The liberties of groups

We have blogged about universities banning Christian groups unless they are willing to accept non-Christian members and leaders.  The Supreme Court has just refused to hear a case questioning this practice.  See Supreme Court declines religious liberty case.

Meanwhile, Michael Stokes Paulsen, while blasting Vanderbilt University for doing this, goes on to argue that Vanderbilt has the right to do so, the same right that protects Christian colleges:

Groups, as well as individuals, possess the “freedom of speech.” Just as individuals get to control the content of their own expression, groups of individuals, joining their voices together in some common association, have the right to control their collective message. Thus, a vital principle of the First Amendment as it applies to private groups, associations, and institutions—including private universities—is that such groups have nearly absolute freedom to create and maintain their own distinctive group expressive identities: to decide what they stand for and what views they will express.

This is the freedom that supports the right of private religious colleges to maintain their distinctive religious identities. And the same freedom equally supports the right of Vanderbilt University to maintain a distinctive anti-religious identity. In each case, the institution may embrace the principles that define it as a group and exclude or suppress messages at odds with the values for which the institution wishes to stand. . . .

Vanderbilt has a history of excluding groups that express messages antithetical to the one it wants to convey. Well into the 1960s it was a racially segregated institution that excluded blacks from its undergraduate and most graduate programs. In 1960, the university expelled a black Divinity School student, James Lawson, for his participation in peaceful sit-in protests of lunch-counter segregation in the Nashville community. It is perhaps in (unthinking) hypersensitivity to its racist past that Vanderbilt has adopted a policy of forbidding campus religious groups to exclude members on the basis of religious belief. Ironically, in so doing Vanderbilt has done just what it did in an earlier era: expel the expression of views of which it disapproves.

One may disagree with Vanderbilt’s principles of exclusion, now as then. I certainly do: the idea that Christian groups should be excluded for being Christian is downright ludicrous—an Orwellian perversion of Vanderbilt’s stated commitment to diversity. In its own way, it is as unbelievable as excluding James Lawson for his commitment to racial justice.

Freedom sometimes protects one’s ability to do wrong. It is Vanderbilt’s First Amendment right to exclude the groups and messages it wants excluded from its campus and its community. . . .

There is a further, bitter irony in all this. The reason why Vanderbilt may discriminate against religion is precisely the same principle of freedom that Vanderbilt denies to religious groups on its campus—the freedom to form its own expressive identity. Vanderbilt purports to be liberal and tolerant of different views. But its university officials do not appear to understand what this means. They think the university is being open-minded by requiring student groups, including religious groups, to conform to university officials’ view of orthodoxy. This is not so much hypocritical or cynical (though it may be that as well) as simply embarrassingly ignorant. Vanderbilt does not appear even to recognize that its actions are intolerant. It thinks it is protecting its community from improper influences, just as it once thought that segregation protected its community.

HT:  Matthew Schmitz

An inside perspective on the Islamic-friendly Bible

You probably missed the comment on the Islamic-friendly Bibles post last week by David Harriman, who worked for the missionary agency that put out the translation in question.  (I continue to be amazed at who all reads this blog.)  He offered an insider’s perspective that I wanted all of you to see:

Dear Gene,

For 18 years I served as director of development/director of advancement for Frontiers, the ministry which produced this  Turkish translation of Matthew.  While I believe the workers behind this project have good motivations, I also believe they effectively rendered the text compliant with Islam.  While the volume in question thankfully included a properly-translated Greek to Turkish Interlinear, the purpose of the contextualized translation–and the related footnotes–is to cast a specific “Muslim friendly” meaning upon the text itself.

This translation, and others produced and advised by Wycliffe, SIL, and Frontiers, have been the subject of a recent petition organized by Biblical Missiology:  http://www.change.org/petitions/lost-in-translation-keep-father-son-in-the-bible

The petition Fact Check document (http://biblicalmissiology.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/01/LostInTranslation-FactCheck.pdf) shows how even the footnotes to this Turkish translation fail to properly convey Christ’s ontological Sonship:

“The focus of our concern is the text of the Matthew translation, not the Greek-Turkish interlinear. In the Matthew text, “Son” is rendered as “representative” or “proxy,” and “Father” is translated as “protector” or “guardian.” However, “Father,” “Son,” and “Son of God” should be translated literally in the text, with explanation provided in the footnotes—and not the other way around…

“One example will illustrate the problems with the Turkish translation. At the baptism of Jesus in Matthew 3:17, “Son” is translated as “representative” in the text. In the footnote to this verse, “Son of God” is defined in several ways, such as “God’s representative,” “the king, Messiah,” and “God’s beloved monarch.” The note incorrectly says the term “is synonymous with the title of Messiah.” Jesus is portrayed only in kingly terms, with no recognition of his divinity or actual Sonship. Needless to say, such explanations have the effect of obscuring the full and true meaning of “Son” and “Son of God,” even if the terms are translated correctly in the footnotes.”

To get a sense of how Christian witness to and among Muslims has changed profoundly in recent years, I would encourage all Patrick Henry students to read the following article by former Muslim Dr. Patrick Sookhdeo of the Barnabas Fund:  http://barnabasfund.org/Recent-Changes-in-Christian-Approaches-to-Islam.html

Patrick Sookhdeo’s piece shows the organic relationship between the ideas and assumptions behind certain interfaith dialogue approaches (such as the Common World and related Yale Response), and “insider movement” approaches to work among Muslim.

David Harriman

In correspondence with me, Mr. Harriman adds this:

I work with a lot of former Muslims and they are outraged by this approach to translation.  What you have, actually, is the spectacle of Western translators (actually, only a couple of highly-committed advocates, but who are acting with the support of senior WBT/SIL leadership) attempting to tell native speakers of Arabic, Turkish, and other languages what their languages actually mean.

There are other translations that are actually far worse — one is an Arabic translation of the Gospels and Acts in which Father is not rendered literally, in any instance, and in which Son, Son of God, and Son of Man is redefined by paratext and footnote.  Similar to the footnote I noted on your blog, the commentary portion of this volume (advised by SIL, but funded by Frontiers) describes Christ’s Sonship as metaphorical.

An audio “Stories of the Apostles” volume is in fact far worse than this — Son of God is translated “Caliph of God” — Caliph of course referring to religious/political rulers of Islam who defended and promoted Islam by force; “saints” is replaced with “umma”; Islamic honorifics like “upon him be peace” are used after the mention of Christ’s name (an Islamic prayer for the dead).  This audio “Bible” produced by WBT/SIL is still online, BTW.

Pepsi’s use of aborted fetal cells

I had assumed this was just a wild rumor, but Pepsi really is using the bodies of aborted children to make its products–not for cannibalism but in product testing.   And the Obama administration has given its approval.   From Lifesite:

PepsiCo has come under fire from pro-life advocates because it has been contracting with a research firm that uses fetal cells from babies victimized by abortions to test and produce artificial flavor enhancers.

Now, the Obama administration is set to face more criticism because an agency has declared that Pepsi’s use of the company and its controversial flavor testing process constitutes “ordinary business.”

In a decision delivered February 28, the Security and Exchange Commission ruled that PepsiCo’s use of aborted fetal remains in their research and development agreement with Senomyx to produce flavor enhancers falls under “ordinary business operations.”

Debi Vinnedge, Executive Director of Children of God for Life, the organization that exposed the PepsiCo- Senomyx collaboration last year, informed LifeNews today that a letter signed by Attorney Brian Pitko of the SEC Office of Chief Counsel was sent in response to a 36-page document submitted by PepsiCo attorneys in January 2012. In that filing, PepsiCo pleaded with the SEC to reject a Shareholder’s Resolution filed in October 2011 that the company “adopt a corporate policy that recognizes human rights and employs ethical standards which do not involve using the remains of aborted human beings in both private and collaborative research and development agreements.”

PepsiCo lead attorney George A. Schieren noted that the resolution should be excluded because it “deals with matters related to the company’s ordinary business operations” and that “certain tasks are so fundamental to run a company on a day-to-day basis that they could not be subject to stockholder oversight.”

Vinnedge said she is appalled by the apathy and insensitivity of both PepsiCo executives and the Obama administration.

“We’re not talking about what kind of pencils PepsiCo wants to use – we are talking about exploiting the remains of an aborted child for profit,” she said. “Using human embryonic kidney (HEK-293) to produce flavor enhancers for their beverages is a far cry from routine operations.” . . . .

“The company’s key flavor programs focus on the discovery and development of savory, sweet and salt flavor ingredients that are intended to allow for the reduction of MSG, sugar and salt in food and beverage products,” the Senomyx web site says. “Using isolated human taste receptors, we created proprietary taste receptor-based assay systems that provide a biochemical or electronic readout when a flavor ingredient interacts with the receptor.”Vinnedge explained, “What they don’t tell the public is that they are using HEK 293 – human embryonic kidney cells taken from an electively aborted baby to produce those receptors. They could have easily chosen animal, insect, or other morally obtained human cells expressing the G protein for taste receptors.”

via Obama Agency: Pepsi Using Aborted Fetal Cells is Ordinary Business | LifeNews.com.

Comments from a source that isn’t pro-life, as such, focused instead on environmental and food issues:

To be clear, the aborted fetal tissue used to make Pepsi’s flavor chemicals does not end up in the final product sold to customers, according to reports — it is used, instead, to evaluate how actual human taste receptors respond to these chemical flavorings. But the fact that Pepsi uses them at all when viable, non-human alternatives are available illustrates the company’s blatant disregard for ethical and moral concerns in the matter.

Pepsi is not the only corporation doing this sort of thing.  Senomyx’s other customers include the pharmaceutical companies Pfizer and Merck.

So it has come to this:  the commodification of aborted babies.

Will Republicans go along with this, since it’s a matter of corporate practice and they are committed to being pro-business?  Will Libertarians defend this practice, since it’s all free enterprise?  Will Democrats who are normally critical of big business support these corporations, with pro-choicers not seeing a problem since they think fetuses are not human beings and since using fetuses as commodities reinforces a woman’s right to choose?

UPDATE:  Read the comments for some facts that might put Pepsi and federal regulators (not the Obama administration as such) in a more positive light.  But they also might not.  You tell me.

HT:  Trey

Posthumous conception

The Supreme Court heard a case (Astrue v. Capato) on Monday that hinged on determining the inheritance rights of children conceived by artificial insemination after their father’s death.

Robert and Karen Capato’s twins were born in 2003 — 18 months after Robert Capato’s death. And in its first review of “posthumous conception,” the ­Supreme Court on Monday struggled to align modern reproductive techniques to a federal law written in 1939.

In the end, the justices generally sounded disinclined to award Social Security survivor benefits to the Capato children. Theirs is among about 100 cases brought by children of artificial insemination born after the death of a father that the Social Security Administration has turned down.

But it was a tough slog through the details of a law that was written at a time when, as Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. said, “they never had any inkling about the situation that has arisen in this case.”

The Capatos married in 1999, and shortly thereafter he was diagnosed with esophageal cancer. Because they feared that his treatments might leave him sterile, Robert Capato began depositing sperm at a sperm bank in Florida.

He rallied at one point, and the couple had a naturally conceived son in 2001. But as his condition worsened, the Capatos began to talk about in vitro fertilization to give their son siblings. They signed a notarized statement that any children “born to us, who were conceived by the use of our embryos” shall in all aspects be their children and entitled to their property.

But the provision was not included in Robert Capato’s will at his death in March 2002.

After the twins were born, Karen Capato applied for Social Security survivor benefits. The Capatos’ naturally conceived son received the benefits; the twins did not. The administrative-law judge said the 1939 federal law looked to state laws to determine whether the benefit seeker is eligible to inherit property, and under Florida law, the twins were not eligible.

An appeals court reversed that decision, saying that the twins only had to meet the definition in another part of the law, which defined an eligible child simply as “the child or legally adopted child of an individual.”

But other appeals courts have found just the opposite, that the state laws are the places to look for determination of eligibility.

Assistant Solicitor General Eric Miller acknowledged that the law was ambiguous, because it seemed to provide two different definitions of a “child.” But he said the Social Security Administration had made the reasonable ­decision to require that a person seeking survivor benefits “must show that he or she would have been able to inherit personal property” under applicable state laws.

Alito seemed most skeptical of the government’s position, saying that perhaps Congress in 1939 did not think there was need to define the meaning of child. “They knew what a child was,” he said.

Charles A. Rothfeld, representing Capato, said the law was clearly meant to cover “the biological child of married parents” and the twins fit that definition.

What about a child born into a marriage but not a biological child, asked Justice Sonia Sotomayor. She wondered what would be the outcome if Karen Capato remarried but used her deceased husband’s frozen sperm to conceive.

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg pressed Rothfeld on whether the marriage between the Capatos ended with his death.

Justice Antonin Scalia wondered how children could be “survivors” if they were not conceived before their father’s death.

“What is at issue here is not whether children that have been born through artificial insemination get benefits,” Scalia said. “It’s whether children who are born after the father’s death get benefits.” . . .

“It’s a mess,” piped in Justice Elena Kagan.

via Today’s paper.

Santorum & Opus Dei

Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum is often assumed by the media, the general public, his supporters, his opponents, and evangelicals to be an evangelical.  He isn’t.  He is a Roman Catholic.  In fact, he is really, really Catholic, a fellow-traveller with Opus Dei, an organization that some say is more Catholic than the Pope.  This article gives the details of his pilgrimage to an ever-stricter Catholicism:  Rick Santorum’s journey to devout Catholicism, view of religion in governance – The Washington Post.

 

Santorum vs. pornography

Rick Santorum has just lost the porn-lovers’ vote, probably dooming his candidacy:

Rick Santorum has a message for America’s smut merchants: Prepare for battle.

If elected, the GOP presidential candidate writes in a position paper widely circulated this week, he would order his attorney general to “vigorously enforce” existing laws that “prohibit distribution of hardcore (obscene) pornography on the Internet, on cable/satellite TV, on hotel/motel TV, in retail shops and through the mail or by common carrier.”

“The Obama administration has turned a blind eye to those who wish to preserve our culture from the scourge of pornography and has refused to enforce obscenity laws,” he writes. “While the Obama Department of Justice seems to favor pornographers over children and families, that will change under a Santorum administration.” . . .

To be sure, plenty of Americans agree with Santorum that pornography erodes the country’s moral character, and his contention that “pornography is toxic to marriages and relationships” is shared by many.

Moreover, despite pornography’s ubiquity, there’s no reason US attorneys can’t step up prosecutions of people who flout anti-obscenity laws, especially against domestic purveyors. As recently as 2006 a federal jury found an Arizona company guilty of breaking obscenity laws for distributing hardcore pornography across state lines. The FBI announced 38 child pornography-related guilty verdicts or pleas this month alone.

“In most parts of the country, a lot of pornography on the Internet would plausibly be seen as obscene,” UCLA constitutional law professor Eugene Volokh told the Daily Caller, which publicized the overlooked Santorum position paper this week. “You can’t prosecute them all … but you can find certain types of pornography that are sufficiently unpopular” for easy convictions, he told the conservative news site.

via Rick Santorum vows to end ‘pandemic of pornography.’ Could he prevail? – CSMonitor.com.

Would this be good?  Shouldn’t the government at least enforce existing laws that have passed constitutional muster?


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