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Archive for the tag “14”

4th Circuit Hears Oral Arguments In Graduation Prayer and Venue Case

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

On Tuesday, the U.S. 4th Circuit Court of Appeals heard oral arguments in American Humanist Association v. Greenville County School District. (Audio of full oral arguments.) At issue was the graduation ceremony prayer policy of the Greenville County, South Carolina school district, as well as its practice of holding some graduation ceremonies at a religious chapel on a local college campus. (See prior posting.) Greenville News reports on the oral arguments.

You can learn more about this issue here.


Ecclesiastical Abstention Requires Dismissal of Suit Over Sikh Temple Membership

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

In Singh v. Sandhar(TX App., May 10, 2016), a Texas appellate court, on the basis of the ecclesiastical abstention doctrine, dismissed a suit contesting the membership list that was used by a Sikh temple in determining who was eligible to vote in an election to select members of the temple’s 7-member executive committee known as the Prabandhak Committee. The court held:

The temple’s alleged failure to follow its bylaws on a matter of internal governance involves ecclesiastical concerns, and civil courts may not interfere in these matters when disposition of church property is not at stake.

You can learn more about this issue here.

The Citadel Refuses Religious Accommodation In Uniform Requirement

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

Washington Post reported yesterday on a controversial decision by The Citadel to refuse a religious accommodation to its strict student uniform requirement.  The South Carolina public military college will not allow a Muslim student who has been admitted to wear her hijab. According to the paper:

[T]he fact that [the school] was considering an exception … set off shock waves among alumni. The idea pleased some in the close-knit corps, who felt it could be an important symbol of religious freedom and inclusiveness. But it upset others who felt it would clash with the mission and ideals of the Citadel, where loyalty, teamwork and uniformity are paramount.

At the Citadel, students are expected to leave behind their individuality … and form opinions based on character rather than appearance. Allowing one student to wear something completely different struck many as antithetical to that mission. And some objected, as well, because exceptions have apparently not ever been made for other religions. Christian cadets have been told not to display crosses, for example.

That the exception was being considered at a time when the role of Islam in U.S. culture is so polarizing …  made the issue particularly incendiary far beyond the Charleston, S.C., campus.

You can learn more about this issue here.

Lawsuit Challenges Mississippi’s New Freedom of Conscience Law

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

ACLU of Mississippi announced yesterday that it has filed suit against the state’s Registrar of Vital Records on its own behalf and on behalf of a same-sex couple challenging recently enacted Mississippi H.B. 1523, the Freedom of Conscience From Government Discrimination Act.  While the Act broadly protects various actions of government and private businesses based on religious or moral beliefs that marriage is a union of one man and one woman, that sexual relations should be reserved to heterosexual marriage, or that gender is an immutable characteristic determined at birth (see prior posting), the lawsuit largely focuses on provisions allowing county clerks to recuse themselves from issuing marriage licences. The complaint (full text) in Alford v. Moulder, (SD MS, filed 5/9/2016) seeks declaratory and injunctive relief that the law violates the equal protection and due process clauses of the 14th Amendment.  It argues that the requirement for the Registrar of Vital Records to keep a list of those who have opted out of performing same-sex marriages amounts to creation of a “no-same-sex couples allowed” list.  Alluding to the other provisions of the law, the complaint adds:

HB 1325 subjects same-sex married couples in Mississippi to a lifetime of potentially humiliating denials of ordinary assistance and places a badge of inferiority upon their marriages each time they celebrate one of the ordinary incidents of family life.

You can learn more about this issue here.


Suit Challenges 25-Foot Cross In Florida Park

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

The American Humanist Association yesterday announced the filing of a federal court lawsuit against the city of Pensacola, Florida to challenge the city’s ownership, maintenance and display of a 25-foot tall Christian cross that stands alone in the city’s Bayview Park.  The complaint (full text) in Kondrat’yev v. City of Pensacola, Florida, (ND FL, filed 5/4/2016) says that the history of the cross is uncertain, but it is used solely for Christian Easter sunrise services each year. The cross was placed in the park sometime between 1951 and 1965, probably by the Jaycees. Easter services in the park pre-date the erection of the cross there. The lawsuit seeks an injunction ordering removal of the cross from government property.

You can learn more about this issue here.

6th Circuit: Remaining Convictions In Amish Beard-Cutting Case Stand

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

In United States v. Mullet, (6th Cir., May 4, 2016), the U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed convictions of 15 members of the Bergholz, Ohio Amish community on charges of conspiracy, concealing evidence and lying to the FBI.  The convictions grew out of hair and beard-cutting attacks by one faction of the Amish community against other Amish. Originally defendants had also been convicted of hate crimes, but those convictions were reversed in an earlier appeal due to faulty jury instructions. The government chose not to retry defendants on those charges. (See prior posting.)  In yesterday’s decision, the 6th Circuit held that because the challenges raised to the remaining convictions were not raised in the first appeal, they cannot be raised now.  The court also rejected various challenges to the sentences imposed by the trial court.  Reuters reports on the decision.

You can learn more about this issue here.

Muslim Woman Sues Long Beach Police Over Forced Removal of Hijab

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

“A suit was filed last week in federal district court in California against the city of Long Beach and its police by a Muslim woman who says that her hijab (headscarf) was forcefully removed while she was being booked by police and held overnight in jail on outstanding warrant charges.  The complaint (full text) in Powell v. City of Long Beach, (ED CA, filed 4/29/2016), alleges that police policy violates RLUIPA, the 1st Amendment and the California constitution.  It seeks damages and an injunction requiring a change in policy so that the police department accommodates religious head wear of those being booked into police custody.  The suit also seeks to enjoin the public release of plaintiff’s booking photo which shows her with her head uncovered. LA List reports on the lawsuit.”

You can learn more about this issue here.

Yes, Topographic Drama – Live Across America: a Review

This post is the part of my Yes concert series of posts.  I started this series here and you can read the others here.

Yes has just released its latest live album called Topographic Drama – Live Across America documenting their 2016 tour.

The line-up Yes fielded on this album is:

The track list is as follows (the album from which the songs come in parenthesis):

Disc One:

Disc Two

  • Review:

I have written several reviews on this blog.  I have reviewed albums, concerts, movies, and books.  One of the things I have realized is that any review, whether good or bad or high quality or low, is almost always dependent upon what one expects from the thing reviewed.  Deviation from expectation nearly always leads to bad reviews while meeting expectations nearly always leads to good.  There is also the “damned-if-you-do-damned-if-you-don’t” variation of the expectations problem of making an album that sounds too much like prior albums (is this respect for an established sound or a reflection of a lack of creativity?) or sounding too little like prior albums (is this disrespect for an established sound and rejecting what Yes (or whomever) is “supposed” to sound like?); Yes’ last studio album Heaven and Earth suffered from this quandary (see here).  I have done my best to acknowledge my expectations when reviewing things, but I am sure I, too, have fallen victim to expectations.

I mention this because, as this is a Yes album purchased nearly only by Yes fans (I doubt many causal music listeners are buying a random new live album by a ~50 year old prog rock band that is largely out of fashion).   Jon Anderson, Yes’ co-founder, composer, and long time vocalist, left Yes in 2005 or so, and Yes has toured and released albums and videos without him since 2008.  It goes without saying that Anderson is enormously influential on Yes and, for many, is inherently identified with Yes.  Similarly, Chris Squire, Yes’ other co-founder who defined Yes’ sound for a generation and is the only member who never left the band and is the only member present in every official Yes iteration until 2015, died in June 2015.   Indeed, due to his constant presence in the band from its founding to his death, Squire, too, is often inherently identified with Yes.

I mention the above because, no matter what this album sounds like and no matter how good the performances are, this album will never pass muster or sound like “real Yes” for many fans.  Davison and Sherwood are different people than Anderson and Squire and, despite their similarities to Anderson and Squire, can never precisely duplicate Anderson or Squire (of course, if they did, they would be then accused as aping Anderson and Squire, which leads to an impossible conundrum: on one hand they are criticized for not sounding like Davison and Sherwood, but on the other, if they sound too similar, they are accused of being uncreative copycat hacks.  I suppose this is why some say Anderson and Squire should never be replaced and Yes should fold.).   In light of this, this album, and indeed this iteration of Yes, will never be heard in a positive way by many Yes fans due to its lack of Anderson and/or Squire.  So, just for full disclosure, while I am a Yes “fanatic,” I am of the school of thought that is willing to allow Yes to move on from Anderson and Squire and into a new reality where Davison and Sherwood are taking the band into its next phase of existence, and will judge it accordingly.

This album documents the 2016 tour.  I had the opportunity to see a show from the 2016 tour and most of my thoughts about this album mirror that show, so I will not repeat what I said about that show here; just look at my review for my thoughts on it here.  Instead, I will just focus on this album.

With the above out of the way, and in the light of the above, I can say that this album is an excellent album of well played and well executed Yes music.  The playing is at the level a Yes fan should expect.  The vocals are soaring and well harmonized.  The guitar playing is aggressive and intricate.  The drumming is solid and driving.  The keyboard playing, arguably the most questionable of the instruments in this iteration of Yes, are exactly what one should expect from a Yes keyboard player: Downes plays expertly and successfully adds his own flavors to Rick Wakeman‘s material albeit in his own style.  Finally, Sherwood’s bass playing, which is significant in Yes history as this is the first time Squire is not the bass player on an album, more than does Squire justice.  Sherwood plays all of the parts with heart and maintains a very Yes sound while giving his bass tone a sound unique to him.  Sherwood is somehow able to channel Squire, his style and sound, all the while sounding like himself at the same time.  It is really magical and exactly what one should expect from a Yes member.

The sound of this album is near perfect.  Every instrument is clearly audible, well balanced, and easily identifiable.  All the vocals, sounds, and playing are really crisp.

I loved hearing the Drama material, which from 1981 to 2008 was totally ignored, played in full here.  It was really special to hear “Into the Lens” and “Does it Really Happen?” as those songs have not been played live since 1980.  Perhaps most interesting is that this album documents a live performance of “Run Through the Light” which had never been performed live before the 2016 tour.

This album, to me, is a superb Yes album.  Unless one specifically listens for the stylistic differences between Davison and Anderson or Downes and Wakeman or Squire and Sherwood, I found it very easy to get lost in the music and sound and forget who is in the lineup.  This album, despite featuring a very new and different lineup, sounds like Yes and what Yes should sound like.

If I had to, there are admittedly some nits to pick.  The tempo in some of the songs is a tad slow (mainly the songs featuring White as the drummer).  So, “Machine Messiah” is a little slow, “Roundabout” seems a little slow to my ears (perhaps this is only in contrast to older live versions which were faster than in the studio), and “Starship Trooper” (though this is mainly Howe’s doing).  Of course, when it comes to “Starship Trooper,” its been slower since the band started trying to precisely replicate the studio version starting in 2013 (see here), and the slower tempo I hear is in contrast to older and faster live versions and not the studio version.  Some say “Tempus Fugit” sounds slow, but I think it sounds as fast as any live version I have heard and that, according to Howe, it has never been played live as fast as on the studio.  “Roundabout” is a snore to me (and usually skipped to be honest), but that is mostly due to it being utterly overplayed and over-included on collections like this.  Finally, it probably goes without saying that Davison was brought on board because he can sing Anderson’s songs well and in the same (or similar) register as Anderson and in a similar style.  Unfortunately, one of the featured albums on this collection is Drama which features Trevor Horn as lead vocalist.  Davison’s voice creates a little bit of a different feel for the Drama songs as compared to how Horn sang them.  For a lot of it, honestly, you do not notice it, but there are times, like during “Does it Really Happen?” or “Into the Lens,” where Horn’s vocals are short, crisp, trippy, or terse, as opposed to Anderson’s more soaring and melodic vocals, where Davison’s approach is a bit of an awkward fit to the music.  On one hand his vocals could be seem as an interesting approach, and a window into how Anderson could have approached this material, while, on the other, they seem ill-suited to the music which was crafted for Horn’s vocals.  Luckily those moments are fairly few and far between.  Indeed, for the heavy-duty Yes fan, Davison’s take on “Does it Really Happen?” could be an interesting insight into how Anderson would have sung the song were he to have remained in the band as it was, interestingly enough, originally an Anderson song (see here for a recording of the song with Anderson).  In fact, Davison sheds a little light on what an Anderson sung Drama could have sounded like in general.

I have to say that I really enjoyed this album as it shows a new Yes with energy that has its own stamp while, at the same time, sounding like how Yes is expected to sound.

  • Packaging:

The album is packaged as a digipak and the artwork is pictured below.  As one can see, the album artwork is standard Roger Dean work and also includes some quality photographs of the band.

  • Photographs:

5th Circuit: Texas Prisons’ Grooming and Headwear Policies Violate RLUIPA

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

“Reflecting the approach taken last year by the U.S. Supreme Court in Holt v. Hobbs (see prior posting), yesterday the U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals in Ali v. Stephens(5th Cir., May 2, 2016) held that the Texas prison system’s grooming and headwear policies violate a Muslim inmate’s rights under RLUIPA.  The court affirmed the trial court’s grant of declaratory and injuctive relief to allow an observant Muslim inmate to grow a 4-inch beard and wear his kufi throughout the prison facility.”

You can learn more about this issue here.

Cert. Denied In Challenge To Alabama Prisoner Grooming Restrictions

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

“The U.S. Supreme Court yesterday denied review in Knight v. Thompson, (Docket No. 15-999, cert. denied 5/2/2016). (Order List.) In the case, the U.S. 11th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the Alabama prison system’s grooming requirement that prohibited Native American inmates from wearing long hair, even for religious reasons. (See prior posting.) AP reports on the denial of certiorari.”

You can learn more about this issue here.

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