Archive for February, 2011

Hochzeitstorte mit Herzen und Rosen vor Kuchenbuffet in Deutschland / Claus AbleiterIn a development which arguably has been a long time coming, the Obama administration has finally decided it will not defend the Defense of Marriage Act, passed in 1996. The New York Times reports on this announcement (WebCite cached article):

President Obama, in a striking legal and political shift, has determined that the Defense of Marriage Act — the 1996 law that bars federal recognition of same-sex marriages — is unconstitutional, and has directed the Justice Department to stop defending the law in court, the administration said Wednesday.

The announcement was not made in person, and not by the president, as the Times explains:

Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. announced the decision in a letter to members of Congress. In it, he said the administration was taking the extraordinary step of refusing to defend the law, despite having done so during Mr. Obama’s first two years in the White House.

“The president and I have concluded that classifications based on sexual orientation” should be subjected to a strict legal test intended to block unfair discrimination, Mr. Holder wrote. As a result, he said, a crucial provision of the Defense of Marriage Act “is unconstitutional.”

The Religious Right, of course, is not happy about this:

“It is a transparent attempt to shirk the department’s duty to defend the laws passed by Congress,” Representative Lamar Smith, the Texas Republican who is chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, said in a statement. “This is the real politicization of the Justice Department — when the personal views of the president override the government’s duty to defend the law of the land.”

I’m not sure any Republican has any kind of moral standing to complain about the “politicization of the Justice Department,” given what the Bush Jr administration had done with it. Fucking hypocrites.

At any rate, this bodes well for my home state of Connecticut, which has permitted gay marriage since the Kerrigan v. Commissioner of Public Health decision was handed down by the state Supreme Court in late 2008.

All I can say is, good riddance to this law. The idea that marriage is something that needs to be “defended” is logically absurd. Marriage is something that people willingly enter into. Their ability to do so need not be “defended,” since they can do so whenever they wish. The idea that allowing gay marriage somehow prevents heterosexual couples from marrying, is likewise absurd. It does no such thing!

Lastly, the Religious Right’s assertion that, according to Judeo-Christian principles, marriage can ONLY be between one man and one woman, is factually incorrect, as I’ve blogged previously. There have been several different kinds of marriage during the history of the Abrahamic faiths; there is no “one” definition of it.

It’s time for the Right — which, especially during the Obama administration, has argued that government meddles too frequently in people’s lives — to put its money where its mouth is, and stop getting in the way of gay couples marrying, if they wish to. Freedom is a good thing; we should have more of it, not less.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons / Claus Ableiter.

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Schlacht von ArsufThe Great Neocrusade proceeds relentlessly across the United States. Sanctimonious Religious Rightists are proposing laws in several states which outlaw what they call “shari’a law.” As one would expect, these bills are invariably based on erroneous assumptions about Islam and the nature of shari’a law, and based upon a prevailing fear that shari’a law is being imposed on the country by force.

First we have Tennessee state senators Bill Ketron and Judd Matheny, who want to abolish shari’a law there, as reported in the Washington Post On Faith blog (WebCite cached article):

Tennessee State Sen. Bill Ketron (R-Murfreesboro) and state Rep. Judd Matheny (R-Tullahoma) introduced a bill last week outlawing the practice of Sharia, a complex set of religious laws that guide behavior for Muslims.

The bill, embedded below, attempts to define Sharia law and to make following it a felony punishable by 15 years in jail.

The bill in question is SB1028, available here. Of note is that Murfreesboro is where some raging Neocrusaders set fire to a mosque under construction back in October. Ketron and Matheny’s problem is that they misdefine shari’a; they further claim that Islam itself is a combined legal-military-political ideology, and imply that it’s not a religion. This mirrors what TN lieutenant governor Ron Ramsey said last summer, that Islam is a political-legal system, not a religion, and therefore not entitled to First Amendment protection. Ketron and Matheny also don’t bother to explain where, in the US, any government at any level has ever been able to force anyone to knuckle under to shari’a — even though his bill is predicated on the idea that it’s happening.

Next, we have Arizona — which appears to have become the epicenter of militant Rightism in the US — where a proposed bill (HB 2582) would outlaw all forms of religious law, including shari’a (cached):

“Religious sectarian law” means any statute, tenet or body of law evolving within and binding a specific religious sect or tribe. Religious sectarian law includes sharia law, canon law, halacha and karma but does not include any law of the united states or the individual states based on Anglo?American legal tradition and principles on which the united states was founded.

The authors of this bill have essentially gone berserk on the entire notion of “religious law,” and don’t understand what they’re talking about. First, “religious law” systems like Halakha (within Judaism) and canon law (within several Christian denominations, including the Roman Catholic, Anglican and the several Orthodox churches) are — at least partly — the manner in which those religions conduct their own internal affairs, serving as a kind of administrative code. To abolish them completely would obviously run afoul of their religious freedoms. Second, karma is not a system of administration, but rather, a metaphysical principle within Hinduism and other Dharmic religions. It can’t be used in court, as far as I can see, despite the fact that it’s often referred to as a “law.” It’s no more a code of administration or justice than the so-called “Law” of Attraction.

Let me be clear: I do not favor the imposition of shari’a on anyone in the US. It’s a dangerous, metaphysically-charged, often-barbaric code which should be phased out worldwide — the sooner, the better. And I’m not in favor of the Roman Catholic Church holding its own canon law above the secular laws of the lands in which the Church operates; where criminal law and canon law collide, criminal law should prevail. However, passing laws to abolish shari’a law, or any other religious law-code, within the US is irrational, asinine, and childish. There is no way that any religious law-code can ever be imposed on Americans, due to the First Amendment, among other Constitutional protections. Bills such as these accomplish nothing useful, except to demonstrate the immaturity and ignorance of those who draft, sponsor, and support them. And the idea that karma is even a law-code that could ever be used in any kind of court to issue rulings … well, let’s just say this so obviously laughable that the authors and sponsors of AZ HB 2582 should hang their heads in shame. They’ve just shown themselves to be idiotic dolts who thoroughly deserve every bit of derision that’s going to be heaped on them over their ignorant bill.

Hat tip: Mark at Skeptics & Heretics Forum, and Unreasonable Faith.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.

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Matthew 7:23 (And then I will declare to them, I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.On the heels of proposed legislation in South Dakota that might place abortion providers in jeopardy, another proposed law, in Georgia, would outlaw abortion and make any miscarriage — even a spontaneous one — automatically a criminal matter. As with the S.D. bill, it’s Mother Jones reporting on state representative Bobby Franklin’s attempt to legislate Georgians’ obedience to his fierce religionism (WebCite cached article):

Georgia State Rep. Bobby Franklin [cached]—who last year proposed making [cached] rape and domestic violence “victims” into “accusers”—has introduced a 10-page bill [cached] that would criminalize miscarriages and make abortion in Georgia completely illegal. Both miscarriages and abortions would be potentially punishable by death: any “prenatal murder” in the words of the bill, including “human involvement” in a miscarriage, would be a felony and carry a penalty of life in prison or death.

Criminal investigations into all miscarriages in Georgia would be required, and this is problematic for any woman who happens to miscarry:

Under Rep. Franklin’s bill, HB 1, women who miscarry could become felons if they cannot prove that there was “no human involvement whatsoever in the causation” of their miscarriage. There is no clarification of what “human involvement” means, and this is hugely problematic as medical doctors do not know exactly [cached] what causes miscarriages.

In other words, a woman who miscarried carries the burdon of proving she did not cause the miscarriage … and if she cannot do this, she must be prosecuted.

Christians’ hatred for women is beyond belief. We have chaplains who think rapes are “God’s will”; a Religious Rightist who approves of a sexual assault on a woman because she works for the mass media; and the Roman Catholic Church thinks pregnant women are obliged to die if an abortion is needed to save their lives. What the fuck is wrong with Christianity in the US? Seriously!? Are you people so far gone that you have no conception of the evil you’re promoting in the name of your deity?

Here’s a warning to you Christians, which comes straight from the gospels you revere:

Not everyone who says to Me, “Lord, Lord,” will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. Many will say to Me on that day, “Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?” And then I will declare to them, “I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.” (Matthew 7:21-23)

Hat tip: Mark at Skeptics & Heretics Forum at Delphi Forums.

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I Don't Know ... and Neither Do You! | No Gnosis (PsiCop original)I blogged a couple of months ago about an Indiana father who lost custody of his children because he’s an agnostic. That decision was reversed, as reported by WXIN-TV in Indianapolis (WebCite cached article):

A Madison County father celebrated a legal victory Wednesday night. He now has joint custody of his three young children after losing it because of his religious views.

That’s great news, but unfortunately, WXIN misstated the facts of this case:

Craig Scarberry claimed a Madison County court violated his parental rights because he’s an atheist.

WXIN was incorrect about this; Scarberry is not an atheist; he’s an agnostic, as he reported, himself, in the comments section:

i am not an atheist! i am an agnostic and there is a difference.

Note, the article itself remains confused on the subject: While the headline refers to Scarberry as an “agnostic,” the text of the article still says he’s an “atheist” (quoted above), and the article’s URL also includes the word “atheist” rather than “agnostic.”

Being a Fox network station in a “red” state, I’m sure the personnel of WXIN just lump all of us freethinkers into the same basket with “atheists.” We’re all just cold, cynical, god-hating heathens, after all … no? They can’t possibly be expected to understand there’s a difference between the various sorts of horrible people who defy societal expectations by daring not to accept the existence of their sky-god!

If anyone at WXIN — or elsewhere — is confused about the nature of “agnosticism” and “agnostics,” and wants to understand the difference between “agnosticism” and “atheism,” please have a look at my Agnosticism FAQ here on this blog, and see my article on the subject on the Apathetic Agnostic Church Web site (cached).

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Because expressing how dumb that was in words, just doesn't work.No sooner had I blogged about a report of a military chaplain declaring that a soldier’s rape is “God’s will” and that she could get over it by worshipping the deity who ordered it to happen to her, I read about an outspoken Religious Rightist giving her (yes, her!) stamp of approval on the sexual assault of CBS reporter Lara Logan during a post-revolution celebration in Cairo (WebCite cached article). Here’s what the ferocious religiofascist Debbie Schlussel had to say about it (cached article):

As I’ve noted before, it bothers me not a lick when mainstream media reporters who keep telling us Muslims and Islam are peaceful get a taste of just how “peaceful” Muslims and Islam really are. In fact, it kinda warms my heart. Still, it’s also a great reminder of just how “civilized” these “people” (or, as I like to call them in Arabic, “Bahai’im” [Animals]) are

To Schlussel, this attack on Logan is acceptable, because of what’s been dished out to her:

Hey, sounds like the threats I get from American Muslims on a regular basis. Now you know what it’s like, Lara.

Of course, death threats that are made but never carried out are a far cry from an actual physical attack. But Schlussel just conflates it all into the same thing and — using “two wrongs make a right” thinking — says it’s great that Logan was attacked.

In an update to her post, Schlussel simultaneously claims moral rectitude and that she never expressed approval of the attack:

The reaction of the left to this article is funny in its predictability. Sooo damn predictable. Of course I don’t support “sexual assault” or violence against Lara Logan, and I said that nowhere here.

Schlussel must be right, you see, because she’s been widely criticized. (In the religious mind, criticism is equated with persecution which in turn is equated with veracity.) She also claims not to have supported sexual assault, but her support for the attack was clearly implied in what she originally wrote, which included (emphasis mine):

it bothers me not a lick when mainstream media reporters who keep telling us Muslims and Islam are peaceful get a taste of just how “peaceful” Muslims and Islam really are …

Schlussel clearly stated that she was “not bothered” by the attack. Thus, her attempt to backpedal, by saying she never stated that she supports sexual assault, fails miserably.

Way to go, Ms Schlussel. Thank you for displaying your (total lack of) character. Please, by all means … keep it up! I couldn’t possibly ask for any better confirmation of the moral abyss which is the Religious Right.

Hat tip: Romenesko blog.

Photo credit: Village Voice.

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Ivanov, Alexander - The Appearance of Christ to Mary Magdalene - 1834-1836I’ve never quite understood why it is that so many religions have such a hard time accepting that women — who are half the human population — are human beings, too, just like men. It seems rather obvious to me that both women and men are equally human … but hey, what could a cynical, God-hating agnostic heathen possibly know about such important things as institutional misogyny?

I blogged a while ago about how the Roman Catholic Church teaches that pregnant women’s lives are forfeit, and expect their hospitals to comply with this doctrine. But it’s not just the Catholic hierarchy that believes women are lesser beings whose welfare is secondary to theology. In a lawsuit filed over how the Pentagon mishandled sexual harassment, assault, and rape in the military, one story claims that an Army chaplain said something unconscionable to an Army sergeant who had been raped (WebCite cached article):

In February of 2009 SGT Havrilla reported for four weeks of active duty training. During this training, she saw her rapist in the shopette on Fort Leanard Wood. Upon seeing her rapist, SGT Havrilla went into shock. She immediately sought the assistance of the military chaplain. When SGT Havrilla met with the military chaplain, he told her that “it must have been God’s will for her to be raped” and recommended that she attend church more frequently (#46, page 10).

Definitely, that’s what every victim of rape needs — to bow and scrape and worship the vast cosmic deity whose will it had been for her to be raped. Why, of course! It’s the obvious remedy!

</sarcasm>

Now, I have no idea what the religious affiliation of the chaplain in question is. The military does have non-Christian chaplains. But the odds are, this chaplain was a man, ordained by some Christian denomination. So I’m assuming (at the risk of being wrong, I admit) this denigration of women must be something Jesus taught … right?

Well, I’ve just scoured every Bible I could get my hands on, but have never found “Thou shalt treat women like trash and abuse them as thou wilt” anywhere in it. Maybe one of you Christians out there (I know you read this blog!) can point me in the direction of it.* If you can’t find it, then maybe — just maybe! — it’s time to stop fucking acting as though he did. OK?

Hat tip: Friendly Atheist.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.

* In fact … I dare you to point it out! Please post the chapter and verse in the comments. Thank you.

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Mob with pitchforksThe vast armies of the Religious Right are on the march, and are working harder than ever before to turn the US into a Christofascist paradise. The 2010 elections have fired them up, and they’re taking no prisoners. The latest example of this trend comes from South Dakota, where a bill under consideration may make it legally permissible to kill abortion doctors. You read that right. Mother Jones reports on S.D. House Bill 1171 and its possible ramifications (WebCite cached article):

A law under consideration in South Dakota would expand the definition of “justifiable homicide” to include killings that are intended to prevent harm to a fetus—a move that could make it legal to kill doctors who perform abortions. The Republican-backed legislation, House Bill 1171 [cached], has passed out of committee on a nine-to-three party-line vote, and is expected to face a floor vote in the state’s GOP-dominated House of Representatives soon.

The bill, sponsored by state Rep. Phil Jensen, a committed foe of abortion rights [cached], alters the state’s legal definition of justifiable homicide by adding language stating that a homicide is permissible if committed by a person “while resisting an attempt to harm” that person’s unborn child or the unborn child of that person’s spouse, partner, parent, or child. If the bill passes, it could in theory allow a woman’s father, mother, son, daughter, or husband to kill anyone who tried to provide that woman an abortion—even if she wanted one.

In a follow-up story also offered by Mother Jones (cached), Jensen was defiant about it:

The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Phil Jensen (R), spoke to Mother Jones on Tuesday morning, after the story was published. He disagreed with this interpretation of the bill, claiming that it is simply meant to “bring consistency to South Dakota statute as it relates to justifiable homicide.” This echoes the argument he made in the committee hearing on the bill last week. “If you look at the code, these codes are dealing with illegal acts. Now, abortion is a legal act. So this has got nothing to do with abortion.” Jensen also aggressively defended the bill [cached] in an interview with the Washington Post‘s Greg Sargent on Tuesday morning.

So, we have here a man who’s on the record as opposing abortion, and who sponsors a bill that has implications for abortion … yet somehow I’m supposed to believe him when he says it “has got nothing to do with abortion”? Really!? Sorry, Representative, I’m not stupid enough to buy that. Not for one moment.

Folks, the relentless onslaught of Christofascism is coming.

Hat tip: Mark at Skeptics & Heretics Forum on Delphi Forums, and Religion Dispatches.

Photo credit: Rockford Register Star.

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