Saturday, July 28, 2007

Pharmacists sue to avoid having to do their jobs

From the Department of Why'd You Become a Pharmacist Anyway? comes this story (actually the NYT via TFN):
SEATTLE (AP) -- Pharmacists have sued Washington state over a new regulation that requires them to sell emergency contraception, also known as the "morning-after pill."

In a lawsuit filed in federal court Wednesday, a pharmacy owner and two pharmacists say the rule that took effect Thursday violates their civil rights by forcing them into choosing between "their livelihoods and their deeply held religious and moral beliefs."


Under the new state rule, pharmacists with personal objections to a drug can opt out by getting a co-worker to fill an order. But that applies only if the patient is able to get the prescription in the same pharmacy visit.

Sold as Plan B, emergency contraception is a high dose of the drug found in many regular birth-control pills. It can lower the risk of pregnancy by as much as 89 percent if taken within 72 hours of unprotected sex.
I'll just ask a few questions that flow from logical extensions of what I presume to be the pharmacists' reasoning. First question: can a pharmacist who is also a Christian Scientist refuse to dispense any medication, preferring prayer instead? Or how about this: If a pharmacist refuses to dispense Plan B to a woman who had been raped, and she ends up having to carry the child to term, can the pharmacist be held responsible for child support payments? I ask this because (1) presumably the child's biological father would be in prison and therefore unable to make money for child support, and (2) most state laws put a child's best interests over the interests of the parents or other responsible parties and someone has to support the child.

Or is it just that life begins at conception and ends at birth for these pharmacists?

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Red tape for Jesus!!!

Religious strife in San Antonio? Who'd'a thunk it?
Evangelical Christians point to 1963 as the year God was kicked out of school.

That's when the U.S. Supreme Court upheld Madalyn Murray O'Hair's argument and abolished the practice of students reciting prayers and Bible passages in public schools.


This year, the Texas Legislature added more fuel to the decades-old debate by passing a law that could leave the spiritual conscience of a school up to the captain of the football team.

Lawmakers approved that law and two others that could ease the way for more religion in public schools. The changes will take effect when students return to classrooms in August.


The third new law, dubbed the Religious Viewpoints Anti-Discrimination Act, has superintendents nervous as they figure out how to implement it in the coming weeks.

It requires public school districts to adopt policies specifically allowing spontaneous religious expression by students. A so-called model policy included in the law states that upperclassmen who are student leaders — such as student council officers, class officers or the captain of the football team — should be designated as speakers.

The law does not address concerns that such a selection process could wind up leaving out minority faiths.

"This mandate is going to create a collision of ideas that should really take place outside of the school," Superintendent Richard Middleton of North East Independent School District said. "Our lawyer fees are going to go up because of this."

The new law creates a "limited open forum" that gives students the opportunity to speak about religious issues. It states that if a student speaker at a sports event, a school assembly or a graduation ceremony elects to express a religious viewpoint while addressing an otherwise permissible topic, school officials must treat the religious content the same as they would the secular content.
First of all, how puny is God in these evangelicals' conception, that a bunch of pansy-assed liberals could force Him out of schools? Doesn't sound like any sort of all-powerful deity to me, if He can't even stand up to the pencilnecks in the ACLU.

All mockery aside, though, does the Legislature have any idea what kind of hornet's nest they have created? Who am I kidding...of course they do. I can't say for sure what is going to happen, but I will be waiting for the first Wiccan, Neo-Pagan, or Pastafarian demanding equal time with the Southern Baptists. The battle is gonna be downright Biblical, I tell ya!

And that's really how our public school administrators should be spending their time. I have this feeling that somewhere over in India or China, there is a classroom full of young science students laughing their asses off at us.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Freedom of belief, as long as you believe, motherf****r

I had no idea that this was in the Bill of Rights of the Texas Constitution:
Article 1 - BILL OF RIGHTS

No religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office, or public trust, in this State; nor shall any one be excluded from holding office on account of his religious sentiments, provided he acknowledge the existence of a Supreme Being. (Emphasis added)
Other states do this, too, although these clauses tend to not stand up to court challenges.

Still, why risk it? Should I ever run for office, I shall declare my faith in the Invisible Pink Unicorn:

Friday, July 13, 2007

Hindus 1, Christianists 0

The story about the Hindu offering a prayer in the Senate has probably been talked to death by now, but I feel that it is appropriate to note that Washington is not in flames one day after the prayer was offered. The prayer did not occur without incident, of course:
WASHINGTON -- A Hindu clergyman made history Thursday by offering the Senate's morning prayer, but only after police officers removed three shouting protesters from the visitors' gallery.

Rajan Zed, director of interfaith relations at a Hindu temple in Reno, Nev., gave the brief prayer that opens each day's Senate session. As he stood at the chamber's podium in a bright orange and burgundy robe, two women and a man began shouting "this is an abomination" and other complaints from the gallery.

Police officers quickly arrested them and charged them disrupting Congress, a misdemeanor. The male protester told an AP reporter, "we are Christians and patriots" before police handcuffed them and led them away.

For several days, the Mississippi-based American Family Association has urged its members to object to the prayer because Zed would be "seeking the invocation of a non-monotheistic god."
Now that these three self-styled "Christians and patriots" have utterly embarrassed themselves, their religion, and anyone claiming the title "patriot," I have a few questions for them.

1. Is your objection to the prayer based specifically on the fact that it is Hindu in nature, or is it a more general objection to its "non-monotheistic" nature?
2. If your objection is to the "non-monotheism" of the prayer, what is/are your primary concern(s) about it? E.g., are you concerned about angering the one true God, or are you concerned that, as a result of "non-monotheistic" prayer, God will get confused?
3. Would any monotheistic prayer be acceptable? Christian? Jewish? Muslim? Sikh? Pastafarian?

I await your reply.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Catholic-on-Protestant Smackdown soon to follow

From CNN:
The Vatican on Tuesday said Christian denominations outside the Roman Catholic Church were not full churches of Jesus Christ.

A 16-page document, prepared by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which Pope Benedict used to head, described Christian Orthodox churches as true churches, but suffering from a "wound" since they do not recognize the primacy of the Pope.

But the document said the "wound is still more profound" in the Protestant denominations -- a view likely to further complicate relations with Protestants.

"Despite the fact that this teaching has created no little distress ... it is nevertheless difficult to see how the title of 'Church' could possibly be attributed to them," it said.

The Vatican text, which restates the controversial document "Dominus Iesus" issued by the then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger in 2000, said the Church wanted to stress this point because some Catholic theologians continued to misunderstand it.
Okay, we get it. You're infallible & stuff. I accede to your infallible bad-assedness.

Seriously, would someone in Rome please pay more attention to this guy? Maybe he just needs some friends. It must be lonely being pope.

Hindus in the House!!! (Senate, actually)

Time for a rant. In the realm of news-that-matters-not-a-bit-but-cannot-go-without-my-mockery, plans to have a Hindu open a Senate session with a Hindu prayer have ocked...well, somebody's world. Via Texas Freedom Network News Clips:
Date: July 10, 2007
From: American Family Association
By: Donald E. Wildmon, Founder and Chairman

Hindu to open Senate with prayer

Send an email to your senator now, expressing your disappointment in the Senate decision to invite a Hindu to open the session with prayer.

Dear ******,

Please read this news report from

On Thursday, a Hindu chaplain from Reno, Nevada, by the name of Rajan Zed is scheduled to deliver the opening prayer in the U.S. Senate. Zed tells the Las Vegas Sun that in his prayer he will likely include references to ancient Hindu scriptures, including Rig Veda, Upanishards, and Bhagavard-Gita. Historians believe it will be the first Hindu prayer ever read at the Senate since it was formed in 1789.

WallBuilders president David Barton is questioning why the U.S. government is seeking the invocation of a non-monotheistic god. Barton points out that since Hindus worship multiple gods, the prayer will be completely outside the American paradigm, flying in the face of the American motto "One Nation Under God."

"In Hindu, you have not one God, but many, many, many, many, many gods," the Christian historian explains. "And certainly that was never in the minds of those who did the Constitution, did the Declaration [of Independence] when they talked about Creator -- that's not one that fits here because we don't know which creator we're talking about within the Hindu religion."

Barton says given the fact that Hindus are a tiny constituency of the American public, he questions the motivation of Senate leaders. "This is not a religion that has produced great things in the world," he observes. "You look at India, you look at Nepal -- there's persecution going in both of those countries that is gendered by the religious belief that is present there, and Hindu dominates in both of those countries."

And while Barton acknowledges there is not constitutional problem with a Hindu prayer in the Senate, he wonders about the political side of it. "One definitely wonders about the pragmatic side of it," he says. "What is the message, and why is the message needed? And will it actually communicate anything other than engender with folks like me a lot of questions?"

Barton says he knows of at least seven cases where Christians have lost their bid to express their own faith in a public prayer.

Zed is reportedly the first Hindu to deliver opening prayers in an American state legislature, having done so in both the Nevada State Assembly and Nevada State Senate earlier this year. He has stated that Thursday's prayer will be "universal in approach," despite being drawn from Hindu religious texts.
I never could quite figure out that whole Trinity thing, but I'll take these guys at their word that Hinduism has more gods than Christianism.

Where to start with this, though? I find it amusing that there is concern as to the fact that "we don't know which creator we're talking about within the Hindu religion." Also, the mention of the "American motto" is a little disingenuous--not to mention somewhat belittling of the supposedly-vaunted Pledge of Allegiance. "One Nation Under God" is a pretty recent addition, relatively speaking.

What is most striking (and least surprising) about this whole letter, though, is the almost total lack of any actual information or rhetoric. There is speculation as to what was "in the minds of those who did the Constitution, did the Declaration [of Independence] when they talked about Creator." And there is the obligatory "wondering" as to the political motivations of those who arranged for this prayer. Apparently, in today's America, "wondering" as to someone's motives, even with no evidence, argument, or follow-up discussion, is enough to impugn said motives. At least, I assume that is what this letter intends to do, since it's stated purpose is to express "disappointment." If not, I cannot begin to speculate as to what it is intended for.

Finally, worthy of both ridicule and the most abject scorn is the observation about what Hinduism has done for us lately: "'This is not a religion that has produced great things in the world,' he observes. 'You look at India, you look at Nepal -- there's persecution going in both of those countries that is gendered by the religious belief that is present there, and Hindu dominates in both of those countries.'" I'm not exactly sure what he's talking about--is the strife in South Asia the fault of Hinduism? Maybe they should formally become a Christian nation--look how well it worked for Zambia!!!

They do note that the Hindu gentleman offered prayers in both houses of the Nevada Legislature. If Nevada goes the way of Nepal anytime soon, I guess I'll have to concede a few points.

Saturday, July 7, 2007

How far can people go to avoid their professional duties on religious grounds?

From Overlawyered:
Stephen Dunne, 30, flunked the Massachusetts bar exam and now says it was because he refused on principle to answer an exam question concerning the rights of two married lesbians, their children and property. He claims the hypothetical, which concludes with the question "What are the rights of Mary and Jane?", violated his First Amendment rights and served as a "screening device" to exclude persons like himself who disapprove on religious grounds of the state's gay marriage law.
Let's be clear about this: he left an answer on a bar exam completely blank. No he is suing a group of lawyers for offending his tender sensibilities. Speaking as a lawyer (albeit one who has neither taken the Massachusetts bar exam nor practiced law there, although I have been to Amherst and thought it was nice), this guy would have made a terrible lawyer anyway. There is really no way, if you want to be any good at what you do, to avoid opining on issues that you may find repellent. The law is what it is, and if you don't like it, a lawyer can (a) look for a sneaky way around it or (b) become a lobbyist and try to change it. The simple fact that this guy refused to even consider the question, IMHO, suggests that he does not understand the nature of being a lawyer at all.

I previously discussed doctors and pharmacists who don't want to do their jobs on religious grounds. What gets me about this case is that the guy didn't even try to answer the question. If he had at least written something that would pass as a bar exam essay, I'm not sure there'd be grounds for a lawsuit, but at least there could be a coherent discussion:
Dunne, who describes himself as a Christian and a Democrat, is seeking $9.75 million in damages and wants a jury to prohibit the Board of Bar Examiners from considering the question in his passage of the exam and to order it removed from all future exams.

“There’s a different forum for that contemporary issue to be discussed, and it’s inappropriate to be on a professional licensing examination,” Dunne told the Herald. “You don’t see questions about partial-birth abortion or abortion on there.”

Dunne scored a 268.866 on the bar exam, just missing a passing grade of 270. The exam question at issue concerns two married lesbian attorneys and their rights regarding a house and two children when one decides to end the marriage.
This question has nothing to do with the propriety, morality, validity, etc., of the "marriage" in question--it addresses a situation that is quite likely to occur in the real world (something that rarely happens in law school, trust me.) This guy chooses to skip an entire bar exam question, barely fails, and now blames someone else for offending him. Calling it a "contemporary issue" is one of the most creative non-sequiturs I've heard in some time. The practice of law is pretty dang contemporary, as in it deals with current issues like marriage and divorce--which is legal for homosexuals in Massachusetts, at least at the moment. If you don't think a lawyer should have to address that issue, you don't deserve to be a lawyer. And you make a pretty strange case for your religious beliefs, as well.

One final quote from the article, for my own amusement:
Dunne claims the question was used as a “screening device” to identify and penalize him for “refusing to subscribe to a liberal ideology based on ‘secular humanism,’ ”according to his lawsuit.

“Homosexual conduct is inconsistent with (Dunne’s) Christian practices, beliefs and values, which are protected by the First Amendment,” the lawsuit states.

“I respect people with alternative lifestyles, and we must do that in a civil society,” Dunne said. “I just have a different opinion that millions of people share with me, and I believe that my opinion should be respected just as much as (pro-gay) opinions. I have no intent in spreading hatred or discrimination.”

How to solve the rain problem

I think I have this figured out--i.e. the mind of God and how He chooses where to send rain. I chuckled at first when I read about how Church of England bishops were calling the torrential rains in England a form of God's judgment:
One diocesan bishop has even claimed that laws that have undermined marriage, including the introduction of pro-gay legislation, have provoked God to act by sending the storms that have left thousands of people homeless.

While those who have been affected by the storms are innocent victims, the bishops argue controversially that the flooding is a result of Western civilisation's decision to ignore biblical teaching.
At first I didn't see how one necessarily follows the other. Then my proud region of Texas began to experience the worst flooding in five decades:
As rain continued to soak much of Texas on Thursday, emergency officials said the state is experiencing its most extensive flooding since 1957, when floods ended a statewide drought.
Hold on, I wondered, what did we do to anger God in such a way??? I presonally have not had too much trouble with the rain, except for dealing with a wet dog several times a day. Then I saw the news today about the gay Catholics in Austin:
Lesbian activist Honour Maddock said the Roman Catholic Church's stance on homosexuality no longer bothers her...The 51-year-old from Long Island, N.Y., came to Austin this week with her partner, Kathleen Kane, to attend the 19th biennial convention of DignityUSA, an organization that offers support for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered Catholics.

Although gay Catholics are still frustrated by the increasingly conservative leanings of the church leadership, some say they are finding more acceptance in their local parishes.

About 225 members of Dignity's chapters across the country convened in Austin to continue spreading the message that "our sexuality is not in conflict with our Catholicism," said Jeff Stone, a national spokesman for Dignity.
Hello??? Was no one paying attention to the donwpours of the past three weeks??? How could this be anything but God warning us against teh gays??? Wait, you say it's "been caused primarily by a low-pressure area trapped between two high-pressure areas"??? No, I think it's teh gays...that seems like the more logical explanation. Anyway, back to my point--I have also noticed that the plethora of rain in Texas and England has occurred during a dearth of rain in Alabama (thank you, Thesaurus!), leading the governor to ask for official Days of Prayer for Rain:
With parts of Alabama suffering an exceptional drought, Governor Bob Riley is turning to God for help and asking other Alabamians to join him in praying for rain.

Riley has issued a proclamation declaring June 30th through July 7th as "Days of Prayer for Rain" and asked citizens to pray individually and in their houses of worship.
How about if the gay Catholics march on Montgomery for a change??? We've got more rain than we need here, thank you much.

And yes, I am aware that many, if not most, Christians will say that the above-quoted bishop does not speak for them and their faith. If that is the case, why don't more people who do not share his opinions yet call their faith by the same name not speak out against him and people who think like him? All of the decent, moral, and kind people I have ever known who followed the teachings of Jesus called their faith by the exact same name as this guy, this guy, and this guy. They are the most extreme examples I could think of on the spot. That's the point.