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Archive for the tag “point”

VA Updates Guidelines On Religious Exercise At Its Facilities

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

On Aug. 19, the Veterans Administration issued an internal memorandum (full text) updating its Policy Guidance on Religious Exercise and Religious Expression In VA Facilities.  The memo revises a 2014 Guidance.  A press releaseyesterday from the Chaplain Alliance for Religious Liberty welcomes the revision, saying in part:

This should make clear that churches may sing Christmas carols and distribute Christmas cards at VA hospitals. Further, veteran organizations may set up MIA/POW tables that include a sacred text.

You can learn more about this issue here.


Inmate Has Broader Damage Remedy Under RFRA Than Under RLUIPA

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

In Crowder v. Lariva2016 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 122966 (SD IN, Sept. 12, 2016), an Indiana federal district court permitted a Hebrew Israelite inmate to move ahead against one of the prison chaplains on his complaint that he was denied a kosher diet. Because plaintiff was a federal inmate, he sued (in addition to his 1st Amendment claim) under RFRA instead of RLUIPA, and the court held that he had broader remedies as a result:

Jones [the chaplain] also argues that because the Seventh Circuit in Nelson v. Miller, 570 F.3d 868, 887 (7th Cir. 2009), held that the similarly-worded RLUIPA does not allow for the collection of money damages against individuals, the same reasoning should apply to RFRA. But there are at least two important differences between RLUIPA and RFRA that compel a different conclusion. First, … the statutory language of RFRA defines “government” as, among other things, an “official (or other person acting under color of law).” …Congress thus envisioned at least some individual-capacity suits under RFRA…. Second, RFRA, which applies to federal action, and RLUIPA, which is applicable to state action, arise from different principles.,,, [T]he portion of RFRA that authorizes lawsuits against the states was held unconstitutional because such an application exceeded Congress’s power under the Enforcement Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment in City of Boerne v. Flores…. RLUIPA was enacted in response to City of Boerne … as an exercise of Congress’s spending power[.] …[I]nterpreting that statute to allow damages actions against state officials in their individual capacities would ‘raise serious questions regarding whether Congress had exceeded its [constitutional] authority.'” … [S]uch considerations are not at issue when applying RFRA because RFRA’s application to federal action is not based on the Spending Clause…. For these reasons, the Court concludes that RFRA does allow for the recovery of monetary damages against officers in their individual capacities

You can learn more about this issue here.

Title VII’s Religious Organization Exemption Protects Salvation Army

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

In Garcia v. Salvation Army(D AZ, Sept. 12, 2016), an Arizona federal district court dismissed a Title VII religious discrimination claim brought against the Salvation Army by a former social services coordinator for the organization.  Plaintiff claimed that she was subjected to discrimination, retaliation, and hostile
work environment after she stopped attending services at the Salvation Army’s Estrella Mountain Corps where she was employed.  The court held that Title VII’s religious organization exemption applies to plaintiff’s claim, and that the Salvation Army did not waive the defense by failing to assert it as an affirmative defense.

You can learn more about this issue here.

Company Settles With EEOC Over Firing of Seventh Day Adventist

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

The EEOC announced last week that North Carolina-based Greenville Ready Mixed Concrete, Inc., has agreed to a $42,500 settlement in the EEOC’s suit (see prior posting) against it for firing a Seventh Day Adventist employee who refused a Saturday work assignment. The company has also agreed to a 5-year consent decree requiring it to create an anti-discrimination policy, engage in employee training, post notice about the lawsuit and submit periodic reports to the EEOC.

You can learn more about this issue here.


Ohio town must pay back millions of fines collected from speed cameras, court rules

I have been writing in opposition to traffic cameras for a few years now (you can find all of my articles and posts on traffic cameras here).  They are consistently controversial and violative of basic rights as described in the article below.


A small Ohio town that lived by the red light camera could soon die by it, after a federal court ruled the speed trap has to pay back more than $3 million in automated speeding tickets.

The case of New Miami, population 2,321, highlights the controversy behind the tickets, which make stoplight-running motorists see red, but help keep the budgets of cities and towns in the black. New Miami will almost certainly go bankrupt if the Supreme Court doesn’t reverse a lower court’s ruling and spare it from refunding tens of thousands of tickets at $180 apiece plus interest.

The case of New Miami is seen by many drivers across the country – including numerous lawmakers and lawyers – as the epitome of municipalities abusing their power by setting up speed traps and red light cameras in an attempt, not to make roadways safer, but to line their coffers.

“As with most issues there are elements of truth on both sides,” Bill Seitz, a Republican state representative from Ohio, told Fox News. “But many of these jurisdictions are using these tickets as revenue enhancements that ticket people for only minor infractions.”

Seitz is currently working to push a bill through the Ohio statehouse that would require cities to file all traffic camera cases in municipal court and would reduce state funding to cities by the same amount cities collect in traffic camera revenue.

The Ohio representative, who himself was caught on camera rolling through a red light in Columbus, added that in 2006 and 2014 lawmakers approved restrictions on photo enforcement cameras and that limits or bands on the devices enjoy wide support in cities like Cincinnati and Cleveland.

The current animosity directed at the cameras marks a shift in public sentiment toward the cameras.

While it is tough to pinpoint the national pulse as most studies are conducted at a state and regional level, but it appears that there are a growing number of areas who are starting to question whether the speed camera programs are effective or even constitutional.

Seven states are currently considering legislation to prohibit red light and speed camera use amid concerns that they are ripe for abuse and IIHS study found that the number of red light cameras in the U.S. dropped to 467 in 2015 from its peak of 553 in 2012.

“It’s really a money making venture,” Israel Klein, a lawyer in New York City, told Fox News. “They’re raking in the dollars and it’s an extreme abuse of power.”

Klein earlier this year filed a class action lawsuit against the city that argues that speed camera tickets are invalid and violate New York state law as the city failed to file all of the required paperwork with the court before allowing a private contractor to drop the photo ticket in the mail. New York City’s 2018 budget expects to haul in $119 million in photo enforcement fines.

“City officials don’t care about the law as long as they’re making money,” Klein added.

Proponents of the cameras, however, argue that they significantly lower the number of accidents on the road as both speeding and going through red lights are two of the biggest causes of car crashes in the country, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation.

The most recent study by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety found that nearly 1,300 lives were saved through 2014 in 79 large U.S. cities that installed red light cameras and, in a study of one county in Maryland, radar cameras installed on local roads reduced fatal or incapacitating injuries by 39 percent.

“Red light running is one of the biggest factors in crashes,” Russ Rader, a spokesman for the IIHS, told Fox News. “But [these crashes] are sharply reduced when cities use red light cameras.”

But a slew of recent corruption cases across the country involving local government officials and companies selling the cameras is not helping the image of them as moneymakers for municipalities.

In Chicago, camera vendor Redflex won in 2003 a $120 million contract to install 384 cameras and collected more than $400 million in traffic fines. It was eventually revealed that Redflex bribed Chicago City hall manager John Bills with $2,000 for every camera installed as well as giving him vacations, a condominium in Arizona and Mercedes among other favors.

Bills was eventually sentenced to 10 years in federal prison in a corruption scandal that rocked the city, while two Redflex higher-ups were sent to jail and the company was forced to pay $20 million to the city to settle a lawsuit.

Redflex did not respond to Fox News’ request for comment.

In Ohio, New Miami will have to wait to see if the state’s Supreme Court decides to take a look at their plea – something it only does with roughly seven percent of cases filed annually. Engel, the plaintiff’s lawyer, says he believes that going to the state’s highest court is just another move by the village to delay making their payments.

“The village is well aware that the chances of the Supreme Court deciding to hear this issue is slim. So why are they pursuing this Hail Mary?” Engel told the Journal-News. “This is another stalling tactic to further delay having to pay back the money taken from motorists in an unconstitutional scheme.”

By Andrew O’Reilly and originally published on Fox News on March 14, 2018 and can be found here.

Traffic Light Cameras Featured on Tucker Carlson Tonight

I have been writing in opposition to traffic cameras for a few years now (you can find all of my articles and posts on traffic cameras here).  They are consistently controversial and violative of basic rights and now they have been featured on Tucker Carlson Tonight!.



State board concedes it violated free speech rights of red-light camera critic

I have been writing in opposition to traffic cameras for a few years now (you can find all of my articles and posts on traffic cameras here).  They are consistently controversial and violative of basic rights as described in the article below.


A state panel violated a Beaverton man’s free speech rights by claiming he had unlawfully used the title “engineer” and by fining him when he repeatedly challenged Oregon’s traffic-signal timing before local media and policymakers, Oregon’s attorney general has ruled.

Oregon’s Board of Examiners for Engineering and Land Surveying unconstitutionally applied state law governing engineering practice to Mats Järlström when he exercised his free speech about traffic lights and described himself as an engineer since he was doing so “in a noncommercial” setting and not soliciting professional business, the state Department of Justice has conceded.

“We have admitted to violating Mr. Järlström’s rights,” said Christina L. Beatty-Walters, senior assistant attorney general, in federal court Monday.

The state’s regulation of Järlström under engineering practice law “was not narrowly tailored to any compelling state interests,” she wrote in court papers.

In April, Järlström joined with the national Institute for Justice in filing a federal civil rights lawsuit against members of the state engineering board. The suit contends state law and the board’s actions that disallow anyone from using the word “engineer” if they’re not an Oregon-licensed professional engineer amount to an “unconstitutional ban on mathematical debate.”

Järlström and his lawyers argued that’s not good enough.

They contend Järlström isn’t alone in getting snared by the state board’s aggressive and “overbroad” interpretation of state law.

They contend others have been investigated improperly and want the court to look broader at the state law and its administrative rules and declare them unconstitutional. In the alternative, the state law should be restricted to only regulating engineering communications that are made as part of paid employment or a contractual agreement.

“The existence of these laws and the way they’ve been applied time and time again has violated free speech rights,” argued attorney Samuel Gedge, of the national Institute for Justice. “Past history suggests the board can’t be trusted on how the laws should be applied constitutionally.”

Red light camera critic says state board quashing his free speech

Mats Jarlstrom, who has a bachelor of science degree in engineering from Sweden and has repeatedly challenged Oregon’s timing of yellow traffic lights as too short, was investigated by a state engineering board for the “unlicensed practice of engineering” and fined $500. He’s not alone.

Jarlstrom has a bachelor of science degree in engineering and has repeatedly challenged the state’s timing of yellow traffic lights as too short. The state board had fined him $500 for “unlicensed practice of engineering.” Järlström identified himself as an engineer in emails he sent to city officials and the Washington County sheriff challenging the traffic light signal timing.

Järlström’s interest in the matter stemmed from a red-light-running ticket that his wife received in the mail in 2013. Since then, Järlström has conducted his own studies, presented his findings to local media and “60 Minutes” and even to the annual meeting last summer of the Institute of Transportation Engineers.

Järlström is a Swedish-born electronics engineer. After serving as an airplane-camera mechanic in the Swedish Air Force, he worked for Luxor Electronics and immigrated to the United States in 1992, settling in Oregon. Currently, he’s self-employed, testing audio products and repairing and calibrating test instruments.

Another case cited in Järlström’s lawsuit, for example, is the state board investigation of Portland City Commissioner Dan Saltzman, launched after receiving a complaint in 2014 that the Voters’ Pamphlet described Saltzman’s background as an “environmental engineer.” Saltzman earned a bachelor of science degree in environmental and civil engineering from Cornell University and a master’s degree from MIT School of Civil Engineering.

He isn’t, however, an Oregon-licensed professional engineer. The board ended up warning Saltzman against using the word “engineer” in incorrect ways.

On Monday, U.S. Magistrate Judge Stacie F. Beckerman presented the state’s lawyer with several hypothetical scenarios, attempting to understand what constitutes professional or commercial speech: What if someone had paid Järlström to present his points, would that be commercial speech regulated by the state board? What if someone had hired Järlström pro bono to do research on the traffic light timing and present his findings, would that constitute professional speech?

If the court and the state’s lawyer are having trouble properly defining what constitutes “commercial or professional” speech on engineering that the state board can regulate, “how can we expect the board to apply these rules in a constitutional way?” Beckerman asked.

The judge pressed further: “If the board got it wrong in this case, why should the court defer to the board going forward?”

That’s why the state engineering board would have to exercise caution with each case, Beatty-Walters replied.

Järlström’s lawyer argued that the state essentially is trying to close Järlström’s case without allowing him to seek the relief he wants.

“The board’s proposed judgment goes nowhere close to what Mr. Järlström is seeking,” Gedge said. “Mr. Järlström should have the right to present his case for all of the relief he’s seeking.”

The judge said she will issue her findings in two to three weeks.

Both sides can then challenge the findings, and the matter would be referred to U.S. District Judge Anna J. Brown, who would decide whether to adopt the magistrate judge’s decision.

By: Maxine Bernstein and published on Oregon Live on December 4, 2017 and can be seen here.

Speed cameras for Roosevelt Blvd. face hard road in Pa. legislature

I have been writing in opposition to traffic cameras for a few years now (you can find all of my articles and posts on traffic cameras here).  Evidently Philadelphia is trying to install speed cameras on Roosevelt Boulevard.  Thankfully the efforts to install them may not be fruitful as described in the article below.


Philadelphia planners hope speed cameras will play a significant role in the city’s effort to make streets safer, but first, the technology needs to be legalized. 

The path to legalization might be a rough one.

The effort was the focus of a panel Thursday morning at the Center City law offices of Montgomery, McCracken, Walker & Rhoads that was equal parts policy discussion, rally, and fund-raising event. The event was designed to boost support for pending legislation to allow the city to install speed cameras on Roosevelt Boulevard.

“It is absolutely necessary, and I don’t know another way to slow people down,” said Republican State Rep. John Taylor of Philadelphia, one of the bill’s sponsors.

Philadelphia has about 100 traffic-related fatalities a year (93 in 2017), and typically 10 percent happen on the Boulevard, she said. Of the nine fatal crashes on the Boulevard last year, seven involved pedestrians.

If authorized, cameras would snap an image of any vehicle driving 11 mph over the speed limit. The fine would be $150 for a first offense. The Boulevard would have up to nine speed cameras along nearly 12 miles, advertised by warning signs every two miles.

The legislation has been approved by the House transportation committee, which Taylor chairs. The challenge, he said, will be convincing House leadership to list the bill for a vote. That would need to happen by spring to give time for a vote in this legislative session, he said.

And there’s another deadline approaching: Taylor, who has championed the bill, is retiring when his term expires this year.

Taylor also noted the political landscape in Harrisburg, which just completed a grueling budget process. The Pennsylvania House speaker, Republican Mike Turzai, is running for governor, and the majority leader, Republican Dave Reed, is running for Congress.

In that environment, he said, getting legislators to focus on a bill that will result in more speeding violations for their constituents is a tough sell. Taylor has combined the  authorization for cameras on the Boulevard with another proposal for the cameras to be used on highway work zones to protect workers, something he thinks will be more palatable to legislators.

The Vision Zero Alliance, which is pushing safe streets efforts in Philadelphia, has hired a lobbying firm, Arena Strategies, to promote the bill and pitched to business leaders at Thursday’s session the need for $50,000 to fund the effort, said Jason Duckworth, a developer and member of the Delaware Valley Smart Growth Alliance.

One of the most horrific crashes on the Boulevard killed a woman and three of her children. Samara Banks, 27, was crossing Roosevelt Boulevard with her sister and four children in July 2013 when she was struck by a car that had been drag racing. The driver of that vehicle was found guilty of homicide by vehicle, involuntary manslaughter, and reckless endangerment, though convictions on third-degree murder were later reversed by an appeals judge.

“There’s people who don’t agree with the speed cameras,” said LaTanya Byrd, Banks’ aunt, who spoke at Thursday’s event. “We all want our lives to be safe. I just feel like we need to do this.”

Byrd noted that some call the road “the Killovard.”

Among the opponents is Thomas McCarey of the National Motorists Association, who says speed cameras are primarily a revenue generator for government. Making roads safer, he said, could be accomplished by timing traffic lights differently, adding more traffic enforcement, and putting crosswalks underground.

The Pennsylvania bill is written to keep the cameras from being a revenue generator, said Jana Tidwell, a spokeswoman from AAA. It ensures that the contractor responsible for the cameras would not make more money if more violations are issued, requires signs posted on roads to warn drivers that speed cameras are active in the area, and specifies that all revenue would go to the state’s motor vehicle license fund, she said.

The speed camera program would likely be operated by the Philadelphia Parking Authority, which is now responsible for the red light cameras in Philadelphia. Fifty of Philadelphia’s 134 red-light cameras are at nine Boulevard intersections, and violations have dropped there. Tidwell has said the cameras decreased right-angle crashes at those intersections.

The program, however, was marred by technical problems and mismanagement in 2016. Poorly calibrated cameras generated hundreds of thousands of false violations, which then had to be weeded out by PPA workers. That cost the agency $123,000 in overtime payments in 2016.

“Speed cameras will be an even bigger failure,” McCarey said. “Speed cameras won’t stop the 3 percent of wanton speeders endangering us all, only traffic cops can.”

Overtime costs were significantly lower in 2017 after adjustments made to the cameras, PPA officials said.

The National Transportation Safety Board studied the role of speed in fatal crashes and found it was a factor in almost a third of all traffic-related deaths nationwide from 2005 to 2014. The federal transportation watchdog recommended speed cameras as an effective way to slow down drivers, noting another study found the cameras reduced all crashes by 49 percent and serious injuries and deaths by 44 percent.

If the House passes the speed camera bill, it would need to go back to the Senate for a vote on amendments and then return to the House for a final approval before going to the governor.

By: Jason Laughlin, originally published on January 25, 2018 in the Philadelphia Inquirer and can be seen here.




Human Dignity Was a Rarity Before Christianity

Every now and again I come across a fantastic article the warrants posting here; I recently came across one in Church Life Journal which, I thought, was pretty insightful. Be edified.


In my theological writings over the past twenty years, I have often (some might say tediously often) returned to two episodes from the gospels that never quite lose their power to startle me: that of Peter weeping in the early light of dawn over the realization that, contrary to his fervent protestations of the night just past, he has denied Christ before the world; and that of Christ’s confrontation with Pilate (especially as recounted in John’s gospel). After so much time, one might reasonably expect that the fascination would wane, or at least cease to have the quality of surprise. But nothing of the sort. Recently, as I was preparing my own translation of the New Testament for Yale University Press, I found myself drawn to both episodes yet again, with the same old familiar feeling that they contain something at once momentous and uncanny, something somehow out of place and out of time. Something is happening in these passages, homely as they may seem, that never happened before.

We speak today very easily, if not always sincerely, of the intrinsic dignity of every human person. For us, this is merely a received piety, and one of immemorial authority. And yet, if we take the time to wonder just how old a moral intuition it is, there is a good chance that our historical imagination will carry us only as far back as the “Age of Enlightenment” and the epoch of the “Rights of Man.” But our modern notion that there is such a thing as innate human worth, residing in every individual of every class and culture, is at best the very late consequence of a cultural, conceptual, and moral revolution that erupted many centuries earlier, and in the middle of a world that was anything but hospitable to its principles. And I am tempted to think that the nature of that revolution became visible for the first time only in the tale of Peter’s tears. We cannot quite see it, of course. For us, it does not stand out as an extraordinary moment in the larger narrative. We expect Peter to weep; more to the point, we expect the narrator to record the fact. After all, Peter’s humanity is our own, and so we do not hesitate to recognize his grief as ours also. It is all quite obvious to us: Peter’s shattering realization of the immensity of his failure, his hopeless devotion to his beloved master, the certain knowledge that he will never have a chance to retract his words or seek Christ’s forgiveness for his cowardice. To us, the story would probably seem incomplete if this detail were missing. But that is not how things would have seemed to most of the contemporaries of the evangelists. At least, among the literate classes of late antiquity, to call attention to Peter’s grief would more likely have seemed an aesthetic mistake; for Peter, as a rustic, could not possibly have been a worthy object of a well-bred man’s sympathy, nor could his sorrow possibly have possessed the sort of tragic dignity necessary to make it a suitable subject of either a poet or a historian. If a peasant’s weeping possessed any interest at all, it might be as an occasion for cruel mirth. Tragic dignity was the exclusive property of the nobly born. It was the great literary critic Erich Auerbach, many decades ago, who perhaps most powerfully called attention to the singularity of the story in the context of late antique literature. According to his Mimesis: The Representation of Reality in Western Literature, when one compares this scene to the sort of emotional portraiture one finds in great Roman writers, comic or serious, one discovers that only in Peter can one glimpse “the image of man in the highest and deepest and most tragic sense.” Yet Peter is a peasant from Galilee, a rural backwater in an obscure and barbarous colonial territory. This was not merely a lapse of good taste; it was an act of rebellion.

Not that the evangelists necessarily intended to be especially provocative. Still, in this story we see something beginning to emerge from darkness into full visibility, arguably for the first time in our history: the human person as such, invested with an intrinsic and inviolable worth, an infinite value. Actually, even our blithe willingness to assign personhood in the fullest sense to everyone who comes our way is the consequence of that ancient revolt. Originally, at least in many very crucial contexts, “persons” were something of a rarity in nature. At least, as far as ancient Roman legal usage, one’s person was the status one held before the law, and this was anything but an invariable property among all individuals. The original and primary meaning of the Latin word “persona” was “mask,” and may well originally have indicated the special distinction of belonging to one of those patrician families entitled to preserve and display wax funerary effigies of their ancestors. To “have a person”—habere personam—was to have a face before the eyes of the law, to possess the rights of a free and propertied citizen, to be entrusted to offer testimony on the strength of one’s own word, to be capable before a magistrate of appeal to higher authority. At the far opposite end of the social scale, however, was that far greater number of individuals who could be classed as “non habentes personas,” “not having persons”—not, as it were, having faces before the law or, for that matter, before society. The principal occupants of this category were, of course, slaves. These could call on no privileges or rights before the law, apart from a few meager protections; they were not even usually trusted to offer testimony before a court apart from a judicious application of torture. And, as part of the peasantry of a subject people, Peter would have possessed scarcely any greater “countenance” in Roman eyes.

It is practically impossible for us today to appreciate the magnitude of the scandal that many pagans naturally felt at the bizarre prodigality with which the early Christians were willing to grant full humanity to persons of every class and condition. But we can certainly hear the tone of alarm in reading the anti-Christian polemics of Celsus, or Eunapius of Sardis, or Porphyry, or the Emperor Julian. Perched as they were at the vertiginous summit of the social hierarchy of their time, the church’s pagan critics could only look down on the Christian movement, and could see it not as the liberation of deep but hitherto unexpressed human longings, but only as something monstrous and degenerate, threatening the very order of the world. In his Against the Galilaeans, Julian lavished his contempt on the vicious, disreputable, contemptible individuals that the Christians had from the earliest days invited into their ranks, and admitted with no more than a ritual bath—as if, he huffed, water could cleanse the soul. Eunapius confessed his revulsion at the “base gods” venerated by the church, by which he meant the saints whose relics the Christians preserved and honored: all of them, he said, men and women of the most deplorable sort, justly tortured, condemned, and executed for their crimes, but glorified after death as martyrs of the faith, and accorded the devotion once reserved for the divine spirits reigning from on high. Not even the most morally admirable of the pagan philosophical schools, Stoicism, made so great a spiritual virtue of indifference to social station as did the followers of Jesus. Indeed, such was the sheer perversity of the Christian movement that the inversion of “natural” rank—this insistence that the last be first and the first last—became something like its chief moral value. We see this, for instance, in the Didascalia, that very early manual of Christian life, which requires a bishop never to interrupt his service to greet a person of high degree who might enter the basilica, and yet, on seeing a pauper enter the assembly, to do everything in his power to make room for the new arrival, even if it should mean giving up his own seat and sitting instead on the floor.

One should not, admittedly, exaggerate the virtues of the early Christians here. Perfection is not to be found in any human institution, and the church has certainly always been that. Even in the early days of the Church, certain social distinctions proved far too redoubtable to exterminate; a Christian slaveholder’s Christian slaves were still slaves, even if they were also their master’s brothers in Christ. And, after Constantine, as the Church became that most lamentable of things—a pillar of respectable society—it learned all too easily to tolerate many of the injustices it supposedly condemned. But neither should we underestimate how extraordinary the religious ethos of the earliest Christians was with regard to social order, or fail to give them credit for the attempts they did make to erase the distinctions in social dignity that separated persons of different rank from one another, but that they believed Christ had abolished. In truth, the pagan critics of the early church were quite perceptive—perhaps more than the Christians themselves—in seeing this new faith as something deeply and disturbingly subversive. Christianity may never have been a revolution in the political sense, attempting to replace the general social order with something altogether different; but, for just that reason, the change it brought about was not merely a local and transient flirtation with enchanting impossibilities (as most revolutionary movements are). The Christian vision of reality was nothing less than (to borrow a phrase from Friedrich Nietzsche’s The Antichrist) a “transvaluation of all values,” a profound revision of the moral and conceptual categories by which human beings understand themselves and one another and their places within the world, one that took root and grew principally in consciences rather than in political arrangements.  And it was most definitely (again to use Nietzsche’s words, this time from The Genealogy of Morals) a “revolt of the slaves in morality,” but paradoxically a slave revolt “from above.” As Paul said in Philippians 2:6-10, it had been accomplished by one who had willingly exchanged the “form of God” for the “form of a slave,” and only in that form had overthrown the powers that reigned on high.

Just as striking as the tale of Peter’s tears, again, is that of Christ’s arraignment before Pilate, especially in the fourth gospel’s telling. And once again we are separated from the age in which the story was written down by an immense historical abyss. Nothing makes us more insensible to the utter oddity of this story in its own time and place, and to the metaphysical and moral implications of that oddity, than our own habitual sympathies. To many of its earliest readers, the entire episode would have seemed perversely out of joint. On one side of the tableau (so to speak) there stands a man of noble birth, one moreover invested with the full authority of the Roman Empire, endowed with the sacred duty of imposing the pax Romana on a barbarous people far too prone to religious fanaticism. On the other side there stands a poor and quite probably demented colonial of obscure origins, professing unintelligible beliefs and answering the charge that he thinks himself “King of the Jews” with only enigmatic invocations of some “kingdom not of this world” and of some mysterious “truth” to which he feels called to bear witness. No sane and educated person of late antiquity could have failed to grasp the ridiculous imbalance in this scene, or to recognize which side of the picture represented the “truth” of all things. In the great cosmic hierarchy of rational powers—descending from the Highest Divinity down to the lowliest of slaves—Pilate’s is a particularly exalted place, a little nearer to heaven than to earth, and illumined with something of the splendor of the gods. Christ, by contrast, is no one at all; he has no natural claim on Pilate’s clemency, and certainly no rights; simply said, he has no “person” before the law. The one figure, then, commands total sway over life and death, while the other no longer belongs even to himself. And this wild asymmetry becomes even starker (and perhaps even more absurd) when Jesus is brought before Pilate for the second time, having been scourged, wrapped in a soldier’s cloak, and crowned with thorns. To the ears of any educated person of the late antique world, Pilate’s question to his prisoner now—“Where do you come from?”—would probably have sounded like a sardonic reminder to Christ of his lack of pedigree and of Pilate’s patrician origins; and this difference in status would only have been confirmed by Pilate’s still harsher reminder to Christ that “I have the power to crucify you.” Christ’s riposte, however, that Pilate possesses no powers not given him from above would have sounded, at most, like comical impudence on the part of a lunatic. Could any ancient witness to this scene, seeing how fate had apportioned to its principals their respective places in the order of things, have doubted on which side the full “truth” of things was to be found? After all, what greater measure of reality is there, in a world sustained by immutable hierarchies of social privilege, than the power to judge and kill another person? This may, as it happens, have been the deepest import in Pilate’s earlier, tersely rhetorical question to Christ: “What is truth?”

We, however, are not ancient men and women. Something far vaster and more indomitable than a mere span of centuries separates us from their vision of the world. We simply cannot see Christ’s broken, humiliated, and doomed humanity as something self-evidently contemptible and ridiculous; in a very real sense, we are destined to see it as embracing the whole mystery of our own humanity in its deepest fathoms: a sublime fragility, tragic and magnificent, pitiable and wonderful. Even the worst of us, who are capable of looking upon the sufferings of others with indifference or even contempt, have arrived at their callousness only through a prior violence to their own consciences. Raised in shadow of the Christian world, inheritors of its moral grammar and imagination, we no longer enjoy the luxury of a capacity for innocent cruelty. Living as we do in the long aftermath of a revolution whose effects linger deep in our souls and natures, we cannot guilelessly look away from the abasement of the victim and fix our eyes in admiration upon his persecutor, no matter how grand the latter might be. Hence, we lack any immediate awareness of the radical inversion of perspective unfolded in this tale. Seen from within a certain pre-Christian vision of reality, Pilate’s verdict is perfectly just, not because it imposes a penalty “proportionate” to the “crime,” but because it reaffirms the natural and divine order of reality. In consigning a worthless man to an appropriately undignified death, and in restoring order through the destruction of the agent of disorder, it proclaims once again that the order of the state and of the hierarchy of social power is nothing less than the order of the gods transcribed into its appropriate terrestrial expression. The Gospel of John, however, takes an entirely contrary approach to the confrontation between Christ and Pilate. It sees the whole scene entirely in the light of the risen Christ and from the vantage of the empty tomb. This alters everything. God, it would appear, not only refuses to approve the verdict of his earthly “representatives”—whether gentiles or Jews, whether emperors, kings, generals, or judges—but goes so far as to reverse their judgment. Further, indeed: he vindicates and restores to life the very man those eminent authorities have “justly” condemned in the interest of public tranquility. This is an astonishing realignment of every perspective, a reversal of all the ancient values, a rebellion against “reality.”

In any event, the new world being brought into being in the gospels is a world in which the grand cosmic architecture of prerogative and power has been superseded by a new and positively “anarchic” order: one in which the glory of God can reveal itself in a crucified slave, and in which, therefore, we are forced to see the face of God in the forsaken of the world. In this shocking and ludicrously disordered order, everything is cast in a radically transforming light, and comes to mean something entirely new and perhaps unsettling. We do not laugh at “the man of sorrows” draped in a mock robe and pierced with a mock crown and jocosely hailed as a king b his persecutors. For us, this figure possesses a grandeur that would have been quite invisible to our more distant ancestors, an ironic beauty that entirely and irrevocably reverses the mockery.  It is not he who is absurd, but rather all those kings and emperors who preposterously celebrate their pedigrees, and who rejoice in their power to command and to kill, and who are therefore unaware that the pompous symbols of greatness in which they drape themselves are nothing more than rags and thorns. In a sense, the figure of Christ being mocked, and yet somehow impregnable to every indignity, is the perfect emblem of what can only be called a “total humanism.” In him, we are afforded a vision of humanity in its widest and deepest scope, one in the full nobility and mystery and beauty of the human countenance—the human person—wholly resides in each unique instance of our common nature. Seen thus, Christ’s descent from the “form of God” into the “form of a slave” is not a paradox at all, but an altogether apt confirmation of the indwelling of the divine image in each soul. And, once the world has been seen in this way, it can never again be what it once had been.

Editorial Note: Throughout the month of October Church Life Journal will explore the sanctity of life and the hospitable imagination. What we mean by the hospitable imagination is the ecclesial formation of a way of seeing the world that is more spacious and welcoming. It is a way of seeing that recognizes the inherent sanctity of life and seeks to heal the perceived division between life issues and social justice issues. Catholic Social Teaching teaches us that a radical hospitality for life at all its stages and solidarity with the weak is cruciform. As our authors explore the various dimensions of the hospitable imagination (please click the link for a list of the posts), we invite you to think along with us.

By David Bentley Hart and originally published on October 26, 2017 in Church Life Journal which can be found here.

College Tennis Player Sues For Religious Discrimination

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

The Washington Times reports on a religious discrimination lawsuit filed last week in Idaho federal district court by a former player on the Idaho State University tennis team.  The suit also alleges negligence, infliction of emotional distress and other causes of action growing out of harassment of plaintiff Orin Duffin by his teammates and his coaches.  The complaint (full text) in Duffin v. Idaho State University, (D ID, filed 5/20/2016) alleges that when the team learned that Duffin was a Mormon, his coaches began to harass him, in part through inappropriate questions about sexual practices and his religious beliefs.  The harassment peaked after he told the team that he would be on his mission call in Taiwan the following school year. While the team was staying in Las Vegas, one of the coaches arranged a trip to a strip club, provided the team with alcoholic beverages, and sent two prostitutes to Duffin’s room to tempt him. Duffin became the butt of jokes and comments after the Las Vegas trip.

You can learn more about this issue here.

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