Why Washington County Is Status Quo for Atheist Marriage Officiants

On May 4, U.S. District Judge Joan Ericksen dismissed a lawsuit filed on behalf of Atheists for Human Rights as moot. The suit was filed when a marriage officiant certified by AFHR had their filing of that certificate rejected by Washington County on the basis that atheists were not among the groups authorized as marriage officiants under Minnesota law. Ericksen dismissed the suit when Washington County reversed its decision and declared it should have accepted AFHR’s certificate at the start.

Washington County’s decision is being lauded as a victory and a step forward for atheist marriage officiants. However, while this is an unequivocal victory, it is a victory for the status quo. It isn’t progress. Understanding the difference takes some background, both on the current situation for atheist marriage officiants and on what AFHR hoped to accomplish with their lawsuit. It also helps to be familiar with the judge’s order.

If you’ve followed me as a writer or Minnesota Atheists as a group, you’ll know that we aim to change the law on marriage officiants. We’ve been working with state legislators to come up with acceptable language that would allow atheist and secular humanist nonprofits to certify their own trained marriage officiants and see the state recognize marriages performed by these officiants as legal.

While we’ve been going through this process, AFHR has taken a different tack. [Read more…]

They Can’t Conceive

There’s a post by Kevin Standlee that I saw linked today and rather liked. It compares fandom conventions to potluck dinners to make a point about the geek social fallacies that center around inclusion.

Everyone brings something. That means some of the food is stuff I personally like, and other stuff I hate. But that’s okay: I eat what I like, and leave the rest for those who like green bean casserole.

Somewhere along the way, we got the idea of voting among ourselves for what the best dishes were. (“Best Appetizer,” “Best Main Course,” “Best Dessert”) And we started holding this big pot-luck in different places so as to share the fun with our far-away friends who couldn’t necessarily make the trip to Our Fair City.

Well, now we’ve got people who started coming to the pot-luck, paying the share of the hall rental, and are angry that we’ve been choosing things they personally hate to eat, and have decided that they want to knock over all of the tables with food they dislike and insist that the rest of us eat that stuff that they personally like, because they say so.

[Read more…]

With Room to Learn

There has been a lot of talk in the last few months about how “call-out culture” causes problems. Some of it is ridiculous, as when writers take to large magazines and newspapers to complain of being silenced. Some of it is not, as when those already marginalized note that dealing with fierce blowback for mistakes as they enter and acclimate to activist spaces is one more barrier than they have energy for.

I want to deal more with the latter as I get back into writing more regularly. There are things I want to say about languages of power once I’m comfortable that my views are fully fleshed out. In the meantime, however, there are a couple of posts contemporaneous with my earlier writing on the topic that I want to highlight, both from Angus Johnston on the Student Activism blog. [Read more…]

Their Own Neighborhoods

When you ask why people would burn down their own neighborhoods*, I hear you tell me that you don’t know:

  • That people living in subsistence-level poverty move frequently to escape unlivable housing and predatory landlords or because their financial status has improved or deteriorated and have little chance to put down meaningful roots.
  • That people in impoverished neighborhoods would often choose to live somewhere else if discriminatory housing, lending, and transportation policies didn’t make that impossible.
  • That policies of non-investment in segregated, impoverished neighborhoods means that a lot of property is already unused or unusable.
  • That the businesses that will operate in these neighborhoods often apply a premium using their local monopolies, both to their customers and to their employees.
  • That people who have been abused for years have been trained to turn their anger on themselves, because trying to punish those who abuse them will get them injured or dead.
  • That you don’t begin to understand what desperation is, much less what it feels like.

Are these necessarily the reason anyone would tear down their own neighborhood? No. But that’s still a lot of ignorance to be showing off with just a few words, so maybe you want to knock that off.

*Note that even this premise is wrong in some cases. Reports are that at least one fire in Baltimore was started by a tear-gas canister landing in trash.

What Vox Day Can’t Do

Theodore Beale likes to claim that any outcome of the Rabid Puppies sham is a win for him. Of course he does. Why? Because the only way to make himself a winner is to declare it by fiat.

In reality, aside from making threatening noises and encouraging others to do the same, Beale is weak and ineffective. He’s potent only as a bad example and an impetus to cringe. After that, he’s most notable for being able to achieve none of the things he’d like to. A short list:

Face it, aside from threats, Beale’s got nothing going for him. And while those threats are an ugly thing to be on the end of, they’re not getting him any closer to his goals. If anything, he is his own worst argument for his positions.

Family Matters: How Geek Communities Turn Dysfunctional

“My people!”

If you’ve ever followed Twitter as your friends walked into a conference or convention, you’ve seen this. Someone sees a fellow cosplayer, a T–shirt from their favorite obscure fandom, 201–level discussions of issues that are ignored in mass media, or even the simple lack of the background nonsense they deal with everywhere else, and they are home. They’ve found their people.

“Our baby!”

A software startup, a magazine, a political campaign, an event, or an organization—there is nothing quite like seeing all your hard work and sacrifice build something new. Creation is a heady thing that only becomes more intoxicating when shared. When you create together, you don’t have to wait for the final product to exult. You can celebrate each accomplishment, each step of realized potential, as your baby comes to be. [Read more…]

Power and “Political Correctness”

I’ve been watching the articles about “callout culture” and “political correctness” come rolling out for a while now in frustrated fascination. I suppose it’s fitting that it takes a week in which both Jonathan Chait’s piece deploring “political correctness” and Jeet Heer’s accounting of The New Republic’s record on race were published to move me to write about it.

This isn’t because “Someone is finally speaking about this.” We’ve never stopped. As long as traditionally disenfranchised people have advocated for more power, the ways in which they exercise that power have been fodder for discussion and condemnation.

No, the reason I need to write about this topic this week is that the irony is killing me. Watching Chait argue that people like him are silenced by (in part) the speech of others—particularly women of color—is annoying. Contrasting that argument with the acknowledgement of how thoroughly the institution that protected and promoted Chait’s voice excluded the voices and interests of black people is painful. Seeing the impetus for that acknowledgement reduced to “intense arguments, mostly carried out online” instead of crediting the—often black—intellectuals and activists who made this accounting necessary…well. [Read more…]

An Open Letter to the Grassroots Party

After the most recent election, a Minnesota-grown party candidate had some interesting things to say. In a letter to the editor:

Now we know how to win and diminish the votes of the two-party tyranny. We’ll be back to mess with you little Dutch boys. In the meantime, the cracks in the levee are widening, the flood is coming and the inevitable wave of Hemp for Victory will sweep away your injustices.

In a comment for the news:

Wright said that until marijuana is legalized, he will contemplate running again, and that one day it could make a difference.

“If I can take away another 30,000 or more votes, that’s gonna hurt them,” he said of the major parties. “That would really change things for these guys. They’re gonna want these votes, and to make me irrelevant they’d have to come out for legalization.”

So here’s the thing: No. And I say that as someone against continuing prohibition and someone who once voted for a Grassroots candidate. No. [Read more…]

Why Millennials Should Vote

Avery has a post up over at Teen Skepchick about why Millennials, in his opinion, didn’t turn out to vote in this last election. To be blunt, they’re terrible reasons not to vote. Not at all surprising reasons, but terrible nonetheless.

When I say the reasons aren’t surprising, I mean that the reasons Avery gives for abstaining from elections are hardly unique to Millennials, much less to Avery. They’re pervasive in U.S. politics. I also mean that it’s very easy to trace those ideas to their source. [Read more…]

Why “Losing Votes” Still Matter

I’m pro-voting. If you’ve read this blog for a while (a day or two even), you may have noticed.

This afternoon, I tweeted a couple of thoughts to encourage others in the U.S. to vote tomorrow.

(More on this view.)

This second tweet received some argument. The person responding agreed with me that people should still vote, but called voting in states that swing solidly red or blue a “purely symbolic gesture”. Except in the sense that communication is symbolic, I strongly disagree that there’s anything symbolic about voting even when your candidates have no chance of winning. I disagree even when you have no candidates on the ballot who represent your views.

Here are several ways that votes for a candidate who doesn’t win still make a difference. [Read more…]