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Archive for the month “August, 2015”

Court Rejects RFRA and Religious Belief Defenses In Forced “Get” Case

This is from religionclause.blogspot.com which you can find here:

“In United States v. Epstein, (D NJ, March 19, 2015), a New Jersey federal district court, in a 53-page opinion, explained various rulings the court had made on religious-based defenses raised by defendants who were being tried on charges of kidnapping and conspiracy for using coercive tactics to Force Orthodox Jewish husbands to give their wives divorce documents (“get”).  The court rejected defendants’ contention that the Religious Freedom Restoration Act required dismissal of the indictment against them.  The court held:

I conclude that the Government’s decision to prosecute Defendants does not constitute a substantial burden on Defendants’ religious exercise. Further, even if a substantial burden does exist, I find that the Government has a compelling interest in preventing crimes of violence, and moreover, the arrest and prosecution of individuals who violate such criminal laws is the least restrictive means of enforcing that interest.

Defendants had argued that freeing an agunah (woman who was refused a get) is a mitzvah in Jewish law. The court responded:

[I]f Defendants had acceptable religious alternatives — instead of resorting to violating the criminal laws — I find that the Government’s application of the kidnapping laws to Defendants here does not substantially Defendants’ religious exercise.  Nevertheless, even if Defendants had exhausted all other available non-violent means of coercing a husband to give his wife a get, and the only remaining method of coercion, as argued by Defendants, is through violence or force, i.e., kidnapping, I remain convinced that would not amount to a substantial burden. This Court has not found any authority condoning the use of violence under the guise of religion, and more importantly, no case has found the Government’s application of violent crime laws to certain religious practices is a substantial burden.

The court also ruled that defendants’ religious beliefs do not negate the element of specific intent required for a conviction.  The court said in part:

According to Defendants, by signing the ketubah, an Orthodox Jewish husband promises to be bound by the laws of Moses and Israel, both to the authority of the beth din and to the halakhic, or the Jewish religious law, process of the “forced” get as the term is described by Maimonides.  Therefore, taken together, Defendants insist that because of their religious beliefs and because of their beliefs that the victims have consented to the coercive acts, i.e., kidnapping, Defendants lack the intent to commit the crimes as charged. The Court rejects this theory of defense.”

You can learn more about this issue here.

Establishment Clause Challenge To Church Directional Sign Moves Ahead

This is from religionclause.blogspot.com which you can find here:

“In Tearpock-Martini v. Shickshinny Borough, (MD PA, March 20, 2015), a Pennsylvania federal district court refused to dismiss an Establishment Clause claim against a municipality whose borough council (of which plaintiff was a member) voted to allow a church to install a sign on rights of way bordering plaintiff’s property over her objections. Borough street workers and one of the council members installed the sign which read “Bible Baptist Church Welcomes Your” and had a directional arrow with “1 block” written on it. In allowing plaintiff to move ahead, the court said:

The complaint makes sufficient allegations that the government placed the sign on the public right of way. The sign points in the direction of the church and contains a Bible and a cross. The circumstances surrounding the sign are very fact sensitive. For example, according to the plaintiff’s brief, the township does not permit other directional signs and denied the request of the local post office to place a sign. Depending on the facts that are revealed by discovery, a reasonable observer who is familiar with the history and context of the display may perceive a governmental endorsement of religion.

(See prior related posting.) Citizens Voice reports on the decision.”

You can learn more about this issue here.

NEARFest 2004: Photos and Memories

This post is in my series regarding the North East Art Rock Festival (NEARFest) more about which you can find here.  You can find all of my posts regarding NEARFest here and I started the series here.  You can also learn more about this particular Festival here and here.  The information below are just some highlights I remember and photographs I took from the Festival.

The lineup for NEARFest 2004 was (including Friday night):

Here is the 2004 logo, as designed by Roger Dean:


This was the sixth NEARFest and my fifth consecutive Festival.  This Festival was the third Festival to take place at at the Zoellner Arts Center on the campus of Lehigh University in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, and the first since 2001.  Starting with this Festival 0f 2004, the Zoellner Arts Center became its permanent home up to, and including, the final Festival.  I absolutely love the Zoellner Arts Center as a venue, and the environs in which it is found, and more on that can be found here.  It would seem that the experience of holding the Festival in Trenton was too expensive, traumatic, and stressful to make the extra revenue from the additional ~800 seats worth holding it there (I wrote more about the troubles in Trenton here).  This is just a guess, but it seems that the loss of revenue, and other  issues flowing from the Trenton Festivals, led to a slightly stripped down roster for this Festival in terms of “big names.”

As much as I love every NEARFest, I have to say that this Festival was one of the more lackluster Festivals as compared to the others.  The Strawbs, which at one point was Rick Wakeman‘s band, were rather a let down and underwhelming (and pretty rickety sounding at that) and Univers Zero, while I like them, are relentlessly RIO, which I find difficult to listen to for more than about thirty minutes.  Mike Keneally, who is an extremely talented guitar player (and occasional keyboardist) who has playing in Frank Zappa‘s band as part of his resume, was a fun performance, though I just have never really come around to truly enjoying Zappa-type music (though I respect it a lot).  This was also the year when mid-day solo spots started in order to help resolve the delays that became epidemic in Trenton.  The solo spot portion, which replaced what used to be a full band performance in prior Festivals, in 2004 were Richard Pinhas and Sean Malone, both of whom were interesting for a short while though, for me, became a little boring due to sonic monotony.  Pallas is a classic neo-prog band and I enjoyed them in that spirit, though I am not a huge fan of the sub-genre.  Planet X were just too loud and too constantly dissonant for me to enjoy for more than a few minutes.  This Festival’s great “find” was Hidria Spacefolk, which featured two very blonde Swedes with long dreadlocks, which was a space rock band with a sound that recalls Ozric Tentacles.  I thought this band was the best of the weekend with the exception of The Musical Box.  I am a huge fan of The Musical Box as they are a Genesis recreation band and they performed amazingly as usual.  They played a set from the Selling England by the Pound tour.  You can read more about The Musical Box here.

This Festival was the fourth Festival where I got to meet (again) the legendary Yes artist Roger Dean and, once again, he was as gracious as ever and signed a boat load of things for me as usual.  This was also one of the few Festivals where I did not have a seat within the first few rows, which, as it turned out, was not altogether a bad thing considering the line up this year.  One of the highlights for me was the appearance of Annie Haslam, whom I had never seen before this Festival.  No, she did not perform, either solo or with Renaissance, but she did talk prog rock and hawk her wares, which was some artwork.  She lived (and may still live) in Bucks County, Pennsylvania (about an hour-and-a-half’s distance from the Festival) so it seems obvious she would appear and I was surprised it took her this long to do so.  It was very exciting to me to have met such an icon of prog rock, though I have to say that I found her demeanor to be somewhat bitter and unpleasant.

Finally, this was the only Festival that I did not attend with my Uncle Jim.  Due to a scheduling anomaly, this Festival was held in July as opposed to the end of June (my Uncle, expecting a late June Festival, scheduled an early July vacation in Arizona).  As a result, I had to break up the Festival days between more than one person (I really cannot expect the better part of three days of relentless prog rock to be borne by someone who is not a die hard prog rock fan), so my friend, and former college roommate Steve, joined me for some performances, and my then girlfriend (now wife) Tiffani for some others.  I joked that between this Festival, this Yes concert, and a couple of other shows (like Rick Wakeman’s solo show and the concert which put her over the edge on prog rock (see here)), she proved, through her resiliency and grace in going to these shows, more than enough that we were destined to get married, which we did about a year and a half later.


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Poly-parenting: on the Horizon

In June 2015, in the matter of Obergefell v. Hodges, the United States Supreme Court has officially redefined marriage for every state in the United States to include not just traditional man/woman relationships, but also same-sex relationships (I have shared some thoughts on the future of marriage here).  There is a lot which could be said about the Court’s decision both in terms of the quality of the legal analysis in the decision itself as well as the fundamental issues regarding marriage it implicates.  In this post, I would like to focus on the implications this decision has on parenting.  There are other implications from the Court’s decision and you can read more about the philosophical problems with redefining marriage as the Court has done described above here.

What is marriage?  A good working definition of marriage can be found here.  To put it simply, marriage is a place where two people can have complete conjugal union in every respect, including spiritually, mentally, emotionally, and physically.  Not to get too graphic here, but suffice it to say here that only a man and a woman (and not a man/man or woman/woman) are physically complementary to allow for physical union (I do not think I need to get into details here, I am sure my point is clear).  Teleologically speaking, one of the primary purposes of the full and complimentary union of man and woman is to provide a place and context where sexual relations can occur and, again teleogically speaking, one of the primary purposes of sex is to conceive children.  Therefore, a marriage forms the structure in which a family – which is to say parents (a mother and father) and their children (i.e.: children related to both the father and the mother) – can form and develop.  As homosexuals have no way to reproduce with one another, it is impossible for them to create a family structure in which children can be conceived and, therefore, their relationships are something other than marriage.

Despite the above, and the essentially universal nature of both man/woman marriage (and the rejection of homosexual “marriage”) the world over for all of human history, the United States Supreme Court redefined marriage as including man/man and woman/woman relationships along side that of man/woman relationships (though I see no logical reason why the Court’s decision, by its language, ought not also include polygamy, but that is a topic for another post).  By so doing, the Court has formally (which is to say legally) separated the act of sex from marriage and, therefore, the conception of children from both: unlike a marriage, a homosexual relationship cannot engage in full physical conjugal union and, therefore, cannot conceive children and form a family, and, consequently, cannot form a marriage.

Traditionally, a parent of a child is the father or mother who conceived the child and those parents formed the marital family in which the child would be raised.  By contrast, a child within the “marital family” formed by a homosexual couple cannot be the child of both parents, therefore a homosexual “marriage” does not just redefine what a marriage is, but it also redefines what a parent is.  Now, a parent is not someone who is involved at all with a child’s conception; more than that, a parent is now not even someone who could have been involved in a child’s conception.  Instead of a father and mother – as both biology and human culture the world over for time immemorial have dictated – a child can now have a mother and a mother or a father and father.

Based on the above, I think the dawn of legally recognized same-sex “marriage” – and the advent of married fathers (without a mother) or married mothers (without a father) – blows open the doors as to precisely just what a parent is or is not and how many a child can have.  Of course, same-sex “marriage” advocates will bloviate about how my concerns are silly, unfounded, or possibly unrealistic, but, in so doing, those same people ignore the obvious philosophical (and I predict actual) implications of redefining marriage in the way they have succeeded in doing.

Firstly, it should be noted that the typical law across the United States is that a child born to a woman in a marriage is presumed to be the child of that woman’s husband in the marriage.  This presumption exists because the husband is biologically capable of conceiving a child with his wife.  In a same-sex “marriage” such a presumption simply cannot apply as the “husband” to another man cannot conceive a child with that other man and, similarly, a “wife” to another woman cannot conceive a child with that other woman.  As a result, there is no logical, let alone biological, reason to presume any child born to a woman in a same-sex “marriage” is the child of the other woman and certainly no child born to a “marriage” of two men can, in any rational way, be presumed to be the child of either man in the “marriage.”  Therefore, from the start, the connective tissue that is formed between a child and his parents is immediately corroded by same-sex “marriage” as the traditional presumptions of parenthood simply do not apply and are out-of-place to a “marriage” relationship which separates sex and children from marriage.

Since sex, children, and marriage are now separated – and the fundamental roles (or, indeed, need) of a “mother” and “father” undermined (since a child can now have two mothers and no father or two fathers and no mother) – it raises the question as to why we are locked into a two parent paradigm at all.  As indicated above, traditionally (and biologically) a woman and a man come together (physically but also in other ways) to conceive a child and that marital unit of mother and father, and the child they conceive, form the basis of the family.  This traditional view of the family reflects the obvious reality of biology that every child has two parents: the woman and the man involved in his conception.  The new paradigm of “marriage” involving two women or two men introduces the idea that a child’s parents can be two “mothers” (and no father) or two “fathers” (and no mother) with at best only one of the two being involved in his conception.  As a result, I see no compelling reason – and certainly no biological reason – why the number of a child’s parents should now be limited to two.  It makes sense to limit a child’s parents to two when a child’s parents are the two involved in conceiving him, but when marriage and parenthood are divorced (pun intended) from who conceives a child, what logic is there to stop at just two parents?  Why should a child be limited to just two parents?  Why not a third? or fourth? or as many as are willing?  Those other people are just as “related” to the child as his second “mother” or second “father” (or, indeed, either father).  We all know that people do not have to be married to have children, so the marital status of those other people is irrelevant.  So, since actual relationship to the child is now irrelevant I see no logical reason to limit a child’s parents to only two if the opportunity for more presents itself.

This leads to my next point: divorce and/or adoption.  Again, not to belabor the point, but one cannot forget that, traditionally speaking, a child’s parents were his mother and father (not his mother and mother or father and father); this can no longer be assumed.  Indeed, in a situation where a child is born to two people of the same sex, whose names are put on the birth certificate?  Both “mothers”?  Both “fathers”?  Obviously some sort of contractual arrangement for the provision of a sperm or egg donation would be required to have a child in a same-sex relationship so, as a result, I see no reason to expect the biological provider of the sperm or egg to be on the birth certificate.  “Logic” (if there is any as applied to justifying same-sex “marriages”) would seem to dictate that both women or both men would be on the birth certificate as the child’s “parents.”  With this in mind, consider the following very possible scenarios.  A woman “marries” another woman and has a child and both are the child’s “parents” according to the child’s birth certificate.  The women then divorce and one of the women subsequently gets into a relationship (or even marries) a man (indeed, if we take the “B” (“bisexuality”) in LGBT seriously I see no reason to discount this from occurring).  Does the man have a right to adopt the child?  The role of “father” has not been assumed by either “mother” so why should not he be able to adopt to create a trio of legal parental figures?  Similarly, what would stop a child who has, say, two legally “married” fathers, to be also adopted by a woman so she could become his “mother” as, prior to her adoption of the child, the child has no mother?  Alternatively, what if a man and woman conceive a child out of wedlock (and both the mother and father are on the child’s birth certificate) and then, subsequently, the man “marries” another man?  Why cannot that man who “married” the father adopt the child and become a “second father?”  After all, the role of “second father” is not a role played by the mother and, in light of man/man “marriages,” such a role apparently does exist.  Once the mother-and-father parental paradigm is abandoned, I see no logical or philosophical reason to stop at just the three parents contemplated above and, therefore, any number of permutations are possible.

As something of a parenthetical, I would like to briefly note that the assault on parenthood that things like same-sex “marriage” pose are built upon an underlying philosophical foundation that rejects the reality, need, significance, and/or distinction of/between the genders (just to be clear, by “genders” I, of course, mean male and female).  The proposition that “two fathers” can form a family unit that can claim any sort of parity or equity with the traditional mother-father family unit presumes, by definition, that a mother (which is to say a woman) does not and/or cannot offer anything unique and/or critical and/or significant to parenting a child that a man can (obviously the same applies the other way with “two mothers” implicitly presuming that a father (a man that is) also has nothing unique and/or critical and/or significant to parenting a child).  If each gender did offer something unique and/or critical and/or significant to parenting a child, then this absurd masquerade and/or parody of a two parent family featuring “two fathers” or “two mothers” would not even be considered much less formally recognized through the American legal system.  It goes without saying that the rejection of gender has opened the flood gates to things like the progress of the “trans” movement, same sex “marriage,” same sex adoption, and the like that has been seen in recent years.  These issues are the subject of another post; I just wanted to point out the above as something to note when thinking through these issues.

Now, some readers may note that there are families of all arrangements and that all could have something positive to offer.  Not everyone has a “perfect” family structure.  Indeed, the adoption of a child by a non-biologically related individual is an ancient and honorable practice.  How do these sorts of things fit in light of the above?  The first thing, I think, one has to acknowledge is that it is obviously true that not all families have, or even can have, a “perfect” family structure of a biologically related (and married) mother and father and their children. The children in these non-traditional families need as much love, guidance, and support as any other child.  The difference that these non-traditional families have – as compared to a same-sex parental family – is that they are known to be clearly not the ideal and it would be preferred for them to come closer to the ideal.  No one thinks that a non-traditional mother-and-father family which loses one to, say, death, is the same as one which did not lose one.  Instead, we view the loss of the parent as tragic and try and help the single parent.  The same goes for the non-traditional family created as a result of divorce or from conceiving a child out-of-wedlock.  No one thinks that the family structure that results from divorce and/or the circumstances which led to the divorce and/or conceiving a child out-of-wedlock have some sort of parity or equity with a traditional mother/father relationship.  Divorced parents and/or single parents may be excellent parents who truly love their children, but it is near-universally recognized that these are obviously not the ideal that a traditional mother/father home life can provide a child.  These examples are all contra-distinct from same-sex “parents” which are consistently presented as having a parity and/or equity with mother/father families (and, of course, thinking otherwise earns one the label of “homophobe”).

In terms of adoption, the context and purpose of adoption are profoundly different from that of same-sex “parents.”  An adoption is something that occurs as a way to remedy a tragedy and/or unfortunate circumstance (e.g.: a death of a parent or a divorce).  A child who is the subject of an adoption is a child who is lacking a parent  (or, indeed, both parents) and someone else steps in to fill the role of parent for that child that his biological parent has been unable to fill.  The adopting parent is acting with selfless mercy, love, and sacrifice when he elects to help a child through adoption by doing what he can to help heal the wounds that child has due to lacking a parent.  Adoption is a method by which a broken family can try and become whole again for that child.  Same-sex “parents” present a situation that is precisely opposite to that of adoption.  Same-sex “parents” do not try and remedy a broken family for a child, they are the cause of the broken family by intentionally depriving a child a mother (or father).  Furthermore, same-sex “parenting,” far from being the self-sacrificial act of adoption, is the inherently selfish act of intentionally depriving a child his mother (or father) in order to fill his/her own desire and want of having a child (regardless of how depriving the child of his other parent may affect the child).

Indeed, this selfishness was seen first hand with Elton John who took on a child with his “husband” knowing that it will “break [his] son’s heart” when he learns he has not got a mother (see here for more on this).  When considering “parents” like Elton John, I cannot help but think of King Solomon in 1 Kings 3:16 – 28.  This Biblical passage is the famous story of the two women who each claim to be the mother of the same child.  Solomon, in his wisdom, orders the child cut in half so both can have an equal share of the child.  When he gives the order, one woman accepts it because she simply and selfishly wants a child, while the other laments it and gives up her share of the child to the other woman to save the child’s life.  In response, Solomon adjudges the woman who gave up her share as the true mother as a mother is selfless toward her children and would never harm her own child.  As I stated above, same-sex “parents” create a division between children, sex, parents, and marriage.  I think Solomon’s wisdom applies to Elton John just as much as it did to that woman in the Bible, and something tells me that Solomon would not adjudge Elton John to be “his son’s” father as, by choosing to intentionally harm the child by “breaking his heart,” he has proven himself not to be the child’s father and simply someone who selfishly just wants a child.  This, of course, is an obvious consequence of philosophically separating children from parents and both from sex and marriage.

In wrapping up what has become a rather long post, I think it is worth exploring when any of the above will occur.  I do not think it will happen immediately as Western Civilization has just embarked the same-sex “marriage” experiment and needs to adjust to it.  The consequences of this experiment will reveal themselves gradually over time and may not be seen for some time.  I also think that Western Civilization still functions within, at least superficially, the superstructure created by Christian moral teaching.  To this point, Christian philosopher Alasdair MacIntyre in his book After Virtue (see here) presents a compelling case.  MacIntyre’s basic thesis is that in the many centuries prior to the Enlightenment, Christian moral teaching was the standard moral paradigm in Western Civilization and that paradigm rested comfortably atop the Christian foundation that formed the basis of the culture of Western Civilization.  The Enlightenment attempted to jettison the Christian foundation of Western Civilization and replace it with other more humanistic philosophies, yet, despite the jettisoning of the Christian foundation, the new and more humanistic philosophies which replaced it (in perhaps unintentionally ironic way) recognizes the value of Christian moral teaching and attempted to justify it without reference to Christian teaching.  Naturally, Christian moral teaching is incompatible, and indeed incoherent, resting on top of a foundation developed through the Enlightenment and that incompatibility is now becoming apparent, and why things like the legalization of no-fault-divorce, the legal recognition of same-sex “marriage,” and the legalization of abortion and euthanasia, and other similar things, have come to pass.  So, all that to say that the paradigm that a child has “two parents” is one which is deeply ingrained into human culture due to obviously the consequences of biology, but also because of the moral superstructure our culture has adopted from its Christian foundational history.  As we have seen with the advance of same-sex “marriage” and parenthood (as noted above), the biological reality of parenthood has become irrelevant, therefore, just it has elsewhere, it is only a matter of time when the Christian presumption of “two parents” is seen to be without foundation in a culture without a Christian foundation, and will fall by the wayside like other things already have.

Perhaps a bigger issue, though, is the overall devaluing of children and their commoditization (which, like a couple of other things noted above, is a subject for another post).  The over emphasis on children – say on Facebook or with “helicopter parents” – could imply that children are overvalued, but I view those developments as evidences as more consistent with their devaluation through their commoditization.  In today’s Western Civilization, children are no longer a gift and a blessing.  Instead, they are a cost, cramp in one’s style, and/or an accessory, and if they are too much of a cost and/or interruption in a parent’s life, they are easily killed off through abortion, or, if permitted to be born, neglected through the constant purchase of things to distract them (like the modern obsession with screens), lax parenting, and/or their consignment to camps, babysitters, daycare centers, and/or one too many after-school activities.  Indeed, it has been admitted by the pro-abortion movement that the lives of children are simply not worth that of their mother (see here), which justifies their murder through abortion.  Children are something a woman has to “get rid of” and fast (see here).  For many men  – including many who I come into contact through my office – children are nothing more than a child support order to avoid or reduce.  The devaluing of children is seen in the fact that the birth rate in Western Civilization is at historic lows and continuing to decline (see here).  So, needless to say, there will be some delay in the rise of poly-parenting simply because so many people in Western Civilization simply do not care about children or becoming a parent as our culture succumbs to a culture of death, decadence, and ever increasing egocentrism and narcissism.

When our culture abandoned the inherent, and implicit, connection between sex, parenting, children, and marriage, the door was flung open to all manner of innovations and perversions.  The post-Christian culture has been entirely unable to replace the Christian foundation on which our morality was developed with anything that has proven itself to be coherent and/or workable.  As a result, I see no logical reason to expect the two-parent paradigm to be something that is untouchable and unchangeable.  It is only a matter of time before the malignancy that led to things like same-sex “marriage” will find its way to parents, mothers, fathers, and children.

Unemployment Compensation Isn’t Very Charitable

A typical unemployment compensation matter is rather straightforward. The employer pays the unemployment compensation tax for each employee and the employee, if separated from employment through no fault of his own and if he has worked sufficient benefit weeks, applies for and receives benefits. This fairly typical scenario is significantly different when the employer is a not-for-profit entity.

If the employer is not-for-profit, while it is, with exception for the below, obliged to contribute toward unemployment compensation taxes, it is not obliged to do so with regularity per employee as with a typical employer. Instead, a not-for-profit entity has two other options available to it in order to accommodate the fact that it does not make a profit and may not have many assets to contribute toward the tax.

First, the not-for-profit entity can elect to use the “contributory method.” Under the contributory method, the employer must pay its unemployment compensation taxes quarterly and for the first $8,750 of each employee’s compensation, at a rate specified by the unemployment compensation law which can be found on the Pennsylvania Department of Labor’s website.

Second, the not-for-profit entity can elect to use the “reimbursable method”. Under the reimbursable method the employer must simply reimburse the Unemployment Compensation Fund, dollar-for-dollar, for the benefits outlaid. The reimbursement must be paid on a monthly or quarterly basis or else the not-for-profit employer will be switched to the contributory method.

Now, if the not-for-profit entity is a religious organization, it, pursuant to 43 Pa.C.A. Section 753(l)(4)(8)(a), is subject to a religious exemption and need not pay into the unemployment compensation fund at all but, as a result, none of the employees who work for that religious organization are able to collect unemployment compensation benefits regardless of the cause or reason for their termination and/or separation from employment. The aforesaid statute indicates that the religious organization exemption only applies to houses of worship, associations of the same, and/or entities which function and/or operate and/or are supported and/or controlled by the same which exist primarily for religious purposes. In applying this statute, cases such as Imani Christian Academy v. Unemployment Compensation Board of Review, 42 A.3d 1171 (Pa. Cmwlth. 2011) make it clear that an entity such as an even a religious school would likely not be eligible for the exemption as the a school’s primary purpose is education as opposed to religion. The law is clear that an entity’s primary focus must be religion in order to receive the exemption.

The rules and law for unemployment compensation are generally applicable to most employers, however if the employer at issue is a not-for-profit entity and/or a religious organization, it must be aware of the special rules and guidelines which apply specifically to them.

Originally published on May 14, 2014 in The Legal Intelligencer Blog and can be seen here.

Seventh Day Adventist Entitled To Unemployment Benefits After Being Fired For Saturday Absences

This is from religionclause.blogspot.com which you can find here:

“In Lester v. Butler, (GA App., March 17, 2015), a Georgia state appeals court held that a Seventh Day Adventist who refused to work on Saturdays for religious reasons cannot be denied unemployment benefits when she was fired for excessive absences.  The fact that she became a Seventh Day Adventist some three months after she took her job does not change the result.”

You can learn more about this issue here.

Suit Challenges School System’s Refusal To Give Teachers Good Friday Off

This is from religionclause.blogspot.com which you can find here:

“In Cranston, Rhode Island, this year for the first time the school committee eliminated Yom Kippur, Rosh Hashanah and Good Friday as school holidays.  Instead, it negotiated a collective bargaining agreement that allows teachers to take up to two days off each school year if they are required to attend religious services during the school day.  AP reports that on Monday the union filed suit because the school system has denied requests from some 200 teachers to take Good Friday off, even though they allowed teachers who requested it to take Rosh Hashanah off last fall. School Superintendent Judith Lundsten  says that the Good Friday requests are not covered by the collective bargaining agreement because Good Friday does not require attendance at religious services during school hours.  According to the Cranston Patch, the suit claims that the discriminatory denial of religious leave here is a breach of the collective bargaining agreement and a violation of the state Religious Freedom Restoration Act.”

You can learn more about this issue here.

Yes Posts and Reviews Roundup

Here is another addition to my series of Yes music posts.  I started this series here and you can read the others here.

I have posted multiple reviews of Yes related things and other Yes related posts and I thought it would be convenient to catalog them all in a single post.

Yes concert reviews (identified by the date of the show):

  • 10/25/97: Upper Darby Tower Theater – Open Your Eyes Tour
  • 12/12/99: Upper Darby Tower Theater – The Ladder Tour
  • 8/21/01: Philadelphia Mann Music Center – Magnification Tour
  • 8/8/02: Camden Tweeter Center – Full Circle Tour Part 1
  • 5/10/04: Philadelphia Spectrum – Thirty-Fifth Anniversary Tour Part 1
  • 9/3/04: Allentown Fairgrounds – Thirty-Fifth Anniversary Tour Part 2 (with Dream Theater opening)
  • 11/21/08: Borgata, Atlantic City – In the Present Tour Part 1
  • 7/28/09: Upper Darby Tower Theater – In the Present Tour Part 2 (with Asia opening)
  • 2/12/10: Tropicana, Atlantic City – In the Present Tour Part 3
  • 6/15/10: Upper Darby Tower Theater – In the Present Tour Part 4 (with Peter Frampton opening)
  • 4/2/11: Tropicana, Atlantic City – Rite of Spring Tour
  • 7/4/11: Camden Tweeter Center – Fly From Here Tour Part 1 (with Styx opening)
  • 7/20/12: Upper Darby Tower Theater – Fly From Here Tour Part 2 (with Procol Harum opening)
  • 4/7/13: Sands Bethlehem – Three Albums Tour Part 1
  • 8/3/13: Camden Tweeter Center – Three Albums Tour Part 2 – Yestival show (this show commemorated the 45th anniversary of Yes’ first show and included Roger Dean, The Musical Box, Carl Palmer ELP Legacy Band, Renaissance, Scale the Summit, Volto!, and The School of Rock)
  • 7/19/14: Upper Darby Tower Theater – Heaven & Earth Tour (with Syd Arthur opening)
  • 8/9/15: Borgata, Atlantic City – North American Summer Tour (with Toto opening)
  • 7/31/16: Sands Bethlehem – USA 2016 The Album Series Tour
  • 10/16/16: Keswick Theater in Glenside, PA – ARW Tour – An Evening of Yes Music and More
  • 8/14/17:  Hershey Theater in Hershey, PA – Yestival Tour
  • 10/1/17: Kimmel Center in Philadelphia – ARW Tour – An Evening of Yes Music and More
  • 7/20/18: The Fillmore in Philadelphia – 50th Anniversary Tour

Yes album reviews:

Yes concert statistics:

Yestival 1998:

Yes Tour Books:

Reviews of Yes guys’ activity outside of Yes:

Other Yes posts:

Book Review: The Last Superstition: A Refutation of the New Atheism, by Edward Feser

I have recently finished reading the book entitled The Last Superstition: A Refutation of the New Atheism, about which you can learn more here, by Edward S. Feser.  Feser is an associate professor of philosophy at Pasadena City College, visiting assistant professor of philosophy at Loyola Marymount University, and a visiting scholar at the social philosophy and policy center at Bowling Green State University.

Professor Feser is unabashedly a Roman Catholic philosopher who wrote this book specifically in response to the writings of the New Atheists.  One cannot get more than a few pages into his writing without realizing that, in addition to being a Roman Catholic, Feser is a totally committed devotee of the philosophy/theology of Saint Thomas Aquinas.  What is also notable about Feser’s writing, unlike what one may expect from a philosopher, much less a Christian one, is that it drips with acerbic sarcasm, humor, and wit, which makes what could potentially be very dry material very entertaining (or very annoying and infuriating if one is on the other side of the positions he argues).  Indeed, Feser ensures this book is very readable to even those who are most unfamiliar with philosophy as he goes to great lengths to explain basic philosophy before embarking on the meat of arguments.

Feser’s main agenda in the book is to demonstrate why and how the primary arguments proffered by the New Atheists are without merit.  His arguments are far more pointed and directed than, say, David Bentley Hart‘s are in his book The Experience of God: Being, Consciousness and Bliss (see more on that book here), which deals with many of the issues raised by the New Atheists.  The distinction is that Hart’s thesis is to present a “definition” of the term “God,” which also just so happens to address and expose many of the errors of the arguments put forth by the New Atheists, as opposed to Feser’s approach which is to formulate specific arguments in opposition to the New Atheists.

Feser’s book is more than just “negative” however (by negative I mean demonstrating how the New Atheists are in error); his arguments against the New Atheists generally take the more positive form of demonstrating how Thomism, and by genetic connection, Aristotelianism, are far more cogent and coherent worldviews, especially as it relates to God.

Feser, like Hart, has an extremely low opinion of the arguments presented by the New Atheists, and it is also clear, like Hart, his opinion is not merely due to some sort of personal bias toward theism or Christianity; rather, both men note the intellectual bankruptcy in the arguments and positions of the New Atheists in the face of authentic scholarship, indeed even the scholarship of atheists of better reputation.  Of course, as implied above, Hart’s approach to the New Atheist arguments is as merely an ancillary to his greater point in developing a clearer picture of God, whereas Feser meets them directly.

Feser, like Hart, notes that the New Atheists’ rejection of, or disbelief in, “god” does not at all speak to the Christian’s God as the “god” the New Atheists disbelieve in bears little resemblance to what Christians mean by “God.”  Furthermore, Feser takes the time to provide the reader a brief overview of the history of (relevant) philosophy so one can see what came before in philosophical thought, what now exists in it, and how that transition was made.  Upon setting the philosophical stage, Feser picks off each of the New Atheists by demonstrating and exposing the fact that none have “done their homework” due to their rather obvious unfamiliarity (or lack of understanding of) basic philosophy.  Furthermore, he reveals that their lack of philosophical literacy has caused them to develop their own philosophies (intentionally or unintentionally) to provide the foundations for their views that are completely incoherent and unable to withstand the most elementary of arguments and analysis.

Through the use of the teachings of Plato, Aristotle, and ultimately St. Thomas Aquinas, Feser convincingly demonstrates that cogent, coherent, and rational cases can be made for the existence of God, the soul, the afterlife, non-physical reality, and teleology.  Indeed, perhaps most central to Feser’s thesis is his approach to teleology, which is to say the purpose or function something has.  For the atheist, by definition and also, indeed, through his own arguments, teleology simply cannot exist as teleology assumes, by its own terms, a purpose or function giver (e.g.: God) which the atheist fundamentally rejects.  As a result, the atheistic approach to life, philosophy, and science is ultimately one which flounders around trying to develop a sensical worldview but is unable to do so as it rejects the tools available to do it.  Instead, without an understanding of basic philosophy and with a rejection of teleology, New Atheist philosophy has been forced to embrace completely irrational, incoherent, absurdist, and, indeed, superstitious, philosophies like eliminativism, scientism, idealism, and/or anti-realism (among others I am sure).  By contrast, Feser asserts, unlike the irrational worldview of the New Atheists, he can present a worldview that makes sense, is consistent with what we intuitively know to be real life, and can provide context, answers, and explanation for what we experience as life and reality.

Finally, it is worth noting that, despite being a Christian philosopher, Feser makes his arguments in this book without resorting to the Bible, Church teaching, or other religious authority.  Instead, his arguments are exclusively philosophical and arrived at through the use of reason and rational thinking.  Perhaps this aspect of the book is what will make it most powerful with the non-believer as it requires no submission to, or acceptance of, any religious teaching or text.  In order for one to understand and arrive at Feser’s conclusions, all one has to do is think, but, unfortunately, all most atheists are interested in doing is disbelieving.

McCutcheon v. FEC: The Effect on Campaign Finance

Here is an article by Lane J. Schiff, Esquire who is a former associate at my firm.  This article was originally published in Upon Further Review on April 16, 2014, and can be seen here.

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