Hammurabi Lobby

July 6, 2017

The Morning Heresy is your daily digest of news and links relevant to the secular and skeptic communities.

France has a crazy idea: Let's stop kids from dying of measles. I know, I know, only the French would come up with something so nutty. But it's true. Parents will be required to vaccinate their kids beginning next year.  

There's a new book about SETI's Jill Tarter by Sarah Scoles, and two big science-y mags are running excerpts: Popular Science and Wired. Tarter is also a fellow of CFI's Committee for Skeptical Inquiry, and she was the guest for the last episode of the Beyerstein-Zepps era of Point of Inquiry.

Hobby Lobby has been smuggling ancient clay artifacts from Iraq for years. No, really, and they just got fined $3 million in a settlement agreement with a federal court. Seriously, Hobby Lobby, what is UP with you? You guys just don't believe in laws at all, I guess. You're no Hammurabi Lobby.

Lawrence Wright has a big piece in The New Yorker looking at the politics of Texas, where a legislature that is "increasingly dominated by Christian ideologues" makes laws for a population with leftward-shifting demographics...just like the country as a whole.

Speaking of Texas and its crazy legislature! Laura Marie Thompson at the Texas Observer reports on the coming battle over a new law that protects child welfare agencies who deny services based on their religious beliefs: 

The measure ... prohibits the state from taking any “adverse actions” against child welfare providers who are acting on “sincerely held religious beliefs.” Critics say the broadly written law would allow foster parents and organizations to refuse to place children with same-sex or non-Christian foster or adoptive parents. Legal experts say the law, which takes effect September 1, would also give foster parents and organizations license to refuse vaccines, deny contraception or send children to anti-LGBT conversion therapy. 

I was ignoring this story because it seemed like a small thing, but folks are all keyed up about it: CNN found out who made the Trump-beats-up-CNN gif ("HanAssholeSolo"), and before they could report it, "Han" issued a sort-of-overdoing-it apology, and CNN decided not to unmask him. The hubbub now is about whether CNN "blackmailed" the guy to get this apology or something, which just sounds dumb. Here's what Indira Lakshmanan, Poynter's journalism ethics chief, says:

What I find troubling is that the story focused on his pledge that “he is not going to repeat this ugly behavior on social media again,” culminating with the highly unusual statement that “CNN reserves the right to publish his identity should any of that change.” Why not simply state the reason for giving him anonymity: “CNN has decided to withhold his name out of concern for his safety and because he apologized…” — or whatever their reasons? I see no need to include an additional sentence saying that the network reserves the right to rescind that decision if he returns to his old behavior. That seems implicit, in that any day is a new day with new circumstances that could yield a new story.

Climate scientist Ben Santer writes in the Washington Post about fighting back against "the darkness of the Trump administration’s scientific ignorance."  

NYT reports on a sad and messy case in the UK, where a hospital seeks to end life support for an infant whose cells cannot sustain his organs, and for whom there is no hope of survival. The parents are doing all they can to keep him alive and seek some miracle, and they're being supported by Pope Francis and Trump (ugh). But the Catholic Church itself is saying, no, you need to let this boy go.   

John Oliver has a new monologue on the machinations of the right-wing Sinclair Broadcast Group, which owns lots of local TV stations, but I couldn't finish it because my despair overwhelmed the humor.

Annette Gordon-Reed and Peter S. Onuf write about the wisdom of Thomas Jefferson's version of Christianity, the "American civil religion":

He adhered to the “philosophy” of Jesus while rejecting “mystifications” that offended his steadfast belief in science and were, in his view, the chief cause of religious strife. 

Well this is scary: a right-wing Russian TV channel is offering to pay for one-way tickets out of the country for gay people who want to emigrate. "We really want you to move there, where you can openly submit to your sins."  

NPR introduces us to the Southern California Interfaithless Summer Kickoff Beach Party. This does not sound fun to me, but I get it.

CFI intern Andy Ngo has updated his blog post marking the anniversary of the Orlando massacre with some additional thoughts

You might want to sit down for this: A three-day search in Crawford County, PA has ended without finding Bigfoot.

Quote of the Day:

Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to Canada, Naif Alsudairy, tells Canada to stop being so annoying and to leave their little kingdom alone about their imprisonment and abuse of Raif Badawi. (Oh, but he does want Canada to please get involved in their dispute with Qatar.) Canada's Foreign Affairs spokesperson Adam Austen had the correct response: 

We will continue to raise our concerns over his situation both in Riyadh and Ottawa. The promotion and protection of human rights – including the right to freedom of expression, conscience and religion – is an integral part of Canada’s foreign policy.

Translation for the original Canadian: "No." 
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