Letter to the Editor 3.13.11

March 13, 2011
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Today my local newspaper published a letter to the editor I wrote, responding to an article by Greg Rummo (reproduced here) about the Supreme Court outcome of the Snyder v. Phelps case.

The letter can be found here. I think the link has an expiration date and later readers may not be able to access it, so as with other letters to the editor, I’m reposting it in its entirety here:

Testing limits of religion, free speech

Regarding “The Supreme Court’s puzzling ruling” (Opinion, Page O-2, March 6):

Greg Rummo combines two separate issues to paint the court’s deeming the Westboro Baptist Church’s funeral pickets protected speech as contrary to precedent.

The so-called “religious love speech” Rummo says the Supreme Court opposes as “dangerous” (Ten Commandment postings in public spaces, Nativity displays in public spaces and school prayer) are all examples of public institutions respecting the establishment of religion, which violates the Establishment Clause and the Lemon v. Kurtzman decision. And the court hasn’t opposed prayer in public schools, only institutionally sponsored prayer. Students are free to pray to their heart’s content so long as it isn’t disruptive.

That’s entirely different from the new Snyder v. Phelps ruling against funeral sanctity laws, which closely resembles Hustler Magazine v. Falwell. There, the court held that speech motivated even by hatred or ill will is protected by the First Amendment. In his Falwell decision, Chief Justice William Rehnquist said, ” ‘Outrageousness’ in the area of political and social discourse has an inherent subjectiveness about it which would allow a jury to impose liability on the basis of the jurors’ tastes or views, or perhaps on the basis of their dislike of a particular expression.”

Likewise, there’s an “inherent subjectiveness” in the “outrageousness” of funeral pickets. Although we may not like what the Westboro Baptist case says, the church members have the same constitutional right as anyone else to peacefully assemble.

The only problem I have with the editing job was the last sentence, which was originally intended to read as:  “Although we may not like what the WBC says, the church members have the same constitutional right as anyone else to peacefully assemble.” The intent was to say we don’t have the right to prevent ourselves from being offended, not to again defend the Court’s ruling. It’s a subtle difference and certainly both points can be found earlier in the piece, but I prefer my original version. Otherwise though, no major changes were made.

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Institute for Creation Research blames the victims for atheist billboard vandalism

July 2, 2010

Christine Dao of the ironically named Institute for Creation Research knows who’s responsible for the constant vandalism of atheist and secular advertisements, the atheists themselves:

While vandalism should not be condoned, these recent events shed light on what some Americans will do when they feel that their freedom of speech is threatened. An atheist spokesman in North Carolina said their message is needed to “let people know we exist and that there’s a community here.”

Yet he failed to mention the concerted effort of atheist groups to stop religious Americans from freely exercising their religion. Not content with having the freedom themselves to worship or not as they see fit, militant atheists increasingly seek to shackle the beliefs of their fellow citizens through their own distorted interpretation of “separation of church and state.”

It is perhaps not surprising that some of those fellow citizens object.

Friendly Atheist sums it up nicely here:

I look forward to Dao’s next posting, where she says that rape is wrong, but if a woman wears revealing clothing, she’s just asking for it.

This bitch seriously has the audacity to say it’s the atheists’ fault because they should have expected Christian hypocrisy. Well I agree that we should expect Christian hypocrisy. I’m just shocked she would admit to it.

And as for the claim that we’re trying to steal their religion, that’s just asshole dumb. No one is stopping Christians from freely expressing their beliefs. Rather our goal is to protect the rule of law that keeps government bodies and public resources from being exploited to promote sectarian ideologies. Now if the religious were smart, they’d want to keep the separation between church and state because it keeps government from meddling in religious affairs. You see, it works both ways.

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News From Around The Blogosphere 7.20.08

July 21, 2008

Record number of UFO sightings in New Brunswick, British Columbia
-Of the 836 UFO sitings in Canada alone in 2007, a record 24 of them were reported in New Brunswick, British Columbia. I’d say this is a pretty damned good reason to be remain skeptical of claims that UFOs are spaceships from another world. And let this be a lesson in pareidolia. People have pattern-seeking brains and you shouldn’t believe everything you see or everything a reliable friend says they’ve seen.

PZ’s latest comment on the Crackergate insanity

-The latest installment in the ongoing absurd saga I’ve dubbed Crackergate.
Town of Aberystwyth may end 30-year ban on Monty Python’s Life of Brian

-Yes, that’s right. There’s actually a town that has upheld a 30-year-long ban on “Life of Brian.”

Christian Band’s Guitarist Fired for Losing His Faith

-A very telling portion from the band’s official statement: “We as a band do not have problem with those that do not believe in Jesus, nor do we cast judgement on those that do not believe in Jesus. We just want to love on people like Jesus would and hopefully share a little bit about what he’s done and doing in our lives. We would call ourselves a Christian band and for that reason, we felt we couldn’t have someone in the band who didn’t agree with the band’s foundational drive.” Apparently ya do have a problem with it.
Michael Shermer on Intelligent Design

As always, Shermer exposing the hypocrisy of cdesign proponentsists.

And some science news:
Nature-Nurture Gene Link Sheds New Light On Autism

For those keeping score, that’s Medical Science, 1 trillion, Alternative Medicine, zero