Tuesday, February 25, 2014


Poor Misunderstood ...

Poor Christians! ...

So misunderstood!

According to, Al Mohler, president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, they are not bigots, out to impose a new round of Jim Crow laws on LGBT people, where people in businesses of "public accommodation" can refuse to serve some minority ... think Lester Maddox and axe handles ... they just don't want to be forced to participate in ... to celebrate ... same sex marriages! Thus we must have laws all across America to protect the tender consciences of Christians!

And examples of this are "now piling up," though, strangely, they all seem to resemble the same few instances we've heard about for a couple of years now: "[a] wedding photographer in New Mexico, cake bakers in Colorado and Oregon, and a florist in Washington State ..."
[T]he key issue is not a willingness to serve same-sex couples, but the unwillingness to participate in a same-sex wedding. Christian automobile dealers can sell cars to persons of various sexual orientations and behaviors without violating conscience. The same is true for insurance agents and building contractors. But the cases of pressing concern have to do with forcing Christians to participate in same-sex weddings — and this is another matter altogether.
It has something to do with "artistic ability" and "expressive ideas."

Well, thank ... um ... goodness, Al has cleared that up for us!

As long as Christians aren't forced to participate, their consciences are safe!

So the contraceptive mandate of the Affordable Care Act is no problem as long as the Christian employers aren't asked to roll on the condoms, swallow the pills or (Heaven Forfend!) actually participate in the sex, with or without "artistic ability" and "expressive ideas" ... right?

That sound you hear is the motors of the goal posts being revved up.

Personally, I might be willing to allow some businesses involving "artistic ability" and "expressive ideas" to refuse to cater to same sex marriages if, and only if, they are required to post prominently, near the entrance to their business, in very large type, something like: "We reserve the right to refuse to serve people who we deem morally and socially corrupt."

Something tells me, in that case, the problem will be self-correcting.

Friday, February 21, 2014


Playing Dominos

There are presently two Federal lawsuits pending seeking to overturn Oregon's 2004 voter-approved ban on same-sex marriages. Since October of last year, in the wake of United States v. Windsor, Oregon has recognized such marriages performed in states where they are legal but has continued to refuse to allow them to be performed within the state.

Now, in one of the two pending lawsuits, state officials have announced that they will not defend the law but will continue to enforce it until there is an order striking down the provision:
The key statement in the new Oregon document, which was in the form of an answer to one of the lawsuits, said state officials "will not defend the Oregon ban on same-sex marriage in this litigation. Rather, they will take the position in their summary judgment briefing that the ban cannot withstand a federal constitutional challenge under any standard of review." The paragraph added, though, that they would continue to enforce the ban as a legal duty unless and until it were struck down in court.
Pretty soon the wingnuts will have to start importing heads from China to replace the ones that keep exploding.

Friday, February 14, 2014


Now, Virginia Is Really for Lovers!

U.S. District Judge Arenda L. Wright Allen has struck down Virginia's voter-approved constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage and recognition of such unions performed elsewhere.

In a nice touch, Judge Allen opened her opinion with a quote:
We made a commitment to each other in our love and lives, and now had the legal commitment, called marriage, to match. Isn't that what marriage is? ... I have lived long enough now to see big changes. The older generation's fears and prejudices have given way, and today's young people realize that if someone loves someone they have a right to marry. Surrounded as I am now by wonderful children and grandchildren, not a day goes by that I don't think of Richard and our love, our right to marry, and how much it meant to me to have that freedom to marry the person precious to me, even if others thought he was the "wrong kind of person" for me to marry. I believe all Americans, no matter their race, no matter their sex, no matter their sexual orientation, should have that same freedom to marry. Government has no business imposing some people's religious beliefs over others. ... I support the freedom to marry for all. That's what Loving, and loving, are all about.

- Mildred Loving, "Loving for All," Public Statement on the 40th Anniversary of Loving v. Virginia (June 12, 2007).
Once again, there are people at the heart of the case:

Plaintiffs Timothy B. Bostic and Tony C. London live in Norfolk, Virginia, where they own a shared home. Mr. Bostic is an Assistant Professor of English Education in the Department of English at Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Virginia. He teaches English Education to undergraduate students.

Mr. London is a veteran of the United States Navy. He also worked as a real estate agent in Virginia for sixteen years.

Mr. Bostic and Mr. London have enjoyed a long-term, committed relationship with each other since 1989, and have lived together continuously in Virginia for over twenty years. They desire to marry each other, publicly commit themselves to one another, participate in a State sanctioned celebration of their relationship, and undertake the solemn rights and responsibilities that Virginia's Marriage Laws confer presently upon other individuals who marry. ...

Plaintiffs Carol Schall and Mary Townley live in Chesterfield County, Virginia, with their fifteen-year-old daughter, E. S.-T. Ms. Schall is an Assistant Professor in the School of Education at Virginia Commonwealth University ("VCU") in Richmond, Virginia. She specializes in research on teaching autistic children.

Ms. Townley is the Supervisor of Transition at Health Diagnostic Laboratory, Inc. ("HDL"). She trains individuals with significant disabilities so that they may work at HDL.

Ms. Townley and Ms. Schall have enjoyed a committed relationship since 1985. They have lived together continuously in Virginia for almost thirty years.

In 2008, Ms. Schall and Ms. Townley were legally married in California. ...

Ms. Townley gave birth to the couple's daughter, E. S.-T., in 1998. During her pregnancy, she was admitted to the emergency room at VCU's Medical Center due to complications that left her unable to speak. Ms. Schall was denied access to Ms. Townley, and could obtain no information about Ms. Townley's condition, for several hours because she is not recognized as Ms. Townley's spouse under Virginia law. ...

Since E. S.-T.'s birth, Ms. Schall has yearned to adopt her. Virginia law does not permit second-parent adoption unless the parents are married. Because Ms. Schall is not considered to be Ms. Townley's spouse, Ms. Schall is deprived of the opportunity and privilege of doing so.
Judge Allen then details a rather long list, on page 6 and 7 of the decision, of the benefits that same-sex couples are given that are denied to Ms. Schall and Ms. Townley and the emotional and economic tolls they suffer as a result.

Good, decent, loving couples, loving parents, loving people, should not be so burdened. As Judge Allen put it:
Almost one hundred and fifty four years ago, as Abraham Lincoln approached the cataclysmic rending of our nation over a struggle for other freedoms, a rending that would take his life and the lives of hundreds of thousands of others, he wrote these words: "It can not have failed to strike you that these men ask for just ... the same thing—fairness, and fairness only. This, so far as in my power, they, and all others, shall have. "

The men and women, and the children too, whose voices join in noble harmony with Plaintiffs today, also ask for fairness, and fairness only. This, so far as it is in this Court's power, they and all others shall have.

Thursday, February 13, 2014


The Real Argument

A Federal District court judge in Kentucky has struck down its constitutional amendment banning same sex marriage, to the extent that it grants privileges to opposite-sex married couples that it denies to same-sex couples legally married in other jurisdictions.

Cue the Religious Right head explosions in ... 3 ... 2 ... 1 ...

Albert Mohler, president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, and a marginally saner right wing theocrat than most, laments what he calls Justice Anthony Kennedy's "singular and decisive influence of one judge" in his majority decision in United States v. Windsor, which struck down the key provision of the so-called Defense of Marriage Act.

Of course, one justice does not a majority make.

What Mohler means is that, on a closely divided Court, he is more than willing to accept 5-4 decisions that rule for positions he favors as 'wise' decisions, while those that go against what he wants are the fault of only one justice.

Here's where Mohler's marginal sanity kicks in:
Christians who affirm the biblical understanding of marriage as the union of a man and woman must now recognize that we can no longer count upon the government and its laws to reflect that understanding. Even the proponents of same-sex marriage must surely recognize the radical legal and moral shift in Western civilization and human history this change implies. Christians understand that marriage is one of God's greatest gifts to humanity and that marriage, as defined by the Creator, is fundamental to human flourishing.

We now know that the government cannot be counted on to affirm this message. As a matter of fact, we have to face the reality that the government — even in the Commonwealth of Kentucky — may teach a radically different message through its laws. But the real question for Christians is not whether the government gets the question of marriage right, but if we do. In the grand scheme of things, that is the Church's real challenge.
Mohler, at least, has recognized that, when it comes to same-sex marriage, the Religious Right has lost. This was reinforced by Judge John G. Heyburn's notation that:

[T]he Court was not presented with the particular question whether Kentucky's ban on same-sex marriage is constitutional. However, there is no doubt that Windsor and this Court's analysis suggest a possible result to that question.
But here is the real argument for same-sex marriage, as detailed by Judge Heyburn:

Gregory Bourke and Michael Deleon reside in Louisville, Kentucky and have been together for 31 years. They were lawfully married in Ontario, Canada in 2004 and have two minor children who are also named Plaintiffs: a 14-year-old girl; and a 15-year-old boy. Jimmy Meade and Luther Barlowe reside in Bardstown, Kentucky and have been together 44 years. They were lawfully married in Davenport, Iowa in 2009. Randell Johnson and Paul Campion reside in Louisville, Kentucky and have been together for 22 years. They were lawfully married in Riverside, California in 2008 and have four minor children who are named Plaintiffs: twin 18-year-old boys; a 14-year-old boy; and a 10-year-old girl. Kimberly Franklin and Tamera Boyd reside in Cropper, Kentucky. They were lawfully married in Stratford, Connecticut in 2010.
In short, here they are, for all to see: loving couples; committed to their relationships for the long haul; no doubt proud parents; and decent human beings not so very much different than the rest of us.

By all means, Al, go on preaching from your pulpits ... shout it from the tops of your steeples ... that these are horrid people that are not entitled to ordinary human rights. Just don't expect the law to enforce your prejudice the way it once enforced your racism (a Southern Baptist must be aware of that).

Please, please, go on!

I can think of no more effective way to diminish the toxic effect of your brand of religion on the body politic of the United States.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014


Happy Birthday!

Monday, February 10, 2014



A thought:
Convincing people to reject evolution—and the Big Bang, the age of the earth, and many other mainstream scientific ideas—was accomplished in part by portraying the scientific community as a cabal of elitist, politically motivated secularists conspiring with the assistance of Satan to undermine the traditional values of American Christians. This view of the scientific community resonated with conservative Protestants, bewildered by a world that they once controlled but that now seemed to be leaving them and their values behind. Such a view provides a reason to reject so-called "expertise" in favor of homey assurances that everything they needed to know about origins is in the Bible.

Just as it has always been.
- Karl W. Giberson, "Ken Ham: The Making of An American Religious Huckster," The Daily Beast, February 9, 2014.

Friday, February 07, 2014


Lenny Flank's Law

On my previous post, I gave an update about an interview by Allen Jones of KELO radio with South Dakota State Senator Jeff Monroe concerning the bill he had introduced, and then withdrew, that read, in its entirety:
No school board or school administrator may prohibit a teacher in public or nonpublic school from providing instruction on intelligent design or other related topics.
The money quote from Senator Monroe was:
I wanted students in high school and college both to … you know … to hear both sides of the story, whether its global warming or environmentalism or evolution versus creationism.
I was getting ready for work when I found the interview and only had time to note the above bit before rushing out the door. Tonight, after listening to the whole thing, I discovered there were other interesting bits:
And I think that our society has gotten to be real one sided in schools. Where the kids can't afford to go to a private school they should be able to have the both sides of the societal debate during school because we claim we want to get them ready for life and so that would be the way to go.
In other words, when kids can't afford to go to private religious schools, the state should step in and give them a religious education at taxpayer expense! Another "small government" Republican hard at work!
There were a lot of misconceptions out there about what the bill would do and there just no way to go against the misconceptions on the one side. On the other side, even though it was a good bill and even though the intentions were good and it had tons of support, I think the good that would have come from it would have been outweighed by the trouble that would have been caused with lawsuits with the state based on what's happened in other states and there are better ways to go about what I'd like to achieve for the teachers and for the students.
Can you say "Dover," boys and girls? ... Good!
For me, the main idea for the bill was to make it so a student would have a choice whether to believe they came from some animal or developed from monkeys or some other mammal or amphibians or repti ... whatever they just are told they evolved from. They should have another side of the story saying, no, you're special, you were made for a reason. But we don't get that side in the schools and I just wanted to have a balance.
Senator Monroe here displays his deep understanding of evolutionary theory. And, of course, it is the duty of government to instruct children on their purpose in life, even to those children, and their parents, who might disagree with Senator Monroe's beliefs in that regard!

Just another example of the Rev. Dr. Lenny Flank's law: "The ability of a creationist to shut his mouth about creationism's religious motive is inversely proportional to the legal necessity of their doing so."

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Thursday, February 06, 2014


The Invisible Hand

I recently wrote about the bill introduced in the South Dakota legislature that consisted of a single sentence:
No school board or school administrator may prohibit a teacher in public or nonpublic school from providing instruction on intelligent design or other related topics.
I speculated that the Discovery [sic] Institute might not like it because, if a local teacher started to teach ID and went over the line into proselytizing, the DI would have cover from any court invalidating what the teacher was doing by saying that he or she didn't "understand" ID and, therefore, the decision didn't affect ID as it was "supposed" to be presented. However, if the school district or board defended itself on the basis it could not stop the teacher because of the law, the focus would shift to whether ID itself is religious in nature and the DI could be faced with another "Dover Disaster."

What's more, the Kitzmiller case was never appealed because the creationist board members were defeated in an election shortly before Judge Jones rendered his decision. Avoiding an appeal is less likely in the case of a statewide law and the last thing the DI wants is to compound the Dover Disaster with a Circuit Court of Appeals or (Designer forbid!) a Supreme Court decision that ID is a religious argument.

My conclusion was: "It will be an interesting test of how vulnerable the DI feels to see their reaction to this bill."

I think we now have our answer. As the San Francisco Chronicle has reported, the bill has been killed by the South Dakota Senate Education Committee at the request of the sponsor:
The measure's main sponsor, Sen. Jeff Monroe, R- Pierre, said he had to scrap the bill because it was badly written but didn't elaborate. He said supporters from across the nation have said there are far better ways to address the issue, but he declined to say what he might do in the future. [Emphasis added]
Dollars to donuts, Sen. Monroe will soon be introducing a bill closely following the DI's "sample academic freedom bill," which should remove any possible doubt as to just who those "supporters from across the nation" were.

The DI will, almost certainly, never admit their role in this because [shudder] that would be honest.

Update: You can hear an interview with Monroe where he says:
I wanted students in high school and college both to … you know … to hear both sides of the story, whether its global warming or environmentalism or evolution versus creationism.
Its too late in the session for him to bring a new bill so we'll have to wait until next year to see what he'll come up with (as if we didn't already know!).

Wednesday, February 05, 2014


Please Tell Me He Was Kidding!

This is all over the web. As PZ Mxyzptlk noted, "Matt Stopera went to the Nye/Ham debate, and gave the creationist attendees a chance to speak their minds: he let them write a question on a sign for Bill Nye and then took pictures of them."

This is only slightly better than the nutbar "science teacher" In Louisiana who "informed" her students that, "if evolution was real, it would still be happening: Apes would be turning into humans today."

Of course, the answer is some variation on "If you are descended from your grandparents, why do you still have cousins?"

Perhaps the only hope for the future of America is that the shit-eating grin means he is satirizing the creationists.

P.S.: James McGrath has been usefully compiling after-debate reactions (Christian, atheist and secular alike) here and here. Outside of YEC sites, it appears there is a consensus that Nye "won" (there is no such thing as really "winning" in debates with YECs).

Saturday, February 01, 2014


Short But Not So Sweet

A bill has been introduced in the South Dakota legislature that, at least, has the benefit of being short and to the point:

FOR AN ACT ENTITLED, An Act to prohibit schools from preventing the instruction of intelligent design.


Section 1. That chapter 13-33 be amended by adding thereto a NEW SECTION to read as follows:

No school board or school administrator may prohibit a teacher in public or nonpublic school from providing instruction on intelligent design or other related topics.
Now, of course, the bit about "prohibit a teacher in ... nonpublic school" is unnecessary. State and local school authorities can set minimum standards for what is taught in private schools but cannot otherwise control the curricula of such schools.

But what will be interesting is the reaction of the Discoveryless Institute to this legislation.

The DI might know more about South Dakota politics than I do, recognize that the bill has no chance of passing and, therefore, hunker down and say nothing about it.

The bill is, however, close (depending what side of their mouths they are talking out of at any particular time) to the DI's pre-Kitzmiller position expressed in Intelligent Design in Public School Science Curricula: A Legal Guidebook:
[S]chool boards have the authority to permit, and even encourage, teaching about design theory as an alternative to Darwinian evolution-and this includes the use of textbooks such as Of Pandas and People that present evidence for the theory of intelligent design.

The controlling legal authority, the Supreme Court's decision in Edwards v. Aguillard, explicitly permits the inclusion of alternatives to Darwinian evolution so long as those alternatives are based on scientific evidence and not motivated by strictly religious concerns. Since design theory is based on scientific evidence rather than religious assumptions, it clearly meets this test. Including discussions of design in the science curriculum thus serves an important goal of making education inclusive, rather than exclusionary. In addition, it provides students with an important demonstration of the best way for them as future scientists and citizens to resolve scientific controversies-by a careful and fair-minded examination of the evidence.
Note the "strictly religious concerns." Also, the vague "making education inclusive, rather than exclusionary." Inclusive of what? ... if not conservative religious belief?

Of course, history began to change after Kitzmiller.

Discovery Institute opposes mandating intelligent design in public schools, and opposes legislation that even comes close to a mandate. Such laws if passed would focus unwanted and even career-killing attention on scholars working within the intelligent design paradigm. Bills, like doctors, should first do no harm.
Laws mandating the teaching of ID in elementary and high schools would destroy the careers of "scholars," exactly how? Oh, if the courts find, as Judge Jones did, that ID is just 'creationism in a cheap tuxedo,' there would go all those lucrative "seminars" and books and rounds on the Religious Right rubber chicken circuit reassuring the rubes that science supports the Bible.

Here is their dilemma: at present, if some teacher starts teaching ID and some student objects, the ACLU, Americans United, Freedom from Religion Foundation or some other such group has to hunt down each individual teacher or school board and show that what those particular people were teaching was religious. If this bill becomes law, once they get one student who objects, they can go straight to the state law and make the case that ID itself is religious and not science.

The DI got lucky in Kitzmiller. The locals, sick of the stupidity, voted out the creationists on the Dover school board, so there was no appeal. It's less likely to happen that way with a statewide law.

It will be an interesting test of how vulnerable the DI feels to see their reaction to this bill.

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