Wednesday, September 12, 2012
MA: Homosexual couple sues church over nixed house sale
Property rights aren't what they used to be
WORCESTER, Mass. – A gay couple from Massachusetts has sued the Roman Catholic Diocese of Worcester for allegedly refusing to sell them a mansion because church officials were concerned they would host gay weddings at the site.
James Fairbanks and Alain Beret filed their discrimination suit Monday in Worcester Superior Court.
They allege that they were in negotiations to buy Oakhurst, a former retreat center in Northbridge, when church officials suddenly pulled out.
They say they inadvertently received an email from the chancellor of the diocese to the church's broker saying the reason was because of the "potentiality of gay marriages" at the home.
Chancellor Thomas Sullivan says the church dropped out of negotiations because of concerns about Fairbanks' and Beret's ability to finance the purchase.
Fancy having a judge in your living room?
British courts are treating competent adults as vulnerable beings who need state protection. That’s bad for liberty
Thanks to the English High Court, state policing of personal relationships in Britain is on the rise.
For centuries, the High Court has claimed an ‘inherent jurisdiction’ to take care of the persons and property of those who could not look after themselves. This power covers minors and wards of court, as well as adults who lack mental capacity. It originates in an ancient Crown Prerogative, going back to feudal times (1). But in a little-noticed legal development, some judges of the Family Division have started to claim an ‘inherent jurisdiction’ over the lives of adults in full possession of their faculties.
This is a disturbing trend. These rulings are given at private hearings. Parliament, the public, and indeed the Ministry of Justice, are none the wiser. The problem, at base, is a constitutional one. Our judges are unelected, and are not supposed to make laws. That is parliament’s function.
Parliament has said that people become adults at age 18 (2). Most people think that the point of reaching adulthood is that you get to decide where you live, and who your friends are. If you make unwise decisions, that is unfortunate, but it is not a basis for the authorities to intervene. However, last March, in a case called ‘DL’, the Court of Appeal said that the High Court is entitled to disregard adult decision-making (3).
What was the case about? DL is a man in his fifties, who lived with his very elderly parents. His mother, who was disabled, received some services from their local authority. There was discord between DL and the authority. It alleged that he assaulted his parents. It claimed that he was trying to persuade them to transfer the house to him; was restricting their use of household appliances, such as the washing machine, and was ordering carers about.
DL’s parents did not agree, and flatly refused to take any action against their son. Everyone accepted that the parents had legal capacity. On the face of it, the life which they and their son had chosen to lead together was no one else’s business.
But the local authority decided it was time for a judge to police the scene. It got the president of the Family Division to issue a raft of injunctions against DL, at a private hearing to which DL was not invited. This included such seemingly petty matters as forbidding DL to ‘persuade’ his mother to move to a care home.
A social-care expert was then sent to interview the parents. He claimed (without meeting DL) that DL was unduly influencing his parents, and that their ability to make balanced and considered decisions was compromised. However, he accepted that DL’s mother was able to give instructions which reflected her own wishes, though they were subject to DL’s influence. The father resisted pressure from DL. Both parents understood the advice which was given to them.
So far, so what? Many families have a dominant or influential figure, to whom others prefer to defer. That is their choice. There is nothing inherently wrong with ‘influence’. And anyway, why should family members have to make ‘balanced and considered’ decisions in their personal dealings with each other?
DL challenged the court’s jurisdiction, using the simple argument that, because they all had capacity to decide things for themselves, the court had no business interfering. He lost resoundingly. Both the High Court and the Court of Appeal claimed that the judges were being ‘facilitative’, not dictatorial, and were just helping the parents regain their autonomy of decision-making.
But there is nothing facilitative about a court injunction which tells people what they can and cannot say to each other in private, on pain of imprisonment. Injunctions are coercive. There is nothing facilitative about requiring elderly people to present themselves and their private lives for assessment by an outside expert. This is about as intrusive as it gets. Underlying this decision, and others like it, is an intolerance of others’ lifestyles, and a determination to corral them into making what others see as the ‘right’ choices.
In an earlier case in 2004, which the judges cited, a local authority claimed that the behaviour of a young woman’s father towards her had caused a breakdown in her mental health. The judge there reasoned that, because courts have powers to intervene in the lives of children to protect them, therefore the courts must have similar powers over the lives of adults (4), This is illogical. If the father had really caused harm to his adult daughter, she could sue him for personal injury or harassment. If she chose not to, that was her choice.
In another case in 2005, a local authority feared that a deaf young Asian woman called SA, who had just turned 18, might be taken out of the country and married without proper consent (5). The judge accepted that SA had capacity to marry. But in a convoluted and confusing judgment, he said that even though she had capacity, the court could make orders restrictive of her liberty, for example by limiting access to her passport. He said: ‘The inherent jurisdiction is no longer correctly to be understood as confined to cases where a vulnerable adult is disabled by mental incapacity from making his own decision.’
This is another leap of logic. The threshold for official intervention is no longer a person’s lack of mental capacity: the basis for intervention now is their (perceived) vulnerability.
Some paragraphs later, the judge in the case of SA announced: ‘It is likely to be easier to persuade the court that there is a case calling for investigation where the adult is apparently vulnerable than where the adult is not on the face of it vulnerable.’ So an adult who is not vulnerable is, theoretically at least, also subject to judicial enquiry. Finally, he said: ‘The court has a positive duty to assist SA to enter into what will for her be the “right” marriage.’ This does sound as though SA would only be allowed to marry someone of whom officialdom approved.
In a third case in 2010, an authority wanted to force a married woman with learning difficulties to use contraception, against her and her husband’s express wishes, if need be by involving the police! (6) The authority claimed that the husband was the dominant partner in their relationship. This may well have been true, but so what? The woman’s capacity to marry was not disputed.
This judge, to do him credit, baulked at the local authority’s totalitarian proposal. He did, however, decide that the wife lacked mental capacity to decide matters of contraception. This conclusion could be seen as a fudge (not least because it suggests she lacked capacity to have sex in the first place).
Judges of the Family Division of the High Court have been seduced by what Frank Furedi has called ‘the fatalistic sociology of the precautionary principle’. This views all human beings as innately powerless, vulnerable and at risk (7). And if to be at risk is a condition of life, then everyone becomes a legitimate target of judicial intervention and protection. This refusal by the courts to acknowledge adults as self-determining agents has ominous implications for liberty and the law.
Feminist fail: 75% of new British mothers would stay at home to bring up their child if they could afford to
Three out of four new mothers would stay at home to bring up their child if they could afford to, a report said yesterday. A traditional family – with a breadwinning father and a full-time mother – remains the ideal for the vast majority of women, the study found.
The conclusion flies in the face of the assumption among politicians, civil servants and academics that working is good for mothers and that what families really want is more subsidised childcare.
According to the research, six out of ten mothers who return to work after having a baby do so only to pay off debt or ease financial pressures. Just one in seven said they wanted to develop their career.
The findings, produced from a survey commissioned by uSwitch of 1,008 mothers, back up a series of opinion polls in recent years, all of which showed that a high proportion of new mothers would prefer to stay at home.
No similar government or academic analysis of the wishes of mothers has been published, however.
Ann Robinson, of uSwitch, said: ‘At a time when women face the biggest squeeze on employment, new mums are being forced to return to the workplace because of financial pressures. ‘The high cost of living coupled with the often crippling cost of a mortgage means that many households today need two incomes to get by.’
The poll found that 75 per cent of new mothers said they would have stayed at home ‘if money was no object’. Only 12 per cent did not want to be full-time mothers. A further 13 per cent replied ‘don’t know’.
Of those who did return to jobs, 55 per cent said they did so because money was tight and 3 per cent said they had to go back because pregnancy had left them in serious debt.
Among those who gave other reasons, one in five said they needed something in their lives other than their home and baby and 14 per cent wanted to continue their career.
Mothers also gave estimates of the extra costs their families were facing because of having a baby. The typical estimate was that family bills rose by just over £2,500, but one in ten believed the annual added costs to be more than £5,000.
Politics and the G-word
by Jeff Jacoby
WHEN I LEARNED last Tuesday that Democrats, breaking with past practice, had dropped the word "God" from their party platform, I dispatched a message via Twitter: "God is mentioned in the 2004 Democratic platform 7 times. In the 2008 platform, once. In the 2012 platform, 0 times." I included a link to the National Journal story where I'd seen the details.
Within moments, that tweet had taken off. To my surprise, it was retweeted hundreds of times — an early indication of the backlash about to engulf Democrats in Charlotte over their platform's language on God and Jerusalem.
What really startled me, however, was the surge of responses I received from people who were glad to see God go unnamed in the Democratic platform. They didn't say they don't believe in God (though that may be true). Rather, they claimed that in the United States, politics and religion should have nothing to do with each other. Tweet after tweet seemed to take it for granted that references to God don't belong in American public life:
"Democrats are getting the idea: politics are politics and religion is religion."
"Is 'God' a political issue now? Separation of Church and State means nothing to you?"
"Good … church and state should be separate. Neither party should mention anything regarding religion."
"I don't get why this is even an issue. Why should religious beliefs have any place in politics?"
"The Founding Fathers would approve."
In reality, the Founders would have been the last to suggest that appeals to God and religion have no business in political affairs. Far from asserting that America's democratic system should be God-free, they regularly asserted the opposite.
"Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, Religion and morality are indispensable supports," George Washington reminded Americans in his Farewell Address. "The mere politician, equally with the pious man, ought to respect and to cherish them."
Years earlier, writing in Federalist No. 37 about the astonishing harmony reached at the Constitutional Convention, James Madison concluded that the delegates must have been guided by God. "It is impossible," he observed, "for the man of pious reflection not to perceive in it a finger of that Almighty hand which has been so frequently and signally extended to our relief in the critical stages of the revolution."
When Madison and the First Congress later crafted the Bill of rights, it was natural that the Establishment Clause be immediately followed by the Free Exercise Clause. Separation of church and state meant only that government was not to dictate any specific creed, or empower one sect over another. But Madison and the founders took it for granted that American democracy would be enriched by religion and its teachings.
Nothing is more normal than the invocation of God in our public life. "In God We Trust" appears on all US currency. The Almighty is acknowledged in every state constitution. Every president adds "So help me God" on taking the oath of office, and each has mentioned God in his inaugural address. Religious language in politics is as American as a Fourth of July parade.
And as bipartisan. Even before the G-word was restored at the convention, the Democrats' platform had included a respectful plank about faith. Many who took to the podium in Charlotte made a point of mentioning religion. Elizabeth Warren cited Jesus' admonition in Matthew 25:40 ("Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me"). San Antonio mayor Julian Castro, the keynote speaker, recalled how his grandmother would see him and his brother off to school, "making the sign of the cross behind us, saying, 'Que dios los bendiga' — 'May God bless you.'"
Religious Americans these days may be more likely to vote Republican, but no ideology has a monopoly on the moral authority religion can supply. From abolition to the antiwar movement, religion has played an indispensable role in liberalism's great causes too.
Would those who tweet their support for a wall between political and religious expression have made the same demand of the Rev. Martin Luther King, and the clergy who stood with him in the fight for racial equality? Would they want left-of-center "God-talk" silenced in the debates over budget cuts or gay marriage or immigration? Should Matthew 25:40 really be off-limits when Democrats talk about the poor?
In America, politics and religion are not strangers. Here faith and freedom go together, as we aspire, however imperfectly, to be one nation under God, with liberty and justice for all.
Political correctness is most pervasive in universities and colleges but I rarely report the incidents concerned here as I have a separate blog for educational matters.
American "liberals" often deny being Leftists and say that they are very different from the Communist rulers of other countries. The only real difference, however, is how much power they have. In America, their power is limited by democracy. To see what they WOULD be like with more power, look at where they ARE already very powerful: in America's educational system -- particularly in the universities and colleges. They show there the same respect for free-speech and political diversity that Stalin did: None. So look to the colleges to see what the whole country would be like if "liberals" had their way. It would be a dictatorship.
For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, GREENIE WATCH, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, GUN WATCH, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN (Note that EYE ON BRITAIN has regular posts on the reality of socialized medicine). My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here.