Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Bentley axes its company chaplain in case he upsets non-Christian workers: Employees start campaign to have him reinstated

Any chaplain worth his salt is well used to dealing with people who are not committed Christians.  This is an appalling way to treat an elderly vicar.  It is just anti-Christian bigotry

Every week for ten years the Rev Francis Cooke visited the shop floor at Bentley, offering counselling and advice to the luxury car maker's workers.  But only days before Christmas he has been made redundant because the company says he might offend non-Christians.

It said there were too many religions represented among the 4,000-strong workforce at its factory to warrant a Christian chaplain.

Mr Cooke called the decision 'ridiculous' and said he spoke to workers of all faiths.

Staff have started a campaign to reinstate the vicar, who they said was an 'important figure' who had even helped one employee who had been on the brink of suicide.

Mr Cooke was directly employed by Bentley – it would pay the Diocese of Chester, which would then transfer the funds to the chaplain.  He had outside roles, but this was his only paid work.

He said: 'It is just beyond belief. The reason I have been given is that there are too many people of different faiths to warrant a Christian chaplain. Everyone thinks it is quite ridiculous. There have been no complaints against me and my position is to help people and not just those who are Christians.'

He said he had been told to leave immediately after bosses said they needed to take a 'multi-faith outlook'.

He would visit the factory in Crewe, Cheshire, once a week for six hours, and also ran Christian courses and wrote a message in the firm's newsletters.

'It is not just about offering religious services,' he said. 'I provide counselling to workers who have stresses at home such as broken marriages. I would spend a few minutes with each person which would be enough to help them feel better.

'I feel that there is something else behind this.'

Mr Cooke said there had been a change since the appointment of new personnel by German firm Volkswagen, which took over the British brand in 1998.

'There have been many new faces around recently and I noticed I was being watched when I was talking to some of the staff even if it was just for a matter of seconds or minutes. I knew something was going on and that there was trouble ahead.'

Yesterday one worker said: 'We have started a petition as we want him back. Everyone is really angry about it.'

Retired employee John Austin, 67, said: 'He was there for a lot of people. I know one individual who was feeling suicidal, but Francis turned him around.  He was a very important man at the factory.'

A Bentley Motors spokesman said: 'We have a wide range of faiths and want to take a multi-faith outlook. It would be very difficult to have somebody from each faith.

'This now gives us the opportunity to look at this and recognise the range of faiths we have here.'


Britain spending more on welfare payments than Scandinavians with 7 out of 10 children living in a home receiving handouts

Britain pays out more on welfare than high spending social democratic nations in Scandinavia, according to a think-tank.

Nearly seven out of ten children now live in a home that receives at least one cash handout other than child benefit, says the hard-hitting study by the Institute for Economic Affairs.

And some 17 per cent of children – around 2.1 million – live in a home where no adult is working ‘easily the highest rate in Europe’.

The think-tank’s report, Redefining the Poverty Debate, spells out how a generation of the less well-off have become enslaved to state benefits that have done little to cure the problem of poverty.  It says: ‘Social expenditure in the UK stands at one of the highest levels in the world.

‘In terms of overall social spending, the UK has overtaken traditionally social democratic nations such as the Netherlands, Norway and Finland.

‘In terms of family benefits (spending on items such as child tax credit, child benefit, childcare subsidies) the UK has overtaken all of the Nordic countries.’

Figures published by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development last year show that Britain spends 3.6 per cent of national income on benefits for families.

That compares with 3.4 per cent in Sweden, 3.3 per cent in Denmark, 2.9 per cent in Norway and 2.8 per cent in the Netherlands.

Kristian Niemietz of the IEA writes: ‘The conventional textbook distinction between a high-spending Nordic model and a lowspending Anglo-Saxon model has become completely obsolete.

‘The state has become a major income provider for well over half the population.’

For households in the bottom 20 per cent of the income scale ‘the government is the main breadwinner, with cash benefits representing by far the most important income source’.

Mr Niemietz added: ‘What is more remarkable is that, in the second quintile, cash transfers also contribute almost as much to total income as market earnings.

Even households in the middle quintile receive a quarter of their income directly from the state.’

The report also calls for radical reforms to welfare spending to end penalties in the system that makes families ‘financially better off’ to split up.

The report found that a couple with two children both working 16 hours a week would receive £11,545 in tax credits and child benefit, while a single parent with one child working would receive £8,160, meaning the same couple could earn more than £16,000 if they separated.

The report warns that even the government’s new universal credit system will do little to iron out the problems.

It argues that the average family could be £745 better off if ministers backed more planning reforms to reduce house prices, reformed the Common Agricultural Policy to slash food costs, reduced sin taxes on alcohol and cigarettes, removed subsidies for green energy and deregulated childcare services.

Calling for a radical rethink of how to tackle poverty, the report found that sin taxes eat up 10 per cent of the disposable income of the poorest families.


Free Speech, The Disfavored Stepchild Of U.S. Law

In a recent column, George Will discussed how college students have been disciplined for racial or discriminatory "harassment" for constitutionally protected expression, such as reading a history book about ugly past racial events, or discussing unpleasant truths about racial or religious matters:
In 2007, Keith John Sampson, a middle-aged student working his way through Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis as a janitor, was declared guilty of racial harassment. Without granting Sampson a hearing, the university administration - acting as prosecutor, judge and jury - convicted him of "openly reading (a) book related to a historically and racially abhorrent subject." . . .

The book, "Notre Dame vs. the Klan," celebrated the 1924 defeat of the Ku Klux Klan in a fight with Notre Dame students. But some of Sampson's co-workers disliked the book's cover, which featured a black-and-white photograph of a Klan rally. Someone was offended, therefore someone else must be guilty of harassment. . .

At Tufts, a conservative newspaper committed "harassment" by printing accurate quotations from the Quran and a verified fact about the status of women in Saudi Arabia. . . .

In 2007, Donald Hindley, a politics professor at Brandeis, was found guilty of harassment because when teaching Latin American politics he explained the origin of the word "wetbacks," which refers to immigrants crossing the Rio Grande. Without a hearing, the university provost sent Hindley a letter stating that the university "will not tolerate inappropriate, racial and discriminatory conduct." The assistant provost was assigned to monitor Hindley's classes "to ensure that you do not engage in further violations of the nondiscrimination and harassment policy." Hindley was required to attend "anti-discrimination training."

Why does this sort of nonsense persist? One reason is that college administrators don't fear First Amendment lawsuits very much. If a state university violates the First Amendment, often it pays nothing for the violation. The Eleventh Amendment protects a state university from having to pay any monetary damages for such a violation. (The Supreme Court has said that Congress can waive Eleventh Amendment immunities to protect civil rights, but Congress has only done so for discrimination cases, not First Amendment cases.) State university officials - as opposed to the university itself - can be individually sued for First Amendment violations under 42 U.S.C. 1983, but they are protected by the defense of qualified immunity from having to pay any monetary damages at all, unless the court finds that they not only violated the First Amendment, but did so in a very clear way that was obviously unconstitutional under an appeals court's own past rulings, or past rulings by the Supreme Court - any legal ambiguity, and they are protected against damages. (See, e.g., Reichle v. Howards, 132 S.Ct. 2088, 2094 (2012) (the right "violated must be established, not as a general proposition, but in a particularized sense"); Harrell v. Southern Oregon University, 474 Fed. Appx. 665 (9th Cir. July 20, 2012) (circuit court of appeals granted qualified immunity because "the appropriate speech standard for college and graduate students' speech remains an open question in this circuit"; First Amendment violation must be "sufficiently clear that every reasonable official would have understood" that it was illegal)(emphasis added).)

And the university sometimes manages to avoid any injunction or attorneys fees being awarded against it by dropping the challenged speech restriction or discipline at the last minute, before trial, thus mooting out the lawsuit on the eve of what would otherwise be a defeat for the school. Free speech may be priceless, but for a school's bottom line, First Amendment violations are cheap.

Colleges fear many other kinds of lawsuits much more. For example, colleges live in fear of even the remote possibility of a discrimination or harassment suit, which can lead to lottery-sized damage awards against the college - and in some cases, individual college administrators - even if the harassment was by a student, not school staff, and the school itself tried (imperfectly) to stop it. Neither qualified immunity nor the Eleventh Amendment shield against suits brought under laws like the Rehabilitation Act, Title VI, or Title IX. Recently, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a million-dollar damage award against a school district under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act, for racial harassment committed against a student by his classmates, since it said the school district's efforts to stop the harassment were "half-hearted" and thus insufficient to avoid liability. The school district in Zeno v. Pine Plains Central School District should have prevailed under the governing legal standard laid down by the Supreme Court - which requires the plaintiff to show "deliberate indifference," not mere negligence, by school officials, in order to qualify for monetary damages - but the appeals court ignored the obvious difference between indifference and negligence, and upheld the massive damage award after finding the school district failed to respond as required by Education Department guidance and court rulings - even though that guidance and those court rulings predated the Supreme Court's Gebser and Davis decisions requiring a showing of deliberate indifference, rather than mere negligence, and thus could not justify holding the school district liable. (Universities' liability for harassment is sometimes even broader under state law, since state sexual- and racial-harassment laws in states like New Jersey only require a showing of negligence by the school district for liability, unlike the federal laws, Title VI and Title IX, which require a showing of "deliberate indifference"; and since punitive damages against a school are sometimes available under state law, unlike their federal counterparts, Title VI and Title IX.) Damages in other types of discrimination cases can also be massive, such as the case discussed at this link, in which a dental student obtained a $1.7 million award over  her disabilities-rights claim, including a $1 million punitive damages award against an individual associate dean who allegedly failed to accommodate her attention-deficit disorder.

Partly to avoid potentially massive liability for harassment and discrimination under state and federal law, colleges have created intricate civil-rights and human resource bureaucracies. For example, in 2011, the University of California at San Diego created a new full-time "vice chancellor for equity, diversity, and inclusion." As Heather Mac Donald notes, this position augmented "UC San Diego's already massive diversity apparatus, which includes the Chancellor's Diversity Office, the associate vice chancellor for faculty equity, the assistant vice chancellor for diversity, the faculty equity advisors, the graduate diversity coordinators, the staff diversity liaison, the undergraduate student diversity liaison, the graduate student diversity liaison, the chief diversity officer, the director of development for diversity initiatives, the Office of Academic Diversity and Equal Opportunity, the Committee on Gender Identity and Sexual Orientation Issues, the Committee on the Status of Women, the Campus Council on Climate, Culture and Inclusion, the Diversity Council, and the directors of the Cross-Cultural Center, the Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Resource Center, and the Women's Center."

By contrast, there is no institutional apparatus on campus designed to protect free speech or avoid First Amendment violations. Thus, perhaps it should not be too surprising when a college's racial harassment bureaucracy convicts a student of racial harassment for First Amendment activity like "openly reading a book related to a historically and racially abhorrent subject." Colleges have created a large, overzealous, hair-trigger bureaucracy to deal with allegations of real or imagined harassment, which inevitably results in some cases of non-harassing speech or innocent activity being erroneously treated as harassment. Colleges view it as better to avoid any risk of a racial-harassment lawsuit that could cost a college a bundle (even at the risk of some false convictions), rather than guarding against a First Amendment violation that will cost a college very little. Thus, students have been disciplined for racial or sexual harassment for expressing commonplace views on subjects such as affirmative action, feminism, and the death penalty. See Brief Amici Curiae of Students for Individual Liberty et al., in Davis v. Monroe County Board of Education, 1998 WL 847365 (filed Dec. 8, 1998) (No. 97-843). A costly racial-harassment lawsuit was brought against a college and a professor over the professor's emails on racially charged immigration topics; a federal trial judge in Arizona refused to dismiss the lawsuit against them, saying that the emails constituted illegal racial harassment; the harassment lawsuit was later dismissed on appeal by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals on First Amendment grounds; the appeals court cited the fact that the emails were not aimed at any of the specific Hispanic plaintiffs who sued over them, and thus were protected even if they were viewed as a "racially hostile work environment." (See Rodriguez v. Maricopa Community College, 605 F.3d 703 (9th Cir. 2010).)

Once upon a time, the Supreme Court spoke of free speech as having a preferred position among legal rights, saying that "freedom of speech" and "freedom of religion are in a preferred position," and that a "preferred place" and "priority" are "given in our" constitutional "scheme to the great, the indispensable democratic freedoms secured by the First Amendment." (See Murdock v. Pennsylvania, 319 U.S. 105, 115 (1943), West Virginia State Bd. of Educ. v. Barnette, 319 U.S. 624, 639 (1943), and Thomas v. Collins, 323 U.S. 516, 529 -30 (1945).)

Sadly, the legal community no longer feels the same way today. Free speech is the disfavored stepchild of the law.


Leftist bias at Australia's main public broadcaster

THE response by the managing director of the Australian Broadcasting Corp, Mark Scott, to Janet Albrechtsen's piece on ABC bias, almost defies belief. It is not the first time he has argued this case, even as he presented figures to a senate inquiry on the biased make-up of the panellists on Insiders.

Somehow, Scott trusts his "outstanding" commentators, by claiming that they are "carrying no ideological badge and pushing no line". Well that settles it, doesn't it?

There has been a very long tradition of accusations of bias in our national broadcaster. In 1981, the Dix report, a committee of review of the ABC, strongly recommended that current affairs programs would be "most arresting, informative and effective, and attract wider audience patronage, if more efforts were made to open the programs to a wider range of viewpoints".

Following the Dix report, the Institute of Public Affairs published a first attempt at media analysis. It looked "at the range of ideas being discussed in selected ABC programs over a period of time to see whether they appear to favour any particular political philosophy".

To his credit, author Ken Baker understood the "range of issues" should be related to "the views of the community". Thirty years on, the ABC is still resisting accusations it is completely out of touch with the community.

That the managing director doesn't see this defies well established perceptions from journalists themselves. In groundbreaking research in 1995 and 1998, John Henningham, a professor at Queensland University published a couple of papers on journalists' perceptions of bias and the ideological differences between them and their public.

What is striking about the research is that the journalists clearly rated the ABC as pro-Labor, indeed as the most pro-Labor of the major media outlets. In this light, indignant protests that the ABC is balanced become plain silly.

Similarly, to deny that there is a large gap between ABC presenters and their audience is simply unsustainable after Henningham surveyed 173 journalists and 262 members of the public in metropolitan Australia. He found an enormous difference between these two groups, with journalists consistently having a much more "progressive" views than the general public. The denial in the ABC has reached a point it does even bother to attempt balance. Albrechtsen has clearly outlined the major offenders. With the polls suggesting a Gillard wipeout, there is a feeling of "end of days" denial in the ABC and they, like Gillard, are going for broke.

A timely book by Californian academic Tim Groseclose, Left Turn: How Liberal Media Bias Distorts the American Mind is at pains to point out that political bias "does not mean not being truthful, or reporting facts honestly or even objectively". If there is one lesson to be learned and many of us in Australia have been saying it for years it is about the selectivity of issues, the bias that is formed by the things that are not reported, and in interviews, by the people who are not interviewed.

This is an exquisitely refined technique on the ABC. Presenters tend to interview only those experts who agree with their own opinions, thus transforming news from factual content into a point of view without appearing to express the view of the presenter. On a panel on Insiders or Q&A, one simply gets the false impression that there is a consensus.

Given this reality, Groseclose's most innovative and remarkable analysis comes from asking the question: what would the public really think if we could magically get rid of the biased media?

Left Turn's rigorous, objective methodology was able to measure the filtering that distorts the way we see the world and shows that it does indeed change the way we think. In particular, Groseclose has scrupulously used measures based on criteria selected by the Left itself as a hedge against potential criticism. His research indicates the views we hear expressed by people are not their natural views, but are distorted views of what they really think. Worse, he warns, "media bias feeds on itself".

As a result, in the US the population would, without the omnipresent media bias, score fully 20 percentage points further to the Right. If correct, this is very troubling and begs the intriguing question about the effects of the slant bias in Australia.

It also would explain why so many educated, generally mildly apolitical, well thinking middle class people with a regular diet of the ABC and Fairfax, simply are not aware that, for instance, the world has stopped warming for the past 16 years, that hurricanes and extreme weather events have declined and are not related to global warming, that Doha was a dismal failure, that the NBN has never had a cost benefit analysis, that Green jobs cost money ... and jobs, that growing the economic pie is not the same as redistributing tax revenue Bravo Tony Jones or that the Great Barrier Reef is not being destroyed.

As I explained 10 years ago on a panel at an ABC national staff conference in Melbourne; there is nothing more boring than a one-sided football match. Why doesn't the ABC be brave and challenge itself with controversial, mainstream ideas? It would be "most arresting, informative and effective", as the Dix report concluded more than 30 years ago.



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, AUSTRALIAN POLITICSDISSECTING 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


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