Notes and Comment Blog

They’re looking very distressed and very lean

Jul 7th, 2014 11:35 am | By

It’s only a fraction, but it’s more than 60. >60 is way better than zero.

More than 60 women and girls are reported to have escaped from the Nigerian Islamist group Boko Haram, security sources say.

They were among 68 abducted last month near the town of Damboa in north-eastern Borno state.

But some women who made it home said they feared other escapees had been recaptured, villagers told the BBC.

Boko Haram is still holding more than 200 schoolgirls abducted from Borno’s Chibok town in April.

There’s some disagreement about how they escaped.

18 women who have made it back to villages around Damboa over the last three days – and are being treated at a hospital in Lasa village – said the militants were asleep when they escaped, a Lasa resident told the BBC Hausa Service.

Other relatives told the BBC that the women recounted how they climbed over a wall on Thursday night into Friday morning – and immediately began running away.

Dogs then started barking, which woke up the militants who started shooting at them, the women told the villagers.

They said they feared a significant number of them were subsequently recaptured.

“They’re looking very distressed and very lean… they have gone through a very terrible ordeal,” the Lasa resident told the BBC.

So it’s not actually a picnic to be kidnapped and enslaved by Boko Haram.

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

“Disparagement of males is commonplace in today’s culture”

Jul 6th, 2014 6:15 pm | By

Oh look, sly dishonest interpretation from James Taranto of the Wall Street Journal, in an article on the Freedom From Religion Foundation’s ad responding to the Hobby Lobby ruling in the New York Times. (That’s too many things. It’s too confusing. The FFRF ad was in the Times. It was responding to the Hobby Lobby ruling. Writing is hard.)

…the FFRF’s rhetorical approach does not seem finely tuned for the purpose of winning political allies. The ad is more in the spirit of James Blaine than James Madison. It begins with a quote from birth-control (and eugenics) crusader Margaret Sanger, then, in large capital letters, declares: “Dogma Should Not Trump Our Civil Liberties. All-Male, All-Roman Catholic Majority on Supreme Court Puts Religious Wrongs Over Women’s Rights.”

Disparagement of males is commonplace in today’s culture, but anti-Catholic bigotry still has a bad odor. It must be said, however, that the FFRF ad is not the first, or even the worst, example of it in the context of the ObamaCare mandate.

“Disparagement of males” ffs – they were all male, and males don’t get pregnant; males are not vulnerable to bad rulings on contraception in the way that females are; it’s not “disparagement” to point that out. As for “anti-Catholic bigotry” – oh never mind, I don’t have the energy. He will win anyway: that kind of thing is one reason people are so squeamish about this subject.

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

Back to reporter school

Jul 6th, 2014 4:30 pm | By

One piece of good news, amid the gathering shadows of looming Supreme Court justices:

BBC journalists are being sent on courses to stop them inviting so many cranks onto programmes to air ‘marginal views’.

Yessssss. Should have been done long ago.

The BBC Trust on Thursday published a progress report into the corporation’s science coverage which was criticised in 2012 for giving too much air-time to critics who oppose non-contentious issues.

The report found that there was still an ‘over-rigid application of editorial guidelines on impartiality’ which sought to give the ‘other side’ of the argument, even if that viewpoint was widely dismissed.

Some 200 staff have already attended seminars and workshops and more will be invited on courses in the coming months to stop them giving ‘undue attention to marginal opinion.’


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

Supreme pants on fire

Jul 6th, 2014 12:32 pm | By

Well, at least I have confirmation that I wasn’t exaggerating yesterday when I said Alito lied in the Hobby Lobby ruling. Dahlia Lithwick and Sonja West at Slate say the same thing. They say it with considerable heat and energy.

…moments before they adjourned for their summer recess, the justices proved they can act quite quickly and recklessly when it comes to violating the terms of a controversial opinion they handed down only days earlier. It’s as if the loaner car the court gave us in the Hobby Lobby ruling broke down mere blocks from the shop.


In Burwell v. Hobby Lobby, the Supreme Court ruled that it was a “substantial burden” on the religious freedoms of closely-held corporations for the government to require them to provide contraception as part of their employee health care plans. The court didn’t say that the government could never require a company to do something that violated its religious beliefs, but rather that the government had to use the “least restrictive alternative.” That means that if there is a slightly less burdensome way to implement the law, it needs to be used. To prove that the Affordable Care Act’s contraceptive mandate was not the “least restrictive alternative,” the court pointed to a workaround in the law for nonprofits: If there are religious objections to a medical treatment, third parties will provide coverage to the employees.

Yet in an unsigned emergency order granted Thursday evening, the very same court said that this very same workaround it had just praised was also unconstitutional, that this workaround also burdened the religious freedom of religious employers. Overnight, the cure has become the disease. Having explicitly promised that Hobby Lobby would go no further than Hobby Lobby, the court went back on its word, then skipped town for the summer.

So, they lied, and Alito’s ruling lied.

Or, I suppose, they simply changed their minds Monday evening, or possibly it was Wednesday afternoon, or even Thursday morning.

Except…then wouldn’t they have to wait for a new case? Aren’t they supposed to adhere to their own rulings until such time as they overturn them or tweak them?

Well yes, probably, which is probably why Sotomayor was so scathing in her dissent from that emergency order. (What fucking emergency??)

A majority of the court granted Wheaton a temporary injunction allowing it to refuse to comply with the workaround, or “accommodation,” the court had just held up as the answer in Hobby Lobby. Under the ACA, churches have always been categorically exempt from the mandate. The law further allows religious nonprofits that don’t want to offer contraception to submit a short form, known as Form 700, which affirms their religious objection to providing contraception. Form 700 enables the company’s insurers or third-party administrators to cover the birth control instead of the employer. Easy peasy, right? Sign the form and you don’t have to provide the coverage that violates your religious beliefs. In Hobby Lobby, Justice Alito wrote that this solution “achieves all of the government’s aims while providing greater respect for religious liberty.”


Wheaton, however, along with many other religious not-for-profits, have long objected to this very workaround. They filed lawsuits claiming that the mere fact of signing a form noting their religious objection to contraception coverage triggered third parties to provide the contraception, which triggered women to have access to morning-after pills and IUDs, which in their view were akin to abortions, and thus violated their religious consciences. Signing the form, they said, was the same as actually providing the contraceptives themselves. It’s the butterfly effect of contraception. Any time Wheaton flaps its religious-conscience wings, a woman somewhere ends up with an IUD, and Wheaton’s religious liberties are violated.

And Thursday night a majority of the court agreed. The order is a preliminary injunction. The court will need to decide this and dozens of similar cases in the future. The justices caution that this in no way reflects their views of the future cases. But for our purposes, let it be known that the very workaround the court gave to religious objectors only four days earlier now likely violates their religious liberty as well.

Disgust doesn’t even begin to describe it.

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

Women know how to pedal

Jul 6th, 2014 11:07 am | By

Tour de France? All very well but why is it men only? The BBC asks.

Former Olympic champion Nicole Cooke says it is a “scandal” there is no longer a Tour de France for women, blaming sexism in cycling.

The men’s race, which starts in Leeds on Saturday, is now an iconic event, but the women’s Tour last ran in 2009.

(Sigh – there’s that dopy use of “iconic” again.)

“It’s a scandal there isn’t a Tour for women at the moment,” the 31-year-old said in an interview with BBC Breakfast.

“In the 1980s, there was a women’s Tour de France. It was held over the same stages as the men’s race. They celebrated with equality.

“Since then, women’s cycling has kind of been swept under the mat.”

The women’s Tour has been staged on and off, in numerous guises, since 1984 and was won by Cooke in 2006 and 2007.

It began life as the Tour de France Feminin and was rebranded the Grande Boucle in 1998, but has slowly dwindled in size.

As Kate Smurthwaite said in a public Facebook post -

What channel is the women’s Tour de France on? … Oh … Oh really. Well then FUCK YOU. Seriously how dare these people put all that time and effort into building dreams for our sons and not our daughters? If the race was whites-only there would be uproar. **commences uproar**

On with the uproar, I say.

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

All of the speakers

Jul 6th, 2014 10:20 am | By

The speakers, left to right, up to down:

Tawfique Chowdhury

Bilal Philips

Yasir Qadhi

Abdur Raheem Green

Sajid Umar

Waleed Basyouni

Alaa Elsayed

Yahya Ibrahim

Abdul Nasir Jangda

Omar Suleiman

Bilal Ismail

Yusha Evans

Hamza Tzortzis

Navaid Aziz

Daood Butt

Abdur-Raheem McCarthy

Shady Alsuleiman

Fatih Seferagic

Mohammed Zayara

Mulsim Belal

Bilal Philips
Yasir Qadhi
Abdur Raheem Green
Sajid Umar
Waleed Basyouni
Alaa Elsayed
Yahya Ibrahim
Abdul Nasir Jangda
Omar Suleiman
Bilal Ismail
Yusha Evans
Hamza Tzortzis
Navaid Aziz
Daood Butt
Abdur-Raheem McCarthy
Shady Alsuleiman
Fatih Seferagic
Mohammed Zeyara

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

Night of Power

Jul 6th, 2014 10:06 am | By

Another fun event for your participatory pleasure: the Night of Power Conference.

The Night of Power Conference – The first-ever global online video conference organised by Mercy Mission, to be held on the 27th Night of Ramadan 1435 A.H. (2014).

The Event shall be streamed LIVE, featuring over 20 world-renowned Islamic figures, for 36 consecutive hours! The theme of the Conference, ‘Spiritual Journey with the Qur’an’ aims to revive the Ummah through knowledge and action.

Behold the over 20 world-renowned Islamic figures. [click to embiggen to get the full effect]


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

Based on Biblical principles

Jul 5th, 2014 6:14 pm | By

There’s a thing, or at least a website, called Christian Medical & Dental Associations. Who knows, maybe it is just a website, with no actual members at all. Anyone can set up a website and call herself an Association of something or other, provided (I assume) she doesn’t steal the name.

Anyway this Christian Medical & Dental Associations has a Moral Complicity with Evil Ethics Statement. It defines its terms right at the beginning, in the first paragraph.

Moral complicity with evil is culpable association with or participation in wrongful acts. Evil is defined as anything immoral or wrong based on Biblical principles. Questions about moral complicity with evil can arise in regard to an individual’s relationship to or involvement with past, present or future evil.

That’s it. That’s the terms defined. They go on to say we shouldn’t do evil, and to quote some bible verses saying the same thing, but that’s all you get by way of defining terms. It’s a little…thin. Evil is defined as anything immoral or wrong based on Biblical principles, ok, but which principles? The one about dashing the infants’ heads against the wall for instance? They don’t say. I guess it’s just whatever the individual decides it is on any given day.

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

Guest post: Vatican, Exorcism and Witch hunting in Africa

Jul 5th, 2014 5:40 pm | By

Guest post by Leo Igwe

The recent approval by Pope Francis of the practice of exorcism has dealt a heavy blow to efforts to combat witch hunting in Africa.

At a time when the UN and the international community are exploring ways of tackling horrific abuses related to belief in witchcraft, the papal recognition of the association of exorcists comprising 250 priests in 30 countries is a huge setback. It dims the prospects of making witch-hunting history in Africa. In fact, the Vatican’s approval of exorcism will end up legitimizing this abusive process. Going by the current trend in witch persecution, the region is going to experience more witch hunts, not less.

This is because millions of Africans are Catholic. They look to the Vatican for guidance in the practice of their faith. This means the decision by the pope to recognise exorcism sends very disturbing signals. Many Africans will interpret this development to mean an endorsement of witch hunting because witch hunting is believed to be a form of exorcism.

Witchcraft is part of the demonological narratives in Africa. And most African Catholics claim that witchcraft is a form of evil spirit that can be expelled by priests or pastors.

The Catholic church has not really been at the forefront of the witch craze in Africa.

Though the church has always maintained the belief in the devil and the practice of exorcism, the Vatican has not come out expressly this way to endorse the process of expelling the devil. European missionaries who introduced christianity to Africa did not put much emphasis on the devil or exorcism. They focused mainly on building schools and hospitals as tools of evangelization.

But the fact is that the position of the Catholic church in Africa on witchcraft and exorcism has been ambivalent. Many churches have appropriated charismatic forms of christianity in order to halt the loss of members to Pentecostal churches. Some ‘charismatic’ Catholics priests ‘unofficially’ practice exorcism.

But the Pentecostal churches are the ones mainly in the business of preaching about the devil, deliverance and the witch hunting campaign. Pentecostal churches have appropriated the witchcraft narratives into their ministries. They preach that witches exist; that witches are demons that can possess people; and that people possessed by the demon of witchcraft can be delivered or exorcised. Pentecostal pastors are the modern day witch hunters.

But with this new development at the Vatican, things are going to change. Catholic churches in Africa will now be officially joining the witch-finding ministry. We should expect to see many churches across the region becoming witch hunting centers. Witch-hunting catholic priests, who have been practicing on the margins, will be mainstreamed. And this will surely be an unfortunate development for the cause of enlightenment in Africa and the world.

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

They can’t be trusted

Jul 5th, 2014 5:35 pm | By

Exactly. David Ropeik writes today July 5 at Psychology Today that the theocratic Supremes can’t be trusted, because they’re dishonest. Yes they are.

…more and more, trust in the most important part of that system, one of the basic foundations on which this great nation rests, is being eroded. The U.S. Supreme Court is supposed to be the final neutral arbiter of what is and what is not legal, but more and more the 5 person conservative majority on the court is undermining trust in the nation’s highest court, and ultimately the very fairness of how America works, by appearing to decide cases based on their personal ideology rather than an objective consideration of the law.

Just Thursday, and to little notice compared to the high profile ruling earlier in the week in the Hobby Lobby case, the court seemed to say that non-profit institutions have the right to impose their religious views on their employees, specifically in this case Christian opposition to contraception and abortion. (Read the ruling itself here.) There is one big and SCARY difference between this ruling and Hobby Lobby, and it raises serious questions about whether the conservative majority is honestly following the law, or dishonestly finding ways to impose their personal ideology on how America works.

Yes, and that’s not even all. They lied in the Hobby Lobby ruling itself, saying it was a narrow ruling and then the next day throwing it wide open.

This is far more corrosive to trust in the Supreme Court than the fight over contraception, or abortion, or whether you are a conservative or a liberal and like or dislike any of the Court’s specific decisions. This is about the honesty of the justices of the U.S. Supreme Court, and therefore trust in this important institution. The court used one line of thinking in one ruling, and then tossed it out in the next, allowing the majority to move toward more conservative values. Don’t take it from me that this is about the fundamental issue of honesty. Take it from three of the Court’s Justices themselves! In a remarkable and scathing dissent, the three women on the court, Justices Elena Kagan, Sonia Sotomayor, and Ruth Ginsburg said:

“Those who are bound by our decisions usually believe they can take us at our word. Not so today,” Sotomayor wrote. “After expressly relying on the availability of the religious-nonprofit accommodation to hold that the contraceptive coverage requirement violates [the Religious Freedom Restoration Act] as applied to closely held for-profit corporations, the Court now, as the dissent in Hobby Lobby feared it might, retreats from that position.”

There’s also the fact that all five of them are men, and all five of them are Catholics. They’re basically channeling the Vatican. Yes, I think that’s dishonest, and unconstitutional.

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

Requiring that we become complicit in evil

Jul 5th, 2014 4:48 pm | By

Let’s go back to February 2012 for a sample of the rhetoric used by the Catholic theocrats to demand special exemptions from ordinary secular laws. A Catholic priest at the top of Human Life International made a statement.

We at Human Life International stand with the Catholic bishops and a diverse group of organizations and individuals in rejecting the false compromise offered by the Obama administration in an apparent attempt to gain wider acceptance of the mandate that requires free coverage of contraception, sterilization, and abortion inducing drugs.

Having closely examined all available information on the compromise, we are appalled at the cynicism displayed by both its content and the means by which it was announced. The original unjust mandate required that conscientious objectors to this policy would be forced to pay for insurance that will cover morally abhorrent ‘care.’

With the so-called compromise we are still forced to pay for insurance that covers procedures and drugs that directly contradict our religious beliefs. The compromise is a distinction without a difference and merely an accounting trick that does nothing to change the fact that we will have to pay for chemical abortions, sterilizations and contraception for any employee.

The phrase “that directly contradict our religious beliefs” is the core of their case, and it’s meaningless. It’s empty. It’s so arbitrary that it could apply to anything. Forcing everyone to defer to it and be harmed by it is sheer bullying.

If their “religious beliefs” tell them that contraceptives are evil, then their religious beliefs are terrible things, which should have no purchase whatsoever on public life.

The Obama administration’s verbal engineering is an egregious and blatant attempt to divide certain Catholic organizations from others and from the bishops, all in an effort to secure even the thinnest possible façade of Catholic approval. Sadly, the administration has found prominent organizations to be complicit in this calculated move. It should be noted that though the bishops were not consulted on this compromise, it appears that Catholic Health Association (CHA) and Catholic Charities USA were consulted and their agreement secured before the bishops even had an opportunity to examine the proposal. The Obama administration’s proposal was clearly not an attempt at good faith dialogue and genuine compromise.

The apparent agreement between the Obama administration, CHA, Catholic Charities and Planned Parenthood is utterly untenable from a Catholic point of view, requiring that we become complicit in evil.

Except that there is no evil here, the “evil” is invented, it’s manufactured, it’s worked up for the purpose of religious vanity and privilege-enhancement.

It appears that the stalwart unified voice of bishops, laity, Catholics and all citizens of good will compelled the administration to offer this weak, symbolic compromise because of questions about what the mandate meant for President Obama’s reelection campaign. We have seen clearly the ideological goals this administration is pushing with this unjust mandate. We can only imagine what will be inflicted on Catholics and on all Americans should the president win reelection and not have to worry about currying favor with Catholics.

It’s the Catholics who are doing the inflicting.

Under the Affordable Care Act (‘Obamacare’), the HHS has entirely too much unchecked power over health care in the United States, and given their history of disregard for both religious liberty and human life, we have no confidence that the federal government can be trusted to administer health care that respects the dignity of every human person from conception to natural death. Not only do we support legislation currently being considered in Congress to ensure clear and strong protection for freedom of religion and conscience, but we also call upon our political leaders to repeal the Affordable Care Act in its entirety so that it may be replaced by a system in which human life and dignity, and the principles of solidarity and subsidiarity, are secured.

Really? Do these people have anything to say about the for-profit health care system that chews people up and spits them out? What’s that got to do with “the dignity of every human person”? Do these people have anything to say about harsh sentencing laws, proliferating prisons, low wages, dangerous working conditions? Do they pay any attention to human beings after the fetal stage?

This compromise offered by President Obama demands that we compromise our religious beliefs and our commitment to the health and life of women and children while they compromise nothing. We at Human Life International stand with our Bishops and call upon the administration to honor the freedom endowed by God and honored by our nation’s Bill of Rights. We will render unto Caesar only that which belongs to him and not what belongs to God.

Talk about being complicit with evil…


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

Oh, the part about limited scope? Just kidding.

Jul 5th, 2014 4:18 pm | By

Here’s a piece of news I missed, despite (I thought) paying close attention:

Less than a day after the United States Supreme Court issued its divisive ruling on Burwell v. Hobby Lobby, it has already begun to toss aside the supposedly narrow interpretation of the decision. On Tuesday, the Supremes ordered lower courts to rehear any cases where companies had sought to deny coverage for any type of contraception, not just the specific types Hobby Lobby was opposed to.

I’m dumbfounded. They really are opening the door to letting godbotherers do everything they can to impede women’s access to contraception, including getting extra special gift-wrapped gold-plated exemptions from ordinary laws that apply to everyone else.

Justice Samuel Alito, who wrote the the 5-4 opinion, used numerous qualifiers in an attempt to limit its scope, but a series of orders released by the court Tuesday contradict any narrow interpretation of the ruling.

So Alito (and the others) must have been lying, yes? They didn’t change their minds overnight, after making the ruling public…so they must have lied about limiting its scope.

The court vacated two decisions by the US Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit—Autocam Corp. v. Burwell and Eden Foods v. Burwell—and commanded the appeals court to rehear the cases in light of the Hobby Lobby decision. In both instances the Sixth Circuit had rejected requests from Catholic-owned businesses that sought to exempt the companies from offering insurance that covered any of the 20 mandated forms of birth control. The Supreme Court also compelled the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia to reopen a similar case, Gilardi v. Department of Health & Human Services. “With Tuesday’s orders,” wrote The Nation‘s Zoë Carpenter, “the conservative majority has effectively endorsed the idea that religious objections to insurance that covers any form of preventative healthcare for women have merit.”

Can we secede?

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

A helps B to accomplish an external act by an act that is not sinful

Jul 5th, 2014 11:53 am | By

Another article by Leslie Griffin on the Supremes and Catholic moral theology. There’s some overlap with the article I posted about yesterday.

I never expected to see Father Henry Davis’s Moral and Pastoral Theology (1935) cited in a Supreme Court opinion.

But there it was in footnote 34 of Justice Samuel Alito’s opinion in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby, in which the Court ruled that two non-Catholic families, the Greens and the Hahns, were not required to comply with the contraceptive mandate of the Affordable Care Act. Father Davis was an English Jesuit and famous moral theologian who died in 1952 at age 85. The string cite quotes Father Davis’s text as follows: “Cooperation occurs ‘when A helps B to accomplish an external act by an act that is not sinful, and without approving of what B does.’”

Not “sinful.” That’s a concept that has no place in a Supreme Court ruling, because it’s purely religious. The justices have no business trying to define what’s “sinful” for us, much less allowing the Catholic church to impose its views on the matter on all of us.

Catholicism has a warped and impoverished idea of what morality is, what we owe to each other, what matters and what doesn’t. It has done terrible things itself, and still fails to apologize for them. It still does terrible things right now. It’s morally bad, and not any kind of model.

Davis was one of the best practitioners of the old art of the Catholic moral manual, books that were usually written by priests for other priests. The manuals presented illustrative “cases of conscience,” so that priests could give moral guidance to Catholics as well as learn to assess what was sinful in the confessional. Davis was particularly incisive in writing about the principles of formal and material cooperation with evil. Many of his cases centered on medical ethical questions of cooperation with “evil” procedures and employees’ participation in “evil” actions commanded by an employer.

So, not in any way appropriate for a Supreme Court ruling.

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

They objected to filling out a one-page form

Jul 5th, 2014 10:57 am | By

In January, the columnist Jamie Stiehm wrote in US News & World Report:

Et tu, Justice Sonia Sotomayor? Really, we can’t trust you on women’s health and human rights? The lady from the Bronx just dropped the ball on American women and girls as surely as she did the sparkling ball at midnight on New Year’s Eve in Times Square. Or maybe she’s just a good Catholic girl.

The Supreme Court is now best understood as the Extreme Court. One big reason why is that six out of nine Justices are Catholic. Let’s be forthright about that. (The other three are Jewish.) Sotomayor, appointed by President Obama, is a Catholic who put her religion ahead of her jurisprudence. What a surprise, but that is no small thing.

In a stay order applying to an appeal by a Colorado nunnery, the Little Sisters of the Poor, Justice Sotomayor undermined the new Affordable Care Act’s sensible policy on contraception. She blocked the most simple of rules – lenient rules – that required the Little Sisters to affirm their religious beliefs against making contraception available to its members. They objected to filling out a one-page form.

She did? That’s odd, since she wrote an opinion objecting to the same thing just a couple of days ago. I’m confused.

Well maybe it’s because the situation is different after the Hobby Lobby ruling. The Washington Post seems to be saying that:

After the Hobby Lobby decision, the court sent back for reconsideration by lower courts cases that involved companies whose owners say their religious beliefs do not allow them to offer any contraceptives.

And the Wheaton College case is one of dozens that object to a compromise the Obama administration has offered to religious organizations, hospitals and ­colleges.

Under this arrangement, the groups are required to fill out a form, EBSA Form 700, to register their religious objections. This enables their insurers or third-party administrators to take on the responsibility of paying for the birth control. The organizations do not have to pay for the coverage, and the cost is borne by the government or in other ways.

But some of the colleges and organizations say that signing the form authorizes the third parties to provide the contraceptive coverage, making them complicit in actions that offend their religious beliefs.

Summoning all the lawyers to explain.

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

Religious Freedom Café

Jul 5th, 2014 10:33 am | By

More from Mrs Betty Bowers, America’s Best Christian.


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

The Vatican-led Supreme Court

Jul 5th, 2014 9:42 am | By

How did we get here?

Wikipedia gives one quick rundown.

Other Catholic justices included Pierce Butler (appointed 1923) and Frank Murphy (appointed 1940). Some accounts note that Sherman Minton, appointed in 1949, was also a Catholic; however, during his time on the Court he was a Protestant, though his wife’s Catholic faith was noted at the time in relation to the notion of a “Catholic seat”.[71] Minton joined his wife’s Catholic faith in 1961, five years after he retired from the Court.[72] Minton was succeeded by a Catholic, however, when President Eisenhower appointed William J. Brennan to that seat. In fact, Eisenhower intently sought to appoint a Catholic to the Court—in part because there had been no Catholic Justice since Murphy’s death in 1949, and in part because Eisenhower was directly lobbied by Cardinal Francis Spellman of the Archdiocese of New York to make such an appointment.[73] Brennan was then the lone Catholic Justice until the appointment of Antonin Scalia in 1986, and Anthony Kennedy in 1988.

Like Sherman Minton, Clarence Thomas was not a Catholic at the time he was appointed to the Court. Thomas was raised Catholic and briefly attended Conception Seminary College, a Roman Catholicseminary,[74] but had joined the Protestant denomination of his wife after their marriage. At some point in the late 1990s, Thomas returned to Catholicism. In 2005, John Roberts became the third Catholic Chief Justice and the fourth Catholic on the Court. Shortly thereafter, Samuel Alito became the fifth on the Court, and the eleventh in the history of the Court. Alito’s appointment gave the Court a Catholic majority for the first time in its history.

And the Vatican’s triumph was complete.

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

Tenth rate, is it?

Jul 4th, 2014 5:58 pm | By

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

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

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

Never mind what the women think

Jul 4th, 2014 4:33 pm | By

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The more I read the bitterer the pill gets.

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

Making them complicit

Jul 4th, 2014 4:09 pm | By

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

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

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

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

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


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

If corporations

Jul 4th, 2014 3:27 pm | By

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

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

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