It seems the Confraternity of Catholic Clergy, a group of priests and bishops, is upset at PZ Myers for daring to desecrate a communion wafer. And in doing so, they make an argument so embarrassingly bad that it would fit in well on WingNutDaily:
We find the actions of University of Minnesota (Morris) Professor Paul Myers reprehensible, inexcusable, and unconstitutional. His flagrant display of irreverence by profaning a consecrated Host from a Catholic church goes beyond the limit of academic freedom and free speech.
The same Bill of Rights which protect freedom of speech also protect freedom of religion. The Founding Fathers did not envision a freedom FROM religion, rather a freedom OF religion. In other words, our nation’s constitution protects the rights of ALL religions, not one and not just a few.
So many lies and misunderstandings here. First of all, this is not an academic freedom issue, since PZ made the comments on his own blog, not as part of his job or as a representative of his university. Moreover, the free speech argument is patently false: the Confraternity makes no effort to explain how their rights have been violated, and instead just asserts it. And it gets even worse:
Attacking the most sacred elements of a religion is not free speech anymore than would be perjury in a court or libel in a newspaper.
Wrong, wrong, wrong. The difference, of course, is that making deliberately false statements in an effort to harm others is not the same thing as criticizing a religious view you find objectionable. Catholics surely know this, as they’re not shy about attacking protestants for not believing the host is really the body of Christ, or attacking atheists for, well, pretty much anything. So their argument really boils down to “our beliefs should be protected from criticism.” Which is always a sure sign of lack of confidence in one’s beliefs.
And they go on:
Lies and hate speech which incite contempt or violence are not protected under the law. Hence, inscribing Swastikas on Jewish synagogues or publicly burning copies of the Christian Bible or the Muslim Koran, especially by a faculty member of a public university, are just as heinous and just as unconstitutional. Individual freedoms are limited by the boundaries created by the inalienable rights of others.
Again, PZ didn’t lie: he merely said something Catholics don’t like. Secondly, PZ did not incite violence,* and “inciting contempt” is a ridiculous claim: no one has a right to be free from criticism, nor to be free from contempt.
And then things get really crazy:
The freedom of religion means that no one has the right to attack, malign or grossly offend a faith tradition they personally do not have membership or ascribe allegiance.
Oh so very wrong. Please, someone explain to these nice people that they have no right to only be criticized by other Catholics. And since the Catholic church has a long history of excommunicating those who disagree with Church leadership, this is particularly foolish.
The Chancellor of the University refused to reprimand or censure the teacher, who ironically is a Biology Professor. One fails to see the relevance of the desecration of a Catholic sacrament to the science of Biology.
Which would be relevant if PZ had done so in a Biology class. But all they’re really saying is that UMM should fire PZ because of a personal opinion expressed on his own time. Maybe Catholics think they’d like this: if so, they’ve got short memories, and have forgotten that it wasn’t so long ago that it was Catholics who were being discriminated against, not just atheists.
Were Myers a Professor of Theology, there would have been at least a presumption of competency to express religious opinions in a classroom. Yet, for a scientist to ridicule and show utter contempt for the most sacred and precious article of a major world religion, is inappropriate, unprofessional, unconstitutional and disingenuous.
You could argue PZ’s actions were inappropriate, perhaps even unprofessional (though, again, he wasn’t acting in a professional capacity). They clearly were not unconstitutional, and I don’t think this group even knows what “disingenuous” means.
A biologist has no business ‘dissing’ any religion, rather, they should be busy teaching the scientific discipline they were hired to teach. Tolerating such behavior by university officials is equally repugnant as it lends credibility to the act of religious hatred. We also pray that Professor Myers contritely repent and apologize.
Nice use of ‘the lingo,’ Confraternity (sigh). I’m sure Jesus would appreciate the intentional blurring of the line between private speech and classroom conduct: way to represent your faith.
That said, here’s the biggest problem with this whole argument: the Confraternity would have us believe that free speech doesn’t extend to religion. Let’s think about the logic there. How shall we decide which views are “religious”? Do I not have the right to advocate for reproductive rights because the Church teaches that’s wrong? Or can I argue for those rights as long as I don’t criticize Catholic leadership from disagreeing with me? What about the Death Penalty? Am I free to disagree with the Church on that? The Pope says that I’m going to hell: if I criticize him for that, am I acting unconstitutionally?
You see, there is simply no way to legitimately separate religious speech from secular speech. If the right to free speech means anything, it must also apply to criticisms of religion. If we’re not free to criticize religious beliefs, we don’t have free speech at all.
Which brings me back to one of this blog’s most consistent messages: if you’re religious, you absolutely need to defend the right to free speech, especially speech you disagree with, because that right is the only protection you have to ensure you can continue to practice your faith. Sadly, the Confraternity would replace personal liberty with enforced “respect”–a position they would never tolerate if they were the ones being forced to respect my beliefs by, say, holding Catholic weddings for same-sex couples. If such standards were applied to Catholics, they would (correctly) be furious. It’s too bad so many Catholics don’t extend to others the same rights they use themselves.
*In case you’re not clear on the difference between, say, desecration of the wafer and cross burning or inscribing swastikas, if that’s the latter two are threats. It isn’t a hard difference to grasp.
Thanks to little.hoot.owl, who brought this to my attention: Ender’s Game author Orson Scott Card, member of the far right and homobigot, has decided to call for revolt against the government, since it had the nerve to affirm that gay people are people too.
According to science fiction author Orson Scott Card [...], recent court decisions in Massachusetts and California recognizing same-sex marriage mean “the end of democracy in America.” As such, he advocates taking down our government “by whatever means is made possible or necessary.”
It’s all there in a truly frightful — and brazenly dishonest — essay that Card published in last Thursday’s edition of the Mormon Times.
In true homobigot fashion, Card makes shit up to support his claim (like the ridiculous lie that it’s illegal to kneel and pray outside abortion clinics). But he’s particularly pissed that he’s called a homophobe:
Please remember that for the mildest of comments critical of the political agenda of homosexual activists, I have been called a “homophobe” for years.
This is a term that was invented to describe people with a pathological fear of homosexuals — the kind of people who engage in acts of violence against gays. But the term was immediately extended to apply to anyone who opposed the homosexual activist agenda in any way.
A term that has mental-health implications (homophobe) is now routinely applied to anyone who deviates from the politically correct line. How long before opposing gay marriage, or refusing to recognize it, gets you officially classified as “mentally ill”?
Embarrassingly juvenile slippery-slope argument aside, perhaps Card has a point: I don’t know if he’s afraid of gay people, and so I won’t call him a homophobe. Instead, I’ll simply point out that he’s advocating any-means-necessary efforts to stop gay people from having the same rights as straight people. So I won’t call him a homophobe: no, he’s just an old-fashioned bigot.
Thanks for clearing that up for us, Mr. Card.
Followup on Glick’s Schlafly award July 11, 2008Posted by Evil Bender in education, News and politics, wingnuts.
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When I mocked Edward Bernard Glick for his substance-free anti-education screed, I had speculated that the “quote” he attributed to the unnamed head of the Duke psychology department might not in fact exist:
Please cite your source, Mr. Glick. A web search of the phrase returns only one result: your essay. As a responsible scholar, surely you know that quoting an unnamed professor on an unnamed “radio interview” is unacceptable.
It turns out I was right to be suspicious. You see, Glick had “quoted” from a supposed radio interview that never happened. He misremembered (to be charitable) a quote he had heard months earlier, misremembered where he heard the quote, and who said it. He literally got everything wrong, except to note that the quote (which was incorrect) had come from someone at Duke.
Confronted with this reality, Glick admitted to being completely wrong:
Inside Higher Ed located him to ask for the source of the quote and in an interview Wednesday, Glick confirmed that there is no such quote.
Glick said that he heard a quote on a radio show, while he was washing the dishes, “months and months ago,” before he ever thought about writing the column. When he was read the quote that College Freedom suspected he heard, Glick confirmed that that was the quote he had heard — not the one he wrote.
So why did Glick, who should be familiar with academic standards or at least basic honesty, put quotation marks around an attributed quote when he knew full well he was not actually quoting, but paraphrasing a quote he’s heard months before?
Asked if he knew of any department chair anywhere who had uttered the words he used, Glick said “No.” But he added that it was still correct. “Do I believe that is true? Yes,” he said, adding that he believes that regardless of what department chairs at top universities say or don’t say, those in many disciplines will not hire Republicans. “I am convinced that is the climate today.”
And that is why Glick’s take on Higher Education is completely irrelevant. He had exactly one piece of evidence to support his claim (outside of a brief quote by, ahem, Ann Coulter) and that quote was, at best, misremembered and attributed incorrectly as though it were a direct quote. Confronted with that, Glick’s defense is that he believes the quote to be accurate, even if no one actually said it.
Sadly, I must remind Mr. Glick that in the academic world, one’s opinion presented without any non-fabricated evidence is not persuasive. Claiming viewpoint descrimination while lying to make your case is a sure way to ensure you have absolutely no credibility.
Thank you, Mr. Glick, for demonstrating the academic bias against people who fabricate evidence and defame strangers.
Bill Donohue after PZ Myers over an insult to a cracker July 11, 2008Posted by Evil Bender in bigotry, constiutional issues, Religion, wingnuts.
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As most of my readers have no doubt seen already, Bill Donohue, professional bully and a man so arrogant that he would have us believe his pathetic wingnut group dedicated to advancing a far-right agenda somehow speaks for Catholics in general, is doing his damndest to get PZ Myers fired for daring to say something Donohue didn’t like.
I’ve already taken a moment to write the President of the University of Minnesota to express my support for PZ’s right to voice his own opinion on his personal blog–a blog that is not affiliated with his university in any way. I’ve also politely suggested that institutions of higher education should value free speech far more than the demands of bullies.
But PZ and others have covered all this in detail. I’d like like to make one observation about the original story that set this off, where a parishoner recieved death threats after daring to take a communion wafer out of mass, instead of consuming it there.
In a statement that should deeply embarrass reasonable Catholics everywhere,* the local diocese responded:
“We don’t know 100% what Mr. Cooks motivation was,” said Susan Fani a spokesperson with the local Catholic diocese. “However, if anything were to qualify as a hate crime, to us this seems like this might be it.”
I mean what I’m about to say in all seriousness. There are two opposing positions on what that wafer is: it might be just a cracker or, as Catholics believe, it could be the Body of Christ. If it’s the former, then clearly it cannot be a hate crime to take a cracker with you. If it is the latter, then I have one very simple question for Catholics: given that you claim to believe that Jesus is the all-powerful, all-knowing Lord of the Universe, do you really think he needs you to claim people are committing hate crimes against him? Surely if the host is what you say it is, then the offense is not to the Church, but to Jesus. And surely he’s capable of handling that on his own.
I’ve read the Bible, and I know that Jesus didn’t advocate death threats and attacks on those who you disagree with. I know what the instructions he was recorded as giving his disciples before he ascended, and it didn’t say anything about aggressively persecuting those who smuggle crackers.
Those of you Catholics who respond this way–the Donohues of the world–you seem to not believe what you claim you believe. The God of Creation surely does not need you to defend his Body. Surely he can do that himself. If Jesus is who you say he is, then you are surely acting against his own commandments. Jesus said the Meek will inherit the Earth. He said if anyone slaps you on one cheek, you should turn to him the other also. He said you should love your neighbor as yourself. Those commandments are not exactly mysterious, so why do you act in a way that surely violates the words of your God?
*And there are a lot of them. While I’ve made no effort to hide my contempt for the current Pope and my dislike of organized religion, I have dear friends who are Catholic. We don’t agree on matters of religion, but they’re reasonable people, unlike Donohue and his crowd. This isn’t about PZ’s atheism vs religion–it’s about free speech vs some Catholics’ intellectual thuggery.
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A Grand Jury has declined to charge Doctor George Tiller for providing late-term abortions:
The grand jury investigating Wichita abortion provider George Tiller adjourned this afternoon without an indictment.
Judge Paul Buchanan, who presided over the grand jury, said the panel returned a “no true bill,” meaning charges will not be filed.
In a statement released this afternoon through the Sedgwick County District Attorney’s Office, the grand jury said:
“After six months of conducting an investigation that included hearing extensive witness testimony, reviewing volumes of documents and medical records of patients of Women’s Health Care Services, this Grand Jury has not found sufficient evidence to bring an indictment on any crime related to the abortion laws.”
Expect more abuse of the Grand Jury system by those determined to shut down Tiller’s clinic.
The whole thing was started by “Operation Rescue,” a group of particularly nasty anti-choice extremists. They’re busily abusing a Kansas law that allows a Grand Jury to be convened by petition as part of a long-term campaign to force women into giving birth. They’re not going away, but it’s nice to see a win for reproductive rights, and a loss for vicious wingnut attack groups.