“We Assert That Images Of The Spiritual Leaders Of All Religions Should Be Deemed To Be Respectful”

So… if, by law, religious figures
Are deserving of respect
From the meditating Buddha
To the Manson, spittle-flecked,
From the image of Mohammed
To the memory of Jim Jones,
From Joseph Smith to Jesus Christ
To dusty relics’ bones
From the ancients on Olympus
To the modern Kanye West,
I’m required to respect them
Shall we put this to the test?
Say “there is no god but Allah”;
Aren’t you disrespecting Thor?
And if “Jesus is the only way”
That’s disrespect, once more—
If we see such disagreement
On what is—or not—divine
Can you force me to respect your views
Without respecting mine?
I won’t ask for your approval
Of the way I choose to live
(Which is fine, cos we both know it’s not
A thing that you would give)
I won’t ask you bow to other gods
I know you’ve got your own…
And in exchange, the thing I want,
Is left the fuck alone.
Your holy rules apply to you;
Their holy rules are theirs
You break each other’s holy rules
And no one really cares.
I have no god I worship, so
It’s really plain to see
Your holy rules apply to you…
They don’t apply to me.

(We all are bound by civic law,
And that is quite enough;
You want me to respect your god?
My one-word answer: tough.)

Context, and Cuttlecap tip to Ophelia.

Texas Judge Rules: Pull The Plug

The mother died back in November, remember?
She’d made clear her wishes (as all of us ought)
But, sadly, this happened in Texas, the nexus
Of Christian intrusion in government thought
Her will was denied, for a baby that maybe
Would live for an hour, with help from machines;
The state says “we’ve got to complete us a fetus”—
To rescue the baby, whatever the means.

The judge, as the calm voice of reason, who sees, in
This case there are people, not robots instead,
With that, saw some facts had eluded–concluded
Essentially, mother and fetus are dead.
The statute, though not found unlawful, is awful;
A woman’s autonomy, Texas denies
The one thing that no one’s denying is… crying.
That’s kinda what happens when somebody dies

Without ruling on the constitutionality of the law (I am of two minds here–I wish it had been slapped down [can't imagine it would be upheld], but this family has been through too much already, and I suspect this is a quicker and quieter end), a Texas Judge has found that Marlise Munoz is dead, and that her fetus is not viable, and has ordered that she be removed from the machines that turned her body into the state’s incubator. Which is what Ms. Munoz had expressed, what her husband and extended family had wanted, but which Texas law, as interpreted by the hospital, had seemingly denied.

My sympathies go out to the family. I know this is not an end, because these things never actually end… but at least it is the close of a particularly horrible chapter. And much as I would want to see the law overturned, holding your family hostage over that is every bit as bad as what the state just did, so that will have to wait.

After all this time… only now will the family be able to begin actual funeral plans. Texas should be ashamed, but I think the politicians there are immune.

Edited to add… perhaps the saddest thing I have read in years, the testimony of the husband, as reported by the NY Times:

“When I bend down to kiss her forehead, her usual scent is gone, replaced instead with what I can only describe as the smell of death. As a paramedic, I am very familiar with this smell, and I now recognize it when I kiss my wife. In addition, Marlise’s hands no longer naturally grip mine for an embrace. Her limbs have become so stiff and rigid due to her deteriorating condition that now, when I move her hands, her bones crack, and her legs are nothing more than dead weight.”

Maybe it’s just me, but I am a very smell-oriented person. I know exactly what he is saying, and it breaks my hearts.

Pennsylvania Voter ID Law Struck Down

A judge in Pennsylvania
Did his utmost to explain: “Ya
Gotta let the people vote—and make it easy!”
He said “Voting’s fundamental!”
And the message that he sent’ll
Go a ways to fix a process that’s, well, sleazy.
Court Judge Bernard L. McGinley
Found the state’s case spread too thinly
And the “voter fraud” more mythical than real;
Ruled in favor of the plaintiff,
Might become the voters’ saint, if
His decision isn’t scuttled on appeal.
His opinion was well reasoned,
Any thoughtful reader sees, and
You can bet your bottom dollar they’ll appeal

It’s another decision worth reading–not because it is as beautiful a smackdown as the recent same-sex marriage decisions, but because it is just so damned thorough. I especially liked the examination of different sorts of acceptable forms of ID (noting, for instance, that the requirement of an expiration date on an ID has absolutely nothing to do with whether that ID can actually verify a voter’s identity), with the conclusion that (my paraphrase) the only common factor was that they added additional hoops to jump through, barriers (to mix metaphors) between potential voters and the ballot box.

The judge also noted the history of misinformation on the part of the state, with official letters to potential voters telling them one (untrue) thing, but no official retractions, no official correct information, only uncredited TV or radio ads (without the authority of the government behind them) telling people the correct information.

Voting laws are designed to assure a free and fair election. The voter ID law does not further this goal.

Of course, comment threads are full of people who clearly have not read the decision, and who have drunk the kool-aid of voter fraud hysteria. Some of the comments can be directly countered on Snopes, they are so popular; others are anecdotal accounts of one or two alleged incidents. The real (and evidenced) threat to democracy, though, was in a voter ID law that would have disenfranchised perhaps half a million eligible voters, systematically members of particular minority groups. The patriotic rhetoric of the complainers does not match the reality of who (in this case, Pennsylvania’s Republicans) are really out to commit fraud.

(oh… given that the actual decision is over 100 pages of judge-speak, you might want the NY Times coverage instead. But I do recommend the ruling itself.)

“Hostility Toward Religion”, or “Religious Hostilities”?

Let us celebrate the power
Of the simple preposition
Making bullies into martyrs with a word
When the truth is somewhat sour
Simply make a small edition
Though the putative conclusion is absurd

When “religion” and “hostility”
The Pew researchers mixed,
It’s religion on religion causing harm
To the best of their ability
The Post has got it fixed
Groups are hostile toward religion (sound alarm)!

When religions start attacking
The religious are the victims
Though that leads to a conclusion, rather odd:
Though the evidence is lacking,
There among the Christian dictums
Is that all religions worship the same God

It’s an internecine battle
True believers on both sides
And religious groups have earned their share of guilt
Yet the Christian Post will prattle
While the honest truth still hides
In the house of cards the Christian post has built.

The Christian Post headline (High Social Hostility Toward Religion Reported In A Third Of Countries Worldwide) tells you all you need to know about how they are going to spin the story:

A high or very high social hostility toward religion was reported in a third of the 198 countries and territories analyzed by the Pew Research Center in a report released on Tuesday, marking an increase in almost every major region around the world.

True.

Christians and Muslims were the two religious groups harassed in the most countries between June 2006 and December 2012. Christians faced harassment in 151 countries, Muslims in 135, and Jews in 95.

Also true. But if you remember last year’s BBC report on martyrs (in which we find that by far the greatest number of Christians killed in religious hostilities were killed… by other Christians, in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and earlier in Rwanda–in both cases, with Christians on both sides of the hostilities), you might be curious about the reporting this time, too.

The Pew report on their study has a different headline (Religious Hostilities Reach Six-Year High) that makes it clear that the report is looking at more than just hostilities toward religion.

For instance, there has been an increase in

abuse of religious minorities by private individuals or groups in society for acts perceived as offensive or threatening to the majority faith of the country. Incidents of abuse targeting religious minorities were reported in 47% of countries in 2012, up from 38% in 2011 and 24% in [2007].

(bolding in original) The report gives examples–it is well worth reading.

The study finds that the share of countries where violence, or the threat of violence, was used to compel people to adhere to religious norms also increased in 2012. Such actions occurred in 39% of countries, up from 33% in 2011 and 18% as of mid-2007.

Again, many examples are given–most are new to me, but involve “efforts to enforce religious norms” not held by all citizens.

There is much, much more at the study. With so many (and increasing) incidents of religious hostility, it is small wonder there might be government restrictions on religious expression–hell, I would want the government to restrict, say, a church from dictating what my medical care includes! Ah, but even here, the report includes government restrictions where the government is itself taking the side of one religion:

Governments used force against religious groups or individuals in nearly half (48%) of the world’s countries in 2012, up from 41% in 2011 and 31% as of mid-2007. In April 2012 in Mauritania, for instance, “the government arrested 12 anti-slavery activists and charged them with sacrilege and blasphemy, along with other civil charges, for publicly burning religious texts to denounce what the activists viewed as support for slavery in Islamic commentary and jurisprudence,” according to the U.S. Department of State.

Oh, and it is worth noting that the Americas have far, far less religious hostility, either social or governmental, than other areas of the world. This despite determined bleating about a “war on religion” (a subsidiary of the “war on Christmas”, itself a subsidiary of “Fox News”).

Spreading God’s Wrath–er, I mean Love, Globally

In America, the culture wars
Are given up for dead;
We can’t kill gays here (legally)—
Let’s kill them there instead

The bible belt is loosening—
Think bigotry? Think twice!
But hey, the world’s a big, big place…
Uganda sure looks nice.

Ugandan evangelicals;
American support—
A match that’s made in heaven, or
At least that’s one report

America’s morality
Leaves much to be desired;
But now, Uganda’s laws on gays
Are biblically inspired!

Uganda was the first to fall;
Nigeria, this week;
Both, evidence evangelists
Have found a new technique

We welcome the apocalypse
When God rights every wrong
And so we do our level best
To move it right along:

The end of days is drawing near
When God shows us his love
The world stands at the edge of doom…
Let’s give a little shove

Context: The Daily Show’s interview with Roger Ross Williams (third segment at link–individual segments not yet available).

Chris Christy–Model Politician

My eyes are getting misty
As I listen to Chris Christie
While he shows us his sophisti-
Cated grasp of how things are
So he canned some staffer lady
Cos she acted really shady
Which I heard on local radi-
O, while sitting in my car

I’ve been stuck here since September
(When my rage was but an ember)
Now I’m furious, remember-
Ing this traffic jam from hell;
Who’s the scapegoat? Bridget Kelly,
And Chris Christie’s doing swell-he
Showed us all that he can dele-
Gate, and really do it well

Now he’ll finish up his presser
A defiant non-confessor
Though we know he’s an accessor-
Y, a bully, and a jerk
All those vicious lies need quashing:
He’s not bullying, just joshing,
So let’s send the man to Washing-
Ton and let him get to work!

My prediction: All of this will have been forgotten by the short-attention-span public, and do Christie no lasting harm. Besides, who else do the Republicans have?

Supremes Halt Same-Sex Marriage In Utah, While Under Appeal

Though we thought that an era had passed
It was, maybe, too perfect to last
Hundreds thought they were wed
Now the court says, instead,
“Equal treatment? Hang on, not so fast!”

It took a while–long enough for hundreds of same sex couples to have already wed–but the highly-expected appeal finally came through, and same sex marriage in Utah is on hold:

The terse order, from the full court, issued a stay “pending final disposition” of an appeal to the federal appeals court in Denver. It offered no reasoning.

This kinda-sorta happened in California, earlier, when the supremes danced around the issue instead of taking it on:

Judge Shelby was only the second federal judge to strike down a state ban on same-sex marriages, along with Judge Vaughn R. Walker in San Francisco, who in 2010 struck down Proposition 8, California’s ban. That ruling was stayed while it was considered by an appeals court, which affirmed it, and by the Supreme Court.

In June, the Supreme Court effectively sustained Judge Walker’s decision on technical grounds and without reaching the question of whether there is a constitutional right to same-sex marriage.

So the couples in Utah had longer than the few hours some expected, but their concerns were dead on.

Texas (of course) Mayor Declares 2014 “Year Of The Bible)

The Christian mayor of Flower Mound
Created a sensation—
He searched his soul, and thus felt bound
To make a proclamation:

This year, he said, would be the year
The town would find its way
Because they’ll read (he made it clear)
The bible every day

Each day, he posts a bible verse;
They study, to the letter
The world, you see, is getting worse
And this will make it better

If the godless get litigious
Then the mayor will play it tough…
Because Texas is religious,
But, it seems, not quite enough.

Yup, because Texas isn’t quite Christian enough already, the Mayor of Flower Mound has proclaimed 2014 the year of the bible. Or rather, “a” year of the bible, since he wants to do it again in 2015. They’ve got a website and everything:

The Bible consists of 66 books written by more than 40 different authors from all different walks of life over a period of 1.400 to 1,800 years. The amazing thing is that the Bible carries a perfect unity from cover to cover regarding its message and content, which speaks of its divine origin as ultimately written by God and not man.

Well, perhaps actually reading it will disabuse them of the notion that it “carries a perfect unity from cover to cover”.
Dallas News | myFOXdfw.com

Hmmm… at the time I started writing this, they had a functioning comment section on their site, with all positive comments. Now?

Due to the high traffic the site has experienced, we have disabled the Comments section.

Yeah… that must be why.

Another One To Bookmark

It matters not how you re-word it; they’ve heard it,
Your argument stinks—that’s a matter of fact.
The judge gave to you, in this ruling, a schooling
A thorough rebuking, though written with tact.
You claimed it amounts to miscarriage of marriage
To change what such unions have meant all along;
The judge found your “think of the children!” bewilderin’
Considered your logic, pronounced it dead wrong.

What you label “logic” is tortured—the sort you’d
Expect from a kid, whom you’d then want to scold!
In your view, to give churches freedom, you need ‘em
To keep other churches more tightly controlled!
You say that gay men have the same rights you claim, rights
To marry a woman—whichever they choose!
The judge, as you’ll quickly intuit, saw through it;
Your argument’s specious, and guess what? You lose!

Majorities see what they’ve wanted confronted
When sometimes their wishes are not what they ought
The judge, in his wisdom, saw through you, and knew you
Were moved by religion and prejudiced thought
“Gay marriage” is “separate but equal: the sequel”
It’s one institution, for straight or for gay
Just “Marriage” will do—it’s a beaut! Ah, but Utah,
I love what you’ve done in this ruling today!

It’s one to bookmark. No, not this verse, the Utah Same-Sex Marriage ruling:

The court agrees with Utah that regulation of marriage has traditionally been the province of the states, and remains so today. But any regulation adopted by a state, whether related to marriage or any other interest, must comply with the Constitution of the United States. The issue the court must address in this case is therefore not who should define marriage, but the narrow question of whether Utah’s current definition of marriage is permissible under the Constitution.

Few questions are as politically charged in the current climate. This observation is especially true where, as here, the state electorate has taken democratic action to participate in a popular referendum on this issue. It is only under exceptional circumstances that a court interferes with such action. But the legal issues presented in this lawsuit do not depend on whether Utah’s laws were the result of its legislature or a referendum, or whether the laws passed by the widest or smallest of margins. The question presented here depends instead on the Constitution itself, and on the interpretation of that document contained in binding precedent from the Supreme Court and the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals.

Applying the law as it is required to do, the court holds that Utah’s prohibition on same-sex marriage conflicts with the United States Constitution’s guarantees of equal protection and due process under the law. The State’s current laws deny its gay and lesbian citizens their fundamental right to marry and, in so doing, demean the dignity of these same-sex couples for no rational reason. Accordingly, the court finds that these laws are unconstitutional.

It’s a great read–the stories of the plaintiffs make it clear that this is no abstract fight, but a genuine problem for real and relatable people. The judge, Robert Shelby (as is his duty) considers all the state’s reasons for denying marriage to same sex couples, and not only finds them lacking, but occasionally points out that the real effects are likely to be the polar opposite of what the state claims!

I was very interested to see what the state’s arguments actually were; I’ve argued this topic for years, and have yet to find a decent argument against same-sex marriage that was not either inane, fundamentally religious (and thus moot by virtue of the first amendment) or both. Here, though, we don’t have just morons on the internet arguing, but the lawyers for the state of Utah…. and the arguments are the same as you see made by idiots on the internet. Seriously, the state argued that (for instance) gay men have the same right to marry the woman they love as any straight man does. Therefore allowing them to marry the man they love would be giving them additional rights. They really argued that.

The arguments based on the state’s responsibility to promote “responsible procreation within marriage”?

The State has presented no evidence that the number of opposite-sex couples choosing to marry each other is likely to be affected in any way by the ability of same-sex couples to marry. Indeed, it defies reason to conclude that allowing same-sex couples to marry will diminish the example that married opposite-sex couples set for their unmarried counterparts….If there is any connection between same-sex marriage and responsible procreation, the relationship is likely to be the opposite of what the State suggests. Because Amendment 3 does not currently permit same-sex couples to engage in sexual activity within a marriage, the State reinforces a norm that sexual activity may take place outside the marriage relationship.

(page 44, if you are looking)

Seriously, bookmark this ruling; when the idiots on the internet make stupid arguments, and you want the perfect rejoinder (including precedents), you’ll be glad you did.

What Would Peter Do? Denying Jesus For Political Gain

I hear the baby Jesus cried
To hear His name so oft denied—

The cross (for which we all give thanks)
Is merely “intersecting planks”;
The sacred scene, nativity?
“A plastic Jewish family”
That baby, in the manger’s hay?
Without a nametag, who could say?
La Jolla’s cross, so bright and tall?
It’s not religious—not at all!
“In God We Trust”? The phrase is phony,
Ruled to be mere ceremony!
Each mention of our mighty Lord
Is no big deal, and best ignored…

Denying Jesus, through and through—
I wonder, What Would Peter Do?

Looking through the mental and legal contortions intended to preserve Christian privilege, I’ve noticed a trend: The nominally Christian arguers are the ones denying Christ. The latest (on Fox, in Palin’s book, and in comment sections everywhere) is the “plastic Jewish family” that atheists are so unreasonably offended by. It’s not at all that this scene actually means anything–this family (let’s call them the Goldbergs) are just plastic people, so we can put them up in the town square. And now, Ed reports on the even more shocking twist that, without an actual name tag, how can anyone be expected to know that this babe, wrapped in swaddling clothes and laying in a manger, is anything other than little Max Goldberg? Wait, what? Jesus? Nah, Jesus would have a name tag saying so.

The “intersecting planks” is nice, too–in Palin’s book she describes a cross as “a horizontal plank intersecting a vertical plank”. It’s just two pieces of wood–why on earth would anyone object to that on public property? Sacred? Nope, nothing religious about it at all.

It’s funny, really–the people who claim to love Jesus the most are the very ones trivializing their sacred symbols.

There’s precedent… but Peter only denied Jesus three times. Lightweight.