Notes and Comment Blog

Christian Voice and the BBC

Dec 6th, 2013 11:02 am | By

Stephen Green at “Christian Voice” is indignant that the BBC is a partly secular organization.

The Daily Mail has run a story about the BBC employing more atheists and non-believers than Christians after submitting a Freedom of Information request.

An internal BBC survey indeed found that just 22.5 per cent of all staff professed to be Christians, but 43% of staff did not respond to the survey.  The Daily Mail said the Christians were outnumbered by atheists and those of no faith, at 23.5 per cent, but that figure was arrived at by adding the professing atheists (8.9%) to those of no faith (14.6%).  Buddhists, Hindus, Jews, Muslims and Sikhs totalled 3.2% while ‘others’ were 2.6%, and 5.2% preferred not to say.

The Daily Mail’s Jonathan Petrie said ‘the new research has been seized on by critics who accuse the Corporation of bias against Christianity and marginalising the faith in its output’.  He quoted BBC veteran Roger Bolton, who until recently presented BBC Radio 4’s religious current affairs programme, ‘Sunday’, as saying: ‘There is an inbuilt but unconscious bias against religion, fuelled by the fact staff are not representative of the public. It is not a conspiracy but it needs a correction.’

Why would it need a correction? Why would the BBC have to be more pro-religion?

The Mail has certainly sensationalised the story, but it remains that BBC staff as a whole are unrepresentative of the population at large, where, according to the last census, around 72% claimed to be Christian, with just 15.5% saying they had no religion.  At the BBC, out of those who have volunteered information, 39.5% claim to be Christian, 15.6% atheist and 25.6% of no religion.  Other religions are similar to the proportions in the population.

I bet I know another way that BBC staff as a whole are unrepresentative of the population at large; I bet they have more than average levels of education. Why? Because of the nature of the job. You could say the same thing about lawyers (for just one example).

There’s an obvious connection, though BBC veteran Roger Bolton might call it bias against religion to spell it out. I’ll spell it out anyway. There’s an obvious connection between more education and more critical thinking about conventional wisdom such as religion. People who spend more time getting an education have more opportunities to be exposed to questions about religion, and people who ask questions about religion. It’s not hugely surprising that there’s a correlation (assuming there is one) between having the education needed to work for the BBC, and being non-religious.

I suppose that’s why outlets like the Daily Mail and people like Stephen Green feel they have to resort to bullying tactics like demanding more “representation” for untenable views.

Green then, taking a leaf from Bill Donohue’s book, quotes himself in a blog post he himself wrote:

In July 2006, a veteran BBC executive told a meeting called to address the problem of anti-Christian bias: ‘There was widespread acknowledgement that we may have gone too far in the direction of political correctness.  ‘Unfortunately, much of it is so deeply embedded in the BBC’s culture, that it is very hard to change it.’

Stephen Green, National Director of Christian Voice, responded:

‘It would be good to know the religious break-down of people in BBC top jobs, because it rather seems as if the Christians at the BBC have either a secularist world-view or little vision of how to turn the place upside down, as the early Apostles were accused of doing.  Putting the comments from Andrew Marr and Jeremy Vine together, it just seems far easier to be atheistic and gay than to be normal and Christian at the BBC.’

Seriously. He’s quoting himself, in the third person. Did he forget that he shows as the author right at the top of the page?

‘The real problem is not the lack of Christian programming, but the fact that no world-view other than a tedious atheist outlook informs normal programming content.  The BBC really should have the decency to acknowledge there are valid points of view other than the grindingly politically-correct anti-Christ atheism held by the majority of its staff.

‘Christians in soaps are always portrayed as weak, or stupid, or bigoted. Meanwhile, story-lines are concocted to introduce homosexuals whenever possible and to show favoured religious minorities in a good light.

Note how automatically he treats “homosexuals” as illegitimate intrusions forced on decent Christians by an atheist minority.

In passing he takes a swipe at Professor Alice Roberts, who replies in a comment:

I wanted to register my disquiet at the paragraph in which I am described as a “fanatical evolutionist”. Like most biologists, I think that evolution through natural selection best explains the diversity of life on this planet; this is not a minority view and not necessarily incompatible with religious belief: many Christians accept evolution.

However, I felt moved to respond to the criticisms of the series Origins of Us, and set the record straight. Firstly, the criticisms do BBC Science an injustice. Even if I wanted to present my own opinions and speculation (in any other way than clearly flagging them as such) the BBC would not allow me to do this in a science programme. Secondly, the criticism levelled at me brings my own academic integrity into question. Every hypothesis and fact discussed or presented in the programme is already “out there”, in peer reviewed scientific publications. BBC Science (and I myself) are very careful about the factual basis of such programmes, and extremely careful to differentiate between fact and opinion.

The “vacuous subjective claims” to which Mr Stephen Green alludes are facts based on peer-reviewed scientific research. I am also surprised that Mr Green suggests I presented the extremely outdated “savannah hypothesis” as current science – this is something that was critically appraised and research suggesting, instead, an arboreal origin for bipedalism was put forward. The idea that tool-using and tool-making may have influenced the shape of our hands is, again, not idle speculation but based on published research. Any change in anatomy which leads to a survival advantage (whether that’s an adaptation helping survival in a particular natural environment or an adaptation which makes you better at making technology which helps you to survive) is likely to be selected for.

I realise that few readers of this website will read my response objectively, but I object strongly to the criticism that my programmes with the BBC have lacked objectivity and include “idle speculation”. That can only be true if you believe that the numerous academic papers which form the backbone of such a series are also “idle speculation”.

Regards, Professor Alice Roberts [I will post a copy of this comment on my Facebook page]

And I posted it here. I like to help.


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

Maybe some day a Sally Potatohead

Dec 6th, 2013 10:22 am | By

From last spring, an item about Disney and 1938.

It shows a letter sent to a woman who had applied or asked about applying for a job as an animator at Disney Studios. The letter is signed by Mary Cleillegible. It says Disney doesn’t hire women as animators, for the cogent reason that Disney doesn’t hire women as animators.

Women do not do any of the creative work in connection with preparing the cartoons for the screen, as that work is performed entirely by young men. For this reason girls are not considered for the training school.

That’s helpful, isn’t it? Women don’t do that work, because that work is done entirely by men. For that reason “girls” are not considered. kthxbye

It’s a long time ago, but it makes me feel a bit sick even so. A door firmly slammed that simply can’t be opened. A desirable interesting job doing a new kind of art, that is formally reserved for men only, for no reason except that it is. Unapologetically. The woman who wrote the letter to ask about applying learns that it’s not something she can even attempt, The competition would naturally be fierce, but she can’t even try.

And things haven’t changed as much as they might have. I assume letters like that are no longer sent, nor are matching emails sent (I still assume) – but you could write a similar letter about the casting of Disney animation movies. That’s still almost all male. The Lion King? All male apart from one girl to play the love interest. Toy Story? All male apart from one girl to play the love interest. Toy Story 2 was a great leap forward because it added Mrs Potatohead.

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


Dec 5th, 2013 12:50 pm | By

I hadn’t heard of Calista Springer before, that I recall. She is mentioned in a piece about homeschooling and fundamentalism (and Quiverfull and patriarchalism) in American Prospect.

Homeschooling now exists in a virtual legal void; parents have near-total authority over what their children learn and how they are disciplined. Not only are parents in 26 states not required to have their children tested but in 11 states, they don’t have to inform local schools when they’re withdrawing them. The states that require testing and registration often offer religious exemptions.

The emphasis on discipline has given rise to a cottage industry promoting harsh parenting techniques as godly. Books like To Train Up a Child by Michael and Debi Pearl promise that parents can snuff out rebellious behavior with a spanking regimen that starts when infants are a few months old. The Pearls claim to have sold nearly 700,000 copies of their book, most through bulk orders from church and homeschooling groups. The combination of those disciplinary techniques with unregulated homeschooling has spawned a growing number of horror stories now being circulated by the ex-homeschoolers—including that of Calista Springer, a 16-year-old in Michigan who died in a house fire while tied to her bed after her parents removed her from public school, or Hana Williams, an Ethiopian adoptee whose Washington state parents were convicted in September of killing her with starvation and abuse in a Pearl-style system. Materials from HSLDA were found in the home of Williams’s parents.

I’ve written about the Hana Williams case here – she was murdered just an hour or two north of here – but not that horrifying item about Calista Springer.

I can’t find much about her, especially on reliable sites. A blog at CNN reported the verdict in the trial of her father and his wife (she was apparently more abducted than adopted).

Centreville, Michigan – Anthony and Marsha Springer arrived at the Centreville courtroom in green and white striped prison garb to receive their sentences from the judge, Hon. Paul Stutesman. Their daughter, Calista, died in a house fire on February 27, 2008 while chained to her bed. Soon after the fire, a long history of abuse by the couple toward Calista was revealed.

A shackled Anthony Springer spoke to the judge, apologizing for what happened to his daughter Calista, but reiterating that it wasn’t intentional and that they did the “best we could with what was available to us.” Anthony spoke about the neglect that Calista endured as a baby by her birth mother Norma Swegles. Swegles, who was present for the sentencing, muttered obscenities and was escorted out of the courtroom by the bailiff.

In his statement to the judge, Anthony Springer laid heavy blame on the Department of Human Services saying, “This system failed Calista and it failed this family and it failed seriously.”

Discipline. Another one disappears into the mist.




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

The book that continues to inspire college sophomores

Dec 5th, 2013 9:12 am | By

C J Werleman takes a look at libertarian atheists.

In the days running up to Thanksgiving, Walmart urged its workers to donate food to their most in-need colleagues. You know, instead of Walmart having to pay said workers a livable wage. When people ask me what libertarianism looks like, I tell them that. By people I mean atheists, because for some stupid reason, far too many of my non-believer brethren have hitched their wagon to the daftest of all socio-economic theories.

It doesn’t help when atheist luminaries publicly extol their libertarianism. Penn Jillette writes, “What makes me a libertarian is what makes me an atheist—I don’t know. If I don’t know, I don’t believe….I’ll wait for real evidence and then I’ll believe.”

Oh right, because libertarianism alone among political commitments has no kind of belief at all, it’s just an empty space.

Famed science author and editor of Skeptic magazine Michael Shermer says he became a libertarian after reading Ayn Rand’s tome Atlas Shrugged. Wait, what? That’s the book that continues to inspire college sophomores during the height of their masturbatory careers, typically young Republicans (nee fascists). But unless your name is Congressman Paul Ryan (R-WI), most people grow out of the, “Screw you, I have mine” economic principles bestowed by the Russian-born philosopher by the time they’re legally old enough to order their first beer.

Ha! Quite so. (One correction though – Ayn Rand was not a philosopher. She was a screenwriter and then a novelist.)

Atheists who embrace libertarianism often do so because they believe a governing body represents the same kind of constructed authority they’ve escaped from in regards to religion.

Which would be great if it weren’t for the tiny flaw that it’s completely simple-minded.

Robert Reich says that one of the most deceptive ideas embraced by the Ayn Rand-inspired Right is that the free market is natural, and exists outside and beyond government. He writes:

“In reality, the ‘free market’ is a bunch of rules about 1) what can be owned and traded (the genome? slaves? nuclear materials? babies? votes?); 2) on what terms (equal access to the Internet? the right to organize unions? corporate monopolies? the length of patent protections?); 3) under what conditions (poisonous drugs? unsafe foods? deceptive Ponzi schemes? uninsured derivatives? dangerous workplaces?); 4) what’s private and what’s public (police? roads? clean air and clean water? healthcare? good schools? parks and playgrounds?); 5) how to pay for what (taxes, user fees, individual pricing?). And so on. These rules don’t exist in nature; they are human creations. Governments don’t ‘intrude’ on free markets; governments organize and maintain them. Markets aren’t ‘free’ of rules; the rules define them.”

And it’s simple-minded not to realize that.

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

Shockingly ignorant of the state of abortion in America

Dec 5th, 2013 8:33 am | By

I mentioned that people don’t believe me when I tell them that Catholic hospitals in the US can and do refuse to perform abortions even to save a woman’s life. Here’s one. It’s the top comment on the video of my talk at the Empowering Women Through Secularism conference in Dublin last June.


5 months ago

For a supposed Women’s Rights activist, Ms. Benson is shockingly ignorant of the state of abortion in America. In Ireland women are allowed to die, such as the case of  Savita Halappanavar. OTOH, even the Catholic Nun was on board for the woman in Arizona. Sure, the fucking idiot in a dress (Bishop) kicked up a fuss. But she got her abortion. Despite what Benson says, Catholic Hospitals can’t deny medically necessary abortions in the US.  They don’t like it.  But they must provide.

Wrong. I’m not the ignorant one here. Catholic hospitals can and do deny medically necessary abortions in the US.

I don’t blame Draconisrex for not knowing that, because as I keep saying, it’s horrendously under-reported and unnoticed. I do however blame Draconisrex for so rudely calling me ignorant without pausing to look it up, since I made it very clear – this was my opening point – that most Americans are unaware of this. Most people are unaware of it.

Here’s the video, in case you’re curious.



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

The only hospital in Muskegon County

Dec 5th, 2013 8:07 am | By

Let’s take a look at Tamesha Means v United States Conference of Catholic Bishops [pdf].

Plaintiff Tamesha Means brings this negligence action against the United States Conference for Catholic Bishops and others for promulgating and implementing directives that cause pregnant women who are suffering from a miscarriage to be denied appropriate medical care, including information about their condition and treatment options. These mandates, known as the Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services (“Directives”), do not merely set forth the opinions of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (“USCCB”) on certain health care issues. Rather, the Directives require Catholic hospitals to abide by their terms, even when doing so places a woman’s health or life at risk.

There you go. That’s the first three sentences and it sums up all we need to know right there – a much too obscure and little-noticed fact about health care in these here United States – the fact that the conference of Catholic bishops orders Catholic hospitals to refuse to perform even life-saving abortions. If you tell people this they don’t believe you. They may even call you a liar. And yet it’s true.

This urgently needs to be fixed. The federal government needs to tell the USCCB that it may not interfere with medical care, period. The feds need to tell Catholic hospitals that they have to do whatever is best for the patient, in consultation with the patient, period. No bishops.

Here’s an interesting detail:

Defendant Stanley Urban is a resident and citizen of the State of Pennsylvania. Urban is the Chair of Catholic Health Ministries, an unincorporated foreign entity that is the religious sponsor of MHP.

MHP is Mercy Health Partners, which is the hospital that gave Tamesha Means such terrible faith-based treatment. Why do we even have “religious sponsors” for hospitals? Why aren’t hospitals secular as a matter of course? They should be welcome to have all sorts of religious services available for people who want them, of course, because hospitals are obviously top of the list of places where religious people are going to want religious company and help. But that should be strictly separate from medical treatment. It’s deranged that it’s not.

Another important detail:

MHP is the only hospital in Muskegon County, Michigan.

A Catholic monopoly on hospital care in a whole county.

17. Plaintiff’s ultrasound report indicates Plaintiff had an amniotic fluid index of only 3.4 and a condition called oligohydramnios, which refers to a decreased volume of amniotic fluid due to the premature rupture of membranes.

18. MHP also diagnosed Plaintiff with preterm premature rupture of membrane, a condition in which a woman’s amniotic sac ruptures with a gestation less than 37 weeks.

19. MHP informed Plaintiff that the fetus was not yet viable.

20. MHP did not inform Plaintiff that in most cases, an amniotic fluid index of 3.4 at 18 weeks of pregnancy, in the context of premature rupture of membranes, means that the fetus will either not be born alive or will be born alive and die very shortly thereafter.

21. MHP did not inform Plaintiff about the serious risks to her health if she attempted to continue the pregnancy.

It’s medical malpractice, at the behest of Catholic bishops. At the only hospital in Muskegon County, Michigan.

We live in a fucking theocracy here.

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

Respect for customs and traditions

Dec 4th, 2013 5:32 pm | By

The hostile amendments to that UN resolution on protecting the defenders of women’s rights did a lot of damage, as a matter of fact.

African nations, the Vatican, Iran, Russia, China and conservative Muslim states had sought to weaken the resolution passed by the assembly’s human rights committee, diplomats and activists said.

Fraught negotiations were held over the text.

African countries had insisted on highlighting respect for customs and traditions. Russia, Iran and China had called for language which insisted the rights defenders should follow national laws, diplomats and activists said.

In the end Norway agreed to delete a paragraph which said states should “strongly condemn all forms of violence against women and women human rights defenders and refrain from invoking any customs, traditions or religious consideration to avoid their obligations.”

African nations in turn withdrew a proposed amendment which said human rights defenders had to fall in line with “local situations,” diplomats said.

That’s pretty horrifying. More than 30 European countries, including Britain, France and Germany, backed out of the whole deal because of it.

The Vatican led opponents to references in the draft to the risks faced by those working on sexual and reproductive health and gender rights, activists who monitored the talks said.

Rights groups said the UN committee should have stood firm against the changes.

Women human rights defenders often “challenge traditional religious and cultural values and practices which subordinate, stigmatise or restrict women” when they take up gender and sexual rights, said Eleanor Openshaw of the International Service for Human Rights.

I’m so sick of Team No to Women’s Rights.

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

The hostile amendments

Dec 4th, 2013 4:48 pm | By

Sure enough. “Life News” reports defeat for “abortion activists” in the debate over the Resolution on Protecting Women Human Rights Defenders.

Under the inspired leadership of the Holy See’s Nuncio, Archbishop Francis Chullikatt, the culture of death took a significant stumble at the Third Committee of the UN in New York last week.

There are around forty resolutions crafted by this UN committee in October and November each year. The worst resolution this year was on “Protecting Women Human Rights Defenders (WHRD)” . Now to the uninitiated this resolution sounds like a fine thing. However it is just a smoke screen used by those promoting both a right to abortion and the radical homosexual agenda.

No, actually, to people who don’t want to be ruled by stunted, repressive, backward-looking ideas about the world, protecting women human rights defenders is unmistakably a good thing.

To see what the opposition said about this resolution please see a quote from the “The international Coalition of Women Human Rights Defenders” own website  :

“Also contentious were important references in the initial draft acknowledging the risks faced by those working on issues of sexual and reproductive health, reproductive rights and matters related to sexuality*. [Such words are always used as a euphemism for abortion and birth control.] These references were excluded in later drafts of the resolution as a result of the opposition voiced by a number of States from Africa, Asia and the Holy See. It is regrettable and disappointing that the main sponsors and others were not able to secure specific language related to women human rights defenders working on these critical issues in the final text of the resolution.”

So there are [at least some of] the hostile amendments – tyrannical efforts to prevent women from making their own decisions about whether or not to be pregnant, and block efforts to protect people who work to defend women’s right to do that.

The African group stood very strongly together , and  introduced L-docs , which are amendments that are tabled just before the resolution is accepted. These were then accepted by the sponsor Norway as they did not want a vote , but a resolution accepted by consensus. This unusual step was taken because Norway and the EU  were not willing to accept changes of any significance during the long and protracted negotiations. So the resolution was accepted but all the bad anti-life / anti-family wording was removed.

God damn these people. It’s not “anti-family.” It’s not anti-X to want to prevent people from being forced to have X whether they want it or not and whether they want the particular version of X forced on them or not. Family is fine, but people should be able to form the family they want to form, not the one they’re forced into by unwanted pregnancies.

This very good result, was obtained for many reasons. Myself and my colleague Patrick Buckley, were there at the negotiations helping out as we usually do. Sharon Slater ( Family Watch International ) and Marie Smith ( Parliamentary Network for Critical Issues ) both did a fine job even though not in New York. The African Group held together as I heard the South African president had upset some African leaders and as a penance agreed not the split this group at the UN. Another very clever tactic of Archbishop Chullikatt was to have several Africans on the Holy See delegation. They also helped keep the African Group on side. There was  help given by Muslim countries and Russia as well.

So the pro-aborts and LGBT advocates got no advancement of their agenda at this session of the Third committee. As I have said many times before, the Holy See at the United Nations is the conscience of the world on issues of life and the family as well as many other things.


*Emphasis added by “Life Site”


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

Rights for rights defenders

Dec 4th, 2013 4:32 pm | By

The UN General Assembly has adopted the first ever resolution on the protection of women human rights defenders. What a good idea. Given the way a lot of people feel about women’s rights, they’re not going to feel all that friendly toward defenders of women’s rights. There’s an interview with Geir Sjøberg, the Lead Negotiator for Norway on this resolution.

The resolution sends a clear message that violence against women human rights defenders, including gender-based and sexual violence, can never be condoned or accepted under any circumstance. It’s unacceptable to criminalize, stigmatize or curtail women human rights defenders by violent and other means. The resolution prescribes a number of steps to be taken by States to prevent violence, violations and abuses against women human rights defenders. The resolution also urges all States to publicly condemn violence and discrimination against women human rights defenders.

There’s an item in there that the pope and the rest of the Vatican should find hard to obey, determined as they are to make women subordinate to their own pregnancies, definitely meaning even if it kills them.

The initially tabled draft resolution cosponsored by 18 Member States also contained a paragraph on the right to control and decide freely and responsibly on matters related to sexuality, including sexual and reproductive health, free of coercion, discrimination and violence, as well as reproductive rights. The special focus on these issues from the outset, supported by a significant number of States, sent a strong message.

Which the pope and his fellow male clerics will be sure to ignore and defy. They will not permit women to have rights greater than the rights of their pregnancies.

The resolution was the subject of several hostile amendments towards the end of negotiations. What do you make of the deep division in the UN membership in this case?

The international community has sent a clear message in passing this resolution by consensus. The resolution may not be perfect, but it represents a step in the right direction, where the differences were bridged sufficiently for broad agreement on key fundamentals. This in itself is significant. It’s better to focus on what unites us than what sets us apart. The voice of the international community is stronger when united.

Differences in view displayed during the negotiations should be taken seriously, but they were ultimately not allowed to derail the process and in the end the tabled amendments were withdrawn. This indicated a will on all sides to find common ground, which is important in moving forward.

I wonder what those hostile amendments were. Catholic amendments demanding that women’s rights should always be subordinate to the rights of their pregnancies?

I’ll see if I can find out…

H/t Michael DeDora

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

Is there anywhere?

Dec 4th, 2013 12:54 pm | By

Journalism? Women in journalism? Better for women than other kinds of work? Less hostile, less contemptuous and dismissive, less given to harassment?

No, that’s not how it is.

This week, the International Women’s Media Foundation and the International News Safety Institute released the results of an online survey asking female journalists around the world to detail the abuse they’ve experienced on the job. Sixty-four percent of the 875 respondents said they had experienced “intimidation, threats, or abuse” in the office or in the field. Most of the abuse was perpetrated by the journalists’ bosses, superiors, and co-workers. Forty-six percent of female journalists said they had experienced sexual harassment at work, including “unwanted comments on dress and appearance.” That harassment was also overwhelmingly perpetrated by colleagues. Twenty-one percent said they had experienced physical violence—including being pushed, pinned down, or threatened and assaulted with weapons—in the course of their work. Thirteen percent had been sexually assaulted on the job—again, mostly at the hands of co-workers.

Not so good. Not so good at all.

If you’re a female journalist, these numbers are unsurprising. Pervasive sexual harassment and violence against female reporters, editors, and writers is rarely aired publicly, but it is an open secret in the field. The majority of incidents of sexual harassment and physical assault detailed in the IMWF survey were not reported to employers; 76 percent of women who met physical violence on the job did not report the assault to police. That’s partly because bosses and cops are the ones responsible for threatening and assaulting us.

So who ya gonna call? Nobody.

That doesn’t mean that female journalists are not forthcoming about the issue. We talk among ourselves, naming names in private email threads, drinks outings, and anonymous blogs. This is our “sad coping mechanism,” as Ann Friedman put it this year. Female journalists keep these discussions at a whisper because we know the men responsible are “too professionally powerful, too entrenched to really be held accountable for their behavior.” This year, the IMWF found that men make up nearly three-quarters of journalism’s top managers and nearly two-thirds of its reporters. The percentages are roughly the same in American journalism. Some sectors, like sports writing, are almost exclusively dominated by men. In 2012, 90 percent of American sports editors were men. If we ever hope to join their ranks, it seems safer not to challenge our superiors or our prized male colleagues. Sometimes, we are harassed while applying for these jobs.

Why doesn’t that sound exactly like the skepto/atheist movement – and every other movement and line of work there is, except maybe the few that are dominated by women.

Female journalists don’t want to be abused in the course of our employment—the majority of abused journalists said the incidents had a “psychological impact” on them—but we’d also like to remain employed. Calling out these men publicly (and submitting ourselves to a “he said, she said” situation with a more powerful colleague) means that reporting the abuse could become a “defining aspect of the accuser’s professional life, very likely wrecking it,” Friedman says. The stories we tell each other may help us stay on the lookout for repeat offenders, and to be more wary of working with them—but of course, that calculation also affects our career opportunities. When most female journalists are abused, threatened, harassed, or assaulted at work, there are few outlets we can run to where we will not be forced to work with these men, or their friends and supporters.

And their friends and supporters can make your lives hell. They can, they will, they do.

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

The inspiration of Elan Gale

Dec 4th, 2013 11:48 am | By

From Gnu Atheism on Facebook:

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

This kind of infection kills women

Dec 4th, 2013 11:11 am | By

Dr Jen Gunter says the doctors at that Catholic hospital in Michigan should be sued along with the bishops.

This case happened at Mercy Health Partners,, a Catholic hospital in Muskegon, Mich. What makes it even worse is that Ms. Means is one of four women to suffer the same negligent care with ruptured membranes before viability at Mercy Health Partners who were denied adequate care. The cases were apparently discovered by a federally funded infant and fetal mortality project.

While there is a lot of press over this legal tactic, we must not lose sight of a crucial fact. If the events as reported are supported by the medical record Ms. Means was the victim of medical malpractice.

It is standard to care to offer termination at 18 weeks with grossly ruptured membranes. This is because the risk of infection is 30-40% just walking in the door with ruptured membranes at 18 weeks (meaning 30-40% of the time membranes ruptured because of an infection). If an infection isn’t there initially, it almost always develops. This is because once the membranes ruptured there is no barrier preventing the vaginal bacteria from ascending into the uterus. Regardless of gestational age. Regardless of viability. This kind of infections kills women. One needs to look no further than the Savita tragedy for a terrible reminder. And so, because the risks are very great, it is standard of care to include the discussion of termination at 18 weeks with ruptured membranes.

This kind of infection kills women. Let’s not stand idly by and let Catholic bishops order hospitals to let infections kill women. Let’s not stand idly by and let hospitals obey the orders of bishops instead of providing the standard of care. Let’s not just loll around watching reality tv while Catholic hospitals let religious dogma trump medical knowledge.

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

Nicola Dandridge explains

Dec 3rd, 2013 5:37 pm | By

See update below.

Wow. Nick Cohen talked to Nicola Dandridge about this whole “it’s ok to gender segregate university debates at the behest of theocrats” idea for a piece in the Spectator.

Why not go further? Why not segregate all lectures at universities? Or as, I said to Dandridge, why not segregate by race?

Well she replied, Universities UK cannot recommend racial segregation because Parliament has banned it – wisely it now seems.

What about speakers insisting that homosexuals sit on one side of a hall and heterosexuals on another?

Dandridge appeared to find that notion genuinely discomforting. She did not want to see gays singled out, she said. Not in the least.

‘What’s your problem with women, then?’ I asked. ‘Why should they come last?’

‘Because,’ she replied, ‘gender difference is visible.’

So there you have it. If women did not insist on growing breasts and wearing their hair long, Universities UK would treat them with greater care.

Ohhhhhhhh – so it’s quite all right to discriminate among people for reasons that are visible. Now I understand. (But then why did Parliament ban racial segregation? Just a whim? Dandridge must be mystified about that.)

As I spoke to her, I realised that she had no understanding that powerful groups segregate to humiliate their targets and to enforce their ideologies. One of the academic critics of Universities UK gave an example I had never heard of to emphasise the point.

In the 1930′s Poland began to enforce segregated seating in its universities, with Jewish students restricted to the left side of the lecture hall. This, of course, allowed lecturers to address and take questions only from the right side if they were so inclined. Polish students of all religious persuasions protested by refusing to sit down in lectures. We can only hope that modern students will also protest.

Let’s hope they do. But they will protest without the support of vice-Chancellors or the appalling leadership of the National Union of Students.

I think Nick saw that example here. He reads B&W of course.

Update December 5

Maureen pointed out a CV of Nicola Dandridge that has since been removed (but is still available in the cached version) so here it is for the record. She’s a specialist in equality. Yes that’s right.


Nicola has been Chief Executive of Universities UK since September 2009. Universities UK is the representative organisation for the UK’s universities. Founded in 1918, UUK now has 134 members and offices in London, Cardiff and Edinburgh. Its mission is to be the definitive voice for all universities in the UK, promoting the strength and success of UK universities nationally and internationally.

Nicola was previously Chief Executive of Equality Challenge Unit, the higher education agency which promotes equality and diversity for staff and students in higher education in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. Formerly a partner and head of equality at Thompsons Solicitors, the UK’s largest firm of solicitors acting for the trade union and labour movement, Nicola qualified as a lawyer in England and initially worked in the City specialising in industrial relations, before qualifying in Scotland and working in Glasgow for 10 years. She has published numerous books and articles on equality and the law, and has also worked for the European Commission on equality initiatives in Europe.

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

We need better hoaxes

Dec 3rd, 2013 4:47 pm | By

Aw now NPR is scolding people for not being skeptical of Elan Gale’s story. Aw now I feel bad.

This was reported as fact in all sorts of places, including the New York Daily News, as well as Buzzfeed, which opined that even with all the families gathering happily around their tables, even with the parades and football games, it was Elan Gale telling this woman in “mom jeans” to “eat [not turkey]” that “won Thanksgiving.”

And then, somebody claimed to be a member of her family and claimed she had cancer.

And then Gale disappeared from Twitter.

And then he came back and now seems, kind of, to be acknowledging that — as people had begun to expect — this was … well, a “hoax” is really too flattering for a dude taking camera phone pictures of a coaster with writing on it. As writer Dave Holmes (no relation) said to me last night: “Shouldn’t we demand higher quality hoaxes?”

I say to you, my friends: we should. And we can, and it’s not that hard. There were lots and lots of reasons to be skeptical of Gale’s story from the beginning. The behavior of the flight attendants didn’t make any sense, the fact that he would single-handedly get to decide whether she was arrested didn’t make any sense, the part about sending her vodka bottles didn’t make any sense, and it didn’t particularly make any sense that if Gale was playing Manly Defender Of Flight Attendants And Other Working People, he would tweet a story that would so obviously, if it were true, get the flight attendants who participated in his on-board harassment in so much trouble.

Sure; true enough. A lot of it didn’t make much sense, but a lot of that had to do with Elan’s goonish behavior, and I have very little reason to find goonish behavior incredible. The opposite, in fact. The more goonish it is, these days, the more drearily familiar it is. “Oh, yet another guy thinking he has some kind of obligation to be an asshole to a woman he takes a dislike to? Surprise surprise.”

Anyway what I was reacting to wasn’t his story so much as the reaction to it – the laughter and high fives and attaboys. So I took five minutes and reacted to it. I had no idea it was going to go viral.

This is before we discuss the fact that he’s a producer on The Bachelor, which may not make him a liar, but certainly makes him capable of concluding that the most entertaining and irresistible stories are the ones where women are emotional, infantile dummies who need a talking-to and perhaps could stand to be told not to limit their Thanksgiving feasts to the traditional dishes.

Exactly. That’s why I posted about it. The reaction was real even if Elan’s story was fake.

Still. Obviously it was very bad of me. I wasted posts, and everything.


Sara E. Mayhew @saramayhew

Benson wasted multiple posts on a pretty obvious hoax. More lack of skepticism from #FTBullies  #Diane

How many tweets has Mayhew wasted tweeting about oh never mind.

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

In extreme distress and with an infection

Dec 3rd, 2013 4:05 pm | By

Now I want to single out this one part of the ACLU press release for close attention.

Tamesha Means rushed to Mercy Health Partners in Muskegon, Michigan, when her water broke after only 18 weeks of pregnancy. Based on the bishops’ religious directives, the hospital sent her home twice even though Means was in excruciating pain; there was virtually no chance that her pregnancy could survive, and continuing the pregnancy posed significant risks to her health.

Because of its Catholic affiliation and binding directives, the hospital told Means that there was nothing it could do and did not tell Means that terminating her pregnancy was an option and the safest course for her condition. When Means returned to the hospital a third time in extreme distress and with an infection, the hospital, once again prepared to send her home. While staff prepared her discharge paperwork, she began to deliver. Only then did the hospital begin tending to Means’ miscarriage.

You see it? 18 weeks. Her waters broke. She rushed to the hospital. She was in excruciating pain. The hospital told her there was nothing it could do. She developed an infection.

It’s Savita Halappanavar all over again. Check, check, check, check, check, check. The difference is that she had the very good luck to start delivering before the infection got such a hold that she couldn’t be saved. But it was only luck. It was nothing to do with the hospital. The hospital sent her home to die of a miscarriage.

I hope her lawsuit puts them out of business. I hope it makes such a stink that Congress finally realizes that bishops shouldn’t be forcing women to die of miscarriages. I hope all Catholic hospitals start being told to obey the law or get out of the hospital business. I hope the ACLU eats their lunch.

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

ACLU Sues Bishops on Behalf of Pregnant Woman Denied Care at Catholic Hospital

Dec 3rd, 2013 3:57 pm | By

The ACLU has a press release on its lawsuit against the bishops, so I can just publish the whole thing here for your enlightenment and discussion.

ACLU Sues Bishops on Behalf of Pregnant Woman Denied Care at Catholic Hospital

Suit Claims Religious Directives Put Women’s Health at Risk

December 2, 2013

CONTACT: 212-549-2666;

NEW YORK and DETROIT— The American Civil Liberties Union and the ACLU of Michigan have filed a lawsuit on behalf of a pregnant woman who miscarried and was denied appropriate medical treatment because the only hospital in her county is required to abide by religious directives. The directives, written by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, prohibited that hospital from complying with the applicable standard of care in this case.

Tamesha Means rushed to Mercy Health Partners in Muskegon, Michigan, when her water broke after only 18 weeks of pregnancy. Based on the bishops’ religious directives, the hospital sent her home twice even though Means was in excruciating pain; there was virtually no chance that her pregnancy could survive, and continuing the pregnancy posed significant risks to her health.

Because of its Catholic affiliation and binding directives, the hospital told Means that there was nothing it could do and did not tell Means that terminating her pregnancy was an option and the safest course for her condition. When Means returned to the hospital a third time in extreme distress and with an infection, the hospital, once again prepared to send her home. While staff prepared her discharge paperwork, she began to deliver. Only then did the hospital begin tending to Means’ miscarriage.

“They never offered me any options,” said Means. “They didn’t tell me what was happening to my body. Whatever was going on with me, they discussed it amongst themselves. I was just left to wonder, what’s going to happen to me?”

Catholic-sponsored hospitals are required to adhere to the Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services. The directives prohibit a pre-viability pregnancy termination, even when there is little or no chance that the fetus will survive, and the life or health of a pregnant woman is at risk. They also direct health care providers not to inform patients about alternatives inconsistent with those directives, even when those alternatives are the best option for the patient’s health. The lawsuit charges that, because of the directives, the USCCB is ultimately responsible for the unnecessary trauma and harm that Means and other pregnant women in similar situations have experienced at Catholic-sponsored hospitals.

“The best interests of the patient must always come first and this fundamental ethic is central to the medical profession,” said Kary Moss, executive director of the ACLU of Michigan. “In this case, a young woman in a crisis situation was put at risk because religious directives were allowed to interfere with her medical care. Patients should not be forced to suffer because of a hospital’s religious affiliation.”

Because she received neither the information nor the care appropriate for her condition, Means was unable to direct her course of treatment and suffered unnecessarily. Her story is not unique. Research, including that of Lori R. Freedman, PhD, and Debra B. Stulberg, MD, recounts other stories of patients being denied information and appropriate care at hospitals bound by the bishops’ directives.

“A pregnant woman who goes to the hospital seeking medical care has the right to expect that the hospital’s first priority will be to provide her appropriate care,” said Louise Melling, deputy legal director of the ACLU. “Medical decisions should not be hamstrung by religious directives.”

Tamesha Means v. United States Conference of Catholic Bishops

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

A precedent

Dec 3rd, 2013 3:24 pm | By

More from the Austin Statesman story last December.

University officials said Friday they didn’t know of another public medical school whose primary teaching hospital is Catholic.

So, setting a precedent. A very bad precedent.

Central Health, a public entity, along with the women it serves and doctors it works with, already has had to jump through hoops to accommodate the church, said Meghan Smith, domestic program associate for Catholics for Choice, which supports women’s access to contraception and abortion.

Ian Smith, a lawyer with Americans United for Separation of Church and State, said future doctors will have to jump through similar hoops. “You have the University of Texas sending public school students to a hospital where … they have to tell their students they are bound by Catholic religious doctrine,” he said.

It’s just so fucked up. Medical care has to be secular! This should be non-negotiable. “Catholic religious doctrine” should have nothing whatsoever to do with medical care ever ever ever.

But backers of Proposition 1 — the voter-approved property tax increase that will help pay for the medical school, the teaching hospital site and health care for indigent people — see a partnership that respects patients’ rights and offers full training for doctors while honoring Catholic doctrine.

But “honoring Catholic doctrine” shouldn’t be a goal of a medical partnership.

“Seton has long understood that increasing access to great health care for all requires cooperation with non-Catholic organizations, and that tradition of cooperation will continue with the new UT medical school,” said Greg Hartman, a Seton executive who is president and CEO of UMC Brackenridge.

No that’s not what this is about. It’s the other way around. What it’s about is increasing Catholic control of health care in the US. It’s succeeding at a rapid pace.

Such juggling of public health care responsibilities with religious restrictions has grown more complex at UMC Brackenridge over the years.

By the time Seton agreed to operate Brackenridge in 1995, elective abortions were no longer done at the hospital. But voluntary sterilizations were, prompting the Vatican to send several letters to then-Bishop John McCarthy of the Diocese of Austin, instructing him to end the practice. Seton contracted with a private company to perform the procedures at the hospital without using Seton employees.

So we have the Vatican – which let me remind you is another country – micromanaging medical care in Texas. Fascinating. Why stop there, why not let every country in the world meddle with US health care? Also every religion?

Bob Ozer, an activist and retired lawyer in Austin, said that outsourcing those procedures to St. David’s is an echo of “separate but equal” segregated treatment.

“You couldn’t tell blacks they have to go over to St. David’s because they’re black, but here women want to exercise rights to reproductive health care guaranteed by the Constitution and they’re being sent over to another health care provider,” Ozer said. “It’s problematic to have this kind of segregated system that’s segregated just to accommodate the Catholic Church.”

It is. It’s problematic for medical institutions to accommodate the Catholic church in any way. Yet they’re falling like dominos.

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

“So long as it does not contradict Catholic principles”

Dec 3rd, 2013 2:13 pm | By

Ok new item to contemplate in slack-jawed horror and then shout the place down about. A Twitter friend alerted me to the fact that the University of Texas at Austin medical school recently partnered with a Catholic hospital group, Seton, and the students were told they have to comply with the ERD.

I can barely get my head around it. It’s a state school. And the ERD tells hospital and medical staff that they may not perform abortions ever.

A publicly funded university is ordering its med students to comply with church rules. In the United States, in 2013.

From the Austin Statesman a year ago, December 2012.

Plans to establish a medical school at the University of Texas and train its students at a Catholic-owned teaching hospital have rekindled debate over public health care services for women and the impact of Vatican rules against birth control.

Local health and university officials said they don’t see a problem with a partnership between UT, the Seton Healthcare Family and Central Health, Travis County’s hospital district. Services for women will continue to be offered in the same way they are being provided now, officials said.

Except for the Catholic part. This was a year ago, so it was weeks after the news about Savita Halappanavar came out. You would think health officials would be paying attention.

More recently here is Catholic Watch this past August.

Below is a message sent out by the University of Texas at Austin that contains a line of such unadulterated BS that it’s making CatholicWatch’s head spin.  For those in the know, the University of Texas is trying to justify its partnership with Seton Health Care Family (which requires compliance with the ERDs) to train future physicians.  You can read more about ithere.

Here’s what Executive Vice President and Provost Steven Leslie had to say about the deal that is so mind-boggling:  ”It is true that the doctors employed by Seton must abide by Catholic directives while practicing medicine in those facilities, including rules on birth control, abortion and end-of-life care. However, those same directives also require that patients are fully informed so they can give free consent, which requires doctors to share the full range of information about medications and procedures, including contraception.”

Now it’s clear that Leslie has either never read the Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care or he read them but didn’t comprehend what they actually say.

Here’s what the ERDs say on this point, starting with an excerpt from Directive 27:  ”Free and informed consent requires that the person or the person’s surrogate receive all reasonable information about the essential nature of the proposed treatment and its benefits; its risks, side-effects, consequences, and cost and any reasonable and MORALLY LEGITIMATE alternatives, including no treatment at all…..The free and informed health care decision of the person or the person’s surrogate is to be followed so long as it does not contradict Catholic principles.”

Which means a person who enters into a Catholic hospital automatically is deprived of THE RIGHT TO FREE AND INFORMED CONSENT because no procedure can be done that violates Catholic principles and no information about alternatives that are not deemed “morally legitimate” in the eyes of the Catholic Church need be discussed either.

This is such an outrage.



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


Dec 3rd, 2013 11:47 am | By

Yesssssssssss. It’s about fucking time.

USA Today: Woman sues over Catholic hospitals’ abortion rule

DETROIT — A Michigan woman is taking on the nation’s Catholic hospitals in federal court, alleging they are forcing pregnant women in crisis into having painful miscarriages rather than terminate the pregnancy — and not giving them any options.

The Muskegon woman, who developed an infection and miscarried 18 weeks into her pregnancy, sued the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops on Monday, alleging the group’s anti-abortion directive denies proper medical care to women like herself.

In her case, the lawsuit said, the directive contributed to a painful miscarriage and offered her no options.

In other words, a potential Savita Halappanavar, with the difference being that she survived. It’s good that she survived, but no thanks to the USCCB for that.

The case involves Tamesha Means, who was rushed to Mercy Health Partners in Muskegon in December 2010 when her water broke after 18 weeks of pregnancy. The hospital sent her home twice, even though she was in “excruciating pain;” there was virtually no chance that her pregnancy could survive, and continuing the pregnancy posed a significant risk to the mother’s health, she alleged in the lawsuit.

Exactly like Savita Halappanavar – except that University Hospital Galway didn’t send Halappanavar home; it kept her there to die while the staff watched.

But because of its Catholic affiliation and directives, the hospital told Means that there was nothing it could do, and it did not tell her that abortion was an option, she alleged in the lawsuit. When Means returned to the hospital a third time in extreme distress and with an infection, the hospital still tried to send her home, but Means began to deliver while staff prepared her discharge paperwork.

At that point, the hospital tended to her miscarriage.

That should be a prosecutable crime. Not just a lawsuit; a crime.

You know, I reported on this situation in my talk at Empowering Women Through Secularism in Dublin last summer. I’ve seen comments from [cough] hostile observers saying I just made it up. No I didn’t. The USCCB is real; the ERD is real; Catholic hospitals and healthcare networks are real; the fact that many Catholic hospitals obey the ERD instead of secular law is real. I didn’t make any of it up.

Officials at Mercy Health Partners declined comment. So did the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, which deferred to its 43-page Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services.

Under the directives: “Abortion … is never permitted. Every procedure whose sole immediate effect is the termination of pregnancy before viability is an abortion.” The directives also defend the practice of denying patient requests for certain medical procedures, stating it “does not offend the rights of individual conscience by refusing to provide or permit medical procedures that are judged morally wrong by the teaching authority of the Church.”

The ACLU of Michigan, which filed a lawsuit on behalf of Means, disagrees, arguing Catholic hospitals are putting their beliefs before the health and welfare of its patients. In Means’ case, the ACLU argued, the directives prohibited the hospital from complying with the applicable standard of care. Consequently, it argues, the bishop’s conference is ultimately responsible for the unnecessary trauma and harm that Means and other pregnant women in similar situations have experienced at Catholic-sponsored hospitals.

Again – yessssssss. This is so overdue. This is a case to watch.


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

Behold the chair

Dec 3rd, 2013 10:03 am | By

Elan Gale says haha it was just a joke. Or a story or a test or an experiment or a lie. It was untrue. It was a fiction, an invention, an imaginary incident.


elan gale @theyearofelan

Here is Diana sitting in a chair

The photo is of an empty chair. Geddit?

He tweets again to say he meant Diane. Then he wraps up:


elan gale @theyearofelan

I conclude by saying hopefully a few people got a few laughs over a slow Thanksgiving weekend

 So it was comedy, staged for the world’s entertainment.

What genre of comedy? Humiliation comedy; public shaming comedy; hipster guy taunting an unhip woman in unhip jeans comedy, with the pretext that she was self-absorbed and slightly rude to a flight attendant. That kind of comedy. “Edgy” – which is hipster-speak for mean.

I see it as more of a Milgram experiment than a witty short story. Much more. The fact that so many people admired his reported self-righteous bullying tells us a lot, whether that’s what Elan Gale intended or not. Way too many people pushed the dial all the way up, merely because the guy in the white coat hipster hair told them to.

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