Category Archives: religion

priests, castes, laiety; angels, demons, heavenly hierarchies; the damned, the elect — with so many made-up categories everyone can have one. It’s psychological warfare at its finest.

public school & religious cultural center field trip

My partner sent me this article about the furor over a public school field trip to a local Muslim community center.

Folks seem to be upset because a few kids participated in religious observances / prayer. Personally I’m not too bothered by that — it appears to be voluntary participation at the event, and likely the field trip itself was voluntary. Prayers should not be sponsored by the school, but kids are free at school to engage in non-sponsored religious rituals should they choose; so why not on a field trip?

But what I am bothered by is the below paragraph, which doesn’t seem to have excited much controversy:

The 10-minute video, which weaves the words of a narrator and video of activities at the center, says that during the field trip, girls and women were instructed to stay at the back of the room during the prayer service — as per Muslim custom — and the boys were allowed to stand side by side with mosque members during prayers.

Letting kids see folks at religious observances, and learn about said religion, is one thing. Encouraging them, or requiring them, to participate in sex discrimination is quite another. wtf?!? Seriously, there are all sorts of institutions that are sexist and racist in practice. We ought not be taking kids to them. Find a Muslim cultural center that does not practice sex discrimination, or keep the kids out of the religious chambers in this center. Similarly if you have to cover a girl’s hair to take her into a Church of Christ cultural center, or make her wear a dress to visit an Orthodox Jewish facility — this is the definition of gender discrimination. And this religious-based sex discrimination is the imposition of religious practices and beliefs, not the voluntary prayer. I say again, wtf?

Let’s just picture the teasing between the kids about this enforced gender division, and how the individual kids felt to be sent to the front of the room or the back of the room based on gender.

Participating in prayers, voluntarily, is not illegal. Being discriminated against on the basis of your gender is illegal.

I say again, wtf?!?

stem cell research standing

The judge also finds that the two adult stem cell researchers who brought the case would suffer imminent and irreparable harm without the injunction because they would have to compete with embryonic stem cell researchers for research funds. That is absurd. Adult stem cell research is funded far more generously than work with embryonic stem cells. And there is no firm limit on the amount of money that can be spent on each. NYT editorial

How did this case not get knocked out on standing? Competing for funding? In two different fields ??? Absurd.

But for this absurdity we have to blame the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, not Judge Lamberth; it was the D.C. Circuit Ct. which granted the researchers “competitor standing”.

The Guidelines, by allowing federal funding of [embryonic stem cell] research, increases competition for NIH’s limited resources. This increased competition for limited funds is an actual, imminent injury. See Sherely, 2010 WL 2540358 at *5 (explaining that the increased competition that plaintiffs face is “substantial enough to deem the injury to them imminent”). There is no after-the-fact remedy for this injury because the Court cannot compensate plaintiffs for their lost opportunity to receive funds. Sherley v. Sebelius, D.D.C. 2010

Stacking the D.C. Circuit for years with pro-life Republicans has finally paid off!

The mind boggles: Any agency that funds more than one thing is open, now, to scrutiny by the possible fund-ees for potential legal suit. I suddenly see a future for all those laid-off New York law firm associates.

And, a fine example of how Congress works: Default BS caving in to lobbyists. In this instance, the “Dickey-Wicker amendment, that has been attached to annual appropriations bills for the Department of Health and Human Services since 1996″ — i.e., more absurd religious BS around abortion and fetal rights, affecting science and medicine.

And did the Obama administration tackle this problem directly? No, they avoided the problem the same way the other administrations have.

Disgraceful all around.

cite: quotes from NYT Editorial 8/25. opinion available at uscourts.gov (PDF).

"nothing of this sort will happen in the future"

матрациFacebook has deleted “Everybody Draw Mohammed Day!”, a user-created page, and apologized to the Pakistani government which had blocked Facebook. A Pakistani minister said Facebook had assured them that “nothing of this sort will happen in the future”.

Yeah, good luck with that. And fuck you, Facebook. How about not knuckling under to paternalistic theocratic states that block Internet access for millions of people?

See:
* Huffington Post, 5/31; hat tip to boston-atheists mailing list.
* comicsalliance.com
* and, yes, wikipedia

You can’t see http://www.facebook.com/pages/Everybody-Draw-Mohammed-Day/121369914543425?ref=ts..plz which redirects you to facebook, nor can I find a cache of the site on Google or on the Internet Archive.

resurrecting my old abortion rights button

“I’m pro-choice and I shoot back.”

It’s not strictly true since I don’t own a gun.

I love how Bill O’Reilly freely tosses around incendiary rhetoric (arguably, “inciting violence”) but is so incapable of taking responsibility or acknowledging his own words. Why is he a frickin’ pundit talking head if he thinks his words are so meaningless? Other than his ginormous ego? War Room has relevant excerpts and links to O’Reilly’s non-apology.

update: More informative is Rachel Maddow’s review of anti-abortion violence.

a telling moment for the Catholic Church

The poor anti-same-sex-marriage crowd feels “outgunned and underfinanced” in their fight to prevent state recognition of same-sex couples. In New York, for instance, the Catholic Church has been absent from the struggle. Why?

The state’s Roman Catholic bishops have been somewhat distracted, too, having focused their lobbying energies this session on defeating a bill that would extend the statute of limitations for victims of sexual abuse to bring civil claims, and have appeared unprepared for the battle over marriage.NYT 5/20

Yeah, I think that pretty much sums up their values these days.

do people ever actually *read* Roe & Casey?

Ross Douthat’s op-ed in the NYT is a showcase for the deceptive rhetoric of the right. The piece is a long paean to the supposed reasonableness and willingness to compromise of the anti-choice movement. He wraps up by attempting to lay the “blame” on Roe and Casey for the “failure” of Americans to reach peace on safe and legal abortion:

But no such compromise is possible so long as Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey remain on the books. These decisions are monuments to pro-choice absolutism, and for pro-lifers to accept them means accepting that no serious legal restrictions on abortion will ever be possible — no matter what the polls say, and no matter how many hearts and minds pro-lifers change.

Wow. Where to begin.

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unidentified flying pasta monster

oh, sure, there are lots of interesting goings-on in the world of copyright / IP / info / intellectual freedom / privacy / tech law / policy / librarianship / etc.

plus of course the endlessly fascinating polling data on the various elections. (i’m voting YES on questions 2 and 3 in massachusetts: ban dog racing and (sort of) decriminalize mary jane.) (could sarah palin be any more freakin’ clueless about science? dozens of nobel laureates think not.)

but i can only be dragged online to post by evidence of copy-editor cluelessness:

“a noodle monster”??? Come on! This is the flying spaghetti monster !!! Pastafarianism is, like, one of the biggest new religions in centuries! Waaay bigger than LDS despite their legions of black-nametagged youthful proselytizers.

oh well — the article (on mad scientist cooking experiments) was fun despite this glaring impiety.

(hat tip to michele, as ever)

gassing muslim children in Ohio “not a hate crime”

Apparently, Dayton, Ohio, officials think that tossing pepper spray* into a mosque nursery, filled with infants and directly in the face of their ten-year-old babysitter, is nothing more than a random chance chemical irritant attack. Certainly not a hate crime. In fact, it was probably motivated by love — James Dobson-style “tough love” for those youthful infidels. It should be called a “love crime” but our politically correct bureaucrats would never consider tracking crimes of love.

* a pepper-spray-ish substance, anyway

By some bizarre coincidence it happened after the DVD “Obsession: Radical Islam’s War Against the West” was mailed to local homes and inserted as an ad in the Dayton Daily News and 70 other newspapers in the midwest. It’s weird how coincidences happen like that, but it certainly doesn’t suggest the mosque was targeted after locals were inundated with anti-Muslim information.

According to the Dayton Daily on Monday (9/29), a cop still had to determine if a crime even happened. Three days after the attack incident, which took place Friday 9/26. There’s no need to rush because, you know, who even knows if a crime took place? I mean, so often people sneak up to open windows where religious minorities have gathered and spray cans of noxious substances directly into the faces of children. Heck it happens all the time that cans like that just happen to fall into people’s hands when they’re standing by open windows, and they’re so startled they just accidentally press the button, and somebody’s gonna get sprayed. By accident. Or out of love. Or whatever, but certainly not out of any malicious motive. And if you’re standing by an open window of a mosque and a can falls into your hand — by accident — what the heck else is going to happen?

Dayton Daily News 9/27 via daily kos via pharyngula

faith-based damages

So this flight attendant is suing a televangelist who assaulted her, and in addition to emotional damages and hemorrhoids, the flight attendant is claiming she is owed damages for loss of faith. Broadsheet, Salon.com, 8/8.

Obviously the First Amendment is going to pose real problems for the plaintiff — American courts establishing a monetary value on religious faith (and loss thereof) seems to pose a real Establishment Clause problem. Entanglement, preferencing religion over non-religion — a fun case.

But if by some miracle this plaintiff prevails on this claim, can we children of fundies get damages for having faith imposed on us as children?

back to mormons and forced “marriage”

[Warren] Jeffs was convicted last year in Utah of forcing a 14-year-old girl into marriage with an older cousin.

I’m sick of these quotes that just talk about “marriage” and accept the use of that word.

If you are “forced” into “marriage” you are not married: you have been kidnapped (restrained against your will) and forced to engage in a marriage ceremony, but your marriage is not lawful and valid because there was no consent.

Will the defenders of marriage against homosexuals please stand up and take back your frickin’ word against these people who want to define it to include nonconsensual behaviors like kidnapping and rape?

This sentence or one like it was widely quoted in the media. One source is wtop, which has the new information that a large number of the teenage women/girls in the compound were currently pregnant or had previously given birth. I have no idea any more where I got this link from.

In case all this is not completely, crystal-clear, note the caption on the picture of Warren Jeffs’ father, Rulon Jeffs: “FLDS founding patriarch Rulon Jeffs with his last two wives — sisters Edna and Mary Fischer — on their wedding day. He received the pair as a 90th birthday present.” (emphasis added)

“Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime where of the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.” Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States

Expelled without a license

Word on the street is starting to trickle in that the popular music was not licensed:

* John Lennon’s “Imagine” was definitely used without permission. The Lennon estate + EMI are suing. (See Reuters, 4/23 (link from pharyngula); the NYT, 4/24; and Paste Magazine. (I can just picture the graphic on The Daily Show: “Ono you di’n’t!”)

* I’m also hearing that The Killers (“Personal Jesus”) didn’t authorize. (See comments on earlier posts.) … And now I’m hearing that they did authorize, but were duped into doing so. See the playlist.

Updates as available.

4/28 update: It looks to me as if copyright infringement was at least anticipated and planned for, and the case that the copyright infringement was an intentional gambit by Premise Media to inspire litigation is considerably stronger: Check out this press release by Premise. They’re trumpeting the litigation, and note that they reference it as litigation by the “beloved Yoko Ono.” Tapping into popular dislike of Yoko Ono — which had significant racist and sexist over-, under-, and in-the-middle-tones — Premise Media continues to demonstrate that they are a class act. Their behavior reflects on the religion they profess and promote, of course.

Other discussions on the issue:
* metamagician
* Lippard Blog

creationist & religious violence against science & education

Just a list of links for the flurry of postings on this topic:
* Bug Girls’ Blog, Weekly WTF: More threats by Creationists, 2007/7/12; related Pharyngula, 2007/7/11; Bug Girl’s blog, 2007/7/20
* Bug Girl’s Blog, Creationist Death Threats, Part 2 (2007/8/24)
* Pharyngula, Another example of amoral religiosity, 2007/8/24
* Sunclipse, Creation, Power and Violence (2008/4/18)

music inspired by Expelled

So at the end of this long post about Expelled and copyright infringement, I appended some rewritten lyrics to the tune of “Spirit in the Sky” :

When I copy and they tell me “desist”,
Gonna go to the place that’s the best
When I get caught in a lie,
Goin’ up to Designers in the sky
Goin’ up to Designers in the sky
That’s where I’m gonna go when I lie
When I lie and they tell me desist
Gonna go to the place that’s the best.

DJ actions might come a bust
Gotta have a friend in Jesus
So you know that when you lie
He’s gonna recommend you
To Designers in the sky
Gonna recommend you
To Designers in the sky
That’s where you’re gonna go when you lie
Steal in God’s name but they tell you desist
You’re gonna go to the place that’s the best

I sorta copied and I maybe infringed
I got a friend in Jesus
So you know that when I lie
He’s gonna set me up with
Designers in the sky
Oh set me up with Designers in the sky
They’ll protect me when I lie
Texas judges might not let me rest
But Designers will protect me the best
Gonna go to the place that’s the best.

I thought it was free will but it was all part of some greater cultural zeitgeist. Today, PZ Myers linked (in a post called “RIAA bait” — boy, their reputation sucks, doesn’t it?) to two others that must be read and hummed along to:
* Imagine (Ben Stein’s Ethics) (from MJS on Corrente)
* Bensteinian Rhapsody (from MartinC posted on Stranger Fruit)

And then in the comments thread many people started posting their own rewritten lyrics — there are some amazing ones. (I posted these there too.)

Do I sense a phenomena? Will Expelled inspire all the rewritten lyrics the way Fellowship of the Ring (1) inspired a gajillion rewritten poems? (I still love the one I did based on Whitman’s Song of the Open Road).

Expelled copyright infringement, cont’d

update 4/16: Both a commenter here and also P.Z. Myers have reported that Expelled filmmakers Premise filed on Monday a DJ (“declaratory judgment”) motion on XVIVO‘s copyright claims against them — i.e., asked a judge to look at the evidence & say that they are not infringing. Premise v. XVIVO, N.D. Tex., 4/14/2008.

Here are links to the PDFs of the
* complaint , and
* the statement of interested parties.
And may I just note that PACER is a pain in the ass?

Also via that same post @ pharyngula, Sarah S @ ERV reports that they copied not just the XVIVO video but other sources as well. Quel surprise.

Previous posts:
* Copyright claims against Expelled
* “Expelled” music licensed or not?

Thoughts on reading the complaint below the fold:
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the bear stearns of organized pedophilia

It’s a bit dicey to find anything funny in the sexual slavery / prostitution ring known as the FLDS (Fundamentalist Church of Latter Day Saints, aka, the Mormon child abuse cult). Bill Maher managed to do it by pointing out the discrepancy between society’s treatment of misbehavior by “cults” and misbehavior by “religions”.

If you can stomach it, watch the video at Crooks and Liars. It’s funny but only if you can laugh at the really fucked up things that infuriate you and make you despair of the world.

Relevant transcript below the fold.

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obedience & expelled

Obedience has never been my forte but every now and then I try it out just for fun. Or else, just because the radio waves directly into my brain will stimulate the pain center unless I do as told.

So, direct from central squidelicious headquarters:

This dumb movie named Expelled is being released the eighteenth of this month, I’m told, and this post is a G00gle-b0mb to help out. You too can play by adding the following text to your blogs and other sites:

<a href=”http://expelledexposed.com/”><i>Expelled</i></a>

and to help your less HTML-nerdy friends play, you can also include instructions for them to further instruct other bloggers … a vast game of peer-to-peer obedience to the evil athiest conspiracy:

&lt;a href=”http://expelledexposed.com/”&gt;Expelled&lt;/a&gt;

Obey … obey … obey … obey … obey …

update 4/16: On the 14th when I posted this I noted that Expelled Exposed was 16th-ish on Google search for “Expelled”. Today on the 16th I checked and it’s 10th. (At least for me; Google twinkles its algorithm depending on what information it has on you.)

Copyright claims against Expelled

4/11: I had previously (3/27) drafted a brief commentary on Expelled‘s use of copyrighted material. Then, I unposted it while I checked on something, to try to make it more complete. I hadn’t gotten back to it, when the other shoe dropped: One of the copyright holders’ whose material was used in Expelled wrote a published a draft cease & desist letter to the filmmakers. So, I’m re-posting my original comment, even though I haven’t yet had a chance to figure out the licensing status of the animations in question, and I’m doing a more detailed analysis below of the current set of claims. Consider this a rough draft of an analysis.

In part, I’m rushing this out because there are a few misconceptions about copyright and fair use on the Pharyngula blog comment thread. I’ll have to come back & add in the relevant cites when I’ve got a bit more time (probably not before Sunday), and I may have more considered analysis at that point. Right now, this is my quick first impressions on the merits of the claims that XVIVO is making, and the merits of the likely defenses that Expelled could raise.

I’ve gotta say, I’m rarely so personally sympathetic with a cease and desist as I am with this one, a letter from Peter Irons on behalf of XVIVO to the makers of Expelled, for using without permission a biology animation that XVIVO did.

However.

The misuse of science is not the same thing as the misuse of intellectual property, and I have, unfortunately, a number of problems with this cease & desist letter. My problems are more tactical and, of course, from the perspective of a fair use / information policy attorney. But I’ll go through a bit of legal analysis first, because there are some interesting questions. If you don’t find details of copyright interesting, skip to the last 3 paragraphs.

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Scientific American fisks Expelled

Scientific American‘s reviews of “Expelled”, the creationist movie with Ben Stein, are the best yet: the one by John Rennie is particularly helpful. It dissects the rhetorical tricks, and fills in the facts that were left out of the film’s assertions about punitive action taken towards experts. Expelled Exposed, from the NCSE, is developing point-by-point rebuttals of the assertions in the film. (Their tagline is: “Flunked, Not Expelled”.)

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“dangerous even for children to know of atheism”

That’s a paraphrase of what an Illinois state Rep. Monique Davis told a man who was protesting the state of Illinois’ $1M grant to a church. Read more at Eric Zorn’s Chicago Tribune blog.

link from an David S-J on an atheist mailing list

4/11 update: Rep. Davis apologized, sort of, after being excoriated in the media for days. [link from pharyngula]