A first for Maine?

According to a Washington Post report, Maine may achieve a historic first:

Gay rights activists in Maine, the only New England state that doesn’t allow gay marriage or civil unions, moved Thursday toward forcing a second statewide vote on the marriage question, and their opponents say they’ll be ready for a fight.

Polling data indicates that the tide may have shifted against the forces of discrimination.

One of those eager to vote again is the Rev. Michael Gray, a Methodist pastor in Old Orchard Beach.

Gray said he was a longtime conservative who changed his mind “after study, prayer and patience.”

If the referendum succeeds in overturning the anti-gay measures, they will be the first state to approve gay marriage by popular vote.

Go Maine!

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The power to define is the power to destroy

I was skimming through the news headlines and saw an article that got me thinking. I’ve since lost the link, so I can’t really quote it here, but it’s a sadly all-too-common tale: Christians complaining about liberals and how gay rights activists are trying to “change the definition” of marriage.

So here’s the thing: Christians want the right to define what marriage is, and that in itself is not a bad thing. Christians should have the right to decide for themselves what the true definition of marriage is. The problem is that they not only want to define marriage for themselves, they want to define it for everyone else as well. They want to deny to others the right of definition that they claim exclusively for themselves.

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Freedom is like a muscle: if you don’t exercise it, you lose it. We can’t just sit back and expect the First Amendment to protect us. If all that stands between the wealthy and their profits is a “goddamn piece of paper,” they will find a way around it. They’ll even buy whatever legislative influence it takes to make it all nice and “legal.”

SOPA, PROTECT IP, and now RWA, are all working hard to take something that fails to profit the wealthy (i.e. your First Amendment freedoms), and exchange it for more lucrative controls that keep the money flowing out of your pockets and into theirs, indefinitely. Freedom of the many, versus the profits of the few. It’s an uneven contest, and if we don’t defend our individual liberties, we’ll lose them.

What is SOPA?

On the effectiveness of prayer

From time to time various people attempt to study the effect of prayer under real-world conditions, and it occurs to me that we have ideal conditions for undertaking such a study right now. The Cranston West High School has recently concluded a 48-year experiment in which students were exposed to a specific “School Prayer” on a daily basis. Has this prayer worked? Granted, atheists and unbelievers of various sorts might be expected to resist the effects of pious appeals to the Almighty Heavenly Father, so we shouldn’t look at the impact it has had on the godless. Instead, let’s examine the specific petitions in the prayer and see how it has changed believers’ lives, attitudes, and conduct.

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Back in late 2002, when it was beginning to become obvious that George W. Bush was going to send us into an invasion of Iraq, I made some (unpublished) predictions.

  1. The price of gas would spike, as it always does when there’s turmoil in the Middle East.
  2. The US would get bogged down in Iraq for years rather than the few months that Bush was predicting.
  3. The insurgency would not give up, and would even grow stronger with continued US presence in the country.
  4. The US economy would take a severe hit due to (ongoing) high cost of the war.
  5. No weapons of mass destruction would be found apart from what Hussein got from Reagan in the 80’s.
  6. Republicans would lose the White House in 2008 due to the negative consequences of the war.
  7. A Democrat would be elected President and would eventually get us out of Iraq.
  8. Conservatives would blame the Democratic President for taking too long to get out of Iraq
  9. Once the US was gone, conditions in Iraq would become worse than they were under Hussein, and
  10. Conservatives would blame the Democratic President for getting out of Iraq too soon.

I think I came pretty close on the first eight (though number 6 is something of a false positive, since the sub-prime mortgage crisis did more to turn over the White House than the war did).  And I missed a few predictions that I could have made, like the fact that politicians would take advantage of terrorism to start stripping away our civil rights and constitutional liberties. But overall I’d say things are turning out pretty much as I expected, and I’ll be curious to watch for 9 and 10 to come true too.

What do you think?

The new webcams

The Internet is a great equalizer, and a great way for communities to get together and share ideas and experiences. And in some countries, that’s seen as a bad thing.

Iran is mounting new clampdowns on Internet expression, including rules that will impose layers of surveillance in the country’s popular Internet cafes, as Tehran’s political establishment comes under increasing strains from economic turmoil and threats of more international sanctions.

The government’s attempts to control the Internet include installing cameras in cybercafes, collecting detailed information about users, and tracking their web histories.

If you’re a US citizen and you’re glad we live in a free country instead of in Iran, you’re probably not thinking about ongoing attempts under the so-called PATRIOT Act, to do the same sort of thing less openly. Some of them we’re catching, which is good. But how many are we missing? That’s a “state secret.”


Baptist legislator vows to fight ACLU “threat”

Tennessee state legislator Rep. Eric Watson, in an opinion column at The Chattanoogan.com, warns his minions that “The American Civil Liberties Union is at it again.” Watson, who holds a Masters degree (summa cum laude) from Andersonville Theological Seminary, elaborates:

The ACLU has brought lawsuits against local school boards in Tennessee, with the intent to limit students and teachers rights regarding religion. If you have attended any school related events lately, you may have noticed in some cases the prayer has been replaced by a “moment of reflection” or a “moment of silence.” In one school system, which has been under attack by the ACLU, feed-up parents [sic] began reciting the Lord’s Prayer prior to a football game and the entire stadium participated.

Strangely, Watson forgets to tell us what the specific issues might have been in any of these ACLU lawsuits (though he does mention at least one case in which the US Supreme Court agreed that the school was specifically seeking to establish religion, in direct violation of the First Amendment). Nor does he cite any particular cases in which he thinks the ACLU is acting to “limit students and teachers rights regarding religion.” Instead, he suggests that perhaps the time might have come for the Christian majority to rise up and do something to prevent the ACLU from being able to file lawsuits against schools that try to establish religion despite the Constitution.

One of my general rules is local school boards should control education policy. However, it may be time to lay down some restrictions on the ACLU’s ability to dictate school board policy through aggressive lawsuits. Here is the problem; local school boards have limited funds. When the ACLU files a lawsuit, it is easy for local schools boards to react in panic and begin changing local policy to avoid or settle lawsuits. This area of the law isn’t clearly defined.

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“No, gay sex is not harmless. They’ve done scientific studies that show it causes microscopic tears in the lining of the rectum.”



“In other words, you can’t even see it?”

“Um, well no, I guess not.”

“So what’s the big deal? That’s hardly a reason to deny two people the right to marry each other.”

“It’s not the amount of damage, it’s the principle of the thing. The Bible says that our bodies are the temple of the Holy Spirit, so whatever damages our bodies is wrong.”

“So just use lubricant. If there’s no friction there won’t be any tears.”

“That’s not the point either. That kind of sex is wrong because it has the potential to harm the body.”

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Ben Stein on Christmas trees

According to the UK’s Catholic Herald, it seems the War on By Christmas has enlisted a new recruit: Ben Stein.

There’s a story somewhere about Barack Obama referring to a Christmas tree as a “holiday tree,” which is apparently a worse form of persecution than denying Christians the right to marry one another, or something. In a vigorous and principled rebuttal on CBS Sunday Morning (which all good Christians will have missed because they’re in church where they belong), Stein says:

I am a Jew and every single one of my ancestors was Jewish. And it doesn’t bother me even a little bit when people call those beautiful, lit up, bejewelled trees, Christmas trees. I don’t feel threatened. I don’t feel discriminated against… It doesn’t bother me a bit when people say ‘Merry Christmas’ to me… In fact I kind of like it. It shows that we are all brothers and sisters celebrating this happy time of year.

Oh my God, Ben, which side are you on? How dare you refer to it as “this happy time of year” instead of calling it Christmas? Are you trying to take Christ out of Christmas? You do remember, don’t you, that this whole “war on Christmas” meme was originally concocted as an anti-Semitic propaganda campaign? That Jews were originally accused of writing secular holiday songs (like Jingle Bells) as an attack on Christmas as a holy day reminding us of the miracle of the incarnation of the Son of God?

Well, maybe he does, and he’s just kissing up. Or maybe he’s just being paid to shill for the conservative Christian majority. Wouldn’t be the first time, eh?

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