Thursday, September 27, 2007

U.S. Christian Camp Loses Tax-Exempt Status over Same-Sex Civil-Union Ceremony

The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) announced on Monday that it was stripping the Methodist Ocean Grove Camp Meeting Association of its tax-exempt status for part of its property. The Methodist camp made the news earlier this year after it refused, for religious reasons, to allow a lesbian couple to hold a "civil-union" ceremony at a pavilion on the camp's property.

The pavilion, said Scott Hoffman, the camp's chief administrative officer to LifeSiteNews, "is a facility we have used exclusively for our camp meeting mission and worship celebrations since 1869."

Until recently the camp held tax-exempt status on its entire boardwalk property under a New Jersey program that gives tax-breaks to organizations that open up their property to the general public.

In June, however, Harriet Bernstein and Luisa Pester, a lesbian, filed a complaint with the state attorney general's office on the basis of sexual orientation discrimination, after Ocean Grove refused to allow them to hold their "civil-union" ceremony at the camp's pavilion. A second lesbian couple has also sued Ocean Grove. New Jersey's anti-discrimination laws currently forbid those who "offer goods, services, and facilities to the general public" from "directly or indirectly denying or withholding any accommodation, service, benefit, or privilege to an individual" on the basis of sexual orientation.

"It is clear that the pavilion is not open to all persons on an equal basis," DEP Commissioner Lisa Jackson, wrote to the camp on Monday, in announcing the DEP's decision to revoke the camp's tax-exempt status.

"When people hear the words 'open space,' we want them to think not just of open air and land, but that it is open to all people," Jackson continued. "And when the public subsidizes it with tax breaks, it goes with the expectation that it is not going to be parsed out, whether it be by activity or any particular beliefs."

Currently, however, there is some confusion over just how much of the camp's property no longer has tax-exempt status. As such, one homosexual advocacy group is threatening to appeal the DEP's decision, saying that it doesn't go far enough, reports the AP. "We're looking for a bigger victory here," said Steve Goldstein, the chairman of Garden State Equality. "We have the symbolic victory of the state telling Ocean Grove they're wrong, but there is a bigger victory to be had by having the entire tax-exemption removed. We're happy, but there's a lot more happiness to be had."

According to the Neptune Township tax assessor, the revocation of the tax-exempt status on the pavilion will only cost Ocean Grove about $175/year, although Scott Hoffman has reportedly issued a statement claiming that the DEP's decision in fact appears to revoke tax-exempt status for "over 99 percent of the land." Hoffman said that Ocean Grove's lawyers are currently reviewing the decision.

In August, the Christian camp preempted the complaints currently pending against it by itself suing New Jersey state officials. According to the Alliance Defense fund, which is representing the camp, the attorney general's office is violating First Amendment protections by investigating Ocean Grove. "Religious groups have the right to make their own decisions without government interference," said Brian Raum, senior legal counsel for the Alliance Defense Fund. "The government can't force a private Christian organization to use its property in a way that would violate its own religious beliefs."


Politically Correct Anthropology

Political correctness which has been invading academia with a vengeance has a new target- Anthropology. An ad-hoc group calling themselves the Network of Concerned Anthropologists is now circulating a petition on the internet called the Pledge of Non-Participation in Counterinsurgency whose central theme says that "Anthropologists should not engage in research and other activities that contribute to counterinsurgency operations in Iraq or in related theaters in the 'war on terror.'"In other words it's an anti-war declaration for anthropologists.

The organizers, two of whom are at George Mason University, feel that anthropologists who cooperate with the military damage the relationship of openness and trust anthropologists have throughout the world and that the U.S. military's presence in Iraq is illegitimate. Sounds like something from a brochure.

This action was spurred by an upcoming meeting on an ad-hoc group of the American Anthropological Association that will be proposing ethical guidelines for working with the military and intelligence agencies.

One person who disagrees with the new group is Marcus B. Griffin, a professor of anthropology at Christopher Newport University. Mr. Griffin is currently in Iraq supporting a military "Human Terrain System" project. If the AAA adopts a position closer to that of the dissident group then the military will be deprived of an expert in an area where it needs help and one that could help save lives.

Apparently any previous cooperation with the military is irrelevant because it is the vehement opposition to the current Iraq war that supersedes any gain in scientific knowledge. Scientists often claim that they are only interested in the science and not politics. The NCA has mixed both into a dangerous brew.



By Jeff Jacoby

When John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt embarked on The Israel Lobby and US Foreign Policy, a 484-page elaboration of the theme that a mighty pro-Israel machine controls America's dealings in the Middle East and crushes those who get in its way, they expected to be condemned as anti-Semites. "The charge of anti-Semitism," the two academics write in their book (as they had in their notorious 2006 essay on the subject), is one of the "most powerful weapons" in the Israel lobby's arsenal. "Anyone who criticizes Israeli actions or says that pro-Israel groups have significant influence over US Middle East policy stands a good chance of getting labeled an anti-Semite. In fact, anyone who says that there is an Israel lobby runs the risk of being charged with anti-Semitism."

This accusation they label the "Great Silencer," one that has proven "a potent way to make sure that criticisms of Israel or the lobby were rarely spoken and were either ignored or disparaged when they were." Accordingly, Mearsheimer and Walt weren't surprised when leading booksellers refused to carry the The Israel Lobby and when attendance at their public appearances was suppressed. As they predicted, media outlets either refused to review their book, or published reviews that tarred them as anti-Semites. Such censorship and defamation are the price paid by anyone foolhardy enough to challenge Israel and, to coin a phrase, its amen corner in the United States.

In another universe, that is. In this one, nothing could be further from the truth. The Israel Lobby, needless to say, is on sale everywhere. It debuted at Number 12 on The New York Times Best Sellers list, and Number 6 in the Los Angeles Times. As of Friday, it was ranked No. 1 or No. 2 in's US History, Israel History, and International Relations categories. Far from being stifled or ignored, Mearsheimer and Walt have had invitations aplenty to air their views, in venues as varied as NPR's "Fresh Air" and "On Point," the Los Angeles Times editorial board, and a standing-room-only crowd at Politics & Prose, the noted Washington bookstore.

The media has neither cold-shouldered them nor deployed the "Great Silencer" to defame them. "Mearsheimer and Walt are not anti-Semites or racists," David Remnick declared flatly in The New Yorker. "They are serious scholars and there is no reason to doubt their sincerity." Newsday's Scott McLemee opened his review by noting that "The Israel Lobby" has something important in common with Israel itself: "It is necessary to affirm its right to exist." Tim Rutten, reviewing the book for the L.A. Times, recoiled from its "underlying malice" and pronounced its argument "sinister" -- but made no suggestion that the authors are bigots. Ditto the New York Times, whose reviewer found the book unconvincing and unpleasant -- "the general tone of hostility to Israel grates on the nerves," he wrote -- but had nothing unflattering to say about Mearsheimer and Walt themselves.

This does not mean that no one has read the Mearsheimer/Walt philippic and concluded that it is, in fact, anti-Jewish bigotry dressed up as academic analysis. Gabriel Schoenfeld, writing in Commentary, pronounced the original paper a "meretricious attempt to put a scholarly cap and gown on every hoary calumny ever devised about Jewish influence," and he wasn't the only one to think so. His argument can be debated on its own merits.

For their part, Mearsheimer and Walt declare for the record that they not only harbor no anti-Semitic animus, but are in fact philo-Semites. Does that square with the view, to quote their original treatise, that a largely Jewish "Israel Lobby" has a "stranglehold on Congress" -- one powerful enough to "divert US foreign policy" in ways that benefit Israel while harming America, in order to give Israel "a free hand with the Palestinians," while Americans "do most of the fighting, dying . . . rebuilding and paying"? That, too, can be debated on its own merits.

What is not debatable is that Mearsheimer and Walt have not been silenced in any way. Their views have been widely discussed. A leading publisher invited them to extend those views in a book. Their claim that anyone critical of Israel or its supporters is ruthlessly muzzled is simply a lie. From Jimmy Carter to Noam Chomsky to Pat Buchanan, from the media to academia to the blogosphere, from the corridors of the UN to the "realists" of the State Department, Israel's detractors are loud and legion, quite often profitably so.

So why the Big Lie about the "Great Silencer?" Perhaps to disguise the fact that hostility for Israel is simply not a flavor most Americans like. Yes, the Mearsheimer/Walt message can sell books and garner lecture bookings. But in the American marketplace of ideas, the viewpoint they embrace has proven singularly unpalatable. If America's policies are pro-Israel, it is because America's people are pro-Israel -- and they are pro-Israel not because of the machinations of a Zionist lobby, but because they see in Israel a liberal democracy and a beleaguered but loyal ally in the war against radical Islam. Mearsheimer and Walt are more than welcome to peddle their anti-Israel message. But when all is said and done, most Americans just don't buy it.

Multiculturalism becomes poison for social capital

Comment from Australia

WE have heard little in this year's political debate about immigration or multiculturalism, although immigration is running at record levels. Yet a change of government has the potential to bring with it a marked change in both these policy areas, and one that most Australians may not like much. Kevin Rudd has, as on other issues, kept a low profile and told his shadow immigration minister to do the same. It has been left to Paul Keating to remind us what things were like under the Hawke and Keating governments, with his attack on John Howard earlier this year.

Keating said then that when Howard disparaged elites over what he celebrated as the mainstream, he was in fact disparaging cosmopolitan attitudes vis-a-vis the certainties of the old monoculture. There was even a comparison drawn and then withdrawn between Howard's populist appeal to ordinary Australians and Hitler's to the German Volk.

In the Labor years it was the role of cosmopolitan elites to keep ordinary, red-necked Australians and their inherent racism on the straight and narrow. It was an era of stifling political correctness, where critics were howled down with cries of racist by the cosmopolitan internationalist elites of the progressive Left. It was also an era of corrupt immigration policies, with family stream migration rorted to provide branch-stacking fodder. It was a time when ordinary Australians had the cosmopolitans' virulent multiculturalism shoved down their throats, with the result that support for immigration plummeted. This is no right-wing Liberal fantasy. Former Labor finance minister Peter Walsh described immigration policy under Hawke as a process of blow-out and cave in. The immigration program numbers blew out above target, bloated by regular cave-ins to the ethnic lobbyists.

Another former Labor minister, Gary Johns, saw its immigration policy as part of vote buying and branch-stacking. But most telling of all was the findings of the FitzGerald committee inquiry into immigration policy set up by the Hawke government. The committee, headed by Stephen FitzGerald, found a key problem in maintaining support for immigration was a profound distrust by Australians of the policy of multiculturalism. Historian John Hirst wrote in 1994: "Mainstream Australian society was reduced to an ethnic group and given an ethnic name: Anglo-Celt. Its right to primacy was denied; indeed, it became the most suspect of all ethnic groups given its atrocious past."

The Howard years changed all this and Rudd is unlikely to revert to the excesses of the Hawke years; however, there are signs that are worrying nonetheless. For example, Labor's platform, where immigration is dealt with in the section on human rights, itself a worrying sign of a return of the Left to policy formulation, speaks of restoring a fairer and more balanced immigration program. At the moment the program is 70per cent skilled migrants, an economic focus that is very much in Australia's interest. Restoring balance suggest Labor will increase the role of family reunion, an ominous possibility given the record of the Hawke years.

However, the real worry, given Australia will want to continue to run a strong immigration program, is a Labor government's ability to retain a national consensus in favour of immigration. There is a substantial body of research that shows the ethnic diversity driven by immigration is destructive of social capital. The most comprehensive of these studies is by American political scientist Robert Putnam, best known as the author of Bowling Alone, a book on the breakdown of community in the US. Putnam defines social capital as "social networks and the associated norms of reciprocity and trustworthiness".

Francis Fukuyama, author of The End of History, told an International Monetary Fund conference on social capital some years ago: "Social capital is important to the efficient functioning of modern economies and is the sine qua non of stable liberal democracy."

Putnam, himself from the progressive Left, is somewhat embarrassed by his findings that ethnic diversity leads to the breakdown of trust and community networks that are a vital part of any society's social fabric. While his study is of the US, he says it would apply to other countries such as Australia. Worried about the impact of his research given the increased sensitivity on immigration issues since September 11, he said nothing about it for four or five years, before delivering a paper in Sweden last year. While he is at pains to say that in the long run immigration and ethnic diversity are likely to have important cultural, economic, fiscal and development benefits, his own research doesn't establish this. What it does show is that over several decades immigration and ethnic diversity lead to mistrust, challenge social solidarity, break down community and are poison to social capital.

This isn't an argument for stopping immigration or for racial purity, since, as Putnam says, ethnic diversity will inevitably increase in all modern societies. But it is a powerful argument against multicultural policies that encourage ethnic separatism and discourage assimilation. The litmus test for a Rudd government will be what it does in response to the Howard Government's changes to Australian citizenship laws designed to increase the value immigrants place on citizenship and insist on competent English and an understanding of Australia's laws, history and culture.

Australian sociologist Katharine Betts and demographer Bob Birrell provide an excellent discussion of the changing approach to citizenship since the Whitlam government in 1973 in the March issue of People & Place. What they show is that under successive Labor governments the value of citizenship was reduced to little better than a certificate you could pull out of a corn flakes packet. They note two very different concepts of citizenship, which they label the procedural position and the patriotic view. The procedural view holds that migrants should have no other commitment to Australia beyond respect for the law and rights of others.

The patriotic position, which surveys show is held by a clear majority of Australians, attaches a strong value to citizenship as a national bond and expects immigrants to live like Australians. This is the position the Howard Government has moved to in recent years. Rudd has yet to declare his attitude to the Government's citizenship approach, but Labor emphatically rejects any suggestion of assimilation. Yet the strongly adverse effect of immigration and ethnic diversity on social capital suggests a policy that brings Australians together rather than encouraging cultural separation will be essential to sustaining immigration and its long-term benefits.



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, SOCIALIZED MEDICINE, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN. My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here. For times when is playing up, there are mirrors of this site here and here.


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