Notes and Comment Blog

Scalia in the wilderness

Jun 15th, 2014 11:39 am | By

Dahlia Lithwick considers the question of why it’s taboo to discuss whether or not Supreme Court Justices’ rulings and views are shaped by their religions.

In a country historically averse to political debates about competing faiths, nowhere is frank discussion of religion more taboo than at the U.S. Supreme Court. “Religion is the third rail of Supreme Court politics. It’s not something that’s talked about in polite company,” as Jeff Shesol, the author of a book about the New Deal Court, put it. He was speaking with NPR’s Nina Totenberg in 2010, when John Paul Stevens was looking at retirement and, for the first time in American history, there was the prospect of six Catholics, three Jews, and no Protestants on the highest court in the land—a watershed almost too “radioactive,” Totenberg remarked, even to note. And beware of venturing any further than that, as the University of Chicago Law School’s Geoffrey Stone did in a controversial 2007 blog post suggesting that the Supreme Court’s five conservatives likely derived their abortion views from Catholic doctrine: Scalia—a devout Catholic, and the current Court’s longest-serving conservative—announced a boycott of the school until Stone leaves the faculty.

That is both totally unreasonable, and dangerous. Scalia is a dogmatic Catholic, so why would that fact not influence his views on abortion? What is he, magic? If we can’t even discuss the issue, how can justices be confirmed or rejected on reasonable grounds?

The problem of engaging religion openly at the high court extends beyond the unspoken agreement not to talk about the justices’ religions. The Court itself has opted not to probe the intensity or validity of a plaintiff’s religious conviction, in part thanks to Scalia’s reasoning. Get too deep into second-guessing matters of spiritual belief, he noted in his landmark 1990 opinion denying peyote-using Native Americans an exemption from everyday drug laws, and there’s no getting out: “What principle of law or logic can be brought to bear to contradict a believer’s assertion that a particular act is ‘central’ to his personal faith?” Neutral laws must hold sway, or every religious objector becomes, in Scalia’s words, “a law unto himself.”

So then there was the Hobby Lobby case, when nobody questioned the religious beliefs that were in play.

Certainly the justices on the left wing of the Court and the Obama administration didn’t: whatever science, medical consensus, or neutral law may say on the subject of abortion-causing drugs and devices, the government wasn’t about to challenge Hobby Lobby’s belief that particular forms of birth control cause abortions (or to note that the business, even if inadvertently, once covered the same contraceptive methods its owners abhor). Nor was Scalia, who this time—in a dramatic about-face from his 1990 position—clearly supported the religious objectors. In fact, in the course of grilling the lawyers, he blurted out what sounded like agreement with the plaintiffs’ claims that these items were abortifacients. The spectacle was enough to make one wonder, quietly: Peyote didn’t sway him, but what about his own brand of piety?

So a new biography of Scalia by Bruce Allen Murphy is helpful because Murphy doesn’t shrink from probing that issue.

Murphy does not shrink from adjudicating Scalia’s dueling public claims: that separating faith from public life is impossible and, at the same time, that he himself has done just that on the Court. Murphy’s conclusion—at once obvious and subversive—is that Justice Scalia is very much the product of his deeply held Catholic faith. The pristine border between faith and jurisprudence is largely myth and aspiration.

Or just plain self-serving bullshit? That’s my suspicion anyway.

Scalia claims that his originalist methodology insulates him from letting his religion influence his rulings. It’s just the words on the page, folks. Murphy doesn’t buy it.

Murphy carefully lays out the flaws in Scalia’s claim that simply channeling history is a neutral enterprise. Scalia vaunts his departures from Church doctrine, as evidenced, for instance, in a 2002 vote in favor of capital punishment—a stand at odds with Pope John Paul II’s opposition to the death penalty in “Evangelium Vitae.” Writing in the journal First Things, Scalia cited that position as proof that legal rules alone guide him. Yet what really goaded him, Murphy persuasively argues, was that the pope shifted his position on capital punishment, just as proponents of living constitutionalism have done at the Supreme Court. This is not, in Murphy’s view, a value-neutral position. Whether Scalia acknowledges it publicly or not, he is channeling a fundamentalist reading of the Bible—Leviticus in particular.

He’s isolated himself on the Court as a result, becoming a Jeremiah “hollering alone in the wilderness.”

Yet perhaps Murphy misses the moral of his own story. Scalia is in fact leaving a very powerful mark, as precisely the lone, uncompromising figure his latest biographer portrays so astutely. The Hobby Lobby case serves as a reminder of a profound shift on the Court over the 24 years since Scalia evoked the specter of the religious objector as “a law unto himself.” That may have been his nightmare in 1990, but in so many ways it is Scalia’s legacy in 2014. Scalia represents the living embodiment of the besieged religious dissenter, the “Christian as cretin,” in his parlance, the man who believes that the only remaining front in the American war for civil rights is the battle to defend religion. Two decades ago, nobody could have imagined that five members of the Court would align themselves with that posture.

But in the years since Samuel Alito joined the Court in 2006, replacing the centrist Sandra Day O’Connor, the five conservatives on the bench have shown less and less solicitude for the rights of women, workers, voters, minorities, the elderly, the environment, the poor, and most criminal defendants—and they have shown growing and seemingly boundless patience for religious objectors. The Court is currently hearing, and will continue to hear, passionate challenges to a secular society from religious dissenters seeking not just the right to deny contraception to their workers, but the right to pray at town-council meetings and—somewhere down the line, it seems likely—the right to deny services to same-sex couples. Murphy may be correct that Scalia is a court of one. But in the religious-rights revival now in progress in America, one is perhaps all that is needed.

Gruseome, isn’t it.

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

Guest post by Bruce Everett: Ideology is not just for other people

Jun 15th, 2014 11:09 am | By

Dear “non political” people, entering into the lobbying arena to advocate for “non-ideological” policies,

When complaining that people only disagree with you because of their own “political ideology”; it’d be good if you could at least grasp the existence of the horizon of your spectacularly large bias blind spots. (Also, if you could ditch the vanity, which you also seem to have a problem with, that’d be great, thanks).

Just because you can’t spot a number of the inferred values, unspoken assumptions, knowledge gaps, political preferences and statistical biases presented by your lobbying actions, doesn’t mean they aren’t out there in the open for everyone else to see and/or discuss.

And pretending that your interlocutors are trying to put their “sacred cows” out of range of criticism, when they shift the focus to parts of your arguments that you aren’t addressing; please cut that shit out. Your interlocutors don’t want to talk about those “sacred cows” because they aren’t relevant in the context of the discussion they want to have, nor in the context of any discussion they may ever be interested in. We’re not dealing with “sacred cows”, we’re dealing with red herrings; your red herrings.

What is relevant, is dependent upon what it is exactly that is being discussed, and raises the question of who in a democracy, decides upon what is being discussed.

Here’s the kicker. When you get involved in lobbying government, your campaign and your organisation, and anything anyone can find out about it, are all topics of discussion for the public. The people you’re whining about, those with the “sacred cows” who are “silencing” you with mere criticism; they often don’t have the platform that you do – they don’t place their interests out there for the public the way that lobbyists do, because they can’t.

Instead, their interests are usually expressed in the smaller, more personal spaces that rightfully, they hold greater sway over, either by way of rights to privacy, or editorial control, or other equivalents. They decide in their personal space, what gets discussed, and hence ultimately, what is relevant in that setting.

You aren’t the editor of their blogs. You don’t get to demand what gets discussed in their personal, non-lobbyist space; it is their right to set the context of their own discussions, and it’s not your entitlement to expect otherwise.

They aren’t loyal foot-soldiers for self-appointed “thought leaders”; they are citizens.

Conversely, when you lobby governments, the public gets to take their interests, and their contexts, to the table, to discuss your “non-politics” accordingly – all without ceding control to you if they’re not using your political organs. That’s part and parcel of the business of lobbying in a democracy, irrespective of whether or not you are in fact, “non political”.

Yes, discursively this is one sided. You know what else is one-sided? The disparity in resources behind lobbyists and bloggers. Suck it up, lobbyists.

There are only a few ways, generally, that a lobbyist can act in this situation, and each carries its own set of implications.

Being a professor does not make you an elitist, and it never has. Lobbying without accountability, while expecting bloggers, journalists and private citizens to be just as, if not more open to being persuaded about what’s up for debate, does.

You can go down this road, but people rightly get to call you an elitist for doing so, and your complaints about this can be reasonably laughed at. In this case, you’re comedy material. Learn to live with it.

Alternatively, if you don’t like the realities of lobbying in a democracy (and I’ve noticed that you like calling yourself democratic), you can always go back to the academy where you rightly have a captive audience; your students. The electorate should value insight and intelligence, but the electorate is not, nor are its journalists, bloggers or activists, a captive audience.

Nor is the electorate your classroom, nor is it something that should remain passive when you use substantial lobbying influence to seek something from government.

If you don’t understand how your lobbying fits into a democracy, irrespective of what tack you take, you’re incompetent as a lobbyist, and quite possibly as a public intellectual as well. This in addition to potentially being an elitist jerk.

With all due respect,


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


Jun 14th, 2014 5:07 pm | By

This one is even worse. Again: warning. The cough goes on and on and on and on and she cannot get her breath.

I’ve done that gasp a few times as an adult, just from a regular cough with a cold – that dragging thing where you desperately try to haul in the air by force, and you make that sound. It’s awful. A tiny child doing it all day every day for months…deargod.

Updating to add: she’s fine now. She’d had all her shots, but got it anyway – but probably a milder dose. (That’s a milder dose? Oy.)

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

What whooping cough looks like

Jun 14th, 2014 4:46 pm | By

Warning: hard to take.

Nevertheless should be widely shown so that people will know THEY NEED TO GET THEIR CHILDREN  VACCINATED.

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

No minors or pregnant women

Jun 14th, 2014 3:41 pm | By

Wait wait, before you buy tickets for Braco in New York, I missed something I should have warned you about.


Please note for ALL GAZING EVENTS: Must be 18 years of age or over to attend and pregnant women are not allowed to attend after their third month of pregnancy due to the intensity of the experience for some. People with illnesses are advised to follow the recommendation of their doctor before and after attending a gazing session.

It is recommended to bring a photo of your child or a person needing help who cannot attend, as this method has been proven to be equally effective and the most balanced way for some to receive help who cannot attend.

Pregnant women might find themselves giving birth to an angel, or Gandhi, or a wreath of flowers, or some other terribly embarrassing and inconvenient thing.

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

Amazing transformations happen

Jun 14th, 2014 3:05 pm | By

Thanks to Josh, who was invited to partake and will not be taking up the invitation, I have learned about a person called Braco, who gazes. Braco’s gaze is said to do magical things.

Braco’s gaze touches his visitors with peace, silence and hope. Amazing transformations happen, and many find new power, vitality and a zest for life resulting from their experience. Braco does not teach, talk or diagnose to give treatments—he simply gazes in silence and offers his gift to visitors—independent from religion, ideology, race, color and culture.

Cool gig, don’t you think? He does nothing – he teaches not, neither does he talk, and he doesn’t diagnose either. I conclude he also doesn’t dance, or turn somersaults, or pivot on his thumb, or do contortionist moves like lifting his feet over his head and then walking on them. I deduce he doesn’t whistle, or sing, or read poetry, or whip up a nice poulet basquaise, or ice skate, or watch tv while you watch him watching tv. He just gazes.

And apparently people give him money to do that!

Watch out though. Be careful. There’s a warning on his website.

Warning: Fraud by Braco Impersonators

It has recently come to our attention that somebody created a Braco Facebook Page, pretending to be Braco himself and contacted people. Please know that Braco never personally contacts people or communicates with people directly. He does not give any interviews and he does not speak in public.

Omigod someone is fraudulently pretending to be Braco and perhaps fraudulently gazing at people!

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

The bishops renewed their obsessions

Jun 14th, 2014 11:50 am | By

The AP reported the other day on the meeting of the US Conference of Catholic bishops.

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — The nation’s Roman Catholic bishops meeting Wednesday renewed their focus on abortion and gay marriage under Pope Francis.

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops voted to make only limited revisions to a guide they publish every presidential election year on church teaching, voting and public policy. The bishops also reaffirmed their fight for broader religious exemptions to laws recognizing gay marriage and a requirement in the Affordable Care Act that employers provide health insurance covering birth control.

That’s what they do. That’s what they’re preoccupied with. That’s what they care about. That’s their raison d’être. Not love, not compassion, not making a better world – just peering at people’s sex lives and doing their best to control them and fuck them up. They fuck you up, your Catholic bishops.

Francis has said the church has been alienating Catholics by focusing more on divisive social issues than on mercy and compassion.

The bishops’ document on political responsibility, titled “Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship,” has been published every four years since 1976, and has become a point of contention within the church over which issues voters should consider most important: abortion or social justice. The bishops voted Wednesday to incorporate Francis’ teachings into the document, but rejected a complete rewrite in favor of limited changes instead.

“The question of abortion will remain as very important,” said Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston, Texas, after the vote at the national assembly in New Orleans. “There are pillars to the house and it is one of the pillars.”

Says a high official of the institution that for decades tortured children and let them die of neglect and worse.

The bishops also voted to renew their committee on religious liberty, which has led their campaign for broader protection for religious charities and for individual business owners with religious objections to birth control, same-sex marriage and other issues.

It’s not “religious liberty” – it’s religious control and domination for them, at the expense of everyone who has no desire to be controlled and dominated by the Catholic church. What about our religious liberty, eh? That should include liberty from the control and domination of Catholic bishops.


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

Pope says have children, dammit

Jun 14th, 2014 11:18 am | By

RNS reports via the Washington Post -

VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis on Monday (June 2) warned married couples against substituting cats and dogs for children — a move that he said leads to the “bitterness of loneliness” in old age.

Fraaaaaaaaaaaaaanciiiiiiiiiiiis – aren’t you forgetting something? You’re substituting a bunch of celibate priests for children, so who are you to tell other people to have children instead of dogs?!

Also, it’s none of your business. It wouldn’t be any of your business even if you had 18 children, which for all I know you do, given the funny ways of your funny church. It’s none of your business; your church doesn’t get to tell us what to do any more. Even Catholics don’t have to obey you; you can’t burn them for disobeying any more. You should mind your own business.

He was blessing some married couples in the Vatican chapel next to his bedsitter.

But he went a step further and strongly criticized those couples who choose not to have children, saying they had been influenced by a culture of “well-being” that says life is better without kids.

“You can go explore the world, go on holiday, you can have a villa in the countryside, you can be carefree,” the pope said.

“It might be better — more comfortable — to have a dog, two cats, and the love goes to the two cats and the dog. Is this true or not? Have you seen it?

“Then, in the end this marriage comes to old age in solitude, with the bitterness of loneliness.”

Or not, and also, having children is not automatically a hedge against loneliness or solitude in old age. Also, as I mentioned, you don’t (at least officially) have any yourself, and that’s the policy and indeed the rule of your horrible tyrannical church, so shut up.

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

Vaccination history lesson

Jun 14th, 2014 10:32 am | By

You know who developed the whooping cough vaccine? No neither did I until I looked it up. Pearl Kendrick.

In 1893, when Pearl Kendrick was a three-year-old growing up in Wheaton, Illinois, she was struck with a case of whooping cough – known as pertussis to scientists, named after the bacteria (Bordetella pertussis) that causes it. Four and one-half decades later she would have her revenge, developing the first effective vaccine to combat the ravenous disease.

Measles, scarlet fever, tuberculosis, diphtheria, polio… These are all dreadful diseases, but none claimed as many young lives in the United States in the 1920s as whooping cough.

At its height, whooping cough claimed over 6,000 lives each year in the United States. Remarkably, during the 1940s, it was responsible for the deaths of more infants than polio, measles, tuberculosis, and all other childhood diseases combined. Chicago officials were so alarmed they required infected children, following a two-week quarantine period, to be accompanied by an attendant and to wear a yellow armband with the words “Whooping Cough” written in large black letters on it.

Kendrick got a PhD in microbiology at Johns Hopkins and developed an effective vaccine.

And guess what else.

In 1936, in desperate need of additional funds to continue her work, Kendrick invited First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt to spend the day at her laboratory. Mrs. Roosevelt may have found a kindred spirit in Kendrick, as the First Lady had begun to investigate the practice of using orphans in vaccine research. This practice appalled Kendrick, and she instead used the strong ties she built with the residents of Grand Rapids to find willing volunteers for her research. Mrs. Roosevelt spent a full thirteen hours with Kendrick that day – she later helped find the funding to add several workers to Kendrick’s staff.

No using orphans in vaccine research! Recruit willing volunteers instead!

This allowed Kendrick and Eldering to continue a large-scale trial they had begun in 1934, which eventually involved over 5,800 children. The results were stellar, with the children who received the active vaccine demonstrating a strong immunity. Kendrick also settled the issue of quarantine times, which were being hotly debated, with some isolation periods being as short as two weeks. Her research revealed children were infectious through three weeks but, after five weeks, over 90 percent were non-contagious. Michigan adopted her standard and set a 35 day quarantine.

By 1943, Kendrick’s and Eldering’s vaccine was in routine use throughout the United States, and by the early 1960s the rate of incidence of whooping cough had plummeted to less than 5 percent of the 1934 rate. In 1942, motivated by their concern of “lessening discomfort of the child,” Kendrick and Eldering combined three vaccines into a single shot, the Diphtheria, Pertussis, and Tetanus (DPT) vaccine which became the standard vaccine nationwide.

So that’s Pearl Kendrick.

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

Rushing backward

Jun 14th, 2014 9:59 am | By

California is being hit with a massive epidemic of whooping cough. Of whooping cough – one of those diseases for which there’s been an effective vaccine for more than 70 years.

California is being hit hard with a whooping cough epidemic, according to the state’s public health department, with 800 cases reported in the past two weeks alone.

The agency says that there were 3,458 whooping cough cases reported between January 1 and June 10, well ahead of the number of cases reported for all of 2013.

This is a problem of “epidemic proportions,” the department said. And the number of actual cases may be even higher, because past studies have shown that for every case of whooping cough that is reported, there are 10 more that are not officially counted.

Nice job, anti-vaxxers.

California has historically had higher vaccination rates than other states, but a recent study found large clusters of parents who did not vaccinate their children close to areas with a large number of whooping cough cases during the 2010 California outbreak.

The current outbreak is too new for scientists to know if there is a similar pattern.

Whooping cough cases have spread rapidly in the United States this year, with a 24% increase nationally in the number of cases, compared to January through April of last year, according to the CDC.

Other states are reporting similar problems. The Mobile County Health Department in Alabama, for example, recently noted an “alarming” rise of cases locally, with 18 cases in May and June. That’s more than all the reported cases in Mobile for 2013, health officials say.

Herd immunity? What’s that?

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

Harness an atomic rocket to it

Jun 14th, 2014 9:37 am | By

Rachel Holmes in the Guardian names 10 feminist classics. In her introduction to the list she makes the important point that feminism is far from new or exclusively modern.

Gender-based inequality remains the greatest global injustice and the struggle against it spans millennia and continents. These books make us more impatient for change, but they may also be turned to in dark hours when it feels change might never come. Feminism is no impulse or outcome of modernity. As these books show, it has been around for centuries. We don’t need to re-invent the wheel, or number what “wave” we are now riding; we need to harness an atomic rocket to it.

Yes to that.

The list itself is woefully deficient because it doesn’t include Does God Hate Women?

Kidding, kidding.

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

Guest post: on “meeting their needs”

Jun 13th, 2014 6:12 pm | By

Originally a comment by Robert Smythson on Meeting the needs.

“At the end of the day we have a school that has 90 to 95% Muslim children, we meet their needs”.

This statement is really the key to the whole issue. I’ve lurked here for a fair old time, but I hope I might be able to contribute something, having taught workshops at one of the “Trojan horse” schools in Birmingham.

I found that in a nominally secular school where the majority of pupils are Muslim, the efforts made to “meet their needs” created a culture which accepts these “needs” as normal and this had conspicuous effects on the relationship between male and female pupils. When we “meet the needs” of children who have been brought up to believe that it is normal that man have hegemony over women, then we simply allow them to act out their poisonous beliefs.

The boys did not mix with the girls, though there was no segregation practiced by the staff.

The boys paid no attention to the female staff.

The girls only talked amongst themselves.

The girls would not proffer answers to questions.

The boys regulated the girls’ behaviour by shouting them down.

Allegedly there was a problem with girls disappearing at “marriageable” age.

If you accommodate the hijab in such a school, then it becomes abnormal not to wear it if you are a Muslim girl.

It doesn’t even take a great uniformity of belief amongst the pupils; just that enough over-indulged boys are allowed to set the tone and cow the rest into living their way. The girls are silent on the matter, so who knows or cares what they think. The children operated in their own, self imposed, self policed culture. No outside pressure from islamists is needed (and may indeed be fictitious). They have been raised to believe this is the way things should be; and have never been challenged by staff who attempt in good faith to accept and accommodate their needs.
I’d be very reluctant to blame the staff for this. They work in an extremely difficult environment and struggle generally heroically against a tide of low expectation, little support, inadequate facilities and insufficient money. I can’t imagine any of them would feel it was their place to tell the assembled school that most of their deeply held beliefs were both crazy and wrong.
(Hence, actually, the conflicting narratives from staff and the government can be resolved by realising that even if the staff were doing great things in terms of raising attainment, this doesn’t mean that they aren’t operating in a culture in which the nastier elements of conservative religion thrive.)
If you think this is only Muslim problem: look to the revelations about faith-based institutions in Ireland. This can happen anywhere the most misogynistic elements of religion are allowed to go unchallenged – they become normal.

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

The view when you face the other way

Jun 13th, 2014 5:51 pm | By

Bess’s house. You can see her name at the top.

You have to click on it to get the real effect of course.

Hardwick2Credit GoogleEarth

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

When criminals arrest innocent citizens

Jun 13th, 2014 4:24 pm | By

Al-Shabab is busy making Somalia a better place by stuffing women into heavy black bags in a hot climate.

Somalia’s al-Shabab militants have rounded up around 100 women and ordered them to comply with a strict Islamic dress code or risk being whipped.

The women were arrested in Buale, about 300km (185 miles) south-west of the capital, Mogadishu.

“Arrested” is a funny word for it. The women didn’t do anything wrong, and Al-Shabab are criminals. Al-Shabab didn’t arrest the women, it unlawfully grabbed them.

The women were arrested in the market, taken away and warned before being released.

Because it was their first offence, they were not punished but they could be whipped in public if caught again.

It wasn’t an offence at all. The offence was grabbing these women and threatening them with violence. It’s strange how easily the BBC falls into language that normalizes the outrageous criminal violence of Al-Shabab and denormalizes the perfectly ordinary act of not wearing “Islamic” clothes.

Our analyst says the temperature can reach 35C (95F) at this time of year and so many women preferred to wear lighter, traditional clothes than those approved by al-Shabab.

The women were told to wear a niqab, which covers all of their body and face, leaving just a small slit for their eyes.

Imagine how suffocating that must be. I wear a lightweight cloth hat on sunny days but I yank it off whenever I’m in the shade even for a few seconds, because it’s hot – in Seattle in the 70s, not in the Somali desert in the 90s. I shudder to think what a niqab would feel like.

A UN-backed government, aided by African Union forces, has pushed al-Shabab out of the country’s main cities but it continues to stage deadly attacks there.

And to persecute people, especially women.

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

More glass than wall

Jun 13th, 2014 3:32 pm | By

An imaginary walk, via GoogleEarth.


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

Meeting the needs

Jun 13th, 2014 3:11 pm | By

The Guardian reports on two schools in Bradford “under suspicion for practices similar to those seen in Birmingham during the Trojan horse investigation.”

The BBC reported that the previous headteacher of Carlton Bolling college, a state secondary resigned in 2012 after disagreements with the school’s governors, while minutes of governors’ meetings suggest that efforts were made to segregate boys and girls in sex and relationship education classes and in after-school activities.

The head, Chris Robinson, resigned because she felt her integrity and leadership were being questioned by governors, according to documents seen by the BBC.

Faisal Khan, the chair of governors at Carlton Bolling, denied the allegations and said the governors’ aim was to improve academic standards and meet the needs of the local community.

“At the end of the day we have a school that has 90 to 95% Muslim children, we meet their needs – whether it is halal food, whether it is prayer within school [or] wearing the hijab,” he told the BBC.

Wearing the hijab? What would a school need to do to “meet the needs” of girls wearing the hijab? I wonder if that’s really what he means, or if he means the needs of parents who want to enforce wearing the hijab on daughters who don’t want to. The two are quite different.

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

The pontifical secret

Jun 13th, 2014 2:38 pm | By

Richard Ackland explains about canon law in the Sydney Morning Herald. Why is the story always the same, always a matter of “protection of clergy against whom allegations of paedophilia have been made and giving victims the most incredible run-around”?

Why has the church taken that course of action instead of expelling these creepy “groomers and touchers” and sending them off to the police with a file note listing all the complaints against them?

It is puzzling, until you read Kieran Tapsell’s just published book, Potiphar’s Wife.

Tapsell is a retired Sydney lawyer who also studied for the priesthood, with canon law as his special interest – and it is here that he locates the problem.

You have to go back to the book of Genesis to work out who Potiphar and his wife were. Mrs Potiphar must have been the first recorded person to have accused her victim of rape, after unsuccessfully trying to seduce him.

Or perhaps she is in one of the first stories – told by men – of women who accuse their victims of rape after trying to seduce them. It’s a popular story. Gee I wonder why that might be.

Anyway. The church used to kick rapey priests out and hand them over to the state for punishment.

It was not until 1904 that Pope Pius X created a commission with the job of unifying the canon law code and tossing out unwanted bits. One of the discarded decrees was the one requiring priests who abused children to be sacked and prosecuted.

In 1922, Pope Pius XI issued Crimen Sollicitationis, which imposed the secret of the holy office. Priests who were meddlesome in the worst ways imaginable were to be kept under wraps.

This was subsequently confirmed in 1962. In 1974 the “secret of the holy office” was rebadged as the “pontifical secret”.

It was confirmed again in 2001 by Pope John Paul II. Later Benedict XVI (the German pope) conveniently declared the secrecy provisions extended to allegations of priests having sex with intellectually disabled people.

It must be so convenient to be able to pass your own laws that are the opposite of the real laws, and be able to follow your special laws instead of the real laws, and get away with it.

The response of the Vatican to the report of the Irish commission of investigation into priestly abuse of children, headed by Judge Yvonne Murphy, was instructive.

Benedict XVI had given the Dublin report “careful study” and was “deeply disturbed” by its contents.

Three months later, the Pope released a pastoral letter in which he laid the blame at the feet of the Irish bishops for not applying “the long established norms of canon law”.

Yet it was those very norms of secrecy that the bishops had sworn to uphold to protect abusing priests.

Certainly, there was no mention in the pastoral letter that the canon law was largely responsible for protecting these abusers. Nor was there any suggestion that this particular part of the code would be abolished, including the bit that makes it almost impossible to dismiss a priest without the priest’s consent.

The church does what it likes.

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

As Polonius said, “this is too long”

Jun 13th, 2014 12:04 pm | By

Wow. Jane Hamsher’s comments on that awful “The New Republic publishes a hit piece on Chris Hedges” post are so flippant and irresponsible they need a post of their own. Ethics, people! Journalistic ethics! This isn’t rocket surgery (to plagiarize a phrase I saw a few days ago and don’t remember the source of). Writers and journalists should tell the truth, and they shouldn’t put their names on other people’s work except in the standard way with proper attribution.

Hamsher comments on a suggestion of litigation.

Hedges is a public figure, and they’re pretty careful about what they say so I doubt a suit would get very far. But it’s a piece that they should be ashamed to have published. At 5,700 words it’s like the War and Peace of online journalism.

Do you see the full stupidity of that? First she admits the article probably tells the truth, then she says TNR should be ashamed of publishing it because it’s so long! Godalmighty.

For the record, TNR does sometimes publish long pieces. That just is something it does. Paul Berman has had very long articles published there, like the one on Tariq Ramadan.

Then someone else complains about the length, and Hamsher responds again.

It just kept going on. And on. And on. I finally just put it in a word counter. It’s clearly an attempt at “where there’s smoke there’s fire” insinuation, but I can’t imagine anyone who didn’t hate Hedges righteously would have the patience to read through.

Not clearly at all, because it’s not smoke. Also there’s that bit about doubting a lawsuit would get very far? Because it’s probably true?

And yet more of the “it was too looooooong and too hard to reeeeeeead” commentary from the person announcing it was a hit piece. (Maybe this explains her sympathy for Hedges; she’s a lazy reader so she has sympathy for his laziness as a writer.)

I confess to giving up about 2/3 of the way through when it was apparent it was never going to end, so if anyone takes the trouble to read through that and finds some actual proof, let us know. Then we can all sit and scratch our heads at why they buried their lede 4000 words down.

It would be kind of funny if Ketcham decided to sue Hamsher for accusing him of lying when she doesn’t even believe he did lie.

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

Largely libertarian

Jun 13th, 2014 11:29 am | By

Another refugee from the 9th century is running for office.

Scott Esk is running for House District 91 state representative.

On his website, he says he is a conservative who wants to apply biblical principles to Oklahoma law.

But some are saying his views are extreme.

But? What do you mean but? Anybody who wants to apply biblical principles to any kind of law is extreme by definition.

Morris said, “This guy posted on Facebook that homosexuals should be stoned to death. My first response was you’re nuts, nobody would be stupid enough to do that.”

Morris says he found those postings from last summer on Facebook.

At the time, Esk had commented on a story about the pope saying “Who am I to judge?” on homosexuality.

Esk posted some old testament scripture that referred to homosexuality being punished.

Someone asked – “So just to be clear, you think we should execute homosexuals (presumably by stoning)?”

Esk responds – “I think we would be totally in the right to do it. That goes against some parts of libertarianism, I realize, and I’m largely libertarian, but ignoring as a nation things that are worthy of death is very remiss.”

Worthy of death. That’s biblical principles for you.

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

Perks of office

Jun 13th, 2014 11:14 am | By

Jacques Rousseau pointed out a jaw-dropping item from South Africa.

Traditional Venda chiefs have given SABC acting chief operations officer Hlaudi Motsoeneng a wife, a cow, and a calf.

That should be a woman, a cow, and a calf. Traditional Venda chiefs gave some guy a woman along with a cow and a calf.

The Sowetan reported on Friday that women were lined up in Thohoyandou, Limpopo, on Wednesday for Motsoeneng to choose one. He and other SABC executives were in the area for a meeting with Mudzi wa Vhurereli ha Vhavenda, a lobby group of traditional leaders and healers.

“The girls were around 10 and they paraded for him to choose. He chose the one he liked,” Mudzi executive secretary Humbelani Nemakonde was quoted as saying.

“All the girls were there with their parents. Their parents knew what was going to happen and they all agreed.”

The woman Motsoeneng chose was pictured in the newspaper bare-breasted next to him. She is a 23-year-old human resources management student.

And a cow available for purchase or donation.

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