Thursday, January 23, 2014
Gideon Bibles Removed After Atheist Group Pressures U of Wisconsin
The University of Wisconsin-Extension has agreed to remove all Gideon Bibles from 137 guest rooms at its conference center after an atheist group, the Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF), complained, arguing that the Bibles in the bedrooms constituted state endorsement of Christianity.
“After attempting to end the practice for several decades, the Freedom From Religion Foundation has persuaded University of Wisconsin-Extension in Madison to remove Gideon bibles from its 137 guest rooms,” the group said in a Jan. 15 statement. “In November, the complainant who encountered the bible at the Lowell Center on the UW-Madison campus complained to Madison-based FFRF, a state/church watchdog and the nation's largest association of freethinkers (atheists and agnostics).”
Back on Nov. 4, FFRF staff attorney Patrick C. Elliott sent a letter to Chancellor Ray Cross, head of the University of Wisconsin Colleges and University of Wisconsin-Extension. (See FFRF Letter.pdf)
In the letter, Elliott wrote, “It is our understanding that guest rooms in the Lowell Center contain bibles from Gideons International. We were contacted by a concerned complainant who informs us that the bibles are in every guest room. We understand that the bibles include a statement noting that they were placed by Gideons International.”
“It is a fundamental principle of Establishment Clause jurisprudence that a government entity cannot in any way promote, advance, or otherwise endorse religion,” said Elliott. “Permitting members of outside religious groups the privilege of placing their religious literature in public university guest rooms constitutes state endorsement and advancement of these Christian publications. Providing bibles to Lowell Center guests sends the message that the UW-Extension endorses the religious texts.”
“State-run colleges have a constitutional obligation to remain neutral toward religion,” said Elliott.
The letter went on to request that UW-Extension remove all Gideon Bibles from guest rooms in the Lowell Center and other university guest facilities, and to provide the FFRF with a written response on what actions were being taken to “remedy this constitutional violation.”
Chancellor Cross agreed to the FFRF’s demands.
In a Nov. 25 letter to the atheist organization, Chancellor Cross wrote, “Thank you for sharing the complaint of a guest or visitor related to the placement of Gideon Bibles in the University of Wisconsin-Extension’s Lowell Center guest rooms.”
“After carefully reviewing your concern, we have decided to remove the Gideon Bibles from all guest rooms,” said Cross. “They should be removed by December 1, 2013. Thank you for making us award [sic] of this concern." (See Chancellor Letter.pdf)
Gideon Bibles Removed After Atheist Group Pressures U of Wisconsin
On its website, the Freedom From Religion Foundation describes itself as follows: “The history of Western civilization shows us that most social and moral progress has been brought about by persons free from religion. In modern times the first to speak out for prison reform, for humane treatment of the mentally ill, for abolition of capital punishment, for women's right to vote, for death with dignity for the terminally ill, and for the right to choose contraception, sterilization and abortion have been freethinkers, just as they were the first to call for an end to slavery. The Foundation works as an umbrella for those who are free from religion and are committed to the cherished principle of separation of state and church.”
The Gideons International, founded in 1899, describes its mission as follows: “The mission of The Gideons International is to win the lost for Christ, and our unique method is the distribution of Bibles and New Testaments in selected streams of life. Gideons have placed or distributed more than 1.8 billion complete Bibles and New Testaments in more than 190 countries around the world . . . so far.”
A New York State of Mind: Illiberal Liberal Values
On paper, "liberal intolerance" is something of an oxymoron, like "jumbo shrimp," "loyal opposition" or "conspicuous absence." But what makes oxymorons funny is that they are real things. There are jumbo shrimp. Absences can be conspicuous, opponents can be loyal, and liberals can be staggeringly and myopically intolerant.
Last Friday, in a public radio interview, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo offered the sort of potted analysis of the national Republican Party one would expect from an MSNBC talk show. But he went a bit further. After nodding to the fact that, historically, the New York state Republican Party has been the most ideologically gelded of the breed (it is the birthplace of Rockefeller Republicanism, after all), Cuomo proclaimed that "extreme conservatives" have "no place in the state of New York."
Who are extreme conservatives? People who are "right-to-life, pro-assault weapon, anti-gay."
It's an interesting -- and repugnant -- tautology: Extremists hold extreme views, and we can identify extreme views by the fact they are held by extremists.
Of course, Cuomo frames the matter to his benefit. Opposing same-sex marriage -- the mainstream Democratic position not long ago -- is now anti-gay. Being in favor of gun rights is pro-assault weapon (whatever that means).
Most vexing and revealing, however, is that Cuomo doesn't even bother to wrap opposition to abortion in scary adjectives. Simply believing in a right to life is extremist, and such extremists have "no place in the state of New York." Cuomo claims that he was being taken out of context. He was talking about "extreme" Republican politicians, not average citizens. Fair enough.
Still, given that Cuomo is the scion of one of the most famously Catholic families in America, it's a pretty remarkable statement.
Imagine how much smoke would emanate from the liberal outrage machine if, say, Texas Gov. Rick Perry said that "extremist" Democrats who support gun control or oppose gay marriage or abortion rights "have no place in the great state of Texas."
As my National Review colleague Kathryn Lopez notes, this is an extraordinary evolution from the time when Mario Cuomo occupied the governor's mansion. The elder Cuomo pioneered the notion that politicians could be personally pro-life while in all other ways pro-choice. In his famous (infamous to some) 1984 speech at the University of Notre Dame, he advised the Roman Catholic Church to be "realistic" on abortion in the same way the church had been in the 19th century on the issue of slavery.
"It is a mark of contemporary liberalism's commitment to abortion," Ramesh Ponnuru wrote in his book, "The Party of Death," "that one of its leading lights should have been willing to support temporizing on slavery in order to defend it."
As many pro-lifers suspected, being "personally opposed" to abortion but supportive of it in every legal and political way was always something of a rhetorical safe harbor rather than a serious intellectual position. In the time span of one generation, as the political climate became more supportive of abortion -- as it has in New York, thanks in part to the diligent work of the "personally" pro-life Cuomos -- the once-safe harbor of personal opposition to abortion is closed, at least rhetorically.
Of course, liberal intolerance isn't rhetorical or limited to hot-button issues; it is woven into mainstream liberal policymaking. The Supreme Court is now pondering whether nuns -- celibate, elderly nuns -- have the right to opt out of Obamacare's birth-control requirements.
New York City recently banned the use of e-cigarettes indoors as yet another "anti-tobacco" measure (in the words of Reuters), even though "vaping" involves no smoke, no tobacco and is often an invaluable tool for quitting real cigarettes. The real driver of the ban is the smug intolerance of a New York City Council that sees no reason to accommodate people who want to live in ways it disapproves of.
And it's not just policymaking either. Liberalism has a culture all its own. From cities like New York; Madison, Wis.; and San Francisco to countless college campuses in between, that culture can produce people as judgmental as the old Church Lady character from "Saturday Night Live." They'll be judgmental about different things, to be sure, but every bit as intolerant.
Tolerating opposing views and lifestyles is an abstract liberal value when politics demand it (which is why Cuomo will have a very hard time if he wants to run for president of a nation that doesn't see eye to eye with him). But given a free hand, liberal intolerance all too often ceases to be an abstract oxymoron and becomes a lived reality.
Australia: Mandatory eight-year minimum sentence for drunk punchers
MANDATORY minimum jail sentences of eight years for alcohol or drug-fuelled "coward punch" crimes will be introduced by Premier Barry O'Farrell today.
In a bid to tackle alcohol-related violence, the Premier will finally bite the bullet after The Daily Telegraph's Enough campaign called for tougher penalties in the wake of the deaths of Daniel Christie and Thomas Kelly.
Attorney-General Greg Smith's one-punch laws, which were to include a 20-year maximum, are now expected to also contain a minimum term if alcohol or drugs are involved - a first for NSW.
The maximum if alcohol is involved will now be 25 years.
However, if the assailant was unaffected by drugs or alcohol there will be no mandatory minimum sentence and the maximum will be 20 years.
The legislation was initially compared to laws in Western Australia - where no one has received the maximum sentence of 10 years jail.
Mr O'Farrell has been under pressure to introduce mandatory minimums for "coward punch" offences and to bring in Newcastle-style 1am lockouts to stem the violence in Sydney particularly in Kings Cross.
But it is believed his announcement today will fall short of calling for a reduction in trading hours. Yesterday Mr O'Farrell held one of the longest cabinet meetings in his time in office - about five hours - to deal with the issue. He said he was "confident the package being taken to cabinet addresses community concerns and will make a difference".
The announcement is also expected to include a "risk-based licensing scheme" under which pubs and clubs would pay extra if they had records of violence, if they traded for longer or were in designated danger spots.
Testing assault offenders for drugs and alcohol is also under consideration so that those who engaged in alcohol or drug-fuelled violence would receive tougher penalties under the legislation's "aggravating factors".
The testing would also identify to what extent the use of steroids and methamphetamine - known as "ice" - played a part in violence.
The Attorney-General's Department, in its submission to the Foggo review of the Liquor Act presented to the government last year, said that under the existing licensing scheme there was "no ongoing requirement to prove (premises) are fit to trade".
It recommended fees determined according to compliance with liquor laws.
The department also recommended tighter responsible service of alcohol training and compulsory refresher courses for bar staff, saying "some licensed premises continue to sell alcohol to intoxicated patrons".
"Around half of all non-domestic violence assaults reported to the police are alcohol related and a significant proportion of these took place within 50m of licensed premises," it said.
Labor leader John Robertson called for the government to bring in the Newcastle lockouts: "The Premier : "We have a Premier wholacks the courage to stare down the liquor industry."
Miss Pinup Australia: A beauty pageant with a difference, from a time when more was left to the imagination
I remember the 50s well and agree that there was much good in them. I even still have some 50s furniture -- JR
It seems that going backwards is the only way forward.
More than 100 women will compete in this year's Miss Pinup Australia, a nationwide contest that promotes "good old-fashioned values", says founder Miss Pixie, who goes by her persona to avoid unwelcome public attention. This is the competition's fifth year.
In flowing full skirts and flawless make-up, contestants will flaunt cinched waistlines and evoke the opulence of a decade characterised by conservatism and an emphasis on femininity that would make any modern feminist cringe.
Authenticity is the key: entrants are required to dress, act and present themselves in true 1950s style.
It is a chance for women of all shapes and sizes to find their "inner pin-up", Miss Pixie says.
Hopefuls compete in a state heat in their nominated categories, proceed to a state final and then go into contention for the title of Miss Pinup Australia.
Lamenting a lack of self-respect in today's society, the 45-year-old dance instructor and photographer said the competition was bringing back the lost art of modesty. "We like to be treated as ladies but to be treated as ladies, you need to act like one," Miss Pixie says.
Turning the adage "less is more" on its head, she imparts traditional values on her clients because - as far as the '50s go - more is, in fact, less, she says.
"I think there is nothing wrong with covering your knees. A woman is a present. If you wrap the present and allow a man to use their imagination, then you'll find that you'll get the respect that you deserve."
However, it is not all about glamour, immaculate hairstyles and ruby-red lips. For Miss Bells B Ringing, 33, embracing a '50s persona has become a way of life.
"We can look at it [the '50s] in hindsight, but we're actually living it right now," she says.
Getting "pinned up" every day has emboldened her, "especially being a bigger girl [because] it's been hard for me all my life to try to find a confidence within myself, and I really love the way I look now," she says.
Miss Candy Floss, 28, believes there is much to be learnt from an era in which poodle cuts and pointed busts reigned, and she admires the way women conducted themselves with dignity.
The competition is not just open to the fairer sex; men are encouraged to channel their inner James Dean.
The live events will run between April and August, and members of the public are welcome to attend the shows.
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 POLITICS and DISSECTING LEFTISM. My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here.