May 26, 2016
The below was mostly written almost a full year ago, around the time my day job gave me the occasion to converse at length with some folks directly covering the story. Engagements and hesitations, I fear, have now delayed this little provocation well beyond the rim of relevance. Still, there is perhaps merit in the presentation of even rascal polemics, since all we are here are bloggers extraordinaire.
I do admit that it will shock some readers to discover conservative plaudits for the Grateful Dead.
San Francisco hippies and drug-addled fools who engendered a romance of dreary dissolution: How could any self-respecting conservative spare a word of praise for them?
Well, I speak only for myself, and with no pretended want of reservations.
May 24, 2016
My contract with DeWard Publishing for a book on undesigned coincidences has just been signed and countersigned, and we move forward to copy editing, typesetting, and production issues. I do not have a projected release date as of yet.
But here as a topical teaser is an undesigned coincidence included therein, one of the few that I discovered on my own. The wording used here is not the same as the wording in the book. I'm writing this post without looking at the book manuscript.
May 20, 2016
Almost six years ago I wrote a post with the same title as the current post (without the Roman numeral, of course). There I was examining the liberal idea that, if something isn't against the law, everyone else has to cooperate with it in a positive way. The example I used was that liberals assume that, if a minor girl is not legally required to tell her parents that she is having sex, a pharmacist is legally obligated to sell her contraception to enable her fornication.
The most recent examples of a similar attitude arise in the insane context of the "transgender" debate. The assumption is that, if some law cannot successfully be passed by a government entity legislating on the matter of whether biological males must use separate bathroom facilities from biological females, business have zero freedom in this matter and must "not discriminate" against people claiming to be the opposite sex.
This, of course, doesn't follow. State and local governments could simply be silent on the matter altogether while permitting local businesses to decide how to handle this. I suppose, with the insanity growing, that city government buildings and employers would have to have some policy, but this might even vary from one city to the next or one supervisor to the next, reflecting local mores.
May 17, 2016
The Supreme Court appears to have semi-resolved the issue of the Obama Administration beating up on the Little Sisters of the Poor (as discussed earlier), but they may have just created a temporary delay instead.
In a Per Curiam (unanimous) decision announced yesterday, they are vacating lower court decisions and remanding back to them for re-consideration. This is because of new facts developed since the lower courts decided. What new facts? The new facts are those that the Court itself elicited after oral arguments, when the Court asked the parties to submit new briefs on whether there might be a manner in which the government gets what it wants - contraceptive insurance coverage under the employer's insurer - while the religious organization gets what it wants - not to be morally complicit in providing contraceptives. According to the Supreme Court, the re-briefs conceded that it IS possible:
Following oral argument, the Court requested supplemental briefing from the parties addressing “whether contraceptive coverage could be provided to petitioners’ employees, through petitioners’ insurance companies, without any such notice from petitioners.” Post, p. ___. Both petitioners and the Government now confirm that such an option is feasible. Petitioners have clarified that their religious exercise is not infringed where they “need to do nothing more than contract for a plan that does not include coverage for some or all forms of contraception,” even if their employees receive cost-free contraceptive coverage from the same insurance company.
Although the Court claims that it is not deciding any of the issues before it in the case, and sending the issues back to the lower courts for them to re-consider,
The Court expresses no view on the merits of the cases. In particular, the Court does not decide whether petitioners’ religious exercise has been substantially burdened, whether the Government has a compelling interest, or whether the current regulations are the least restrictive means of serving that interest.
it is important to realize that the Court is framing the case with a lot of new direction to the lower courts. The most important is how it framed the above quote, in saying that the parties "now confirm" that a mutually acceptable path is "feasible", it takes the wind out of the government's sails if it tries to pursue the matter in the Appeals courts. It would be seemingly irrational for a lower court, after the Supreme Court stated “both parties confirm that such an option is feasible,” to STILL decide that “the existing regulation is the least restrictive means of serving that interest”. I think that the Court is implying that much at least. Officially, the Court is saying “now that the parties both accept X in principle, you need to re-think your decisions in light of X”. But substantively, X actually consists in a less restrictive non-objectionable means of serving the government’s interest – at least in outline form.
May 13, 2016
May 12, 2016
The most recent instance of persecution for refusal to participate in the homosexual agenda is so legally dubious, indeed prima facie illegal, that one thinks, "This can't work." But that depends on the Wyoming State Supreme Court.
Ruth Neely was until recently a small-down municipal judge and circuit court magistrate in tiny Pinedale, Wyoming. In 2014 a federal judge imposed homosexual "marriage" on the state of Wynoming. In her role of magistrate Neely is allowed (but according to her lawyers not required) to perform marriages. In her role as judge she does not even have authority to perform marriages but deals with things like traffic tickets.
Neely gave an interview to a newspaper in which she stated that she would not perform homosexual "marriages" due to her sincere religious beliefs about marriage.
This sparked an "ethics" investigation, and the vengeful ethics board demanded that she be removed from office for a variety of "ethics" violations merely for voicing these opinions. These violations include "prejudice based on sexual orientation," "acting improperly," and "refusing to uphold the rule of law."
The ethics board has even recommended that she be fined! The stories in the news all say things like "fines of up to $40,000," and I've been unable to find out exactly what this means. Presumably it means that someone else decides exactly how much to fine her, and the ethics board has set it up so that that person could fine her as much as $40K. It looks like there is no such thing as a jury trial or conviction before she would suffer such fines, though the case can be appealed to the state Supreme Court, which is what is happening right now. She's already been removed from her position both as a magistrate and as a judge, despite the fact that the judge position doesn't even allow her to perform marriages.
May 9, 2016
The notorious "bathroom law" in North Carolina is back in the news, since the Federal government has sued the state for violating the civil rights of "transgendered" people. Let's examine what's really going on there. Based on the comments I see on social media, it's not about what people think it is.
As "transgendered" people and their allies have been correctly noting, people have been using the bathrooms of the opposite sex for some time. They have done this by physically looking like the opposite sex, and by behaving as a member of the opposite sex would. It has been, in a word, surreptitious. No other person has had to accept what they do, but they have been able to do it. They were left alone to pretend that they were members of the opposite sex.
Leaving them alone wasn't enough for some localities in North Carolina. They insisted that their citizens must accept people using bathrooms made for the opposite sex. They codified this forced acceptance in law, saying that people could use whatever bathroom they wanted to (as long as they "identify as" that sex, whatever that means).
The state of North Carolina reacted by saying that no, localities couldn't legally force people to accept "transgendered" people as the opposite sex. This, in turn, triggered a backlash saying that of course people should accept "transgendered" behavior, and that of course "transgendered" people should use the bathroom that suits their imagined sex rather than their actual one. To think otherwise isn't merely to make bad law, but to be a bad person: bad enough that companies will refuse to do business in your state, entertainers will refuse to sing for you, and the federal government will sue your for violating people's bathroom-going rights.
So this isn't about rights, or violence, or sexual predators, or peeping Toms. It's about forcing people to accept the "progressive" view of sexuality.
Some months ago I wrote this post on the theories of New Testament scholar and apologist Michael Licona. Since then I've gathered some more material, some of it from his very large, earlier book The Resurrection of Jesus, which I had not then and still have not read cover-to-cover, but of which I have now read a good deal more than I had then.
I have also now read relevant passages from a book that Licona cites on the genre of the Gospels. This is classicist Richard Burridge's What Are The Gospels?
At the time of my original post, several people suggested both in private and in public that it was somehow remiss of me not to have waited for Licona's forthcoming book to come out. I disagree with this perspective quite strongly. Not only was my post based upon watching an hour-long public lecture and making detailed notes, but there is more material available on-line on the same topic, doing the same kinds of things, and subject to the same analysis. There is plenty of publicly available material right now for understanding and discussing Licona's approach.
May 4, 2016
Given Tuesday’s disappointing Republican primary results and the end of Ted Cruz’s campaign for the nomination as the Republican party’s presidential candidate, now is as good a time as any to look more closely at Trump’s actual ‘policy’ positions (to the extent he has any positions at all that won’t change at a moment’s notice when it is convenient for him) and discuss their relationship to the common good. I’m particularly interested in examining Trump’s views on international trade and I thought I would use as a springboard for my piece National Review’s Kevin Williamson, who caused a bit of a kerfuffle on the internet recently when he decided to take Donald Trump’s supporters to task. More specifically, Williamson had the gall to call out the white working class as the author of their own failures.
My reaction to last night's political events is available in a moderated form here.
May 1, 2016
A staff member at a Catholic college--or, to be more precise, a college in the Jesuit tradition, which isn't necessarily the same thing as a Catholic college--has been suspended (with pay, for the moment) while her terrible speech-hate-crime is investigated.
What did she do? She had the gall to stop and talk to some students advertising LGBTA@%!$!% week and to tell them (I know this will shock you) that the Catholic church teaches that there are only two genders. She also (this is even more shocking) referred to one of the students as a man even though he told her he "identifies" as non-gendered.
An alumnus of Loyola Marymount University (in LA) listened to the conversation on a cell phone and agreed with the staffer's account, stating that she was friendly and kind in her dialogue with the students.
April 26, 2016
One of the more sordid features of the Obama presidency is his willingness – nay, his seeming glee – in beating up on poor, helpless, defenseless females. In this particular, I am referring to the Little Sisters of the Poor.*
It is well known that Obamacare has been implemented by HHS with a contraceptive mandate. What is not quite as well known is the way this falls on certain employers, like the Little Sisters. The mandate as originally specified by HHS would require all employers to make sure that (mandated) contraceptive coverage was in the (mandated) health insurance package for employees. The Obama administration put this mandate in the regulation knowing perfectly well that it violated the long-standing tenets of several religious groups. They did not care. The law itself, basic Obamacare legislation, did not provide that contraceptive coverage was mandatory, that was an Obama policy decision. They knew that requiring it by regulation was a stretch, but they did not care.
This version of the regulation was quickly “fixed” with an “exemption”. Eligible religious organizations didn’t have to follow the rule if they have religious objections to providing contraceptives. The problem? The exemption was drawn incredibly narrowly, effectively to houses of worship and their affiliates only, contrary to standard laws and regulations exempting religious persons with conscience issues. The regulations put out received so many objections that HHS felt the heat and came up with a revision that they hoped would pass muster with enough of the religious groups that they could ignore the few remaining. The second “fix” was the so-called “accommodation”: to allow a religious employer to file a form with the government and insurer stating that they were religiously opposed to providing contraceptive care, and the insurer would then contact and provide contraceptive coverage to the employees (who wanted it) so called “separately”. Included in the package deal, of course, was the unmentioned but still present reality that contraceptive care remained a feature of the “plan” of insurance the employer was arranging. This is especially clear with respect to self-insured employer plans, who arrange to have a third-party administrator operate the system:
April 22, 2016
Canada has recently legalized "assisted suicide," even carried out by family members, friends, or anybody, using prescribed drugs.
Here's how it works. You induce someone 18 or older to ask for a lethal prescription on the grounds that he has a "grievous and irremediable condition." (Notice that we've abandoned even the pretense that the person is actually dying. Any grievous and irremediable condition will do.) He asks for it from a medical practitioner. You find two medical practitioners willing to certify that the person meets the criteria. This can't be too hard, because if someone you approach has conscientious objections he has to give you a referral to someone who will comply, known as an "effective referral."
Allegedly, the medical practitioners are supposed to confirm that the request wasn't made as the result of "external pressure," but given that they can lose their jobs and be in violation of the law if they don't provide aid in dying or an effective referral for it, it's not difficult to see where the incentives fall as far as certifying that the person isn't under "external pressure."
(One sweet little clause in the law says that someone else can even sign the request for the suicide pills if the victim is unable to sign! Yes, yes, the signature is supposed to be witnessed by witnesses without a conflict of interest, but still.)
Once the drugs are prescribed, that's it. Anyone else can help administer the drugs, behind closed doors, without supervision or oversight. The medical people are supposed to tell the victim (er, the person who "requests aid in dying") that he can withdraw his request later, but there is no mechanism at all for making sure that this is honored. For example, if the victim later doesn't want to take the pills and a beneficiary of the victim's will puts a gun to his head and says, "Take the pills," then lies and says that the person took them voluntarily, there will be no way to tell this and no investigation or prosecution.
In fact, the law expressly states that even if it turns out that the person didn't want to die and if someone "assisted" the victim in taking the pill under a "reasonable but mistaken belief" that the person wanted to die, the "assistant" is exempt from prosecution.
(2) No person is a party to culpable homicide if they do anything for the purpose of aiding a medical practitioner or nurse practitioner to provide a person with medical assistance in dying in accordance with section 241.2.
(3) For greater certainty, the exemption set out in subsection (1) or (2) applies even if the person invoking it has a reasonable but mistaken belief about any fact that is an element of the exemption.
How in the world it is decided that the "assistant" had a "reasonable" belief that the victim wanted to die at that particular moment is left unspecified, but my guess is that the original paperwork with the medical people that showed the person allegedly voluntarily requesting the drugs will be considered sufficient. What happened after that would be nobody's business to inquire.
To be clear: It's wrong to "help" people kill themselves even if they really want to kill themselves. But the murder of people who definitely don't want to kill themselves is wrong in a way that even the pro-death left usually recognizes, which is why they are always going on and on about "choice." This law is an outright invitation to outright murder of your inconvenient, disabled relatives and friends, as should be evident to anyone with a few legal brain cells. Wesley J. Smith talks about the DeLury case and how it would have been a perfect situation for the application of this law.
Choice devours itself. Every time. Make death your god, and death will make sure that a little thing like "choice" doesn't get in the way. I predict there will be plenty of outright murders under this new law in Canada.
April 17, 2016
[Update: The editor-in-chief of Eerdman's Publishing, James Ernest, writes here stating that Eerdmans did not commission or carry out the revision in question. Rather, that was apparently routed through IVP-UK; Eerdmans merely publishes what it gets from IVP-UK. Ernest says a lot of other things, such as that Stott's executors believe that this was done with Stott's approval. However, the very quotation that Ernest gives (and that I give in an early comment in the thread) from Stott's own new introduction indicates that Stott stated that the book was in some ways a "period piece" which "reflects the culture of its day" and "needs to be allowed to remain itself." It is flatly obvious that the radical changes made in the book do not follow that rubric. So in essence the major piece of information that James Ernest gives that is something other than opinion (and the relaying of the opinions of Stott's executors) is that apparently the publisher who actually put out this revision in the first instance is IVP-UK rather than Eerdmans and that Eerdmans just has to print what it gets from IVP-UK. I'm happy to issue that clarification, and readers should feel free to read both the full quotation from Stott's new preface (see comments) and Ernest's editorial.]
Via First Things comes the news that the evangelical publisher Eerdmans has issued a mangled revision of the late John R. W. Stott's Christian classic, Basic Christianity. In honor of the fiftieth anniversary of the book in 2008.
I suggest that if you are a lover of language and learning you read the First Things article only after taking your blood pressure medicine.
April 11, 2016
I'm bringing disparate elements together in this post, but what they all have in common is that they are cases where civil disobedience is going to be necessary. Very often Christians and moral people in the west have hoped that if we just keep our heads down we aren't actually going to have to engage in civil disobedience. In the abortion culture wars, for example, what has often been brought up is that nobody is ordering you to have an abortion, so civil disobedience like blocking a clinic entrance is morally optional. Laws requiring doctors to give referrals, though, call that diagnosis into question. The left is seldom willing to leave it at live and let live.
The latest such case concerning abortion is in California, where alternative crisis pregnancy centers are being required to advertise abortion services to women who consult them. Some in Sacramento are refusing, while meanwhile a first amendment lawsuit moves forward. A similar bill in New York State was defeated on first amendment grounds as requiring "forced speech" by the pro-life crisis pregnancy centers, but whether that will be done in the California case or not remains to be seen. Meanwhile, a federal judge has refused to put a stay on the enforcement of the law, which does not bode well. The centers are right to refuse to comply with this law.