A Gaping Hole in the Fabric of Civil Society

October 29, 2015

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

Big news in the CFI universe, as Melody Hensley steps down after eight years as executive director of CFI–DC, and Ed Beck (the guy who I know works for us but for the life of me I can't tell you what he does) will take the helm in her place

CFI is hosting a conference on experimental philosophy next month ("X-Phi"), and David Koepsell helps explain what the heck it's all about

Sen. Barbara Boxer introduces a physician-assisted suicide bill akin to the one just passed in her own state of California, "which would allow individuals suffering from an advanced illness with intolerable pain or terminal illness to receive medication for the relief of pain and other end-of-life treatment to minimize suffering." 

Comedy Central's Drunk History will take on Roswell UFOs, and Ben Radford checks some of the facts.

The Lantos Foundation for Human Rights and Justice announces that Rebiya Kadeer, Irshad Manji, and Ayaan Hirsi Ali will receive its human rights award.

Citing the horrid cases of Saudi barbarism, as with the soon-to-be-crucified Ali al-Nimr and the imprisoned and flogged Raif Badawi, Nicholas Kristof calls for a change in our relationship with the Kingdom:

I’ve defended Islam from critics like Bill Maher who, as I see it, demonize a diverse faith of 1.6 billion Muslims because a small percentage are violent extremists. But it’s incumbent on those of us who object to this demonization to speak up against genuine extremism. Sadly, Saudi Arabia is a gift to Islamophobes; it does far more damage to the reputation of Islam than any blaspheming cartoonists. ...  Saudi Arabia has oil and influence, and the Obama administration needed to cuddle with Saudi Arabia to win the Iranian nuclear deal. But now that that deal has been achieved, should we still be silent?

Badawi himself has been awarded the European Parliament's Sakharov human rights prize.

Linda Greenhouse at NYT critiques the weaponization of the Religion Freedom Restoration Act in the wake of Hobby Lobby:

[RFRA] was embraced across the religious and political spectrum as a shield against the thoughtless oppression of religious minorities, not a sword in the hands of those who would invoke religion to carve a gaping hole in the fabric of civil society. If this is what the Religious Freedom Restoration Act has become, then I would like to propose a corrective statute. I would call it the Establishment Clause Restoration Act. 

Rev. Krzysztof Charamsa, the openly-gay priest who was canned by the Vatican, unloads on the Church, accusing it of causing "immeasurable suffering" for LGBT people. 

Billboards plugging a Sam Harris event in Australia, featuring quotes from Harris's works, are rejected for being "discriminatory," which makes absolutely no sense. Harris says, "I suppose I’ll have to go down there and tell them why they are wrong about this. I recommend that everyone eat a healthy serving of Jesus crackers before the event."

At Reason, Stephanie Slade wrestles with the tension between the ideal of "no religious test" for public office, and the very real effect faith has on a person in office:

It's a rather sterile view—the notion that a person's religious beliefs should or even could be separated from his conception of what's in the "national interest." What is a conscience, if one's faith has no effect on it? What are religious beliefs, if not things that inform one's sense of right and wrong? 

Missouri's appeals court says the state's Human Rights Act doesn't forbid employers from discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation. Might need to change the name of that act, then.

Jann Bellamy wonders when all this "potential" promised by alternative medicine will start to bear fruit. 

I hope this is not true: Over a third of British pet owners think their animals can fend off ghosts??? 

Quote of the Day:

This is more like "Clever Idea of the Day." Here's Vinny Metas of the Stony Brook University Skeptics and Secular Humanists:

During my freshman year, we entered ourselves into Stony Brook’s ‘Roth Regatta’; a boat race along the pond outside one of the dorm buildings. We named our boat ‘Church and State’ and midway through the race, we separated the boat into two smaller boats and rowed the one named Church back to the starting line while State finished the race.

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Original image by Shutterstock

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Comments:

#1 Randy on Thursday October 29, 2015 at 3:14pm

“[RFRA] was embraced across the religious and political spectrum as a shield against the thoughtless oppression of religious minorities”

Wrong.  There was already a shield against the oppression of religious minorities (the Constitution). Rather, RFRA was embraced as a way to get (and keep) religious votes, at a time when the US was even more religious than it is today.  An almost 100%-Christian Congress saw that it could advantage its own religion by exempting some drug-taking aboriginals from the regular laws everyone else had to follow.

The clear purpose and effect of the law was to “carve a gaping hole”.

The only reason people are complaining now is because instead of getting high (a liberal thing), people are now trying to use their religious privileges under RFRA to do conservative things.

But make no mistake… RFRA has not changed a bit.  This is what it was always intended to do, and that’s why it should never have been passed in the first place.

(The “corporations are people” thing is a separate matter).

#2 Randy on Thursday October 29, 2015 at 3:34pm

“Saudi Arabia is a gift to Islamophobes”

Imagine that… the home of the two holiest sites in Islam is a gift to so-called “Islamophobes”.

How could that possibly happen?  I just can’t think of how…

(By the way, Bill Maher can and does defend himself with evidence that it is not at all a “small percentage”.  Can Kristof?)

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