Required to study Islam: Religious Freedom?

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Is forced Muslim religious education compatible with freedom of religion? We don’t tend to have court news quite this interesting (as far as religion goes) here in New Zealand.

I’m not commenting on this case because of the details that brought the parties to court, so let me quickly summarise what I think are the facts and then move on to what interests me.

  • The tenant is a Muslim woman. The landlord is a 73-year-old ordained pastor from Nigeria.
  • The tenant has had between 12 and 15 people staying in the rented apartment, which the landlord does not permit (or at least does not want, I don’t know if it’s contrary to the lease).
  • The tenant claims that the landlord has a history of shouting anti-Islamic abuse at her and that she pushed her, making her fall down some stairs.
  • The landlord denies treating the tenant this way, saying that the tenant had a vendetta against her because she wouldn’t let more people live in the apartment and because of her religion.
  • The judge found against the landlord, also noting that previous tenants have taken out prevention orders against her.

That brings us up to the part that I’m interested in. Here’s what the judge did:

He sentenced her to two years in jail on the assault and battery charge for pushing Suliman but required her to serve only six months, with the remaining 18 months suspended if she complied with certain probation conditions.

“I want you to learn about the Muslim faith,” he said. “I want you to enroll and attend an introductory course on Islam. I do want you to understand people of the Muslim faith, and they need to be respected. They may worship Allah … but they need to be respected.”

Continue reading “Required to study Islam: Religious Freedom?”

Useful falsehoods: New Zealand’s secular left narrative

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Research suggests that many New Zealanders are ignorant in ways that support left-wing and secular ideologies. Don’t blame me, I didn’t carry out the survey!

A common theme in my thinking lately is about the way that we humans come to hold many beliefs for non-rational reasons. We imagine the world to be a certain way, not because it is that way but (whether we realise it or not) because it would suit us in some way for the world to be that way. If we’re prejudiced against foreigners, it’ll suit us to say that we’ve got a major problem with migrants coming here, whether such a problem exists or not, and we’ll – unconsciously, perhaps – look for ways to interpret any available data in a way that supports this belief. If we are hardcore left-wing feminist social justice warriors (you know who you are), it would suit our interests if there was a real massive pay gap between men and women in our country, or if a lot of pro-lifers were violent terrorists, and as a result we may well form those beliefs with little or no assistance from the facts, quite apart from whether or not the world really is this way. In bipartisan fashion I’ve picked a “left wing” and a “right wing” example.

Because of my interest in the subject of why we believe as we do, I was intrigued to look at the findings of recent survey called “Perils of Perception 2015: A 33 Country Study.” The subtitle is “Perceptions are not reality: What the world gets wrong.” The summary reads: “Ipsos MORI’s latest version of the Perils of Perception survey highlights how wrong the public across 33 countries are about some key issues and features of the population in their country.”

Continue reading “Useful falsehoods: New Zealand’s secular left narrative”

Lying for choice? Keeping the pro-life violence narrative alive

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UPDATE: A couple of days later, this dishonest post by “Exposing Men’s Rights Activism” has been shared 470 times by people who did not check the facts.  No doubt this number will continue to rise. After I pointed out the errors, they have removed the word “mass,” to their credit. This leaves them making the claim that there were three shootings on that day. Of course there were far more than three. There are more than eighty shooting deaths per day in the US. Indeed the only reason for saying that there were three mass shootings was to claim (falsely) that the high profile case in San Bernadino was not the only one. The respectable thing would clearly be to remove the false post altogether. Moreover, they have not acknowledged their initial factual error, they have deleted my comment where I point this out, and they continue to claim that the attack happened at a women’s health clinic, perpetuating a false version of events. Truth is the real casualty in all this.

Some abortion rights advocates have started fabricating mass shootings at abortion clinics.

Anyone who actually looks into the phenomenon of violence against abortion clinic staff, carried out by those who think abortion is wrong, knows that the reality is much smaller than the perception. Such incidents are rare and in severe decline, the facts show. Obviously whether or not abortion is morally permissible is quite independent of incidents like this, but still, some proponents of abortion rights do try to silence the vocal critics of abortion because of such incidents, as I mentioned recently. Unfortunately, however, whether or not the allegations about these incidents are even true is starting to matter less, it seems.

Perhaps noticing the lack of actual widespread violence against people who work at abortion clinics and trying to boost the numbers, or perhaps just trying to link the opponents of abortion to the recent terrible mass shooting in San Bernadino California, or heck, more likely just using somebody else’s tragedy to further your own social and political cause (no, not a crass thing to do at all….), the Facebook group “Exposing Men’s Rights Activism” today shared a tweet from Jamie Kilstein, reading “F**k. Not seeing this on the news cause they are covering another mass shooting. #america.” If I read this correctly, it means “Oh no. The news isn’t covering this mass shooting because they are covering a different one.” Kilstein in turn was sharing a tweet from Houston Feminist: “There has been a shooting in #houston at Clinica Hispana, a women’s health clinic. #hounews.”

Continue reading “Lying for choice? Keeping the pro-life violence narrative alive”

Using the fear of violence to end the condemnation of abortion

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By now many or most readers will know about the shooting in Colorado Springs at a Planned Parenthood Clinic.

Capitalising on the violence (say I), proponents of abortion rights are using the incident to maintain that abortion opponents must stop publicly making strong claims against abortion. Some of the complaint is simple misinformation (denying that Planned Parenthood traded in any sense in the parts of unborn babies). But there is also the claim, echoed by many, that strongly condemning the killing of unborn children has consequences. It inspires shooters like this guy, so it has to stop. We can think abortion is wrong (if we must be so benighted, but we mustn’t call it a horrendous evil.

This is wrong. You may not tell people to keep this opinion to themselves because of the actions of this or any other shooter.

We understand this principle most of the time. Here are a couple of examples that help us to see this.

Continue reading “Using the fear of violence to end the condemnation of abortion”

Abortion is so hot right now

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I don’t know the cause, perhaps it’s the current political climate in the US with political hopefuls vying to be their party’s candidate for President. But just now it seems the issue of abortion has exploded in my social media feeds, replete with (rather unwelcome) grizzly images of dismembered unborn babies. For what it’s worth, please be considerate of people who might not actually want to see such horrible things when they log in to catch up with friends or discuss other things. Do you want to be bombarded with unexpected and very graphic images of beheading victims, stabbing victims, crash victims and so on? But abortion is so hot right now, it seems.

Abortion is one of those issues where people just seem entrenched (the related issue of stem cell therapy is somewhat similar in this regard). No amount of pleading seems to get people to move – usually, at least. There are people who assume (quite wrongly, I say) that it’s simply a religious issue. You would never oppose abortion unless you were religious, they think. There are those (like presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders) who think (again, very wrongly, I say) opposition to abortion is an attack on women and their reproductive rights. I don’t think any comments like this have any merit, and I think they are evidence that many defenders of abortion rights are not seriously listening, or they don’t really want to know why people oppose abortion (or they do, but they are willing to misrepresent the opponents of abortion, which is a hallmark of partisanship).

In spite of my fear that very few people are really open to listening to the evil “other side” of the abortion issue, I know that some people do, and some people even change their mind about it once they’ve listened. It’s hard to predict what might give someone that little nudge across the line, but if it’s possible that something I say might help do the job then I don’t want to miss the opportunity. There is nothing new here. Continue reading “Abortion is so hot right now”

Denial is not an option: Planned Parenthood and the sale of body parts

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There is already plenty of exposure to the now infamous undercover videos of staff at Planned Parenthood where it is clear that they engage in the practice of selling the parts of aborted babies. After viewing them, I do not believe there is any way to dismiss the footage as a distortion, as misleading, or as taking things out of context in a way that only makes it appear that this is what the staff are offering to do, when in reality they are not. That sort of denial is not plausible, and yet that is the sort of thing we are seeing. Having seen this sort of denial a couple of times now, the most charitable conclusion I can draw is that the people who would make this claim are simply believing the best of Planned Parenthood and have not actually viewed the footage for themselves.

For that reason alone, here are the videos that I have seen, and you are invited to watch them for yourselves. There may be others, but these are the ones I have personally watched. You might want to argue that there is nothing wrong with what is happening here. You might want to argue that the law should allow the trade of unborn baby parts. You would be pretty consistent in doing so, I think, once you accept that unborn babies can be dismembered and killed. But I am just gathering together what I have seen, as others are doing, so that we can stamp out the claim (the hope, perhaps) that trade in unborn baby parts is not happening. It is. Deal with it.

Please be aware that some of the footage is very disturbing, dealing with abortion and the sale of parts of dead babies. You will see body parts if you watch the first video.

Fuller footage is available for those who allege that these videos have been creatively edited to give a misleading impression. This is not difficult to find for yourself and is available at Youtube. Watching the full, unedited footage is a prerequisite for anyone who wants to imply that these videos have been edited to give a misleading impression.

Gay cakes and business by association

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When you engage in business and provide goods and services, is your conscience switched on? Are you in some way condoning the event for which you are providing your wares? Or is it strictly business, as the mafia men might say?

By now some of you will be sick to death of the noise being made about the case of Obergefell v. Hodges, in which the United States Supreme Court (with some dissent) ruled that there exists a constitutional right for same-sex couples to have their unions recognised by law as marriage (via a marriage licence). I’ve commented on the Bill to create same-sex marriage in New Zealand in the past (a Bill that was passed), and – on quite another note – I’ve commented on some criticisms of the observation that the Bible prescribes marriage as the union of a man and a woman. I may have more to say about the latter in the future, but throughout all of these conversations the issue of religious freedom has popped up from time to time. There have been some cases of Christian business owners (bakers and florists in particular) who were asked to supply products or services for a same-sex wedding but who, due to their views on marriage, declined. In a libertarian society this would be a simple matter: They chose not to engage in business with somebody, so no contract was formed. Still, there are plenty of other bakers and florists out there, most of whom will be only too glad to take your money. Continue reading “Gay cakes and business by association”

Free to discriminate, part 1

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This is a two-part blog about the legal right to the free exercise of religion and discrimination, in that order. Prompted by the current fuss over Indiana’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act, part one will look at the situation in Indiana that sparked the current discussion, and part two will step back from the headlines and address the more principled philosophical question about liberty and the right to discriminate. Continue reading “Free to discriminate, part 1”

Trust nobody?

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I’m officially sick of it. Stop linking to articles to make an argument for something that you believed with or without evidence. The line between information and propaganda is as faint as it has ever been.

I’m diarying a little here, and partly ranting. This would not pass peer review. I may also irritate some of my more liberally minded friends, but I hope that liberal though you may be, you will see that I have a point. I’m getting ever-wearier over the way people (and I’m even tempted to say “you young people,” such is the wearying effect) treat the notion of being informed. Being informed can now just mean that you’ve read a Buzzfeed article stating that all the research says X. You don’t have to think, it’s already packaged, with a dozen articles in the sidebar about how to fix everything that’s wrong with the world with “this one weird trick.” A while ago (maybe two months ago – in the age of education via social media, this is quite a long time) people (although in retrospect, people who advocate what they would call social liberalism) were passing around a link to just such an article. All the research, the enthusiastic writer told his readers, shows a clear link between spanking (i.e. as a form of punishment for children, you naughty readers) and mental illness later in life. Quick scan, existing beliefs reinforced, link shared, mission accomplished. I wonder if those who shared that link could even make it past this paragraph without rolling their eyes and declaring tl;dr. Continue reading “Trust nobody?”

A stone in your shoe

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“The king of Israel answered Jehoshaphat, ‘There is still one prophet through whom we can inquire of the LORD, but I hate him because he never prophesies anything good about me, but always bad.’” (2 Chronicles 18:7)

I don’t want to make you happy.

I’ve been getting under some people’s skin lately. I wrote a recent short blog post about race – specifically about issues faced by the black community in America including poverty and also its relationship with law enforcement. I’ve also been making comments on social media and I’ve shared several links to news stories and opinion pieces about race-related issues, stories of abuse by police, and pieces on how we respond to the deaths of victims of such violence, such as Eric Garner.

As I would have hoped, there have been people who appreciate this. But as one might naturally expect, those who have had the most to say about it are those who are not happy with me doing this. Continue reading “A stone in your shoe”