No one was immediately available for comment from Islamic State which has led an offensive through northern and western Iraq.

So, not confirmed, but not disconfirmed, either.

Today it reports that an Iraqi NGO thinks it will happen.

An Iraqi human rights organization said Friday that the al-Qaeda-inspired Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) will likely implement a religious edict (Fatwa) that all females aged 11-46 in and around the northern city of Mosul undergo genital mutilation (FGM).

“We’re sure ISIS will follow through with what they’ve announced,” William Warda, head of media relations at Hammurabi Human Rights Organization, told Al Arabiya News

Women working for ISIS may be used to check whether or not females are genitally mutilated, said Warda, a leading member of the Assyrian Democratic Movement.

At the end, it tells us there has been no official word either way:

Meanwhile, ISIS has not officially confirmed or denied the report.

Are we all fully confident that ISIS won’t do that? Do we think their human sympathies and kindness will prevent them?

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)



Your ‘victim card’

Jul 25th, 2014 6:43 am | By

More reasoned argument from Team We Hate Feminism – a friendly tweet from Mark Senior, who comments here as mofa.

mark

Mark Senior @MarkSenior3

Please accept your ‘victim card’ (hope you have your sense of humour switched on)

regards mofa

mark2He’s late; I posted that on Facebook yesterday. I also pointed out that the jeans and shoes are all wrong. I wouldn’t wear shoes like that, and I never roll my jeans, much less wear them up above the ankle like that. Ew.

Above the jeans of course it’s exact.

But as an argument? Well I’m not sure what the argument is, exactly. That I’m wrong about everything because I’m so ugly? I’m not convinced that’s a valid argument. Maybe someone will make a video elucidating the premises.

Update to add:

mark3

Mark Senior @MarkSenior3

@jimnnewman @OpheliaBenson

Just clean fun…no one gets hurt

Jim Newman @jimnnewman

@MarkSenior3 @OpheliaBenson no one gets hurt? I’m detecting hurt feelings, insults, personal attacks, denigration, push to silence.

Mark Senior @MarkSenior3

Alex G liked his (except for the nose), Lousy Canadian will like his…RW’s is good too.

It’s very telling that he picked those out. They are relatively benign. But several of the others are not benign at all; it’s telling that he didn’t claim anyone will like those.

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)



Guest post: Saying antifeminist things seems to be the path to YouTube stardom

Jul 24th, 2014 6:26 pm | By

Originally a comment by Tom Foss on Credit where it’s due.

This JG kerfuffle, is, though, inconsequential bullshit as far as I can see.

The atheist and skeptical communities have made their names on calling out and arguing against bad arguments and strawmen. Why would we stop when those bad arguments and strawmen are coming from someone who claims to be part of the community? Why wouldn’t we argue even harder, to demonstrate what we so frequently see lacking in religious communities, namely a willingness to police their own? If atheists being irrational and behaving badly is inconsequential bullshit to other atheists, then why is it suddenly consequential when religionists do the same?

It’s true, Jaclyn Glenn is not the source of all the misogyny and antifeminism (and ableism) in the community, she’s just a source of some of it. And she’s a prime example of how saying antifeminist things seems to be the path to YouTube stardom for atheists and skeptics, just as saying feminist things is the path to abuse and harassment. Seems like Dawkins and American Atheists only started promoting her once she started saying antifeminist things, and they certainly haven’t withdrawn their support because she opposes feminists. That sends a message, intended or not, to women in this community, that feminist concerns are not a priority for atheist movement leaders. Moreover, since I don’t see the RDF or AA promoting Rebecca Watson or Laci Green or other feminist atheist YouTubers, it sends the message that’s been clearly sent since the post-elevatorgate TAM, that feminists are not welcome or wanted in this community.

I just don’t see that the source of all those problems is Richard Dawkins or Dusty or JG. In fact, I suspect that all of them would totally agree with you.

Yes, on a lot of issues, I suspect they would nominally agree. Dawkins has adopted the feminist label in the past, and spent some time in The God Delusion talking about feminist consciousness-raising, and using it as a model for an atheist version of the same. But Dawkins’ idea of feminism seems to be one where western women’s biggest problems were solved when we stopped saying “fireman” and “chairman” and started saying “firefighter” and “chairperson.” Now, as long as there are Muslimas in the world, dealing with forced marriage and genital mutilation and virginity tests, western women have no business complaining about sexism or working to correct privilege in their cultures. It ties into a whole host of other issues Dawkins has with racism and Islamophobia (for lack of a better term).

But Dawkins is someone that much of the community recognizes as a leader, so when he attacks feminists and promotes antifeminist rants, his fans take that as license to do the same. Dawkins has a lot more reach and influence than Jaclyn Glenn, but JG wouldn’t have nearly as much reach and influence if not for the Dawkins seal of approval.

Sorry, tangent again. Point being that Dawkins may well say he agrees with equality between sexes, but his idea of what that means does not bear much resemblance to my idea, or the ideas of most feminists. Think, for example, about conservative Christians who say they believe in equality but not gay marriage, since gay people already have the same rights as everyone else to marry someone of the opposite gender. If you just asked those people “how do you feel about equality,” or even, “how do you feel about equality for gay people?” you’d get an affirmative response. And yet, that’s an attitude that needs fighting against, because even though both sides of the gay marriage issue profess belief in and agreement with equality, their ideas of equality are opposed.

Similarly, Jaclyn Glenn would probably say that she agrees with the idea that men and women should be equal, but her idea of equality still allows people to use gendered insults that suggest women’s bodies are gross and inferior. It allows her to call disgusting misogynists like TJ Kincaid friends and feminists like Ophelia opponents. That’s not the gender equality that feminism fights for, it’s the social oppression they fight against.

As for the rifts, they exist. No one is ginning up new unnecessary rifts, we’re just mapping out where they are. And when you align yourself with thoroughly disgusting assholes like The Amazing Atheist, well, we recognize pretty quickly what side of the rift you’re on.

 

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)



I refuse to do the job, so you have to hire me

Jul 24th, 2014 11:14 am | By

At Slate Amanda Marcotte considers the expanding definitions of “religious freedom.”

Is “religious freedom” about being free to practice your faith, or just a generic cover story for any and all attempts to try to foist your beliefs on others? In this era of Hobby Lobby vs. Burwell, it’s understandable that many on the right have decided it’s the latter and are eager to start testing the limits of how much leverage the expansive new definition of “religious freedom” gives them to meddle with the private contraception choices of others. Next on the docket: Attempting to force family planning centers to hire nurse-midwives who refuse to let patients plan their families, all in the name of “religious freedom.”

That is indeed the question, and it’s the general principle behind the expansive new definition that is so infuriating, as well as the specific details of the case. I detest this idea that “religious freedom” includes freedom to force one’s religious claims on other people. It makes me bristle like a porcupine.

Sara Hellwege is a nurse-midwife in Tampa, Florida, who opposes the use of some of the most effective and female-controlled forms of contraception, such as the birth control pill. Despite that position, Hellwege applied for a job with the Tampa Family Health Centers. When asked by the human resources director about her affiliation with an anti-contraception group called the American Association of Pro-Life Obstetricians and Gynecologists, Hellwege admitted she would refuse to prescribe the birth control pill to anyone who wanted it. She was summarily told that prescribing the birth control pill was part of the job and was not hired.

Which is exactly what should happen. Rather than hiring people who will refuse to do parts of the job they were hired to do, and then making “accommodations” for those people (at the expense of everyone else affected), the thing to do is ask before hiring if the candidate will do all the parts of the job. If the answer is no, obviously that person should not be hired.

Win or lose, Hellwege’s case provides insight in how the war on contraception is shaping up. Direct assaults through legislation are going to be a much harder sell with contraception than abortion, so instead we’re getting the argument that someone else’s “religious freedom”—your boss, your nurse—entitles them to interfere with your ability to get contraception. Family planning centers are one place that women have long been able to trust will provide them contraception access without unnecessary hassle, and now the Christian right is trying to take even that away.

And then they’ll move on to interning women who refuse to marry.

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)



Universal FGM

Jul 24th, 2014 10:15 am | By

Warning – bad stuff.

The BBC reports:

A top UN official in Iraq has said the Sunni Islamist group Isis controlling the city of Mosul is seeking to impose female genital mutilation.

All females aged 11 and 46 in the northern city must undergo the procedure, according to an Isis edict, UN official Jacqueline Badcock said.

That second sentence must be a typo – it has to mean aged from 11 to 46, not 11 and 46.

At any rate, if it’s true, and they mean it – well. That’s quite something.

Yo, George Bush? Feeling proud of your accomplishments this morning?

Update: links to denials in comments.

 

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)



Guest post: Feel free to reach out to me privately

Jul 23rd, 2014 6:10 pm | By

Originally a comment by leni on You said it yourself, you’re a writer, not a diplomat.

One of my pet peeves is a lack of direct communication, if you’re a friend or a friend of a friend I wish that they would try to actually talk to me before making things a public issue

The most charitable reading of this is that Glenn means to say that the respectful response would be to don a wig and record a YouTube meta-parody of her position using questionable analogies. It’s pretty clear if you read far enough into the subtext and make some unfounded assumptions about her motivations. We don’t have to assume the worst, here.

This could be a real learning moment for you, Ophelia. Maybe it’s time you reconsidered your lack of ill-conceived parody videos.

If you ever change your mind about that and need some help with half-assed analogies involving animals and possibly submarines, feel free to reach out to me privately via Facebook or Twitter. Since you don’t actually know who I am, just send your message to Kevin Bacon. I’ll get the request eventually.

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)



The universities were breaking the Equalities Act of 2010

Jul 23rd, 2014 5:48 pm | By

Nick Cohen talks about the confusion of people who think equality and diversity come in one package like fish and chips.

If you need me to rehearse the argument again after all these years, here it is, one more time. In a free society you are or should be free to believe what you want. But your freedom to ‘celebrate your diversity’ does not extend to the freedom to force your beliefs on others, unless you can secure a democratic change in the law compatible with the rights of minorities. For instance, you may be a doctor with ethical or religious objections to abortion. No one should force you to abort a fetus. You also have every right to denounce abortion at public meetings or refuse to vote for candidates who support abortion. But you do not have the right to bomb abortion clinics. 

Ah well Nick conceded too much there. If you’re a doctor and you work at a hospital? Yes, someone should force you to abort a fetus if that’s part of your job. That is to say, if abortions are part of a doctor’s job, that doctor should perform the abortions. That’s the deal with jobs – you’re supposed to do them. If you don’t want to do parts of them, you’re in the wrong field, and should get out of it.

I used to think it was ok to let doctors refuse to do abortions, but then I saw the way that was spreading and spreading like mold, and I realized I was wrong. All this refusing just means it’s getting harder and harder for women to get abortions in the US.

Hardly anyone has noticed, but last week the [Equality and Human Rights] commission ruled on an argument that filled the airwaves earlier this year: could Universities UK, a quango, which represents the vice-chancellors of 132 universities and assorted higher education institutes, endorse gender segregation at public events. In a sign of the times, the universities had dressed up their assault on the rights of women in the language of liberalism. They ruled that if allowing men and women to sit where they wished contravened ‘the genuinely held religious beliefs’ of the speaker – who let’s face it will be a religious reactionary addressing a student Islamic Society nine times out of ten – or of the group hosting the event, then women must be segregated. Universities must ‘be mindful to ensure that the freedom of speech of the religious group or speaker is not curtailed unlawfully,’ it announced.

As I said, it is a novel view of freedom of speech that a speaker has the right to impose his views on his audience. But it fits with the totalitarian religious mind. If women can be segregated inside the mosque or orthodox synagogue, they should be segregated outside too. A stern god’s commands recognise no boundaries.

Mark Hammond, the chief executive of the Equalities and Human Rights Commission, had no time for that or for Britain’s sinister academics. It was not against the law to prevent segregation, he said, but against the law to allow it. The universities were breaking the Equalities Act of 2010 – a useful measure passed in the dying days of the last Labour government, which requires public bodies to oppose discrimination. Religious organisations remain exempt – barring the usual exceptions for human sacrifice – but as the commission said:

‘once an event goes beyond religious worship or practice, equality law applies and the courts are likely to consider any gender segregation to be unlawful…A woman who is not permitted to occupy a particular area of the lecture hall because it is reserved for men is disadvantaged because she cannot sit wherever she chooses.’

That’s good, although Chris Moos tells me that there are nevertheless some worrying passages about gender segregation in the ruling.

While supporting the religious right, the ‘liberal’ bureaucracy turns its back on genuine liberals from the ethnic minorities, as I found when I spoke to Sara Khan who runs a campaign group, Inspire, which fights for the rights of British Muslim women. When she publicly opposed Universities UK, Islamists threatened her so violently she had to call the police. To compound her misery, she had to endure lectures from white feminists telling her that she was ‘promoting anti-Muslim prejudice’, when she was a Muslim who had experienced anti-Muslim prejudice and they were not; and articles from the ‘left-wing’ Laurie Penny,  maintaining that Asians who wanted the rights she enjoyed, were the tools of ‘right-wing commentators’.

‘Diversity,’ it appears, does not protect women like Khan. They must do as their ‘community leaders’ tell them. Instead it allows whichever gobby god-botherer is first to make it through the quango’s doors to impose his prejudices as he pleases.

Sara Khan is nobody’s tool.

 

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)



The 17 women currently incarcerated

Jul 23rd, 2014 5:05 pm | By

Salvadoran feminists are pushing back against their country’s nightmare abortion laws.

Salvadoran feminist and women’s organizations are waging an international campaign demanding a pardon for the 17 women currently incarcerated in El Salvador for abortion, in hopes of challenging the country’s harsh anti-abortion laws and beginning to change the anti-choice views held by the vast majority of Salvadoran society.

Each of the 17 women in question was arrested while seeking hospital care for pregnancy complications when medical staff notified the police on suspicion that the women had intentionally interrupted their pregnancies. All women were impoverished, with low education levels; none received proper forensic examinations, nor were they subject to due process before being sentenced to between 12-40 years in prison. Feminist groups argue that the 17 women’s treatment violates myriad international treaties ratified by El Salvador, a country with some of the most stringent abortion laws in the Western Hemisphere, where interrupting a pregnancy is illegal with absolutely no exceptions. Multiple UN agencies have condemned and recommend changes to the laws, which disproportionately affect impoverished and working class women, while wealthy women can seek reproductive care freely abroad or in private hospitals and clinics.

Between 12 and 40 years in prison. Jeezis god.

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)



Congratulations Michael

Jul 23rd, 2014 4:55 pm | By

I think you already know this news, but this is an official announcement of it, which is all the better.

CFI’s Michael De Dora Elected President of UN Religious Freedom Committee

We’re proud to announce that Michael De Dora, CFI’s director of public policy and main representative to the United Nations, has been elected to a two-year term as president of the UN’s NGO Committee on Freedom of Religion or Belief.

Michael De Dora

The Committee, working from within UN headquarters in New York City, is dedicated to defending and promoting the international agreements that protect the rights to freedom of religion or belief. As president, Michael will be responsible for organizing high-level meetings and public events with UN officials and foreign diplomats for the Committee and its members, imparting to those in positions of power the importance of the rights to freedom or religion or belief, as well as their relation to other areas of human rights, such as gender equality and LGBT rights.

“I feel extraordinarily honored to be elected to this position,” says Michael, who previously served as Committee secretary. “The rights to freedom of religion and belief are not only central to CFI’s mission, they are foundational for a flourishing global civilization. Around the world individuals are regularly persecuted for holding dissenting religious beliefs, or for having none at all. This must change, and civil society is a key to shifting the landscape. I look forward to working with officials at the United Nations and the Committee’s member organizations to advance the rights to freedom of religion and belief for all persons.”

In the coming months, Michael plans to hold events featuring the UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom or Religion or Belief, and with various ambassadors for religious freedom from governments around the world to discuss their work to protect these rights. He’ll also work to improve communication and coordination between Committee member groups in an effort to further strengthen their efforts.

“Michael has shown a tireless commitment to the freedoms of belief and expression around the world,” said Ronald A. Lindsay, president and CEO of CFI. “Leading CFI’s efforts in international policy, he’s put his passion and intelligence to work on behalf of persecuted dissenters such as Raif Badawi in Saudi Arabia, Meriam Ibrahim in Sudan, Alexander Aan in Indonesia, and many others. In electing Michael its new president, the Committee has chosen wisely.”

Past presidents of the Committee include Matt Cherry of the International Humanist and Ethical Union and Bani Dugal of the Bahá’í International Community. You can learn more about the Committee at www.unfrb.org.

Congratulations, Michael!

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The Center for Inquiry (CFI) is a nonprofit educational, advocacy, and research organization headquartered in Amherst, New York, with executive offices in Washington, D.C. It is also home to both the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry and the Council for Secular Humanism. The mission of CFI is to foster a secular society based on science, reason, freedom of inquiry, and humanist values. CFI‘s web address is www.centerforinquiry.net.

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)



The right to hire people who will uphold the ethos of the organisation

Jul 23rd, 2014 11:57 am | By

The Iona Institute is having a think about what is “discrimination” and what is “a religious exemption.” 

There are currently calls to repeal Section 37 (1) of Ireland’s Employment Equality Act: the law’s opponents argue that it allows schools, hospitals and other organisations with a religious ethos to discriminate in their hiring against those whose lifestyles run counter to that ethos. The law’s defenders (the Iona Institute among them) usually respond that protecting the religious freedom of such organisations is essential.

But it strikes me that in both these cases there could be some confusion about what is actually meant by “discrimination” and “a religious exemption” on both sides. There seem to me to be two quite different things that those words could refer to, and most discussion of the issue seems to conflate them.

The first is a right to not hire people simply because they are a particular class of person (say if they’re gay or lesbian). This seems to me to be basically unconscionable – it has no rational basis, and denies the equal dignity of every person.

But I’m not at all sure that any significant number of religious organisations in Ireland actually want that right.

What religious organisations do want protected is the right to hire people who will uphold the ethos of the organisation. This is sometimes seen as a smokescreen for the prejudice described above, but in truth it’s completely different.

Take a faith school. Such a school should ask prospective teachers of any race, gender or sexual orientation the following question: “Can you, in good conscience, support and uphold the ethos of our school, which includes upholding Catholic teaching?” If they can do so, other concerns should be irrelevant.

Tricky, isn’t it. The trouble is with the word “school” and the word “teachers.”

If what they’re talking about is a real school and real teachers, then wanting to know if prospective teachers will uphold Catholic teaching really ought to be looking for the answer “no” – but they clearly are looking for a yes rather than a no. But in a real school with real teachers, “Catholic teachings” should be beside the point altogether. “Catholic teachings” should be confined to church. Health care should be secular – not atheist, just secular – and so should education.

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)