Notes and Comment Blog

It says a lot about the reality of freedom

Jun 25th, 2014 11:34 am | By

Melissa Davey in the Guardian reports on the aftermath of the cancellation of Badar’s FODI talk.

A Sydney-based Muslim speaker has said the public outcry that prompted the Opera House to cancel his lecture called Honour Killings Are Morally Justified reveals the “extent and depth” of Islamophobia in Australia.

Does it? Or does it just reveal the extent and depth of opposition to “honor” murder in Australia? Which would be a good thing.

Badar said people had jumped to conclusions about his views before he had a chance to speak.

“Things were assumed and outrage ensued,” he said. “That is the way Islamophobia works. The assumption is ‘we know what the Muslims will say’. This a very instructive case as far as that goes.”

No it isn’t, and no it isn’t, and no it isn’t. All those claims are wrong. The talk had a title; there were no scare quotes indicating distance or irony; the title said what it said.

“I think the hysteria says a lot about Islamophobia and about the extent and the depth of it in this country.

“It says a lot about the reality of freedom and the space that minorities have to move in in this country, Muslims in particular.”

What about the space that Muslim girls and women have to move when the threat of being murdered for perceived sexual disobedience hangs over them? What about that kind of space to move? Does Uthman Badar give a flying fuck about that? Not that I can see; he’s worried only about his own space to flatter the practice of murdering girls and women for perceived sexual disobedience.

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

Potential participants

Jun 25th, 2014 10:50 am | By

CAFE is in the news again – the Canadian Association for Equality, you know, founded by Justin “not THAT Justin” Trottier, formerly the ED of CFI-Canada. Why is it in the news again? Because it’s been discovered that it cited women’s rights organizations on its application to the Canada Revenue Agency for charitable status, which it got.

…when the Canadian Association for Equality (CAFE), a self-described “men’s issues” organization, applied to the Canada Revenue Agency for charitable status last year, it listed the Women’s Legal Education and Action Fund (LEAF), Egale Canada, and Status of Women Canada as potential participants in its “regular panel discussion series” on women’s and men’s issues. The CRA granted CAFE charitable status in March, 2014.

There’s just one problem: none of the groups listed has ever been involved with CAFE.

The executive directors of Egale and LEAF said they had no knowledge of ever being approached by the organization, and said they would not work with CAFE if they were asked. Before NOW contacted them, neither organization had any knowledge that CAFE had listed them on its application.

A spokesperson for Status of Women Canada, the federal agency, told NOW in an email that none of its representatives had ever been involved in a CAFE event.

Sneaky, eh? Deceptive? Sly? Less than forthright?

LEAF’s executive director Diane O’Reggio was shocked to learn CAFE had associated itself with her organization, which has been defending women’s legal rights for almost thirty years.

“We’re concerned that this organization has used our name in this manner,” said O’Reggio. “We absolutely are not associated with this group and what they stand for.”

“We’re obviously a feminist equality organization and we think the beliefs that they espouse are absolutely in contradiction and opposite to the work of what our organization does.”

O’Reggio said it was “very disingenuous” for CAFE to suggest to the CRA it had a working relationship with LEAF, and she’s concerned the men’s group used her organization in order to gain charitable status.

Helen Kennedy of Egale Canada suggests that CAFE is trying to paper over the nature of the group by using these names.

The group also claimed it was planning to work with university scholars from women’s studies departments, and specifically named Professor Sarita Srivastava, an associate sociology professor at Queen’s who studies anti-racist challenges to Canadian feminist groups. On its application CAFE said it was “currently” setting up a panel discussion to include Srivastava.

Reached by email, Srivastava told NOW that she was “stunned” to learn her name was on the form, which was date-stamped in a National Capital Region mailroom on July 26, 2013. According to Srivastava, more than four months before that she turned down an invitation from the group to speak about misogyny as part of a panel discussion on “misandry,” the highly disputed term men’s rights activists use to describe systemic anti-male discrimination.

On the other hand she also says she didn’t actually spell out that she would never work with the group, so it’s possible that they could have intended to invite her to future events.

Yes it is, and that’s where the slyness comes in.

CAFE also listed only more benign lectures and books on its application, leaving off the overtly anti-feminist items. That looks perilously close to lying by omission.

NOW emailed a list of questions about this story to several of CAFE’s email accounts and to its founder, Justin Trottier. Trottier isn’t included among the members of CAFE’s leadership on the group’s website, but his signature appears on the CRA application’s supporting documents and he is named in the application as the organization’s chair. Despite repeated attempts, NOW did not receive a response.

It has proven difficult to get Trottier to speak on the record about the group he created. In a strange phone interview with CAFE last month, a man who would only give his name as “Justin” refused to reveal his full identity to NOW and claimed he was merely “working behind the scenes as a volunteer.” He could then be heard feeding answers to CAFE spokesperson Denise Fong, who is Trottier’s fiancée.

During that interview Fong and “Justin” also denied CAFE had any association with a Voice for Men (AVFM), an online U.S. misogyny group, even though the CAFE website was promoting an AVFM conference at the time.

Justin Trottier is the gift that keeps on giving.

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

The accused is the oriental other

Jun 24th, 2014 6:12 pm | By

Here is the cached version of the page for Utham Badar’s (now canceled) talk at the Festival of Dangerous Ideas in Sydney.


For most of recorded history parents have reluctantly sacrificed their children—sending them to kill or be killed for the honour of their nation, their flag, their king, their religion. But what about killing for the honour of one’s family? Overwhelmingly, those who condemn ‘honour killings’ are based in the liberal democracies of the West. The accuser and moral judge is the secular (white) westerner and the accused is the oriental other; the powerful condemn the powerless. By taking a particular cultural view of honour, some killings are condemned whilst others are celebrated. In turn, the act becomes a symbol of everything that is allegedly wrong with the other culture.

That’s some high-class moral relativism there. Yup we funny people who insist that it’s wrong to murder family members or anyone else for having sex, we’re the secular white western meanies, and the people who think it’s right and good to murder family members for having sex are the oriental other. Shout out to Edward Said! Although I seriously doubt he would be much flattered by the homage of Uthman Badar.

But “the powerful condemn the powerless”? Is that fair? I think the victims of honor killings – the people murdered – are the powerless and the people doing the murdering are the powerful. I honestly don’t think that people who murder their daughters or sisters or mothers or wives get to claim to be the powerless victims.

Notice, also, the pretentious pseudo-literary word-juggling, the “critical theory” airs and graces, the palaver about symbols and the epigram about condeming some and celebrating others – notice it and feel nausea at the cynical frivolity, the vanity, the having it both ways, the showing off. This isn’t some fucking game. This is girls and women like those of the Shafia family, pushed into a canal in the family car. This is a girl like Banaz Mahmod, brutally murdered by her father and uncle. This is real girls and women murdered by their real fathers and brothers, it’s not something to preen about and bandy words about on the stage of the Sydney Opera House.

What a piece of scum, this Utham Badar.

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

Honor killings are peachy keen

Jun 24th, 2014 5:36 pm | By

The Festival of Dangerous Ideas in Sydney has canceled a talk by an Islamist from Hizb ut-Tahrir titled ‘Honour Killings Are Morally Justified’.

Cue outrage; what about free speech?!

Is that a legitimate worry? Is it bad for free speech to not host a talk titled ‘Honour Killings Are Morally Justified’?

Sydney-based Muslim speaker Uthman Badar, from Islamic group Hizb ut-Tahrir, was to give the speech, titled ‘Honour Killings Are Morally Justified’ at the Festival of Dangerous Ideas in August.

However, the event sparked an angry response on social media and talkback radio, and drew strong condemnation from two New South Wales Government ministers.

The state’s Minister for Women, Pru Goward, and the Minister for Citizenship and Communities, Victor Dominello, were both fiercely critical.

I take phrases like “dangerous ideas” to be somewhat non-literal. I don’t think of them as being about how to murder people, how to fly planes into tall buildings, how to poison a city’s water supply, that kind of thing.

Last night, festival co-curator Simon Longstaff said the event had been withdrawn due to the level of public anger.

“The justification for removing it was simply the level of public outrage,” he said.

“We took the view that it was so strong and overwhelming that the ability of the speaker to even open up the question for some discussion and reflection would be impossible.

“It would be unfair for the speaker to put them in a situation where they wouldn’t get a word out without finding all of condemnation.”

Well, really, what would you expect? He’s saying Murder is Morally Justified. What’s to discuss and reflect on? Why is there a need for discussion and reflection on the claim that honor killing is morally justified? Is assault morally justified? Is rape morally justified? Is flogging morally justified? Some questions should be closed, apart from philosophy seminars.

In a Facebook post, Mr Badar defended himself, saying the suggestion he would advocate for honour killings is ludicrous.

He said he wanted to explore the issue and described the public outcry as Islamophobia.

Wrong title then? A mix-up at the printer?

Maybe so; Badar says he didn’t choose the title, although he accepted it.

The people who run the Festival Ideas aren’t going to be subject to honor killing; they shouldn’t play games with it.

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

In an imaginary afterlife

Jun 24th, 2014 4:41 pm | By

Here we have Michael Nugent going head to head with Robert Grant who wrote that terrible article in the Irish Times, on the radio program News Talk.

It’s slightly shocking, because as I mentioned, Grant is a philosophy tutor at TCD, yet he repeatedly and consistently draws wild conclusions from what Michael says that simply are not there – and surely if there’s anything a philosopher should know better than to do, it’s that.

The presenter is torture to listen to, frankly, because he sounds as if he’s slobbering the whole time, plus he’s silly. (The ten commandments ffs!)

A takeaway from Michael:

[Religion] hides its testability in an imaginary afterlife and therefore it never gets the reality check in people’s minds.

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

Time and size do not exist for the law of attraction

Jun 24th, 2014 4:10 pm | By

Thanks to James Croft I’m now aware that there’s such a thing as a Facebook page for The Secret. What is The Secret? Some positive thinking “you can get rich by fantasizing about it” book or movie or brain implant. Anyway whenever you have an impulse to dive into a source of Modern Absurdity, it’s right there for your viewing pleasure.

Top item on the page right now:

Time and size do not exist for the law of attraction. It is as easy to heal a pimple as a disease. The process is identical; the difference is in our minds. So if you have attracted some affliction to you, reduce it in your mind to the size of a pimple through your thoughts, and then focus on health, health, and more health. Rhonda Byrne

Ah the law of attraction – let’s ask Oprah about that.

Millions of people have now heard of The Secret , a theory which brings phrases like “positive thinking” and “the law of attraction” to everyday conversations. Although the The Secret is a fairly recent phenomenon, spiritual thinkers say they’ve been studying the concepts for years.

Acclaimed author Louise Hay is considered the mother of positive thinking. She is back to continue the conversation about the law of attraction, which is the basis of The Secret . “The law of attraction is that our thinking creates and brings to us whatever we think about,” she says. “It’s as though every time we think a thought, every time we speak a word, the universe is listening and responding to us.”

Or you could ask Barbara Ehrenreich about it by reading Bright-Sided.


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

A system of open discrimination

Jun 24th, 2014 3:41 pm | By

Fintan O’Toole tells a story of priest-ridden Ireland and slightly less priest-ridden Belize.

In 2003, the Catholic diocese of Toledo fired a primary school teacher called Maria Roches because she was pregnant, not married, and therefore in breach of an obligation to live by “Jesus’s teaching on marriage and sex”. Ms Roches sued the diocese and the case went to the supreme court. The church cited, in support of its right to fire Roches, the 1985 Irish High Court case of Eileen Flynn. Ms Flynn was fired from her job at the Holy Faith school in New Ross for living with a man to whom she was not married. Judge Declan Costello sided with the nuns. He found, among other things, that they were “entitled to take into account that the appellant’s association [with the man] was carried on openly and publicly in a country town of quite a small population”; that Flynn’s conduct “would have been common knowledge in the town” and that pupils in the school “would regard her conduct as a rejection of the norms of behaviour and the ideals which the school was endeavouring to instil in and set for them”.

Yes doesn’t that sound Irish – the small town, the prying eyes, the warped ideas of what matters.

The church in Belize cited the Flynn case as sanction for the firing of Ms Roches. The chief justice of Belize, however, was sceptical to the point of open contempt for Ireland’s standing in these matters: “I must be cautious, this is a case from Ireland [and] we all know the position of Ireland on religious issues.” He was entirely unpersuaded by the argument that in schools supported by public funds, religious orthodoxy can take precedence over human rights and international law on non-discrimination. He found in favour of Ms Roches, not least on the grounds that Belize (like Ireland) is a signatory to the United Nations Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women and that it is patently discriminatory to fire women for getting pregnant while taking no action against men whose sexual conduct leaves less visible traces.

But that’s why – it’s only on the woman that it shows, and that’s why women have to be treated like shit while men get to go on their way rejoicing.

Seriously though, well done chief justice of Belize. Ireland? Not so fortunate.

It seemed pretty clear to the Belize chief justice that it is intolerable in a constitutional democracy to allow public employees, paid by the state, to be fired because their private lives do not conform to a particular church’s teaching. Yet in Ireland, the Eileen Flynn judgment is still the law of the land. It was written into legislation in section 37 of the Employment Equality Act of 1998, which says that any religious-run body (including most schools and many hospitals) can take any “action which is reasonably necessary to prevent an employee or a prospective employee from undermining the religious ethos of the institution”. In practice, this includes living openly in any kind of sexual relationship (heterosexual or homosexual) that is not sanctioned by the church, or publicly advocating any policies (gay marriage, for example) that go against church teaching.

Also? If you want to be a teacher in Ireland you’d better sign up.

State-funded teacher training colleges are telling their students that their degrees will be of limited use unless they also take a diploma in “faith formation” for Catholic or Protestant schools. In effect, public universities are colluding in a system of open discrimination in which atheist, Muslim, or Orthodox would-be teachers have to sign up to become missionaries for faiths to which they do not belong if they are to be eligible to work in the bulk of taxpayer-funded teaching jobs.

It’s an uphill battle in Ireland.

Notice also that section 37 of the Employment Equality Act of 1998 applies to “many hospitals” – which would help to explain why Savita Halappanavar died of a miscarriage in a Galway hospital.

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

Francis dispatches

Jun 24th, 2014 12:26 pm | By

The pope is such a comedian. Independent Catholic News (there’s a joke right there) reports his latest joke.

On Saturday morning the Holy Father received participants in the International Congress organised by the Department of Law of the Maria SS Assunta University of Rome (LUMSA) and the School of Law of the St John’s University on the theme: “religious freedom according [to] international law and the global conflict of values”, held in Rome on 20 and 21 June. Francis remarked that the theme of religious freedom has recently become the subject of intense debate between governments and the various religious faiths, and added that the Catholic Church, has a long history of supporting religious freedom, culminating in the Vatican Council II Declaration “Dignitatis humanae”.

The Catholic Church has a long history of supporting religious freedom hahahahaha that’s a good one. The Catholic church wants to force its “teachings” on all of us, including the most vicious and destructive ones. It doesn’t support our freedom from its theocratic laws and demands.

“Every human is a ‘seeker’ of truth on his origins and destiny. In his mind and in his ‘heart’, questions and thoughts arise that cannot be repressed or stifled, since they emerge from the depths of the person and are a part of the intimate essence of the person. They are religious questions, and religious freedom is necessary for them to manifest themselves fully”.

No, they’re not, actually, not inherently or necessarily. They can be entirely secular, this-world, naturalistic.

Francis emphasised that “reason recognises that religious freedom is a fundamental right of man, reflecting his highest dignity, that of seeking the truth and adhering to it, and recognising it as an indispensable condition for realising all his potential.

No, again, that’s quite the opposite of the truth. Seeking the truth has to be independent of religion, because religion is repeating ancient dogma, not looking for truth at all.

Go back home and re-work the material, Frank. Not ready for prime-time.

H/t Stewart.

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

You’re free, you can go! Haha just kidding

Jun 24th, 2014 11:59 am | By

Yesterday Meriam Ibrahim was released from prison. Hooray! Now all they had to do was get the hell out of Sudan. They got to Khartoum airport. Hooray!

There she was re-arrested and thrown back in the slammer.

Meriam Ibrahim, the Christian woman released from death row in Sudan on Monday, was arrested with her husband and two children at Khartoum airport on Tuesday as the family attempted to leave the country.

Agents from the National Intelligence and Security Services (NISS) detained the family just 24 hours after Ibrahim was released on the orders of the appeal court.

Her lawyer, Elshareef Mohammed, who was with Ibrahim at Khartoum airport at the time of the arrest, said more than 40 NISS officers apprehended the family as they attempted to board a plane to the US. Ibrahim’s husband, Daniel Wani, is a US citizen.

Bastards. Just let her go! You don’t want her, so just let her go.

“It’s very disappointing,” Elshareef told the Guardian. “They were very angry. They took us [the family's lawyers] outside, and took the family to a NISS detention centre. They have not been given access to lawyers.”

He said the appeal court had quashed Ibrahim’s convictions and there were no restrictions on her travelling. He added that political differences within the government over the case may have played a part in the decision to prevent her leaving.

“I’m very concerned. When people do not respect the court, they might do anything,” said Elshareef.

They’ve kidnapped her, is what they’ve done.

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

Half the children housed in the institution died in 1925

Jun 24th, 2014 10:52 am | By

Imagine an orphanage where news that the mortality rate for the last year was 19% was good news. That was the mother and baby home in Pelletstown in Dublin in 1930.

While fatalities had undeniably fallen, the fact remained that 66 – or almost one in five – of the 336 children housed in Pelletstown died in the year to March 31st, 1930.

Half the children housed in the institution died in 1925, with a measles epidemic cited as the explanation for the high death rate. The following year, more than a third died. The death rate rose to 42 per cent in 1927 before falling to under 20 per cent in 1930.

Between 1924 and 1930, 662 children died at the institution, an average of over 94 deaths a year. This compares to the 796 deaths recorded in the children’s home inTuam over a 36-year period between 1925 and 1960, an annual average of 22.

Frightening, isn’t it.

It’s not that the nuns were cutting the children’s heads off or anything. It’s the institutionalization and overcrowding.

“The deaths in these institutions are generally caused by an epidemic of some kind, measles, whooping cough, etc, which spreads quickly among the children and wipes out the weaklings,” the 1933-1934 local government report notes.

It says the “nurseries are laid out to accommodate too many children and the provision for isolation is not adequate”, before going on to list steps being taken to confine the size of nurseries in Tuam and Sean Ross Abbey.

This wasn’t a secret, but apparently no one could find the will or the money (or the will to find the money) to do anything about it.

The department of local government and public health was aware the death rate among children born to unmarried mothers was unacceptably high. In its report for 1927, the department refers to figures compiled by the registrar general for 1925 and 1926 showing the mortality rate among what it called “illegitimate” infants was five times the rate of those born within marriage. A third of those who died failed to reach their first birthday.

This was acknowledged in the reports as a “deplorable” loss of life.

“It is recognised that illegitimate infants are handicapped by constitutional and environmental disadvantages, which tend to have a heavy incidence of infant mortality, but even when allowance has been made for these adverse factors, the death-rate of such infants is still disproportionately high in view of the experience in other countries,” the report says.

Other countries did better, then. I wonder if that was because other countries didn’t hand babies born to single mothers over to the Catholic church.

It was never a good idea. The Catholic church has warped ideas on sex and sin, so it was bound to treat what it saw as the product of both with disgust and cruelty.

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

Inappropriate for viewers

Jun 24th, 2014 9:47 am | By

The anti-abortion fanatics have succeeded in dragging the abortion discussion way the hell over in their direction, so that even in places where you can have one you’re still regarded as scum for doing so. NBC refuses to run an ad that mentions it.

NBC turned down ads for the new movie “Obvious Child” because it deals with abortion, sources tell Page Six.

The A24 Films release stars former “SNL” star Jenny Slate as a Brooklyn comic who gets pregnant after a one-night stand and elects to have an abortion.

Other networks “had no problem airing an ad that included the word ‘abortion’ in it,” a source said, adding the film’s distributor “wasn’t trying to purchase ads during ‘Today’ or daytime,” but “during ‘SNL’ ” and primetime sitcoms.

A source close to NBC denied the claim, saying the network was given a rough cut of a trailer, but after “feedback” was given, a final spot wasn’t submitted.

But a different source countered that NBC’s “feedback” was that the subject matter was inappropriate for viewers, and to cut the word abortion.

It’s taboo. They’ve won that fight.

I objected to this situation in the most recent Free Inquiry.

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

At first he was sympathetic

Jun 24th, 2014 9:16 am | By

Still? Still? The same old thing, so the same you could write it in your sleep?

This time it’s in the Irish Times and it’s written by a tutor of philosophy at Trinity College Dublin, Robert Grant.

Have the first three fresh sparkling original paragraphs:

The New Atheists – Sam Harris, Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens – have become immensely popular in the past decade through a series of blistering attacks on religion.

While their starting point was the lack of scientific evidence for God’s existence, they quickly expanded their target to argue that religion is the “root of all evil” in the world. Far from being tolerated, religion should be banished. It obstructs the progress of the human race; and progress based on the pursuit of science and reason.

At first I was sympathetic to their cause. I too was angry with the hypocrisy and false piety of religious leaders, their cover-up of abuse, their oppressive views on homosexuality, contraception and the treatment of women. Not to mention that I don’t believe in heaven, hell, miracles or the power of prayer.

But then, of course, there was that moment of conversion, and he realized his error. You could write the rest of it in your sleep. It’s hackwork – treating three writers as a single unit, making sweeping generalizations about what they claim without backing up a single one by actually quoting anything, exaggerating with cheery abandon, and uttering dull platitudes every step of the way.

There’s a lot I object to in Dawkins and Harris (and slightly less in Hitchens), but that doesn’t mean they deserve this kind of sloppy inaccurate recycled garbage, especially at the hands of someone who teaches philosophy.

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

A ferocious attack on media freedom

Jun 23rd, 2014 6:14 pm | By

Amnesty International reports a horrible development.

The conviction today of three Al Jazeera English journalists accused of “falsifying news” and belonging to or assisting the banned Muslim Brotherhood movement in Egypt is a ferocious attack on media freedom, said Amnesty International.

The three journalists – Australian Peter Greste, Canadian-Egyptian Mohamed Fahmy and Egyptian Baher Mohamed, all considered by Amnesty International to be prisoners of conscience – were sentenced to seven years in jail. Baher Mohamed received a further three years on a separate charge of possessing a bullet shell. They have been detained since 29 December 2013.

“This is a devastating verdict for the men and their families, and a dark day for media freedom in Egypt, when journalists are being locked up and branded criminals or ‘terrorists’ simply for doing their job,” said Philip Luther, Director of the Middle East and North Africa at Amnesty International.

“The only reason these three men are in jail is because the Egyptian authorities don’t like what they have to say. They are prisoners of conscience and must be immediately and unconditionally released. In Egypt today anyone who dares to challenge the state’s narrative is considered a legitimate target.”

An Amnesty International trial observer recorded several irregularities and examples of complete ineptitude during the proceedings. In 12 court sessions, the prosecution failed to produce a single shred of solid evidence linking the journalists to a terrorism organization or proving they had “falsified” news footage.

“The trial was a complete sham. Consigning these men to years in prison after such a farcical spectacle is a travesty of justice,” said Philip Luther.

Prosecutors obstructed the defendants’ right to review and challenge the evidence presented against them. The prosecution also appeared unprepared and disorganized, often presenting irrelevant evidence.

Key witnesses for the prosecution also appeared to contradict their own written testimony. Technical experts admitted on cross-examination that they were unable to confirm whether Al Jazeera journalists had doctored images or carried unauthorized equipment.

“The verdict provides further evidence that Egyptian authorities will stop at nothing in the ruthless campaign to crush anyone who challenges the official narrative, regardless of how questionable the evidence against them is,” said Philip Luther.

And that matters. We can’t fight for our rights if we don’t know what rights are being taken away until it’s too late.


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

Unless a parent can show religious reservations

Jun 23rd, 2014 5:48 pm | By

One island of reason in the typhoon of anti-vax nonsense:

In a case weighing the government’s ability to require vaccination against the individual right to refuse it, a federal judge has upheld a New York City policy that bars unimmunized children from public school when another student has a vaccine-preventable disease.

Citing a 109-year-old Supreme Court ruling that gives states broad power in public health matters, Judge William F. Kuntz II of Federal District Court in Brooklyn ruled against three families who claimed that their right to free exercise of religion was violated when their children were kept from school, sometimes for a month at a time, because of the city’s immunization policies.

I’ve said it before – I hate the free exercise clause.

Amid concerns by public health officials that some diseases are experiencing a resurgence in areas with low vaccination rates, the decision reinforces efforts by the city to balance a strict vaccine mandate with limited exemptions for objectors. Pockets of vaccination refusal persist in the city, despite high levels of vaccination overall.

State law requires children to receive vaccinations before attending school, unless a parent can show religious reservations or a doctor can attest that vaccines will harm the child. Under state law, parents claiming religious exemptions do not have to prove their faith opposes vaccines, but they must provide a written explanation of a “genuine and sincere” religious objection, which school officials can accept or reject.

That’s like demanding a religious exemption from laws and policies that forbid murder or assault.

The third plaintiff, Dina Check, sued on somewhat different grounds, saying that the city had improperly denied her 7-year-old daughter a religious exemption. She said the city rejected her religious exemption after it had denied her a medical exemption, sowing doubts among administrators about the authenticity of her religious opposition. But Ms. Check said the request for a medical exemption had been mistakenly submitted by a school nurse without her consent.

After the school barred her daughter, Ms. Check home-schooled her and then moved her to a private school that accepted her daughter without the vaccinations. State vaccination requirements cover public and private schools, but in New York City, private schools have more autonomy in handling exemptions.

That is, private schools have more autonomy to let students catch deadly diseases.

Ms. Check said she rejected vaccination after her daughter was “intoxicated” by a few shots during infancy, which she said caused an onslaught of food and milk allergies, rashes and infections. Combined with a religious revelation she had during the difficult pregnancy, she said, the experience turned her away from medicine. Now she uses holistic treatments.

“Disease is pestilence,” Ms. Check said, “and pestilence is from the devil. The devil is germs and disease, which is cancer and any of those things that can take you down. But if you trust in the Lord, these things cannot come near you.”

Go live on a remote island somewhere.

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

So it turns out that they’re all about us after all

Jun 23rd, 2014 4:46 pm | By

The rest of that video. It’s not as bad as the first 15 minutes, in fact some of it is ok, like the part about the Civil Rights movement and the fact that atheists and socialists were told to sit down and shut up because the movement had to appeal to the mainstream, because strategy is complicated; the result is that they’ve been written out of the history, as have women.

But the part from 14:30 to 15:34 is still on the Dear Muslima, and it’s kack.

What is faced by women and men under Islamicist [sic] is far greater than the discomfort of some inappropriate sexist remark. We have to recognize different adversities. Recognizing these differences does not mean, let me repeat, this does not mean we give up educating the public on what can make women uncomfortable. Fighting for pay equality, fighting for the full representation in government, encouraging more women to go into the sciences, all of these things are worth fighting for, but we need to recognize the differences in the adversities that we all face. By recognizing these differences, I think it provides us more strength. The examples of bravery that have been mentioned, of men and women in Islamic regimes, can help those who face difficulties that do not include a fatwa or honor killings. It allows us to rise up and fight for our rights, it gives us that strength to say, if they can do it, what’s stopping me. We should gain strength from these women.

That’s condescending horseshit. People living with repression in Islamist regimes aren’t there to inspire us, they have their own lives to live; they don’t need us gaping at their courage, they need solidarity and whatever practical help we can give. It’s not about us, it’s about them. How absurd to have to point that out to the party of Dear Muslima – but not really absurd, because we knew all along it wasn’t about Dear Muslima, it was about stomping on us.

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

Shut up because Taliban

Jun 23rd, 2014 1:22 pm | By

What is the point of saying things like “What is faced by women and men under Islamicist [sic] is far greater than the discomfort of some inappropriate sexist remark” or “Dear Muslima”?

What can possibly be the point of it other than to tell local feminists to shut up because things are much worse farther away?

That’s why so many people went ballistic over “Dear Muslima” in the first place. That’s where the Deep Rifts started – with that one bullying comment, which may have been written by Cornwell herself.

Cornwell is aware of that. She is aware of the deep rifts. I know this because she wrote to me on the subject via Facebook direct messaging to say so in 2012. She told me she was horribly worried and upset about it.

So why the hell would she do the same thing all over again in 2013?

I guess because she hates feminism that much.

This might not matter all that much, if it weren’t for the fact that she’s one of the bosses of “the movement.” She was a “Head” and so went to “Heads” meetings. She’s on boards. Other bosses listen to her. They think she speaks for Science so they listen solemnly. She tells them how poisonous feminism is.

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

“Far greater than the discomfort of some inappropriate sexist remark”

Jun 23rd, 2014 12:47 pm | By

Lordy – I’m surprised again. I’m so easily surprised – I must be very naïve.

In watching the UN video I saw the list of other CFI videos, and in the list I saw the videoof Robin Elisabeth Cornwell’s talk at Women in Secularism 2. I missed that talk because of having to catch a plane, so I’ve started watching it.

You know, there’s a theory that it’s Cornwell who wrote Dear Muslima, and that Dawkins just posted it so that it would be as if god had posted it (and so it turned out). This video could be Exhibit One for that claim.

At about 11:45 she gets onto the subject of “victimhood.” She talks about pop culture and Oprah and the elevation (emphasis hers) on victimhood, and speculates that Christianity is a major source of this elevation, via the idea of prayer and the passivity it inculcates. “It’s pure bollocks,” she exclaims, as if she were a medium for Dawkins. She says she doesn’t know about you but she wants to scream: “get off your knees and do something about it!” She pauses for applause so a few people oblige, tepidly.

Then she gets into it. Don’t misunderstand, she warns, there is such a thing as adversity.

…some situations are horrible and the word ‘victim’ is appropriate – but let’s not fall into the cultural relativism trap, and assume that all adversity is the same. It isn’t. What is faced by women and men under Islamicist [sic] is far greater than the discomfort of some inappropriate sexist remark.

Two people applauded.

I stopped there for the present, because I can take only so much at a time. More later.

Anyway, that theory that she wrote Dear Muslima? Yeah.

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

Saudi Arabia tries to silence CFI at UNHRC

Jun 23rd, 2014 11:07 am | By

It’s what it says. Center for Inquiry representative Josephine Macintosh tried to read a statement about Raif Badawi and Saudi violations of human rights at a meeting of the UN Human Rights Council and the Saudi representative keeps interrupting to try to make her stop.

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

LA Women’s Atheist and Agnostic Group NEXT WEEK

Jun 23rd, 2014 10:44 am | By

The first meeting of the Los Angeles Women’s Atheist and Agnostic Group (LAWAAG) is a week from tomorrow at CFI-LA, which I know exactly where it is because I’ve been there. You know where Barnsdall Park is, in East Hollywood? It’s across Hollywood Boulevard from that.

Our group meets the first Tuesday of every month at 7pm at  The Center For Inquiry, Los Angeles. Along with regular monthly meetups, the group also organizes art, activism and outreach projects and works towards building community and support for women without faith.

In order to foster a safe space that acknowledges and can focus on the specific issues women encounter and deal with in a secular community, we currently only accept members who primarily identify as women. However, we often participate in and sponsor co-ed events. We welcome new members at our monthly meetup and welcome all to attend our publicized co-ed events. Please go to our events page for a list of upcoming and current events.

Please contact Amy Roth with any questions or media inquiries.

It will be amazing. Tell all your friends.

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

Another controversy sparked

Jun 22nd, 2014 5:22 pm | By

Uh oh, scandal in Saudi Arabia – a cleric said it might not be so terrible for women to skip the niqab if they felt like it. The horror! Al Arabiya is on the scene:

A Saudi preacher has sparked controversy on social media after Tweeting that Muslim women are allowed to uncover their faces and not wear the face veil known as the niqab, but that if someone wants to wear it, she is free to do so.

Sheikh Suleiman al-Torifee’s, a member of Ministry of Islamic Affairs in Saudi Arabia, based his opinion on what he said were the teachings of Islam’s Prophet Mohammad.

Scary stuff, isn’t it. Tweeters certainly thought so.

“I dare you join your wife in an outing while she uncovers her face,” said one Twitter user (@Hamood20121111). “You are seeking fame and I wish you shave your beard because you are not a man,” the tweep continued.

“If you want to apply Western customs and traditions, this is impossible and if you do, please travel and live abroad,” said @Hamood2012111, another user.

“If you enjoy looking at other Muslim women then it means something is wrong with you! And you are the one who needs advice,” commented @k_almassad.

Another user, @m_MesOo, described the preacher’s Twitter comment as “Liberals’ heresies.”

Well…maybe next century, or the one after that.

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