Title IX, Civil Rights, Sexual Violence, and Clueless Whining

I’m at CSICon this weekend, with very limited time for writing. This repost, originally published here, touches on the conversations we continue to have about balancing rights. It seemed a good time to revisit the post.

This weekend, Peter Berkowitz published a piece in the opinion section of The Wall Street Journal that probably ought to raise serious questions about his abilities as a scholar. The Stanford fellow was all up in arms over guidance to federally funded schools and programs on dealing with sexual violence as a civil rights issue under Title IX. In his letter, titled “College Rape Accusations and the Presumption of Male Guilt” and subtitled “Pressured by the Obama administration, universities abandon any pretense of due process in sexual assault cases.”, he wrote:

Our universities impair liberal education not only by what they teach and do not teach in classrooms but also by the illiberal rules they promulgate to regulate speech and conduct outside of class.

The Obama administration has aggravated the problem. On April 4, Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights Russlynn Ali, head of the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR), distributed a 19-page “Dear Colleague” letter to “provide recipients with information to assist them in meeting their obligations.”

At the cost of losing federal funding—on which all major institutions of higher education have grown dependent—colleges and universities are obliged under Title IX of the Civil Rights Act (which prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex) to thoroughly investigate all allegations of sexual harassment and sexual assault on campus, including the felony of rape. They are also obliged, according to Ms. Ali, to curtail due process rights of the accused.

Now, of course, it isn’t his opinions on how universities ought to be run that suggests his value as a scholar is limited, but his apparent unwillingness or inability to read the letter he was complaining about. For all his vitriol, it is both a needed and a rather unremarkable document. [Read more...]

Atheists Talk: Josh Brose on CASH

Listen to AM 950 KTNF this Sunday at 9 a.m. Central to hear Atheists Talk, produced by Minnesota Atheists. Stream live online. Call in to the studio at 952-946-6205, or send an e-mail to [email protected] during the live show. If you miss the live show, listen to the podcast later.

Campus Atheists, Skeptics and Humanists – more often known as CASH to its members – is an active student group at the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities and an affiliate of the Secular Student Alliance. CASH has a mission to foster a socially and intellectually engaging community for nontheists, and to promote tolerance and understanding for all, regardless of belief. Through their activities, CASH strives to address negative stereotypes, misconceptions about, and discrimination against nontheists.

Although they have not yet finished the first half of the 2012-2013 school year, CASH has already participated in several events which have garnered them prominent media attention. Early this year CASH partnered with other student groups to protest the disruptive demonstrations of evangelical campus preacher George Edward Smock, aka Brother Jed. Late this September, CASH hosted an “Everyone Draw Mohammed Day” event which protested anti-blasphemy laws and the overreach of religious laws.

This spring, CASH is hosting a large conference called SkepTech, which is drawing big name speakers from the secular community such as PZ Myers, Greta Christina, Hemant Mehta and Zach Weinersmith.

Current CASH board members Bryan Carver and Joshua Brose will join Atheists Talk this Sunday to discuss their experiences with CASH and atheist activism at the University of Minnesota.

Listen to AM 950 KTNF this Sunday at 9 a.m. Central to hear Atheists Talk, produced by Minnesota Atheists. Stream live online. Call in to the studio at 952-946-6205, or send an e-mail to [email protected] during the live show. If you miss the live show, listen to the podcast later

Give Me Liberty or Give Me Socks

All too often, the history of our country (and any other history really) is presented as a series of dates and battles. The people involved are cardboard cutouts, heroes and villains. One Donors Choose teacher is trying to change that for her class by using novels along with the class history texts.

“Give Me Liberty or Give Me Socks”

Frank Long Elementary School in Hinesville, GA

My Students: Using the Social Studies and Science books would help my students connect to the skills being taught during that unit.

My students enjoy doing hands-on projects to include: edible ecosystems, simple machines, and solar system models. They also love to read! We are a Title 1 school, which means that our school is 100% federally funded and over 74% of our school meets the requirements for free and/or reduced lunch. Frank Long is one of many schools in our community that have transient military population.

My Project: These books would help enhance the visual memory of my students when learning about the numerous events that happened in the past. Many times students have a hard time drawing parallels to such events that have happened in the past and need more concrete examples. I believe each book will help to foster learning in my classroom. Please, help my students get these Social Studies books to complete Common Core requirements for the upcoming school year including George Washington”s Socks, Revolutionary War on Wednesday, and If You Lived at the Time of the American Revolution Kay Moor.

I believe Social Studies is a very important subject for the students of tomorrow. By using different text, it helps to stimulate interest and vocabulary for my students. A well-rounded student, is a life-long learner.

My students need 30 copies each of 3 books, including George Washington”s Socks, Revolutionary War on Wednesday, and If You Lived at the Time of the American Revolution Kay Moor.

Can you help these students out? There are only four days left to finish out this project. Every donation will help.

Babies Without the Rape

By now you’ve heard about Indiana state treasurer Richard Mourdock’s statement about abortion in the case of rape, made while debating his opponent for the position of Indiana’s junior U.S. senator.

Asked whether abortion should be allowed in cases of rape or incest, Mourdock said, “I struggled with it myself for a long time, but I came to realize that life is that gift from God. And, I think, even when life begins in that horrible situation of rape, that it is something that God intended to happen.”

This received, rightfully, a great deal of scorn, upon which Mourdock tried to make things better.

After the debate, Mourdock tried to clarify his remarks, saying it was “sick” and “bizarre” that his comments would be interpreted as though he were saying God intended rape. “What I said is God creates life. As I person of faith, I believe that,” Mourdock is quoted as saying in The Indianapolis Star. “Does God want people raped? Of course not.”

While that raises theological problems (if an omnipotent God doesn’t want rape, why is there rape?), it doesn’t make anything the least bit better. That he thinks it does is telling.
[Read more...]

Laying It Out

Sometimes you see someone say to Rebecca Watson, “Is that all that happened?” For the record, the answer is always, “No”. Despite all the people who claim she’s always complaining, Rebecca doesn’t talk about this stuff much. People talking about what she’s said is much more common. When Rebecca does speak up, there’s always some new, unpleasant surprise. Today’s article in Slate is no exception.

The response from male atheists was overwhelming. This is one example:

“honestly, and i mean HONESTLY.. you deserve to be raped and tortured and killed. swear id laugh if i could”

I started checking out the social media profiles of the people sending me these messages, and learned that they were often adults who were active in the skeptic and atheist communities. They were reading the same blogs as I was and attending the same events. These were “my people,” and they were the worst.

[...]

Dawkins’ seal of approval only encouraged the haters. My YouTube page and many of my videos were flooded with rape “jokes,” threats, objectifying insults, and slurs. A few individuals sent me hundreds of messages, promising to never leave me alone. My Wikipedia page was vandalized. Graphic photos of dead bodies were posted to my Facebook page.

I knew the inappropriate compliments came from atheists and skeptics. but I didn’t know the circumcision squad was “us”. I never knew about that particular Facebook nastiness, though I knew about plenty of others. And then there’s that guy who said he’d assault Rebecca at TAM and laughed in the face of the JREF when he was told that was inappropriate. I thought he’d been…well, I’ll let you read for yourself. Let’s just say that Rebecca not making a big deal out of that at the time puts the lie to the idea that she was out to hurt TAM.

Leaving Them Behind

Twenty-some years ago, I had a friend in school whom we’ll call George. Technically, by the stricter definition of friendship I’ve operated under most of my life, he was a friendly acquaintance. He wasn’t all that easy to get to know.

That was to be expected. George had a secret. He was gay.

Of course, it wasn’t really a secret. George liked theater and music and was a rather flamboyant punk for our beige little backwater exurb. People assumed. Many of them made his life miserable over it, I think. I don’t really know.

I should know.
[Read more...]

A More Active Temple

James Croft has moved Temple of the Future over to Patheos. It’s good to see him get some more attention. It’s even better to see him dealing directly with those who are working to preserve their religious privilege. He doesn’t spend a lot of patience on them.

To a fellow Patheos blogger suggesting that Christians are persecuted because they may be mocked:

“Many Christans I know are afraid to admit their faith becoz they will be mocked with the hostility modelled by e.g. Dawkins”

Mockery of ideas, even hostility, by an author in a popular book, is clearly not the same as persecution and hatred. In a free society ideas must be open to stringent, hostile, mocking critique by those who disagree. On occasion forms of mockery and hostility can constitute persecution or may be driven by hatred, but merely fearing your belief might be ridiculed is not the same as being subject to hatred. To equate mockery and hatred is to diminish the notion of hatred to a dangerous degree: Matthew Shepard’s brutal murder was hatred. The God Delusion is not.

To the same Patheos blogger suggesting that coming out as evangelical was analogous to coming out as homosexual: [Read more...]

Just Getting a Response

From Ophelia, I discover that Justin Vacula is still on his kick trying to suggest that what the slimepitters, et al. are doing is absolutely not stalking.

A lengthy post I authored months ago concerning what certain Freethought Bloggers are calling ‘stalking’ and ‘cyberstalking’ is below. This is especially relevant considering Ophelia Benson’s recent post “It’s all trolling, when you come right down to it” in which she claims that the “pro-misogyny crowd” stalks bloggers “day in and day out.”

TL;DR – criticism, even when it is excessive, isn’t stalking or cyberstalking. Public figures who make their controversial opinions known to the world will get responses. Reductio ad absurdum: Major cable news networks must be stalkers for their coverage of Obama and Romney.

So, let’s look at what kind of “reaction” the slimepit had to me yesterday, as just one of those days in and out. [Read more...]

Donors Choose Returns

I can’t say this any better than I did last year.

I really don’t want to have to do this.

Don’t get me wrong. I think Donors Choose is providing a valuable service. I want these kids to have what they need to get a rich education and discover the joy in learning in a way that old, worn out classrooms and materials will make more difficult. I want them to have things they can touch and play with and sometimes even break because there’s enough to go around. I want their educations to fit them for a modern world in a way their outdated books simply won’t. I want them to have every opportunity to succeed, for themselves and for the society they’ll be creating when they’re grown.

I just don’t want them to have to rely on charity to get it.

We should be funding education and poverty relief such that no teacher ever has to come to us and beg for our help. It isn’t just human and decent and all that, but it’s one of the smartest uses to which we can put our money. Asking most people to be smart, however, is apparently some kind of inhumane imposition. At least Donors Choose is here, and at least there are people like the readers of Freethought Blogs who understand the value of an education.

I have found a way to make me feel a little bit better about the start of this, though. Keep reading. [Read more...]

Where to Find Me

I’m working on finishing out an incredibly busy fall right now. Promoting Atheist Voices of Minnesota and starting to speak at more events has kept me on the run.

Yesterday afternoon, I spoke at the Minnesota Atheists meeting about the challenges of working for justice in a world many people would prefer to think is already just. It went well, judging by the questions and the fact that people continued to discuss the topic for another half hour after the meeting officially ended. I have some tweaks to make based on the questions and feedback, then I’ll work on getting a copy online in video and text.

In the meantime, though, I’m running around even more. [Read more...]