Wednesday, August 23, 2006


Declaring that airport screeners shouldn't be hampered by "political correctness," House Homeland Security Chairman Peter King has endorsed requiring people of "Middle Eastern and South Asian" descent to undergo additional security checks because of their ethnicity and religion. Discussing the recent revelation of an alleged plot in England to blow up U.S.-bound airliners, the Seaford Republican said yesterday that, "if the threat is coming from a particular group, I can understand why it would make sense to single them out for further questioning." King, who has said that all Muslims aren't terrorists but that all recent terrorists are Muslim, favors an ethnic and religious profiling scheme that would include foreign and American-born travelers. "I would give the investigators and screeners a lot of discretion as to where it ends," he said.

Despite King's endorsement of such a process, it is a technique that has been widely dismissed as a legitimate law enforcement tool. NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly, a childhood friend of King's whom the congressman calls one of the nation's leading counter-terrorism officials, has previously called racial profiling "nuts" and "ineffective," and eliminated the practice when he oversaw the U.S. Customs Service.

The U.S. Justice Department issued a policy three years ago banning racial profiling and Attorney General Alberto Gonzales said yesterday that he doesn't favor the practice. "I think that, you know, taking action against someone solely because of their race and solely because of their religion I think is problematic," Gonzales said.

Bob Levy, senior fellow in constitutional studies with the Washington-based Cato Institute, a conservative-libertarian think tank, said racial profiling gradually came into disfavor among law enforcement officials because "they discovered that this kind of profiling was very rarely effective in ferreting out useful information." He said targeting people based on a range of criteria is a more operative and constitutionally legitimate tool to stop wrongdoers than relying on a blanket profile. "Simply to profile all Muslims with nothing more than that, I think, would be considered a constitutional problem," Levy said. "Besides, if you are using a profile it doesn't follow that a profile is always effective."

Besides being ineffective, profiling ostracizes a community that could be essential in helping to combat terrorism, said Ahmed Younis of the Muslim Public Affairs Council. "In many ways, it is allowing the terrorists what they want, which is the betrayal of our constitutional principles and the disenfranchisement of the communities that we need the most in the war against extremism and terrorism," he said. "American Muslims are on the front lines in the war on terrorism and Mr. King's approach deprives America of her strongest weapon



Ministers are putting pressure on the Scottish Football Association to penalise Scotland's top football clubs if they do not form women's teams. The Scottish executive has reacted to suggestions that important teams are "living in the dark ages" by calling for the development of the women's game to be a condition of the club being licensed by the game's ruling body.

Films such as Bend it Like Beckham, which starred Keira Knightley and ER's Parminder Nagra, have helped to make the sport one of the fastest growing in the country, with 4,000 registered players in youth and senior teams. The Scotland women's squad has risen to 17th in Europe and 29th in the world, but only a handful of clubs, including Aberdeen and Kilmarnock, provide support for the game. Julie Fleeting, the Scotland women's captain, played professional football in the USA women's league before joining Arsenal because there was little scope in Scotland.

Ministers say Scotland's male-dominated senior clubs must support moves to create teams for women or face disciplinary action. Sanctions could include a ban on clubs taking part in European competitions or a refusal to issue grants to the clubs. Their intervention follows a warning earlier this month from a top women's football official, who accused SPL clubs of "living in the dark ages". Maureen McGonigle, the executive administrator of Scottish Women's Football (SWF), said moves to get the top clubs in Scotland to form female teams, mirroring successful efforts south of the border, had so far failed. "A bomb needs to be put under these archaic men. There are clubs who have empty seats week in and week out and they have to start encouraging women to be there," she said recently. "How do you do that? You can start a women's team and show that you are not living in the dark ages . . . There are mothers, daughters, sisters who want to play football."

In England, clubs including Chelsea, Everton and Fulham, have established women's sides which compete in FA-backed league and cup competition. Patricia Ferguson, minister for culture, sport and tourism, claims senior Scottish clubs have a crucial role in promoting wider access and involvement for women. Asked whether the SFA should force clubs to integrate girls' and women's soccer into their community football and player development structures, she said: "Yes. We would also wish to have as soon as practicable a demonstrable commitment to women and girls' football as a condition in the performance club grant scheme". Ferguson wants the requirement added to a list of conditions clubs must abide by under the SFA licensing system.

Making a commitment to women's football mandatory is expected to be resisted by some clubs whose resources for the game are already stretched. Bill Aitken, a Scottish Tory MSP, branded the idea "ridiculous". He said: "I would encourage football clubs to form women football teams and support women's football generally. But this is totally over the top and it appears that Scotland is rapidly becoming a country where compulsion replaces encouragement."


Christianity becomes much more correct if it leads to policies Leftists like

A comment on some recent events in the Australian Federal parliament

When Bruce Baird declared that he could not support a Liberal Party bill for the first time in a 19-year parliamentary career, he did so for religious reasons. The Sydney Liberal MP and former NSW Liberal frontbencher could not get out of his head the experience of visiting those in detention centres across Australia and the recurring Christian rejoinder: "These are your brothers, these are your sisters."

An openly religious and caring Christian, Baird did not abstain from voting on the Coalition's bill to excise the Australian mainland from asylum-seekers arriving by boat because he was a member of the Liberal Left; he never joined the Left faction in all his years in the NSW Parliament. No, he did so because his conscience, informed by his Christian beliefs and experience, directed him. "Whether or not we use a Christian analogy, certainly we know that we are encouraged to look at the weak and vulnerable as a starting point. While we build our riches as a nation, the danger for us is that, in this process of collecting a glittering prize of materialism, we lose our soul," Baird told parliament. "We have had conscience votes on RU486 and other things. This is a conscience vote."

Other Coalition and Labor MPs cited religious beliefs and support of the churches for refugees, particularly those seeking to come to Australia from Indonesia's West Papua. Labor's Peter Garrett declared his own Christian position and his colleague Duncan Kerr praised the role of the Catholic Church in helping Papuans. Crucially, in the Senate, the Nationals' Barnaby Joyce and Family First's Steve Fielding cited Christian compassion for not being able to support the bill. Because Liberal senator Judith Troeth had decided to vote against the bill, the opposition of Joyce and Fielding meant John Howard had to kill the bill.

In opposing the bill, Joyce used the Christian image of the holy family: Mary, Jesus and Joseph, fleeing the persecution of Herod and being turned away from modern Australia. Fielding's party represents family values and has strong support from church groups of all descriptions, including many evangelical churches. When the bill was pulled, the Coalition rebels and Fielding were praised for their courage, for acting on conscience, for the quality of their decisions and standing up to bullying.

This is a lovely, warm tale, a positive example of a victory of conscience, principle and parliamentary strength triumphing over the executive and party bullies. But there's something missing, something that is illogical and contrary to the prevailing political mood and a golden thread that joins this act of conscience with others on a range of moral issues: Where are the attacks on all these people for acting on religious beliefs? Where is Australian Greens senator Kerry Nettle's sectarian T-shirt mocking Joyce's Catholicism and urging him to keep his "rosaries off our refugees"? Why isn't Australian Democrats leader Lyn Allison deploring Fielding's links with "Hillsongy types"? Was this not a conspiracy between the churches and proselytisers of the US Bible Belt and our home-grown bible bashers?

It seems that it's OK to have God in politics as long as he's on the so-called progressive side. It's fine for Greens leader Bob Brown to campaign for Tibet and the Dalai Lama and against China's persecution of the spiritual movement Falun Gong, but not to start parliamentary business with the Lord's Prayer. It's fine for Catholic nuns to help refugees on the run or for Catholic justice groups to help West Papuans, but it's not OK for them to attempt to influence politicians on abortion or embryonic stem cell research. A bishop's remarks against industrial relations laws are used widely, but bishops who speak out against abortion are decried as men in dresses who should keep their hands off women's ovaries.

The Catholic Church, Uniting Church and evangelical groups that support resettling refugees using religious ties are praised, yet Family First is accused of belonging to the neo-conservative religious Right with its roots in the US, and of threatening democracy. Baird confirmed to The Australian this week that he'd received no criticism from other MPs and senators about his religious stand on the refugee bill, not even from those who bitterly attack and campaign against his harmless organisational role in a multi-faith parliamentary prayer breakfast. "You're right," he said. "They tolerate it when you are being nice to them."

But when Nationals' Senate leader Ron Boswell mounts an anti-abortion campaign or warns against accepting the Lockhart recommendations for creating human-animal hybrid embryos for research, he's dismissed as a Catholic scaremonger. Allison argues Tony Abbott should not be Health Minister because he's a Catholic, and the Democrats have criticised Howard and Peter Costello for addressing the Hillsong church.

Allison has gone further in her anti-religious crusade, establishing a God and Government website aimed at fighting the "undue influence" of religion in politics. Setting aside Allison's lack of irony in not recognising that the MPs who have taken a stand on moral grounds against the abortifacient RU486 and allowing embryonic stem cell research have lost parliamentary votes in recent years, she allows her conspiracy theories to fabricate arguments.

Earlier this week I contacted her office about a claim on the God and Government website that the Prime Minister said "immigrants who don't share Christian values should leave" Australia. Allison stood by her claims but, after two days and an angry demand from Howard in parliament that the Democrats change their website, she relented. Allison told The Australian she was sure Howard had said it and had gone further, demanding, at the height of a terrorism scare, that immigrants who didn't support Christian values should be removed from the country. Then she said Costello, "who had addressed Hillsong", had said it.

She admitted later neither had said it and that it appeared she'd made it up. She had indeed. The Democrats' confused campaign to rightly maintain a separation of church and state is being misdirected against the equal right of individuals to hold religious beliefs and use them in exercising their parliamentary duty.

After all, it is inarguable that those MPs representing religions and voting on conscience represent millions more Australians than do the dead men and women walking of the Democrats, a husk of a party reduced to an asterisk in political terms, which aggressively attacks opponents on deep moral issues on the grounds of their religion. The right to express a religious view in politics without harassment depends on which way you vote. It seems that God in politics is OK as long as he's on your side.


No comments: