Archives February 2014

That Arizona Bill Isn’t Primarily About Homophobia

A lot of ink has been spilt lately about Arizona Senate Bill 1062 being a homophobic bill. Take, for instance, this leading paragraph from Glenn Beck’s The Blaze (emphasis added):

A debate over a proposed Arizona law that would exempt individuals and legal entities from having to cater to gay customers exploded Tuesday night on CNN when an opponent of the measure accused former Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli of being a “homophobe.”

But the thing is, the word “homosexual” (or any synonym or related term) does not appear in the text of the bill. The bill adds a few words to the definition of “Exercise of religion”, and expands “Person” to include people, clubs, and companies (think Chic-Fil-A or Hobby Lobby); not just churches and congregations. I’m no lawyers, but it looks to me as though the bits that come after that make it harder to pass laws that someone might claim infringe on their religious rights, and easier to sue the government.

Now, I have no doubt that this bill, if it passes, will be used to make gays’ lives miserable. But I also don’t see that at its primary thrust.

Rather, this is a bill that enshrines religious privilege. It’s a bill that says “I’m used to being on top. I’m used to being able to use “it’s my religion” as an excuse for anything I do, and I don’t like it when people challenge that.” It’s a reaction to people starting to treat religion with the respect it deserves, rather than the unearned levels of respect it has enjoyed in the past.

Maybe this was primarily intended as a gay-bashing bill. Maybe the authors realized that in 2014, you can’t just introduce a bill saying “It’s okay to hate on them queers”, and felt the need to disguse that message in some more palatable rationale. But it’s still significant that the more-palatable rationale is religion. “We’re just standing up for freedom of religion. Who would say anything against that?” Well, people who are harmed by your religion, for one. People who sympathize with people harmed by your religion, for another.

Watch Anderson Cooper’s interview with Arizona senator Al Melvin:
As Cooper’s examples illustrate, this bill would allow Arizonans to be dicks to other people in all sorts of ways, not just homophobic ones. And Melvin’s justification is that hey, it’s religion, so it needs to be coddled.

Update: The Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty has expressed some objections to a similar bill in Georgia. I have no idea what the group is or what they stand for, but I like the way they put it:

While religious liberty is one of our most precious rights, it is not an automatic trump card.

Water Is Wet. Dog Bites Man. Answers in Genesis Maligns Atheists.

Terry Mortenson has a blah blah blog post, ironically posted under “Thoughts“, and favorably linked to by loser-to-science Ken Ham, that opens thusly:

Over the years the American Atheists have been having some serious problems with social behavior at their national convention. So they have developed a code of conduct for the 2014 conference. It is interesting to observe the things they tolerate (e.g., many kinds of sexual immorality) and the things they will not tolerate (e.g., lack of social etiquette). It should also be noted that Christian conventions do not need to post such a code of conduct because the attendees have been redeemed by the grace of God and gladly submit to His code of conduct in the Bible.

But in an atheist worldview, these atheists have no basis for this code. In their view there is no God and therefore no moral absolutes.

This is straight from atheist bingo, right next to the one about atheists eating babies. The idea that you need an invisible father figure to tell you whom not to stick your baby-making bits into has been around since before this selfsame invisible father figure created the world 6,000 years ago. But these days, it’s usually considered ever so slightly gauche to so blatant about it.

Can we put the immoral atheist, along with the lazy Mexican and the hook-nosed Jew, in some box marked “Bogus stereotypes: do not use”, and padlock the box and then encase it in cement and dump it in the ocean?

Apparently not.

Anyway, Mortenson continues:

In a related news item, the University of Virginia hosted a conference on February 10, 2014, involving top leaders of six secular colleges and universities to discuss the topic of sexual misconduct among college students. This is a vexing problem. Research shows that 20% of college women at secular schools have been sexually assaulted, but only 12% of the victims report the incident. But given the depravity of man and that these schools are dominated by evolutionary thinking that destroys any basis for moral absolutes, this behavior is not surprising.

My first thought was that while it’s appalling that 20% of women at these schools have been assaulted, and shameful that 88% of such assaults go unreported, Mortenson gives us no reason to think that Christian schools are any better. After all, if there’s one thing we’ve learned from the ongoing Catholic pedophilia scandal is that if you got raped, it’s probably your fault for looking attractive and slutty and stuff, and that God hates people who rock the boat.

So if 20% of women at secular schools have been assaulted, what’s the figure for Christian schools, where demon evolution isn’t taught?

Let’s bear in mind also that in the past week or so, we’ve had the story of Bob Jones University shutting down an investigation about sexual assaults on campus, which certainly looks as though the investigators were about to uncover something that would make the school look very bad.

There was also the story of Patrick Henry College (“God’s Harvard”) blowing off allegations of sexual abuse.

And just for good measure, we’ve had the news of Archbishop Roger Mahony withholding information from police in an investigation into sexual abuse.

Mortenson can rail about evilution allowing child rape, but it doesn’t seem as though God’s law is much better.

If I have to choose between the tribe that says it’s not okay to rape women and also allows two men to have consensual anal sex in the privacy of their hotel room; or the tribe that pretends that rape doesn’t exist, and if it does exist, it’s the victim’s fault; then I know which one I’m going with.

The Monetary War on Smut Marches On

CBS affiliate WTVR on an important development in the Utah front on the War on Smut:

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah (KUTV) – An Orem, Utah mom is not happy with a mall window display she calls “pornography.” The PacSun store in Orem refused to take the offending shirts off display. So she bought every last t-shirt to force the store into making a change.

Judy Cox spent $567 on t-shirts she will admittedly never wear and hopes no one will.

See, the way it works in America, land of capitalism, is that if you buy up all copies of a mass-produced product, like a T-shirt, that makes that product go away forever. That’s just Economics 101, right?

I don't know that this was one of the offending shirts. But it could be.
I don’t know that this was one of the offending shirts. But it could be.

Now, some of you might have noticed a teensy flaw in her plan: that there’s a slight chance that the store might just buy more of these ungodly, vapor-inducing T-shirts, and then where will Judy Cox be? (On the fainting couch, I’m guessing.) Of course, there’s no way she could have foreseen such a development.

The manager said you could buy them, but the store would just replace them. Since the store had 19 shirts, at $27.98 a piece, the purchase wasn’t cheap. Nearly $600 later Cox left, but it was not the end. If the store gets a new shipment this mom says she’ll go back and buy them out again.

Okay, so maybe she’s not that clueless:

Cox said she planned to return all the shirts once the city manager ruled on whether the graphic shirts can be legally displayed. She said she notified the store and PacSun corporate offices of her intentions to essentially hold the shirts hostage.

Maybe PacSun can refuse to refund her, on the grounds that the shirts can no longer be sold to someone with a religious-nut allergy.

Ted Cruz Introduces Pointless Grandstanding Act of 2014

Ted Cruz (R-Teabaggistan) and Mike Lee (R-Do you really need to ask?) yesterday
introduced a bill that they call the State Marriage Defense Act to, um, slow down the spread of gay marriage or something. As their press release says (emphasis added):

WASHINGTON, DC — U.S. Sens. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, and Mike Lee, R-Utah, today introduced S. 2024, the State Marriage Defense Act, which respects the definition of marriage held by the people of each state and protects states from the federal government’s efforts to force any other definition upon them. The bill will ensure the federal government gives the same deference to the 33 states that define marriage as the union between one man and one woman as it does to the 17 states that have chosen to recognize same-sex unions.

This comes on the same date that a federal judge declared Virginia’s ban on same-sex marriage unconstitutional. Great timing.

I’m not sure how this is supposed to work: the federal government is already out of the marriage-defining business; it leaves that up to the states.
So let’s say Bob and Tom have been living in Alabama for years. One day, they go up to Massachusetts and get married. The federal government needs to decide whether they’re married for purposes of federal benefits, e.g., health insurance, or to see whether they’re allowed to file a joint tax return.

Under the present system, the federal government asks, “Were these two people legally married by a state, following that state’s laws, and in accordance with that state’s definition of marriage?” In this case, yes, Massachusetts, and so Bob and Tom are married for federal purposes.

If Cruz’s bill were to pass, I don’t see how anything would change. Would Georgia say that not only does it not recognize a Massachusetts marriage, but that the federal government isn’t allowed to, either? Are Georgia’s right to define marriage somehow better than Massachusetts’s?

Of course, it’s possible—plausible, even—that I’m barking up the wrong tree, and that this should really be renamed the Get Ted Cruz’s Name in the Papers Act of 2014.

On one hand, I figure I shouldn’t feed the trolls. On the other hand, the east coast has had so much snow lately that there’s a salt shortage; so we need all the conservative tears of poutrage we can get.

Productive Weekend

Helped GF clean out her basement. Damn, she had a lot of crap down there.

The Ken Ham vs. Bill Nye Debate

I watched the debate between Bill Nye “The Science Guy” and Ken Ham, director of Answers in Genesis, the outfit that runs the creation museum in Kentucky.

When I heard that Nye had agreed to the debate, I thought it was a bad idea, for all the usual reasons, and in particular that it would give creationism too much credibility: if you put Neil DeGrasse Tyson on stage with someone who thinks we can travel to mars by growing pixie wings, the latter has a lot more to gain than the former. Pixie-wing-guy gets to brag that he discussed issues with a prominent scientist, whereas Tyson has to admit that he wasn’t allowed to laugh pixiw-wing man out of the room.

And so it was last night. A man who basically believes that, as Robin Ince put it, “Magic Man done it!” got to share a stage with a man who has mountains of real-world evidence behind his assertions.

Having said that, it didn’t turn out as badly as I feared. Not so much because Nye did well, though for the most part he did. Rather, because Ken Ham did a pretty good job of explaining what young-earth creationism is: it has nothing to do with evidence (he said in the Q&A that there was nothing that could change his mind) and everything to do with believing a particular interpretation of the Bible.

It’s traditional to say that no one’s mind is ever changed by such debates, but that’s not always the case. I don’t know how many people were on the fence last night. But if any of them didn’t know what creationism was before, they do now. As stealth-creationist Casey Luskin puts it:

People will walk away from this debate thinking, “Ken Ham has the Bible, Bill Nye has scientific evidence.”

I haven’t done an extensive search, but the consensus seems to be that Nye won the evening. Yes, that’s what you’d expect from sites like Pharyngula or Friendly Atheist or Daily Kos, but Uncommon Descent, Evolution News & Views seem to agree as well. Charisma News doesn’t have any comments, gloating or otherwise. The Blaze’s comments seem about evenly split between “Ham won” and “Nye won”; given its readership, I would’ve expected it to tilt much farther toward Ham’s side.

I’m also surprised at how big a deal this was. I’ve seen plenty of these sorts of debates over the years, but typically they don’t interest anyone except the sorts of wonks who actually follow this stuff. But this one was streamed live on CNN, and covered in the Washington Post and on NPR. So it’s possible that a lot of people who haven’t thought much about creationism have now been introduced to it, and hopefully shown that it’s not science, not even close.

See also