Be very, very quiet…he’s sleeping.
Interesting if somewhat futile TED talk by Alain de Botton on how atheism can adopt some of the beneficial trappings of religion while ignoring the icky God part.
While I certainly agree with him that the dialogue between atheists and believers could be more civil, I am afraid he will be seen by New Atheists (Atheists 1.0?) as an accomodationist, and by believing Christians as evidence that humans have an innate need for spiritual fulfillment. Which of course they do.
I have to believe part of the enthusiasm shown at the President’s State of the Union Address was the fact that most there believed it to be his last one.
It has been 39 years and 40 million lives. It is impossible to imagine what has been lost, but not difficult to imagine what will be gained by ending the atrocity of abortion:
Yesterday the Supreme Court ruled as it often has in the past on a death penalty case. In this case it was a death row inmate whose lawyers had essentially abandoned him during the appeals process. NPR gives a good overview of the case:
The U.S. Supreme Court has given an Alabama death row inmate another chance to fight his execution. By a 7-to-2 vote, the court ruled Wednesday that convicted murderer Cory Maples, “through no fault of his own,” was denied the right to appeal because he was abandoned by his lawyers.
Though I strongly support the death penalty, I think it is critical that those who face it get every opportunity to have competent representation and the full range of appeals available by law. I don’t in fact know how someone who supports the death penalty could think otherwise unless they are just completely indifferent to the lives of other human beings. My concern though is not merely a procedural one, but a personal one. As someone who worked on death penalty appeal that went to the Supreme Court (STATE of Louisiana vs. John L. SULLIVAN), I know that the system occasionally fails to deliver justice to defendants.
In what may be a unique occurrence, I particularly agree with Justice Ginsburg’s argument in this case:
The sole question this Court has taken up for review is whether, on the extraordinary facts of Maples’ case, there is “cause” to excuse the default. Maples maintains that there is, for the lawyers he believed to be vigilantly representing him had abandoned the case without leave of court, without informing Maples they could no longer represent him, and without securing any recorded substitution of counsel. We agree. Abandoned by counsel, Maples was left unrepresented at a critical time for his state post conviction petition, and he lacked a clue of any need to protect himself pro se. In these circumstances, no just system would lay the default at Maples’ death-cell door.
The death penalty has an important purpose in a just society, even with the human pitfalls and limitations our judicial system presents. But when the court focuses merely on technicalities and procedure, it can miss justice.
And that would be a tragedy by any measure.
Last week the Supreme Court issued a ruling involving the application of the 1st amendment with regard to a church hiring and firing those it considered ‘ministers’ within the church. The specific case concerned Cheryl Perich who worked as a teacher for a school run by the church. Fearing the school would fire her because of her narcolepsy, she began an effort to bring a claim to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. The church had a policy that those who were working as ministers in the church were required to resolve disputes within the church. Because she was a trained minister in addition to being a teacher and because she brought the claim to the EEOC, Perich was subsequently fired.
The case, Hosanna-Tabor Church v. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission arose as a result of the EEOC and the administration pursuing a lawsuit against the church on Ms. Perich’s behalf. As the New York Times put it, the reaction by religious groups to the Obama Administration’s support of the EEOC was as vociferous as one would expect:
Many religious groups were outraged when the Obama administration argued in support of Ms. Perich, saying this was evidence that the administration was hostile to historically protected religious liberties.
Indeed, those lining up on either side of the case read like a who’s who of cultural warriors – it was American Bible Society, the Southern Baptist Convention, the Rutherford Institute and Wallbuilders verses the People for the American Way, Americans United for Separation of Church and State and the American Humanist Association and American Atheists. In many ways this was a strong test case for claim by secularists that the acceptance of their views about church and state are gaining ground. What most expected was the usual split decision with a slim majority falling on either side of the issue and no strong precedent being set. The resulting decision was virtually the opposite of this. In a rare 9-0 decision the Supreme Court dealt a stinging rebuke bot to the Obama administration and to secularists who would like to diminish the power of religious organizations to order their own affairs. It granted, via the clear wording of the 1st amendment a “ministerial exception,” – that the 1st amendment protects the right of religious organizations to hire, retain, and fire its own leaders in accordance with its own doctrines, not in accordance with the employment laws of the US government.
As Justice Alito put it in the decision, “The Constitution leaves it to the collective conscience of each religious group to determine for itself who is qualified to serve as a teacher or messenger of its faith.”
Given the 1st amendment’s clear prohibition against ‘prohibiting the free exercise’ of religion this result would seem obvious but this administration’s propensity for using its regulatory powers to impose it’s agenda on religious organizations and individuals is becoming its hallmark.
It’s good we still have courts to limit that overreach.