“Liberty means not allowing freedom”—Nuns

What does liberty mean to you? Normally, we associate liberty with freedom, i.e. the absence of people telling us, “You’re not allowed to do that.” But the Little Sisters of the Poor have a definition of liberty that seems to be the exact opposite. And they’re suing the government for the right to impose this “liberty” on their employees. The NPR web site reports:

The Justice Department has argued that the nuns’ group is already exempt from providing birth control under the ACA, as long as it certifies its standing as a religious nonprofit. But the Little Sisters of the Poor, represented by the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, argues that documentation simply condones employees getting the coverage elsewhere.

“The sisters, under the new Health and Human Services mandate, are being forced by the government to either sign a form allowing a third party to provide contraceptives and abortion-causing drugs to their employees, or they’re being threatened with fines,” says Becket Fund director Kristina Arriaga.

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Homophobe? Anti-gay? None of the above?

Writing in The Atlantic, Brandon Ambrosino has some serious misgivings about broad-brushing opponents of marriage equality and defining them all as homophobic and anti-gay.

As a gay man, I found myself disappointed with this definition—that anyone with any sort of moral reservations about gay marriage is by definition anti-gay. If Raushenbush is right, then that means my parents are anti-gay, many of my religious friends (of all faiths) are anti-gay, the Pope is anti-gay, and—yes, we’ll go here—first-century, Jewish theologian Jesus is anti-gay. That’s despite the fact that while some religious people don’t support gay marriage in a sacramental sense, many of them are in favor of same-sex civil unions and full rights for the parties involved. To be sure, most gay people, myself included, won’t be satisfied until our loving, monogamous relationships are graced with the word “marriage.” But it’s important to recall that many religious individuals do support strong civil rights for the gay members of their communities.

It’s a longish piece which he obviously put a lot of thought into, and he makes some points worthy of consideration. On the other hand, he also published an earlier article in The Atlantic, entitled “Being Gay at Jerry Falwell’s University,” and I can’t help but wonder how much his thinking is colored by whatever background led him to Lib U in the first place.

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Some Christians abandoning Boy Scouts

The Lubbock Avalanche-Journal reports that some Christians, irate over the Boy Scouts’ failure to discriminate against gays, are leaving the organization to try and start their own initiatives.

Scott Scarborough, a former Boy Scouts volunteer and committee member under the South Plains Council, resigned his position with the organization on Sept. 1 and is bringing an emerging faith-based alternative to West Texas.

This is great news for the Boy Scouts. Without the influence (financial and otherwise) of the narrow-minded bigots, the Scouts will have a much better chance of growing into the kind of helpful, mind-broadening, and character-building organization it ought to have been all along. Someday they might even admit *gasp* atheists.

Meanwhile, the bigots are forming a “faith-based” alternative to the Boy Scouts (and thus unintentionally beginning to turn “faith-based” into the kind of term that “fundamentalist” has become). Their shirts will likely be brown, and they will boldly and prophetically announce their mission as being the oppression of gays, atheists, and anybody else who differs from the ideal white male Christian patriarchy. Oh wait, no, that’s a secret. Better let some non-whites in too, to keep it from being too obvious.

I wish them every bit of the kind of luck they deserve.

“Gateway Pundit” fails to grasp First Amendment basics

In a post melodramatically entitled “WAR ON GOD,” The Gateway Pundit wails:

A Christian ministry has been ordered by the Feds to remove all of their religious symbols if they want any federal assistance feeding the poor.

Yup, to absolutely no one’s surprise, another “faith-based initiative” got caught proselytizing poor people at taxpayer expense, and were told to stop. Scientologists aren’t allowed to use government food programs to lure people in to Scientology sessions, Muslims aren’t allowed to use them to bring people in to hear about Mohammed and the Qur’an, and Christianity is likewise constrained from turning government aid programs into taxpayer-funded evangelistic ministries, even “passively.”

And equally unsurprising, the perpetrators and their supporters are completely stunned and outraged at this blatant compliance with the requirements of the First Amendment.

Daly and her staff sat in stunned disbelief as the government agents also informed them that the Christian Service Center could no longer pray or provide Bibles to those in need. The government contract also forbade any references to the ministry’s chapel.

This is precisely why faith-based initiatives are a bad idea. When Christians are invited to participate in the delivery of government aid, they naturally assume that they are being given permission to turn a secular government program into an evangelistic ministry, taking advantage of both the needs of the poor and the generosity of the state to create a captive audience who knows that their food supply is in the hands of people who want to see some evidence that their ministry is saving souls. That’s flat out wrong, and even Christians ought to oppose it. Why would you want to fill your church with fake believers who are only pretending to love Jesus so they can get the basic nutrition the government set aside for them?

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At last, a convincing argument

This week on our local Christian talk radio show, they had a guest discussing the recent court case in New Mexico where the state supreme court ruled that a photography business could not claim a First Amendment right to discriminate against gays. (And by the way, the guest also had a book to sell.)

Like the photography business, the guest and the talk show hosts all framed their argument around the idea that the photographer’s decision was not discrimination because it was based on the lesbian couple’s behavior rather than on their status. The court didn’t buy that one, and so the Christians were outraged. How absurd! Giving an entire class of people special privileges just because of their behavior? That’s ridiculous!

And you know, I think they’re exactly right. It is absurd, and completely unjustifiable, to give an entire class of people a special privileged and protected status just because of their behavior, just because their sexual behavior happens to be oriented towards the opposite sex. Separating out heterosexuals, and making them the only class of people who are entitled to the privilege of getting married to one another, is indefensible. The only way to avoid the trap of giving people unearned privileges based on the orientation of their sexual behavior is to grant everybody the same rights and privileges regardless of sexual orientation.

It’s the first time I heard a really cogent and coherent argument from the “traditional marriage” folks, and it’s a shame they believe and practice the exact opposite of what their own argument requires.

Pro-life radio

I happened to tune in to Christian talk radio during the drive home last night, and they were all abuzz about the Royal Baby. Apparently, the British and American press have been referring to it as the Royal Baby since before it was born. And that’s supposed to prove that it’s always been a baby, and not a fetus, or zygote, or fertilized egg.

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Opinions

I said it again the other day, but then I had second thoughts. “Everyone’s entitled to their own opinion,” I said, but is that really true? Have you ever thought about the full range of opinions we’re implicitly endorsing by saying everyone is entitled to believe whatever they believe?

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More thoughts on gun control

I confess I have mixed feelings about gun control. On the one hand you have situations like the recent shootings at the Sandy Hook Elementary School, where something clearly needs to be done to protect children against mass murder. That one seems like a no-brainer.

On the other hand, I don’t trust the 1% and I’m increasingly unhappy with the increasing subversion of democracy that is being used to turn our free country into a vast machine piping wealth out of the lower and middle classes and into the bank accounts of the very wealthiest, at the risk of financial disaster for the other 99%. Nor am I pleased with ever-encroaching “State secrets” covering up detention, torture, and assassination of “enemies,” including US citizens.

Is it possible that the Founding Fathers, in protecting the people’s right to keep and bear arms “necessary to the security of a free state,” were showing more foresight than expected? Fortunately, a comment on last Friday’s post gives me an opportunity to dig into this a little more.

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Bible distribution program in FL

The Christian Post reports that a conservative Christian group has begun a probably-illegal Bible distribution program in local high schools in the area.

Volunteers from a Florida-based group have distributed Bibles to the lunchrooms of several high schools in the Sunshine State.

World Changers of Florida, a conservative organization, distributed the Bibles on Wednesday, with a focus on high schools in Orange County.

There are apparently some restrictions on the program, but definitely not enough to comply with the First Amendment.

“Passive distribution means the Bibles may be placed on one unmanned table for distribution in a location where students normally congregate during non-instructional time,” reads the memo. “The representatives may only be allowed to replenish Bibles if they run out and must remove any undistributed literature at the end of the distribution day.”

Has the ACLU heard about this? Anybody got any copies of The God Delusion they’d like to make available for distribution in the same cafeterias?

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