Court rejects “right-to-meddle” claim

WTAE News reports that a federal appeals court has rejected lower court rulings that granted Christian organizations a right to meddle in their employees’ personal medical coverage.

A federal appeals court has reversed lower-court victories by two western Pennsylvania Catholic dioceses and a private Christian college that challenged birth control coverage mandates as part of federal health care reforms.

The 3-0 ruling Wednesday by the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals panel found that the reforms place “no substantial burden” on the religious groups and therefore don’t violate their First Amendment right to religious expression.

The organizations in question had argued that their religious convictions required them to deny their employees coverage for birth control or abortions. The law, however, allows them to opt out of the mandate to provide such coverage, in which case someone else would provide it. That didn’t satisfy the Christian organizations, however, because they wanted the power to ensure that nobody could provide their employees with coverage that was inconsistent with the organizations’ religious principles. In essence, they asserted that their religious freedom gave them the right to meddle in their employees’ private, personal medical care. Fortunately, the appeals court didn’t buy it.

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Almost correct

According to, presidential hopeful Mike Huckabee is trying out some new(-ish) ways to spin gay marriage into something Republicans can exploit without shooting themselves in what remains of their bullet-riddled feet.

Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee on Sunday said being gay is akin to choosing to drink alcohol or use profanity — lifestyle choices he says are appealing to others but not to him.

The former Baptist pastor, who is weighing a second run for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination, also claimed that forcing people of faith to accept gay marriage as policy is on par with telling Jews that they must serve “bacon-wrapped shrimp in their deli.” That dish would run afoul of kosher rules in the same way Huckabee sees asking Christians to accept same-sex marriages.

Ooo, so close, but he fumbles on the one yard line.

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A rare gem

Here’s something you don’t see very often: a genuine apology.

We have heard the complaints about this issue and are listening carefully to the reactions with grave concern.

We could go on all day about our intentions for the issue and the character of Dagger Type, and what our goals were and weren’t. But, our intentions do not invalidate the legitimate reactions that some have had to this story. Those reactions are honest and heartfelt, and exist regardless of our creative intentions, and we don’t wish to dismiss them.

Instead, we want to acknowledge the hurt and offense that we’ve caused, and express our sincerest apologies. We’re all deeply troubled by the reaction to this issue and have made it a point of serious discussion amongst ourselves. While we expected a degree of controversy in regard to the issues of identity and the artistic process that this story was meant to evoke, we do now realize that our presentation of this character was flawed, for any elements whatsoever of the story to have reminded readers of the sordid and misguided tropes that associate both drag and gender expression with duplicity.

We deeply regret upsetting readers who placed their trust in us. But were indebted to those who stand up to speak out about their perspective on stories like this their commentary leads to universally better storytelling, from both ourselves and others, and we hope to live up to that standard in the future.

No blaming the people they offended. Honest acknowledgement of flaws, errors, and regret. Even outright thanks to the people who stood up and voiced their protests. Well done, Batgirl team!

You can read the background to this controversy here: UPDATE: DC Comics Team Apologizes For Homophobia In “Batgirl” #37.

Truth-seekers and god-slayers

PZ Myers is annoyed by the fact that, when it comes core, fundamental, human values, many atheists are as bad as believers, if not outright worse. In the eyes of some, “atheism” means only “lack of god-belief,” which means atheism cannot imply anything more than that, which means that atheism implies some kind of amoral anarchy, above and beyond mere unbelief. So which is it? Does atheism imply nothing more than absence of belief, or does it imply that “they’re right and you’re wrong?” You can’t have it both ways.

In truth, atheism absolutely does have implications beyond mere absence of belief in supernatural father figures. A world without gods to take responsibility for everything is a world where we ourselves are responsible. Atheism implies that we have work to do, morally, socially, and scientifically. And maybe that’s the reason why some unbelievers would rather not acknowledge anything more than just the absence of gods. But I suspect it goes deeper than that. I think what we’re seeing today is the emergence of two broadly-defined tribes within atheism, two different types of atheists, whom I designate as truth-seekers and god-slayers.

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This is more than just harassment (trigger warning: rape)

Rarely have I read any article that so enrages me as this:

From the hater’s POV, you (the Koolaid server) do not “deserve” that attention. You are “stealing” an audience. From their angry, frustrated point of view, the idea that others listen to you is insanity. From their emotion-fueled view you don’t have readers you have cult followers. That just can’t be allowed.

You must be stopped. And if they cannot stop you, they can at least ruin your quality of life. A standard goal, in troll culture, I soon learned, is to cause “personal ruin”. They aren’t all trolls, though. Some of those who seek to stop and/or ruin you are misguided/misinformed but well-intended. They actually believe in a cause, and they believe you (or rather the Koolaid you’re serving) threatens that cause.

I am angry at the injustice being suffered by this woman and by others like her. Read it all. It’s words we need to hear. We are failing, and failing badly.

But I think the writer got one thing wrong. She believes that this behavior is motivated by some kind of jealousy over how much attention women get online, and believes that the goal is to silence women. I don’t think that’s it at all. Oh this might be true for some of the trolls, but those guys are a mere nuisance, and their behavior cannot account for the kind of abuse inflicted on Kathy Sierra and others like her. The real problem here is a much smaller group of “trolls” whose goal is to get away with the virtual, online equivalent of rape. These are not geeks defending some kind of boys-only turf. These are perverts acting out rape fantasies with real victims and real harm. Women who make significant contributions are targets, not because the trolls resent the attention they get, but because the online rapist gets a bigger kick out of attacking an influential and well-known woman than attacking a more anonymous female. The goal is not to defend anything. It’s to attack and destroy the woman. For “kicks.”

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Too awesome not to share: the Proud Whopper

Burger King is celebrating gay pride with a message on its Whopper wrappers.

The fast-food chain has posted a video online Wednesday that shows scenes from a San Francisco location where it sold a “Proud Whopper.” Customers were not told what is in the burger, which comes wrapped in rainbow paper. Once opened up, a message inside the wrapper states, “We are all the same inside.”

The idea is that the Proud Whopper is no different from the regular Whopper, despite its colorful packaging.

I’m going to paste that into my dictionary as the new definition of “brilliant.”

Where the facts really stand

My two posts on Brendan Eich have attracted a commenter who wants us all to know he thinks homosexuality is a form of mental illness, and that therefore it is “tough love” to discriminate against them and deny their right to get married. He and I have been having a long back-and-forth discussion, in the most recent of which he said supporters of gay rights are guilty of “mental gymnastics” and “misrepresenting facts.” I have summarized my understanding of the relevant facts in my reply to him, but after thinking it over I’ve decided to promote it to a blog post as well. I’ll be interested in hearing your comments.

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Subverting the democratic process

Via Ed Brayton, we get this argument from Jim Burroway at the Box Turtle Bulletin.

[A]t a time when we are demanding passage of the Employment Non-Discrmination Act so that companies can’t just up and fire LGBT employees because they don’t agree with them — as they can now in about two-thirds of our states — we need to think very long and hard about whether we should demand someone be removed from his job for exercising his constitutional rights as part of the cornerstone of our democracy: a free and fair election.

Ed thinks it’s a very persuasive argument, so let me make the counter-argument and see if I can be equally persuasive.

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