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Cert. Denied In Challenge To High School Unit On Islam

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

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

You can learn more about this issue here.

Family Law Tip: What Happens When Someone Dies During a Divorce?

I post some tips regarding family to my Linkedin page (see here) from time to time, and I thought I should start sharing them here too. Below is one of my family law tips, and you can read my articles on family law here and other posts on family law here and all are cataloged here.

It Shouldn’t Be This Easy to Fool the Academic Left

Somehow it is fitting that the most extraordinary academic hoax of our time would deal with dog parks, dildos, Hooters, masturbation, fat shaming, and a feminist Mein Kampf.

In a prank that is alternately hilarious, appalling, and disturbing, three puckish academics managed to place no fewer than seven “shoddy, absurd, unethical” articles in “respectable” academic journals that trafficked in the growing field of grievance studies—a field that includes gender and queer studies, critical race theory and a variety of post-modern constructivist theories now fashionable in the humanities and social sciences. If nothing else, they demonstrated that academic leftism is a target ripe for ridicule as well as outrage.

As they note in their paper, “ Academic Grievance Studies and the Corruption of Scholarship,” the seven fake papers were the “tip of the iceberg” of sophistry in the hyper-ideological swamps of academia.

The absurdity of the paper was first highlighted by the twitter account known as @RealPeerReview, which exposes a wide range of junk scholarship (if you don’t follow it, you really ought to.) When the Wall Street Journal and others began sniffing around to ascertain the authorship of the piece, however, the gig was up and the three hoaxers decided to come clean. They admitted that they were also behind the “nutty and inhumane” idea to make white male students sit on the floor as a form of reparations, a paper that explored why straight men “rarely anally self-penetrate using sex toys,” and had even gotten a paper accepted in a feminist journal that was actually a chapter from Mein Kampf, “with fashionable buzzwords switched in.”

In addition to the seven papers that were accepted, they had another three accepted but not published; another seven were “still in play,” and only six had been rejected by peer reviewers.

Their success had been was so spectacular—and the results so farcical—that Harvard’s Yascha Mounck has labeled the grievance study hoax “Sokal Squared,” a reference to what, until now, had been academia’s most elaborate ruse.

On May 18, 1996, the New York Times broke the story that one of the trendiest, most prestigious academic journals in the country had been the victim of an elaborate hoax. The journal Social Text had published a lengthy post-modernist critique of science, unaware that the whole thing was a parody, a complete spoof of academia’s “self-indulgent nonsense.”

The article, written by a physicist named Alan Sokal was “a hodgepodge of supported statements, outright mistakes, and impenetrable jargon,” wrote the editors of Lingua Franca, the journal that exposed the prank. Filled with references to “hip theorists” like Jacques Derrida, it was “full of nonsense and errors.” But it had been published nonetheless.

Hilarity ensued as the implications of the prank became clear not least because it seemed to confirm suspicions that beneath the academic gibberish lurked … well, just gibberish.

But the latest attempt to expose academic drivel is in some ways more ambitious, because rather than simply relying on word salads of jargon, the authors, Helen Pluckrose, James A. Lindsay, and Peter Boghossian, set out to mimic the mind-set of the “identitarian madness coming out of the academic and activist left.”

They began each paper with a bizarre or outrageous thesis—that astronomy is sexist, or that men should be trained as dogs—but hijacked the logic, language, and dogmas of existing grievance literature to support their claims. The papers were notable for their shoddiness and preposterousness, but—and here was the key—they fit seamlessly into what passes for scholarship in the world of grievance studies.

“While our papers are all outlandish or intentionally broken in significant ways, it is important to recognize that they blend in almost perfectly with others in the disciplines under our consideration,” they explained. “As we progressed, we started to realize that just about anything can be made to work, so long as it falls within the moral orthodoxy and demonstrates understanding of the existing literature.”

So, for example, they wanted to see if they could get a respected journal to “publish papers that seek to problematize heterosexual men’s attraction to women and will accept very shoddy qualitative methodology and ideologically-motivated interpretations which support this.” Again, success—the journal Sex Roles published “An Ethnography of Breastaurant Masculinity: Themes of Objectification, Sexual Conquest, Male Control, and Masculine Toughness in a Sexually Objectifying Restaurant,” in which the (fake) authors argued that men go to Hooters “because they are nostalgic for patriarchal dominance and enjoy being able to order attractive women around.”

Because the three pranksters wanted to see if they see if they could get journals to accept arguments “which are ludicrous and positively dangerous to health if they support cultural constructivist arguments around body positivity and fatphobia,” they wrote a paper arguing for the sport of “fat bodybuilding.” It was duly published in Fat Studies.

And the journal Sexuality and Culture eagerly accepted a piece on sex toys—“Going in Through the Back Door: Challenging Straight Male Homohysteria and Transphobia through Receptive Penetrative Sex Toy Use” that concluded that the male reluctance to use dildos was “actually homophobic, transphobic, and anti-feminist.”

But their pièce de résistance was their success in getting the journal Affilia to publish a rewrite of a chapter of Mein Kampf by titling it “Our Struggle is My Struggle: Solidarity Feminism as an Intersectional Reply to Neoliberal and Choice Feminism,” and leavening it with feminist jargon to distract from its Hitlerian antecedents.

Beneath the merriment, the authors made a deadly serious point. “The problem we’ve been studying is of the utmost relevance to the real world and everyone in it,” they write. Much of the work now being produced by academia’s growing and voluble grievance industry, “is positively horrifying and surreal while exerting considerable influence on the field and beyond.”

Pluckrose, Lindsay and Boghossian—who are all self-proclaimed liberals—warn progressives who care about advancing social justice, that “these fields of study do not continue the important and noble liberal work of the civil rights movements; they corrupt it while trading upon their good names to keep pushing a kind of social snake oil onto a public that keeps getting sicker.”

Something has gone wrong in the university—especially in certain fields within the humanities. Scholarship based less upon finding truth and more upon attending to social grievances has become firmly established, if not fully dominant, within these fields, and their scholars increasingly bully students, administrators, and other departments into adhering to their worldview. This worldview is not scientific, and it is not rigorous….

This makes the problem a grave concern that’s rapidly undermining the legitimacy and reputations of universities, skewing politics, drowning out needed conversations, and pushing the culture war to ever more toxic and existential polarization.

The whistleblowers called on universities to launch a “thorough review,” of all of the fields suffused with grievance studies “in order to separate knowledge-producing disciplines and scholars from those generating constructivist sophistry.”

But such sustained introspection or reformation seem unlikely, given the arc of academia’s new orthodoxies, which are regarded as authoritative in so many disciplines. Reaction from the academic left has been predictable, with the authors attacked as part of a racist, sexist, homophobic, and transphobic right-wing assault on legitimate scholarship. Feminist scholar Alison Phipps issued a call via twitter (which has since been deleted) for her fellow academics to “please stand by colleagues in Gender Studies/Critical Race Studies/Fat Studies & other areas targeted by this journal article hoax. This is a coordinated attack from the right.” A critique in Slate also downplayed the gravity of the hoax and questioned why the story would be released “in the midst of the Kavanaugh imbroglio—a time when the anger and the horror of male anxiety is so resplendent in the news.”

Academia’s professional response to the whistleblowers is likely to be even harsher. The Wall Street Journal notes that it is likely the hoax will result in the academic ex-communication of the three scholars.

Mr. Boghossian doesn’t have tenure and expects the university will fire or otherwise punish him. Ms. Pluckrose predicts she’ll have a hard time getting accepted to a doctoral program. Mr. Lindsay said he expects to become “an academic pariah,” barred from professorships or publications.

Even so, Lindsay thinks it was all worth it, telling the Journal’s Jillian Kay Melchior, “For us, the risk of letting biased research continue to influence education, media, policy and culture is far greater than anything that will happen to us for having done this.”

By Charles J. Sykes, published in The Weekly Standard on October 8, 2019 and can be found here.

James W. Cushing, Esquire on the Law and Business Podcast: Judges and Bringing Cases to Settlement

Anthony Verna, Esquire, (of Vernal Law), a reputable copyright lawyer in New York, is the host of a podcast called The Law and Business Podcast (you can find it here).

We sat down for a half hour to discuss the role of judges in bringing cases to settlement.

You can listen to (and hopefully enjoy!) the podcast here!

Citizen Lacks Standing To Challenge City’s Annual Menorah Lighting

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

In Taylor v. City of Flagstaff, (D AZ, Oct. 9, 2019), an Arizona federal district court held that a citizen of Flagstaff, Arizona lacked standing to challenge the constitutionality of the city’s annual Grand Menorah Lighting at City Hall.  The court said in part:

Although Plaintiff is a resident of Flagstaff…, Plaintiff did not allege that he has had direct contact with the Grand Menorah Lighting at City Hall, or any other religious ceremony purportedly held in City Hall. According to the Complaint, Plaintiff’s contact with the Grand Menorah Lighting at City Hall has, at most, been via newspaper articles reporting the “Flagstaff Hanukkah tradition.”…. While Plaintiff alleges that he has been “quite concerned” and “very disturbed” by the Grand Menorah Lighting at City Hall, … —without more, the injury asserted by Plaintiff is too generalized and remote to confer standing….

The court concluded that the same test for standing applies to both plaintiff’s Establishment Clause claim and his claim under the no-aid provision of the state constitution.

You can learn more about this issue here.

On Listening to God and One Another

Back in October 2015 I wrote about the inauguration of the Abington Templeton Foundation (see here).  The project is now underway (see here) and I will be posting our writing here.

Check out the latest piece entitled “On Listening to God and One Another.”

See also:

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“Listen to me, you who pursue righteousness, you who seek the Lord . . .” (Isaiah 51: 1 ESV) In the scene of the Transfiguration, the Father calls on us to listen to the Son.  The voice from the cloud says, “This is my beloved Son, listen to him.” (Mark 9: 7b ESV)   We are to listen to the words of the Lord.  In these words are wisdom and righteousness.

We are also to listen carefully to the words of others, not that they always are words righteousness and truth.  They are not.  The ” . . . tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness.”  (James 3: 6 ESV)  So we are to discern and distinguish the words of others for truth and untruth.  To do this, carefullistening is required.

We must listen so that we understand as thoroughly as possible what the other person is saying.  We can not respond to that person with accuracy if we do not listen to attain accuracy.  No understanding can be achieved without careful listening.  To listen carefully is an instance of love of neighbor and love of the enemy.

We must take seriously instances when we are corrected by another in our listening. “I did not say this, I said that.”  We must consider such responses seriously, not brushing them off as mere obfuscations.  The goal is to get an accurate picture of what the other is saying.  We would wish the same for ourselves.  We must seek understanding, not a confirmation of our prejudices.

What are some simple rules to follow?

  1.  Prayer that you may be an instrument of God. As Saint Francis’ great prayer says, “Grant that we may not so much seek  . . . “to be understood as to understand.” (Lutheran Book of Worship, Pew Edition, p 48).
  2. Ask the Lord to open your ears.
  3. Listen to what God has to say to you.  Many passages of the Holy Scriptures will help you in this.
  4. When in dialogue with another in an informal or formal setting, be intent on understanding what he/she had to say. You may help clarify their own thinking. Ask questions to clarify for yourself.  When necessary, repeat what is said to you to confirm whether you are hearing correctly or incorrectly.
  5. Do not use a strategy of misrepresentation or rely on a straw man.
  6. Do not be tempted to entertain a crowd at the expense of truth.  Humor can be used effectively without falling into such temptation.
  7. Keep as a goal, especially in formal debate, of clarity of both or several points of view whether they are right or wrong.
  8. Understand our own limitations as well as those of the other person.  Sometimes, we do not intend to misunderstand.  We just do.
  9. Listen to the Word of the Lord.  Again, listen to the Word of the Lord for guidance and truth.  Frequent reading of Scriptures with a deep intention to understand them will help.

Michael G. Tavella

July 1, 2019

Is this it?: A Trump-hater’s Guide to Mueller Skepticism

Mueller’s comportment suggests a man who’s fallen prey to the same state of mind that warped Ken Starr—namely disgust over the people you’re investigating and a desire to justify the sunk capital. Even if the special counsel presents one hell of a report, Democrats must ask: was it worth it?
In the autumn of 1995, millions of Indians flocked to New Delhi after reports that a statue of Ganesha, the Hindu deity of good luck, was drinking milk from a spoon. It turned out that Ganesha, in the form of carved white stone, was a bit porous, and he wasn’t drinking the milk so much as getting coated in it, as each of the thousands of spoonfuls trickled down his side, but a collective thrill prevailed for a while. I relate this incident because its rhythms—big news, then frenzy, then comedown—bear a strong resemblance to those of Russiagate, with each development setting the Resistance into a frenzy of milk-buying and statue-feeding that fades only after a few days, replaced by an unspoken agreement to wait for further reports on Ganesha’s movements.

For many Robert Mueller watchers, the air these days is electric. People sense the big shoes are about to drop. Donald Trump has submitted his written answers to Mueller’s questions. Paul Manafort has entered a plea agreement, but then continued to lie—at least according to Mueller. Jerome Corsi, fringe-right author and personality, is vowing to go to jail for life rather than sign on to Mueller’s version of events. Roger Stone is expecting to be indicted for something. So is Donald Trump Jr. And, most significant of all to those looking for a big payoff, Michael Cohen has pleaded guilty to lying to Congress about the timeline of a deal he was trying to make to construct a 100-story Trump-branded tower in Moscow. It turns out that the deal exploration continued past the time Trump had secured the Republican nomination, and Cohen and his associate Felix Sater, a real-estate promoter and one-time racketeer, had even discussed giving Vladimir Putin a $50 million penthouse in the building. “This is it,” people are saying. “This is the big one!”

Certainly, Trump’s ethical standards are low, but if sleaziness were a crime then many more people from our ruling class would be in jail. It is sleazy, but not criminal, to try to find out in advance what WikiLeaks has on Hillary Clinton. It is sleazy, but not criminal, to take a meeting in Trump Tower with a Russian lawyer promising a dossier of dirt on Clinton. (Just as, it should be mentioned, it is sleazy, but not criminal, to pay a guy to go to Russia to put together a dossier of dirt on Trump. This is one reason why the Clinton campaign lied about its connection to the Steele dossier, albeit without the disadvantage of being under oath.) It is sleazy, but not criminal, to pursue a business deal while you’re running for president. Mueller has nailed people for trying to prevaricate about their sleaze, so we already have a couple of guilty pleas over perjury, with more believed to be on the way. But the purpose of the investigation was to address suspicions of underlying conspiracy—that is, a plan by Trump staffers to get Russian help on a criminal effort. Despite countless man-hours of digging, this conspiracy theory, the one that’s been paying the bills at Maddow for a couple of years now, has come no closer to being borne out. (Or, as the true believers would say, at least not yet.)

Partisanship is hostile to introspection, but at some point maybe we’ll look back and think again about what was unleashed in the panic over Russian influence. Trump’s White House has pursued what is arguably the harshest set of policies toward Russia since the fall of Communism—hardly something to celebrate—yet nearly all the pressure, from the center-left as much as the right, is toward making it even tougher. As for those tapping along to S.N.L. songs in praise of Mueller and his indictments, they might want to remember that Trump won’t always be in office. The weapons you create for your side today will be used by the other side against you tomorrow. Do we really want the special-counsel investigation to become a staple of presidential life? It’s a creation with few boundaries on scope and a setup that encourages the selection of a suspect followed by a search for the crime, rather than the other way around. This caused calamities in the era of Bill Clinton, and it doesn’t get any better just because the partisan dynamics are reversed.

Let’s take a moment to consider Mueller himself. The cut of his jib is likable, and the trad Brooks Brothers vibe of his wardrobe is a perfect complement to his job title. But it’s hard to avoid the suspicion that he’s playing a political game at this point. To be fair, I’m vulnerable to confirmation bias of my own in this assessment, since about a year ago I suggested that Mueller was going to drag out his investigation until 2019, when Democrats were likely to be back in charge of the House, and seeing a prediction play out can lead to unwarranted certitude. But the reports we’re starting to see suggest a man who’s fallen prey to the same state of mind that warped Ken Starr—namely disgust over the people you’re investigating and a desire to justify the sunk capital.

Our justice system gives prosecutors a frightening amount of power as it is, and nothing tempts misuse of it quite like the belief in a narrative in the face of a disappointing witness. George Papadopoulos has told people he pleaded guilty to perjury because Mueller was threatening to prosecute him as an unregistered agent of Israel. Jerome Corsi insists that Mueller was (and is) threatening him with a raft of indictments unless he signed on to an untrue story of how he came to believe (or know) that WikiLeaks had hacked the e-mails of John Podesta.

If it’s any consolation to Trump haters, we san say this much: the special counsel’s office is going to put together a hell of a report. It will have less sex than Starr’s did, but that’s for the best, and the testimony of Michael Cohen will still guarantee a lot of great scenes, many of them certain to become immortal and embarrassing. Trumpworld won’t fare well under a bright light. Like Starr, Mueller is also likely to include footnotes and selections that will hint at criminality, the things he suspects but couldn’t prove, and the most ardent believers in collusion will claim vindication. But the international conspiracies will be few, and the collateral damage of the Russia scare will be extensive, stretching far beyond Trump or his circle to the country as a whole. It might hurt a president who many Americans hate, but even the president’s most ardent foes should reflect on a question that will linger: Was it worth it?

Christian Student Group Can Retain Selective Leadership Requirements

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

In Intervarsity Christian Fellowship USA v. University of Iowa, (SD IA, Sept. 27, 2019), an Iowa federal district court held that the University of Iowa and three of its administrators violated the free speech and free exercise rights of a Christian student organization when it revoked its registered student organization status. The University’s action was taken because Intervarsity Christian Fellowship required its leaders to affirm the groups Christian statement of faith. The court said in part:

by granting the exceptions it has to the Human Rights Policy and refusing to make a similar exception for InterVarsity, the University has made a value judgment that its secular reasons for deviating from the Human Rights Policy are more important than InterVarsity’s religious reasons for the deviation it seeks. Because this reflects an impermissible “value judgment in favor of secular motivations,” … the University’s decision to deregister InterVarsity is subject to strict scrutiny.

Becket issued a press release announcing the decision.

You can learn more about this issue here.

Family Law Tip: How Often and When to file for Custody

I post some tips regarding family to my Linkedin page (see here) from time to time, and I thought I should start sharing them here too. Below is one of my family law tips, and you can read my articles on family law here and other posts on family law here and all are cataloged here.

Templeton Project: The Holy Spirit as Apologist

Back in October 2015 I wrote about the inauguration of the Abington Templeton Foundation (see here).  The project is now underway (see here) and I will be posting our writing here.

Check out the latest piece entitled “The Holy Spirit as Apologist.”

See also:

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In what is called “The Synoptic Apocalypse” (found in variant forms in all three Gospels) as presented in Mark, Jesus says, “”But be on your guard. For they will deliver you over to councils, and you will be beaten in synagogues, and you will stand before governors and kings for my sake, to bear witness before them.  And the gospel must first be proclaimed to all nations. And when they bring you to trial and deliver you over, do not be anxious beforehand what you are to say, but say whatever is given to you in that hour, for it is not you who speak , but the Holy Spirit.”  (Mark 13: 9-11 ESV)   In a similar passage in Luke the word defense is used: ” . . . they will lay hands on you and persecute you, delivering you up to the synagogues and prisons, and you will be brought before kings and governors for my name’s sake.  This will be an opportunity to bear witness. Settle it therefore in your minds not to meditate before how to answer, for I will give you a mouth and wisdom, which none of your adversaries will be able to withstand or contradict.” (Luke 21: 12-15 ESV)  The phrase “how to answer” translates the verb that can also be translated as “to prepare your defense.” (NRSV) In Luke 12 we find the same Greek verb.  “And when they bring you before the synagogues and the rulers and the authorities, do not be anxious about how you should defend yourself or what you should say, for the Holy Spirit will teach you in that very hour what you ought to say.” (Luke 12: 11-12 ESV) It is in the latter part of Luke’s work, Acts, that we have Paul’s defense before those in authority.  Both the verb and noun for defense are found there.

The passage about the Holy Spirit as the guide in Mark is found in other places, not in the apocalypse, in Matthew and Luke (Matthew 10: 17-21 and Luke 12: 11-12).  The idea is that the Holy Spirit will be speaking through the one who is making his defense (Luke is the one who actually uses the verb for defense). Christians are to be confident that their defense comes from the Holy Spirit. As Luke describes, the Holy Spirit is our mouth.

We are not to avoid defending the faith, because we do not feel confident to do this.  The Spirit is behind our words. He teaches us as we speak!  In the biblical text there are no reservations about this fact,, but should we have reservations?  ls the Holy Spirit really speaking through me?  We are sinners and may get it wrong. Much we do not know.  Again, we may get it wrong. No advice about this concern does Jesus give us.  We need only ask the heavenly Father, who gives all good things, to grant us the Holy Spirit for this task (Luke 11: 13).

In our witness and defense we call on the Holy Spirit to guide our words with confidence that He will.  He will speak through us with the message and defense of the Gospel.  We can rely on Christ’s Word: “When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth ‘ ‘ ‘ (John 16: 13 ESV)

Michael G. Tavella

July 1, 2019

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