From deities to data - "For thousands of years humans believed that authority came from the gods. Then, during the modern era, humanism gradually shifted authority from deities to people... Now, a fresh shift is taking place. Just as divine authority was legitimised by religious mythologies, and human authority was legitimised by humanist ideologies, so high-tech gurus and Silicon Valley prophets are creating a new universal narrative that legitimises the authority of algorithms and Big Data." [more inside]
Marc Benioff, CEO of Salesforce, along with six other Indiana tech CEOs, co-signed a letter opposing the a bill which would allow business to refuse to serve LGBT customers. When asked about his participation in the effort, Benioff said in an email to IBJ: "We will be forced to dramatically reduce our investment in Indiana based on our employees' and customers' outrage over the Indiana religious freedom bill." [more inside]
Ian McEwan: the law versus religious belief. [The Guardian]
The conjoined twins who would die without medical intervention, a boy who refused blood transfusions on religious grounds…Ian McEwan on the stories from the family courts that inspired his latest novel.[more inside]
A federal judge in New York has ruled against a group of parents who had filed a lawsuit, asserting that the New York City policy that allows schools to ban unvaccinated kids from attending classes when another child has come down with a vaccine preventable illness infringed on their practice of religion. The decision cites Jacobson v. Massachusetts, 197 U.S. 11 (1905), where the SCOTUS upheld Cambridge, Mass, Board of Health’s authority to require vaccination against smallpox during a smallpox epidemic.
Indian court asked to rule on whether Hindu guru dead or meditating: Since January 29 of this year, Sri Ashutosh Maharaj, founder of the Divya Jyoti Jagrati Sansthan religious sect, has been residing in a freezer in his ashram in Punjab. His followers claim he is in a "deep meditative state (samadhi)." Doctors, however, have declared Maharaj clinically dead and his family have sued to have his death be investigated and to have his body released for cremation. The guru's son also alleges that Maharaj was murdered and that his followers are trying to gain control of his estate, said to be worth $170 million. While traditional yogis have claimed extraordinary powers, including the power to stop one's heart, the evidence for these claims has been lacking.
"In a bizarre case involving threats of kidnapping, beatings and physical torture — including the use of an electric cattle prod— two rabbis were charged in New Jersey on Wednesday in a scheme to force men to grant their wives religious divorces." [more inside]
In Conversation: Antonin Scalia "On the eve of a new Supreme Court session, the firebrand justice discusses gay rights and media echo chambers, Seinfeld and the Devil, and how much he cares about his intellectual legacy ("I don’t")." [more inside]
Historically the United States (on a state by state basis) has given almost complete freedom to parents to name their children, both first name and surname, with results like "Fly-fornication," "Mahershalalhashbaz," "Encyclopedia Britannia," "States Rights" (who was killed in battle as an officer for the confederacy), "Trailing Arbutus Vines" and many more. (Naming Baby: The Constitutional Dimensions of Parental Naming Rights, Carlton F.W. Larson, 2011 [SSRN/PDF]). In October 2012, however, New York courts made two interesting rulings that reflect limitations on renaming, if not naming, rights, for both adults and children. [more inside]
Gospel of Intolerance - Excerpts of "God Loves Uganda", a feature documentary directed and produced by filmmaker Roger Ross Williams is having its premiere at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival. The film explains how money donated by American evangelicals directly finances the violent antigay movement in Uganda.
A German court has ruled that male circumcision is "bodily harm" and that a child's right to "physical integrity" trumps parental or religious rights. Jews and Muslims have reacted strongly to the decision, with some going as far to allege anti-Semitism. Intactivists are generally pleased.
Why A Heterosexual, Married, North Carolinian Father Of Three Cares About LGBT Equality. Married father of three boys writes eloquently about the reasons why he opposes the proposed constitutional amendment banning any legal relationship recognition for same-sex couples. The amendment goes before voters in May primary election, when heavy Republican turnout is expected. Meanwhile Senator Goolsby says that it is all about "empowering voters" "so no activist judge is able to decide on his or her own what marriage is." [original]
Start a home business, get rich quick, win financial freedom! If you watch late-night TV, you've heard it all before. But what's the story behind these slick pitchmen and their dubious schemes? Enter The Salty Droid, your ornery metal guide to the corrupt underworld of scam-marketing scum. This charmingly acerbic bot (owned and operated by mild-mannered Chicago dog-lover Jason Michael Jones [inter-view, long talk + transcript]) is a valiant crusader against the vile con-men who bankrupt the elderly and the desperate with beautiful lies. Exposed so far: A shadowy "Syndicate" of frauduct-pushing personality cults polluting the media with blogspam and woo-woo talking points. Boiler rooms in the Utah desert where telemarketers farm credit from easy targets with cunning, probing scripts [PDF]. Powerful politicians bought wholesale. Believers left to die in fraudulent new-age vision quests. It's a soul-crushing beat, enough to make one feel like a regular catcher-bot in the digital rye. But somebody's got to do it -- preferably someone with plasma nunchucks and titanium skin.
'These children don’t recognize the flags of their home countries, but they can all sing "Jesus Loves Me."'
The Douglass Blvd. Christian Church in Louisville, Kentucky has voted to stop signing marriage licenses until gay marriage is legalized by the state.
The Havasupai Tribe of Grand Canyon won a $700,000 settlement from Arizona State University, plus the return of remaining blood samples, regarding the use of members' blood and DNA for research. The Havasupai had originally contacted researchers at ASU concerning the Type II diabetes that has ravaged that tribe and others, particularly in the Southwest. [more inside]
A Visitor's Guide to Hell - A translation of the Chinese version of what happens to the human soul after death [with some illustrations]. [more inside]
The case against God brought by Ernie Chambers (previously on MeFi) has been thrown out. (title via News Now Network, although I added a capital H.)
A 15-year-old in London is being prosecuted for holding a sign calling Scientology a "cult", during a peaceful demonstration (0:55-1:40). The teenager refused to back down, quoting a 1984 high court ruling from Mr Justice Latey, in which he described the Church of Scientology as a "cult" ... The City of London police came under fire two years ago when it emerged that more than 20 officers, ranging from constable to chief superintendent, had accepted gifts worth thousands of pounds from the Church of Scientology. The City of London Chief Superintendent, Kevin Hurley, praised Scientology for "raising the spiritual wealth of society" during the opening of its headquarters in 2006. Last year a video praising Scientology emerged featuring Ken Stewart, another of the City of London's chief superintendents via
"Killing others is not loving them.” --meet US Army Captain Peter D. Brown, just granted Conscientious Objector status due to his religious beliefs and honorably discharged after first being denied and taking them to court---only 224 applicants were approved for it during 02-06, out of 2.3 million serving. [more inside]
Spiritual Highs and Legal Blows - the power and peril of religious exemptions from drug prohibition
The First Freedom Project --new from the Dept of Justice, announced at the Southern Baptist Convention along with a call for their help---specifically and only to protect the religious from discrimination against them. Many are not impressed: The administration has often ignored the importance of the no establishment principle by supporting attempts of governments to endorse a religious message, using tax dollars to fund pervasively religious organizations, allowing religious discrimination in hiring for federally funded projects, ... Legal strategies and actions from groups like the Alliance Defense Fund and ACLJ are now official DOJ policy, it appears. ...In his statement, Gonzales mentioned several cases litigated by ADF and its allies ...
Tell me the stories that will embarrass those conservative bigots that are backing a constitutional ban on our formalized relationships.
The dirty underbelly -- I'm sick and tired of these hypocritical Hoosier legislators who think that my sex life or relationship status is any of their business. Do I intrude on who they're sleeping with? I didn't, but I'm going to start now. ...Consider this a call to
arms gossip. ... -- Bilerico, a GLBT blog in Indiana, fighting their proposed state Constitutional Amendment to ban marriage and all other rights for gay and lesbian couples and families.
Federalism and Faith. [more inside]
Why Tolerate Religion? Brian Leiter's new paper on the philosophical and legal justifications for toleration of religion. From the abstract: Religious toleration has long been the paradigm of the liberal ideal of toleration of group differences, as reflected in both the constitutions of the major Western democracies and in the theoretical literature explaining and justifying these practices. While the historical reasons for the special “pride of place” accorded religious toleration are familiar, what is surprising is that no one has been able to articulate a credible principled argument for tolerating religion qua religion: that is, an argument that would explain why, as a matter of moral or other principle, we ought to accord special legal and moral treatment to religious practices. There are, to be sure, principled arguments for why the state ought to tolerate a plethora of private choices, commitments, and practices of its citizenry, but none of these single out religion for anything like the special treatment it is accorded in, for example, American and Canadian constitutional law. So why tolerate religion? Not because of anything that has to do with it being religion as such - or so this paper argues.
"What if a person felt their religious view was that African Americans shouldn't mingle with Caucasians, or that women shouldn't work?"
...a growing campaign to force public schools, state colleges and private workplaces to eliminate policies protecting gays and lesbians from harassment....Christian activist Gregory S. Baylor responds to such criticism angrily. He says he supports policies that protect people from discrimination based on race and gender. But he draws a distinction that infuriates gay rights activists when he argues that sexual orientation is different — a lifestyle choice, not an inborn trait. By equating homosexuality with race, Baylor said, tolerance policies put conservative evangelicals in the same category as racists. ... "Think how marginalized racists are," said Baylor, who directs the Christian Legal Society's Center for Law and Religious Freedom. "If we don't address this now, it will only get worse." Should Christians be able to sue for the right to not tolerate or abide by anti-discrimination and anti-harassment policies meant to apply to all? Should they still be able to get school activity funding?
Shari'a law vs. the US Constitution. In the matter of the establishing in the US Muslim enclaves practicing, imposing, and enforcing Islamic law, Shari'a.
In July, Georgia federal judge William C. O’Kelley ordered Barrow County to remove a Ten Commandments plaque from its courthouse. The suit was filed by ACLU Georgia, which not only succeeded in getting the plaque removed, but also recovered $150,000 in attorneys’ fees and expenses. Ten Commandments-Georgia pledged to reimburse the county for its legal expenses. In order for the group to raise the last $52,000 it needs to meet that pledge, it has put the actual Ten Commandments plaque that was removed from the courthouse under the order of the court up for auction on eBay.
"...God as the sovereign source of law, liberty, or government." The re-introduction of this bill on March 3rd seemed to have been hardly noticed. It was first brought up last year by Senator Richard Shelby, Rep. Robert Aderholt, and Roy "Ten Commandments" Moore. I wonder if section 201 of the CRA will affect Article VI, Sect. 2. (born of, the 2004 thread (s))
What About Judas? Dante condems Judas to eternal damnation in the darkest, deepest circle of hell. But what if someone came to the great traitor's defense in a trial to win his entrance into heaven? The playwright Stephen Adly Guirgis imagines just such a scenario in "The Last Days of Judas Iscariot," directed by Philip Seymour Hoffman and running at the Public Theater in New York City. More inside.
"I don't see how you can be president at least from my perspective, how you can be president, without a relationship with the Lord," said George W. Bush yesterday. (Really? I do.) While giant crosses are banned from next Thursday's inauguration, Jesus likely won't be, despite Michael Newdow's protestations. By the way, the benediction is scheduled to be delivered by The Rev. Kirbyjon Caldwell, who also got the honor in 2001. Back then, he said to millions of bowed heads gathered to mark the beginning of the Bush presidency: "We respectfully submit this humble prayer in the name that's above all other names, Jesus, the Christ. Let all who agree say, 'Amen.'" After gay rights, is discrimination against atheists the next great civil rights battle of our time? Or should we just shut up and move to France?
Alabama judge wears robe with Ten Commandments embroidered on it in a nice cursive mustard yellow, bringing the state even closer to the nipples of religion. Lawyer objects. Hear the judge's defense at npr.
A call for Christian lawyers who have worked for the ACLU. The ACLU tries to be balanced , but considering the amount of effort they have put forth to inhibit Christian influence from/to the government, should a Christian lawyer work for them?
Conscience Clauses and Health Care --"Yes, we need to respect individual freedom of religion. But at what point does it cross the line of not providing essential medical care? At what point is it malpractice?" she asked. "If someone's beliefs interfere with practicing their profession, perhaps they should do something else." The Protection of Conscience Project feels differently: Protection of Conscience Laws are needed because powerful interests are inclined to force health care workers and others to participate, directly or indirectly, in morally controversial procedures, while NARAL says: ... Many of these clauses go far beyond respecting individuals' beliefs to the point of harming women by not providing them with full information or access to medical treatment. Medicine, not ideology, should determine medical decisions.
The Supreme Court ruled today that Michael Newdow did not have standing to sue on behalf of his daughter in challenging the recitation of the pledge in a public school classroom in California.
The Bush administration has today stepped into the Supreme Court’s next major church-state case, by siding with the ACLJ and asking the high court to allow a state merit scholarship to be applied towards a degree in theology at a Christian College. Is this a valid example of the separation of Church and State, or unreasonable anti-religious discrimination? More inside.
A bill is currently being pushed through Congress that will give health care providers, including those that are federally funded, the right to refuse to perform abortions or administer contraceptive medication for personal moral reasons. Next week: firefighters allowed to let houses burn down because they hate the color of the curtains.
Scalia gives divinity school students a peek at what his activism is really about. I can't say it any better than he does so I'll quote: "The reaction of people of faith to this tendency of democracy to obscure the divine authority behind government should not be resignation to it, but the resolution to combat it as effectively as possible." Of course we knew Scalia detested democracy on 12/12/2000 with his decision that infamous day but now he admits favoritism to theocracy.
"I never had much confidence in the attention span of elected officials for any kind of deep thinking about important issues,"
"I never had much confidence in the attention span of elected officials for any kind of deep thinking about important issues," jabs Republican U.S. judge Alfred Goodwin in a feisty interview. He seems unfazed by the outraged reaction to his ban on government teachers leading a theistic "pledge of allegiance," ripping into the press "("Their attention span can't handle anything more than a haiku of about four lines"), the President ("I'm a little disappointed in our chief executive -- who nobody ever accused of being a deep thinker -- for popping off") and "this wrap-yourself-in-the-flag frenzy." I'm starting to see why he's "among the best-liked jurists on the 9th Circuit bench, always affable and gracious." [from cursor.org]
Certainly, no power to prescribe any religious exercise, or to assume authority in religious discipline, has been delegated to the General Government. --Thomas Jefferson
Catholic church plays hardball in the courts. [NYTimes link, login metafi/metafi] "The dioceses have on the whole acted little differently from commercial institutions confronted by explosive litigation risks. They have tried aggressively to limit exposure to claims by setting up parishes as individual corporations, invoked the statute of limitations, subjected plaintiffs to days of grueling depositions and settled claims in secret." Should the church be behaving just like any private company? What would Jesus do?
So Help Me God : "Ninety-five percent of the people believe in God. An invocation of his name, in conjunction with the seriousness of telling the truth, has an importance beyond mere legal requirement," Sessions said Thursday. [via NextDraft]
Anti-bullying vote blocked by Christian Conservatives The Washington State bill would have required school districts to set up policies against harassment, bullying and intimidation. Christian conservatives that blocked the vote claim "it amounted to censorship of their right to condemn homosexuality." There is no mention of homosexuality in the bill at all. So this leads me to the conclusion that these Christians condone "harassment, bullying and intimidation." How far from the Golden Rule can you stray and keep a straight face?