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.


Tenth rate, is it?

Jul 4th, 2014 5:58 pm | By

By way of refreshment – a bit of John Cleese and Michael Palin attempting to argue with Malcolm Muggeridge and Mervyn Stockwood the Bishop of Southwark about the merits and blasphemous nature of The Life of Brian. Muggeridge is extraordinarily rude and unpleasant, and Stockwood carries on like a Monty Python character himself.

Michael Palin was here on a book tour about 15 years ago and he gave a talk at a bookstore, with Q&A. During the Q&A he talked about this encounter, and said that it made him uncharacteristically shirty (his word). I can see why – Muggeridge and Stockwood breezily accuse them of lying, just for one thing. They’re poisonous. Dear dear Christianity, so bad for the character.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t5gm9hoTw6Y

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



Never mind what the women think

Jul 4th, 2014 4:33 pm | By

Getting sick of Hobby Lobby? You know how it is – there are some subjects I’ll just keep poking at for days.

Marcia Greenberger, co-president of the National Women’s Law Center, has a post at Scotus blog. The NWLC filed an amicus brief in support of the government.

Taking as a given the companies’ sincere religious beliefs that certain forms of contraceptives cause abortions (even though scientifically and medically inaccurate as outlined here), the majority seriously errs by then also taking as a given the companies’ claim that the insurance requirement for their employees imposes a substantial burden.  According to the majority, the burden is substantial because the companies say it is.  The majority undertakes no legal analysis of this burden claim…

Which is the nature of religious claims, isn’t it, and part of what makes them so frustrating and so inappropriate to impose on other people. With secular claims, reasons tend to be forthcoming, and if they’re not people are mostly free to reject them. But with religion it’s just a matter of faith, so what’s the point of undertaking any kind of analysis? But that’s all the more reason not to let the claims prevail.

The majority assumes a compelling interest, thereby not addressing the importance of birth control for women’s health and the course of their life

The next major legal issue in the case also gets short shrift from the majority.  Justice Alito states that he will “assume” that the government’s interest in providing contraceptive coverage to women is compelling.  As Justice Ginsburg notes, “Perhaps the gravity of the interests at stake has led the Court to assume . . . that the compelling interest criterion is met in these cases.”

By assuming rather than addressing the compelling interest, however, the majority avoids an analysis of the impact of birth control on women’s health and lives.  It allows the majority to avoid any mention of how birth control reduces unintended pregnancy and improves women’s health and the health of any children they might have.  It allows the majority to avoid discussion of how birth control treats certain medical conditions women may have and is directly linked to women’s social and economic opportunities.  (Our brief to the Court  explains these benefits in much greater detail.)  As a result, the opinion dealt only with the perspective of the company and not the impact on women.

Because it’s a Catholic perspective and they’re all Catholics (and men) themselves? Because it’s a religious perspective, and they think religious perspectives should get extra deference? Both? Probably both.

Both Justice Alito’s decision and Justice Kennedy’s concurrence emphasize that this decision is limited in its scope, that other health care services such as immunizations or blood transfusions need not be implicated, and that other non-discrimination laws are not necessarily open to the same challenge.  It is cold comfort to women to be assured that only their right to essential contraceptive care will be undermined.  But it is also of little assurance that the majority provides such skimpy legal analysis to bolster the limited nature of its decision.  The short shrift the majority gives to the legal analysis of this assertion underscores the decision’s doctrinal weakness and makes this decision even more of a bitter pill for women to swallow.

The more I read the bitterer the pill gets.

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



Making them complicit

Jul 4th, 2014 4:09 pm | By

And of course just as everyone predicted, Hobby Lobby is only the beginning. The camel is halfway into the tent already, and there’s a whole long line of camels streaming toward the tent even now.

In a short, unsigned opinion, the court said that Wheaton College in Illinois, at least temporarily, does not have to comply even with compromise provisions in the law that the college says still violate its religious beliefs.

Justice Sonia Sotomayor said the action cast doubt on the very accommodation the court’s majority seemed to endorse Monday in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby, which concerned businesses that objected to providing birth control that offends the owners’ beliefs.

“Those who are bound by our decisions usually believe they can take us at our word,” wrote Sotomayor, who was joined by Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Elena Kagan. “Not so today.”

She said Thursday’s order “evinces disregard for even the newest of this court’s precedents and undermines confidence in this institution.”

(more…)

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



If corporations

Jul 4th, 2014 3:27 pm | By

From Mrs. Betty Bowers, America’s Best Christian.

If corporations had to tithe 10% of their income to every religion they claim to follow, they’d quickly petition the Supreme Court to stop calling them people.

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



Guest post: Wariness of making a converse error

Jul 4th, 2014 3:06 pm | By

Originally a comment by Seth on It turns out nice people are Nazis!

It’s not true, in general, that ‘nice people are Nazis’. But the converse was true; i.e., the average Nazi was a ‘nice’ and ‘good’ and ‘decent’ person, as measured by the standards of their peers. Upwards of five hundred thousand people (only half of them Germans) were involved in the Holocaust (which rendered extinct approximately twelve million people, about half of them Jewish); by far, the vast majority of these people were ‘just doing their jobs’, being nice and agreeable, attempting to make the world a better place. That was their intent (and the stated intent of every single National Socialist). That is one major reason why intent weighs very little next to consequence; sure, there’s a difference between first-degree murder and manslaughter, but that difference is much smaller than the difference between a convicted criminal and an unconvicted civilian.

Ophelia, I think your objection boils down to wariness of making a converse error; it may well be true that most moral actors are disagreeable people, but that does not logically entail that most disagreeable people are moral actors. This is basic logic, but it is beyond most people, especially those who get their news from their networks of friends and colleagues rather than checking the source material. In short, the results of this experiment may well be sound, but your own concerns are still valid–just because someone’s asocial (or mildly anti-social), it doesn’t necessarily entail that they will effect moral outcomes, even if most of those who do effect moral outcomes turn out to be asocial.

As a generally-irascible anti-authoritarian, I like to put myself in the latter camp…but such requires (at least) honest self-reflection, a working moral theory, and the ability to change one’s mind (and subsequent behaviour). Most people who subscribe to the rule ‘if people are mad, you’re doing something right!’ generally fail on these and other essential criteria, and so they generally fail to be moral actors. They do not negate the results of the experiment, but they do limit its scope, and we would be well to keep in mind the laws of logic before drawing erroneous conclusions from its results.

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



Bishops and justices working together

Jul 4th, 2014 12:00 pm | By

More brilliant commentary on Hobby Lobby, this from Leslie Griffin, who co-blogs with Marci Hamilton, under the banner

Advocating for religious liberty, women’s rights and children’s rights

By “religious liberty” they don’t mean what The Catholic Five mean.

Today, in an ironic and shrewd decision, Burwell v. Hobby Lobby, five male Catholic Supreme Court Justices aided the project of the U.S. Catholic bishops to impose their opposition to all contraception on all American women. The opinion was ironic: four Justices who previously ruled that Congress lacked the authority to pass the Affordable Care Act required the government to pay for contraceptive services. The decision was shrewd; the Justices promoted contraceptive restrictions in two cases where the plaintiffs (the Green and Hahn families) were not Catholic. Today’s plaintiffs were morally opposed to only 4 of 20 FDA-approved methods of contraception. However, Catholic and other commercial enterprises will now be able, as Justice Ginsburg pointed out in dissent, “to exclude from their group health plans all forms of contraceptives.” With the Court’s help, the bishops moved a step closer to their goal of restricting contraceptive freedom for everyone.

A big step. The bishops must have been wetting themselves with joy all week.

The bishops’ fingerprints are all over the opinion in two ways. First, the taxpayers have to pay for contraceptive insurance for employees of religious for-profits, the Court ruled, because the government had previously decided to accommodate the religious non-profits who objected to contraception. The vociferous lobbying of the American Catholic bishops was the cause of that accommodation.

Second, the Court’s analysis of the “substantial burden” prong of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) is riddled with arguments from Roman Catholic moral theology about cooperation with evil. The bishops could have written that part of the opinion themselves.

That’s all the more disgusting because the bishops are evil. The bishops want women to die rather than have a lifesaving abortion to complete a miscarriage. The bishops order Catholic hospitals and healthcare networks not to provide such abortions. They order their subordinates to commit murder by negligence. They’re evil and they claim to be better than the rest of us.

Justice Alito provided an unconvincing theological response to Ginsburg’s persuasive attenuation argument. The Greens’ and Hahns’ belief that the four contraceptives cause abortion, he wrote, “implicates a difficult and important question of religion and moral philosophy, namely, the circumstances under which it is wrong for a person to perform an act that is innocent in itself but that has the effect of enabling or facilitating the commission of an immoral act by another.” It is not for the Court, he concluded, to determine whether a burden is substantial or insubstantial; that is the moral judgment of the plaintiffs.

Interpreting statutory language like “substantial burden” is precisely what the Court is supposed to do. Instead, Alito invoked a classical Catholic analysis of the principle of cooperation with evil, even (in this case without Catholic plaintiffs) footnoting two books about Roman Catholic moral theology written in 1935 and 1949 by Jesuit priests Henry Davis and Thomas Higgins.

Cooperation with evil is it? Like…Nazism? Sadistic prisons for children of single mothers in Ireland? Sadistic prisons for children of First Nations parents in Canada?

No no no, not that kind of evil. Using contraception kind of evil.

The bishops couldn’t have done any better if they had written that part of the opinion themselves. Their anti-contraceptive theology started in 1930 and has never been updated to reflect American Catholic family and work life. Now, with the Court’s help, Catholic employers will be free to impose their morality on Catholic and non-Catholic employees alike because Justice Alito doesn’t want them to cooperate with the evil of reproductive liberty, which is supposed to be protected by the Constitution.

I’d better stop before I grind all my teeth to powder.

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



Without meaningful consideration of the impact on their employees

Jul 4th, 2014 10:02 am | By

Marci Hamilton on the Hobby Lobby ruling.

It is simply a fact that five male Catholic Supreme Court Justices have now transformed what is already a bad law into a truly dangerous one, all for the apparent purpose of undermining women’s access to contraception. Whatever the legal reasoning, the optics are very bad on this one, and whether intentionally or not, they stoke the perception that the Justices are in league with the Catholic bishops in the latter’s attempt to turn the clock back on not just Roe v. Wade but also Griswold v. Connecticut, as Leslie Griffin argues here

Oh surely not. Just because they’re all Catholic and…

…wait…

This is, in fact, a sly opinion that not only delivers free exercise rights to for-profit corporations without meaningful consideration of the impact on their employees but also renders an interpretation of key elements of RFRA that render it a mightier sword than it ever was. RFRA’s ugly underbelly and its pretense to reflect the First Amendment are now in full view. 

Emphasis added. Along with the male bias and the Catholic bias there’s perhaps also the employer class bias. Why is it employers who get to impose their religious beliefs on employees and not the other way around? Why are the employees treated as inert objects that the employers get to push around as they like?

Hamilton wryly thanks the court for being honest about its move to make RFRA even worse than it already was.

We can now rid this debate of those who keep trying to dress this RFRA wolf in sheep’s clothing with statements like, RFRA merely codified what has been “the law for 50 years.” No, this has been the law for a few years, and it has been a bad law that is driving our culture to unprecedented discord and Balkanization. The United States’ successful, long-honored balance between religious freedom and the rule of law was displaced by RFRA, which invites religious adherents to demand a right not only to believe and practice but also to impose their beliefs on others.

And who are those others? We are; all of us. We have met the others and they are us.

This decision reveals RFRA in all its subversive and ugly glory. It empowers the powerful at the expense of the vulnerable. It invites believers to impose their beliefs on others. It is a weapon.

Justice Ginsburg is correct that the majority provided a “decision of startling breadth,” possibly applying to “employers with religiously grounded objections to blood transfusions (Jehovah’s Witnesses); antidepressants (Scientologists); medications derived from pigs, including anesthesia, intravenous fluids, and pills coated with gelatin (certain Muslims, Jews, and Hindus); and vaccinations (Christian Scientists, among others).”

The tide in favor of RFRA has turned, though, with the progressive groups that supported the religious groups to obtain RFRA’s passage in the first instance awake to RFRA’s inherent dangers. It is heartening to see the likes of the ACLU and Americans United for Separation of Church and State and Planned Parenthood taking a stand against extreme religious liberty. And they are now joined by gay rights groups and children’s advocates who deeply understand the harm that can be done in the name of religion.

RFRA should be repealed before we further test the limits of the insatiable demands for religious liberty at the expense of too many others. 

Well, we can dream.

 

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



Vatican gives the nod to exorcists

Jul 4th, 2014 8:52 am | By

The Vatican bounces from triumph to triumph. While its US arm was rejoicing at the Catholic victory handed down by the Supreme Court, the head office was giving a huge boost to the people who hunt and torture “witches”.

Exorcists now have an extra weapon in their fight against evil – the official backing of the Catholic church. The Vatican has formally recognised the International Association of Exorcists, a group of 250 priests in 30 countries who liberate the faithful from demons.

Notice the wording. (That’s the Associated Press saying that, published by the Guardian.) Note the absence of scare-quotes on “evil” and “demons.”

The Vatican newspaper L’Osservatore Romano reported this week that the Vatican’s Congregation for Clergy had approved the organisation’s statutes and recognised the group under canon law.

More than his predecessors, Pope Francis speaks frequently about the devil, and last year was seen placing his hands on the head of a man supposedly possessed by four demons in what exorcists said was a prayer of liberation from Satan.

The head of the association, the Rev Francesco Bamonte, said the Vatican approval was cause for joy. “Exorcism is a form of charity that benefits those who suffer,” he told L’Osservatore.

Well at least there’s a “supposedly” and a “what exorcists said was” in there.

But the point is – the evil is actually the Vatican’s. Here’s the Vatican endorsing the idea that demons exist and that they represent evil and that they can possess people and that there are exorcists and that exorcists can do something about evil demons. Here’s the Vatican doing this in a world where there are people who torture and murder children and women (and more rarely adult men) they accuse of being witches. Here’s the Vatican encouraging that kind of belief and the actions that go with it.

If you’re looking around for evil, look at the Vatican.

 

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



Free to get threats

Jul 3rd, 2014 5:31 pm | By

Mubarak Bala is out of the psych ward he was forced into but he’s not out of danger.

A Nigerian atheist released from a psychiatric unit to which his Muslim family committed him by force has said he is getting death threats for blaspheming against Islam.

Mubarak Bala, a 29-year-old chemical process engineer, said he is in hiding in predominantly Muslim northern Nigeria where sharia law holds and some interpretations deem blasphemy punishable by death.

“People are threatening me, I mean life-threatening threats,” he said on Thursday. He said he was too frightened of drawing attention and wouldn’t allow an Associated Press video journalist or photographer to come to his hiding place.

Bala said that since he renounced Islam and declared himself an atheist, he has not only lost the trust of his father and elder brother, but many friends.

“Most of my friends condemn me and tell me I am bound for hell and that in an Islamic state, I would be killed. Blasphemy is a serious thing here,” said Bala, who describes himself on his Twitter page as an ex-Muslim.

(more…)

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



Be safe

Jul 3rd, 2014 4:44 pm | By

The Onion has 4th of July safety tips.

  • Most serious injuries happen on July 4th, so set off your explosives on the day before or the day after.

That’s the best tip; I’ll stick with that one.

 

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



It turns out nice people are Nazis!

Jul 3rd, 2014 4:33 pm | By

Just following orders. The Milgram experiment. You know the drill.

Can it be cut up into smaller pieces? Of course it can.

A new Milgram-like experiment published this month in the Journal of Personality has taken this idea to the next step by trying to understand which kinds of people are more or less willing to obey these kinds of orders. What researchers discovered was surprising: Those who are described as “agreeable, conscientious personalities” are more likely to follow orders and deliver electric shocks that they believe can harm innocent people, while “more contrarian, less agreeable personalities” are more likely to refuse to hurt others.

Ok wait. Slow down. Let’s not be in a hurry. Part of me is very apt to believe that, and not just because I’m possibly the least agreeable person on the planet, but really more because I do think a more adversarial attitude toward the given, the status quo, the conventional wisdom, the mainstream, does make people less likely to follow orders unthinkingly. Therefore I need to pause before thinking “well of course,” because it’s too…well, easy.

I’ve learned to be more suspicious than I used to be of people who fancy themselves more contrarian and less agreeable than others, because I’ve encountered so many people who fit that description who turn out to be dedicated, disciplined, hard-working assholes.

So, having said that, let’s proceed with caution.

For an eight-month period, the researchers interviewed the study participants to gauge their social personality, as well as their personal history and political leanings. When they matched this data to the participants’ behavior during the experiment, a distinct pattern emerged: People who were normally friendly followed orders because they didn’t want to upset others, while those who were described as unfriendly stuck up for themselves.

“The irony is that a personality disposition normally seen as antisocial — disagreeableness — may actually be linked to ‘pro-social’ behavior,’” writes Psychology Today’s Kenneth Worthy. “This connection seems to arise from a willingness to sacrifice one’s popularity a bit to act in a moral and just way toward other people, animals or the environment at large. Popularity, in the end, may be more a sign of social graces and perhaps a desire to fit in than any kind of moral superiority.”

No, I’m still suspicious, because again that sounds so self-flattering. “I’d better be a rude grumpy asshole, because that makes me more likely to act in a moral and just way toward other people, animals or the environment at large.” That hasn’t always been my experience, I have to say.

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



Hobby Lobby sincerely wanted to score that point

Jul 3rd, 2014 12:40 pm | By

Nick Little has a post analyzing the Hobby Lobby ruling at the CFI blog. This is good, because I was wishing I could hear from him or Eddie Tabash or both. I talked to the two of them for a few minutes at Women in Secularism and the conversation was all about SCOTUS and Hobby Lobby and Kennedy (“it’s Justice Kennedy’s world and we all live in it”). I like lawyers’ shop talk when it’s about subjects of general interest. (Patent law and the like, not so much.)

Standing

According to the majority, for-profit corporations now have religious freedom rights. Commentators have been quick to point out that Alito sought to restrict this to closely held companies (which includes some of America’s largest corporations, such as Koch Industries and Bechtel); in the opinion the only thing he says regarding publicly traded corporations is he doesn’t think they will apply for such exemptions.

Oddly enough this doesn’t fill me with a great degree of confidence. The problem is, every piece of legislative history, and there is plenty of it, makes clear that RFRA was not intended to cover for-profit corporations. But the majority decided to play its textualist reindeer games, and subvert the clear intention of Congress (the elected branch) and instead impose its own view on the country, and elevate corporations to the same level, if not higher than, real people.

Judicial activism anyone?

Sincerity of Belief

The Administration didn’t challenge Hobby Lobby here, and the government attorneys as well as the Court could not stop falling over themselves to congratulate the Greens, owners of Hobby Lobby, on their piety and devout beliefs. Well, it is time to call shenanigans on that. Hobby Lobby, as has been shown, has invested in excess of $73 million in companies that manufacture the very types of contraception the Greens claim are so offensive to them. So, in the Brave New World of corporate religious exercise rights, making money off something is just fine and dandy, but providing insurance for others to use it will damn you to hell. This belief doesn’t bear up to scrutiny, and the case should have gone no further once it was clear that Hobby Lobby’s desire here was scoring a point not defending a genuine belief.

Well look at it this way – scoring a point when the point is to say “we demand religious privilege for ourselves” represents a sincere belief, to wit the belief that people who follow the majority religion should be able to impose the strictures of that religion on everyone else.

Read the rest.

 

 

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



The court has eviscerated decades of case law

Jul 3rd, 2014 11:34 am | By

Slate has a frightening analysis of the Hobby Lobby ruling.

For the first time, the court has interpreted a federal statute, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (or RFRA), as affording more protection for religion than has ever been provided under the First Amendment. While some have read Hobby Lobby as a narrow statutory ruling, it is much more than that. The court has eviscerated decades of case law and, having done that, invites a new generation of challenges to federal laws, including those designed to protect civil rights.

To see how we got here requires some history. In the 1960s and 1970s, the Supreme Court adopted an expansive interpretation of the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment. In a pair of cases, Sherbert v. Verner (1962) and Wisconsin v. Yoder (1972), the court held that the government may not impose substantial burdens on religion unless it has a “compelling interest” and “no alternative forms of regulation” could be used to advance that interest. But in 1990, the Supreme Court repudiated this balancing test for assessing Free Exercise claims. In Employment Division v. Smith, which upheld a federal law banning the use of peyote, the court declared that generally applicable laws can incidentally burden religious practices without violating the First Amendment, and that the government does not need to provide any special justification for such laws.

(more…)

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



Sincere religious beliefs

Jul 3rd, 2014 11:14 am | By

Via WPLR New Haven:

Photo: All over America today, CEOs are looking for a religion that sees raises and vacations as sinful. Thanks Supreme Court. (wiggy)

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



Freedom of guns

Jul 3rd, 2014 10:03 am | By

Nested ironies in Georgia.

On the first day of the new Georgia Safe Carry Protection Act, a misunderstanding between two armed men in a convenience store Tuesday led to a drawn firearm and a man’s arrest.

What’s even funnier is what the misunderstanding was about.

A man carrying a holstered firearm entered the store to make a purchase. Another customer, also with a holstered firearm, approached him and demanded to see his identification and firearms license, according to the Valdosta Police Department report.
The customer making demands for ID pulled his firearm from its holster but never pointed it at the other customer, who said he was not obligated to show any permits or identification.
He demanded the man’s ID again. Undeterred by the drawn gun, the man paid for his items, left the store and called for police.

But at least everyone in the store felt much safer. Surely.

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



Ricky Gervais still bravely expressing hatred of female genitalia

Jul 3rd, 2014 9:34 am | By

Yes, still. I guess it went so well last time, with the whole “if I told Hitler ‘stop killing people you cunt’ then people would scold me for sexism” caper. This time it’s cruelty to animals instead of Hitler. It’s a public post on Facebook.

gervais

Ricky Gervais

I did a tweet once calling those who skin dogs alive, cunts and someone actually bothered to comment on my language, not the inhumane torture.

25,508 Likes  764 Shares

First comment:

And those who complained are cunts.

587 Likes

There was a little time between the screen grab and now – half an hour or so. There are now 27,882 Likes on Gervais’s post and 633 on the first comment.

Imagine if the word had been “nigger”. Would Gervais say that? If he did say it would he be getting all these Likes?

There’s just nothing hipper or funnier than vomiting on women. Nothing.

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



Feminism is not a dirty word

Jul 2nd, 2014 6:30 pm | By

Janelle Assellin on Wonder Woman and the new team writing and drawing her.

DC has a Wonder Woman problem. Or perhaps more accurately, Wonder Woman has a DC problem. The idea of Wonder Woman as a feminist icon is so imprinted in her history, and in analysis of the character, that separating her from feminism should be near impossible. But that hasn’t stopped people trying.

Much has been written over the years about the ebb and flow of feminism in the Wonder Woman comics, the relative feminism of her appearances on the small screen, and her role as an icon for the movement. A recent interview with the new Wonder Woman creative team of Meredith Finch and David Finch has brought the topic back into focus.

Why do I suddenly find myself remembering Jaclynn Glen disavowing feminism while saying feminist things?

It’s great to see DC hiring a woman to write Wonder Woman, and it’s impossible to guess how she’ll do on the book until it begins in November. David Finch’s art has a bombastic Liefeldian pin-up quality to it that is a severe contrast to Chiang, who drew Wonder Woman as strong, realistic, and sexy — but not sexualized. The real problem, however, stems from this exchange from a CBR interview:

Is there a favorite part of the mythology you’re getting to play with in your first couple of issues or any part you’re really excited to touch on with this book?

Meredith: For me, it’s just being able to write Wonder Woman. She’s really a female icon from way back in the ’70s when females were stepping up and taking such powerful roles. Being able to take on that quintessential female superhero who represents so much for myself and for millions of people out there — especially at a time where comics are coming more into the mainstream — I feel like it’s really special, and that’s really where I’m coming from when I’m writing this. I want to always keep who she is and what I believe her core is central to what I’m doing.

David: And for my part, I’m excited to be drawing Meredith’s story and to be drawing such an icon. That’s something — since I’ve been at DC, it’s been an incredible privilege to be able to draw characters like Batman, and to the limited degree I’ve had, to draw Superman, and now to get into Wonder Woman. I think she’s a beautiful, strong character. Really, from where I come from, and we’ve talked about this a lot, we want to make sure it’s a book that treats her as a human being first and foremost, but is also respectful of the fact that she represents something more. We want her to be a strong — I don’t want to say feminist, but a strong character. Beautiful, but strong.

Feminism is not a dirty word.

I’ll say it again, because it comes up a lot. Feminism is not a dirty word. There has been a decades-long political and cultural effort to confuse and undermine the meaning of the word — and it’s a bad look for anyone associated with Wonder Woman to fall victim to it — but the word’s meaning nevertheless remains the same: women should enjoy social, political and economic rights and privileges equal to those of men.

Well sure but – don’t be a feminist about it.

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



Certificates of exemption

Jul 2nd, 2014 5:40 pm | By

Sarah Posner reported on this back in August 2012.

Rcent disclosures by the Department of Justice reveal that the Obama administration has continued a policy, first put in place by the Office of Legal Counsel in the Bush Justice Department, of granting faith-based recipients of taxpayer dollars certificates of exemption from federal laws prohibiting religious discrimination in employment by such organizations receiving federal funds.  

A very good book about the Bush-era origins of this is Kingdom Coming by Michelle Goldberg.

Since President Barack Obama launched his Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships shortly after taking office in 2009, the Coalition Against Religious Discrimination (CARD) has been assiduously asking the administration a simple question: why are faith-based organizations that receive taxpayer money permitted to discriminate based on religion in hiring, and under what circumstances? For over three years, CARD members have remained frustrated not only with the refusal to change the policy, but the administration’s unwillingness to explain exactly how the policy is being implemented. Last year, at a townhall at the University of Maryland, Obama himself would not explain the policy, saying only, “I think that the balance we tried to strike is to say that if you have set up a nonprofit that is disassociated from your core religious functions and is out there in the public doing all kinds of work, you have to abide generally with the nondiscrimination hiring practices. On the other hand, if it’s closer to your core functions… then you might have more leeway to hire someone who is of that religious faith. [...] I think we’ve struck the right balance so far.”

Late last year, CARD sent requests, “simple questions” about the policy, said Dena Sher, Legislative Counsel at the ACLU’s Washington Legislative Office, to the faith-based offices housed in a dozen federal agencies. CARD received no response, and no acknowledgment of follow-up meeting requests, she said.

Under questioning by members of the House Judiciary Committee, however, the Justice Department has been pushed to be more forthcoming, and what “case-by-case” means is becoming a little clearer. Although Attorney General Eric Holder attempted to dodge the question in a 2011 House Judiciary Committee hearing, in response to written questions from Rep. Bobby Scott (D-VA), DOJ admitted in June 2012 that the Department grants faith-based grantees certificates of exemption from laws prohibiting religious discrimination. The sole legal authority for these exemptions lies in a 2007 Office of Legal Counsel memo [.pdf] written by Bush administration lawyers, concluding that the Religious Freedom Restoration Act “protects this right to prefer co-religionists for employees even if the statute that authorizes the funding program generally forbids consideration of religion in employment decisions by grantees.”

See that? RFRA again. What a mistake that law was.

Although it was unclear at the time exactly how the Obama administration was implementing the Bush OLC memo, in 2009, CARD asked the Department of Justice to revisit the memo’s legal conclusions, on the grounds that it “wrongly asserts that RFRA is ‘reasonably construed’ to require that a federal agency categorically exempt a religious organization from an explicit federal nondiscrimination provision tied to a grant program.” The Los Angeles Times editorialized that “both the 1st Amendment and a reasonable reading of federal law require a reversal of the Bush policy.” The New York Times, also in an editorial, said the memo was “based on a far-fetched interpretation of the 1993 Religious Freedom Restoration Act.” In a 2010 letter, CARD charged that continued reliance on the 2007 OLC memo “threatens core civil rights and religious freedom protections” and that the administration’s vague case-by-case approach “raises the problem of religious selectivity and provides scant opportunity for transparency or accountability. Following this approach indefinitely while leaving the Bush-era rules in place forestalls a critical opportunity for prophylactic guidance and presidential leadership against employment discrimination within federally-funded social welfare projects by faith-based grant recipients.” But DOJ has declined to revisit the memo. Although it has made clear it is leaving the memo’s legal reasoning in place, until the June 2012 written responses to the Judiciary Committee, DOJ has not explained how the “case-by-case” review was actually being implemented, or admitted that it was continuing the Bush procedure of granting the certificates of exemption.

This is why we can’t have separation of church and state.

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



Obama’s homophobic “spiritual counselor”

Jul 2nd, 2014 5:02 pm | By

The Washington Post reports on That Letter. (Yes I’m going to run this to death. You bet I am. Those smug sanctimonious pieces of shit – we need to push back.)

Fourteen prominent faith leaders — including some of President Obama’s closest advisers — want the White House to create a religious exemption from his planned executive order banning federal contractors from discriminating against gays and lesbians in hiring.

A letter to the White House, sent Tuesday and made public Wednesday, includes the signatures of Michael Wear, faith director for Obama’s 2012 campaign; Stephen Schneck, a leader of Catholic outreach in 2012; and Florida megapastor Joel Hunter, whom Obama has described as a close spiritual counselor.

Obama calls a guy who makes a big point of his need to discriminate against people because sexual orientation “a close spiritual counselor.” Well shame on you then, Mr Obama.

The letter reminds Obama of his own earlier faith-based opposition to same-sex marriage, as well as the government’s massive partnerships with faith-based social service groups that work on issues including housing, disaster relief and hunger.

“While the nation has undergone incredible social and legal change over the last decade, we still live in a nation with different beliefs about sexuality. We must find a way to respect diversity of opinion,” said the letter.

But this isn’t about diversity of opinion, it’s about action. The “faith leaders” want to do things to people. There’s no good reason to do that because of beliefs about sexuality. None.

“An executive order that does not include a religious exemption will significantly and substantively hamper the work of some religious organizations that are best equipped to serve in common purpose with the federal government.,” it said. “When the capacity of religious organizations is limited, the common good suffers.”

Horse shit. There’s no reason a ban on discrimination “will significantly and substantively hamper the work” unless the faith-based bigots allow it to by sulking and pouting and slamming doors.

According to the Human Rights Campaign, a gay equality advocacy group, nearly 90 percent of the Fortune 500 already ban discrimination based on sexual orientation. And while many see full gay legal equality as a foregone conclusion, this week’s decision at the Supreme Court — saying corporations may claim religious rights in denying workers contraception coverage — shows that legal tensions between religious liberty and rights around sexuality and reproduction are far from resolved.

This is such a primitive, backward country. It’s embarrassing.

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



From the Department of Obfuscation

Jul 2nd, 2014 3:49 pm | By

The letter from the “faith leaders” to Obama is full of the usual oily empty bafflegab to dress up the fact that they’re asking him to let them discriminate against a set of people for no good reason.

Americans have always disagreed on important issues, but our ability to live with our diversity is part of what makes this country great, and it continues to be essential even in this 21st century. This ability is essential in light of our national conversation on political and cultural issues related to sexuality. We have and will continue to communicate on these broader issues to our congregations, our policymakers and our nation, but we focus here on the importance of a religious exemption in your planned executive order disqualifying organizations that do not hire LGBT Americans from receiving federal contracts. This religious exemption would be comparable to what was included in the Senate version of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, which passed the Senate with a strong, bipartisan vote.

Without a robust religious exemption, like the provisions in the Senate-passed ENDA, this expansion of hiring rights will come at an unreasonable cost to the common good,national unity and religious freedom.

When you announced the White House Office of Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships, you said the following:

… the particular faith that motivates each of us can promote a greater good for all of us. Instead of driving us apart, our varied beliefs can bring us together to feed the hungry and comfort the afflicted; to make peace where there is strife and rebuild what has broken; to lift up those who have fallen on hard times.

We could not agree with you more. Our identity as individuals is based first and foremost in our faith, and religious beliefs are at the foundation of some of America’s greatest charities and service organizations that do incredible good for our nation and for the world. In fact, serving the common good is one of the highest expressions of one’s religious liberty outside of worship. The hiring policies of these organizations— Christians, Jewish, Muslim and others—extend from their religious beliefs and values:the same values that motivate them to serve their neighbors in the first place.Often, in American history–and, indeed, in partnership with your Administration–government and religious organizations have worked together to better serve the nation.An executive order that does not include a religious exemption will significantly andsubstantively hamper the work of some religious organizations that are best equipped toserve in common purpose with the federal government. In a concrete way, religious organizations will lose financial funding that allows them to serve others in the national interest due to their organizational identity. When the capacity of religious organizationsis limited, the common good suffers.

(more…)

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