Wednesday, October 10, 2012


Yesterday's shooting of a 14 year old girl by the Taliban has left me pretty pissed off at all those who speak in the name of that thing known as God.  I don't care what the religious affiliation may be, those who decide that God rules all, that God is omnipotent and all knowing, that they and only they understand God's intentions, blah blah blah are amongst the most dangerous people in the world.  Be you a Christian, a Jew, a Muslim, a Hindu, etc. etc. etc., when you decide that God and YOU are in charge, you are not just sick, you are bad, very bad...and very very evil.   Notice, I am not even bothering with an argument about the nature of the whatever known as God.  Does it exist, is it a force, is it a tree, is it an old man on a throne, is it a fairy tale or a hallucination, I don't much really care right now.  But when you and your God come around and start telling me and everyone else how to live, when you start killing us in the name of the all Holy, then I will fight you with my last breath.  I am even sick and tired of every speech by every politician ending with "and God bless the United States of America."  It's all the same, if you got nothing else to offer, nothing else to defend your horrendous actions and beliefs, well, then pick up some holy book, turn to chapter this, verse that, and you are on your way...

The following post deal with some of this, some of them deal with things which are just absurd and some with things that are dangerous, and some with things that are murderous.  Really it is all the same.

They all come from something called

No-one is safe, not even 14 year olds

Yesterday, the Taliban critically wounded Malala Yousafzai, the lovely and brave 14 year old Pakistani girl, on her way home from school.
Ihsanullah Ihsan, chief spokesman for the Pakistani Taliban, said they targeted Yousafzai because she generated ‘negative propaganda’ and was the ’symbol of the infidels and obscenity’. If she survived, Ihsan said, the Taliban would try to kill her again.
Sounds familiar?
After all, she dared to  defend the right of girls to an education, particularly offensive to the Taliban which had banned them from attending school, amongst many other things.
When religion is in power, any challenge to it – even something as simple as a girl wanting to go to school – can be deemed offensive, obscene and blasphemous.
And this is exactly why no-one – not even a 14 year old – is safe.
In light of this stark reality, calls for blasphemy laws and censorship is nothing short of a defence of the Taliban herds and their vile Sharia rules because it denies people their thoughts, their words, their expressions, and their resistance and dissent.
All at the expense of sweet Malala and the innumerable like her – challenging Islamism day in and day out by demanding to live  21st century lives.
Today is for her and them.


With God, everything is permitted

Like killing children. Charlie Fuqua, candidate for the Arkansas House of Representatives, recommended child execution in his book, “God’s Law: The Only Political Solution”:
The maintenance of civil order in society rests on the foundation of family discipline. Therefore, a child who disrespects his parents must be permanently removed from society in a way that gives an example to all other children of the importance of respect for parents. … This passage does not give parents blanket authority to kill their children. They must follow the proper procedure in order to have the death penalty executed against their children. I cannot think of one instance in the Scripture where parents had their child put to death. Why is this so? Other than the love Christ has for us, there is no greater love then that of a parent for their child. The last people who would want to see a child put to death would be the parents of the child. Even so, the Scrpture provides a safe guard to protect children from parents who would wrongly exercise the death penalty against them. Parents are required to bring their children to the gate of the city. The gate of the city was the place where the elders of the city met and made judicial pronouncements. In other words, the parents were required to take their children to a court of law and lay out their case before the proper judicial authority, and let the judicial authority determine if the child should be put to death. I know of many cases of rebellious children, however, I cannot think of one case where I believe that a parent had given up on their child to the point that they would have taken their child to a court of law and asked the court to rule that the child be put to death. Even though this procedure would rarely be used, if it were the law of land, it would give parents authority. Children would know that their parents had authority and it would be a tremendous incentive for children to give proper respect to their parents.
I can think of at least 3 problems with this plan. First, in order for a threat to be effective, it has to be credible. The target of the threat must believe there is a possibility that it will be carried out. That’s what makes it so ridiculous for Fuqua to try and walk the line of “we need this as a disincentive to bad behavior, but I’m sure no one will ever actually execute their kids!” If it never happens, it starts to lose its power to influence anyone, as it becomes difficult for people to believe it could actually happen. If he really finds child executions so dreadful that he seeks to downplay how likely this is, maybe he shouldn’t want to make explicit legal allowances for it. And if he does believe that the goal of discouraging disobedience is so overwhelmingly important that it warrants the execution of children, then it makes no sense within his own value system that he would want to get in the way of doing what he believes is necessary to achieve the very objective he considers so crucial. It’s almost like the guy who supports child execution is being irrational or something.
Second, people have killed their children for religious reasons on plenty of occasions, both intentionally and unintentionally. People also kill children for reasons other than religion. What grounds does he have to be so certain that parents have never, ever wanted their children dead? And how can he possibly believe that the world he envisions, with a religious community that has a social norm of executing children for parental disobedience, would be at all averse to doing just that?
Third, you seriously want to make mere disobedience a capital crime for children when there’s already substantial debate over whether the death penalty, an irrevocable act which allows for no reevaluation or correction or pardon after the fact, is appropriate even for morally culpable and mentally sound adults? What is wrong with you? Knock it off!

A Perfect Example of Christian Privilege

One of the cases I’m researching for my book is called Herdahl v. Pontotoc County School District, case involving prayer and Bible classes in Ecru, Mississippi. Lisa Herdahl and her husband had moved their family from Wisconsin to Mississippi to be closer to his family and immediately discovered that the local schools were flagrantly violating the Constitution.

For starters, every day began with a prayer said over the school’s PA system, and they often had vocal prayers in class during instructional time as well. Some of the teachers would designate a student to lead a prayer before lunch each day. Anyone who didn’t want to participate in the pre-lunch prayers could step outside into the hallway, immediately singling them out among their classmates for ridicule.
The school also had a Bible class, which was overseen by a “Bible committee” made up of leaders from the local Protestant churches. The class was taught by someone chosen by the Bible committee, not a school employee, but the school provided classroom space and paid for books and other materials for the class. The Mississippi State Department of Education had actually already warned the school about the class and refused to allow them to grant academic credit for it, but they had made some changes to get it approved. The district court ruling explains how it worked:
In the elementary grades at the Center (K-6), the course is taught as a “rotational class,” alternating once every four days with music, library, and physical education. The Bible teachers come into the students’ regular classrooms and replace the regular teachers, who generally leave the rooms. Although the other rotational classes are required classes, the District has made an exception for the Bible class. Students who do not wish to participate are excused and may get up in front of their classmates and leave the classroom. During this period, the only alternative instruction for them is to be sent to another rotational class for their grade, which merely duplicates a rotational class they have already taken or will take, so that the children end up taking the same class twice. The plaintiff’s children who are subject to the District’s rotational class program are now excused from participating in the Bible class and are escorted to and from another rotational class by the teacher or assistant. The plaintiff claims that being singled out in this manner has exposed and continues to expose her children to harassment and ridicule, and they have been accused of being atheists and devil worshippers.
The court’s ruling was absolutely obvious:
The Bible class clearly lacks a secular purpose. From its inception by the local Protestant churches, the aim of the instruction has been overtly religious in nature. The District’s profession of educational instruction in this relevant time period of world history is belied by the evidence presented to the court at trial. First, the fact that the District contracted out the teaching of this class indicates an attempt at avoiding the constitutional ramifications of this instruction. If the class were truly secular, there should be no necessity of disassociating itself (and thus the state) with such a practice. The District cannot accomplish through others what it is forbidden to establish itself. Second, the selection procedures for the Bible teachers indicate a religious agenda unquestioned by the District. As the acknowledged “sponsor” of the Bible classes, the Bible Committee seeks out prospective Bible teachers for the public schools, interviews and then selects them, using religious criteria that have resulted in a teaching staff of Christian teachers who teach the Bible, and are expected to teach the Bible, from a fundamentalist religious perspective as the inerrant word of God.
When a Bible teaching vacancy occurs, it is the Bible Committee, not the school district, that initiates the hiring process, and it does so not by an open job search or through advertisements, but by personally soliciting names of potential teachers from the present and former Bible teachers. The District is well aware of this religious testing, and has to date not turned away any selected Bible teacher. Prospective Bible teachers are interviewed by the Bible Committee, and their religious beliefs and “salvation experience” of the candidates and their “personal spiritual background [and] beliefs about the Bible” are routine topics during job interviews. The chairman of the Bible Committee, Mr. Olen White, stated at trial that he personally believed that it was important for the prospective teacher to consider the Bible as literally true. It is also his understanding that the teachers who are currently teaching the Bible class at the Center are teaching their classes from the perspective that the Bible is literally true and without error. According to White, the Bible classes involve “reaching children for the Lord.” In a thank you letter to participating local churches, White stated that “without the help of the churches, the Bible program could not exist. Continue to pray for this work with our young people. They need all the Christian influence that can be given.” Reverend William Sims, a pastor of a local church and member of the Bible Committee, testified that he expects that a teacher of a Bible course would teach the Bible as the inerrant word of God. He further stated that if it came to his attention that one of the Bible teachers was teaching the Bible as if it were capable of error or that one of the teachers was not of the Christian faith he would not want the Committee to continue to fund that person’s salary. This religious testing, plainly imposed on prospective Bible teachers, alone makes the practice an unlawful intrusion into the school curriculum.
But here’s why I bring all this up. As often happens, there was a huge rally to defend this clearly unconstitutional behavior. A local Baptist minister organized the rally and 1500 people showed up. One of the speakers was Rep. Roger Wicker, now a U.S. Senator from Mississippi. Among the other things he said at the rally was this:
“Now I want to say this to the plaintiffs in this lawsuit: You could not have inflicted a deeper wound upon the souls, upon the very core of this community, than to do what you’ve done.”
Expecting the government-funded public schools to follow the Constitution is a deep “wound upon the souls” of the community. Forcing kids to listen to prayers they may not agree with, that’s perfectly fine. Singling out young children to be ostracized and called devil worshipers, that’s perfectly fine. But filing this suit is a deep wound. This is the essence of Christian privilege and Christian hegemony, which often ruthlessly imposes itself on everyone else and then takes terrible offense at the mere suggestion that no one should have to put up with it.

No comments: