philosoraptor42: (Default)

Some "big news" recently that the woman who worked for British Airways who had already won a ruling to allow her to wear a cross in the workplace, has now taken that same case to the European Court of Human Rights and proven that she has the same right there too.

Cue ridiculously misleading headlines:
The Independent: "Christian woman wins landmark discrimination case."
("Landmark"? Seriously?)

The FT: "BA employee wins right to wear cross."
(She already HAD that right. FFS!)

And of course, the Daily Fail: "'Thank You Jesus' Christian British Airways employee tell of joy as after European court finds she DID face discrimination over silver cross."
(Thanks Jesus! You've allowed a court to re-state the obvious! Well done!)

What most of the coverage is failing to make clear is that there were in fact FOUR court cases being brought before the ECHR and the other three ALL LOST their court cases.

One of those who lost their court case was Gary McFarlane, a relationship counsellor who refused to counsel gay couples because of his religious views. I previously posted an interview with him here (shocked at the lack of opposing voices provided in the interview, but fairly pleased with the amount of pressure placed by the interviewer himself).

The other two were:
- Lillian Ladele, a chaplain who refused to perform civil partnerships. It has now been decided that her wish to discriminate on religious grounds does not trump gay rights or the requirements of her employers.

- Shirley Chaplin, a nurse who had refused to accept the option of wearing a cross a different way in her workplace, such as in the form of a lapel pin. She lost the case that wearing the cross on a chain, which is against the uniform rules for nurses in UK hospitals, was a necessary part of her freedom of religious expression in the workplace.

Andrew Copson, as always, delivers some proper common sense below:

(video link)

Interestingly, a google image search for "ECHR religion rulings" mostly comes up with images related to a case from 2010 where a woman was unable to get her abortion within Ireland in spite of a risk to her life. There were a lot of protests against the ruling by anti-choicers, but perhaps if Ireland had taken that case a little more seriously (since unlike the above, it actually contradicted their own rulings) Savita might still be alive.

(cross-posted to atheism)
philosoraptor42: (Default)
... the answer is "pretty damn horrible", okay?

Y'see Ireland has this law whereby abortion is made illegal. It's not actually supposed to include cases where there's a danger to the mother, but that didn't stop the recent ridiculously unnecessary screw-up. The law actually doesn't really so much stop abortions as make them extra specially difficult because anyone who wants one has to travel specially to the UK to get the procedure done. Of course, that's not really feasible when your fully intentional pregnancy has gone awry and you are in a severe condition in an Irish hospital.

This lovely lady is called Savita Halappanavar. She died tragically a week after being admitted to a hospital in Galway where she was found to be miscarrying. For three days she asked for doctors to terminate her pregnancy but this was refused on the grounds that: "This is a Catholic country." Apparently her response that she was neither Irish nor Catholic made no difference to this (she was Indian and Hindu).

Dr. Jen Gunter explains:
...“Miscarrying” at 17 weeks can only mean one of three things:

A) Ruptured membranes
B) Advanced cervical dilation
C) Labor (this is unlikely, although it is possible that she had preterm labor that arrested and left her with scenario B, advanced cervical dilation).

All three of these scenarios have a dismal prognosis, none of which should involve the death of the mother.
Since Savita was told that the doctors would need to wait until the foetal heartbeat stopped before they could intervene, Dr. Gunter has a number of possible explanations, all of which are horrible:
As there is no medically acceptable scenario at 17 weeks where a woman is miscarrying AND is denied a termination, there can only be three plausible explanations for Ms. Hapappanavar’s “medical care” :

1) Irish law does indeed treat pregnant women as second class citizens and denies them appropriate medical care. The medical team was following the law to avoid criminal prosecution.
2) Irish law does not deny women the care they need; however, a zealous individual doctor or hospital administrator interpreted Catholic doctrine in such a way that a pregnant woman’s medical care was somehow irrelevant and superceded by heart tones of a 17 weeks fetus that could never be viable.
3) Irish law allows abortions for women when medically necessary, but the doctors involved were negligent in that they could not diagnose infection when it was so obviously present, did not know the treatment, or were not competent enough to carry out the treatment.

What we do know is that a young, pregnant, woman who presented to the hospital in a first world country died for want of appropriate medical care. Whether it’s Irish Catholic law or malpractice, only time will tell; however, no answer could possibly ease the pain and suffering of Ms. Halappanavar’s loved ones.
And it only gets worse...

This is Senator Ronan Mullen. He's decided to take this moment to announce that: "he hoped protestors outside the Dáil would not use the tragic death of Savita Halappanavar as an argument for legislating for abortion."

Yes, because clearly a woman dying from being denied an abortion is NOT the time to start asking questions about access to abortion, right? No, instead it's the PERFECT TIME to start denouncing any such idea and SHAMING anyone who even dreamt of bringing up the matter, obviously! *facepalm*

(Reminds me of the pro-gun guy who got upset that people were suggesting that the Colorado shootings
might indicate that gun control was lacking. But at least he was just some random guy on the internet and not a public figure in a position of authority.)

Meanwhile the minister for health, James Reilly, reckons that it's too early to say whether ties to a Catholic ethos were at fault:
Speaking in the Dáil this evening, he said we "could not pre-judge" the situation, adding he had no evidence to suggest a Catholic ethos at the hospital prevented the pregnant woman's life from being saved by a medical termination.

Okay, fair enough, I suppose that's true. However, if we consider Dr. Gunter's words, Reilly appears to be ignoring the seemingly inevitable consequences of what he's saying here. If the Catholic ethos was not at responsible for this tragedy, either through Ireland's Catholicism-determined anti-abortion law or in through the practices of the medical staff at the hospital, then there is only one possible alternative. That alternative is that the medical staff involved were abysmally and ludicrously incompetent.

In the meantime there are candlelit vigils across Ireland in response to this tragedy. One might have hoped that the Irish authorities would take it a little more seriously.... D':

(Guardian - Ireland should change abortion law)
(Dr. Gunter considers the case)
(Reilly: No evidence Catholic ethos prevented Savita's life from being saved)
(Pharyngula weighs in)
(Images of vigils and protests)

philosoraptor42: (Default)

(video link)

This time Cardinal Keith O'Brien, the representative of the Roman Catholic Church in Scotland decides to come out with the same BS that we've seen in the past. He says that Christians are being persecuted for wearing crosses in public.

0:31 Beginning of relevant report.
2:24 Interview with Andrew Copson on the issue.

Andrew Copson from the British Humanist Association strikes again. Once again he explains very clearly and diplomatically why the latest "Christians are being marginalised" story is BS. (His phrasing: "their claims have very little basis in fact" rather than "they are making s**t up".)

Also liking the new beard. :)

Cardinal O'Brien has previously claimed that when the New Labour government were in power there was "a systematic and unrelenting attack on family values". Why's this? The introduction of civil partnerships, allowing adoption by same-sex couples, allowing embryo research and not passing a law to lower the legal time limit in which an abortion may be carried out. He also referred to the Equality Bill as "legislation which would completely and permanently undermine religious freedom". And now he has the audacity to push the lie that Christians' rights to wear crosses are under attack. Ugh!

(cross posted to [ profile] atheism )
philosoraptor42: (Fatpie42)

The video announces that the green party have awful policies such as:
- Oppposing discriminatory hiring policies in schools!
- Favouring more effective counselling services in schools which will cater to people from multiple faiths and cultures!
- Promoting effective abortion provision for women who wish to terminate their pregnancy!
- Encouraging setting up effective euthanasia provision for people who wish to end their lives prematurely!
(In the case of the last two, the video even says "provide effectively".)
- Arranging state recognition of gay marriage!
- Opposing unfair discrimination in the adoption system, ensuring that children are not unfairly prevented from entering a loving family!


Researching further I found this comment. I'm not sure if they were being serious:
If we get an Atheist PM, does that mean we will lose holidays like Easter and Christmas?

(Video via ONTD_P)

(Cross-posted to atheism)
philosoraptor42: (Default)
Suppose that you own a small business. You have a small store located in one of the millions of strip malls that have become the American landscape. One day, a couple of representatives from a local Catholic church come into your store and request a few minutes of your time. They show you a picture of large sign they want you to place in your store window so it will be visible from the street. The sign displays an image of Mother Teresa and is intended to honor her 100th birthday.

You politely decline the request, keeping your annoyance to yourself because upsetting potential customers is never wise. The Catholics thank you for your time and leave. You consider the matter closed and move on with your life.

The next week, your are visited by a small delegation representing all the Catholic churches in your community. They make the same request, but this time, they have something else to show you. It seems that they have collected several thousand signatures in the form of a petition asking you to display their sign. They suggest, ever so subtly, that you stand to lose some customers by not honoring their request.

Although you manage to refrain from yelling at them, you make it clear that you are not at all happy with their approach. You compare their tactics with the mafia and explain in no uncertain terms that you will not hang their religious propaganda in your store window. Again, they tell you that they appreciate your time and leave.

The protests start a few days later. Some people stop by to tell you that they will not do business with you until you agree to hang the sign. Others assemble to picket in front of your store. Your calls to local law enforcement do not go anywhere. They have the right to assemble as long as they are not physically blocking your entrance. Your business begins to suffer.

In case you missed it, this story is based on something happening right now in New York City on a much larger scale. Believe it or not, the Catholic church is demanding that the owner of the Empire State building, a privately owned building, light it to honor Mother Teresa. They do not care that the owner has a policy about not lighting the building for religious figures. They have collected over 40,000 signatures and taken out ads in the local papers. They intend to bully him into submission and are pulling out all the stops to do just that.

Read more... )
(Cross-posted to atheism)
philosoraptor42: (Default)
In the Values Voters Summit, a conference for whom it seems that even Fox News is too left wing, there's been a speech from anti-choice activist Lila Rose (whose claim to fame seems to be filming with a hidden camera and making completely uncontroversial discoveries).

Anyway, in her speech she says she wishes that women were forced to have their abortions in the town square. Ah, can't you just feel the love? (Via Right Wing Watch)

x posted to [ profile] sluts4choice
philosoraptor42: (Default)
Recently certain elements of the pro-life lobby seemed to feel vidicated for the whole George Tiller scandal because they believed they'd seen a clear example of violence on the other side. James L. Pouillon, a pro-life activist, was shot dead while protesting. His protest involved holding up blown up images of aborted fetuses outside a school while children walked by. Many members of the pro-life community referred to him as a martyr for the cause. The problem is that the murderer does not appear to be a pro-choice activist and also let's not forget the constant abuse that doctors like Dr. Tiller receive at the hands of pro-lifers.

Anyway, there's been a much more important development

via [ profile] sluts4choice  and  via [info]ontd_political...

James M. Pouillon criticizes father, slain pro-life activist James L. Pouillon, in online post
by The Flint Journal
Thursday September 17, 2009, 4:58 AM

OWOSSO, Michigan — Dr. James M. Pouillon, a Grand Rapids podiatrist who had not spoken to his father since 2001, criticized him and the attention he's getting in a post on a story about Harlan Drake, the man accused of killing Pouillon's father, James L. Pouillon, on Sept. 11.

The whole nation is debating if Pouillon was a martyr. Here is what the younger Pouillon had to say in an post on on Sept. 13:
"It will be impossible for some to believe, but my dad really didn't care about aborton.

He did this to stalk, harass, terrorize, scream at, threaten, frighten, and verbally abuse women. He had a pathologic hatred of women: his mom, my mom, everyone.

After my mom finally left him and he lost his favorite punching bag the violence and abuse that was always contained within our 4 walls was unleased on the people of Owosso.

Read more... )

philosoraptor42: (Default)
Ok, you spend ages without anything interesting to say about religion and then two points comes up at once.

First one seems uncontroversial, (from my side of the fence at least)
God rejoices at abortion:
I found the text for Rachel's Tears online and was sickened to discover that the rite for abortion is couched wholly in terms of sin and transgression. The Episcopal Church, by resolution, has long held that women have the freedom to choose an abortion. It is not considered a sin. That this new rite begins with the words, "I seek God's forgiveness..." and includes "God rejoices that you have come seeking God's merciful forgiveness..." is contrary to the resolution. Women should be able to mourn the loss of an aborted fetus without having to confess anything. God, unlike what the liturgy states, also rejoices that women facing unplanned pregnancies have the freedom to carefully choose the best option - birth, adoption or abortion - for themselves and their families. No woman makes this decision lightly or frivolously. But each needs the non-judgmental and non-coercive support of her faith community to make the best decision for her circumstances.

The wording of this liturgy focuses solely on guilt and sin instead of the grief and healing that may accompany a very difficult but appropriate decision to terminate a pregnancy. If anyone is paying attention at the General Convention, this rite should not be approved.

This statement was made by Rev. Nina Churchman.

I see absolutely nothing wrong with this. The Anglican Church does not condemn abortion as part of its doctrine. As such, a woman should not be expected to admit guilt if they have one. If an abortion is sometimes the right decision, why shouldn't God rejoice in it?

Slightly more awkward is the claim that everyone should refer to God as 'Allah' in order to encourage greater harmony:
A proposal by a Roman Catholic bishop in the Netherlands that people of all faiths refer to God as "Allah" is not sitting well with the Catholic community.

Tiny Muskens, an outgoing bishop who is retiring in a few weeks from the southern diocese of Breda, said God doesn't care what he is called.

"Allah is a very beautiful word for God. Shouldn't we all say that from now on we will name God Allah? ... What does God care what we call him? It is our problem," Muskens told Dutch television.

"I'm sure his intentions are good but his theology needs a little fine-tuning," said Father Jonathan Morris, a Roman Catholic priest based in Rome. Morris, a news analyst for FOX News Channel, also called the idea impractical.

"Words and names mean things," Morris said. "Referring to God as Allah means something."

Ibrahim Hooper, a spokesman for the Council on American-Islamic Relations, a Washington, D.C.-based Islamic civil liberties and advocacy group, backs the idea as a way to help interfaith understanding.

"It reinforces the fact that Muslims, Christians and Jews all worship the same God," Hooper told "I don't think the name is as important as the belief in God and following God's moral principles. I think that's true for all faiths."

The positive elements are:

The term Allah causes far too much panic when it is just the arabic word for God. Wider usage would discourage the ridiculous phobia.

The concept of idolatory is common to the Abrahamic faiths and if people are so stuck on words they are inevitably putting irrelevant details in the way of what truly matters.

The negative elements:

It isn't going to catch on and news stories like this just fuel the old "ZOMG the Muslims are taking over" mentality.

Muslims don't need other religious believers to use their word for God. They need mutual respect. As nice as the sentiment is, I'm not sure it would do the trick even if it was adopted...

(So, do I cross-post this to [ profile] atheism ?)

philosoraptor42: (Default)
The latest video from Pat Condell makes use of typical Daily Mail prejudice. The topic? Not only that we should ban the burkha, but that women are doing an injustice to women's rights by failing to decry a woman's right to wear it. Pat Condell takes up the mantle of liberator of women both now and in the ever-precious future through his insistence that we demand that it be illegal to wear it.

Pat Condell is the so-called "comedian" who is often found advertised on Richard Dawkins' website. I've actually known people to be surprised to hear that he isn't a celebrity here in Britain. He's gained a following amongst atheists who fancy a laugh at the expense of uptight religious fanatics. Unfortunately he's not anything like in the same league as John Safran or as subtle (yes, I'm serious).

Perhaps the oddest thing about Pat's video is his claim that the problem is women deciding to disguise themselves. If we were sure that women only ever wore the burkha through their own free will rather than being pressured into doing so by oppressive patriarchy then I don't quite see how it would be a problem (and I certainly cannot see how it would be the women's fault). As for the idea that is mentioned later that the burkha should not be allowed to be worn in banks, I've never heard anything so ridiculous. As Pat is keen to remind us, wearing the burkha is like wearing "a mobile tent". Now imagine a bank robber trying to make a getaway carrying their bag of swag while wearing it. They'd be lucky not to fall straight onto their (covered) face.

Worrying too is Pat's use of emphasis for effect. It often seems quite hostile, but more importantly it can give a very dodgy (and supposedly unintentional) meaning to his words:

Well this week there’s been quite a lot of talk about the burkha or the nikab or whatever you want to call it. I’m talking about the neurotic need that some women have to walk around everywhere in disguise.

"Some women" eh? So much for the feminist champion Pat claims to be later on in the video. If the whole point of this rant is to victimise some women suffering from neuroses, it doesn't fit with the supposedly noble cause Pat claims to be calling for by the end.

Apparently, according to Pat, a more healthy society where everyone is honest would not require this ban because everybody's reaction to unfamiliar styles of dress would be ridicule and condescension. Sadly, what he is describing is not far from the actual situation and it's only thanks to those of us with simple human decency that it isn't even more of an issue for Muslims in Britain.

If we were a more honest society, and therefore a more healthy society, there’d be no need to ban this ridiculous outfit because it would already have been ridiculed out of existence.

Honest and healthy? More like bigoted and unpleasant.

Pat's first major argument appears to be that there is nothing in the Qu'ran which demands that women dress in this fashion, covering their face. That might be worth mentioning, certainly, but religions aren't simply based around scripture. In fact I'm pretty certain that EVERY religious tradition bases itself around more than scripture. Within the Christian tradition we would have to do away with rosaries, monasteries, bishops, crosses worn round the neck, holy water, and even arguably the doctrine of the trinity if Christians are only allowed to follow teachings found within their holy book. It takes a certain type of protestant Christianity to insist that scripture is the only thing which dictates religious tradition and I'm pretty sure their hypocritical in the process. Within Islam it is quite a conservative belief that religious tradition should be based not only on the teachings of the Qu'ran, but also on the actions and sayings of the prophet found in the hadiths and on top of that rules which are derived from these.

What would have been more helpful would have been an argument that the Qu'ran actively contradicts this passage (and I have certainly known Muslims claim that women are not supposed to have their faces covered according to Islamic teaching). However, this would involve putting in a good word for moderate Muslims which Pat wants to decry as 'enablers' (as we'll see in a moment).

In reply to the claim that the burkha is done to demonstrate modesty (rather like the kachhas in Sikhism), Pat's response, fairly reasonably, is that wearing "a mobile tent" is going way beyond modesty. Unfortunately that's where the reasonableness ends. The next stage of Pat's rant is to claim that all women who wear the burkha are ungrateful immigrants who hate British culture and should go back home.

Modest people don’t draw attention to themselves by dressing up in a mobile tent just to rub it in the face of a culture they despise, but for some reason insist on living in.

Now let's accept for the moment (to be as charitable as possible) that women who wear the burkha are disturbed by the commercialised and material world and wear this style of dress to withdraw. How is that different from the attitude of nuns? But then again, maybe Pat is an equal-opportunity bigot. Perhaps he would tell nuns to go to the Vatican if they aren't entirely happy with modern culture.

Quite apart from the obvious security threat posed by the burkha which we don’t like to talk about out of respect for their religion even though their religion is our biggest security threat. Sorry to all you peaceful Muslims but we all know that is the unfortunate truth, at least right now.
What the heck? I can't be the only person wondering how Pat's thought processes are working at this stage. He fully admits that there are Muslims for whom his argument is unreasonable and that there are enough of them to make them worth addressing. Yet for some reason his complete recognition that what he is posing is an unfair stereotype doesn't stop him from carrying on with it unashamedly.

Islam is responsible for the terrorist threat in the same way that Christianity is responsible for the death of Dr. Tiller. Yes, there's a link. No one is doubting that. But it's not a simple 1:1 relationship. Religions have a huge degree of internal diversity and even overlap with one another. Terms like "Christianity" and "Islam" bracket together similar kinds of religious devotion, however their expression will depend greatly on the culture and location in which you find them. Daniel Maguire is a Roman Catholic Christian and he strongly believes in his faith and the tradition of his Church. Nevertheless, he isn't going to condemn a man for performing abortions. Similarly just because someone follows the religion of Islam doesn't mean they're in favour of the burkah either. People's views about religion will differ. Nevertheless, plenty of people actually are talking about the burkha being a security threat. It's mentioned all over the place. What we could do with is a little more respect for the women who are actually wearing the damn thing and Pat does not feel inclined to contribute to this since it would conflict with the "healthy and honest" world he wants us to live in.

Pat has the audacity to claim that women who wear the burkha are condoning the oppression it is often used to achieve. That they are enablers. But what is Pat enabling? It wasn't so long ago that there was a big hoo hah over politician Jack Straw insisting that women uncover their faces when they speak to him. It was rightly pointed out in Straw's defence that he was not insisting that women do away with the burkha or nikab, but rather that within certain scenarios it might be necessary to remove it for pragmatic reasons. He certainly wasn't insisting that we forcibly unveil Muslim women, but unfortunately that was the sentiment that developed. This, it seems to me, is where the other side of the coin really comes into play. If you ban the burkha isn't this just another example of women having their rights limited by a patriarchal over-zealous authority? In the end shouldn't this be about choice. In Iran they have seen both sides of this coin, going from being forcibly unveiled to forcibly veiled and the debate today in Iran is much over personal freedom than this nonsensical issue in France of whether the burkha should be banned or not. (And let's not forget that in France there is a lot of racial tension in regards to those with Algerian roots which might influence the debate there.)

Pat also asks why feminists aren't talking about this. Clearly he hasn't bothered to look. Feminists are talking about this all over the place. Some will agree, some will disagree and most will recognise that the debate is far more complicated than he is making it out to be. In any case, Pat's criticism isn't really over silence but inaction. If we don't agree with Pat and actively campaign for the burkha to be banned we are morally culpable. It's at this point where my conspiracy theory alert starts ringing:

Any western woman who makes allowances for, or who accommodates the misogyny of Islam in her life is a fool to herself and a traitor to her daughters who will have to live with the consequences in a society where they feel less value, less safe and have fewer rights than they do now.


Seriously, allowing women the right to wear the burkha is not wearing down women's rights. We are still going to strongly criticise people being forced to wear clothing against their will and the chances of the burkha causing bad effects for anyone outside the religion of Islam is around about nil. There is an issue of the burkha being forced on Muslim women against their will and there is an issue of the burkha as a negative result of indoctrination. Nevertheless, to insist that this will have consequences for the daughters of 'western women' is pure shock tactics. This whole idea that Islamic ideas are going to take over the country and undermine our liberties is nonsense. The labour government is in a much better position to do that than any Muslim....

x-posted to atheist snark
x-posted to atheism
(sorry to those who subscribe to both. This must be getting really dull now.)

philosoraptor42: (Default)

 More absurdity under the cut... )
philosoraptor42: (Default)
Much as I would love to say that Secular Humanism didn't have its problems, this simply isn't true. This isn't really surprising as no organisation is without its flaws. 'Humanist' is meant to be easier to accept as a label than 'atheist' because, while 'atheist' has a history of stigma and taboo linking it with immoralism and nihilism, 'Humanist' is a term specifically highlighting a non-religious acceptance of values. (If such a combination were impossible the accusation would be that humanism was impossible, not that humanism was nihilistic.) Nevertheless, for some reason many people who perfectly fit the bill as 'Secular Humanists' seem reluctant to be labelled as such, even if they accept the labels 'atheist' or 'agnostic' without any trouble at all.

Update:  I posted this to Sluts4Choice a while back and I've realised I probably ought to re-post it here so I have a record of it:

Looking back at the response I got from my MP, I've discovered that that wasn't terribly comforting either. (I actually remember feeling a lot happier about it at the time and I think it's a sign of how my understanding of this issue has moved on that I now recognise how dodgy this reply is):

Dear ---------,

Many thanks for your email. I'd like to hear the debate on the issue before making up my mind on this, but will keep the points that you make in mind - I've also heard from a constituent who was directly affected herself and is against any significant reduction (as well as other constituents who want quite drastic reductions all the way down to 14 weeks).

I have two amendments myself - one is a technical one to help a constituent who is seeking to have frozen embryos kept for longer than the current 5 years (this isn't controversial) and the other is to make it mandatory to offer current, neutral, scientific guidance to anyone who is advised that the foetus is suffering from a disease or abnormality which would allow a late aboriton - the advice would give informaiton on life expectancy, chance of treatment, availability of help, etc. The idea is not to influence the choice but to help ensure that it's based on the best available information.

Yours sincerely,

Oh how wonderful. He wants to give women mandatory counselling regarding abortions. That's not remotely condescending. And what kind of advice does he think the two doctors who are already required in order to sign off on any abortion are going to give? Out of date, biased or unscientific guidance?


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