Notes and Comment Blog

Hellbound Swedish vacuum cleaners

Mar 24th, 2014 5:07 pm | By

Louis Theroux looks back on the accomplishments of Fred Phelps. Theroux knows more about the Phelps family than most people, because he did two BBC documentaries about them.

An eternity in hell is the fate of anyone who doesn’t get baptised into the WBC and travel the country waving hate-filled placards at political events, colleges and places associated – even in the most tortuously oblique way – with tolerance of homosexuality.

While I was with them, they had a regular local picket of a hardware store that sold Swedish vacuum cleaners. The Swedish government had imprisoned a pastor for homophobic preaching, and for the WBC that made the store a legitimate target for a ritualised Biblical smackdown. For the newcomer, these pickets were bizarre, not simply because of the venom of the signs, but also because they clashed with the banality of the family interaction. For the Phelpses, it was another day at the office – there was a water-cooler ambience of chit-chat. Meanwhile, everyone, even the youngest child, was carrying placards saying: “Thank God for 9/11″, “Your Pastor is a Whore” and “Fag Sweden”.

Fag Sweden and its Fag Vacuum Cleaners sold in the Fag Hardware Store. It totally makes sense if you look at it just the right way.

There is no question that their caravan of religious bigotry has made life miserable for thousands of people, many of them vulnerable mourners hoping to pay tribute to recently departed loved ones…

But the WBC also made life miserable for themselves and inflicted a distorted and poisonous view of the world on the youngest members of their own family, holding over their heads the threat that any deviation or failure of commitment (not going to a picket or socialising with outsiders) would result in a lifetime of banishment. Ex-members – of whom there are quite a few – can have no contact with the church.

Fred’s children, Theroux says, are nice people. The picketing is a performance as opposed to an expression of their character. But Fred was a different story.

Pastor Phelps was a different story: he was a hater by instinct.

I’m proud to say he took against me from the moment we met. I asked him how many children he had. He disliked this question – I think he found me trivial. The interview was cut short. Over subsequent days, we continued filming but I hardly saw him. I had the feeling he was hiding from me. We eventually crossed paths again, in church one Sunday after his sermon on the subject of America’s coming tribulations, in which he bellowed: “You’re going to eat your babies!” One-to-one, Gramps still had the remnants of a folksy, plainspoken charm, but underneath was a bitter contempt for humanity in general and me specifically. I asked him how he could possibly know that the WBC members were the only people bound for heaven. “I can’t talk to you – you’re just too dumb,” he said.

Poor guy – he probably would have been happier and more fulfilled as a hater on the Internet.

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

Jazz paws

Mar 24th, 2014 4:30 pm | By

I’ve been so grumpy today…

From @CuteOverloads

Embedded image permalink


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

“I don’t take a piss without being paid”

Mar 24th, 2014 3:46 pm | By

Author alerted us to this fine rant by Harlan Ellison on the theme of, “Pay me, motherfuckers.”

Pull quote:

I should do a freebie for Warner Brothers? What, is Warner Brothers out with an eye patch and a tin cup in the street? Fuck no!

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

Second installment

Mar 24th, 2014 12:42 pm | By

Scalzi to scabs:

But of course the other reason to do it this way is that I have a voice and an audience, a non-trivial portion of whom are writers and other creative people, and I think it’s useful for someone who’s had a reasonable amount of success in his chosen creative field to say this sort of stuff out loud. The sort of person who expects work for free, and/or preys on creative people by trying to convince them that working for free “is how it’s done” benefits when creative people are publicly silent about this sort of crap. So this is me saying to creators: Guys, in fact this is not how it’s done, and you deserve to be paid for your work. It’s also me saying to people who prey on creators: Fuck you. Pay me. Pay us.

4. Also, of course, some people think that way I said it wasn’t nice. Bah. It’s as nice as it should be. You want me to do work but you don’t want to pay me? What sort of response should you expect? A hug? Fuck you! Pay me!

Pay us.

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

When people come to me looking for writing, they’re asking for work

Mar 24th, 2014 12:38 pm | By

As G Felis reminded me on Facebook – Scalzi has already written about this. Beautifully.

But what about charity and/or friends and/or [insert what you think is a good reason not to take money here]? Well, what about them? I’ll note that when I approach friends about doing work for me, I typically pay them for their time. I mean, you don’t think Paul & Storm or Jonathan Coulton wrote those songs for me for free, did you? No, I paid them. Do you think Jeff Zugale did that awesome Unicorn Pegasus Kitten painting out of the kindness of his own heart, or the writers of Clash of the Geeks did it for nothing? No, everyone was paid. Why do I pay them? Because when I do work, I like to get paid, so I assume my friends who are creative people like to get paid too.

As for charity, well, if it’s the actual charity group, the organization probably has a budget, and my work falls under that. If I do the work pro bono, then I get a nifty tax deduction, which counts as compensation for my time, but a charity would be foolish to assume that I should expect that to be the entirety of my compensation. Alternately there are times when I’ll decide to do something for a charitable reason without getting paid for it, but that’s me deciding to do it, not the organization asking me to; typically the organization is surprised when I show up with money for them because they didn’t know it was coming.

As for any other reason you might think of, look: When I want to write for fun, then I do it. But when people come to me — especially people I don’t know — looking for writing, they’re asking for work. The work might have the potential to be fun, or interesting, or morally edifying or whatever, but it’s still work, and the bright line for work is this: You want work? You have to pay. Because it’s my skill and talent and expertise and time you are asking for, and they are all worth something.


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

The writer as scab

Mar 24th, 2014 12:26 pm | By

I learned something today, or re-learned it. (I learned it once before, several years ago, but the learning faded, or the circumstances were different enough that I didn’t apply the learning.)

I learned that if someone asks you to write something for their website, for free, and you don’t really want to…don’t do it.

I didn’t really want to because I have other deadlines already, and because the request was oddly specific – it should have this quality, and this, and this. But it was for a branch of Open Democracy, and I like Open Democracy, so I asked if I could also post it here and was told yes, so I said ok.

But the specificity was a problem, and made it hard to write, so it took up space over several days because of the difficulty. But I wrote it and sent it – and the editors sent it back requesting lots of detailed changes, including ones that would make it fit better with their line (but not with anything I ever write about).

I’m writing about it here because it’s an issue of workers’ rights, of scabbing, of the rights of writers. It’s not just me. This is one of those things – like modeling, like journalism, like a lot of coveted jobs – where people get exploited because there are a lot of people who want to do that kind of work. I don’t think people who run websites should take advantage of that.

I think they asked for way too much for a piece they weren’t paying for. Maybe I’m spoiled; in all three of the columns I write I’m used to deciding for myself what I write about and how I write about it. But I’m not spoiled to think that if I’m going to write something to other people’s specifications, I should be paid for it.

The section of OD is called Transformation. It has a whiff of the spiritual and a whiff of the touchy-feely…so I’m not sure why they wanted me to write for them in the first place. Anyway, quite frankly I think they should transform their way of dealing with writers first of all.

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

Guest post by Secular Woman: Rending the Tent: The Expansion Continues

Mar 24th, 2014 10:25 am | By

Originally published at Secular Woman.

March 23, 2014

As mentioned in Rending the Tent: A Statement from The Secular Woman Community, Hemant Mehta of the Friendly Atheist published a piece by Kristine Kruszelnicki of Pro-Life Humanists without comment. Secular Woman offered to be interviewed by Mehta to allow his readers a different perspective on the human rights of women. Mehta initially refused to include a rebuttal or balance to his guest blog due to an admitted misunderstanding on his part. 

Mehta then invited a rebuttal of the previous post. Our submission was rejected by Mehta, since, apparently, it didn’t fulfill his requirement that we engage in debate.

Mehta set the table with anti-choice, anti-woman rhetoric, then dictated the exact terms under which responses were allowed. We respect Mehta’s absolute right to determine the content of his blog. We just question his decisions and what it means for the inclusion of women, feminists, and progressives in the atheist community. We have to wonder why Mehta gives greater voice to those he “disagrees” with than to those he states he fundamentally agrees with as he has repeatedly purported to be pro-choice.

Without an opportunity for explanation, the ProChoiceisProLife voice is diminished in comparison to the pseudoscientific, long-debunked falsehoods, and emotional arguments presented as reasoned and reasonable positions on Mehta’s blog.

Mehta chose to share an anti-abortion post with his audience. He chose not to share this one.


We at Secular Woman appreciate Hemant reaching out and clearing up the miscommunication over whether he was willing to host a pro-choice position on his blog. His apparent refusal was all the more alarming because it was unexpected, and we’re happy to see that part of this matter be resolved so easily.

Hemant asked for “A) a rebuttal to the specific things Kristine wrote about and B) the facts/data behind why being pro-choice makes sense”. While we understand why either of these might be considered the appropriate response to publishing a poorly reasoned, “pro-life” argument without comment, we feel those are not what the atheist community most needs right now. PZ Myers and Brianne Bilyeu have ably addressed the pseudoscience and non sequiturs of the original post. Avicenna has dealt with the humanitarian cost of “pro-life” stances. Commenters on the original post and across the atheist internet have made the argument that the bodily autonomy of people with a uterus does not disappear when that uterus is filled, the argument on which current legal rights are based, and they’ve done it repeatedly and well.

There is no need for Secular Woman to repeat the work of others. Instead, we would add our voices to those saying that playing at debate for the sake of debate on this matter is disrespectful to those nonbelievers (and believers) who face the possibility of unwanted pregnancy. Moreover, it adds to the voluminous threats to health and liberty they already face.

There is nothing that becomes new and fresh about the pseudoscience used to place unnecessary restrictions on abortion when the person using that pseudoscience is not religious. Nor is there anything suddenly newsworthy about the philosophical and emotional sleights of hand that confuse “person” with “human”, “fetus” with “baby”, or ending life with “murder” because they don’t come from a religious conservative. Using straw third-trimester “recreational” abortions to limit abortions well prior to fetal viability is a tactic decades old. Talking about the purported rights of a zygote, embryo, or fetus while treating the person gestating it as a uterus without rights is far older, as is the suggestion that women are not capable of understanding the ethical implications of their reproductive decisions.

These flaws in anti-abortion arguments have been documented and countered for as long as the arguments have been used. Tacking “secular” onto their description does nothing to make the arguments more valid or more worthy of being treated uncritically. We see no trend toward giving global warming denialists space to uncritically present their pseudoscience and poor argumentation simply because they aren’t all motivated by religion. We see no reason to do so with abortion.

In fact, we see compelling and immediate reasons not to. When we say we refuse to have a debate on the issue of abortion, this is only partly because the arguments of one side are so poor. We also refuse to dignify with the word “debate” those that are waging an assault on those who may become pregnant.

What do we mean when we say they’re waging an assault? We mean:

This is not a comprehensive list. Access to ethical medical care, bodily autonomy, and basic security are under a broad and constant assault. In this environment, we find it irresponsible and unethical to provide a platform for anything but the best available information and reasoning on the realities and ethics of abortion. Whatever one’s intended purpose, doing anything less puts people’s health, happiness, and their very lives on the line.

This is true wherever debates on abortion are hosted, but there are additional reasons to be clear and careful in one’s treatment of the topic of abortion in atheist, activist spaces. Despite some recent claims to the contrary, abortion rights have long been an area of atheist activism. Atheist groups have recognized the theocratic nature of the anti-choice movement, whether anti-choice organizations have explicitly called upon gods in their reasoning or attempted to hide their unconstitutional interest behind the pseudoscience and bad arguments adopted by the secular “pro-life” organizations. These groups, when crafting public policy positions, have rightly opposed the theocratic interference in our lawmaking.

This tradition has been one of the ways in which the U.S. atheist movement has made a clear break with the Christian culture in which it exists. As such, it has also been one of the few ways in which the atheist movement has staunchly stood by the interests of the women in this movement. Despite a history of erasing our past contributions and questioning our current worth, atheist women have not needed to worry that the movement to which they contribute was working against their interest in this regard. They have not had to take time out of their atheist activism to fight a threat to their rights in their own back yard.

Changing this now, either through planned action or reckless inattention, would be a serious setback for a movement that has gone through so much pain over the last few years in an attempt to become more welcoming to women. It would lead to additional turmoil, generate more bad press, and alienate the overwhelming majority of U.S. atheists who support legal abortion. For what? To provide a boost to pseudoscience and poor reasoning?

We at Secular Woman consider this a clear and easy choice. It is already the mission of most atheist activists to help others live lives based in the world’s realities. There is no reason to abandon that mission when the topic is abortion.

Stephanie Zvan

- See more at:

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

Facebook you are EVIL

Mar 24th, 2014 10:00 am | By

Facebook restored the murderous Uganda Youth Coalition Against Homosexuality page and its murderous photos. It RESTORED them.



Status This photo was restored
Details Thank you for taking the time to report something that you feel may violate our Community Standards. Reports like yours are an important part of making Facebook a safe and welcoming environment. The account that posted this has been restored, so this post might be visible on Facebook again. If you still think it violates our Community Standards, please report it again.

Why do I have to report it again you stupid fucks? WHY DID YOU PUT IT BACK?

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

The Law Society’s view of good practice

Mar 24th, 2014 9:13 am | By

The Independent also reported on the matter of the Law Society’s guidance on Sharia-compliant wills and the reactions to same. At the end it gives the Law Society’s take:

The new guidelines are one example of the practice notes that the Law Society issues for the use and benefit of its members.

These documents represent the Law Society’s view of good practice in a particular area. Lawyers are not required to follow them, but doing so makes it easier for them to account to oversight bodies for their actions.

The Law Society has an article on its website blaming bad journalism for being all wrong about the Law Society’s guidance.

Law Society president Nicholas Fluck has attacked as ‘inaccurate and ill-informed’ press reports that the Society is promoting sharia law.

He was speaking after campaigners for secularism called for the withdrawal of a practice note advising solicitors to draw up wills in compliance with Islamic law.

Fluck said: ‘We live in a diverse multi-faith, multi-cultural society. The Law Society responded to requests from its members for guidance on how to help clients asking for wills that distribute their assets in accordance with sharia practice.

You know – as soon as you hear someone say that, check your wallet and your genitals and your rights. As soon as people start talking about living in (and thus owing deference to) a multi-faith society, they have shoved women out of the picture. As soon as you make multi-faith determinitive of what needs to be obeyed, you have handed the whole thing over to men. It is only a tiny minority of a minority of religions that allow women to be clergy and thus have an equal role in making and interpreting the rules. Most religions do the very opposite of that. Once you set “faiths” up as the arbiters, you have amputated women’s rights. Period.

So that’s half the population excluded. So people who live in secular democracies don’t owe those “faiths” any deference. We don’t. They operate in terms that are wholly illegitimate to people who have grown up with equal rights.

Charlie Klendjian, secretary of the Lawyers’ Secular Society, called for the note to be withdrawn.

‘By issuing this practice note the Law Society is legitimising and normalising – or at the very least being seen to legitimise and normalise – the distribution of assets in accordance with the discriminatory provisions of sharia law. This is a worrying precedent to set.’

I hope the Law Society isn’t dismissing what Charlie Klendjian said as “bad journalism.”

Maajid Nawaz did an excellent response to the “guidance” on Twitter.

Maajid Nawaz @MaajidNawaz

Yes,law hasn’t changed&there’s bad reporting.But why’s UK @LawSociety giving advice that discriminates against people like my Muslim mother?

So, to those patronising elements within UK @LawSociety please kindly stay the hell out of our religion. It’s called secularism, stupid

By assuming medieval interpretation of Islam is more authentic, UK @LawSociety betrays progressive Muslims …@LawSecSoc

Wondering what fuss is about? Here’s @TheLawSociety deciding medieval Islam is more authentic than contemporary forms …

Discrimination in wills is legal. But it’s not the business of @TheLawSociety to interpret Islam in a medieval way& advise on discrimination

We will not tolerate @TheLawSociety or any UK public body deciding on what ‘authentic’ Islam is. We Muslims do not have a clergy #secularism

Secularism, ok? The Law Society should be secular. That’s not asking much.


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

The god squads

Mar 24th, 2014 6:57 am | By

A new Pew report on some 2012 data: there are at least 17 countries in the world where the police enforce religious norms.

in Malaysia, state Islamic religious enforcement officers and police carried out raids to enforce sharia law against indecent dress, banned publications, alcohol consumption and khalwat (close proximity to a member of the opposite sex), according to the U.S. State Department.

And in sub-Saharan Africa, two countries in the region (Nigeria and Somalia) have religious police. In Nigeria, the Hisbah (religious police) are funded and supported by governments in several states, where they enforce their interpretation of sharia law.

Pew’s graphic makes the situation rather vivid.


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

Breathtakingly sexist

Mar 23rd, 2014 5:57 pm | By

That was fast – reactions to the Law Society advice on Sharia wills already.

Barry Sheerman, the Labour MP for Huddersfield, cautioned against legislation on the issue but called for a joint investigation by the Commons Justice and Home Affairs Committees into how widespread the use of Sharia law now is in Britain.

“We need a serious look at this through the select committee system,” he said.

“I think it would be harmful to make it a party-political issue.

“This should be dragged out into the open and be discussed.”

Jeremy Corbyn, a member of the Commons Justice Committee said it was “very likely” the issue would now come up.

Louise Mensch, the former Tory MP, described the guide as “utterly unacceptable”.

“There could not be a clearer case for ministers and government to step in than the Law Society’s breathtakingly sexist Sharia law guidelines,” she said.

Meanwhile Peter Tatchell, the human rights campaigner and patron of Tell Mama, the group which combats anti-Muslim hate crime, said: “The Law Society is wrong.

“It should withdraw its guidelines assisting or promoting Sharia Law in the UK.”

The Law Society says it’s a fuss about nothing.


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

Girls as young as 6 or 7

Mar 23rd, 2014 4:52 pm | By

It turns out the US isn’t even the worst places for young girls aspiring to be models in worryingly large numbers. In Brazil it’s not 30% of girls, it’s all girls, at least according to Lourdes Garcia-Navarro at NPR.

I recently spent some time at a leading international modeling agency in Sao Paulo. During the afternoon, waif-thin models came in with their amateur portfolios and big dreams. The girls were all in their early to mid-teens.

The main headhunter told me confidently that all young boys in Brazil wanted to be soccer stars, and all young women aspired to be models.

You can go to schools here and quickly learn that little girls are not encouraged to become the next Ronaldo. While Brazil is a global force in men’s soccer, women’s soccer in Brazil is almost nonexistent. But girls as young as 6 or 7 know which models are on the cover of magazines.

Well the headhunter probably didn’t have an accurate count, and probably did have a distorted sense of the proportions, but anyway – it’s not just the US.

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

He is disgusted

Mar 23rd, 2014 4:37 pm | By

Facebook can be so random. Usually you see posts from people whose posts you’ve commented on or liked or yadda yadda but then once in awhile there’s a spanner in the works, someone you didn’t even know you were friends with, or someone you’ve forgotten you were friends with and haven’t had any interactions with in generations.

Thus with a pop and a whiff of sulfur I found an update by Lee Moore at the top of the stack just now. And what a ridiculous update it is.


I have read too many articles as of late calling for the censor of certain types of speech. I cannot express how much I am disgusted by this concept. I get it, hate speech is pretty damn horrific and you dont want to hear it. I however do want to hear it, I want to live in a world where everyone can speak their mind, right or wrong. I want to know where people stand. I want to know who I am with and against. More importanly though, I want to live in a world where people arent afraid to express themselves. If we start saying what can and cannot be expressed we may all find ourselves unable to speak our minds. So the next time you see someone trying to promote censorship, be sure to verbally rip them a new asshole.

Brave words from someone who isn’t subject to any of the obvious kinds of hate speech. Well except the part about ripping them a new asshole, however verbally. That’s just bully-talk.

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

Thank you for the children who will starve today

Mar 23rd, 2014 12:04 pm | By

My friend Dave Richards composed a prayer in the style of CPAC on Facebook today. He gave me permission to quote it.

Dear God-

We thank you for the 4110 children who will starve to death today and every day. We know you want them to come to live with you in Heaven. Except for the ones who aren’t Christian; they can suck it. We know they did not get a chance to experience life, and that the life they did experience was probably miserable, but, hey, the little brats would doubtless grow up to be ingrates anyhow, as all children do. Or they might have just been a drain on society. You know: takers. If they didn’t want to starve, they should have gotten up off their lazy asses and gotten a job. Or perhaps even started their own business, so clearly it’s their own fault. Anyway, we thank you for smiting them. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.

It gets at what annoys me perhaps most of all about piety – if they think “God” did all this why aren’t they furious at that “God”?

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

The nuns refuse

Mar 23rd, 2014 11:17 am | By

Meanwhile in Ireland…the nuns continue to refuse to help pay compensation to the women they held in slavery in the Magdalene laundries, because that’s how they roll.

Justice Minister Alan Shatter wrote to the Orders a number of weeks ago for the fourth time about contributing to the redress scheme and confirmed that two of the Orders had responded stating they would not contribute any money towards compensating the women. 

The redress scheme is expected to cost between €34m and €58m.

“I wrote to the religious congregations again on this matter several weeks ago following a statement made by the Holy See to the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child in relation to the Magdalen laundries,” said Mr Shatter.

“I have received responses from two of the congregations advising that their position is unchanged and I am awaiting a response from the other two congregations.”

The Sisters of Mercy, Sisters of Our Lady of Charity of Refuge, the Good Shepherd Sisters, and the Sisters of Charity have all stated their refusal to contribute financially to the redress scheme on previous occasions.

In 2012, the Irish Examiner reported that the four orders which ran the Magdalene laundries made almost €300m in property deals during the economic boom.

Compassion, sense of justice, sense of obligation, remorse, regret, responsibility – no, no, no, no, no, no. Generosity, kindness, fellow-feeling, sympathy, empathy – no, no, no, no, no.

Mr Shatter also said that he had written to the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child and asked it to forward any evidence it may have in respect of criminal activity committed in the Magdalen laundries “for the purpose of criminal investigation and possible prosecution.”

However, a spokesperson for Justice For Magdalenes Research expressed surprise that Mr Shatter felt the need to ask the UN for evidence of criminal acts when the group had provided such evidence to the McAleese Committee,” said the spokesperson.

“The State has already received considerable evidence of criminal acts and human rights abuses in the Magdalene laundries. JFMR brought relevant archival evidence and survivor testimony, which we offered to have sworn to the attention of the McAleese Committee. However, the committee chose to ignore these materials and omit them from its report.”

The UN Committee on the Rights of the Child has called on the Vatican to investigate the Magdalene laundries so those responsible for the abuse suffered in the institutions can be prosecuted.

Last May, the UN Committee Against Torture, which forced the Government to investigate the Magdalene laundries, criticised the report by Martin McAleese as “incomplete” and lacking “many elements of a prompt, independent, and thorough investigation”.

Well you know how it is. They’re only women. They’re sluts. They’re round-heels. They brought it on themselves.


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

The Law Society is being seen to normalise Sharia

Mar 23rd, 2014 10:51 am | By

The LSS has drawn up a petition. It has also issued a statement: LSS condemns Law Society’s practice note on “Sharia compliant” wills.

The LSS is very concerned to learn that the Law Society, which represents solicitors in England and Wales, has recently issued a practice note on “Sharia compliant” wills. See LSS member Sadikur Rahman’s blog post from last week about it.

This morning the Sunday Telegraph devoted their front page to this story. The Sunday Times (paywall) also covered it, specifically mentioning the LSS and Sadikur Rahman. The story has also been picked up by the Mail on Sunday and the Independent.

Practice notes are guidance issued by the Law Society for specific areas of law. This practice note contains the following wording:

“The male heirs in most cases receive double the amount inherited by a female heir of the same class. Non-Muslims may not inherit at all, and only Muslim marriages are recognised.”

“…illegitimate and adopted children are not Sharia heirs.”

Commenting, LSS Secretary Charlie Klendjian said.

“This is a very worrying move by the Law Society, and the LSS strongly condemns them for issuing this practice note.

“By issuing this practice note the Law Society is legitimising and normalising – or at the very least being seen to legitimise and normalise – the distribution of assets in accordance with the discriminatory provisions of Sharia law. The Law Society is therefore being seen to legitimise and normalise Sharia law more generally. This is a matter of grave concern for the LSS given that Sharia law is inherently discriminatory against women and non-Muslims.

“As a matter of law, testators (the person making the will) can generally dispose of their assets as they wish, but there are restrictions to this principle, for example to ensure dependants are provided for.

“Although the Law Society’s practice note does not change the law, it does undermine, for example, the way adopted children, children born out of wedlock, and children who are deemed to be of another faith are viewed. This is a worrying precedent to set. At the very least this practice note undermines the dignity of these children; at the worst it starts to slowly undermine the legal protections rightly afforded to them.

“The practice note is dangerous to the priceless notion of equality before the law for people of all faiths and none. It potentially paves the way, ultimately, for a change in the law so that different laws of intestacy (the situation where someone dies without making a will) are applied to Muslims, or those who are deemed to be Muslims.

“The practice note states that ‘there are specific differences between Sunni and Shia rules on succession. These differences are not covered in this practice note’. In time will the Law Society publish different guidance notes for different branches of Islam?

“The LSS calls on the Law Society to withdraw its shocking practice note without delay.”

Sign the petition

You can sign our petition calling on the Law Society to withdraw their practice note here.

Do sign the petition.


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

Breaking the wrong kind of ground

Mar 23rd, 2014 7:13 am | By

The Telegraph and the Times today report on that guidance from the Law Society on how to draw up “Sharia-compliant” wills.

The Telegraph:

Islamic law is to be effectively enshrined in the British legal system for the first time under guidelines for solicitors on drawing up “Sharia compliant” wills.

Under ground-breaking guidance, produced by The Law Society, High Street solicitors will be able to write Islamic wills that deny women an equal share of inheritances and exclude unbelievers altogether.

The documents, which would be recognised by Britain’s courts, will also prevent children born out of wedlock – and even those who have been adopted – from being counted as legitimate heirs.

Frankly it just seems bizarre. Why are they doing this? It seems outside their remit, and as Lawyers’ Secular Society member Sadikur Rahman wrote, in places it’s contrary to their remit. If somebody wants a “Sharia compliant” will then that’s a job for a mosque or a cleric.

There’s no such thing as a “Christian” will is there? A will with special rules for systematically excluding certain categories of people or mandating that they inherit less than other categories of people? Not that I know of. Why make such an arrangement for “Islamic” wills? Individuals can leave their assets any way they choose, including doing just what Sharia would tell them to do. That doesn’t mean lawyers should do the Sharia-compliancy duties for them.

Chris Moos says the LSS are thinking about starting a petition and doing a protest, so if we spread the word, that could help. So spread the word. This is fucked up. One law for all, thank you very much.


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

If you’re out at the big birthday celebration

Mar 23rd, 2014 6:22 am | By

A Republican state senator in Alaska really doesn’t think much of women.

He wants the state to provide free pregnancy tests in bars.

Kelly envisions the government contracting with a nonprofit to make the tests widely available at places that serve alcohol. As he explains, “So if you’re drinking, if you’re out at the big birthday celebration and you’re kind of like, ‘Gee, I wonder if I…?’ You can just go in the bathroom and there should be a plastic, Plexiglas bowl in there, and that’s part of the public relations campaign, too. You’re going to have some kind of card on there with a message.” 

The interviewer asked Kelly whether he would also support offering state-funded birth control in bars. Alaska does not accept federal money from the government’s Medicaid expansion, which would fund contraception, and state Sen. Fred Dyson (R-Eagle River) recently spoke out against it, declaring that if people can afford lattes, they can afford birth control. In response to the birth control question posed by Anchorage Daily News, Kelly said he wouldn’t support it:

No, because the thinking is a little opposite. This assumes that if you know, you’ll act responsibly. Birth control is for people who don’t necessarily want to act responsibly.

What? Using birth control is not acting responsibly? It’s irresponsible to use birth control? It’s responsible to refrain from using birth control, regardless of whether or not you actually want to conceive?

Nope, I can’t get that to make sense, no matter how I turn it and hold it up to the light.

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

Less harassment, more representation

Mar 22nd, 2014 4:10 pm | By

Well, yes, but…

Feminism has fought no wars. It has killed no opponents. It has set up no concentration camps, starved no enemies, practiced no cruelties.
Its battles have been for education, for the vote, for better working conditions, for safety on the streets, for child care, for social welfare, for rape crisis centers, women’s refuges, reforms in the law.
If someone says, “Oh, I’m not a feminist,” I ask, “Why, what’s your problem?”
Dale Spender

Yes, but.

That’s not an exhaustive list. It’s a list of practical tangible things, but it omits the more fuzzy things. Feminism’s battles have also been for no or better stereotypes, a better culture, fewer belittling jokes, fewer sexist epithets, less harassment, less casual telling women what to do (“Smile!”), less interrupting, more representation…Fewer hurdles, fewer asymmetrical expectations (he is aggressive, she is a bitch), more sharing of domestic work from dish-washing to child care, more representation, more representation, more representation.

That’s the answer to the question, too. “What’s your problem?” Their problem is that that stuff is about every day life, and it’s all the time, and it gets in everywhere. It’s not some quick discreet crisp fix, that once it’s done it’s done; it’s changes in the self and attitudes and behavior and conversation.

On the other hand, the rewards are large.

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

Only 3 in 100

Mar 22nd, 2014 3:19 pm | By

What about all those untested rape kits gathering dust in police departments around the US? 400,000 of them, we’re told. Is that “hysteria about rape culture”? (Thank you, American Enterprise Institute hack Caroline Kitchens.) It sounds more like bland indifference to rape, to this puzzled observer. But maybe the police just know all of them are false accusations, without checking?

Anti-rape activists are quick to point out that, although one-third of women experience sexual violence in their lifetimes, only 3 in 100 rapists will ever spend a single day in jail

That doesn’t sound like some kind of hysterical over-reaction. It sounds more like no reaction at all.

But still we need to have a research assistant at the American Enterprise Institute telling us via the uber-mainstream Time that talk of rape culture is “hysteria.”

Rape culture theory is doing little to help victims, but its power to poison the minds of young women and lead to hostile environments for innocent males is immense.

What about the hostile environments for innocent females? What about the environment of that party in Steubenville? What about all those neglected rape kits?


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