judicialsupport

Legal Writing for Legal Reading!

Archive for the tag “d abuse”

6th Circuit Rules In Firefighter’s Claim of Retaliation for Religious Speech

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

In Hudson v. City of Highland Park, Michigan, (6th Cir., Nov. 22, 2019), the U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals in part reversed a district court’s dismissal of claims by a firefighter that he was dismissed in retaliation for his religious views.  The court summarized the facts:

Hudson worked for the Highland Park Fire Department from 2002 to 2015. Over time, he developed a reputation for two things: being an effective firefighter and being outspoken about his Christian faith. According to Hudson, the other firefighters had reputations too—for watching pornography in communal spaces and engaging in extra-marital affairs at the fire station. All of this created tension. He criticized their behavior, and they responded with disrespectful comments about his religious practices and sexual orientation. The back and forth went on for five years.

Hudson was fired after he claimed extra hours on his time sheet and reported he had worked the same shift for two different employers. The 6th Circuit held, however, that Hudson had shown enough to avoid dismissal on the pleadings of his claim that the Chief had fired him because of his speech. The court however affirmed the dismissal of his Title VII religious discrimination claim, saying in part:

Employees are free to speak out about misconduct in the workplace without subjecting themselves to discharge for rocking the boat…. Employees are no less free to root legitimate criticisms about the workplace in their faith than in any other aspects of their worldview. For many people of faith, their religion is not an abstraction. It has consequences for how they behave and may require them to be witnesses and examples for their faith. That reality does not permit differential treatment of them because they criticize behavior on moral grounds stemming from religious convictions as opposed to moral grounds stemming from secular convictions. “Let firemen be firemen” is not a cognizable defense to Title VII claims based on gender discrimination, race discrimination, or faith-based discrimination.

Even so, Hudson’s disparate treatment claim fails…. He cannot show that the city’s justification for his discharge amounted to a pretextual basis for discriminating against him because of his faith. The fire department put forth a legitimate, non-discriminatory reason for treating Hudson differently. He falsified his time-sheets while other firefighters did not.

Judge Kethledge, dissenting in part, would have affirmed the dismissal of Hudson’s claim that he was fired in retaliation for his speech. Judge Stranch dissented in part, contending that Hudson should have been allowed to move ahead on his hostile work environment claim which the majority held should be dismissed.

You can learn more about this issue here.

Is Busyness Jeopardizing Our Souls?

Today it seems everyone’s favorite response to the common, probing introductory question, “How are you?” is this: I’m busy. Very busy. Extremely busy. I’m guilty of this response more than I care to admit. Of course, many of us are—actually—extremely busy. Many of us are stretching ourselves razor thin, fulfilling the necessary obligations of life: tending to our jobs, families, and children, addressing the infinite list of errands and to-dos, scheduling time for exercise, friends, entertainment, bills, volunteer work. The list goes on. Endlessly.

Technology, despite its aim to lessen our collective human burden (which it no doubt has in some ways), has helped fuel this increasing and widespread condition known as busyness. The ease with which we can connect to the world—be it to our work emails or social media relationships—allows us to be permanently “plugged in.” We can get away from the crowd and commotion of our lives physically to seek rest, but we can still pick up our phones to engage with them just as if we never left.

There is a great Corona commercial from a few years back that comes to mind. The scene begins with the crystal blue of the ocean. The camera pulls back to reveal a woman reclining comfortably in a beach chair. To her left, and mostly off camera, a man throws stones into the ocean, leisurely skipping rocks on an afternoon in some coastal paradise. We’re left with only the lull of the ocean and soft splashing of rocks dancing on the water’s surface. Suddenly we’re interrupted by the buzz of a phone. The man, after a moment’s hesitation, picks up the disruptive object and hurls it into the ocean. He watches it skip a few times before it disappears into the blue. I’m sure many of us at times wish we could do the same and cast away any and all reminders of our stack of obligations, our plethora of duties. If only…Yet, even though tossing an expensive phone into the sea might not be the most prudent of things to do—in fact, in most cases it would be pretty stupid—I think it can be easy to forget that we do still have a choice. We can still, in a sense, turn the phone off.

The New York Times article “The Busy Trap” by Tim Kreider explains that our “busyness” often serves as a euphemism for “exhaustion.” We’ve become so busy with keeping ourselves busy—incurring an endless list of tasks and unchecked boxes—that we’re drained, restless, and, well, exhausted. The article continues, claiming that “busyness,” despite the temptation to believe it’s been forcefully hoisted upon our shoulders—like some compulsory sentence doled out without our permission or desire—is a condition of life we’ve opted for:

“The present hysteria is not a necessary or inevitable condition of life; it’s something we’ve chosen, if only by our acquiescence to it.”

The article continues to expose the impetus of choosing such a depleting way of life:

“Busyness serves as a kind of existential reassurance, a hedge against emptiness; obviously your life cannot possibly be silly or trivial or meaningless if you are so busy, completely booked, in demand every hour of the day.”

And so we are left wondering how to combat this “emptiness,” this lurking sense that without our busyness—without being able to point to an impressive life of endless activity—we risk a life of little or no value.

Christianity speaks of the inestimable worth of human life not because of what it does—or even has the potential to do—but because it is made in the image and likeness of God. We are valuable and of infinite worth because God says we are with words that form reality and reveal truth. The rupture then that can occur within our souls is when that subtle lie starts to creep in: the one dictating that our actions make us worthy—that what we do makes us lovable in the eyes of God. To use the secular language of Kreider’s article, we rely on our actions to provide “existential reassurance” that we are worthy. To use Christian terminology, we rely on our actions to provide reassurance of God’s love and approval. And so, it seems, idleness isn’t the only playground on which the devil enjoys playing. He’s quite fond of its opposite as well.

It goes without saying that we’re still called to act. Our actions help reveal who we are, and as human beings gifted with reason, talents, desires, and a noble vocation to build up and spread God’s kingdom, we must do so through action. Yet, rather than our activity being the ultimate gauge of our souls, it serves instead to reflect them more perfectly. Thomas Merton, in his highly meditative and sagacious work No Man Is An Island, brilliantly explores the possible dangers of activity in the life of a soul:

“My soul can also reflect itself in the mirror of its own activity. But what is seen in the mirror is only a reflection of who I am, not my true being. The mirror of words and actions only partly manifests my being.”

Merton recognizes the value of actions—again, we are not called to do nothing, for “faith without works is dead”—but a soul’s state is not based only on the merit of its actions. We can be easily misled to look for proof of God’s love in tangible evidence, saying, “See, look here! I’ve done this, this and this, so therefore I’m a good, worthwhile and lovable person!”

“In order to settle down in the quiet of our own being we must learn to be detached from the results of our own activity…The fact that our being necessarily demands to be expressed in action should not lead us to believe that as soon as we stop acting we cease to exist. We do not live merely in order to “do something”—no matter what…We do not live fully merely by doing more, seeing more, tasting more, and experiencing more than we ever have before. On the contrary, some of us need to discover that we will not begin to live more fully until we have the courage to do and see and taste and experience much less than usual.”

Not only does the busyness of our work—even very good work—lead to an emptying of our true selves, but we become confused, bereft of the ability to understand who we are. Activity can clue us in on how we’re doing; yet, we are not what we do. And if we fail to see that, then our good acts can become emptied of love, an attempt to win God’s favor rather than express our love for him and others. Does our busyness keep us from loving? In the words of Mother Teresa, we must “never be so busy as not to think of others.”

Merton’s words pluck a very deep chord within me. As someone who is generally motivated and intensely devoted to a routine in order to be productive, I know that I’ve fallen squarely into the trap of relying on my actions to validate my worth in God’s eyes. And just as I’ve falsely assumed I’m “more lovable” because of certain things I’ve done, I’ve also done the opposite: labeled myself unworthy of God’s love because of a failure to do certain other things.

It’s been through prayer and an honest assessment of my actions and motivations in the space of his love that I’ve come to realize the danger of idolizing a life rife with activity. I have to keep reminding myself that no matter what I do—no matter how good or noble the action—it should always be done as a response to God’s love, not a plea for it. Love respects our freedom, gently compelling us to love always in all we do, not coercing us to love in order to be loved. And loving doesn’t always have to take form in obviously good action. It can be leisurely done in a spirit of gratitude, “meaningless” conversations with friends, and even restorative play and sport.

So what can we do to ensure our lives of busyness don’t lead to exhaustion and a loss of self? It’s nothing new: we must build into our lives a space for prayer and fruitful reflection. Even if it’s not much, we must strive to sit in the presence of the Eucharist at Adoration, read scripture and meditate on its application to our lives, or sit in silence listening to the voice of love that speaks words of affection, encouragement, and counsel. We must learn to be more like Mary, and less like Martha, in a world that unremittingly asks, “What have you done for me lately?” If we do not pray, and silently reflect on who we are often and consistently, we will continue to live in a state of exhaustion and boredom. And how can we honestly say we’re Christ’s disciples if we don’t ever allow him to tell us what to do or not do? God may want us to forgo certain activities, no matter how good, so that he can invite us into something else. If we take time to reflect, we will hear the voice of God. As Søren Kierkegaard said, “Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards.” So let us take time to review our lives and who we are in prayerful reflection, receiving the nourishment and strength to move forward with lives filled with fruitful, grace-led, and meaningful activity.

By Chris Hazell and published on Word on Fire on February 22, 2018 and can be found here.

 

Proselytizing Does Not Rise To Level of Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress

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

In Trombetta v Kruse, (NY Civ. Ct., Nov. 19, 2019), a New York state trial court held that a proselytizing pamphlet and a subsequent e-mail did not amount to intentional infliction of emotional distress, nor was any injury proven. According to the court:

The pamphlet … shows a cartoon depiction of a catholic who is sent into the “lake of fire” to “burn in hell” for practicing as a catholic, instead of following the version of Christianity promoted by the pamphlet which is evangelical Baptist. The tract urges the reader to reject Catholicism, or be barred from heaven….

… [D]efendant wrote plaintiff an email that included the following statements: … My family does not believe and, if any of them were to die tomorrow, they would not go to heaven but to hell. I sent them tracts because I do not want them to go to hell. I want them to go to heaven. It is what I want for you too.

The court held in part:

The First Amendment to the United States Constitution prohibits the courts of this State from evaluating the religious beliefs of a church or individual….

While the court understands why the plaintiff found the tract and email disturbing, the court does not find that the conduct rose to the level of intentional infliction of emotional distress.

You can learn more about this issue here.

5th Circuit Upholds Stay of Execution For Buddhist Inmate

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

In Murphy v. Collier, (5th Cir., Nov. 12, 2019), the U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals, in a 2-1 decision, upheld a stay of execution granted last week by a Texas federal district court in the case of a Buddhist inmate who challenges the access he will have to his religious adviser prior to his execution. The district court granted a stay to allow it time to explore factual concerns about the balance between the inmate’s religious rights and the prison’s valid concerns for security. (See prior posting.) Christian and Muslim inmates have access to chaplains until the moment they enter the execution chamber.  Members of other religions have access to their outside clergy only until 5:00 p.m.on the day of execution. In his majority opinion for the 5th Circuit, Judge Dennis wrote in part:

We conclude that the district court did not abuse its discretion in granting Murphy’s stay. We agree with the district court’s implicit finding that Murphy has a strong likelihood of success on the merits of his claim that the TDCJ policy violates his rights by allowing inmates who share the same faith as TDCJ-employed clergy greater access to a spiritual advisor in the death house.

Judge Elrod dissented, saying in part:

Because I believe Murphy did not demonstrate that he is likely to succeed on his brand-new, untimely, and unexhausted claim regarding the TDCJ’s pre-execution holding-area protocol, I would hold that the district court abused its discretion in granting Murphy’s motion for stay of execution.

CNN reports on the decision.

You can learn more about this issue here.

Tucker Carlson: Mitt Romney supports the status quo. But for everyone else, it’s infuriating

Newly-elected Utah senator Mitt Romney kicked off 2019 with an op-ed in the Washington Post that savaged Donald Trump’s character and leadership. Romney’s attack and Trump’s response Wednesday morning on Twitter are the latest salvos in a longstanding personal feud between the two men. It’s even possible that Romney is planning to challenge Trump for the Republican nomination in 2020. We’ll see.

But for now, Romney’s piece is fascinating on its own terms. It’s well-worth reading. It’s a window into how the people in charge, in both parties, see our country.

Corporate tax cuts are also popular in Washington, and Romney is strongly on board with those, too. His piece throws a rare compliment to Trump for cutting the corporate rate a year ago.

That’s not surprising. Romney spent the bulk of his business career at a firm called Bain Capital. Bain Capital all but invented what is now a familiar business strategy: Take over an existing company for a short period of time, cut costs by firing employees, run up the debt, extract the wealth, and move on, sometimes leaving retirees without their earned pensions. Romney became fantastically rich doing this.

Meanwhile, a remarkable number of the companies are now bankrupt or extinct. This is the private equity model. Our ruling class sees nothing wrong with it. It’s how they run the country.

Mitt Romney refers to unwavering support for a finance-based economy and an internationalist foreign policy as the “mainstream Republican” view. And he’s right about that. For generations, Republicans have considered it their duty to make the world safe for banking, while simultaneously prosecuting ever more foreign wars. Modern Democrats generally support those goals enthusiastically.

There are signs, however, that most people do not support this, and not just in America. In countries around the world — France, Brazil, Sweden, the Philippines, Germany, and many others — voters are suddenly backing candidates and ideas that would have been unimaginable just a decade ago. These are not isolated events. What you’re watching is entire populations revolting against leaders who refuse to improve their lives.

Something like this has been in happening in our country for three years. Donald Trump rode a surge of popular discontent all the way to the White House. Does he understand the political revolution that he harnessed? Can he reverse the economic and cultural trends that are destroying America? Those are open questions.

But they’re less relevant than we think. At some point, Donald Trump will be gone. The rest of us will be gone, too. The country will remain. What kind of country will be it be then? How do we want our grandchildren to live? These are the only questions that matter.

The answer used to be obvious. The overriding goal for America is more prosperity, meaning cheaper consumer goods. But is that still true? Does anyone still believe that cheaper iPhones, or more Amazon deliveries of plastic garbage from China are going to make us happy? They haven’t so far. A lot of Americans are drowning in stuff. And yet drug addiction and suicide are depopulating large parts of the country. Anyone who thinks the health of a nation can be summed up in GDP is an idiot.

The goal for America is both simpler and more elusive than mere prosperity. It’s happiness. There are a lot of ingredients in being happy: Dignity. Purpose. Self-control. Independence. Above all, deep relationships with other people. Those are the things that you want for your children. They’re what our leaders should want for us, and would want if they cared.

But our leaders don’t care. We are ruled by mercenaries who feel no long-term obligation to the people they rule. They’re day traders. Substitute teachers. They’re just passing through. They have no skin in this game, and it shows. They can’t solve our problems. They don’t even bother to understand our problems.

One of the biggest lies our leaders tell us that you can separate economics from everything else that matters. Economics is a topic for public debate. Family and faith and culture, meanwhile, those are personal matters. Both parties believe this.

Members of our educated upper-middle-classes are now the backbone of the Democratic Party who usually describe themselves as fiscally responsible and socially moderate. In other words, functionally libertarian. They don’t care how you live, as long as the bills are paid and the markets function. Somehow, they don’t see a connection between people’s personal lives and the health of our economy, or for that matter, the country’s ability to pay its bills. As far as they’re concerned, these are two totally separate categories.

Social conservatives, meanwhile, come to the debate from the opposite perspective, and yet reach a strikingly similar conclusion. The real problem, you’ll hear them say, is that the American family is collapsing. Nothing can be fixed before we fix that. Yet, like the libertarians they claim to oppose, many social conservatives also consider markets sacrosanct. The idea that families are being crushed by market forces seems never to occur to them. They refuse to consider it. Questioning markets feels like apostasy.

Both sides miss the obvious point: Culture and economics are inseparably intertwined. Certain economic systems allow families to thrive. Thriving families make market economies possible. You can’t separate the two. It used to be possible to deny this. Not anymore. The evidence is now overwhelming. How do we know? Consider the inner cities.

Thirty years ago, conservatives looked at Detroit or Newark and many other places and were horrified by what they saw. Conventional families had all but disappeared in poor neighborhoods. The majority of children were born out of wedlock. Single mothers were the rule. Crime and drugs and disorder became universal.

What caused this nightmare? Liberals didn’t even want to acknowledge the question. They were benefiting from the disaster, in the form of reliable votes. Conservatives, though, had a ready explanation for inner-city dysfunction and it made sense: big government. Decades of badly-designed social programs had driven fathers from the home and created what conservatives called a “culture of poverty” that trapped people in generational decline.

There was truth in this. But it wasn’t the whole story. How do we know? Because virtually the same thing has happened decades later to an entirely different population. In many ways, rural America now looks a lot like Detroit.

This is striking because rural Americans wouldn’t seem to have much in common with anyone from the inner city. These groups have different cultures, different traditions and political beliefs. Usually they have different skin colors. Rural people are white conservatives, mostly.

Yet, the pathologies of modern rural America are familiar to anyone who visited downtown Baltimore in the 1980s: Stunning out of wedlock birthrates. High male unemployment. A terrifying drug epidemic. Two different worlds. Similar outcomes. How did this happen? You’d think our ruling class would be interested in knowing the answer. But mostly they’re not. They don’t have to be interested. It’s easier to import foreign labor to take the place of native-born Americans who are slipping behind.

But Republicans now represent rural voters. They ought to be interested. Here’s a big part of the answer: male wages declined. Manufacturing, a male-dominated industry, all but disappeared over the course of a generation. All that remained in many places were the schools and the hospitals, both traditional employers of women. In many places, women suddenly made more than men.

Now, before you applaud this as a victory for feminism, consider the effects. Study after study has shown that when men make less than women, women generally don’t want to marry them. Maybe they should want to marry them, but they don’t. Over big populations, this causes a drop in marriage, a spike in out-of-wedlock births, and all the familiar disasters that inevitably follow — more drug and alcohol abuse, higher incarceration rates, fewer families formed in the next generation.

This isn’t speculation. This is not propaganda from the evangelicals. It’s social science. We know it’s true. Rich people know it best of all. That’s why they get married before they have kids. That model works. But increasingly, marriage is a luxury only the affluent in America can afford.

And yet, and here’s the bewildering and infuriating part, those very same affluent married people, the ones making virtually all the decisions in our society, are doing pretty much nothing to help the people below them get and stay married. Rich people are happy to fight malaria in Congo. But working to raise men’s wages in Dayton or Detroit? That’s crazy.

This is negligence on a massive scale. Both parties ignore the crisis in marriage. Our mindless cultural leaders act like it’s still 1961, and the biggest problem American families face is that sexism is preventing millions of housewives from becoming investment bankers or Facebook executives.

For our ruling class, more investment banking is always the answer. They teach us it’s more virtuous to devote your life to some soulless corporation than it is to raise your own kids.

Sheryl Sandberg of Facebook wrote an entire book about this. Sandberg explained that our first duty is to shareholders, above our own children. No surprise there. Sandberg herself is one of America’s biggest shareholders. Propaganda like this has made her rich.

We are ruled by mercenaries who feel no long-term obligation to the people they rule. They’re day traders. Substitute teachers. They’re just passing through. They have no skin in this game, and it shows.

What’s remarkable is how the rest of us responded to it. We didn’t question why Sandberg was saying this. We didn’t laugh in her face at the pure absurdity of it. Our corporate media celebrated Sandberg as the leader of a liberation movement. Her book became a bestseller: “Lean In.” As if putting a corporation first is empowerment. It is not. It is bondage. Republicans should say so.

They should also speak out against the ugliest parts of our financial system. Not all commerce is good. Why is it defensible to loan people money they can’t possibly repay? Or charge them interest that impoverishes them? Payday loan outlets in poor neighborhoods collect 400 percent annual interest.

We’re OK with that? We shouldn’t be. Libertarians tell us that’s how markets work — consenting adults making voluntary decisions about how to live their lives. OK. But it’s also disgusting. If you care about America, you ought to oppose the exploitation of Americans, whether it’s happening in the inner city or on Wall Street.

And by the way, if you really loved your fellow Americans, as our leaders should, if it would break your heart to see them high all the time. Which they are. A huge number of our kids, especially our boys, are smoking weed constantly. You may not realize that, because new technology has made it odorless. But it’s everywhere.

And that’s not an accident. Once our leaders understood they could get rich from marijuana, marijuana became ubiquitous. In many places, tax-hungry politicians have legalized or decriminalized it. Former Speaker of the House John Boehner now lobbies for the marijuana industry. His fellow Republicans seem fine with that. “Oh, but it’s better for you than alcohol,” they tell us.

Maybe. Who cares? Talk about missing the point. Try having dinner with a 19-year-old who’s been smoking weed. The life is gone. Passive, flat, trapped in their own heads. Do you want that for your kids? Of course not. Then why are our leaders pushing it on us? You know the reason. Because they don’t care about us.

When you care about people, you do your best to treat them fairly. Our leaders don’t even try. They hand out jobs and contracts and scholarships and slots at prestigious universities based purely on how we look. There’s nothing less fair than that, though our tax code comes close.

Under our current system, an American who works for a salary pays about twice the tax rate as someone who’s living off inherited money and doesn’t work at all. We tax capital at half of what we tax labor. It’s a sweet deal if you work in finance, as many of our rich people do.

In 2010, for example, Mitt Romney made about $22 million dollars in investment income. He paid an effective federal tax rate of 14 percent. For normal upper-middle-class wage earners, the federal tax rate is nearly 40 percent. No wonder Mitt Romney supports the status quo. But for everyone else, it’s infuriating.

Our leaders rarely mention any of this. They tell us our multi-tiered tax code is based on the principles of the free market. Please. It’s based on laws that the Congress passed, laws that companies lobbied for in order to increase their economic advantage. It worked well for those people. They did increase their economic advantage. But for everyone else, it came at a big cost. Unfairness is profoundly divisive. When you favor one child over another, your kids don’t hate you. They hate each other.

That happens in countries,  too. It’s happening in ours, probably by design. Divided countries are easier to rule. And nothing divides us like the perception that some people are getting special treatment. In our country, some people definitely are getting special treatment. Republicans should oppose that with everything they have.

What kind of country do you want to live in? A fair country. A decent country. A cohesive country. A country whose leaders don’t accelerate the forces of change purely for their own profit and amusement. A country you might recognize when you’re old.

A country that listens to young people who don’t live in Brooklyn. A country where you can make a solid living outside of the big cities. A country where Lewiston, Maine seems almost as important as the west side of Los Angeles. A country where environmentalism means getting outside and picking up the trash. A clean, orderly, stable country that respects itself. And above all, a country where normal people with an average education who grew up in no place special can get married, and have happy kids, and repeat unto the generations. A country that actually cares about families, the building block of everything.

What will it take a get a country like that? Leaders who want it. For now, those leaders will have to be Republicans. There’s no option at this point.

But first, Republican leaders will have to acknowledge that market capitalism is not a religion. Market capitalism is a tool, like a staple gun or a toaster. You’d have to be a fool to worship it. Our system was created by human beings for the benefit of human beings. We do not exist to serve markets. Just the opposite. Any economic system that weakens and destroys families is not worth having. A system like that is the enemy of a healthy society.

Internalizing all this will not be easy for Republican leaders. They’ll have to unlearn decades of bumper sticker-talking points and corporate propaganda. They’ll likely lose donors in the process. They’ll be criticized. Libertarians are sure to call any deviation from market fundamentalism a form of socialism.

That’s a lie. Socialism is a disaster. It doesn’t work. It’s what we should be working desperately to avoid. But socialism is exactly what we’re going to get, and very soon unless a group of responsible people in our political system reforms the American economy in a way that protects normal people.

If you want to put America first, you’ve got to put its families first.

Adapted from Tucker Carlson’s monologue from “Tucker Carlson Tonight” on January 2, 2019 and can be seen here.

Southern Baptists versus United Methodists

There’s a pervasive narrative today of conservative Christian demographic decline. This narrative is partly based on reality and partly based on wishful thinking by some. But this narrative typically ignores the far more dramatic implosion of liberal white Mainline Protestantism.

The popular conventional narrative asserts that young people in droves are quitting evangelical Christianity because it’s too socially and politically conservative. Of course, the implication is that if only Evangelicalism would liberalize, especially on sexuality, then it might become more appealing.

But all the available evidence as to what happens to liberalizing churches strongly indicates the opposite. Mainline Protestantism is in many ways what critics of Evangelicalism wish it would become. And yet the Mainline, comprised primarily of the “Seven Sister” historic denominations, has been in continuous free-fall since the early to mid-1960s. Its implosion accelerated after most of these denominations specifically liberalized their sexuality teachings over the last 20 years.

The facts of Mainline Protestant decline are easily available. And yet the Mainline, once the dominant religious force in America, has declined so calamitously that for many it’s become almost forgotten. Often, when I speak to young people, I must explain what the Mainline is. Many young people, when they think of non-Catholic Christianity, are only familiar with Evangelicalism, which displaced the Mainline decades ago as America’s largest religious force.

So it’s necessary to repeat what’s happened to the Mainline. The Episcopal Church peaked in 1966 with 3.4 million and now has 1.7 million (50% loss). What is now the Presbyterian Church (USA) peaked, in its predecessor bodies that later merged, in 1965 with 4.4 million, and is at 1.4 million (68% loss). The United Church of Christ peaked in 1965 with 2.1 million and now has 850,000 (60% loss). What is now the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), in its predecessor bodies that later merged, peaked in 1968 with 5.9 million and now has 3.5 million (41% loss). The Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) peaked in 1964 with over 1.9 million and now has just over 400,000 (80% loss). United Methodism, in its predecessor bodies, peaked in 1965 with over 11 million and now has 6.9 million in the USA (nearly 40% loss). The American Baptist Church peaked in 1963 with over 1.5 million and now has less than 1.2 million (25% loss.)

During the Mainline implosion the percentage of Americans belonging to the Seven Sister denominations declined from one of every six Americans to one of every 22. If the Mainline had simply retained its share of population it would stand today at about 55 million instead of about 16 million.

Nearly all the Mainline denominations have liberalized their sexuality standards over the last 15 years, precipitating accelerated membership loss. For example, the Presbyterian Church (USA) overturned its disapproval of homosexual practice in 2011 and declined from 1.9 million to 1.4 million in 2017, losing half a million members, or 25% in just 6 years. The Episcopal Church elected its first openly homosexual bishop in 2003 and declined from 2.3 million to 1.7 million, or 26%. The two Mainline denominations that have not officially liberalized on sexuality, United Methodism and American Baptists, have declined the least.

So the proposal from some that conservative stances on sexuality precipitate church decline is not of itself supported, as the fastest declining denominations in America, and throughout the West, have liberalized on sexuality. Some conservative denominations are declining, but all growing denominations in America and the world are conservative theologically and on sexuality.

Recently I have tweeted some of these statistics about Mainline decline, with respondents insisting that Evangelicals are declining too. But by some counts, Evangelicalism is retaining its share of the American population while liberal Protestantism is plunging.

All growing denominations in America are conservative, including the Assemblies of God, which in 1965 had 572,123 and now has 3.2 million (460% increase), the Church of God in Cleveland, which in 1964 had 220,405 and now has 1.2 million (445% increase), the Christian Missionary Alliance, which in 1965 had 64,586 and now has 440,000 (576% increase), and the Church of the Nazarene 1965, which in 343,380 and now has 626,811 (82% increase).

Common responses to reference of Mainline decline are BUT THE SOUTHERN BAPTISTS! And it’s true that America’s largest Protestant body has been declining for 18 years. But its decline from 16.4 million to 15 million represents an 8 percent loss, not comparable to the average Mainline loss of nearly 50%. Southern Baptists displaced Methodism as America’s largest Protestant body in 1967 and now outnumber United Methodists by two to one.

Southern Baptists leaders commonly bewail their 18-year membership decline and urge more focus on evangelism. Their aggressive church planting resulted in 270 additional congregations in 2017 and a twenty percent increase in congregations over the last 20 years, with a strong focus on creating new black and Hispanic congregations. The Southern Baptist Convention likely is more racially diverse than Mainline Protestant denominations, which are over 90% white. And Southern Baptist worship attendance, even amid membership decline, increased by 120,000 in 2017.

Mainline Protestantism shows no sign of any institutional desire to reverse its 53-year membership decline, instead doubling down on the theological and political stances that fueled much of this decline. Some of its denominations, like the Presbyterian Church (USA), at current rates of decline, may not exist in 15 years or less.

Sometimes the demise of Mainline Protestantism is equated with the demise of American Christianity. Media sometimes report dying Mainline congregations without citing different stories at newer evangelical churches. But just as common if not more so is the narrative of ostensible Evangelical decline. White Evangelicalism maybe in decline, but Evangelicalism is increasingly multiethnic. Some evangelical denominations, like the Assemblies of God, which has no racial majority, successfully reach immigrant populations, while Mainline Protestantism fails to do so.

Here’s my suggestion on why there’s lots of focus on supposed Evangelical decline based on its purportedly unappealing moral stances. Evangelicalism surged during the 1970s through 1990s, including growing campus ministries, creating new generations of evangelical young people, some of whom later recoiled from the conservative religious upbringing of their youths. They sometimes blog and pontificate on the failures of evangelical culture, commending an idealized more liberal Christianity, usually unaware of already preexisting liberal Christianity’s dramatic collapse.

Meanwhile, Mainline Protestantism, when its implosion started in the early to mid-1960s, began losing baby boomers and barely had representation among subsequent generations. In recent decades there have not been many young people left in the Mainline who could subsequently complain or pontificate about experiences in their liberal denominations.

It’s important to reiterate the details of Mainline Protestantism’s long and ongoing spiral as a warning to other churches. Whatever the problems of evangelical Christianity, becoming more like liberal Mainline Protestantism is not a remedy.

By Mark Tooley and publisned on December 14, 2018 in Juicy Ecumenism and can be found here.

 

Organization Lacks Standing To Claim Sexual Orientation Discrimination By Christian Business Owners

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

In Lexington-Fayette Urban County Human Rights Commission v. Hands On Originals(KY Sup. Ct., Oct. 31, 2019), The Kentucky Supreme Court dismissed on standing grounds a suit against a small business whose Christian owners refused on religious grounds to print T-shirts for a Pride Festival. The court held that because the discrimination complaint was filed only by a gay-rights organization, plaintiff lacks statutory standing:

[B]ecause an “individual” did not file the claim, but rather an organization did, we would have to determine whether the organization is a member of the protected class, which we find impossible to ascertain. No end user may have been denied the service who is a member of the protected class, or perhaps one was. If so, then the determination would have to follow whether the reason for denial of service constitutes discrimination under the ordinance, and then whether the local government was attempting to compel expression, had infringed on religious liberty, or had failed to carry its burden under KRS 446.350. But without an individual, as required by Section 2-32(2)(a), this analysis cannot be conducted.

Justice Buckingham filed a concurring opinion, arguing that the Human Rights Commission had unconstitutionally attempted to compel the business to express ideas with which it disagreed.

You can learn more about this issue here.

America Is Intolerably Intolerant

A nation devoid of grace immiserates its people.

When you think of the sheer vindictiveness of what happened to Oklahoma quarterback Kyler Murray, it takes your breath away. On the very night of his greatest career triumph, a reporter dug up his old tweets (composed when he was a young teenager), reported on the most offensive insults, and immediately and irrevocably transformed his online legacy. Now he’s not just “Kyler Murray, gifted quarterback and humble Heisman winner,” but also the man who was forced to apologize for his alleged homophobia. And for what purpose? Which cause did the reporter advance? Where was the cultural gain in Murray’s pain?

The incidents happen so fast, and the firings are so quick, that they start to blur together. Can you remember November’s victims? October’s? Who lost their jobs this summer? Who was forced to apologize this spring?

In other words, if you’re in the middle of the shame storm, you can only take it. Even the act of self-defense magnifies the incident and magnifies the harm. It’s as if one doesn’t just wear the scarlet letter: It’s tattooed on one’s forehead in ever-brighter and bolder shades the longer the controversy endures.

I know that complex social phenomena have multiple and complex causes, but consider the terrible surge in teen depression and suicides — a surge that led Jean Twenge to ask in The Atlantic, “Have Smartphones Destroyed a Generation?” She tracks the tipping point at the moment when smartphone ownership became ubiquitous with young Americans. In 2012, the percentage of Americans who owned smartphones passed 50 percent. In 2012, the mental health of teenagers declined dramatically.

Of course, the “smartphone” is a stand-in for what’s on the phone, and what’s on the phone is a stunning amount of fury and intolerance. Look, for example, at this chart of political hatred in the United States, from the new book Prius or Pickup: How the Answers to Four Simple Questions Explain America’s Great Divide:

Teen depression, adult political anger, adult “deaths of despair,” shame campaigns — I don’t think we can look at any of these things entirely in isolation. Instead, I see them as symptoms of a post-Christian America that has become intolerably intolerant. It is a society without grace. It’s a society that’s all too often devoid of mercy — or in which the merciful don’t have nearly the same cultural power as the merciless.

Human beings need forgiveness like we need oxygen. The thing that is so shattering about the shame storm is that it is usually grounded in something a person did wrong — even if it’s a minor transgression. Even if it’s just momentary thoughtlessness. Even if it’s just a tweet. In her essay, Andrews described how the attack from her boyfriend was grounded in her very real mistreatment of him during their relationship. Take any given controversy, and you’ll usually find that the person at the center isn’t proud of what they did. They wish they hadn’t done it. At some level, the person at the center of the shame storm is also ashamed of themselves.

Oh, we can “do justice” — with vindictive glee. But are we kind? Do we have the slightest trace of humility? As any Christian who grew up in the bonds of fundamentalist legalism can tell you, justice untempered by mercy grinds the human heart into dust. And now we’re besieged by a secular fundamentalism that positively delights in inflicting pain on its enemies.

Of course we can and should disagree — even sharply — with bad ideas, but we should take very great care before any person uses the power of their platform — great or small — to attempt to humiliate another human being. Criticism can be conducted with respect and with the humble awareness that our own mistakes are ample and easily found. In fact, it’s hard to improve on Helen Andrews’s wise counsel:

The solution, then, is not to try to make shame storms well targeted, but to make it so they happen as infrequently as possible. Editors should refuse to run stories that have no value except humiliation, and readers should refuse to click on them. It is, after all, the moral equivalent of contributing your rock to a public stoning. We should all develop a robust sense of what is and is not any of our business. Shame can be useful — and even necessary — but it is toxic unless a relationship exists between two people first. A Twitter mob is no more a basis for salutary shaming than an actual mob is for reasoned discussion. That would be true even if the shaming’s relics were not preserved forever by Google, making any kind of rehabilitation impossible.

Or, perhaps it is better to end less with an exhortation than a warning — one grounded in ancient truth: “For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you.” An intolerant nation is a miserable nation. Only forgiveness can light the trail out of the darkness.

By David French and published in National Review on December 12, 2019 and can be found here.

 

Shame Storm

After a lifetime of impeccably correct opinions, Ian Buruma found himself on the wrong side of the liberal consensus in September 2018, when he was forced to resign as editor of the New York Review of Books for having commissioned a piece called “Reflections from a Hashtag” from the disgraced Canadian broadcaster Jian Ghomeshi. One does not get to be editor of the NYRB without having filament-like sensitivity to the boundaries of acceptable opinion. Buruma’s virtuosic handling in 2007 of the controversy over his New York Times Magazineprofile of Tariq Ramadan, in which he wrote indulgently of his subject’s radical Islamic views—and scathingly of Ayaan Hirsi Ali’s secularist opposition to them—was a model of politically correct equipoise. If Buruma was caught flat-footed this time, it must be the times that have changed.

Unlike Leon Wieseltier, Lorin Stein, ­Garrison Keillor, John Hockenberry, Ryan Lizza, or any of the other editors and journalists who have lost their jobs in the last twelve months due to the movement known as #MeToo, Buruma was not accused of any sexual misconduct. His crime was to give space in his magazine to a man who had been accused (but not, in any of four court cases, convicted) of sexual harassment and non-consensual roughness during sex. Buruma told Slate in an interview five days before his resignation, “I think nobody has quite figured out what should happen in cases like his, where you have been legally acquitted but you are still judged as undesirable in public opinion, and how far that should go, how long that should last.”

Too true, as Buruma found out to his cost. No one has yet figured out what rules should govern the new frontiers of public shaming that the Internet has opened. New rules are obviously required. Shame is now both global and permanent, to a degree ­unprecedented in human history. No more moving to the next town to escape your bad name. However far you go and however long you wait, your disgrace is only ever a Google search away. Getting a humiliating story into the papers used to require convincing an editor to run it, which meant passing their standards of newsworthiness and corroborating evidence. Those gatekeepers are now gone. Most attempts so far to devise new rules have taken ideology as their starting point: Shaming is okay as long as it’s directed at men by women, the powerless against the powerful. But that doesn’t address what to do afterward, if someone is found to have been wrongfully shamed, or when someone rightfully shamed wants to put his life back together.

In the essay that got Buruma fired, Ghomeshi claims to have been a pioneer in online shaming. “There are lots of guys more hated than me now. But I was the guy everyone hated first.” Actually, a better candidate for original victim is Justine Sacco, the PR executive who tweeted to her 170 Twitter followers before getting on a plane to Cape Town, “Going to Africa. Hope I don’t get AIDS. Just kidding. I’m white!” It was during the Christmas holidays when news is always slow, so a Gawker post about the tweet quickly went viral. People around the world were soon enjoying the suspense of knowing Sacco was on a plane with no Internet access and no way to know that she had become an object of global ridicule. That was in December 2013, almost a year before the Ghomeshi story broke.

And before that, in the Precambrian era of online shaming, there was me.

In October 2010, I appeared on a panel to promote a book of essays by young conservatives, Proud to Be Right: Voices of the Next Conservative Generation. The moderator was Jonah Goldberg. One of the other panelists was my ex-boyfriend Todd Seavey. During the Q&A, Todd launched into a rant about my personal failings. He accused me of opposing Obamacare on the grounds that it would diminish human suffering, which allegedly I preferred to increase; of wanting to repeal laws against fistfights for the same reason; of being a sadistic and scheming heartbreaker in my personal life; and of generally living according to a “disturbing” and “brutal” set of values. For three minutes and forty-five seconds, which, unfortunately for me, were captured on film for broadcast two weeks later on C-SPAN2, he made an impassioned case that I was a sociopath.

Todd is not a psychologist, but a psychologist with no evidence to go on except my treatment of Todd might well have arrived at the same conclusion. I treated him awfully. I can only plead in mitigation that I was twenty-two. Todd is from Connecticut and has that charming New England stolidity, and I behaved as if his patience, which seemed so infinite when we were dating, really had no limits. The bit about opposing Obamacare because I favored human suffering was outlandish, and other parts of his rant were not quite how I remembered things, but everything he said, he really believed, and he had arrived at those beliefs by a hard road.

I braced myself for the broadcast. Maybe no one would notice? Within minutes, the offending clip had been posted on YouTube, where it got half a million hits in the first forty-eight hours. It made the evening news on Washington’s Fox affiliate. Greg Gutfeld did a segment about it on RedEye. It was written up in Gawker, the Washington Post, Talking Points Memo, and a hundred lesser sites, and then written up again when Todd expanded his remarks about me into a ­series of blog posts on his personal website. My inbox exploded with media inquiries, none of which I answered, except to give a short statement to Mary Katharine Ham at the Daily Caller:

I wish I could say it was all a plan hatched by our new media consultant, who told us we had to “think outside the box” to make our C-SPAN panel “go viral,” but no, it is exactly what it looks like.

As a matter of policy, I don’t comment on my personal life in public, but I will clarify that his tirade thoroughly mischaracterizes my political views. For instance, I do not believe that laws against assault should be repealed—nor do I think there should be an exception in cases when one’s ex-boyfriend behaves unacceptably on national television, though I admit that’s a tougher question. Nor do I oppose Obamacare for the contorted reason he states—I oppose it for the usual reasons.

To the personal friends who emailed commiserations, I replied with an old Aaron Sorkin line about bad publicity: “It’s like seasickness. You think you’re gonna die, and everyone else just thinks it’s funny.”

That, it turned out, was overly optimistic. Everyone at work was supportive (“if you want us to form the committee to horsewhip todd seavey, just say the word,” one colleague emailed, bless him), but no amount of support could counteract the paranoia that settled in over the next weeks and months. My colleagues probably didn’t believe the woman they worked alongside was secretly a comic-book ­villain—but surely the suspicion had been planted? I never knew whether someone on the subway was giving me a second glance because he knew me, or because he recognized me from the video. Fellow journalists reported back to me from conferences where Todd expatiated on my depravity at length—in one case, before an audience that included my boss. An old friend called to say he had posted a supportive comment about me at the New Republic and shortly after received an email from Todd, who had guessed his identity from his screen name, explaining all the reasons I did not deserve to be defended. I wondered how many such incidents I never heard about.

I tried to process the experience intellectually. I read Lord Jim and The House of Mirth. No grand lesson presented itself, which, in a way, was lucky. It meant there was no ideological interpretation I could superimpose on my experience, which would have slowed my progress toward acceptance by allowing me to indulge in resentment and indignation. I couldn’t tell myself it had happened because I was a woman. Had the genders been reversed, I probably would have received less sympathy than I did. I could not blame society, or C-SPAN, or ­Jonah Goldberg. A year and a half later, when I was looking for a new job, I could not even blame the prospective employers who demonstrated a marked reluctance to bring me in for interviews. If I had to choose between a candidate whom no one had ever called a sociopath on national television, and one who probably wasn’t a psycho but might be, I would play it safe, too, even if the probability was only a fraction of a percent.

In 2012, I decided I would rather be Lord Jim than Lily Bart, so I accepted an offer from my boyfriend (now husband) to move with him to Australia—the best decision I ever made. On my last night in New York, in a burst of either sentimentality or bravado, I called Todd. We met in Midtown for a drink, and I found, to my surprise, that there was nothing I particularly wanted to say to him. If I was looking for some kind of closure, I wasn’t ready for it yet. In the end I had only one question for him: When we were chatting in the courtyard before the panel, was it some kind of deliberate foreshadowing when he mentioned how much he always liked Pink Floyd’s The Wall and started singing a song from the album that goes, “Since, my friend, you have revealed your deepest fear, I sentence you to be exposed before your peers”? He said it was just a coincidence.

Moving to the other side of the world did not diminish the video’s place in my life as much as I thought it would. It was still the first result when you Googled my name, which presumably is one reason I couldn’t find a job for the first eighteen months. Eventually, I found a position at a think tank. When I released my first report, an Australian MP tweeted a link to the video and asked why anyone should care about this nutcase’s opinions on regulation. Even after I got married and took my husband’s last name, the video still popped up on social media when I did a TV appearance or had an op-ed in the paper. In 2017, when I moved back to Washington, D.C., and started meeting some of the younger writers in town, it took them less than a week to find the clip and ask me about it. Most of them had been in high school when it happened.

In a funny coincidence, the day I began writing this essay, my husband was attending a conference of free-market activists when his lunch table started talking about bad breakups in the conservative movement. One man pulled out his iPhone and said, “If you want to talk about bad conservative breakups, you have to see this.” He put the phone away when Tim told him that the woman in the video was his wife. That was eight years and twenty-one days since the broadcast first aired.

There is a celebrity fashion blog called Go Fug Yourself that specializes—or specialized back in 2011, the one and only time I visited the site—in unflattering paparazzi shots and red carpet disasters. The odd thing about Go Fug Yourself, I discovered, was that all its nastiest posts featured the same tic. After unloading whatever brutal snark she had for Jennifer Lawrence or whomever, the writer would always include the same disclaimer: A celebrity has one job, and that’s to look glamorous, so if you can’t manage the one thing you owe us in exchange for all the money and fame, then find another line of work, and until then lay off the cheeseburgers and hire a decent stylist. This dime-store Joan Rivers can’t think she’s fooling anyone, I thought as I scrolled through the archives to see if every post really included this lame moral alibi. Her motivation has nothing to do with celebrities falling short of their duty to the public. She’s making fun of ugliness for the same reason anyone does: It stimulates our lizard brains.

People who read the Atlantic are smarter than the readers of Go Fug Yourself, but sometimes smarter people don’t make better decisions; they just come up with better excuses. Kevin Williamson was fired by the Atlantic in April 2018 over an unearthed audio recording in which he said that abortion was a form of murder and should carry the same punishment, up to and including the death penalty. The aspect of the resulting Twitter storm that surprised me was not the way his statement was warped out of context into a defense of lynch justice for pregnant teenagers but the purported concern for his female coworkers. “How can you say that you want a workplace that values women when you hire someone who wants 25% of those women dead?” asked feminist Jessica Valenti. When Williamson’s firing was announced, in a memo that made delicate reference to “the values of our workplace,” Valenti responded, “I am very relieved for the women who work at the magazine.”

At the risk of insulting the reader: No one actually believed Williamson was a threat to his female colleagues. It was only a pretext for what was really an exercise in raw power. People made the same kind of excuses when it was my turn in the dunk tank. Again and again, I read commenters insisting that what might at first glance appear to be prurient gossip was, in fact, fair political commentary, because I was a family-values scold and thus open to charges of hypocrisy, or because I was a hard-core Randian who needed a lesson in the dog-eat-dog heartlessness advocated by my idol. As far as I can tell, these characterizations were extrapolated from the fact that I worked at National Review. Certainly, they had no basis in anything I’d written (an Objectivist, really?).

The more online shame cycles you observe, the more obvious the pattern becomes: Everyone comes up with a principled-sounding pretext that serves as a barrier against admitting to themselves that, in fact, all they have really done is joined a mob. Once that barrier is erected, all rules of decency go out the window, but the pretext is almost always a lie. ­Matthew Yglesias once claimed that the reason he mocked David Brooks for his divorce was because Brooks had written columns about the social value of marriage, but I do not believe him. He did it because it’s fun to humiliate your political opponents. Moira Donegan claims that she created the Shitty Media Men List—a clearinghouse of anonymous accusations optimally parked for maximum dissemination in the Google Spreadsheet cloud—for altruistic reasons and with no thought of its being used to hurt anyone, but I do not believe her. If it was about protecting women in media from harassment, then why no attempt to sort the true accusations from the false? Why the coy protestations that “I thought that the document would not be made public,” when of course she knew that it would be spread far and wide, or she wouldn’t have bothered creating it?

Donegan’s defenders do not behave like people interested in finding the truth. They stirred up a Twitter mob against Katie Roiphe before her Harper’s piece about the Shitty Media Men List was even published. Claims to be motivated by concern about possible backlash against Donegan, if Roiphe revealed her as the creator of the list, were more than a little disingenuous. Since being outed, Donegan has gotten a book deal with Simon & Schuster and a regular column in the Guardian, which is precisely what anyone could have predicted. When John Hockenberry, also in Harper’s, wrote about his experience being #MeToo’d out of his job at NPR, admitting some charges and explaining why he thought others were bogus, his detractors did not bother refuting his case. They simply ridiculed him. And no one has offered him a book deal.

In Trust Me, I’m Lying: Confessions of a Media Manipulator, Ryan Holiday’s memoir of his years as a PR consultant, he describes a roundtable meeting at the Huffington Post where the editors discussed how a certain big company should have handled its recent PR crisis. The editors offered the usual bromides: “Transparency is critical.” “Be proactive.” “Get out in front of it.” Holiday replied, “None of you know what you’re talking about.” The old rules don’t apply in the free-for-all world of online journalism, and they especially don’t work when the figure at the center of the controversy is one lonely individual. If a client came to him because he was being called a racist or sexist on Twitter, Holiday says (pardon the vulgarity), “I would tell him to bend over and take it. And then I’d apologize. I’d tell him the whole system is broken and evil, and I’m sorry it’s attacking him. But there’s nothing that can be done.”

Any attempt to defend yourself or clarify your original remarks is “the equivalent of a squeaky cry of, ‘Why is everyone making fun of me?!’ on the playground,” Holiday says. “Whether it happens in front of snarky blogs or a real-life bully, the result is the same: Everyone makes fun of you even more.” The idea that online shaming is a form of debate—or in any way oriented toward finding the truth—is a delusion. Dialogue is not the point. The day Brett ­Kavanaugh and Christine Blasey Ford testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee, the New Yorker—not Gawker, but the New Yorker—ran thirty-two Kavanaugh headlines in twenty-four hours, many of them on the subject of the nominee’s supposed whininess: “The Tears of Brett Kavanaugh”; “An Angry, Tearful Opening”; “Brett Kavanaugh’s ­Damaging, Revealing Partisan Bitterness”; “A Grotesque Display of Patriarchal Resentment.” The man had been accused of being a brutal rapist, and the most prestigious magazine in America ridiculed him for responding to the allegation as any innocent man would have. No, dialogue is not the point.

When I was debating whether or not to write this essay, which, after all, revisits an unpleasant incident that has long been at least semi-­dormant, if not quite forgotten, I saw a headline in the New York Times: “His Body Was Behind the Wheel a Week Before It Was Discovered.” The man, Geoffrey Corbis, had committed suicide in a parked car in the East Village. Only his name wasn’t really Geoffrey Corbis, the Times explained. He had been born Geoffrey Weglarz. He changed it after an incident in 2013 at a McDonald’s near his home in Connecticut, when he threw a sandwich at a pregnant server who had given him the wrong order. Newspaper coverage of this funny local fracas did not mention Weglarz’s recent divorce or long-term unemployment after leaving his job as a computer programmer at Dell. He couldn’t find work with the McDonald’s story at the top of his Google results, hence the attempt at a fresh start as Geoffrey Corbis.

It happens more often than you would think. At least half a dozen cases mentioned in Laws of ­Image: Privacy and Publicity in America, ­Samantha Barbas’s 2015 history of shame and libel, end with suicides. Jon Ronson’s So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed describes an English chef, living in France, who killed himself after his wife-swapping hobby was revealed by the News of the World. It also tells of a rural Welsh preacher who found himself the subject of a photo spread in the same publication for hosting an orgy in his caravan—after which he, too, killed himself. Most victims of public shaming aren’t nationally famous editors like Ian Buruma. They are ordinary folks like “ID Adam,” who lost his job at a box assembly company in Winston-Salem after reports that he racially profiled a black woman at a community pool. It turned out that he, as the pool chair on duty, had asked to see her ID, because, when signing in, she had given an address on a street in the neighborhood where no houses had yet been built. It took him days to get his side of the story into the papers, and it didn’t make him any less fired.

An essay about public shaming should have advice for those people, I thought. When I couldn’t think of any, I called Todd. He had, after all, suffered quite as much from the C-SPAN2 fallout as I had. He left his job at Fox—not right away, but after three months, when he refused to sign a statement from HR saying that such TV appearances were a violation of their “outside media” policy, even though they had never expressed a problem with his extracurricular projects before. Four years later, he returned to the NewsCorp building to film a segment on the Kennedyshow, only to be stopped in the lobby by security and told he was on a no-admit list. He makes a living as a ghostwriter now, and his book Libertarianism for Beginners was published to positive reviews in 2016. When I asked if he would do it over again if he had the choice, he said he is now a believer in handling things privately. “In the future, if I get married, if my wife stabs me, you won’t hear me shouting in public about it.”

“Things really can get so much bigger than you and your own efforts that you just kind of have to ride the wave,” Todd said. “I was obscure enough before that any public attention I got was the result of me trying really hard.” He told me he never expected the clip to go as viral as it did, “far beyond my ability to control or even monitor,” which sounded implausible—until I remembered just how unfamiliar these online shame cycles were in the years before Justine Sacco’s tweet. Todd thought he would say his piece—which, in his mind, was not just that I was a bad girlfriend, but that I had a “cruelty-based worldview” that future editors and employers should be warned against unwittingly promoting by giving me work—and that would be that.

Todd’s advice for our fellow-shamed was no better than mine. “When a tsunami is heading for your house, at a certain point you have to say, ‘I’m just gonna stand here and hold this piece of plywood and see what’s left standing when it’s all over.’” Arguing back is no use. “If you’re tweeting, you’re losing.” Even in the immediate aftermath of the C-SPAN2 incident, when Todd, on his blog, attempted to make his case at length against my evil beliefs, he saw his arguments get lost in the maelstrom—equally ignored by both supporters and detractors. If we had a breakthrough in our conversation, that was it: There is no content to a shame storm. It is mindless by its very nature. It is indifferent to truth, even in cases where the truth could possibly be determined. Therefore, like the Ring, it cannot be used for good.

The solution, then, is not to try to make shame storms well targeted, but to make it so they happen as infrequently as possible. Editors should refuse to run stories that have no value except humiliation, and readers should refuse to click on them. It is, after all, the moral equivalent of contributing your rock to a public stoning. We should all develop a robust sense of what is and is not any of our business. Shame can be useful—and even necessary—but it is toxic unless a relationship exists between two people first. A Twitter mob is no more a basis for salutary shaming than an actual mob is for reasoned discussion. That would be true even if the shaming’s relics were not preserved forever by Google, making any kind of rehabilitation impossible.

If Stephen Elliott has his way, would-be shamers will have to consult more than just their consciences. He is suing Moira Donegan for defamation over her media men list, in which his entry reads: “Rape accusations, sexual harassment, coercion, unsolicited invitations to his apartment, a dude who snuck into Binders???” (Binders is a Facebook group for women writers.) What it means to be accused of “rape accusations” will doubtless be clarified at trial. It sounds like the person who wrote this was speaking from rumor herself, which proves how cavalierly career-ending allegations of sexual assault are now thrown around. I have no legal opinion on whether Elliott’s lawsuit will be for #MeToo what Peter Thiel and Hulk Hogan’s heroic lawsuit was for Gawker, but, unless we all begin to respond more responsibly to public shaming, we can expect to see more attempts to (as President Trump put it) “open up our libel laws.”

As for the people who find themselves at the center of an online shaming, I can only report how I made peace with mine. Ironically, the disagreement that gave Todd the idea that I had a “cruelty-based worldview” was over my belief that suffering is sometimes necessary for personal growth, and an essential part of God’s plan for our salvation—a belief that, as a strict utilitarian, Todd completely rejects. We had a dozen fights about it. The irony, of course, is that there is no belief my brush with online shaming confirmed more. I had heard the maxim that there is no humility without humiliation—how true it proved. My first reaction to the video was to feel aggrieved, thinking that I did not deserve what was happening to me, but on the Day of Judgment all my sins will be shouted from the housetops, and Todd’s rant will sound like a retirement luncheon toast in comparison. Of course I deserved it, and worse; most of us poor sinners do.

Of all history’s martyrs to shame, the one whose example consoled me most was Oscar Wilde. He is remembered today as a gay rights pioneer, but, in the letters he wrote after his release from prison, he never rails against the injustice of the law that put him away. He did not think it was a good law, he simply believed that the justice or injustice of the charge against him was irrelevant. What mattered was that he had been rescued from his own pride and selfishness by his experience, when he could not have been saved by any gentler medicine. This lesson, which produced “The Ballad of Reading Gaol” (“I know not whether Laws be right, / Or whether Laws be wrong”), he put into plain prose in a letter written during his exile in July 1897. Sporus was the slave boy that emperor Nero freed and “married”:

To me, suffering seems now a sacramental thing, that makes those whom it touches holy. I think I am in many respects a much better fellow than I was, and I now make no more exorbitant claims on life: I accept everything. I am sure it is all right. I was living a life unworthy of an artist, and though I do not hold with the British view of morals that sets Messalina above Sporus, I see that any materialism in life coarsens the soul, and that the hunger of the body and the appetites of the flesh desecrate always, and often destroy. . . . I learnt many things in prison that were terrible to learn, but I learnt some good lessons that I needed.

The man to whom this letter was addressed was Carlos Blacker, who himself had fled England for France in 1890, when he was accused of being a card cheat. The charge against Blacker happened to be false, just as the charge against Wilde happened to be true, but that made no difference in the two men’s experiences. The truth that Wilde came to understand, which he shared with his fellow exile, was that they should accept their chastening in a spirit of gratitude. Nothing had been taken from them that would not be restored a hundredfold if they allowed their ­experience to do its redemptive work.

By Helen Andrews and published in January 2019 in First Things on and can be found here.

Cert. Denied In Challenge To High School Unit On Islam

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

On Tuesday, the U.S. Supreme Court denied review in Wood v. Arnold, (Docket No. 18-1438, certiorari denied 10/15/2019). (Order List.)   In the case, the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals rejected a high school student’s Establishment Clause and compelled speech challenges to a classroom unit on The Muslim World.  One challenge was to the teacher’s Power Point slide which included the statement that most Muslims’ faith is stronger than that of the average Christian.  The other challenge was to the requirement on a work sheet for the student to fill in two words of the shahada. (See prior posting.) The Free Thinker blog has more on the case.

You can learn more about this issue here.

Post Navigation