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Alleged Trauma

Every now and again I come across a fantastic article the warrants posting here; I recently came across one in Splice Today by my old philosophy professor Dr. Crispin Sartwell from back in my Penn State days which, I thought, was pretty insightful. Be edified.

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The government isn’t required to intervene in your relationship with your mom.

It seems that his lawyers’ arguments will not, as you might expect, turn on Phillips’s right to practice his religion, or right not to be forced to violate his religion, but on his right to free expression. The man is a serious baker: his operation is the “Masterpiece Cakeshop,” and he considers cakes his art. The argument, according to The New York Times, is likely to turn on whether, in the practice his art, he can be forced to express a message he repudiates.

But whatever the defense strategy, I take it as a general principle that there should be very broad protections for conscientious objection on religious or moral grounds. I think, for example, that pacifists shouldn’t be forced to drop Agent Orange on peasant villages. I think doctors whose religion or moral beliefs prohibit abortion should under no circumstances be forced to perform one. I don’t think you should be forced, say, to Tweet views you disagree with. I don’t think you should be forced to vote for a particular candidate. These last two strike me as obvious. The principle is the same.

Ask yourself this question: In human history, which has created worse problems, refusal of the demands of the state, or capitulation to it in the face of one’s own moral or religious misgivings? The latter has been the cause of death of hundreds of millions of people. The former hasn’t. You may have to overcome your little scruples in order to shoot people in an unjust war or participate in genocide. Avoiding such insane moral disasters requires a principle respecting the individual conscience, specifically on matters that most people or the government regard as obvious and settled.

Gay marriage isn’t genocide, and I don’t have any moral misgivings about it. But I think it brutalizes someone to force them to violate their own conscience; it’s a form of assault, a moral assault, an assault on the mind and on the spirit. At a minimum, I think you’d need to show that disastrous social effects would result from permitting people not to participate in order to justify something like that.

This sort of case is sometimes compared to Jim Crow segregation, and it’s against the law to refuse to serve someone in your private business on the grounds of race. And there is no denying that, as with race, there has been systematic and terrible discrimination against gay people, some of it enshrined into law, as in the Defense of Marriage Act.

However, the situations are also extremely different. Jim Crow segregation limited the actions of African-Americans, hedged them about with restrictions, made simple needs difficult or impossible to fill, expressed a society-wide devaluation and degradation of black people. Mullins and Craig are just not in that situation at all. All they have to do is go to another bakery. Almost every other baker in Colorado would bake them a wedding cake. And of course, racial segregation was itself legally enforced, though individual business owners also did object to ending it at their own lunch counters. There are no remaining legal restrictions on gay marriage.

What if Phillips was claiming that he objected to making cakes for black people on religious grounds? Well, interesting problem, but no one I know of is currently making claims like that. It’s not an actual issue. If it were, we’d have to judge it in the context of how serious and widescale the limitations on people’s actual lives actually were. You’d have to identify a state interest in ameliorating systemic discrimination. I don’t believe that this case raises those issues in the same way.

Mullins admitted the triviality of the practical problem to the Times: “Of course we could get a cake somewhere else,” he said, and I assume that they did. “This was about us being turned away from and denied service at a business because of who we are and who we love.” Really, what the couple say is driving them is the alleged trauma, carried out in front of the mother of one of the grooms. Phillips recalls telling them, “I’ll make you birthday cakes, shower cakes, cookies, brownies. I just can’t make a cake for a same-sex wedding.” Mullins described the experience: “We were mortified and just felt degraded, and it was all the worse to have Charlie’s mom sitting there with us. You don’t want your mom to see something like that happen to you.”

This gives one baker way too much emotional power over the lives of his almost-customers. I believe my response in their situation would’ve been to roll my eyes, think that Phillips was a wrong-headed religious fanatic, and buy my cake somewhere else. Surely Craig and Mullins are aware that such prejudices or religious objections exist. In this case, it presented them with a very slight inconvenience and something that could be interpreted as an insult. Insult Phillips back, or tell him that Jesus is love or whatever, and stomp out, okay?

And the government isn’t required to intervene in your relationship with your mom.

I am, in other words, unimpressed by their alleged trauma, and think that, in the whole ordeal, Phillips has had worse practical consequences. Meanwhile, the Times reporter found Phillips in his shop, decorating a cake with the likeness of Martin Luther King (which admittedly is intended to be devoured). He says he’ll happily serve gay people, just not for a wedding, which he considers a religious ceremony that, when performed between two men, is incompatible with his own belief.

Let’s say the Supreme Court rules in Phillips’ favor. Would you seriously expect gay people to have a problem getting wedding cakes or hiring a deejay? It’s not an actual problem. But creating cakes through state-mandated forced labor really would be.

Originally published on September 18, 2017 in Splice Today and can be found here.

 

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Sorry, scientists. Religion is here to stay.

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

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In 1966, just over 50 years ago, the distinguished Canadian-born anthropologist Anthony Wallace confidently predicted the global demise of religion at the hands of an advancing science: “Belief in supernatural powers is doomed to die out, all over the world, as a result of the increasing adequacy and diffusion of scientific knowledge.” Wallace’s vision was not exceptional. On the contrary, the modern social sciences, which took shape in 19th-century western Europe, took their own recent historical experience of secularization as a universal model. An assumption lay at the core of the social sciences, either presuming or sometimes predicting that all cultures would eventually converge on something roughly approximating secular, Western, liberal democracy. Then something closer to the opposite happened.

Not only has secularism failed to continue its steady global march but countries as varied as Iran, India, Israel, Algeria, and Turkey have either had their secular governments replaced by religious ones, or have seen the rise of influential religious nationalist movements. Secularization, as predicted by the social sciences, has failed.

To be sure, this failure is not unqualified. Many Western countries continue to witness decline in religious belief and practice. The most recent census data released in Australia, for example, shows that 30 percent of the population identify as having “no religion,” and that this percentage is increasing. International surveys confirm comparatively low levels of religious commitment in western Europe and Australasia. Even the United States, a long-time source of embarrassment for the secularization thesis, has seen a rise in unbelief. The percentage of atheists in the U.S. now sits at an all-time high (if “high” is the right word) of around 3 percent. Yet, for all that, globally, the total number of people who consider themselves to be religious remains high, and demographic trends suggest that the overall pattern for the immediate future will be one of religious growth. But this isn’t the only failure of the secularization thesis.

Scientists, intellectuals, and social scientists expected that the spread of modern science would drive secularization — that science would be a secularising force. But that simply hasn’t been the case. If we look at those societies where religion remains vibrant, their key common features are less to do with science, and more to do with feelings of existential security and protection from some of the basic uncertainties of life in the form of public goods. A social safety net might be correlated with scientific advances but only loosely, and again the case of the U.S. is instructive. The U.S. is arguably the most scientifically and technologically advanced society in the world, and yet at the same time the most religious of Western societies. As the British sociologist David Martin concluded in The Future of Christianity (2011): “There is no consistent relation between the degree of scientific advance and a reduced profile of religious influence, belief, and practice.”

The story of science and secularization becomes even more intriguing when we consider those societies that have witnessed significant reactions against secularist agendas. India’s first prime minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, championed secular and scientific ideals, and enlisted scientific education in the project of modernization. Nehru was confident that Hindu visions of a Vedic past and Muslim dreams of an Islamic theocracy would both succumb to the inexorable historical march of secularization. “There is only one-way traffic in Time,” he declared. But as the subsequent rise of Hindu and Islamic fundamentalism adequately attests, Nehru was wrong. Moreover, the association of science with a secularising agenda has backfired, with science becoming a collateral casualty of resistance to secularism.

Turkey provides an even more revealing case. Like most pioneering nationalists, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, the founder of the Turkish republic, was a committed secularist. Atatürk believed that science was destined to displace religion. In order to make sure that Turkey was on the right side of history, he gave science, in particular evolutionary biology, a central place in the state education system of the fledgling Turkish republic. As a result, evolution came to be associated with Atatürk’s entire political programme, including secularism. Islamist parties in Turkey, seeking to counter the secularist ideals of the nation’s founders, have also attacked the teaching of evolution. For them, evolution is associated with secular materialism. This sentiment culminated in the decision this June to remove the teaching of evolution from the high-school classroom. Again, science has become a victim of guilt by association.

The U.S. represents a different cultural context, where it might seem that the key issue is a conflict between literal readings of Genesis and key features of evolutionary history. But in fact, much of the creationist discourse centres on moral values. In the U.S. case too, we see anti-evolutionism motivated at least in part by the assumption that evolutionary theory is a stalking horse for secular materialism and its attendant moral commitments. As in India and Turkey, secularism is actually hurting science.

In brief, global secularization is not inevitable and, when it does happen, it is not caused by science. Further, when the attempt is made to use science to advance secularism, the results can damage science. The thesis that “science causes secularization” simply fails the empirical test, and enlisting science as an instrument of secularization turns out to be poor strategy. The science and secularism pairing is so awkward that it raises the question: Why did anyone think otherwise?

Historically, two related sources advanced the idea that science would displace religion. First, 19th-century progressivist conceptions of history, particularly associated with the French philosopher Auguste Comte, held to a theory of history in which societies pass through three stages — religious, metaphysical, and scientific (or “positive”). Comte coined the term “sociology” and he wanted to diminish the social influence of religion and replace it with a new science of society. Comte’s influence extended to the “young Turks” and Atatürk.

The 19th century also witnessed the inception of the “conflict model” of science and religion. This was the view that history can be understood in terms of a “conflict between two epochs in the evolution of human thought — the theological and the scientific.” This description comes from Andrew Dickson White’s influential A History of the Warfare of Science with Theology in Christendom (1896), the title of which nicely encapsulates its author’s general theory. White’s work, as well as John William Draper’s earlier History of the Conflict Between Religion and Science (1874), firmly established the conflict thesis as the default way of thinking about the historical relations between science and religion. Both works were translated into multiple languages. Draper’s History went through more than 50 printings in the U.S. alone, was translated into 20 languages and, notably, became a bestseller in the late Ottoman empire, where it informed Atatürk’s understanding that progress meant science superseding religion.

The conflict model of science and religion offered a mistaken view of the past and, when combined with expectations of secularization, led to a flawed vision of the future. Secularization theory failed at both description and prediction. The real question is why we continue to encounter proponents of science-religion conflict. Many are prominent scientists. It would be superfluous to rehearse Richard Dawkins’ musings on this topic, but he is by no means a solitary voice. Stephen Hawking thinks that “science will win because it works”; Sam Harris has declared that “science must destroy religion”; Stephen Weinberg thinks that science has weakened religious certitude; Colin Blakemore predicts that science will eventually make religion unnecessary. Historical evidence simply does not support such contentions. Indeed, it suggests that they are misguided.

So why do they persist? The answers are political. Leaving aside any lingering fondness for quaint 19th-century understandings of history, we must look to the fear of Islamic fundamentalism, exasperation with creationism, an aversion to alliances between the religious Right and climate change denial, and worries about the erosion of scientific authority. While we might be sympathetic to these concerns, there is no disguising the fact that they arise out of an unhelpful intrusion of normative commitments into the discussion. Wishful thinking — hoping that science will vanquish religion — is no substitute for a sober assessment of present realities. Continuing with this advocacy is likely to have an effect opposite to that intended.

Religion is not going away any time soon, and science will not destroy it. If anything, it is science that is subject to increasing threats to its authority and social legitimacy. Given this, science needs all the friends it can get. Its advocates would be well advised to stop fabricating an enemy out of religion, or insisting that the only path to a secure future lies in a marriage of science and secularism.

By Peter Harrison and published in The Week on September 12, 2017 and can be found here.

 

Does the Immaterial Exist?

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

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One of the most common arguments from atheists is that matter is all that there is, and that the immaterial (God, angels, the human soul, etc.) simply doesn’t exist. This position is generally called “philosophical materialism,” although that term encompasses a number of distinct positions. In any case, here’s one of the clearest presentations of this argument:

When we speak of immaterial things, we are speaking of something that has no physical substance. Now, if you think about this, everything we know to exist has physical properties. Your arm, leg, mind, blood, teeth, tongue, and everything else are physical. They are in the form of your physical body. Your brain can’t work without physical/material processes of chemistry and electricity. Electricity can’t work without the physical electrons. A windmill can’t work without the physical air that passes across its blades. Everything we know to exist is physical.[….]

So, if God is not material, what is God? If there is no answer for what God is, all we can say is God doesn’t exist, or he exists nowhere and is comprised of nothing, which I don’t see how that isn’t the same exact thing. It is rather interesting how the theist description of what there God is actually puts their God out of existence.

Or, a shorter version of essentially the same argument:

If we are talking about immaterial existence, then there is nothing to differentiate an entity or “thing” which exists from one which does not exist.

Often (including in the second link provided), these discussions descend into debates over speculative science: whether or not dark energy or photons have mass, etc. But I think that this materialist argument can be answered easily, using agreed-upon evidence. In other words, the fact that the universe is made up of something other than matter is self-evident, and should be admitted by anyone, upon close reflection. In addition to matter, we also see immaterial forms that can dictate the nature and behavior of the matter itself.

We can observe forms in nature, and cannot account for them in purely material ways. This is true even of forms that cannot exist apart from matter.  Consider the following examples, from most to least technical:

  1. Isomers: This is my favorite example. When two or more (different) compounds share the same molecular formula, you have isomers. For example, there are three different compounds with the molecular formula C3H8O: methoxyethane (a colorless gas that is extremely flammable and reactive); propanol (a liquid solvent used in the pharmaceutical industry); and isopropyl alcohol (rubbing alcohol).These are different substances, with different chemical properties. Yet these differences are not material. They’re formal. That is, each of the three substances is made up of the identical atoms: 3 carbon, 8 hydrogen, and one oxygen. It is the arrangement of those molecules that determines whether the substance will be methoxyethanepropanol, or rubbing alcohol. The same matter, in different forms, produces different substances.
  2. Phase Changes: A more obvious example of this would be the phase changes of water. Depending on its form (solid, liquid, or gaseous), it exhibits different properties, and is structured differently. Yet it maintains the same molecular and structural formula.
  3. Surfaces: The surface of a table is not the table itself. Surfaces are immaterial, and have no mass, and occupy no three-dimensional space. If you doubt this, try to imagine a surface that is 3 feet deep. Whatever you are visualizing is not a surface, but a substance with surfaces of its own. But we can still observe that surfaces exist.
  4. Shapes: Envision two different objects of equal mass, made of identical materials. The first is a wooden cube, and the second is a wooden sphere. The difference between the two objects wouldn’t be material, but formal.

In each of these cases, the form itself is immaterial. To test this, take your wooden objects, and remove the matter that they have in common (the wood). Likewise, take your isomers, and remove the matter that they have in common (the carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen). The result will be the same: you will be left with nothing. But does that mean that the different objects were, in fact, the same? Of course not. It means only that, in each of these cases, differences exist between the substances, but these differences cannot be isolated by removing the material common to each. That’s because these differences are immaterial, rather than material.

Those cases are obvious enough. A less obvious, but dramatically more important, example of a perceivable form is life itself. Consider what philosopher Peter Kreeft fittingly named the “Dead Cow Argument”: you come across two cows — one that is alive, and one that has just died. What is the difference between these two cows? Craig Payne, quoting Kreeft, explains:

There appears to be no material difference (e.g., in size or weight or color) between the two cows. Yet something is clearly missing. What is it?” The obvious answer is that the cow is “clearly missing” its life – its “soul” or anima, in other words, its animating principle or form, that which causes the cow to live and develop as a cow.

So the living and the dead cow, at this point, are still materially identical. Nevertheless, we can immediately observe that an immaterial difference exists, and a radically important one. As Kreeft notes, both cows have air in their lungs, but only one can breathe. This distinction is, as noted above, the “animating” principle of the matter: the form enabling a particular material substance to live. It is from this that we have the simplest understanding of what a soul is: the animating principle of a body.

Certainly, this is only the beginning of a discussion on the soul, not the end. We’re still left to determine what sort of a thing the immaterial soul is, whether a human soul is like a cow soul, and so on.  But this line of reasoning does dispel the absurd notion that the material is all that there is.

By Joe Heschmeyer and originally published on September 6, 2017 in Word on Fire and can be found here.

The Fruits Of Same-Sex Marriage

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

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Australia is about to have a plebiscite over whether or not to have same-sex marriage. Writing in the Spectator‘s Australian edition, David Sergeant asks readers to consider what has happened in Britain since same-sex marriage became the law of the land. If it had been only marriage law that changed, it might have been tolerable. But of course there has been much more — as we’ve seen in the US, though not (yet) to the extent Britain has. Among the results:

Much was made in the UK, about supposed exemptions, designed to ensure that believers would always be allowed to stay true to their convictions.

Four years later, the very same people who made ‘heartfelt promises’, now work tirelessly to undermine them.

Equalities minister Justine Greening, has insisted that churches must be made to: ‘Keep up with modern attitudes. Likewise, the Speaker of the House of Commons, a position supposedly defined by its political neutrality, had this to say: I feel we’ll only have proper equal marriage when you can bloody well get married in a church if you want to do so, without having to fight the church for the equality that should be your right’.

It became clear, during this year’s general election, just how militant the LGBT lobby have become, following marriage redefinition.

I’ll say. You’ve got to read this. And, Sergeant says the gay marriage movement, and its second-generation SOGI (Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity) offshoots, have moved into education too:

Across the UK, ‘sex education’ has been transformed and disfigured. TV programmes, aimed at children as young as three, promote ‘gender fluidity’, as an enabler of thoughtfulness and individuality.

At the same time, Ministers have denied worried parents the right to withdraw their children from primary school classes. Meanwhile, ‘outside educators’ teach children about sex positions, ‘satisfying’ pornography consumption and how to masturbate. Concerns regarding STI’s and Promiscuity, are derided as ‘old-fashioned’.

Independent religious schools are under intense scrutiny. Dame Louise Casey, a senior government advisor, recently insisted that it is now: ‘Not Ok for Catholic schools to be homophobic and anti-gay marriage’.

Ofsted, the body responsible for school-assessment, has been wildly politicised. In 2013, Prior to the redefinition of marriage, Ofsted visited Vishnitz Jewish Girls School. They passed the school with flying colours. In fact, they went out of their way to highlight the committed and attentive approach to student welfare and development. Four years later, Ofsted returned. This time, they failed the school on one issue alone. While again, noting that students were ‘confident in thinking for themselves‘, their report, pointed to the inadequate promotion of homosexuality and gender reassignment. As such, it was failing to ensure: ‘a full understanding of fundamental British values’. It is one of an initial seven faith schools that face closure.

But those men and women who ought to have spoken out against this madness, and who ought to be speaking out now, to save what’s left, lack all conviction. Sergeant:

I mentioned that I was writing this article to a good friend in the Conservative Party, back at home. He expressed his genuine concern. Had I not considered the consequences? Did I not realise that what I said in Australia could be found when I returned to the UK? ‘LGBT progress is an unstoppable tide’. He assured me, that it was ok for me to ‘privately’ believe that marriage was between one man and one woman. He even privately agreed, that the stuff being taught in primary schools was too much.

But to say it out loud? To actually have it in print? It would blight my career and my personal relationships.

Good God. How much more important the institution of marriage and freedom of thought, religion and speech. How much more important the future of our children, than any naïve career ambitions I might harbour.

I urge every Aussie to examine the evidence, analysis the results and be clear about what you’re voting for. If it was solely marriage, it would worth preserving.

It’s infinitely more.

Read the whole thing. This is a clear manifestation of the Law of Merited Impossibility (“It will never happen, and when it does, you bigots will deserve it.”) It is now perfectly clear that those American activists and allies who said that changing marriage law would not be a big deal, and would only mean allowing same-sex couples to marry, were lying — either by intention, or by naively assuming that the juggernaut would stop right there and go no further. A friend of mine told me a couple of weeks ago that two second graders in his kid’s school are “transitioning,” and that his high school daughter came home from school to inform her parents that believing in “the gender binary” is tantamount to racial hatred.

As the SOGI phenomenon achieves cultural hegemony, orthodox Christians are going to be marginalized and scapegoated more and more. If you are a pastor or some kind of church leader, and you aren’t mobilizing your congregation to understand the times and get active to resist this, what is wrong with you? If you are a social or religious conservative who thinks somehow that this is going to pass you by, and leave your kids and your church and your kids’ school alone, so you don’t have to worry about it, well, what is wrong with you?

We have to fight in politics, we have to fight in the courts, but none of those battles will be worth winning if we haven’t fought in schools, churches, families, and elsewhere in the culture to defend our convictions. And note well, it cannot simply be a matter of saying what we are against; it must also, and even more strongly, be a matter of saying what we are for — and then doing what we must to live those things out, as well as to build the institutions, networks, and cells within which to build resistance.

Everybody else, say hello to Lactatia, the eight-year-old drag queen, in this clip from Elle magazine. That’s what Weimar America’s betters think of as a child hero and role model. The Soviets had Pavlik Morozov, the child hero who denounced his father to Stalin’s agents. We’ve got Lactatia.

By Rod Dreher and published in The American Conservative on September 8, 2017 and can be found here.

Democrats and ‘Dogma’: Are you now or have you ever been an ‘orthodox Catholic’?

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

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‘Why is it that so many of us on this side have this very uncomfortable feeling that—you know, dogma and law are two different things. And I think whatever a religion is, it has its own dogma. The law is totally different. And I think in your case, professor, when you read your speeches, the conclusion one draws is that the dogma lives loudly within you, and that’s of concern when you come to big issues that large numbers of people have fought for years in this country.”

Thus did California Sen. Dianne Feinstein pronounce on Wednesday that, by virtue of being a faithful Catholic, Amy Barrett, a respected law professor at Notre Dame, may have excluded herself from a federal judgeship. President Trump has nominated Ms. Barrett for the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals. But the Democratic obsession with Ms. Barrett’s religion transformed what should have been a routine Senate confirmation hearing into a tour of the mind of the modern secular left.

The ugly implication of Mrs. Feinstein’s words is underscored by the context. She deployed them to suggest Ms. Barrett’s faith would lead her to substitute her personal beliefs for the law, basing the accusation primarily on a law review article Ms. Barrett wrote in 1998 as a law clerk.

Ms. Barrett and her co-author explicitly reached the opposite conclusion: “Judges cannot—nor should they try to—align our legal system with the Church’s moral teaching whenever the two diverge.”

The question addressed by the law review article was what Catholic judges ought to do when they conclude they cannot in good conscience apply the law as written because it clashes with their own moral views. If she was rattled by the question, Sen. Feinstein ought to have been reassured by the answer Ms. Barrett gave: They should recuse themselves.

David Rivkin, a constitutional litigator, says “the tenor of questions by Democrat Senators seemed designed more to challenge the ideas of Catholic orthodoxy—a subject more fitting for a theological debate than a Senate hearing.”

Proving Mr. Rivkin’s point. Sen. Dick Durbin jumped in to demand of Ms. Barrett: “Do you consider yourself an orthodox Catholic?” Does Mr. Durbin understand that he sounds like the Southern Baptist ministers in 1960 who thought Jack Kennedy shouldn’t be President because he’d take orders from the pope?

This questioning is part of a broader effort on the left to disqualify people with strong religious views from the public square. Ms. Feinstein’s smear about Ms. Barrett’s “dogma” dovetails with the left-wing Southern Poverty Law Center’s effort to label any outfit that doesn’t go along with its agenda a “hate group.”

Sen. Al Franken, the great legal philosopher, wrapped it all up nicely by accusing Ms. Barrett of having appeared before a “hate” group. He was referring to the Alliance Defending Freedom, a religious liberty outfit that the Southern Poverty Law Center designated a hate group because it adheres to traditional views about human sexuality and marriage.

As for judges imposing dogma over the law, it’s worth noting that not all dogmas are religious. Democratic interest groups are explicit in demanding that Democratic judicial nominees be committed to overturning Citizens United’s defense of free speech while brooking no modification in Roe v. Wade.

Let’s hope the Senate rejects the bigotry that marred Wednesday’s hearing and approves the eminently qualified Ms. Barrett for the Seventh Circuit. The federal bench could use more judges who understand their civic duty as well as Ms. Barrett does.

By “The Editorial Board” and originally published in The Wall Street Journal on September 7, 2017 and can be found here.

 

What’s changed in Britain since same-sex marriage?

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

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Four years ago, amid much uncertainty, 400 British members of parliament voted to redefine marriage in the United Kingdom.

Then prime minister David Cameron announced that, despite having made no mention of the issue in his party’s pre-election manifesto, it would be MP’s who decided the fate of marriage.

Now, it’s Australia’s turn to choose. There’s one key difference. Unlike in Britain, it will be the people who decide.

Everyone agrees, whether they admit it or not. This is a decision of enormous significance.

Therefore, it seems sensible to analyse the consequences of the potential change, within nations in which redefinition has previously been carried out.

In the United Kingdom, it has become abundantly clear that redefinition has affected many people, across many spheres. At first glance, these spheres appeared distinct from marriage redefinition. However, subsequent changes, have proved that they are entirely intertwined.

Gender: Current Conservative Prime Minister, Theresa May, has revealed proposals to abolish the need for any medical consultation before gender reassignment. Simply filling out an official form will be sufficient. A ‘Ministry of Equalities’ press release, explicitly announced, that the proposals were designed to: ‘build on the progress’ of same-sex marriage. Guardian journalist Roz Kaveney boasted that changing your gender is now: Almost as simple as changing your name by statutory declaration’.

Manifestations of the ‘British gender revolution’ are not difficult to find. Transport for London, have prohibited the use of the ‘heteronormative’ words, such as ladies and gentlemen. Meanwhile, universities across the nation are threatening to ‘mark down’ students, who continue to use the words ‘he’ and ‘she’. Instead, ‘gender neutral pronouns’ such as ‘ze’, must be uniformly applied.

Such gender-theory radicalism has delighted Stonewall, the UK’s largest LGBT lobby. Their Orwellian tagline: Acceptance without exception’, can be seen plastered on posters and adverts. Politicians, attempt to ‘out-radical’ one another, in the race to be an original champion, in the next emancipatory front of ‘Trans-rights’.

Freedom of religion: Much was made in the UK, about supposed exemptions, designed to ensure that believers would always be allowed to stay true to their convictions.

Four years later, the very same people who made ‘heartfelt promises’, now work tirelessly to undermine them.

Equalities minister Justine Greening, has insisted that churches must be made to: ‘Keep up with modern attitudes. Likewise, the Speaker of the House of Commons, a position supposedly defined by its political neutrality, had this to say: I feel we’ll only have proper equal marriage when you can bloody well get married in a church if you want to do so, without having to fight the church for the equality that should be your right’.

It became clear, during this year’s general election, just how militant the LGBT lobby have become, following marriage redefinition. The primary target was Tim Farron, leader of England’s third largest political party, the Liberal Democrats. High-profile journalists had heard that Farron was a practising Christian. In every single interview thereafter, they demanded to know. Did he personally believe homosexual sex to be a sin? He practically begged the commentariat, to allow him to keep his personal faith and legislative convictions separate. For decades, he pointed out, he had out vocally and legislatively supported the LGBT Lobby. Likewise, he had long backed same-sex marriage, voting for it enthusiastically. This simply was no longer enough.

Shortly after the election campaign, Farron resigned. He stated that it was now impossible, for a believing Christian to hold a prominent position in British politics.

In a heartbreaking development and in spite of Britain’s ‘foster crisis’, aspiring foster parents who identify as religious, face interrogation. Those who are deemed unlikely to ‘celebrate’ homosexuality, have had their dreams of parenthood scuppered. This month, Britain’s High Court, ruled that a Pentecostal couple were ineligible parents. While the court recognised their successful and loving record of adoption, they decreed that above all else: ‘The equality provisions concerning sexual orientation should take precedence. How has Great Britain become so twisted? Practicing Jews, Muslims, Christians and Sikhs, who want to stay true to their religious teachings, can no longer adopt children.

Freedom of speech: In the lead-up to the Parliamentary vote, we witnessed almost incomprehensible bullying. David Burrows MP, a mild-mannered supporter of the ‘Coalition for Marriage’, had excrement thrown at his house. His children received death threats and their school address was published online. Similarly, ‘Conservative’ broadcaster Iain Dale promised to, ‘publicly out’ gay MP’s, who did not vote for redefinition.

Many hardworking Brits have lost their jobs. Consider Adrian Smith, sacked by a Manchester Housing Trust, for suggesting that the state: shouldn’t impose its rules on places of faith and conscience’. Or Richard Page, fired for gross misconduct after articulating, that children might enjoy better outcomes, were they to be adopted by heterosexual couples.

Simultaneously, contrary to ‘steadfast’ government assurances, small businesses have been consistently targeted. Courts in Northern Ireland ruled that the Asher’s Family bakery had acted unlawfully. What crime committed by this tiny business? Politely declining to decorate a cake with a political message in support of same-sex marriage. The courts maintained that business owners must be compelled to promote the LGBT cause, irrespective of personal convictions.

Even the National Trust, a British institution with over 4.2 million members, has decided to join the bullying LGBT crusade. A message went out. Each of the Trust’s 62,000 volunteers, would be required to wear a compulsory same-sex rainbow badge. Those who said they’d rather not were told they would be ‘moved out of sightuntil they were prepared to publicly demonstrate inclusive tolerance.

In retrospect, the silent majority in Britain remained silent for too long. Reflecting on redefinition, Ben Harris-Quinney, Chairman of the Bow Group think tank pondered that:‘Same-sex marriage was promoted in the UK, as an issue of supposed tolerance and equality. What we have seen, is the most unequal and intolerant outcomes of any political issue in recent history’.

Children: Across the UK, ‘sex education’ has been transformed and disfigured. TV programmes, aimed at children as young as three, promote ‘gender fluidity’, as an enabler of thoughtfulness and individuality.

At the same time, Ministers have denied worried parents the right to withdraw their children from primary school classes. Meanwhile, ‘outside educators’ teach children about sex positions, ‘satisfying’ pornography consumption and how to masturbate. Concerns regarding STI’s and Promiscuity, are derided as ‘old-fashioned’.

Independent religious schools are under intense scrutiny. Dame Louise Casey, a senior government advisor, recently insisted that it is now: Not Ok for Catholic schools to be homophobic and anti-gay marriage’.
Ofsted, the body responsible for school-assessment, has been wildly politicised. In 2013, Prior to the redefinition of marriage, Ofsted visited Vishnitz Jewish Girls School. They passed the school with flying colours. In fact, they went out of their way to highlight the committed and attentive approach to student welfare and development. Four years later, Ofsted returned. This time, they failed the school on one issue alone. While again, noting that students were ‘confident in thinking for themselves‘, their report, pointed to the inadequate promotion of homosexuality and gender reassignment. As such, it was failing to ensure: a full understanding of fundamental British values’. It is one of an initial seven faith schools that face closure.

I mentioned that I was writing this article to a good friend in the Conservative Party, back at home. He expressed his genuine concern. Had I not considered the consequences? Did I not realise that what I said in Australia could be found when I returned to the UK? ‘LGBT progress is an unstoppable tide’. He assured me, that it was ok for me to ‘privately’ believe that marriage was between one man and one woman. He even privately agreed, that the stuff being taught in primary schools was too much.

But to say it out loud? To actually have it in print? It would blight my career and my personal relationships.

Good God. How much more important the institution of marriage and freedom of thought, religion and speech. How much more important the future of our children, than any naïve career ambitions I might harbour.

I urge every Aussie to examine the evidence, analysis the results and be clear about what you’re voting for. If it was solely marriage, it would worth preserving.

It’s infinitely more.

By David Sergeant and originally published in The Spectator on September 7, 2017 and can be found here.

 

Best Speech Ever On How Millenials Worship The Establishment

Every now and again I come across something that warrants posting here; I recently came across this on  Youtube which, I thought, was pretty insightful. Be edified.

 

Paying the price for breakdown of the country’s bourgeois culture

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

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Too few Americans are qualified for the jobs available. Male working-age labor-force participation is at Depression-era lows. Opioid abuse is widespread. Homicidal violence plagues inner cities. Almost half of all children are born out of wedlock, and even more are raised by single mothers. Many college students lack basic skills, and high school students rank below those from two dozen other countries.

 The causes of these phenomena are multiple and complex, but implicated in these and other maladies is the breakdown of the country’s bourgeois culture.

That culture laid out the script we all were supposed to follow: Get married before you have children and strive to stay married for their sake. Get the education you need for gainful employment, work hard, and avoid idleness. Go the extra mile for your employer or client. Be a patriot, ready to serve the country. Be neighborly, civic-minded, and charitable. Avoid coarse language in public. Be respectful of authority. Eschew substance abuse and crime.

These basic cultural precepts reigned from the late 1940s to the mid-1960s. They could be followed by people of all backgrounds and abilities, especially when backed up by almost universal endorsement. Adherence was a major contributor to the productivity, educational gains, and social coherence of that period.

Did everyone abide by those precepts? Of course not. There are always rebels — and hypocrites, those who publicly endorse the norms but transgress them. But as the saying goes, hypocrisy is the homage vice pays to virtue. Even the deviants rarely disavowed or openly disparaged the prevailing expectations.

Was everything perfect during the period of bourgeois cultural hegemony? Of course not. There was racial discrimination, limited sex roles, and pockets of anti-Semitism. However, steady improvements for women and minorities were underway even when bourgeois norms reigned. Banishing discrimination and expanding opportunity does not require the demise of bourgeois culture. Quite the opposite: The loss of bourgeois habits seriously impeded the progress of disadvantaged groups. That trend also accelerated the destructive consequences of the growing welfare state, which, by taking over financial support of families, reduced the need for two parents. A strong pro-marriage norm might have blunted this effect. Instead, the number of single parents grew astronomically, producing children more prone to academic failure, addiction, idleness, crime, and poverty.

This cultural script began to break down in the late 1960s. A combination of factors — prosperity, the Pill, the expansion of higher education, and the doubts surrounding the Vietnam War — encouraged an antiauthoritarian, adolescent, wish-fulfillment ideal — sex, drugs, and rock-and-roll — that was unworthy of, and unworkable for, a mature, prosperous adult society. This era saw the beginnings of an identity politics that inverted the color-blind aspirations of civil rights leaders like the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. into an obsession with race, ethnicity, gender, and now sexual preference.

And those adults with influence over the culture, for a variety of reasons, abandoned their role as advocates for respectability, civility, and adult values. As a consequence, the counterculture made great headway, particularly among the chattering classes — academics, writers, artists, actors, and journalists — who relished liberation from conventional constraints and turned condemning America and reviewing its crimes into a class marker of virtue and sophistication.

All cultures are not equal. Or at least they are not equal in preparing people to be productive in an advanced economy. The culture of the Plains Indians was designed for nomadic hunters, but is not suited to a First World, 21st-century environment. Nor are the single-parent, antisocial habits, prevalent among some working-class whites; the anti-“acting white” rap culture of inner-city blacks; the anti-assimilation ideas gaining ground among some Hispanic immigrants. These cultural orientations are not only incompatible with what an advanced free-market economy and a viable democracy require, they are also destructive of a sense of solidarity and reciprocity among Americans. If the bourgeois cultural script — which the upper-middle class still largely observes but now hesitates to preach — cannot be widely reinstated, things are likely to get worse for us all.

Would the re-embrace of bourgeois norms by the ordinary Americans who have abandoned them significantly reduce society’s pathologies? There is every reason to believe so. Among those who currently follow the old precepts, regardless of their level of education or affluence, the homicide rate is tiny, opioid addiction is rare, and poverty rates are low. Those who live by the simple rules that most people used to accept may not end up rich or hold elite jobs, but their lives will go far better than they do now. All schools and neighborhoods would be much safer and more pleasant. More students from all walks of life would be educated for constructive employment and democratic participation.

But restoring the hegemony of the bourgeois culture will require the arbiters of culture — the academics, media, and Hollywood — to relinquish multicultural grievance polemics and the preening pretense of defending the downtrodden. Instead of bashing the bourgeois culture, they should return to the 1950s posture of celebrating it.

By Amy Wax and originally published in The Philadelphia Inquirer on August 9, 2017 and can be found here.

 

The progressives who cried bigotry

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

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It is difficult not to enjoy the liberal outrage being generated by the so-called “Nashville Statement,” a brief, fairly boring manifesto on marriage recently issued by an evangelical Christian body called the Council on Biblical Manhood and Woman. Here’s a sample:

We affirm that God has designed marriage to be a covenantal, sexual, procreative, lifelong union of one man and one woman, as husband and wife, and is meant to signify the covenant love between Christ and his bride the church.

We deny that God has designed marriage to be a homosexual, polygamous, or polyamorous relationship. We also deny that marriage is a mere human contract rather than a covenant made before God. [Nashville Statement]

As far as Christian defenses of marriage go, this is tame stuff. Still, I understand why super-woke outlets like Salon are comfortable referring to the document as “bigotry-filled” and glibly pretending that any real Christian would surely disagree with its claims about morality. These websites also pay writers to insist that wrestling GIFs are threats of violence and that allowing male teenagers to compete in female athletic competitions is unremarkable. For those engaged in such work, clear thinking with rigorous categories and definitions is a professional liability. They accept emotion, feigned or otherwise, as the only genuine moral currency. They are geniuses who can simultaneously maintain that “male” and “female” are artificial socially constructed distinctions to which no meaningful predicates can be attached — that there is no such thing as being a man or a woman per se — and that it is possible for a woman, something that in essence does not exist, to be trapped in a man’s body.

But it’s not just the restless young piling on the Nashville Statement. So too are the bandwagoning would-be woke neoliberal Baby Boomers who insist that a basic assumption which they have held for most of their now-long lives — namely that same-sex marriage is an oxymoron, like married bachelorhood — is now rank bigotry. In 10 years when polygamy is legalized by fiat, they will rail in their creaking voices against “polyphobes” or some similarly monstrous coinage. Their recent decision to call those of us who insist that marriage is a covenant between men and women “bigots” is ludicrous, predictable, and somewhat grimly amusing.

It’s also entirely correct. In the eyes of the world, faithful Christians will always be bigots.

But if the Nashville Statement is “bigoted,” then the target of the council’s animus is much wider than its critics, juvenile and geriatric, will allow. It is bigoted not only against same-sex marriage, but against participation in what used to be called “the marital act” outside of its proper context, namely that of lifelong exclusive marriage designated by God for the avoidance of sin and the conferral of those graces necessary for resisting it. It is, therefore, by extension bigoted against divorce and the fallacious assumption that it is possible for those whose spouses live to marry again and against polygamy and concubinage. It is bigoted against the unnatural practice of what was once called “self-abuse,” against onanism and (though its drafters may not like having this pointed out) contraception. It is bigoted against willful delight in lust, against pornography. It is bigoted against any denial of the efficacy of God’s grace and his infinite mercy for the hearts of the contrite. It is bigoted, in other words, against sin.

If this is bigotry, then all Christians are bigots.

Those halcyon periods when the spirit of the Gospel has not disgusted the zeitgeist, when our religion has not outraged the powers and principalities, the rulers of the darkness of this world, have been brief and lucid intervals. If hating sin is bigotry, then may the Immaculate Heart of Mary strengthen us in our rank prejudice not only against these sins of the flesh, but against greed, blasphemy, the occult, irreligion, murder, lies, gossip, calumny, hatred, despair, and all sins mortal and venial.

Of course, it should go without saying that hating sin is not the same thing as hating sinners, much less condoning violence or uncharitable words. All Christians must condemn such things.

But it does seem to me rather late in the game for the Nashville framers to be taking up arms against the legalization of same-sex marriage. Its appearance was a predicable consequence of Protestant acquiescence with divorce, contraception, fornication, various disordered practices among married couples, and other evils. Unmoored from religious morality, marriage necessarily becomes a meaningless civic designation. Reversing Obergefell would be a good thing; it would not be enough to restore the legal status of marriage in this country to one in keeping with their own convictions.

For the foreseeable future, our bigotry looks like a losing game.

By Matthew Walther and published in The Week on August 31, 2017 and can be found here.

‘X’ Marks the Spot Where Inequality Took Root: Dig Here

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

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In 2002, I heard an economist characterizing this figure as containing a valuable economic insight. He wasn’t sure what the insight was. I have my own answer.

The economist talked of the figure as a sort of treasure map, which would lead us to the insight. “X” marks the spot. Dig here.

The graphic below tells three stories.

First, we see two distinct historic periods since World War II. In the first period, workers shared the gains from productivity. In the later period, a generation of workers gained little, even as productivity continued to rise.

Figure 1: The X marks the spot where something happened.

Figure 1: The ‘X’ marks the spot where something happened in the mid-1970’s. (Click to embiggen)

The second message is the very abrupt transition from the post-war historic period to the current one. Something happened in the mid-70’s to de-couple wages from productivity gains.

The third message is that workers’ wages – accounting for inflation and all the lower prices from cheap imported goods – would be double what they are now, if workers still took their share of gains in productivity.

A second version of the figure is equally provocative.

Figure 2

Figure 2: Follow the money (or the lack of it).

This graphic shows the same distinct historic periods, and the same sharp break around 1975. Each colored line represents the growth in family income, relative to 1975, for different income percentiles. Pre-1975, families at all levels of income benefited proportionately. Post-1975, The top 5% did well, and we know the top 1% did very well. Gains from productivity were redistributed upward to the top income percentiles.

This de-coupling of wages from productivity has drawn a trillion dollars out of the labor share of GDP.

Economics does not explain what happened in the mid-70s.

It was not the oil shock. Not interest rates. Not the Fed, or monetary policy. Not robots, or the decline of the Soviet Union, or globalization, or the internet.

The sharp break in the mid-70’s marks a shift in our country’s values. Our moral, social, political and economic values changed in the mid-70’s.

Let’s go back before World War II to the Great Depression. Speculative unregulated policies ruined the economy. Capitalism was discredited. Powerful and wealthy elites feared the legitimate threat of Communism. The public demanded that government solve our problems.

The Depression and World War II defined that generation’s collective identity. Our national heroes were the millions of workers, soldiers, families and communities who sacrificed. We owed a national debt to those who had saved Democracy and restored prosperity. The New Deal policies reflected that national purpose, honoring a social safety net, increasing bargaining power for workers and bringing public interest into balance with corporate power.

In that period, the prevailing social contract said, “We all do better when we all do better.” My prosperity depends on your well-being. In that period of history, you were my co-worker, neighbor or customer. Opportunity and fairness drove the upward spiral (with some glaring exceptions). Work had dignity. Workers earned a share of the wealth they created. We built Detroit (for instance) by hard work and productivity.

Our popular media father-figures were Walter Cronkite, Chet Huntley, David Brinkley, and others, liberal and conservative, who were devoted to an America of opportunity and fair play.

The sudden change in the mid-70’s was not economic. First it was moral, then social, then political, ….. then economic.

In the mid-70’s, we traded in our post-World War II social contract for a new one, where “greed is good.” In the new moral narrative I can succeed at your expense. I will take a bigger piece of a smaller pie. Our new heroes are billionaires, hedge fund managers, and CEO’s.

In this narrative, they deserve more wealth so they can create more jobs, even as they lay off workers, close factories and invest new capital in low-wage countries. Their values and their interests come first in education, retirement security, and certainly in labor law.

We express these same distorted moral, social and political priorities in our trade policies. As bad as these priorities are for our domestic policies, they are worse if they define the way we manage globalization.

The key to the treasure buried in Figure 1 is power relationships. To understand what happened, ask, “Who has the power to take 93% of all new wealth and how did they get that power? The new moral and social values give legitimacy to policies that favor those at the top of our economy.

We give more bargaining power and influence to the wealthy, who already have plenty of both, while reducing bargaining power for workers. In this new narrative, workers and unions destroyed Detroit (for instance) by not lowering our living standards fast enough.

In the new moral view, anyone making “poor choices” is responsible for his or her own ruin. The unfortunate are seen as unworthy moochers and parasites. We disparage teachers, government workers, the long-term unemployed, and immigrants.

In this era, popular media figures are spiteful and divisive.

Our policies have made all workers feel contingent, at risk, and powerless. Millions of part-time workers must please their employer to get hours. Millions more in the gig economy work without benefits and have no job security at all. Recent college graduates carry so much debt that they cannot invest, take risk on a new career, or rock the boat. Millions of undocumented workers are completely powerless in the labor market, and subject to wage theft. They have negative power in the labor market!

We are creating a new American aristocracy, with less opportunity – less social mobility and weaker social cohesion than any other advanced country. We are falling behind in many measures of well-being.

The dysfunctions of our post-1970 moral, social, political and economic system make it incapable of dealing with climate change or inequality, arguably the two greatest challenges of our time. We are failing our children and the next generations.

X marks the spot. In this case, “X” is our choice of national values. We abandoned traditional American values that built a great and prosperous nation. Our power relationships are sour.

We can start rebuilding our social cohesion when we say all work has dignity. Workers earn a share of the wealth we create. We all do better, when we all do better. My prosperity depends on a prosperous community with opportunity and fairness.

Dig there.

By Stan Sorscher and originally published in Economic Opportunity Institute on August 5, 2015 and can be found here.

 

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