Notes and Comment Blog

Our short and pithy observations on the passing scene as it relates to the mission of Butterflies and Wheels. Woolly-headed or razor-sharp comments in the media, anti-rationalist rhetoric in books or magazines or overheard on the bus, it’s all grist to our mill. And sometimes we will hold forth on the basis of no inspiration at all beyond what happens to occur to us.

These depraved infidels

Apr 1st, 2014 6:10 pm | By

He really said it, according to the Daily Kos in October 2012. He is Arkansas State Representative Loy Mauch, Republican. Between 2000 and 2011 he wrote a lot of letters to the Arkansas Times.

One such letter said:

Nowhere in the Holy Bible have I found a word of condemnation for the operation of slavery, Old or New Testament. If slavery was so bad, why didn’t Jesus, Paul or the prophets say something?

This country already lionizes Wehrmacht leaders. They go by the names of Lincoln, Grant, Sherman, Sheridan, Custer, etc. These Marxists not only destroyed the Constitution they were sworn to uphold, but apostatized the word of God. Either these depraved infidels or the Constitution and Scriptures are in error. I’m more persuaded by the word of God.

I have an answer for his question. Why didn’t Jesus, Paul or the prophets say something? Because they, and/or the people who wrote in their names, were just people. They were just as shitty as the other people around them. They didn’t “say something” because they weren’t moral giants. If you think the bible is the last word on morality, you’re a moral pigmy, or a flea.

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

For real?

Apr 1st, 2014 5:54 pm | By

Not part of a sitcom?

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

Lean out

Apr 1st, 2014 5:48 pm | By

The MRAs gather again.

“We’re gathered to celebrate Women’s History Month, but I don’t celebrate Women’s History Month,” announced writer Mona Charen, one of the panelists. “It doesn’t interest me whether a person who happens to share my chromosomes sits in the Oval Office. It doesn’t interest me how many women members of the Senate there are.”

Yes yes yes. We’ve heard it before. Sing a new song.

What interests Charen and the other women on the stage is their belief, as Charen put it, that “feminism has done so much damage to happiness.” And the solution to this damage, it turns out, is matrimony — the same thing that will solve problems such as income inequality and the Republican Party’s standing among women.

Oh, oops! It’s not the MRAs after all, it’s the Republicans. Funny how alike some of their talking points are.

“We should show concern for everybody by extending the marriage franchise to everybody,” panelist Mollie Hemingway proposed. “Everybody go out, right now, go get married if you’re not married,” she said to laughter, “and we should be able to solve all these problems.”

“If we truly want women to thrive,” Charen concurred, “we have to revive the marriage norm.”

That’s right. All women have to be married. They’re too weak and stupid to be not married. It’s like toddlers not having parents.

Charen went on at length about feminism’s “disdain for family life” and its “bogus and much-debunked statistics,” including the claim that women earn 77 percent of what men do for the same work. Indeed, she said, “it’s men and boys who are falling behind,” with male wages and workforce participation declining “alarmingly.”

There are the MRA talking points again.

Said Charen: “Women know that because of the nature of their bodies, because they carry and bear children and nurse and nurture children, that they need protection and support. . . . Feminism disdains this natural urge.” Feminism also, Charen said, creates college campuses “where hooking up is considered normal and date rape is difficult to prevent.”

Karin Agness, founder of the conservative Network of Enlightened Women, took issue with Sandberg’s “Lean In” and “Ban Bossy” efforts, which encourage women and girls to be assertive. “Rather than try to ban words like ‘bossy,’ let’s try to promote real leadership skills, like developing a thick skin,” she said.

And again. It’s uncanny! Or rather, it’s pathetically obvious and predictable.




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

Paying it forward

Apr 1st, 2014 2:51 pm | By

A comrade needs help. [Right-click to open new window if you want to avoid an ad opening.]

As you know, last year Finbar was diagnosed with cancerous growths on his lymph nodes. After months of worry, they were removed and all seemed well. Unfortunately they have reappeared and none of the doctors know what is going on yet. More surgery is some weeks away. This is obviously an incredibly stressful situation for Fin, made worse by the fact that last year due to his inability to study he was kicked off Austudy and left in a financial hole he hasn’t been able to recover from. Because of this, Fin is being evicted from his home.

Part of the reason Fin is in such dire straits is that he gave away all of his savings to help someone else who was facing losing their home. Fin was also very helpful to me and my family when my brother Simon was dying of cancer. If anyone deserves some help with a home and cancer, it’s Fin.

Fin has a lot of academic talent, and the money raised will give him the much needed mental space to think about where he wants to go next now that his Honours has been submitted, and to make moves in that direction.

Thank you comrades.

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

Disgusted with the boys’ club attitude

Apr 1st, 2014 1:02 pm | By

I posted this on Facebook yesterday, so I might as well post it here today.

From former JREF Outreach Coordinator Brian Thompson:

“Let me explain why I’m supporting Karen Stollznow’s legal defense fund. Maybe some of my Facebook friends don’t know who she is or what this is all about. Karen is a linguist, writer, and investigator who looks into claims of the paranormal, the supernatural, and the outrageous with a skeptical eye. Skeptics like her do a lot of good for the world in ways large and small. They’re the ones fighting against the kind of scientific ignorance that keeps people from vaccinating their kids, for example. And if it weren’t for skeptical investigators, I might still be cowered in fear every night thinking aliens were going to abduct me or ghosts were going to throw things around my bedroom. Now I’m just cowered in fear thinking that I might never be on one of those interior design makeover shows. This is progress.

I believe so strongly in the good work these skeptics do that several years ago I started hanging out with them, working on activism projects with them, and drinking lots and lots of booze with them. I went to their conferences and meetings and pre-swingers’ parties, and for a couple of years I even worked in an official capacity with one of the world’s most well-known skeptical activism nonprofits, the James Randi Educational Foundation.

In that time I got to know a lot of great people. I’m not going to name them all, because I know I’ll leave out Christian Walters, and then our lovemaking will take a passive-aggressive turn. But a lot of people who share this common interest in making the world a better place through rationalism are kind, honest, funny, talented, and valuable friends. Then there are people like Christian who are maybe just two or three of those.

But I no longer identify with this community of benevolent know-it-alls, because not all of them are the best folks in the world. In fact, a good percentage of the top ten worst humans I’ve ever met are prominent members of the skeptics’ club. They’re dishonest, mean-spirited, narcissistic, misogynistic. Pick a personality flaw, and I can probably point you to someone who epitomizes it. And that person has probably had a speaking slot at a major skeptical conference.

I grew particularly disgusted with the boys’ club attitude I saw among skeptical leaders and luminaries. The kind of attitude that’s dismissive of women, sexually predatory, and downright gross. When I first started going to skeptical conferences as a fresh-faced know-it-all, I started hearing things about people I once admired. Then I started seeing things myself. Then I got a job with the JREF, and the pattern continued.

There’s a particular guy popular with the skeptical crowd who writes books, gives talks, and wears bicycle shorts. What’s not to love? Well, a female friend of mine told me she didn’t like it very much when he locked eyes with her from across a room and pointed to his dick. When I started working for the JREF, my boss described this same guy as an “old school misogynist”. Then a friend told me this same skeptical celebrity had groped another speaker at a conference. Grabbed her breast without invitation. Sexually assaulted her. Then my boss told me that not only did this assault happen, but that he witnessed it and intervened. The woman who was assaulted won’t name names for fear of being dragged through the mud. Another woman I know has told me that this same guy assaulted her. Others have confirmed her story to me. I believe her. But she’s remained anonymous for much the same reasons.

I’m tired of this. I’m tired of hearing about sexual predators like Mr. Bicycle Shorts, who has yet again been invited to speak at the JREF’s annual conference. I’m tired of hearing things like what I’ve heard from [redacted]. That my old boss grabbed his junk in a car and said he would be “presidentially displeased” if [redacted] didn’t give my old boss a kiss.

I’m tired of people like Richard Dawkins, whose lashing out at my friend Rebecca Watson for having the nerve to talk about what kind of male attention makes her uncomfortable has led to years of the most heinous abuse being flung at her and her colleagues. Heinous, woman-hating abuse from enthusiastic members of this broken little community of freethinkers.

Pardon my Yiddish, but oy, that shit’s fucked. And it’s also fucked that people are afraid to speak out about their stories for fear that it will become the focus of their careers or that their privacy will be destroyed or that they’ll be sued or that they’ll somehow damage organizations that do a lot of good work.

This makes me sick, and it makes me mad. So of course I’m going to help Karen speak up and fight back.

Here’s the situation in a nutshell: Karen used to work with another writer and investigator named Ben Radford at an organization called CFI. Karen says Radford continually harassed and abused her. She brought the situation to CFI, which found Radford guilty of some of Karen’s charges. Then they let him off with a slap on the wrist. Karen blogged about this. Radford sued her for defamation.

Based on the evidence I’ve seen, my own experience with Radford’s dishonest and creepy behavior, and the assurances from friends of mine who know more about this situation than I do, I’m willing to believe Karen. And more than that, I’m willing to put my money behind her efforts to fight back in court. Because she deserves the chance to make her case instead of having to fold under insurmountable financial pressure. Defending yourself in court isn’t cheap.

Also, I don’t like bullies or creeps. Especially the kinds of bullies and creeps who have been protected by their peers and allies in a community that places pseudo-celebrity and books about how lake monsters aren’t real above the well-being of women who are at least as vital to fighting the good fight. A fight, by the way, that’s about the righteousness of the truth.

So I’ve given to Karen’s fund. You can do the same here:

That’s well expressed.

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

She walks and sits in tightly packaged ways

Apr 1st, 2014 12:38 pm | By

What about women and body language and power? Lisa Wade did a post about that awhile ago at Sociological Images.

Philosopher Sandra Lee Bartky once observed that being feminine often means using one’s body to portray powerlessness.  Consider: A feminine person keeps her body small and contained; she makes sure that it doesn’t take up to much space or impose itself.  She walks and sits in tightly packaged ways.  She doesn’t cover the breadth of the sidewalk or expand herself beyond the chair she occupies.

Well I’m not feminine then, but I knew that. Although there’s an exception: I do try to keep my body (and especially my feet) small and contained where space is limited and other people are sharing it. Like on the bus. I sprawl a bit if I’m in one of the facing seats and there’s room, but then when people get on or off I pull my feet in under me to get them out of people’s way.

But just walking or standing or sitting around in free space? I take up plenty of it. Some of that probably does have to do with resisting looking powerless.

Acting feminine, then, overlaps with performances of submissiveness.  Both men and women use their bodies in more feminine ways when their interacting with a superior, whether it be their boss, their commander, a police officer, or their professor.

New evidence suggests that this is not pure theory.  Psychologist Andy Yap and his colleagues tested whether “expansive body postures” like the ones associated with masculinity increase people’s sense of powerfulness and entitlement.  They did.

So! If you’re a woman, be sure to take up “expansive body postures” whenever there’s room to do so politely.

Take up space!

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

All dissent is terrorism

Apr 1st, 2014 11:38 am | By

Human Rights Watch reported on March 20 that Saudi Arabia has passed a new “terrorism” law that pretty much equates all forms of dissent with terrorism.

The new regulations come amid a campaign to silence independent activists and peaceful dissidents through intimidation, investigations, arrests, prosecutions, and imprisonment. On March 9, the prominent human rights activists Abdullah al-Hamid and Mohammed al-Qahtani completed their first year in prison, serving 11 and 10-year sentences, respectively, for criticizing the government’s human rights abuses and for membership in an unlicensed political and civil rights organization.

Two other human rights activists, Waleed Abu al-Khair and Mikhlif al-Shammari, recently lost appeals and will probably begin their three-month and five-year respective sentences soon for criticizing Saudi authorities.

On January 31, Saudi authorities promulgated the Penal Law for Crimes of Terrorism and its Financing (the “terrorism law”). The law has serious flaws, including vague and overly broad provisions that allow authorities to criminalize free expression, and the creation of excessive police powers without judicial oversight. The law cites violence as an essential element only in reference to attacks carried out against Saudis outside the kingdom or onboard Saudi transportation carriers. Inside the kingdom, “terrorism” can be non-violent – consisting of “any act” intended to, among other things, “insult the reputation of the state,” “harm public order,” or “shake the security of society,” which the law fails to clearly define.

That can mean anything and everything. Just define “public order” as whatever it is the authorities want to make immune to any criticism whatsoever, and the job is done.

The interior ministry regulations include other sweeping provisions that authorities can use to criminalize virtually any expression or association critical of the government and its understanding of Islam. These “terrorism” provisions include the following:

The interior ministry regulations include other sweeping provisions that authorities can use to criminalize virtually any expression or association critical of the government and its understanding of Islam. These “terrorism” provisions include the following:

  • Article 1: “Calling for atheist thought in any form, or calling into question the fundamentals of the Islamic religion on which this country is based.”
  • Article 2: “Anyone who throws away their loyalty to the country’s rulers, or who swears allegiance to any party, organization, current [of thought], group, or individual inside or outside [the kingdom].”

They’re thorough.

  • Article 8: “Seeking to shake the social fabric or national cohesion, or calling, participating, promoting, or inciting sit-ins, protests, meetings, or group statements in any form, or anyone who harms the unity or stability of the kingdom by any means.”
  • Article 9: “Attending conferences, seminars, or meetings inside or outside [the kingdom] targeting the security of society, or sowing discord in society.”
  • Article 11: “Inciting or making countries, committees, or international organizations antagonistic to the kingdom.”

These broad provisions contain language that prosecutors and judges are already using to prosecute and convict independent activists and peaceful dissidents, Human Rights Watch said.

Saudi Arabia is an “ally” of the US and the UK.

In the March 9 case, the Saudi Press Agency (SPA) reported, a Saudi appeals court upheld an eight-year sentence for a Saudi citizen for “his involvement in inciting [family members] of detainees in security cases to demonstrations and sit-ins through producing, storing, and sending tweets, video clips on YouTube, and social networking sites,” as well as “his sarcasm toward the ruler of the kingdom and its religious authorities.”

On March 10, the SPA reported the conviction of another man, with a 10-year prison sentence and a 100,000 riyal fine ($26,600), for “engaging in following, saving, and resending inciting tweets on the social networking site (Twitter) against the rulers, religious scholars, and government agencies and his connection to people who call themselves reformists…”

Another human rights activist, Fadhil al-Manasif, who played a leading role in documenting abuses against demonstrators in the Eastern Province in 2011, is on trial for “sowing discord,” “inciting public opinion against the state,” and “communicating with foreign news agencies to exaggerate news and harm the reputation of the kingdom.”

That’s our ally.




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

He said there was mould in it

Mar 31st, 2014 5:39 pm | By

A “blood analyst” who claims to cure cancer.

It was a devastating diagnosis. In less than 10 minutes, the Harley Street specialist had taken a pinprick of Wendy Roberts’s blood, examined it under a powerful microscope and concluded that she probably had cancer.

Miss Roberts, 40, was distraught: she had been feeling unwell and Errol Denton’s apparently expert opinion confirmed her worst fears.

“He told me my blood was dirty; he said it was toxic and said there was mould in it. He said I have markers for diabetes and he had only ever seen blood like mine in a cancer patient,” Miss Roberts said.

So she staggered outside and freaked out, because she thought he was legit.

Last week, Denton was fined £9,000 and ordered to pay £10,000 in costs over “twisted” and “immoral” claims he makes on the Internet that he can cure cancer. Last year, he was found guilty of breaching Advertising Standards Agency rules over similarly misleading claims.

But he’s still practicing, because he falls between the definitions or something.

The authorities appear powerless to prevent him, underlining the problem of how to control largely unregulated practitioners working on the fringes of the health industry.

Denton specialises in “live blood analysis”, the practice of taking a drop of blood, putting it under a powerful microscope and then examining it for alleged defects. He describes the process as “the ultimate preventative medicine tool available today”.

On one of his websites,, he states: “The object of live blood analysis is not merely to have your blood analyzed; it is to acquire the opportunity to prevent disease through the adoption of correct nutritional habits − removing excess acidity and toxins in order to restore your blood to a healthy condition.”

He describes himself as a certified nutritional microscopist and qualified iridologist − the practice of studying patients’ eyes.

Certified by whom, qualified under what criteria? There are acupuncturists in my neighborhood whose signs over the shop claim they are “certified”…so we can tell that means nothing.

A plaque outside the Grade I-listed premises in Harley Street shows Denton’s name followed by a series of letters. It states: “Errol Denton BMC, CNM, Dip LSI, MSHN.” Dr Archie Prentice, president of the Royal College of Pathologists, said last week that he did not recognise any of Denton’s qualifications.

Just what I thought. A name followed by some letters. Whoopdeedoo.

Wendy Roberts? Nothing. She’s fine.

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

Plantinga and teapots

Mar 31st, 2014 5:14 pm | By

Gary Gutting talked to Alvin Plantinga for the NY Times blog The Stone awhile ago. They start with talk about evidence and what to conclude from the presence or absence of evidence. They arrive at Russell’s teapot.

A.P.: Russell’s idea, I take it, is we don’t really have any evidence against teapotism, but we don’t need any; the absence of evidence is evidence of absence, and is enough to support a-teapotism. We don’t need any positive evidence against it to be justified in a-teapotism; and perhaps the same is true of theism.

I disagree: Clearly we have a great deal of evidence against teapotism. For example, as far as we know, the only way a teapot could have gotten into orbit around the sun would be if some country with sufficiently developed space-shot capabilities had shot this pot into orbit. No country with such capabilities is sufficiently frivolous to waste its resources by trying to send a teapot into orbit. Furthermore, if some country had done so, it would have been all over the news; we would certainly have heard about it. But we haven’t. And so on. There is plenty of evidence against teapotism. So if, à la Russell, theism is like teapotism, the atheist, to be justified, would (like the a-teapotist) have to have powerful evidence against theism.

Ok, but you could say the same kind of thing about the “God” of the theistic religions (which Plantinga says at the beginning is the one at issue.) You could come up with all kinds of specific reasons for not accepting the claims made in the bible about that god. For example, as far as we know, the only way a book written by god could have been passed to humans would be if some god with sufficiently developed communications capabilities had communicated it to us. No god with such capabilities is sufficiently frivolous to give us the material for one book over a period of a few centuries and then stop. No god with such capabilities would dream of stopping dead in whatever century CE the last book of the bible was written. That would be absurd. Having opened communications with us, it would keep on communicating. But it didn’t. And so on.

Moving on.

A.P.: I should make clear first that I don’t think arguments are needed for rational belief in God. In this regard belief in God is like belief in other minds, or belief in the past. Belief in God is grounded in experience, or in the sensus divinitatis, John Calvin’s term for an inborn inclination to form beliefs about God in a wide variety of circumstances.

No. Belief in god is not at all like belief in other minds. Belief in other minds develops from experience of and with other people. There’s no equivalent experience of and with god. With god you have to imagine out of thin air; there is no person in front of you who knows where she put the cookies while you don’t know where she put the cookies. We understand other minds (to the extent that we do) via extrapolation: I feel this way in this situation, so probably other people do too, or maybe I’m weird and they don’t, so I’ll ask and find out. There’s nothing like that with god.

You know one way to confirm this? Think of god as a character in a novel or a tv drama. You what? It doesn’t work. Why not? Because god isn’t human enough. God is boring to humans. Making up stories about god is very different from belief in other minds.

But Plantinga’s other mind disagrees.


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

If something has happened that you don’t have words for

Mar 31st, 2014 4:23 pm | By

The NY Times has a brief interview with Barbara Ehrenreich (who will be at WiS3 in a few weeks ohboy).

She had some mystical-type experiences when she was a teenager, although she didn’t conclude they were from god or anything. She’s written a memoir about it.

You’ve written and spoken extensively about your atheism. Did you ever feel you were being deceitful because you’d had these experiences with a world beyond the rational? 

I realized that whatever I experienced was not anything like a deity that I knew of. It certainly was not a good, caring God of Christianity. On the other hand, I knew it was way out of the reach of science, and I did feel uneasy. My younger sister was distressed that I wrote a book with “God” in the title. We are hard-line atheists, and I had to re-establish my credibility with her or I’d get booted out of the family.

How did you earn back your bona fides?

I told my sister how much I was annoyed by a friend of hers. She’s very New Agey. Damn that stuff. I can’t be around it. If something has happened that you don’t have words for, keep thinking.

Great line. A variation on Wittgenstein’s line, I suppose, but I like hers better – it’s less fatalist. Not we must be silent, but keep thinking.

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

News from Bartlesville

Mar 31st, 2014 3:30 pm | By

St. John Health System issued a statement this afternoon. The Bartlesville Examiner-Enterprise reports:

Contrary to reports last week that contraceptives could only be prescribed for medical reasons, the statement released Monday appears to indicate that physicians employed by SJHS and practicing at Jane Phillips Medical Center can prescribe contraceptives to be used as birth control, leaving the decision to individual physicians.

“Appears to” is right – it’s very muddy. Very Cover Your Ass; very waffling; very You Can Have Both.

The unsigned document states in full:

“Consistent with Catholic health care organizations, St. John Health System operates in accordance with the Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services, and therefore does not approve or support contraceptive practices. However, only physicians (not institutions) are licensed to practice medicine and make medical judgments. While our physicians agree to abide by the Directives, they also have the ability to prescribe medications, including hormonal medications, in accordance with their independent professional medical judgment. This includes informing patients when they are operating under their own professional medical judgment and not on behalf of St. John Health System.”


Our physicians agree to abide by the Directives, and they also have the ability to prescribe medications, including hormonal medications, in accordance with their independent professional medical judgment. The ones that are contrary (in the official view) to the Directives. So what does that even mean? If the doctors agree to abide by the Directives and then don’t abide by them, what happens? Is that a firing offense?

Also – fuck the fucking Directives. Again: clerics should not be issuing religious “Directives” to health care institutions. Period. Health care should be secular. Period.

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

If Hobby Lobby can do business with China

Mar 31st, 2014 12:51 pm | By

That News Corpse article provides interesting information.

Hobby Lobby pays millions of dollars to stock their shelves with cheap products made in China, a country where abortion is legal and is even provided by the government for free – when they aren’t forcing it on women who want their babies. It is impossible to accept that the company is unconditionally opposed to a voluntary form of preventive health care that obviates the need for an abortion, while supporting a system that encourages abortion outright. If Hobby Lobby can do business with China when the profit motive compels them to, they cannot simultaneously pretend that an American woman having access to an insurance policy that includes coverage for contraception is some sort of abomination against their Lord.

So now I’m wondering how many Tea Partiers and Focus on the Familyers and bishops and other such meddlers have closets and cabinets and garages bulging with shirts and toys and running shoes made in China. My guess? Most of them.

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

Christian values

Mar 31st, 2014 12:17 pm | By

Ah yes. Ain’t hypocrisy grand.

Update: the source at News Corpse.

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

Under the guise of protecting religious freedom

Mar 31st, 2014 11:58 am | By

The Tennessee ACLU reported that the state dodged a different religious bigotry-enabling bullet last month.

NASHVILLE – A bill that would have made Tennessee the first state in the nation to codify into state law the use of religion to discriminate will not be considered during this year’s legislative session.

The bill was put into General Subcommittee, effectively ending the journey of SB 2566 for this legislative session.

Under the guise of protecting religious freedom, SB 2566 would have allowed individuals, businesses and organizations to use religion to discriminate against LGBT and other unmarried couples by refusing to provide them goods or services.

Religion is really covering itself with glory these days.


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

To prevent students from being silenced

Mar 31st, 2014 11:32 am | By

In Tennessee…another one of those “Protect Religious Rights to Talk Shit About People God Hates” laws is on the governor’s desk.

Tennesee’s Religious Viewpoints Antidiscrimination Act, or SB1793/HB 1547, purports to prevent students from being silenced when expressing their religious beliefs in the classroom, when turning in written assignments, and at official school functions, including graduation and mandatory assemblies. In addition to specifying “that a student may express beliefs about religion in homework, artwork, and other written assignments free from discrimination based on the religious content of their submissions,” the bill also requires that students will “not be penalized or rewarded on account of the religious content of the student’s work.” Further, the bill appears to establish special speaking engagements for students to share their religious beliefs at official school functions — and even over the school’s announcement system.

Opponents of the legislation say it’s the latest attempt to establish a so-called license to discriminate, this time doing so in public, state-funded schools. They say that in addition to being unnecessary, as the U.S. Constitution includes strong protections for religious liberty, in practice the law would be exploited by those wanting to impose their religious beliefs about such matters as LGBT rights, evolution, contraception, and even racial and religious diversity, on other students who don’t share those perspectives.

They should just make the law broader, and then it will be fine. The bill should be written prevent students from being silenced when expressing any unreasonable baseless evidence-free beliefs in the classroom, in homework, at assemblies. It should be a charter for students’ rights to believe any old shit, and not just believe it, but get good grades for saying it in homework and on exams. It should just forbid any pesky secular reason-based attempt to teach students concepts and theories and knowledge based on evidence and argument as opposed to speculation and arbitrary beliefs.

As David Badash at The New Civil Rights Movement points out, the bill likely violates the Establishment Clause of the U.S. Constitution, commonly recognized as mandating the separation of church and state. But Badash also notes that if the bill became law:

“An evangelical student, for example, could preach the gospel during a science class, or ‘witness’ during English. Attacks on LGBT people and same-sex marriage are automatically protected under this bill, offering anti-gay students a state-sponsored license to bully. And of course, a student could claim they worship Satan and subject their classmates to that ‘religious viewpoint’ as well.”

Let a thousand flowers bloom.




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

Please can you explain?

Mar 31st, 2014 11:11 am | By

The Lawyers’ Secular Society has an open letter to the Law Society.

Dear Sir,

Law Society’s practice note on “Sharia succession rules”

This is an open letter which we have published on our website this morning.

We refer to the above practice note dated 13 March 2014.


Please can you explain why and how the Law Society has adopted guidance to assist in drafting wills which treat women far worse than men, and non-Muslims far worse than Muslims? How is this consistent with the Law Society’s claimed commitments to equality?

For your information, you may be interested to know:

  1. We have launched an online petition calling for withdrawal of this practice note (approaching 2,000 signatures at the time of writing)
  2. There is also an open letter calling for withdrawal of this practice note, signed by public figures and human rights campaigners from around the world
  3. There will be a protest against the Law Society’s decision to issue this practice note on Monday 28 April 2014, in London

Further details are here:

An emailed response (in addition to or in place of a postal one) would be appreciated.

Given the serious nature of the LSS’s concerns we expect to receive a substantive response to our questions at the earliest possible opportunity.

Yours faithfully

Charlie Klendjian
Secretary, Lawyers’ Secular Society

I predict the substantive response: Because there’s a demand for it.


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

Not one woman

Mar 30th, 2014 5:31 pm | By

Brigitte Amiri of the ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project was at the Supreme Court for the Hobby Lobby arguments and blogs about it for the ACLU.

…my heart fell as I watched the attorneys for the parties take their seats. There wasn’t a single woman. Not a single person of color. Although it was great that the government sent their top lawyer to defend the case, it was disheartening to see no women at counsel’s table for either party, especially because the case involves women’s access to contraception. How can that be in 2014?

How indeed. The case involves women’s access to contraception.

But then she cheered up.

Right out of the box, the female justices asked question after question that tested the limits of Hobby Lobby’s argument that religious liberty should trump the contraception rule. Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Elena Kagan, and Sonia Sotomayor asked intelligent and pointed questions that demonstrated the fallacy of the companies’ arguments. They asked whether every employer that had a religious objection to any type of health care should get to pick and choose what to offer in health plans, despite the Affordable Care Act requirements. They also asked whether employers should be allowed to refuse to comply with anti-discrimination laws or minimum wage laws because of their religious beliefs.

It wasn’t just the women justices who “got it.” Kennedy asked the companies’ attorney about whether Hobby Lobby would be putting its employees in a “disadvantageous position,” and whether “religious beliefs just trump?”

The answer is no. They don’t trump. Everyone has the right to his or her religious beliefs, but those beliefs cannot be used to take away a benefit from someone else or to discriminate against others. That’s exactly what is at stake here. The contraception rule was designed to ensure women’s equality by eliminating the disparities in health care costs between men and women, and to ensure women have the ability to make decisions about whether and when to become parents, which in turns allow them to participate equally in society.

But the believers believe that god doesn’t want women to participate equally in society. They believe that god wants them not to. They believe that god shares their belief that women are altogether smaller and less capable beings, who are good at taking care of children but bad at everything else. For those reasons they want women to be imprisoned in their putative role as mothers (and later, if they have the bad manners not to die as soon as they stop having children, as grandmothers).

They might win.


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

Mehdi Hasan tells other people to stay classy

Mar 30th, 2014 4:17 pm | By

Mehdi Hasan has really gone into overdrive lately in his public jeering and sniping at people he dislikes – or maybe he’s always like this, I ignore him most of the time so I don’t know. Anyway he’s doing a lot of it. It’s very reactionary right-wing stuff, which for some reason finds a home in more or less left-wing outlets. Why is that? Why do people on the left persist in thinking that the most reactionary Muslims or even Islamists are the ones they should be giving a megaphone?


Mehdi Hasan @mehdirhasan

“Baroness Warsi, Faith Minister, Dismisses Richard Dawkins As A ‘Secular Fundamentalist”

(The quotation marks are a nice touch; he probably wrote that himself, since he’s an editor there. The quotation marks make it look more impersonal.)


He’s A ‘Secular Fundamentalist’
Baroness Warsi has denounced atheist academic Richard Dawkins as a “secular fundamentalist”, as she spoke about tackling Islamophobia. During a wide-ranging interview with the Huffington Post UK, the…


Mehdi Hasan @mehdirhasan

Guy who smears for a living is now screaming ‘smear’ at anyone who questions his credentials as a ‘Muslims’ or ‘extremism’ expert. Funny.

Baroness Warsi questioned Maajid Nawaz’s credentials. So he now retweets people calling her a ‘corrupt South Asian’. #stayclassy

Baroness Warsi: extremism policy shouldn’t be influenced by “ex-extremists” who “created problem in the first place”: …

Horrible man, yet the BBC and the Huffington Post UK and the New Statesman can’t get enough of him. Why? Why the attraction to religious bullies as long as they’re not of the local established religion? Why do they like him? Why do they talk so much to him and so comparatively little to Maryam? I will never understand this.

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

Imagine a world

Mar 30th, 2014 3:39 pm | By

Exactly. I keep thinking this. If being pro-life is your central goal, saving fetuses should be way way way down on your list of priorities. Or, in my view, not on it at all, but even (for the sake of argument) if you think it is a way to save lives, it should still be near the bottom of the list.

Photo: One of my favorite memes. Thank you, Setting women free from outdated societal standards. for creating so many great messages.</p>
<p>Pro-Choice Liberals

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

300 out of 26,000

Mar 30th, 2014 3:29 pm | By

Uh oh, Jimmy Carter is going to be in big trouble with the MRAs.

Sexual assaults, honour killings, prostitution, physical abuse – No matter where you look in our world, you will find women and girls being abused. It’s why the 39th President of the United States calls it THE biggest challenge of our times. Today, we hear from Jimmy Carter with his Call to Action and his new book in his only Canadian interview.

In the US military alone 26,000 sexual assaults took place and only about 300 actually resulted in anybody being punished. There’s an aversion to admit what goes on even in our most cherished institutions.

Well that’s because there were 25,700 false accusations of men by lying bitchez. Actually the 300 that resulted in conviction and sentence were probably mostly lies too. Right?

It’s a volatile east, west, north and south for many of the world’s women. Special crimes, special punishments and special hatreds are directed at so many women and girls.

Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter despairs of the mistreatment and abuse. He believes religion is often an excuse for discrimination against women.

Indeed it is; we see it every day. And the best part is, it’s such a powerful excuse – because few people like to piss off the believers, especially few people who depend on votes to keep their jobs.


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