Saturday, March 30, 2013

"... we claim that killing a newborn could be ethically permissible in all the circumstances where abortion would be."

That's from a paper by Alberto Giubilini and Francesca Minerva published about a year ago in the Journal of Medical Ethicists entitled “After-birth abortion: why should the baby live?” It's also apparently the belief of at least the Florida chapter of Planned Parenthood.

Here's an exchange between State Rep. Jim Boyd the lobbyist for Planned Parenthood during a discussion in a committee of the Florida Legislature on a bill that would have required medical care to be given to a baby in the case of a botched abortion:
“So, um, it is just really hard for me to even ask you this question because I’m almost in disbelief,” said Rep. Jim Boyd. “If a baby is born on a table as a result of a botched abortion, what would Planned Parenthood want to have happen to that child that is struggling for life?”
“We believe that any decision that’s made should be left up to the woman, her family, and the physician,” said Planned Parenthood lobbyist Snow.
So the answer to the question, "should we kill an infant that is living and struggling to breath that is outside the womb is "Yes." Just so long as everyone agrees it's okay.

Read the rest of this sorry story here.

The Triumph of the Will: First they came for the bathrooms ...

The slowly heating cultural water is approaching a boil and still the frogs haven't noticed.

Here's Time Magazine on the new frontier in gay rights:
What do you call it when a person enters a bathroom but the sign outside doesn’t match the sex listed on his or her birth certificate? Disorderly conduct, according to a bill offered earlier this month by Arizona state Rep. John Kavanagh. But the measure sparked outrage in the LGBT community, which saw discrimination against transgender citizens. Kavanagh responded with a revamped, more limited version, which protects businesses that bar such practices from civil or criminal liability. After a contentious seven-hour hearing on Wednesday dominated by opposition to the proposal, a House panel voted along party lines to approve it.
Apparently the next step in the gay rights agenda is letting people decide what sex they are, regardless of what it actually is. This is the logical outcome of the exotic idea that has been propounded by "scholars" in "gender studies" that sex and gender are not the same thing.

But it doesn't stop at bathrooms:
A Democrat-backed California proposal would allow students to take part in sex-segregated school programs based on their gender identity, irrespective of the sex on their records. So, a student born male but who identifies as female could play on the girls’ tennis team and use the girls’ locker room.
Coming soon to a school near you: Deciding what race you are regardless of what it actually is.

Friday, March 29, 2013

Separating the conservative men from the libertarian boys on the marriage issue

The rate at which conservative leaders are abandoning their principles on the marriage issue is astounding—and instructive. David Frum, Karl Rove, Sen. Rob Portman—the list goes on. In politics, as in physiology, there is clotting mechanism that eventually slows such things, but there is definitely a realignment in progress, and this realignment is separating the conservative men from the libertarian boys.

It is hard to determine how many of these people are really abandoning their principles and how many of them never really held the principles they claimed to hold in the first place. It may sound uncharitable to limit the possibilities to only these two, but it is hard to justify any other explanation.

The timing alone is evidence for the charge of political opportunism. When someone changes his  mind on an issue when it is not popular to do so, we are much more likely to believe that it was a real change of heart. But when it is done at a time that makes it the politically convenient thing to do, we should be suspicious.

To defect to the other side in battle when the battle is going your way may indicate that you really think that you are on the wrong side. But to do it when the enemy is winning on all fronts is prima facie evidence of lack of original commitment--if not sheer cowardice. We'll go with the former. 

Remember, we're trying to be charitable.

George Washington is said to have been disgusted at the lack of fortitude of his troops early in the Revolutionary War because of their penchant for fleeing at the least hint of opposition. The conservative movement is now having the opposite problem: Right now conservative troops are being trampled by their own officers who, having abandoned their posts in the culture war, are running as fast as they can from the front.

When it comes to the Roves of the movement, it seems pretty clear that they never held any other principles than political opportunism.

In the case of the Frums, we are looking at people who have principles, just not the ones they once pretended to have. There was little to prevent them from turning tail and running in the first place. They are libertarians. They're just reverting to ideological equilibrium. They are like conscript troops from conquered territory: Once the balance of power shifts back the other way, their native loyalties reassert themselves--the aggravating factor, of course, being that the Roves and Frums were not conscripts: They were volunteers.

They were never conservatives to begin with. And it would have been nice to know before the shooting started.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

In which I respond to Kathy Stein calling me a liar on the Senate floor

Isn't there some rule about calling someone a liar and misrepresenting the truth in doing it?

The Governor's veto of the Religious Freedom Act, HB 279, was overridden tonight by both chambers of the General Assembly. A number of interesting arguments were made by the opposition, among which were that it was a secret plot to overturn the 2004 Marriage Amendment (Kelly Flood), and that it would cost too much to defend (by the not-so-fiscally conservative Mary Lou Marzian).

Then there was Sen. Morgan McGarvey, who made what seemed to me a serious and well-intentioned attempt to address the legal issues, but got a few of them wrong anyway. It would have been good if he had taken these up at the committee meeting where they could have been discussed.

But perhaps the most interesting comment of the night (to me anyway) was when Kathy Stein took the Senate floor to oppose the veto override and accused me of "bearing false witness." That's King James English, folks, for lying.

Maybe we should just be glad that she's read the King James Bible.

In any case, she said the sponsor and supporters had claimed that the bill had nothing to do with local gay rights ordinances, but that I had "let my hand slip" (a metaphor in the same category as "that train has set sail") by admitting that it really was about gay rights ordinances: "He comes right out and says that this is about gay rights."

Stein then waved my March 21 press release in the air. There it was, in eleven point type, for everyone in the chamber to see.

What the press release in her hand actually said was that the opposition of gay rights groups to the Religious Freedom Act (not the bill itself) could doom gay rights ordinances because the opposition of these groups to the bill would be taken (I think rightly) as an indication that these ordinances would be used to threaten to religious freedom. Why else would a higher standard of religious freedom hamper these ordinances?

It also cited a case in Lexington in which a T-shirt company was charged with violating the city's gay rights ordinance because it refused to print a T-shirt for a gay rights event because it was in conflict with the owner's religious beliefs. But that is not a problem with the gay rights ordinance; it is a problem with the misapplication of the gay rights ordinance. The ordinance prohibits discrimination against gay persons. But the company didn't do that. It didn't have anything to do with a gay person. It had only to do with the message it was being asked to print.

That misuse of the ordinance was a violation of someone's religious freedom. In fact, it was gay rights groups who said these ordinances wouldn't threaten people's religious freedom--the same ones who are now persecuting the T-shirt company for the owner's religious beliefs.

What was that about bearing false witness?

If you roll the tape back, you will see very clearly that it was the ACLU and the Fairness Alliance who did their best to make this into a gay rights issue. It was these groups these groups who set up the religious freedom vs. gay rights dichotomy,  not me. They put religious people around the Commonwealth on notice that their freedoms could not be allowed to stand in the way of the Tolerance and Diversity agenda.

Again, the opponents of the bill did this through their own rhetoric: It had little to do with the bill. In fact, Sen. Stein did her best to contribute to this narrative. Then she goes and blames me for it?

My only contribution was to point out that, in pitting gay rights against religious freedom, they (not the bill) were threatening their cause.

So, Senator, tell me where I lied. Maybe you just made a mistake--and let your hand slip.

NEWS: State House overrides Governor's veto of Religious Freedom Act


March 26, 2013

LEXINGTON, KY--The Family Foundation tonight said that the vote to override Gov. Steve Beshear's veto of the Religious Freedom Act by the Kentucky House of Representatives was not only a victory for religious freedom in the state, but "a referendum on the fraudulent claims of the ACLU and the Fairness Alliance. The least we should expect about a debate as important as this one is that a bill be accurately portrayed."

"First we were told that if we believed in traditional marriage we were bigots. Now there are people saying that it is bigoted to believe in religious freedom. The list of things religious people are told are unacceptable seems to grow longer by the day."

Cothran said that opponents repeatedly misrepresented the nature of the bill. "The ACLU and the Fairness Alliance, along with a compliant liberal media, distorted this bill beyond recognition. The magnitude of this vote should send a message to these groups that this kind of deception is not appreciated by the majority of the state's elected lawmakers."

Cothran said the bill merely reinstituted the long-standing standard of religious protection the Kentucky Supreme Court abandoned in October of last year. Despite being well aware of this, he said, these groups decided to portray as some kind of threat to civil rights. Despite being unable to cite a single instance of any civil right being threatened during the many years the standard this bill reimposes was in effect, he said, they were able to convince a handful of lawmakers that the bill was a dangerous bill.

"We hope the opponents of HB 279 will do a gut check and realize that lies and distortions don't always work."

Sunday, March 24, 2013

The media's Troubled Relationship with the Facts: Kentucky media taking the low road in religious freedom debate

For the most part, members of the press corp in this state are honest, decent, well-intentioned people. They work hard, follow the law, and don't kick their dog. Most of their work displays these same standards. In general, they try to be accurate and truthful in their reporting.

But when it comes to issues that might have anything to do with gay rights, there are a few who simply abandon all journalistic integrity. They transform themselves from professional reporters into journalistic hacks. Their ideology seizes control of the part of their brains which houses the faint memory of the journalistic code of ethics they learned in school and just starts deleting things.

Things like basic honesty.

Not only that, but the standards they apply in every other part of their work are sacrificed to their liberal politics. The gods of Tolerance and Diversity are jealous gods, and they brook no interference from the things like truth and accuracy.

In the debate over HB 279, the Religious Freedom Act, certain sectors of the media just simply had a professional meltdown. They mis-portrayed the bill—which was vetoed by the Governor and is now in the hands of the State House—lied about its ramifications, and basically just punted on their journalistic responsibilities—all because the ACLU and a loose axis of gay rights groups basically just made stuff up.

I expect those groups to distort the truth. They do it all the time. For them, it seems a daily ritual. But those in the journalistic profession are supposed to be better than that.

When it came to that the issue actually was, some journalists just parroted the Fairness Alliance's press releases: "The bill," said Philip Bailey of WFPL, UofL's public radio affiliate, "would have allowed Kentuckians to ignore laws or regulations that violated their faith."

Huh? This is the claim of the ACLU and the Fairness Alliance. But a responsible journalist doesn't just take the talking points of one side and simply repeat them: He attributes the position to one side and then goes and gets the opinion of the other side. And in neither case does he simply state the claim of one side as the whole truth.

To be fair to Bailey, he did begin calling me and including my quotations later in the game. And he apparently was not getting my press releases, so he at least has some excuse for framing the issue they way he did.

But then we have Joe Gerth, a reporter with the LouisvilleCourier-Journal, whose editorial in today's CJ could be considered a paradigm case of inaccuracy and mis-portrayal. Because Joe is writing an editorial and not a news story, he obviously has more leeway in expressing his opinion. But that doesn't get him off on the issue of accuracy.

Now Joe's a good guy, which makes his article that much more disappointing.

Joe too simply suspends his basic journalistic standards and accepts the claims of one side (the side he clearly sympathizes with). Here's Joe, doing is best imitation of a Fairness Alliance press release:
See, the bill allows folks to ignore laws that run counter to their deeply held religious beliefs.
Oh, C'mon. It does no such thing. Either Joe knows this, in which case he's knowingly stating a falsehood, or he doesn't know it, in which case he doesn't need to be writing an editorial on the issue for the state's largest newspaper.

HB 279 simply re-installs the standard of "strict scrutiny" in religious freedom cases that prevailed universally in this country from 1938 to 1990, and which applied at both the federal and state level once again after the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) in 1993. In 1997 the court, defending the Smith decision of 1990, struck RFRA down as it applies to the states, but left it intact at the federal level, where it still applies today. This standard applied de facto in Kentucky until October 25 of last year, when the Kentucky Supreme Court announced that the lower stand was henceforth in place in state cases.

If Joe really believes this preposterous statement, then he should give some evidence for its truth.

He could start by explaining how a standard that involves the government having to have a compelling interest in infringing on the right of religious exercise and requiring the government to use the least restrictive means to further the purpose of the law (which is what it would have to do under strict scrutiny) would result in the universal right of people with "deeply held religious beliefs" to ignore the law.

He could also cite cases when strict scrutiny was in force—which is most of the time in most states over the last 75 years—people were able to do this. Where are they?

After Joe claims that a person could be a "pot-smoking, snake-handling, polygamist" and be free to be so if HB 279 is passed, he says:
And, under Kentucky law, snake handling, pot smoking and multiple wife marrying are illegal.
I know what you’re saying. 
You’re saying, “Joe, there is no religion out there that believes in pot-smoking, snake-handling and polygamy.”
No, that's not what I'm saying Joe. I'm saying that the assumption you're making in order to make this statement is completely false. It doesn't follow legally from what the law says and you have no evidence for it.


I'm saying that the statement you make from which everything else in your article follows—that people can simply ignore laws that don't coincide with their deeply held religious beliefs under the strict scrutiny standard—is an ignorant statement.

It's beneath the dignity of a journalist to make it. Period. You shouldn't make it any more, and you should issue a correction for having made it the first time.

For one thing, what Joe apparently doesn't know (should we start making a list?) is that laws against snake handling were upheld in Lawson v. Commonwealth, a 1942 ruling of the Kentucky Supreme Court, a ruling which states, among other things that:
... the constitutional guarantee of religious freedom does not permit the practice of religious rites dangerous or detrimental to the lives, safety or health of the participants or to the public.
Nothing in HB 279 changes this.

And polygamy? Has Joe noticed that polygamy laws have never been overturned under the very strict scrutiny standard he thinks is going to bring about some legal Armageddon?

Among other things Joe clearly hasn't read is Gingrich, Yoder, and Zook v. the Commonwealth, the case last year that lowered the standard of scrutiny in religious freedom cases in Kentucky from "strict scrutiny" to "rational basis." Among the many other things the justices said, here is one of the more important ones:
As both our state and federal law have long held, then, government can act to restrict the free exercise of religion when that exercise is detrimental to the common good. But given the certain terms of the Kentucky and federal constitutions regarding interference with religious practice, there must be a burden the government meets before it can do so. Whether the governmental regulation is subject to a heightened level of review or whether it must merely meet a rational governmental purpose is determined by the action the government takes, why it is taking it, and how much the act restricts religious practice. [emphasis added]
In other words, whether the standard is rational basis (as it is now, since last October 25) or the strict scrutiny standard (as HB 279 would have it and as it was before last October 25), government can still restrict the free exercise of religion. The only difference is the standard the government must meet. And as the strict scrutiny standard has been applied by courts, the differences are not all that great.

Which is why the opponents of HB 279 have a hard time finding any cases exemplifying the parade of horrors they claim will ensue if HB 279 is passed—and why it is simply ludicrous to say that "the bill allows folks to ignore laws that run counter to their deeply held religious beliefs."

Joe's article shows no evidence he is even familiar with the concepts of rational basis or strict scrutiny, compelling interest or least restrictive means. No need to complicate things with the facts.

If you want to see a responsible handling of the issue, you ought to go to Peter Smith's article in the same newspaper just the day before. Peter has actually, oh I don't know, taken reality into account. And he didn't just blindly accept the claims of the ACLU and the Fairness Alliance.

Imagine that.

UPDATE: Phil Bailey has told me that he did not get the expression I attributed to him above from the ACLU or the Fairness Alliance, but that it was based on communications he received from a supporter of HB 279. After going back to check the link, I also noticed (although Phil didn't mention it) that the story I linked to was not apparently written by Phil, but by Joseph Lord. 

Saturday, March 23, 2013

An Equal Right to be Sexually Vulnerable: How liberals brought about the sexual assault crisis in the military and why they should stop blaming other people for it

The response by liberals to my article on the sexual assault crisis in the military is quite humorous. They apparently don't get satire at all. It should be a hint that a post is satirical when the writer is a conservative and he's writing as if he were a liberal.

Satire, of course, is a literary technique with a long history. But apparently these are mostly publikly skooled people who don't have a great familiarity with literature, and aren't too versed in history either.

Let's just call them poetically challenged.

So let's see if we can bring this point down to its most simple, basic level so we don't confuse them.

Here's the point: Because liberal ideology holds that men and women are fundamentally equal, they put women in military positions which only men occupied before--positions in which men are not vulnerable, but in which women are. The positions in which they are particularly vulnerable are those in which women are being supervised by men. Then, when sexual assault skyrockets as a result, they all of a sudden begin ringing alarm bells and asking how all this could have happened.

Well, duh.

Because they can't let go of their egalitarian fantasy, they just don't get the idea that women can be vulnerable in places where men are not.

Then, instead of admitting that they have victimized women by their own policies, they try to indict, well, they're not exactly sure. Somehow males in general are culpable. Particularly the ones in the military. They've figured that much out: Since it is males who have sexually assaulted females, males are to blame.

It's sort of like the comic Peter Cook, who once said that he had figured out who had committed a series of thefts: thieves.

But that's as far as their thinking goes. Unfortunately that's not enough to constitute an acceptable scapegoat.

But wait. There there is someone we can blame: the people who warned against the policies in the first place! Instead of admitting they screwed up, they go and blame the people (like me) who warned against the very policies that put women into these vulnerable positions. We are the ones who are callous when it comes to sexual assault, even though we were the ones who said that it wasn't going to work!

Those of us who pointed out that men and women are not equal in the ways liberals want to think they are equal are the ones at fault for the policies that assume that they are! The conservatives who said "Don't do this" are the ones who get blamed for the consequences that ensue when the liberals, in disregard of this advice, do it anyway.

We are to blame because we have had the temerity to point out how their own insipid ideology brought about the crisis. And when you satirize them for doing what they have done, they scratch their heads dumbly, squint at the type on the page in utter incomprehension, and then, unable to understand your point, they point their finger at you and say you're insensitive.

When liberals lament the fact that women have been victimized by the very vulnerability liberals created for them, they have given up the right to complain about it. They should stop complaining about it because they helped bring it about. Instead of complaining, they should apologize.

But they won't apologize--and they won't change their policies either. They will continue to put women in vulnerable positions. In fact, they'll make it worse by placing them in combat situations. And the problem of sexual assault by the enemy (if they engage in actual combat) will then be added to the problem of sexual assault by their male colleagues.

And then, of course, they'll blame us for it. Just watch.

Friday, March 22, 2013

NEWS: "ACLU calling the shots in the Governor's office," says group

March 22, 2013

LEXINGTON, KY—"It won't be comforting for many Kentuckians to know that the ACLU is now calling the shots in the Governor's office," said Martin Cothran, spokesman for The Family Foundation, in response to Gov. Steve Beshear's veto of HB 279, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

"This puts churches around the Commonwealth of Kentucky on notice that the First Amendment religious freedoms they thought their government respected may now be negotiable. We just hope elected lawmakers in the Legislature will act quickly to correct the Governor's action. We think they will."

Cothran said that the opposition to religious freedom by the ACLU and gay rights groups like the Fairness Alliance was a dangerous development. "The message of these groups, which used to be restricted to advocacy for basic civil rights protections, has metastasized into loud and open opposition to religious freedom. This is a dangerous development."

"Religious people should not have to ask permission from the ACLU and gay rights groups to believe what they believe," said Cothran.


Thursday, March 21, 2013

NEWS: Group says opposition to religious freedom could doom gay rights ordinances


March 21, 2013

LEXINGTON, KY—A group supporting the Religious Freedom Act said today that the opposition of groups like the ACLU and the Fairness Alliance to HB 279 signaled a "new level of intolerance toward religion" that would provide opponents of local gay rights ordinances with a new reason to oppose them.

"These groups have now made it clear that they will not let First Amendment religious protections stand in the way of their efforts to force others to submit to their political agenda," said Martin Cothran, spokesman for The Family Foundation. "These groups, which have formerly operated under the banner of tolerance, are now displaying a breathtaking level of hostility to basic constitutional protections."

Cothran said that the opposition of these groups to a fairly mainstream piece of religious freedom legislation like HB 279 "signals a new level of religious intolerance in this state that will require a more organized effort on the part of churches and others to oppose these ordinances in the future."

"The effort to veto this bill confirms our worst fears about the implications of these ordinances." Cothran cited the case of a Lexington T-shirt company that was charged with violating a Lexington "fairness" ordinance because its religious owner refused to print T-shirts promoting a gay rights event. "Even though the law says only that discrimination against gay people is prohibited, it is being used to force religious business owners to promote causes they disagree with."


Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Gay rights groups come out of the closet for religious discrimination


March 20, 2013

LEXINGTON, KY—"Gay rights groups in this state have now come out of the closet on their opposition to religious freedom," said a spokesman for The Family Foundation after Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer sent a letter to Gov. Steve Beshear calling on him to veto HB 279, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. The ACLU and the Fairness Alliance have been encouraging public officials to join their efforts for the Governor to veto the bill.

"It appears that the groups have now entered a new phase in their political activism: rolling back First Amendment religious protections," said Martin Cothran, spokesman for the group. "Gay rights groups used to be opposed to discrimination; now they're promoting it."

The Family Foundation, the Catholic Conference of Kentucky, and the Kentucky Baptist Convention have all called on the Governor to sign the bill, which was passed by large majorities in both chambers of the General Assembly.


Tuesday, March 19, 2013

In Defense of Women: Pay no attention to those reports of sexual harassment in the military

... men and women are interchangeable
men and women are interchangeable
men and women are interchangeable
men and ...

Oh. Excuse me. I was right in the middle of my daily progressivist chant, a discipline I regularly practice in order to keep certain truths firmly planted in my consciousness so that I don't begin to doubt them on account of, well, you know, the actual evidence.

I have had to be particularly intentional about it over the last week or so because of the spate of news stories about women in the military, where it makes it sound as if it is not the Shangri-La we all know it to be.

According to these reports, sexual harassment is rampant. But this just can't be.

I mean, if men and women are really the same, and we know this to be true according to our liberal ideology, then how can sexual harassment be such a problem in the military? Sexual harassment wasn't a problem when only men were in close contact for extended periods of time with men; so why is it a problem now that men are in close contact for long periods of time with women?

Here is the Huffington Post on the alleged problem:
According to the most recent report by the Pentagon's Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office, 3,192 sexual assaults were reported out of an estimated 19,000 -- roughly 52 a day -- between Oct. 1, 2010, to Sept. 31, 2011. The department estimates that only roughly 14 percent of the assaults were reported. The majority of sexual assaults each year are committed against service members by service members, SAPRO reports. While MSA does not affect only women, the office characterizes the "vast majority" of victims as female junior enlists under the age of 25, and the "vast majority" of perpetrators as male, older (under the age of 35) and generally higher-ranking.
Are we really supposed to believe that practically all the sexual harassment charges are by women against men--not men against women? We know this can't be in a world where everyone is equal. Next thing you know people will start suggesting that women are more likely than men to be raped when taken prisoner.

Right. Like we're going to believe that.

We all know that even when it gets down to the dust and sweat and blood of the battlefield, there are limits that even the most barbaric enemy would never transgress. Women in combat may have to contend with on the battlefield is being shot or blown up, but thank God the enemy would never even think to pinch them on the bottom.

Besides, wouldn't that violate the Geneva Convention or something?

Poisonous gas attacks our gals can handle. Let's just be thankful they will never be the target of unwelcome sexual remarks.

Sure, the enemy will use guns, mortars, grenades, and rockets. But create a hostile work environment? Even they wouldn't stoop to that.

Let's just all pray that America's military, staffed increasingly by what some people apparently think is the "weaker sex," might not be brought to its knees by the threat of being winked at.

Simper Fi.

UPDATE: For the functionally illiterate, there is a further explanation of this post here.

Since when do they teach Catholicism in a class that says that's exactly what they do?

Turns out the comparative religion crowd is long on diversity and short on basic reading skills:
At the end of a Wednesday evening class last semester, one of my students approached me to ask a question. After hesitating somewhat, he proceeded in the following manner: “Professor, I really have enjoyed your class, but you always teach as though Catholicism is true. You rarely talk about other religions, of which I was actually hoping to learn more about.” I reminded the troubled young man that he should re-read the syllabus, since “Teachings of the Catholic Church” is actually the official course title. The humorous encounter reminded me of Walker Percy’s response to the question of why he became a Catholic: “What else is there?” How ironic, yet typical of most university students, that someone would be taking a course on Catholicism and simultaneously be disgruntled that this is precisely what he is getting.
Read the rest here.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Hilary's bold political move

Hilary Clinton has now taken a bold, courageous step: She's come out for gay marriage. Undoubtedly she will be pilloried in the press, hounded at public appearances, her political career ruined.

That she would come out with such a controversial position at a time when gays are being widely persecuted and denied basic human rights is simply astounding.

This is undoubtedly one of the boldest and most selfless political moves in the history of ...

... Um, hold on. Let me think about this a second. Scrap that.

Turns out coming out for gay rights and gay marriage is really popular with all the right people. It gets you into all the right kind of society and you get all kinds of praise from the media and stuff. It doesn't require any political courage at all. In fact, it looks pretty much like political pandering at this point in time.


Vatican Shocker: New pope is old, Catholic

Okay, so I've been on the road and without Internet for a few days, and haven't been able to comment on the election of the new pope by the College of Cardinals.

I will have to say that the best two hours of comedy I have heard in years I experienced while driving to South Carolina last Wednesday, when the decision was announced. The secular commentary on the BBC was truly amusing.

You had three or four liberal journalists (what's the opposite of an oxymoron?) trying to figure out the doings of this ancient institution and the only way they could make sense of it was to impose their own assumptions and expectations on it, which, of course, completely obscured the nature of the thing they were trying to understand.

Thousands were gathered in St. Peter's Square waiting for the announcement by the College of Cardinals there in conclave. Coverage began when white smoke began coming from the chimney, the traditional sign that the selection had been made. For any other institution to announce an important decision this way would seem utterly preposterous, but it is the entire allure of the Church that it not only is an ancient institution, but that it acts like one.

And yet, despite the antique grandeur that was the only reason hundreds, perhaps thousands, of journalists descended on Vatican City from all over the world, they spent half their time talking about how the Church needed to "modernize" itself.

For the World to ask the Church to modernize itself is nothing terribly remarkable. But to do it at the very moment at which it is mesmerized by the very fact that it isn't modern is positively farcical.

The World is always demanding that the Church become more like itself. It's the one way to ensure the Church's irrelevance. The more the Church becomes like the World, the less necessary it is to the World. You already have the World.What need is there for something else that acts exactly like it?

The only reason the World pays any attention to the Church at all is precisely because it is not the World.

The minute the Church ditches the smoke in favor of Twitter is the minute everyone stops paying attention. No microphones. No cameras. No network coverage. And no more 150,000 people showing up, some traveling from the other side of world to see the event.

I'm trying to remember the last time hundreds of journalists were camped out in front of the Unitarian Universalist Church headquarters waiting for the announcement of their new leader.

And this is true not only of the manner in which the Church conducts Herself: It is also true of the message it transmits in such a traditional way.

The BBC commentators talked on and on of the need for the Church to modify its beliefs on everything from marriage to contraception to priestly celibacy. It's the sex thing. That's all the World really cares about. It has sex on the brain, which, as Malcolm Muggeridge once pointed out, is a very uncomfortable place to have it.

And when the announcement was made that it was Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio, there was a noticeable groan. "Well," said one of the reporters, "this is a surprise." "This, of course, will come as a disappointment to progressives." And "He is an older man."

Really? This is the first thing to say when they announce a new pope? That he's too old and too Catholic?

Sunday, March 17, 2013

He did too drive the snakes out of Ireland

Every St. Patrick's day, I get a slough of hits on a post I did this time of year in 2009. Given the continuing interest, I'll post it again today, St. Patrick's Day:

The argument that the story of St. Patrick driving snakes out of Ireland is merely a legend is merely a myth. Snakes--or serpents--were a Druid symbol, and Patrick's missionary work in Ireland eventually led to the complete eradication of that pagan religion.

St. Patrick's Day is now associated generally with the Irish and shamrocks and the color green. That it has something to do with an actual saint is, unfortunately, less well known. Far be it from me to throw cold water on the traditional festivities (I wouldn't think of it). But before the parties tonight, read the incredible story of St. Patrick in his own words. You'll be glad you did.

Oh, and don't count on the real story of St. Patrick being being taught in your local public school.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

NEWS: Opponents of Religious Freedom "factually challenged"

March 14, 2013

LEXINGTON, KY--A spokesman for the Family Foundation said today that the campaign against the Religious Freedom Act (HB 279) that has been mounted by the ACLU and gay rights groups is "factually challenged."

Martin Cothran said that the only legal case these groups have been able to produce to supposedly "prove" that HB 279 could lead to diminishing civil rights protections has nothing to do with the proposed Kentucky law. HB 279 is on the Governor's desk for his signature and these groups are trying to get him to veto it.

"The case that Chris Hartman of the Fairness Alliance is pointing to is a Minnesota Supreme Court case from the 1980's that is unique to Minnesota because of the language in that state's constitution. But even then, it is almost completely exceptional in the law. It also precedes the Religious Freedom Restoration Act on which HB 279 is modeled, so it has little to do with the RFRA standard."

"This is the only case they've got, and it's completely irrelevant. It is a measure of how weak their legal case against this law really is."

Cothran said this has been pointed out to Hartman, but he has continued to cite the case. "When it's been pointed out that you are mistaken, it's time to stop saying what you've been saying. This is just a measure of how low the standards of integrity are with the groups that are trying to stop this bill."

Cothran said his group fears that without this law, groups like the Fairness Alliance would continue to push for legislation that infringes on First Amendment religious freedom rights.


Monday, March 11, 2013

Press Release: Don't send religious people to the back of the bus, group tells Governor

March 12, 2013

LEXINGTON, KY—The Family Foundation today joined with representatives of several church organizations, including those representing Catholics and Protestants in calling on Gov. Steve Beshear to sign the Religious Freedom Act passed by large margins in both chambers of the General Assembly.

Spokesman Martin Cothran called on the governor to resist calls by the ACLU and other special interest groups calling for a veto. "A veto of this legislation would be tantamount to telling religious people to go to the back of the bus," said Cothran.

In an op-ed submitted today to the Louisville Courier-Journal, Cothran called the campaign being waged by these groups "ugly and virulent." "If there had been no evidence before of the anti-religious sentiment that now threatens religious freedom in Kentucky," he said, "these groups have provided it."

"All this bill would do is to return long-standing legal protections to people of faith that the Kentucky Supreme Court took away in a decision last October. The bill's language is almost identical to that of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, passed by Congress in 1993, sponsored by Chuck Schumer and Ted Kennedy, and supported by the ACLU, the very group that is now at the head of a disinformation campaign about this bill."

Cothran said opponents of the bill have made false charges of racism, and have even accused the Catholic Church of trying to facilitate child abuse. "This kind of hate speech directed toward religious people is reprehensible," he said. “If charges like this were made, for example, against gay rights groups like the ones opposing this bill, there would be universal condemnation."

The Family Foundation's remarks came the same day as letters to the Governor in support of the bill from the Catholic Conference of Kentucky and the Kentucky Baptist Convention.


Friday, March 08, 2013

Kalb Speaks: The inhumanity of secularism

James Kalb, the intellectually intrepid author of The Tyranny of Liberalism writes in the Catholic World Report on the wages of technology and technocratic thinking and what they hath wrought:
Everybody who matters is a secularist today, and the situation has far-reaching implications. One is that educated and well-placed people now believe that the institutions on which social order is based should be technically expert, economically rational, morally nonjudgmental, and universal in their reach. So the world should be ordered comprehensively by global markets and expert regulatory bureaucracies, together with subsidiary institutions such as universities, think tanks, media organizations, and various NGOs that serve or try to influence government and business. That, it is thought, is the uniquely rational way of organizing society, and whatever threatens it, or attempts to limit it or introduce other authorities, is irrational, disruptive, and a threat to humanity.

... Anything else would violate the vision of the secular development of the human world into an ordered and beneficent cosmos. That, it is thought, would be the triumph of chaos, irrationality, and violence. The problem is that the society aimed at has no room for man as he is. It treats him as fundamentally a careerist and consumer, with no natural particularities, and no higher aspiration or destiny than the perfection of the system that enables him and his fellows to get what they want. Any qualities that go beyond that are disruptive, and must be eradicated or neutralized by confining them to a purely private sphere where they won’t influence anything. 
For that reason it has no place for the attachments that have always formed human life and to which we have always given our deepest loyalties: family, religion, specific community, particular people and culture, ultimate truth.
Read the rest here.

The misguided opponents of the Religious Freedom Act and their discontents

House Bill 279, the Religious Freedom Act, passed the Kentucky State Senate tonight midst warnings of universal doom from several Democratic opponents. Kathy Stein (D-Lexington) gave a rambling floor speech argued that the bill would do everything from protect men who abuse their wives to protecting discrimination against Blacks--at least in South Carolina barbecue restaurants.

It's hard to credit Stein, who is a lawyer and surely knows better, with sincerity. Does she really not know that, for example, civil rights related to race are considered a compelling interest in federal law?

In the floor debate over this bill, the opponents were unable to produce a single case from 1938 to 1990 when the strict scrutiny test re-installed with HB 279 was in effect, or since 1993 when it was re-instituted at the federal level or in Kentucky until October 25 of last year when it was abandoned by the Kentucky Supreme Court where any of the depredations they warned of ever occurred.

There weren't any of the blatant smears like those leveled by State Rep. Kelly Flood (D-Lexington) on the House floor. Maybe we should just be thankful for that.

But as usual, the gay rights advocates who are always claiming that people hate them were accusing those who supported this bill with ... hate. Funny how you just never feel the love from these champions of Tolerance and Diversity.

Just check out the Twitter feed on this bill. It's a bunch of people who are apparently completely ignorant of the law and apparently don't check out the bogus claims of the Fairness Alliance and the ACLU on these things.

It's pretty pitiful.

Thursday, March 07, 2013

Not Just Vintage Political Theater: Why the Randstand matters

The Drudge Report called it the "Randstand" and the "Randpage." Whatever you want to call it, it got people's attention. Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky did something that few people think of doing anymore: finding some stunt so old and forgotten that people mistake it for something new.

Paul got up on the U. S. Senate floor and conducted an old-fashioned filibuster (the only kind of filibuster worthy of the name) in an attempt to attract attention to his objection to the use of drones for use against American citizens. It worked. In fact, it worked so well it may go down as the political stunt of the year.

This little piece of political street theater, which ended after midnight last night--over 13 hours in all, was the talk of the political world today.

You've got to hand it to Paul, he knows how to get attention. But the thing about him that is so unlike most other politicians today is that he not only knows how to get your attention, but once he gets it, you find out that he actually has something to say.

One of the constant refrains amidst the buzz that followed his marathon talk was that he was actually saying something worth listening to. There were numerous reports of people tuning in to C-Span 2 and listening for several hours.

When was the last time you heard of somebody willingly listening to a politician talk for hours? When was the last time you heard of a politician talking for hours? In fact, when was the last time you heard of anyone watching C-Span 2?

I know. There are actually people who watch C-Span 2. And to them I say: Get a life.

But it is not only Paul's creativity in attracting media attention that is remarkable--or, more importantly, his willingness to stand up for what he believes in. Those things are admirable enough. It is his message on issues like this.

Unlike many so-called "conservatives," Paul actually believes we should follow the Constitution. And when was the last time you heard of anyone actually reading that? Certainly not any judges we know of.

Paul is one of the people who really gets the idea that (as Pat Buchanan rightly points out) we are a republic, not an empire. But while Paul and his little band of rebels were articulating Constitutional principles on the Senate floor, John McCain and Lindsay Graham were over playing patty cake with the Emperor. After sleeping off last night's big dinner with Obama, McCain took to the Senate floor today and assailed Paul, saying, "I don't think what happened yesterday is helpful to the American people."

Well, um, neither is getting killed by a drone.

I almost expected McCain to say something on the order of, "Now, young Skywalker, you will die."

For the last 25 years or so, the national Republican Party has been in the clutches of people who view the world in starkly imperial terms. The Iraq invasion is only the most egregious example of this. They are "Patriot Act" conservatives who think they have struck a blow to the enemies of America every time we frisk a little old lady at the airport.

I think of them every time I go through the airport security scanner.

Note the difference between the foreign policy of Ronald Reagan on the one hand, and the foreign policy of most modern Republicans (and, increasingly, Democrats, who at least have the excuse of being members of the party that got us into every major war over the last 100 years except the last one): Reagan knew that the way to handle such situations was to go get the bad guys and get out. The neoconservatives who still call the shots among Republicans will nod at the first part (get the bad guys), but have a hard time understanding the second part (get out).

Hopefully, Paul's leadership on issues like this will bring a little sobriety to a national Republican party that for   over two decades has been drunk on internationalism.

It's no coincidence that McCain and Graham both gave their little lectures after drinking with the President the night before.

Press Release: Group charges opponents of religious freedom bill with “disinformation”

March 7, 2013

LEXINGTON, KY—A spokesman for the Family Foundation said he was disappointed in what he called the "disinformation campaign" launched by opponents of the Religious Freedom Act (HB 279), which is expected to be passed by the Kentucky Senate. The bill is opposed by the ACLU and the Kentucky Fairness Alliance.

"It's surprising to me that these groups would risk their credibility in this way," said Martin Cothran, spokesman for The Family Foundation, which supports the bill. "The wild accusations being made by opponents of this bill are almost becoming humorous—unintentionally, of course. They have claimed it is everything from an attempt to cover up child abuse by ministers to a clever way for churchgoers to avoid parking tickets."

Cothran pointed out that the language is almost identical to the language of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) passed by the United States Congress in 1993. "That law was sponsored by Ted Kennedy, signed by Bill Clinton, and supported by—you'll never guess—the ACLU, the very group that is now claiming it will bring about some kind of cultural Armageddon."

"If all of the outrageous things these groups say will ensue with the passage of this bill were really a danger, then why haven't they happened in the wake of the passage of RFRA? Why did they never happen in this country when the strict scrutiny standard that would be reinstalled by this bill ever take place? Why didn't they happen when that standard was being used in this state prior to the Kentucky Supreme Court case against the Amish last October 25?"

One of the claims made by opponents is that the bill would roll back local gay rights laws. "If this bill is used at some point in the future to exempt people with sincerely held religious beliefs from accepting behavior they disagree with," said Cothran, "we hope groups like the ACLU and the Fairness Alliance will be consistent and say that this law supports that position."

"If attempts to ignore local gay rights ordinances are ever made, the people making them will be able to cite the ACLU and the Fairness Alliance in support of their cause."

Saturday, March 02, 2013

Kelly Flood's glass house on clergy sexual abuse

When the Religious Freedom Act, House Bill 279, came to the floor of the Kentucky House Friday, State Rep. Kelly Flood (D-Lexington) insinuated that the bill had something to do with protecting pedophile priests. She railed on about the children who had been harmed by clergy sexual abuse, making special mention of the fact that she was an ordained Unitarian Univeralist minister, as if that somehow exempted her from her own indictment.

I mean, don't we all wish that the Catholic Church was more like the Unitarian Universalist Church in this regard? Don't we all know that the problem with clergy sexual abuse is unique to the Catholic Church and doesn't affect churches like, say, the Unitarian Universalist Church?

Uh oh. Wait a second ... As it turns out, it does! Who would of thunk it. Certainly not Kelly Flood.

Apparently Flood is unaware of the clergy sexual abuse controversy within her own church. Here is Rev. Lynn Strauss, a Unitarian Universalist minister, commenting on the problem:

We too have a history of clergy sexual abuse and misconduct. Our Association, for too long, also refused to see and respond to the truth of abuse of power by some of our ministers.
People in glass houses ... Oh, never mind.

And of course HB 279 has literally nothing to do with protecting clergy sexual abuse--in the Catholic Church or the Unitarian Universalist Church, or any of the multitude of other denominations that have had this same problem—a problem which is the consequence of having to rely for its supply of priests from the somewhat morally suspect pool of candidates known as homo sapiens.

Maybe Flood could submit legislation requiring churches to expand their pool of candidates for the ministry beyond its current limitations which restrict it to human beings.

All in the interests of diversity, you know.