Judge: Hiding Money From Rape Victims A-OK

Regular readers will know that I consider Timmy Cardinal Dolan to be an example of the worst that humanity has to offer. A fetid pustule bloated by self-righteous ego-mania, Timmy is more than homophobic, more than just a defender of child rapists, he is also a fraud and a thief. Except, not according to one Wisconsin judge.

I wrote in my Human Excommunication of Timmy about how, when faced with lawsuits for those priests he allowed to continue to rape children for years when he couldn’t pay them to do it as a hobby instead of professionally, the sanguine coward moved money around into another fund to make it immune from being seized and given to the victims he tried to silence.

Unfortunately, to Judge Rudolph Randa, compensating rape victims is a secondary concern to making sure that men in Milwaukee can continue telling people stories every Sunday because having to pay for their crimes would, “substantially burden a person’s exercise of religion.” Basically, because it was moved into a cemetery fund, and the upkeep of cemeteries is important to the Catholic faith, then taking away that money prevents them from practicing their religion. And, as we also see with the Magdalene Laundries, it‘s pretty clear that accepting responsibility for and making amends when you do awful, inhuman things is not a part of the Catholic faith, ergo Timmy’s accounting trick is legal.

Do I really need to go into the problems with this? I recently got a traffic ticket, so does that mean that I can simply insist that the Flying Spaghetti Monster disapproves of tolls but demands that the fastest available route be taken, therefore trying to make me pay to use roads hampers my free religious exercise? What we’re seeing with Randa is another example of people who seem to think that believing in fairy tales with enough conviction is reasonable justification for any action. Usually it’s trying to force other people to live by the strictures of your religion (e.g. abortion, abstinence only sex education, same-sex marriage, etc), but it’s becoming quite in vogue for prominent religious people in this country to say that their faith should exempt them from the law or even criticism of their ridiculous ideas.

The good news is that Randa is usually overturned on appeal. The bad news is that there is at least one person who is so monumentally screwed up that he thinks that denying compensation to rape victims is entirely ok if an invisible sky pixie wants to make sure the things we use to mark where we keep decomposing flesh are well polished.

Hey, instead of just saying that he won’t actively be mean to gay people as long as they’re sufficiently closeted, maybe this is a place where the Pope can step in and do some real good for a change!

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Town Outdoes Its “Wrong” Quota

TW: sexual assault on a minor, bullying, small town sports culture

You can tell when an author has made an effort with their writing to shock. This is not to say that is their only goal, but the slow, persistent build up of horror is distinctive.

It is with that in mind that I read the following article and my mind kept recoiling from the parade of awful that is this small Colorado town where a 13 year old boy was raped as part of a hazing ritual.

But it doesn’t stop there. It turns out after having objects stuck up his ass against his will, he was the victim of bullying due to the incident.

But it doesn’t stop there, either. After he got tired of the bullying, the boy went to the authorities, and now he and his father, the former principal of the school that serves all 300 students in town have been the subject of harassment for pursuing legal options with the state police because the local ones hardly did anything.

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Thus begins my newest post for Queereka. Click over there to read the entire post.

More on Demon Belief

CN: Demon belief, witchcraft accusations, child abuse, extremist religion

I have a number of passions that I relate to my atheism. Obviously my feminism and LGBT advocacy are major parts of the things that I write about because I feel incredibly strongly about them and they play into the humanist impulse I try to exhibit.

But there’s another thing that regular Conversationalists will recognize in my activism that I am incredibly passionate about.

There are no such things as demons.

None. I can count the number of demons in the world on no hands. If I had a pound of demons and a pound of feathers, which would weigh more? The pound of feathers because the other is entirely make believe.

Why am I so passionate about this? Well…

This doesn’t even focus on the women accused of witchcraft (side note: nobody is hexing you and casting black magic at you) who are forced from their homes or killed every year. This is just a small sampling of the children that are called witches or are considered to be possessed. The most depressing part is at the end where the guy who is supposed to be helping kids who were abandoned because their parents thought they were being influenced by demons admits that he absolutely believes that kids can be possessed and you can tell because they have wide eyes or distended stomachs.

Why do I consider this particularly interesting timing? I rarely watch broadcast news, preferring to get most of my news online, but I’m visiting my parents and saw a story on the news about the increase in support for the Catholic church in Africa, specifically Ghana.

One of the things they mentioned toward the end of the clip, though, that stuck with me, was the idea that many people turn to the church because they are poor and in need of medical care, and the government has utterly failed to provide that, so the Church has stepped in to do so. It reminds me of an interview that Jerry Coyne recently did in an Israeli publication. He talks about his book and his general opposition to religion, but he specifically mentions this at one point.

Maybe to some extent. The fact is that welfare states are less religious. I am neither a Marxist nor a diehard opponent of capitalism. But there has to be a certain degree of higher-level intervention to create a healthy society.

Some say it will never be possible to be rid of religion altogether, because, they claim, it does supply human needs. But I believe those needs can be fulfilled, as they have in many European countries, by oversight and by social guarantees. Look at Scandinavia. Three hundred years ago it was religious − the whole of Europe was religious − and now it is largely secular. Why? Because there is a well-functioning society there, in the sense that they have medical insurance and help for the needy. In such cases people do not need to turn to God.

I would suggest that this is the flip side of that argument. In places where people are starving or dying from lack of medicine, if nobody is there to provide it, what could they possibly lose by throwing themselves into worship of a divine creator who loves them and will help them in exchange for loyalty? When you have no other options, sometimes a Hail Mary is your best play (pun!).

The Sensuous Curmudgeon took exception to Coyne’s suggestion

We humbly suggest that Coyne’s [sic] incorrectly presents us with a binary choice — it’s either science and atheism within a redistributive welfare state, or else it’s creationism and religious fanaticism, driven by income inequality. But we think there are more alternatives. For example, consider the Founding Fathers who made the American Revolution.

The Founders lived two or three generations before Darwin published his theory, but they were, for the most part, utterly rational and scientific — Ben Franklin being our favorite example. They compromised about slavery (an error that was later remedied), but otherwise they made all the right choices for the creation of a free and prosperous nation — including property rights and a free enterprise economic system. They had no concept of a welfare state, and if anyone had suggested such a thing we’re confident they would have rejected it. They were (to coin a phrase) Enlightenment driven. With all due respect to Coyne, we suggest that the Founders’ model for society is a credible alternative to that of the European welfare state. Within that context, science is strong enough to prevail.

and if you take a look at the comments on that thread I was less than convinced as to the accuracy of some of his assertions and found a lot of it empty rhetoric. To be clear, I have a lot of respect for the Curmudgeon in regards to his work on pointing out the follies of creationism, but when it comes to economics, he far too often relies on slogans and idealized histories, and I think he’s presuming Coyne to be saying something he isn’t.

That being said, I think that the examples in Ghana and the great harm that a belief system tainted by faith in malevolent spirit beings that take over children, causing parents and preachers to beat, starve, mutilate, and abandon those children can create, demonstrate why it’s important that we care about social issues as well as theological ones.

At this point, I’m specifically pointing to those in the “atheism is just not having a belief in god, stop trying to bring in all this other stuff” camp. Yes, you guys. If that’s what you want to do, go right ahead. Your help would be appreciated, but it’s hardly needed. However, the evidence continues to pile up that faith spreads in places where injustice is high, especially extreme faiths that perpetuate that injustice. If you consider it worthwhile to try to get people to abandon non-evidential beliefs, then combating social disparity is a necessary step toward doing that.

People who understand the basic underpinnings of the world as less likely to turn their frustrations on their children and the old women in their town. Those who have regular access to medicine aren’t nearly as predisposed to assume that their sickness is caused by a demon in their kid’s stomach. And there is far less chance that somebody who isn’t starving will listen to a preacher tell them that their energy is being sapped by their witch great aunt and warlock nephew.

There are no such things as demons, and the more people who aren’t grasping for an answer, any answer, to their troubles, the more people who will understand that.

Pro-life Movement Silent on Savita

It’s been a day since the news went viral about Savita Halappanavar. Thousands have come out to protest all over Ireland, demanding action on the X case. Damn near every blogger I know has written something about this. Politicians and doctors have made their statements.

And from the pro-life movement…silence.

Now I’m not saying that they’re cowards who prefer to allow women they consider unsatisfactorily pure to die silently, unable to paint them as heartless fiends, but it does seem odd that when the nearly 50,000 uterus havers a year die without a whole lot of media attention, they’re always there talking about killing babies, but the moment somebody with a name and a face that they can point to to say, “See? She didn’t murder her child!” arrives on the international scene, the room clears and suddenly there’s no voices to be heard.

Surely the Vatican, with it’s long tradition of standing up for the rights of the unborn has something to say about this being god’s will, right? Doesn’t Thomas Olmsted have a statement about the sanctity of life? So far, no response from the Vatican for this thing that happened in “a Catholic country.”

But wait, perhaps some of the prominent Catholic bloggers have something to say about this? I mean, they’re always rambling on about life and souls and whatnot. Let’s take a look at the Patheos Catholic channel and see what they have to say.

Let’s see. Fr. Dwight Longenecker spent yesterday begging for money to “spread the good word” (presumably that word was “septicaemia”), but he’s actually a priest so I expect he’ll spend a good portion of his time asking people to pay him to tell them stories.

Leah Libresco, former atheist who converted because she sees “Morality” as an anthropomorphic being or some such nonsense, tells us that this Sunday she officially joins the club that encouraged Savita’s death. Also, she plans to write about the arts and not football. I wonder where Morality was those three days while a woman was suffering horribly and doctors were refusing her life saving treatment? No answer here.

Mark Shea at Catholic and Loving It posted quite a few things yesterday. Surely he has something to say about this tragic death? No? Not even an acknowledgment that this woman’s unnecessary death is horrible and we should try to do better? Well, he does have a pro-life song that was posted, so surely that’s enough.

Calah Alexander discusses her workout routine. Marc Barnes again showcases his stunning lack of imagination while committing an equivocation fallacy. Elizabeth Scalia, Managing Editor of the Catholic Portal, discusses the USCCB’s “enthusiastic” support of the sainthood of Dorothy Day, which Day herself didn’t want.

Huh. None of them have anything to say about how followers of their faith, obeying unclear laws that the Church makes no effort to clarify, just let a woman suffer for three days and die horribly to protect a miscarriage. Not a one of them.

Maybe they were busy. I mean, it’s not like damn near every blogger at Freethought Blogs had something to say about it…actually, yes they did, Ophelia Benson most of all.

Friendly Atheist covered it. Libby Anne does yeoman’s work looking for responses from “pro-life” sites and their feelings on “life of the mother” exemptions. The STFU Conservatives Tumblr is one of the first places I read about it and they have been covering the protests since.

So, clearly there has been time for somebody to write something. Where is Tony Perkins? Shouldn’t Maggie Gallagher be holding a press conference like she does whenever she finds a pro-gay book in a school library? Bryan Fischer claims to be pro-life, where is he to say that this was a tragedy and to defend his opposition to having helped this woman?

Silence from all corners.

The fact of the matter is, these people can only thrive when the deaths are anonymous. The moment we had a name for one of the victims of their horrible and irrational beliefs, they needed to shut up and hide so nobody could ask them if Savita Halappanavar should have died, if it was god’s will, if they should have allowed her to be treated. They can’t answer these questions because the answers they would give would make them look like monsters if they were honest and undermine their message if they lied.

Fortunately, we are not silent. We who think human beings are worth more than dogma will not be quiet. The pro-life movement will, my guess within a month, be once again claiming that the life of the mother is never in danger enough to justify an abortion, so we have to be ready with just one word: Savita. Never let them forget the name of their victim. Never have a discussion where you don’t point out that irrationality killed a young woman.

Never be silent. Fill the silence left by the pro-life movement with the sound of her name.

Never forget this woman's name

A Really Good Reason to Reject Amendment 8

This year in my beloved Florida, we will be voting on a whole lot of Amendments to our state constitution. Among them is Amendment 8, which basically is an attempt to funnel state funds to religious organizations. It attempts to say that it would only do so in accordance with the First Amendment, but of course there is no way to fund religious institutions without violating the First Amendment. And there’s also that religious institutions get to use this money without oversight, leading to things like the following tragedy.

The Tampa Bay Times has a report about how Christian religious exemptions for academies and homes have allowed for the humiliation and abuse of kids that are forced to be there.

In this state, unlicensed religious homes can abuse children and go on operating for years. Almost 30 years ago, Florida legislators passed a law eliminating state oversight of children’s homes that claim government rules hamper their religious practices.

The article goes on to list some of the horrible, violent, and humiliating things that these kids are forced to go through on a regular basis, and the state can do nothing about it because these groups claim their imaginary friend allows them to do this sort of stuff.

• The religious exemption has for decades allowed homes to avoid state restrictions on corporal punishment. Homes have pinned children to the ground for hours, confined them in seclusion for days, made them stand until they wet themselves and exercised them until they vomited.

• Children have been bruised, bloodied and choked to unconsciousness in the name of Christian discipline. A few barely escaped with their lives. In addition, in two settled lawsuits, a mother said her son was forced to hike on broken feet; a father said his son was handcuffed, bound at the feet, locked away for three days and struck by other boys at the instruction of the home.

• Adults have ordered children to participate in the punishment, requiring them to act as jailers, to bully troublemakers or to chase, tackle and sit on their peers.

• Teens have been denounced as sinners, called “faggots” and “whores,” and humiliated in front of their peers for menstrual stains and suspicions of masturbation.

• Parents share the blame. Some sign away their children for a year or more without first visiting a home or checking credentials. But state officials bear some responsibility because they have not warned the public about programs they believe are abusive.

Among the worst aspects of this is that these homes have been investigated, found to be participating in abuse, and have remained open. They, even now, receive some state funding in the form of McKay Scholarships.

On one hand, the parents who send their kids to these places are certainly to blame, but that doesn’t make the nauseating abuse that goes on there any less on the heads of the holy monsters who run them.

And if we make it easier to send state funds to places like this, more children will be abused that come from families who would love their kids to get a “Christian education,” but can’t currently afford it.

So if you’re in Florida, vote no on 8. This is not about religious liberty, it’s about allowing places that can brutalize children with no legal recourse to have more tax money than they already get. We can stop that from happening.

Taliban Not Above Shooting Children

The Taliban in Pakistan has attempted to assassinate one of their most fervent critics, a 14-year-old girl who writes a blog and wants to go to school.

Malala Yousafzai has been writing Diary of a Pakistani Schoolgirl for the BBC’s Urdu-language website since she was 11, describing the difficulty in being a girl who wants an education in the heavily Taliban-control Swat region of Pakistan. You can read some of it that’s been translated to English. It’s incredibly powerful stuff.

She is alive. According to doctors, the bullet she was shot with on her way home from school missed her brain and she’ll be recovering. However, the Taliban, proud of shooting at a teenaged girl, as sworn to finish the job. And considering they control the area, they will keep trying until they succeed.

My thoughts are with this brave and articulate girl, and I’m trying to find a story in my mind where the monsters who are determined to kill her don’t eventually win.