Notes and Comment Blog

Horrified at what the survivors were saying

Jun 17th, 2014 6:08 pm | By

Sufiya Ahmed has written a novel about forced marriageSecrets of the Henna Girl

Published in 2012, it tells the story of an everyday teenager, waiting for her GCSE results, looking forward to college and dreaming of the day she will meet her one true love.

But her parents have other plans and, in Pakistan for the summer, Zeba’s world is shattered as her future is threatened by an unthinkable – and forced – duty to protect her father’s honour.

That’s one for the list.

Sufiya was working in the House of Commons as a researcher for an MP when she encountered countless brave Asian women who shared their harrowing experiences with parliamentarians so awareness of the issue could be raised on a national level.

She said: “I was horrified at what the survivors were saying.

“I was shocked that British-born women who were brought up in this country were going through this in the ‘70s, ‘80s and ‘90s.

“We had this attitude that it’s the Asian culture, we mustn’t interfere.

“We had this liberal idea that we can’t interfere in other people’s cultures.

“Actually no, we need to talk about these things.

“Talking about it does raise awareness.

“The survivors talk about just 15 years ago, they were on the receiving end of hatred, people would attack them.

“They had their tyres slashed and windows broken, just for speaking out.

“It’s no longer okay to say, this is our community — you can’t interfere.

“If there’s a human abuse going on, social services and the police should be involved.”

The tide is turning.

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

All the little cuts

Jun 17th, 2014 4:08 pm | By

Are threats really threats?

Well, you can’t always tell, but you don’t always want to risk it, either.

The Supreme Court is about to consider Facebook threats to murder the ex-wife brand of threats.

The US Supreme Court is to decide whether violent threats or images posted on Facebook and other social networks constitute free speech or a criminal act, in the case of a man who made comments about his estranged wife.

Anthony Elonis wrote about killing his wife publicly on Facebook and also posted other comments and images about her, about his co-workers and about the law enforcement officials who investigated the threats.

“There’s one way to love you but a thousand ways to kill you,” he wrote about his wife. “I’m not going to rest until your body is a mess, soaked in blood and dying from all the little cuts.”

Looks like a threat to me.

Elonis claims that the posts were just artistic expressions and his way of dealing with his personal problems, not indications that he wanted to harm anyone. But both the lower court and the appeals court ruled that the posts were criminal threats, because even if he didn’t intend to hurt anyone, a reasonable person would have felt threatened by them.

“Although the language was — as with popular rap songs addressing the same themes — sometimes violent, petitioner posted explicit disclaimers in his profile explaining that his posts were ‘fictitious lyrics,’ and he was ‘only exercising [his] constitutional right to freedom of speech’,” his filing to the Supreme Court said.

In order to frighten his ex-wife. I don’t consider that a “right.”

Elonis and his legal team have pushed the case all the way to the Supreme Court, with free speech advocacy group the Thomas Jefferson Centre for the Protection of Free Expression also supporting his attempt to have the court consider the issue.

It’s a threat. There shouldn’t be a right to make credible-looking threats.

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

There isn’t some kind of magic root

Jun 17th, 2014 3:35 pm | By


Photo: "I don't get why you need to say this stuff because you know it's not true!" </p>
<p>Thank you, Senator Claire McCaskill for directly questioning the baseless claims of the pseudoscience-peddling Dr. Oz! See the video:</p>
<p>Join CFI's fight against religion and junk science in health care with our Keep Health Care Safe and Secular Campaign:

Look, he’s pouting.

Don’t forget to send me your stories.

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

Think universal, act universal

Jun 17th, 2014 2:50 pm | By

The Muslim feminist and women’s rights activist Shaista Gohir summed it up in a tweet:

Forced marriage is criminalised today and the media irritatingly try and link this to British values! This is about human rights!

Yes it is! And human rights are not the monopoly of any one country or any one section of the globe or geographical direction or stage of development or anything else. Skip the patriotism, please, it’s beside the point.

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

Cameron wraps his head in the flag

Jun 17th, 2014 2:43 pm | By

Oh shut up, David Cameron.

He’s talking nationalist bullshit about “British values” again, which is a really bad idea.

People in the UK should stop being “bashful” about being British, the prime minister has urged.

Writing in the Mail on Sunday, David Cameron said the country should be “far more muscular” in promoting its values and institutions.

He backed the promotion of “British values” in the classroom amid claims conservative Muslim governors had tried to influence some Birmingham schools.

This should include teaching children about Magna Carta, Mr Cameron said.

Mr Cameron wrote that in recent years, the UK had sent out a “worrying” message: “That if you don’t want to believe in democracy, that’s fine; that if equality isn’t your bag, don’t worry about it; that if you’re completely intolerant of others, we will still tolerate you.”

That is a stupid, reckless, destructive thing to say. Democracy is not a “British” value; nor is equality; nor is tolerance. He’s basically talking about human rights, and human rights have to be treated as universal; treating them as part of nationalism makes them provincial at a stroke, and thus undermines the efforts of all human rights workers in other countries. Don’t undermine the efforts of all human rights workers in other countries, David Cameron.

In the wake of Ofsted’s findings, Mr Cameron said “British values” included: “A belief in freedom, tolerance of others, accepting personal and social responsibility, respecting and upholding the rule of law.”

These were “as British as the Union Flag, as football, as fish and chips,” he wrote in the newspaper article.

The Muslim Council of Britain said it had “deep concern at the tone and tenor over the debate on British values”.

In a motion passed at its AGM, the MCB said it had “no objection to British values” and believed in a “tolerant, more free and more equal society”.

But it said it wanted a “real debate that does not regard us as conditional Britons…. It is not Islam or Muslims that stand in the way of full participation; It is the active and vociferous campaign to exclude Muslims from the public space.”

For once I think the MCB has a point, although they’re the wrong people to make it. But yes: by calling them “British” values when they’re universal and universalist values, Cameron does tell Muslims and other exotic people that those values are foreign to them. Bad idea, on many levels.



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

Natural light

Jun 17th, 2014 12:19 pm | By

Another ex-hijabi post, this time from a convert.

One poignant detail:

People will often tell you that a Muslim woman can wear whatever she wants in the privacy of her own home, but even there I felt myself being monitored.  Crossing the living room in t- shirt and shorts would immediately prompt my then husband to close the curtains, so I had to choose between comfort and having natural light in the room. 

That sounds so stifling. I have a horror of any kind of stifling.

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

Chaplains in state schools??

Jun 17th, 2014 9:17 am | By

I got a tweet asking me to share this and it’s well worth sharing, so here it is.

National Campaign: STOP the National Schools Chaplaincy Program

They have that? Yes, they have that.

Since 2006, the federal government has used taxpayers’ money to pay for religious missionaries to access schools throughout Australia, including public schools.

Despite a recent budget that targeted education, health, and funds designated for children with disabilities, the current government has extended the National Schools Chaplains Program (NSCP) at a cost to the taxpayer of $670 million since its inception, and removed funding for non-religious welfare workers in schools. Poorly resourced state schools, in particular, desperately need properly qualified and experienced teacher aides, counsellors and social workers. That money has, instead, been diverted towards evangelists.

Reasons why our schools need properly qualified people with no religious agenda include:

  • The NSCP was initiated by religious lobbyists. No research has identified any need for chaplains in schools. Public schools in lower socio-economic areas, however, are in dire need of more resources.
  • Most chaplains have been recruited by fundamentalist religious organisations, whose agenda to ‘make disciples’ of children has been well documented.
  • Religious fundamentalists often hold negative views towards homosexuals and other members of the LGBTI community, do not advocate safe sex, and do not always advocate full equality for women. Properly trained, experienced and regulated teacher aides and counsellors are far better qualified to care for the emotional needs of young people.
  • Nearly 3/4 billion dollars has been spent on or allocated for chaplains since 2006, money that could have resourced the educational needs of children, in addition to evidence-based programs that demonstrate effective results in assisting vulnerable young students.
  • The NSCP has been criticised by teachers and mental health experts, including organisations such as Sane Australia, the Australian Psychological Society and by the ACSSO, the peak body representing the parents of state school students.
  • Religion in schools is divisive. In particular, In particular, faith-oriented chaplains, usually Christian, are not appropriate in multicultural Australia, where a typical state school is made up of students from many different backgrounds, including families of no faith.

How you can help:

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

How to skeptic

Jun 17th, 2014 9:10 am | By

A skeptic wrote a taking-stock how-can-we-improve post soliciting suggestions on how to make a better skeptical “movement.” Suggestions and advice came in. One piece of advice was:

Treat your allies better than you treat your opposition. This doesn’t mean anyone who claims to be on your side gets a blank check. It does mean you should keep their intentions and goals in mind when someone is imperfect.

I laughed and laughed and laughed. Then I laughed some more.

Update Ok I thought it was obvious what was so funny but it’s not; sorry.

Reasonable people – which self-proclaimed skeptics are a subset of – are not supposed to treat allies well and the opposition badly. That’s neither ethical nor epistemically sensible.

(Actual war is the exception here, but then that’s what makes war such a shitty thing, isn’t it.)

Saying you should “keep their intentions and goals in mind when someone is imperfect” about “your side” only is simply to embrace the fundamental attribution error in a permanent bear-hug. It’s groupthink elevated to a principle. It’s cognitive dissonance treated as a tool rather than a distortion.

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

Good start

Jun 16th, 2014 5:11 pm | By

The Ex-Hijabi Fashion Photo Journal is a success already, it was a success before Marwa had even posted anything. Now that’s an idea with legs.

Heina has a post.

I usually answer, with a smile, that I was happy. In fact, it was one of the happiest days of my life. It was the day I took my first permanent, documented, public step as an ex-Muslim ex-hijabi. 

Sidra M has a post.

I think we do ourselves a disservice when we culturally homogenize ourselves when we’re such incredibly interesting people on the inside. My current appearance has everything to do with what makes me feel beautiful and empowered, exactly what the hijab was a representation for me then (but would not be now). My sense of morality comes from a mix of what I was raised with, the values I appreciate in others, and the love and awe I feel when I consider the scientific, reproducible model of the known universe.

There’s a story about the brand-new blog on Medialite.

Not a bad first day!

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

What it’s like to cough so violently that you can’t inhale

Jun 16th, 2014 4:40 pm | By

Collected from your comments on the several pertussis posts I did over the weekend. There are also a couple about asthma, because the terrifying inability to draw a breath is common to both. There are also a few about watching loved others suffer through the horrible illness.


The loss of herd immunity can kick you in the ass even if you’ve done everything you can. My husband got pertussis last year – even though he was vaccinated, it can apparently wear off as you age. Usually not a huge problem, unless there’s suddenly a surge of cases of it from assholes who don’t vaccinate. He was sick for months. Didn’t break any ribs, but the coughing did such a number on his muscles that it was almost as bad. We’re also in a weird transitional time now in that it’s not supposed to be around, so isn’t necessarily treated seriously enough. It took two visits to his doctor to get it properly diagnosed, and then when he ended up in urgent care later because he was sure he had broken a rib (it was that painful), they refused to believe that he had pertussis until they got his actual records.


You bet it’s within living memory! When I was a young kid living in WW2 England, my younger sister, two years old, got whooping cough. I’ll never, ever forget it. She coughed and gasped for weeks. Of course what with wartime shortages and priorities there wasn’t a vaccine available then so it was a question of luck whether or not you got this horrible disease. She was unlucky. But anyone who voluntarily puts children, and not just his own but others too, at this kind of risk deserves some serious sanction. It’s nothing but reckless child endangerment which is a crime.

nonlinear feedback:

I had a mild case of whooping cough when I was a kid. That was before there was any kind of anti-vax movement, and I was vaccinated, so it was the usual low background rate thanks to vaccinations not being 100% effective for 100% of the population. I attribute the fact that it lasted maybe a week to partial vaccine effectiveness; even when they fail to prevent infection, they often reduce severity and duration.

It was still terrifying. I remember my parents taking me into the bathroom, closing the door, and turning the shower to max heat to generate a ton of humidity. That helped ease my coughing fits enough that I could breathe.

Amy Clare:

Horrible. I had whooping cough at age three and it’s one of my earliest memories, waking up in the middle of the night coughing so much that I vomited, night after night for I don’t know how long. After I recovered I was left with weak lungs and usually had a handful of chest infections each year, until the age of 18 ish. All because my family GP (!!!) told my parents that the whooping cough vaccine could cause dementia in some children, so I didn’t get vaccinated. Details of the late 70s/early 80s scare in the link below, turns out that it was rubbish obviously but damage done (I was one of the lucky ones all things considered). The thought of people doing this again to their kids makes me speechless – in fact a close friend is anti-vax, hasn’t protected her son from this, and I have no idea what to say to her.


I can relate; I get asthma attacks like that. Really hard coughing, airways close up, and suddenly I’m frantically gasping from a rescue inhaler — and coughing it out before it can do much good. The longest continuous run of this I’ve endured was about an hour, and every muscle between my shoulders and my hips hurt the next day. I’ve had the airways completely close up for several seconds at a time, seconds that seem like hours. I’ve had total strangers watch me go through this in public and offer to call 911. It sucks, but most of the time meds keep it under control.

To see that misery visited on a child, and for weeks or months? It just makes me want to cry in frustration. It makes me want to beat parents who don’t vaccinate about the head and ears. Hard. Lots. And I’m not normally a violent person.


My fully-vaccinated child got a mild case of it last summer at a sleepover camp (thanks, parents who sent their sick child to camp! Words just can’t describe my feelings for you!). The child came home sicker than I’ve ever seen a child get, and coughed for three months.

Crimson Clupeidae:

I had an awful case around 2000. I had my ribs x-rayed because the docs thought I had cracked or broken at least one, the pain was so bad. They couldn’t find anything on the x-rays, though. Even after the cough was gone (it lasted about 6 weeks), my ribs were sore for another month.

I was actually up to date on my shots at the time, so according to my doc (and she specialized in immunology and ‘travel medicine’) I had a mild case…..

That sucked. I get the booster every ten years now, for sure.

Nathaniel Frein:

I’ve never had pertussis, but I’ve made those “whooping” noises before when I’ve been really sick, because any time I get a respiratory infection it plays hell with my asthma. I’ve found there’s no way of communicating the awful fear and panic you feel when you’re literally unable to breathe but your body keeps trying to cough.

Richard Gorman:

I had whooping cough in 1962. I was 21 years old. The feeling of not being able to inhale is terrible. For 4 months after I was “over” the infection, I would be subject to paroxysmic coughing when I stepped out of my warm car into the winter air. Half the time I would throw up my lunch in the street. I lost 40 lb in those 4 months from whoopng cough. I also cracked my ribs coughing.
In 2013 I had to get the pertussis vaccine again to visit my grandchildren in San Francisco because of the epidemic of pertussis there. I think people who decide not to vaccinate their children are murdering other peoples children.


Had an (adult) friend down with the whooping cough, and in adults, it can present as a persistent cough… One that comes in doubling-over, near-fainting bouts, though, regularly, over several months. Now that’s persistent.

Ben Wright:

I had whooping cough when I was at secondary school, past the usual age to get it. It started as a normal cough that kept me off school.

I coughed myself out, then when I tried to breathe in, my throat had somehow closed. My lungs were empty, and I couldn’t breathe in even a gasp. I ran downstairs, flailed at my mum. She tried the Heimlich, although of course I hadn’t swallowed anything, then rang 999. I threw up a little onto the carpet, just a panic reaction. Still couldn’t breathe in. Just when I thought I was going to pass out, whatever weird muscular spasm had caused it relaxed. I still got taken to hospital. They never really found out what was behind it – but presumably is was some combination of whooping cough, asthma and other allergies.

After that initial scare, and I was back home, it would recur, although never as badly as the first time. Steam helped avoid having my throat close. I would cough so much that I coughed up spots of blood. I developed a sort of instinctual technique for breathing again after that initial attempted in-draw would fail. In hindsight, it’s pretty terrifying.

But that first time my throat closed, over two decades ago, when I was leaning over on the old black chair in front of what I was drawing in Duluxe Paint on the Amiga, on that desk next to the window in the back bedroom (after we’d got the better TV for it), I remember that incredibly vividly. It’s the most terrifying moment of my entire life.

I’m not sure whether I’d been vaccinated for it as a child or not – I think even if so I might have been past the age where it would have worn off.

So, to all parents who choose not to vaccinate for whooping cough:

Fuck you.


I never had pertussis. I was vaccinated. My sister did and wasn’t. I’d have been about four, she about six. It’s not something an uncomprehending four year old wants to see happen to their big sister. I can barely imagine how she felt about it.

There must have been a good reason why she wasn’t vaccinated. Maybe she had a bad reaction, maybe there was some sort of mistake. My mother had been a nurse and seen children die from whooping cough. Growing up, I certainly felt like I was constantly having needles stuck in me (although to be fair, I was all the time doing things like falling in rusty barbed wire, being bitten by foxes etc. so they were mostly tetanus shots (plus a rabies near-miss)). They couldn’t have been more pro-vaccine. And of course, this was long before celebrity trumped medical degrees.

So for one reason or another she slipped through the net and the results were terrifying for everyone if fortunately not tragic. It might have been a mistake by my parents, by doctors or health administrators or a betrayal of my sister by her own body, I don’t know. But those parents who fucking invite that kind of terror upon a child because of their own, easily curable ignorance (and/or perhaps incurable ego)? Ben is right: Fuck You.

Tigger the Wing:

My worst bout of whooping cough was in 1966, when I was nearly nine.

I agree with everyone here – that moment when the coughing has almost completely depleted one’s lungs of air, and yet one’s body insists on more coughing and won’t let one inhale is the most terrifying feeling, exactly like drowning whilst surrounded by air. I have incomplete immunity to whooping cough, and have suffered from bouts of it (though not quite so badly as the first one) every time an epidemic happens.

But the most terrifying moments of my life were watching my daughter trying to survive pertussis at the age of two. She had not been vaccinated (despite my wishes*) because one of her brothers had absence seizures after his vaccinations and the doctors said that it was contra-indicated (this was the mid-eighties).

I had to nurse her myself, despite being sick with it and nursing another child ill with it (my eldest, who also has incomplete immunity despite being fully vaccinated) because the hospitals were full. Her fever was so high that cold flannels became hot flannels after half a minute in contact with her skin. Those frantic seconds every half an hour or so, when she had a coughing fit and couldn’t inhale – I wouldn’t wish those on my worst enemy; even as a witness, let alone a sufferer. Day in, day out, for over a week – I lost track of time.

Anyone who would voluntarily risk that for themselves is astonishingly short-sighted; that they would risk inflicting it on their children is mind-bogglingly cruel.


*I begged them “If the vaccination caused the petit mal (as it was then called) what the hell could the full-blown disease do?” By the time I had the twins, medical opinion had done an about-turn, and they are fully vaccinated – and without my having to fight with them, as I was quite prepared to do!

Added June 17

Crip Dyke

A year ago, January-February, I had **something** though it wasn’t pertussis. There’s another bacterium, I think it’s actually called parapertussis, though maybe that’s the disease name and not the genus. in any case, it causes all the symptoms of whooping cough, but for 6-12 weeks instead of months on end, and the most serious symptoms are limited to about a week or so, and even then are generally not as serious as actual whooping cough. It’s whooping cough very, very light.

And yet, I still had the coughing-out-air-when-there’s-no-air-and-I-feel-like-I’m-dying-to-take-a-breath experience. For me, it was a serious coughing attack once an hour to 4 or 5 times an hour at the worst. And yet, I think I only had multiple attacks in one hour for a single day, or maybe two.

And it just kills your energy. And this isn’t whooping cough. This made me exhausted and behind in law school work and completely miserable for about 5 weeks (it was around and annoying me for a week before and maybe 3 weeks after the period of actual, full-scale misery). I was seriously panicked for the one weekend where I was having multiple attacks per hour. I got bruises just from coughing. It really was horrid.

And this isn’t whooping cough.

Not vaccinating against whooping cough? Pure idiocy.

Added June 18


A few years ago, the Skepchick’s posted my Whooping Cough story, including a picture of my eyes after the coughing had burst every blood vessel in them.

Source: Skepchick

It was awful. I coughed until I threw up and/or passed out multiple times a day. I didn’t sleep for days. While I had it I got a call from a friend who was at her doctor’s and had just been diagnosed with it. The reason she called me was because her doctor was young enough he’d never seen it and didn’t know how to treat it. He wanted to know what my doctor had prescribed.

A friend of mine in the health department here asked if I shopped at Whole Foods. When I said I did, he nodded his head and told me that most of the outbreaks of diseases that can be immunized against happen with Whole Foods as a nexus point because of all the parents who won’t vaccinate.

Adding: do read that post at Skepchick for the full details, which are horrifying.


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

Testimony sought

Jun 16th, 2014 3:34 pm | By

You know CFI’s Keep Health Care Safe and Secular campaign? You can help.

If you have a story of health care being interfered with or messed up or both by religious meddling or pseudoscientific bumbling, you can write it up and send it to me and I’ll publish it here. It will be one post which I’ll update if and when a new story comes in, so it can be just a paragraph if that’s all you need. (If a lot comes in I’ll do more than one post if the first gets too long.) CFI is collecting such stories, so the more the better.

Let’s do this.


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

The rapist’s pursuit of sexual freedom

Jun 16th, 2014 2:56 pm | By

This is from last March, but it’s so special it deserves resurrection. It’s about a Republican Maine state legislator, one Lawrence Lockman. He has said things. A muckraker called Mike Tipping, an activist with Maine People’s Alliance, found some of the things.

Perhaps the most inflammatory was a press statement from 1995 in which Lockman says “If a woman has (the right to an abortion), why shouldn’t a man be free to use his superior strength to force himself on a woman? At least the rapist’s pursuit of sexual freedom doesn’t (in most cases) result in anyone’s death.”

Where to begin, eh? I guess just skip over the obvious brutality and contempt, to zoom in on the idea that rape is the “pursuit of sexual freedom.” That strikes me as a stunted and also perverse understanding of freedom.


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

Based on divine religious texts

Jun 16th, 2014 12:27 pm | By

The Saudi Justice Minister Mohammed Al-Eissa was in DC last week and he took the opportunity to set everyone straight about human rights in the Kingdom.

Justice Minister Mohammed Al-Eissa has denounced international rights groups for attacking the Kingdom’s judiciary, saying laws in this country are based on divine precepts contained in the Holy Qur’an.

“Any attack on the judiciary will be considered an attack on the Kingdom’s sovereignty,” he said recently.

Speaking to American lawyers, legal consultants and academics in Washington, Al-Eissa said many people have misunderstood Islamic laws because they follow biased information and ignore cultural differences. “This is the reason for rights organizations making big mistakes in their reports,” he said.

The minister tried to counter misconceptions about various Shariah punishments such as beheading, cutting off hands and lashing. “These punishments are based on divine religious texts and we cannot change them,” he said.

Oh, that kind of misconception. Except of course it’s not a misconception: everyone knows the horrible punishments mandated by sharia are based on religious texts, and that the people on top think they can’t change them. That’s not in dispute, and there is no misconception.

Al-Eissa emphasized the progress of the Kingdom’s criminal justice system. “At Saudi courts criminal proceedings are undertaken publicly to ensure transparency and fair justice.” He said the application of Islamic laws has reduced crime in the Kingdom.

“Islam is a religion of wisdom that calls for dialogue with other religious faiths and peaceful coexistence with other communities,” the minister said. “If it was not a good religion, it would not have lasted for more than 1,400 years and won millions of followers around the world.”

If only that were true.

Referring to capital punishment, he said many other countries have this form of penalty enshrined in their legislation.

Yes, such as the US for instance, to our shame.

Many other countries used to have slavery, too; they were all wrong.

“The punishment of cutting off hands has been instructed by religions other than Islam.” He said the punishment of lashing is only meted out to those convicted of serious crimes related to honor. The Shariah does not approve of cutting off the hands of suspected thieves, he said.

None of that justifies cutting off of hands or lashing. Al-Eissa is trying to justify the unjustifiable.


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

Scalia taunts the unbelievers

Jun 16th, 2014 12:09 pm | By

Via Ron Lindsay on Twitter, I’m reading Scalia’s dissent (joined by Thomas) in a case decided today, ELMBROOK SCHOOL DISTRICT v. JOHN DOE. It starts on page 10.

Some there are—many, perhaps—who are offended by public displays of religion. Religion, they believe, is a personal matter; if it must be given external manifestation, that should not occur in public places where others may be offended. I can understand that attitude: It parallels my own toward the playing in public of rock music or Stravinsky.

He sounds like a Twitter harasser. That’s the kind of person who trivializes objections to sexist or racist taunting into merely being “offended.” That’s childish. It’s not that we’re merely “offended” by public displays of religion and it’s not comparable to disliking a brand of music. Music doesn’t try to tell us all what to do! If it did try it would fail. Scalia’s wording is an insulting trivialization.

My own aversion cannot be imposed by law because of the First Amendment. See Ward v. Rock Against Racism, 491 U. S. 781, 790 (1989); Erznoznik v. Jacksonville, 422 U. S. 205, 210–211 (1975). Certain of this Court’s cases, however, have allowed the aversion to religious displays tobe enforced directly through the First Amendment, at least in public facilities and with respect to public ceremonies—this despite the fact that the First Amendment explicitly favors religion and is, so to speak, agnostic about music.

The First Amendment explicitly favors religion? He must mean the free exercise clause, which protects religion as opposed to favoring it, and also follows upon an explicit banning of the establishment of religion – so it doesn’t really “favor” it does it.

Moving ahead to page 14 -

It is perhaps the job of school officials to prevent hurt feelings at school events. But that is decidedly not the job of the Constitution. It may well be, as then-Chief JudgeEasterbrook suggested, that the decision of the Elmbrook School District to hold graduations under a Latin crossin a Christian church was “unwise” and “offensive.” 687 F. 3d, at 869 (dissenting opinion). But Town of Greece makes manifest that an establishment of religion it was not.

So we get to force religion on you from now on whether you like it or not so ha!

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


Jun 16th, 2014 11:31 am | By

Here’s a piece of good news to counter the dead fish taste of the bad news we’ve been seeing lately – Michael De Dora has just been elected President of the United Nations NGO Committee on Freedom of Religion or Belief.

That’s terrific.

Here’s me talking to Michael about freedom of religion or belief at Women in Secularism last year.

mdandmeThe right person for the job! Makes a nice change.

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

Marwa says: Join the Ex-Hijabi Fashion Photo Journal!

Jun 16th, 2014 7:33 am | By

You know Marwa Berro of Between a Veil and a Dark Place? (Did I tell you she was at Women in Secularism? I think I did.) She has a brilliant project: an ex-hijabi photo blog.

Featuring ex-hijabis with awesome hairstyles and tattoos and piercings. Ex-hijabis in bikinis and little black dresses and cargo pants and hiking boots. Ex-hijabis who are femme and ex-hijabis who are butch. Ex-hijabis who are women and ex-hijabis who are men. Ex-hijabis topless and legsome and all decked out and minimalistic and with long hair and buzzcuts and everything. EVERYTHING.

Basically ex-hijabis choosing how THEY want their bodies to look, because bodies are a joy and not a shame.


I’m thinking each post will feature a new  ex-hijabi with a small story on their background and feelings about the shift from a life of obscurity to one where they can model and fashion their own bodies as they please.

Read the post for more details, and spread the word.

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

Pope yells at Europe for not cranking out enough babies

Jun 15th, 2014 6:09 pm | By

Dude, look in the mirror. You didn’t have any children (that we know of), so why are you shouting at Europe for having too few of them?

Pope Francis on Sunday criticized Europe for becoming what he called “tired” because of low birth rates and the increasing numbers of young people who neither work nor study.

Mirror. Mirror.


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

Whether “social justice warrior” is supposed to be an insult

Jun 15th, 2014 6:03 pm | By

Dissident Scrapbook gives a nice clear account of the Sarah Kendzior/Jacobin magazine controversy for those who didn’t get all the details. (I’m one of those.)

It starts with an opinion piece on the Jacobin site by Amber A’Lee Frost called “Bro Bash”. The commentary is pretty simple. It says men on the Left who aren’t particularly feminist in their approach to thought, presentation, or behavior — often called “bros” or “brocialists” — should not be dismissed outright, and should also not be lumped in with outright misogyinists just for being, you know, men’s men. Frost basically argues that “bros” aren’t as bad as they’re reputed to be.

That article contains the following sentence:

And I just don’t think the diminutive label of ‘bro’ should be [used] to describe more insidious sexism, let alone violent aggression like rape threats.

Meh. I think “brocialist” is pretty apt, actually.

The controversy is over the fact that this sentence, when the piece originally appeared, contained a link to a tweet by Sarah Kendzior in which she referred to a “brocialist” who once leveled a rape threat against her. (I believe but cannot confirm that the words rape threats were hyperlinked to the tweet.) I won’t link to the original tweet, because that really upsets Kendzior, and I want to respect her wishes. But I will quote it in its entirety, something I’ve decided to do because Kendzior has personally definitely drawn far more attention to this tweet than I’ll ever be able to:

I first heard it from a brocialist sending me emails hoping for my rape. So I’m guessing yes.

(It doesn’t really matter, but the “it” in this tweet is the term social justice warrior, and the “yes” refers to whether social justice warrior is supposed to be an insult.)

Ah now that last is one of the details I didn’t get. Interesting. I had thought the feeding frenzy over that word was local to “the atheist community” and its brocialist hatred of feminism and feminists, but clearly that’s quite wrong. Interesting interesting. So it’s not just atheist assholes aka brocialists, it’s also asshole progressives and lefties aka brocialists. Good to know.

Anti-feminists hate me. I hate anti-feminists. No I’m not going to put all that aside for the sake of “the community.” Stalemate.


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

Other parents chose not to vaccinate

Jun 15th, 2014 5:50 pm | By

A San Francisco station does a better job of taking pertussis seriously in its report; it says it can be deadly for infants and children.

But then it talks to a citizen.

“Hopefully people will catch it when their kids are showing symptoms and they’ll get treated right away and keep them away from other people,” said Katie Kresnak, [whose three children attend school in the district.

All of Kresnak’s three children have current Tdap shots, but she says other parents chose not to vaccinate.

“It’s frustrating to me, but of course people have their own reasons for doing things like that and I have to respect that, but its times like this that put other people at risk so that is a little frustrating,” said Kresnak.

No. No you really don’t have to respect that, and you shouldn’t. There is no such imperative, and in fact you shouldn’t because people have bad reasons and they are endangering their own children and other people’s.

(Ok one possible not-unreasonable motivation for not vaccinating or for delaying it is if one child had a bad reaction. We were told about one such case yesterday and that’s understandable. It’s ok to respect that, while still urging vaccination. But that’s it.)


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

It’s not just “a persistent cough”

Jun 15th, 2014 5:00 pm | By

Well, here’s a terrible bit of reporting on the whooping cough epidemic in California from local CBS News.

Infants and young children are most vulnerable to whooping cough.

Symptoms vary by age but include a cough and runny nose for one or two weeks. The cough then worsens and children may experience rapid coughing spells that end with a “whooping” sound.

In infants, symptoms may not include an apparent cough, but could include episodes in which the child’s face turns red or purple.

In adults, symptoms may include a persistent cough for several weeks.

And that’s it. Sounds pretty harmless, doesn’t it – the cough gets worse and makes a funny sound, and/or the child might turn red or purple in the face. What CBS doesn’t say is that the rapid coughing means the child can’t inhale. The cough pushes the breath out and it keeps going and it’s rapid, so the person coughing can’t breathe in. That’s bad! It’s like drowning; it’s like being suffocated or strangled; it’s terrible and can be lethal. That “whooping” sound that seems so amusing is the desperate noise the cougher makes as she finally drags in a breath with the little strength she has left. It doesn’t sound anything like a whoop to me, it’s a roughly voiced gasp rather than a whoop.

Why would they describe the disease so incompletely and misleadingly?

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