The religious liberty right to believe that algebra is an abortifacient

The lawsuit involving Tyndale House’s “religious” refusal to provide health care for female employees raises some intriguing questions.

Tyndale is Protestant, and thus lacks any longstanding doctrinal or theological basis for its alleged religious objection to contraception. So Tyndale House is pretending it’s not about an objection to contraception, but to abortion — because, contrary to science and reality and Tyndale’s own religious tradition, they “believe” that contraceptives are “abortifacient.”

Interesting.

Say you have a public school student who is an observant Jew. That student has a reasonable religious liberty objection to being offered only school lunches containing pork. But what if this student were to refuse school lunches containing beef, asserting that he believes beef to come from pigs and therefore to violate his religious commitment to keeping kosher.

Does the school have an obligation to accommodate the delusional belief that beef comes from pigs? Tyndale House says yes. The Christian publisher says it has a right to its own sectarian facts and sectarian reality, and that no such thing as objective truth exists that might constrain that.

The Rutherford Institute — which is like a much more thoughtful and interesting version of the religious right — is making a similar legal argument on behalf of a Texas high school student who objects to the GPS tracking in her school’s student ID badges.

One could certainly argue that this is an intrusive violation of students’ privacy, but the religious right does not believe in privacy. So instead the Rutherford lawyers are arguing that the ID badge violates the student’s “religious liberty,” because she believes she’s being asked to accept the Mark of the Beast spoken of in the book of Revelation.

Note that any sort of objective, knowable reality is irrelevant to this legal argument. It does not matter that the Northside Independent School District is not, in fact, the Beast of John’s Apocalypse. Nor does it matter that this student ID is not, in fact, the Mark of the Beast.

The student’s beliefs are factually wrong — demonstrably so. Her beliefs are based on poor exegesis, scientific ignorance, a haughty disdain for others, and a preference for fearful lies over objective truth. Yet they remain her beliefs. And thus, Rutherford says, she has a legal right to be foolishly, fearfully wrong. Sure, her church seems to be the sort of place that abuses the Bible, cherry-picking distorted proof-texts to reinforce a stunted, fearful incomprehension — but it’s still a her church.

Religious liberty cannot only mean the right to believe in that which can be proved. Nor can it only mean the right to believe in unassailable religious claims that can neither be proved nor disproved. It also has to include the right to believe in sheer nonsense that can be or even has been disproved. The state does not want to get entangled in the business of evaluating the relative respectability or legitimacy of various religious claims.

This is why the law surrounding religious freedom attempts to remain neutral about the legitimacy of religious claims, restricting itself to evaluating instead whether or not the state has a compelling secular interest in regulating behavior related to those claims. A school district can probably manage some accommodation for a student who claims to think ID cards are the Mark of the Beast, but what of students who claim to believe that vaccination is the Mark of the Beast? Or what if a student, emboldened by Tyndale House’s suit, claims that his religion forbids algebra because it is an “abortifacient”? (That claim would have as much basis in reality as Tyndale’s own supposed “belief” about contraception does.)

The bottom line, for me, is that we should try to accommodate even delusional kooks just as long as they are not hurting anyone else. The Texas student doesn’t seem to be hurting anyone else, so she can likely be tolerated as That Weird Kid With No ID Because She Thinks Everyone Else Is The Antichrist. She may cling to a theology that literally demonizes the entire school district, but since it’s also a flaccid, impotent theology that doesn’t require her to confront this supposedly Satanic evil in any meaningful way, she’s probably mostly harmless.

But Tyndale House is not harmless. The publisher is refusing to provide the health insurance its employees have earned. That is “wages kept back by fraud,” as the book of James says, and it should not be legally permitted, no matter what trumped up religious delusions Tyndale claims as justification for such wage theft.

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  • Keshet

    Beef provided as part of a school probably wouldn’t be kosher. Just because it comes from a kosher animal doesn’t mean the meat itself is kosher.

    I love your blog, but I really wish you’d stop making these kinds of references about Orthodox Judaism and getting it wrong.

  • Richard Hershberger

    Actually, Fred uses neither the word “Orthodox” nor “kosher”.  He wrote of a hypothetical “observant Jew”.  There is observant and there is observant.  I know many non-Orthodox Jews who are observant to the extent of not eating pork, but who are not observant to the extent of requiring their beef get the full certification.  I expect that an Orthodox Jew wouldn’t think this too “observant” but other Jews might disagree.

  • Lori

    And of course the “observant” Jew could be observing something he pulled out his behind right along with the belief that beef comes from pigs.

    If it’s his belief, what are ya gonna do? /sarcasm

  • Joykins

    Yeah…anyone who is really strict about Kosher isn’t going to eat anything except maybe a vegan type salad/fruit plate in a public cafeteria. Even if all ingredients are obvious (and in school cafeterias, they aren’t), the butchery or utensil/dishware rules are sure to kick in.

  • gpike

    Growing up I was told that contraceptives were “abortifacient” and I have been called a baby killer in the past for choosing to use hormonal contraceptives. It hurt me and caused me a lot of conflict when I was younger, but childbearing is simply NOT an option for me, so IDGAF.

  • http://nwrickert.wordpress.com/ Neil Rickert

    As I read it, the situation is worse than that.  Nobody is requiring that Tyndale house provide contraception.  Rather, the requirement is that they provide comprehensive health insurance.  Presumably Tyndale House objects, because an employee might choose to use that comprehensive insurance for obtaining contraceptives.

    By the same reasoning, Tyndale House should refuse to pay its employees any salary.  After all, an employee might choose to use that salary to purchase contraceptives.

  • Lori

    By the same reasoning, Tyndale House should refuse to pay its employees
    any salary.  After all, an employee might choose to use that salary to
    purchase contraceptives.  

    It amazes and pains me the number of reasonably intelligent people who just can’t grasp this.

    My Thanksgiving family horror story this year was discovering that my sister, who is generally quite sensible even when I don’t agree with her, actually believed that the issue about the contraceptive coverage mandate was that women wanted the government to pay for their birth control so they could go out and fornicate. I stayed really quite calm while explaining that no, that was not the issue but what I wanted to do was shoot her the look of horror and ask her WTH was wrong with her. 

  • stardreamer42

     Shhh! Don’t give them ideas!

  • AnonymousSam

    I thought the same thing. It’s not that big of a leap when there are conservatives who want to get rid of minimum wage, with the argument “If you don’t want to make five cents an hour, just work somewhere else, DUH.” Just tweak the wording a little: “If you don’t want to work for free, just find a paying job, DUH.”

  • Tricksterson

    Don’t give them ideas. 

  • xuinkrbin

    Actually, Tyndale is required by the mandate to provide contraception. Since Tyndale uses a self-insured plan, it pays, generally speaking, for whatever medical expenses are incurred by the Employees. If an Employee does avail Themselves of certain items under the mandate to which Tyndale’s Owners have a religious objection, the mandate does require said Owners to cover the cost of the same, thereby creating the “provision” to which Tyndale objects. As far as whether “Tyndale House should refuse to pay its employees any salary.  After all, an employee might choose to use that salary to purchase contraceptives,” such a distinction involves what the courts call “line drawing”, a practice in which the Supreme has stated courts may not engage for decades.

  • http://nwrickert.wordpress.com/ Neil Rickert

    Since Tyndale uses a self-insured plan, it pays, generally speaking, for whatever medical expenses are incurred by the Employees.

    The law does not require that they be self-insured.  If being self-insured requires them to act against their conscience, then they should stop being self-insured.

  • Lunch Meat

    The law does not require that they be self-insured.  If being
    self-insured requires them to act against their conscience, then they
    should stop being self-insured.

    Exactly. Being self-insured does not give them the right to police their employees’ health care decisions. Allowing self-insured companies to decide what they will and will not cover because of “conscience” opens the door for those companies to refuse to offer coverage for anything they want, which directly harms employees, by denying them compensation that they’ve earned, and defeats the purpose of the ACA.

  • ReverendRef

     By the same reasoning, Tyndale House should refuse to pay its employees
    any salary.  After all, an employee might choose to use that salary to
    purchase contraceptives.

    Or dildos.  Because I’m sure Tyndale does not view sex as fun.

  • MikeJ

    RFID is not GPS.

    Do schools have no interest in knowing if students are present, and if they are, where on campus they are?

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    You know, there’s an urban legend about schools being based on the same architectural plans as prisons.

    Your complacent acceptance of RFID tracking of students makes me wonder how quickly Canada and the USA want to prove the equivalence actually holds.

  • P J Evans

     I’m wondering how bad the schools in that district are, that they have to use RFID to keep track of students. (It certainly implies to me that the students would rather be anywhere else.)

  • E_Hyde

    At my university, our student IDs had RFID tags in them, and I thought this was pretty common. They were used to unlock doors, pay bus fare, etc. Presumably it wouldn’t be terribly difficult to have the system set up to keep a log of which ID cards were used to unlock which doors at what time, but as far as I know, this wasn’t actually done. I had this brilliant plan where I was going to remove the tag from my ID and put it in a sonic screwdriver (from Doctor Who) so I could point it at doors and unlock them, but I never did get that to work.

    To combine the examples from the blog post, one of my friends, who is an observant Jew, had a physical key for the dorm as well, so that he wouldn’t have to use the electronic lock on Saturdays.Going through the links to the original report, it seemed more like the school was going to use the system to keep track of numbers of students, not to track the movement of individuals, but it wasn’t completely clear. Certainly not GPS, though. I do agree that having RFID tags in ID cards for the sole purpose of taking attendance is a bit disconcerting.

    My mom used to think that RFID tags would be the Mark of the Beast … then my dad started working for a company that designs them. 

  • http://twitter.com/FearlessSon FearlessSon

    My mom used to think that RFID tags would be the Mark of the Beast … then my dad started working for a company that designs them.

    This is one of those things that always struck me as ridiculous.   Almost every company I have worked at since leaving retail uses a similar RFID system (and it would not surprise me if retail companies all over started doing that too for efficiency’s sake.)  Generally, they are just used as keycards, but the advantage over traditional keys is that if a person loses their keycard, they do not have to change all the locks to prevent unauthorized entry, just disable the old keycard and print a new one.  

    I can certainly see keycards for students used for truancy enforcement though.  Less of a “track you down wherever you are” kind of thing (anyone could just throw the keycard away so there is no benefit in trying any remote tracking) and more of just checking how regularly a particular student goes through the school doors.  

  • Matri

    My mom used to think that RFID tags would be the Mark of the Beast …
    then my dad started working for a company that designs them.

    That sounds like an awesome dinner conversation just waiting to happen.

  • VJBinCT

     A mechanical lock is a machine, so your observant Jewish friend with a key was technically in violation of the sabbath.  In her youth, my long-gone MIL was a sabbath goy in her largely Jewish neighborhood, so I got a grounding in these laws.

    Perhaps the student needs the equivalent of the Key Master from ‘Ghostbusters’ to carry her RFID tag. 

  • Dan Audy

     I’m wondering how bad the schools in that district are, that they have to use RFID to keep track of students. (It certainly implies to me that the students would rather be anywhere else.)

    Absenteeism has a huge amount to do with why these RFID tracking systems are being implemented.  However their interest is not so much in monitoring or preventing truancy but maintaining their funding even when a child or youth is not actually present.  States pay a per diem to the school for every student attending classes but withholds it if they are absent (whether due to illness or truancy) as an attempt to reform the system because schools used to keep dropouts and students who moved on the books when payments were based on enrollment.  The schools know exactly how easy it is to trick the system into believing a student is present by having a third party carry their tag but rather than this being a flaw it is seen as an advantage because it gives them ‘documented proof’ of the presence of their students and ensures that they get their per diem pay.  Since the cost of implementing the system is pushed to the state or school district but the profits are kept by the school, it provides perverse incentives to the schools to push for this expensive and ineffective monitoring system.

  • P J Evans

     Wonderful. More ways for schools to cheat on attendance and grading standards. (I bet they don’tmake sure the kids are aware of what handing off the IDs can do.)

  • Dr. Rocketscience

    …the profits are kept by the school…

    “Profits”. You’re funny.

  • Citizen Alan

     I can honestly say that I’ve never been in a school that looked anything like a prison from the inside. I’ve seen a few that look vaguely like a prison from the outside,but only schools old enough to have built during the Brutalist era. I’ve certainly never heard of a prison which tries to keep up with its inmates by having them wear RFID name badges as they roam freely around the place. Or for that matter, a prison without a fence of any kind where the only thing keeping the prisoners from just walking away is the threat of detention.

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    It’s security-state thinking: the notion that people have to be tracked at all times, even if there is no good reason to do so.

  • stardreamer42

     I would think that the schools would be more worried about the presence of unauthorized NON-students on campus. RFID isn’t going to solve that problem.

  • http://twitter.com/Jenk3 Jen K

    Unless the ID cards are also used to unlock the doors a la corporate ID cards.  (Then you have to watch out for “tailgating” or “piggybacking” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Piggybacking_(security) )

  • http://dpolicar.livejournal.com/ Dave

    Yeah, pretty much.

    I find it helps to treat beliefs as tools that affect how effectively I can interact with my environment. When I instead start treating beliefs as a part of that environment, I generally go wrong.

    Or, in more traditional terms: it helps to not confuse the map for the territory.

  • Jurgan

    “It does not matter that the Northside Independent School District is not, in fact, the Beast of John’s Apocalypse. Nor does it matter that this student ID is not, in fact, the Mark of the Beast.
    The student’s beliefs are factually wrong — demonstrably so.”    How exactly can this be demonstrated?

  • Lori

    The school district isn’t doing any of the other things that the Beast of John’s Apocalypse is supposed to do, including things that are supposed to happen before the Beast places his mark on people. The verses this poor nitwit uses to back up her belief that her student ID is the mark of the beast are the same ones that prove that it’s not.

  • J_Enigma32

     The number of the beast was put on the forehead or hand. An ID tag on a lanyard is neither.

    Second, the number of the beast was instituted AFTER the Antichrist had already taken control over the world. *looks around* I don’t see any antichrist.

    Third, the number of the beast is a number. 666. 666 is demonstrably not a bar code with your social security number on it.

    So her “it’s against my religion” garbage isn’t even consistent with her own ridiculous interpretation of the Bible. And this is before we get into the fact, that, you know, the Rapture is a bunch of bullshit and that entire way of reading the Bible is contrary to a “literal” reading, in the same way that “common sense” is contrary to people like her.

  • SisterCoyote

     Eh. My mother was along the same lines – she objected to the implanting of RFID chips in dogs, simply because it could be used to eventually become the mark of the Beast.

    I think the logic is something like: the technology could/is going to be the mark of the beast. The government is being run by secularists/atheists/satanists, or corrupt politicians who cater to those groups. The secularists/atheists/satanists want to bring about the rise of the Antichrist. The government gives them what they want. Therefore, government having access to this technology means that it will bring about the rise of the Antichrist.

    QED.

  • stardreamer42

     A significant percentage of the people who worry about “the number of the Beast” already DO believe that the SSN is that number. The problem is exacerbated by the number of companies who use SSN as an employee ID, even though they are explicitly not supposed to do that sort of thing.  (This is one of the reasons your driver’s license number is not your SSN.)

  • http://twitter.com/pooserville Dave Pooser

    Depends on what state you’re in. When I lived in VA in the ’90s my driver’s license number was my SSN. Here in Texas it isn’t, which is probably more sensible (but using “Texas” and “sensible” in the same sentence hurts my brain and now I must go have a lie-down).

  • Daughter

     I’m not understanding you when you say, “The problem is exacerbated by the number of companies who use SSN as an
    employee ID, even though they are explicitly not supposed to do that
    sort of thing.”

    Are you referring to employers who issue an actual ID tag to allow employees to enter their buildings, and saying that these employers use the SSN on those tags, even though they’re not supposed to?

    If not, then what do you mean? Because I thought the original (and primary continuing) purpose of the SSN was to serve as a record of your employment with any employer, to report your earnings to the IRS and  facilitate withholding for your future social security benefits.

  • stardreamer42

     If your employer is going to issue a within-company employee ID, it is supposed to be in addition to your SSN. The SSN is specifically only supposed to be used to identify your earnings records to the Social Security Administration.

    Or at least that’s what I was taught in school. It could very well be that things have changed since then, in the name of “deregulation”.

  • http://blog.trenchcoatsoft.com Ross

     

    If your employer is going to issue a within-company employee ID, it is supposed to be in addition to
    your SSN. The SSN is specifically only supposed to be used to identify
    your earnings records to the Social Security Administration.

    My father’s social security card looks almost exactly like mine (My son’s and my sisters both are much different, having a security pattern printed in the background). The major difference between the two is that on his card, under the number, in small print are the words “It is unlawful to use this number for the purposes of identification”

  • Tricksterson

    It is in Massachusetts.

  • Carstonio

    And fourth, the mark grants permission to buy and sell. I guess in a school, this would mean Scout cookies and popcorn, and in a workplace, Pampered Chef or Longaberger. From my redaing, the mark was never about personal ID but about control of commerce.

  • Matri

    From my reading, the mark was never about personal ID but about control of commerce.

    You mean like credit ratings?

  • rm

     666 is not such a bad credit rating.

  • Carstonio

     (Ding!) That fits well with Fred’s point about “a flaccid, impotent theology that doesn’t require her to confront this supposedly Satanic evil in any meaningful way.” Such as fighting the rating agencies and lenders who control many aspects of people’s lives. Those companies would be excellent candidates for the theology’s Beast, with the credit rating being the mark. But not surprisingly, these folks are more interested in protecting their souls. It’s like they haven’t even read Revelation 13 and are assuming that the mark is like the Omega symbol in the last season of Smallville.

  • Tricksterson

    !:  Lalalala Can’t hear you!

    2:  Obama!

    3:  It’s right in the Gospel According to Lahaye and Jenkins!

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Ann-Unemori/100001112760232 Ann Unemori

    I read the article and do get its point.
    But I’m just wondering how algebra could be used as an abortifacient. People may not like Algebra, with all its Xs and formulas, but that is a tad much.

  • Lori

    That is the point. Algebra is not an abortifacient and neither is birth control.

  • EllieMurasaki

    It can’t, just as tricking the body into thinking there’s already a bun in the oven so as to prevent ovulation is not a method of abortion (seeing as ovulation must precede fertilization which must precede abortion), which is the point.

  • http://dpolicar.livejournal.com/ Dave

     When one has truly embraced the Essence of Algebra, the understanding of the mutually reversing properties of multiplication and division pervade even one’s reproductive system, whereupon the idea of multiplying people through cell division becomes a practical impossibility.

  • AnonymousSam

    Actually? Once upon a time (about a century ago), a doctor posted a research paper in which he claimed that women who are educated become less fertile than women who are uneducated. One could extrapolate this with the contraception/intentional infertility=abortifacient logic to be an indication that algebra is, indeed, an abortifacient.

  • Dave Green

    Just keep your plane geometry in your pants!

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    There are legitimate civil rights reasons to reject the presumption that high school students are innately truculent and resistant to authority, and so reject the use of tracking tools for surveillance of students.

    Attempting to block this kind of thing on religious conscience grounds, when such grounds seem so manifestly absurd, does a few things:

    1. It does a disservice to those high school students who resist the notion that minors should have no civil rights at all, and want to prove themselves capable of effectively arguing their case on waterproof grounds of logic and reason. Adults have many excuses to patronize teenagers on the grounds of age. Paraphrasing Snape, it is like handing your opponent weapons with which to defeat you.

    2. It makes other religious conscience objections look absurd and petty. People who have legitimate doctrinal beliefs to reject certain things will almost certainly, by association to this individual, be regarded less seriously than they now are.

    3. Secular organizations that want to block the encroaching surveillance-state system will look ridiculous partnering up with said religious-conscience people, even though their desired goal would be the same.

    In short, there are good reasons for people who object to things on the grounds of religious conscience to first try and decide if there is a legitimate secular basis on which to object, since the same student objecting to there being only one kind of meat and vegetables could be taking up the banner for vegans, vegetarians, people with special dietary needs and more besides, not just taking up the banner for their particular doctrinal interpretation of a faith not everyone believes in.

  • JustoneK

    If birth control is an abortifacient, so are all menstrual cycles.
    “No, you’re the abortifacient!”

  • AnonymousSam

    Considering the Bible would have us place women in isolation and burn everything they’ve touched while on their period, along with some people tying it to original sin and proof of Eve’s wickedness, I don’t think you’d have to look that hard to find people who’d agree with this logic.

  • Vass

    Maybe there’s something in this business of algebra being an abortifacient. Algebra – that’s some sort of Muslim thing, right? And Muslims and gays and pro-choicers and socialists, they’re all the same people, right? So algebra = Muslim = abortion.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Riastlin-Lovecraft/100000678992705 Riastlin Lovecraft

    I was thinking it’s part of a Muslim ploy to prevent more Christians from being born. How does it work? Being good at algebra makes you likely to be mocked as a nerd. Being mocked as a nerd makes you likely to associate with nerds. This makes exposure to D&D likely. D&D teaches people magic, if I remember my 1980’s studies right. There must be an abortion spell somewhere, right? (Probably in the Book of Erotic Fantasy. I’m thinking necromancy, wiz/sor 3rd or 4th?

  • Ross Thompson

    There must be an abortion spell somewhere, right? (Probably in the Book of Erotic Fantasy. I’m thinking necromancy, wiz/sor 3rd or 4th?)

    I’m pretty sure it would be a druid spell. Or maybe bard; I can see bards needing that once in a while.

  • Antigone10

    In our games, “Cure disease” will take care of a pregnancy.  It’s basically like getting rid of intestinal parasites.

  • EllieMurasaki

    How specific does the spell need to be? Because I can easily imagine a pregnant person who’s got the flu or whatever wanting to use the spell to be rid of the flu but not the pregnancy.

  • Matri

    … That’s just disturbing on so many levels.

  • Jeff Weskamp

    I actually own a copy of the Book Of Erotic Fantasy.  I bought it back in 2006.  It’s a bizarre book, giving D&D rules for sex, pregnancy, BDSM, etc.  I looked through it and it doesn’t have a spell that aborts pregnancies.  There are spells for changing people’s genders, giving them long-distance orgasms, and rendering males impotent.  And it gives you the gestation periods of elves, orcs, dwarves, etc.

    There *is* a necromancy spell for 3rd ed. D&D called “Strike Barren” that renders a living creature permanently infertile, though.   It’s in a book called Necromancy: Beyond the Grave and it is indeed a 3rd level Necromancy spell.

  • Tricksterson

    Only in the Book of Exodus.

  • Tricksterson

    So a cleric spell.

  • Tricksterson

     Forgot atheists.  Muslims are exactly the same as atheists and don’t let either tell you different.

  • Jessica_R

    Considering how bad I am at math, Algebra turning out to be some hateful, arcane dark magick makes a lot of sense actually. 

  • Brad Jones

    I can’t defend the Mark of the Beast girl, but Tyndale seems to have a stronger case because there are scientific studies that show that birth control pills thin the uterine wall.  This would causes the fertilized egg that may become partially implanted to be rejected for lack of uterine stability.  Granted, this occurrence is rare, but if any man-made agent causes the elimination of an embryo from the womb, this can reasonably be considered an “abortifacient.”  And heath care that includes coverage for contraception has a higher cost.  I understand that you disagree with their stance, but Tyndale has a rational argument based in objective reality.

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    Yes, but isn’t the whole point of birth control to not let an embryo develop if one should happen to implant?

    Good god, the sheer time and energy that goes into the ongoing drive to control women’s bodies – PLEASE MAKE IT STOP SOMEHOW ALREADY AGH.

    *headache blooms*

  • Brad Jones

    That’s what Tyndale is saying

  • http://twitter.com/Jenk3 Jen K

    Which brings us back to, why does Tyndale pay employees at all when they might spend it on birth control? 

  • Becca Stareyes

     But there are plenty of other drugs which can cause problems in pregnancy (either inducing a miscarriage or causing terminal birth defects) and for which eliminating would make health insurance cheaper.  They’re on standard plans (and no one objects to them) because they have important primary uses.  Chemotherapy drugs for cancer come to mind, but thanks to the wonders of drug ads, I hear a lot of ‘if you are pregnant or wanting to become pregnant, consult your doctor before taking X’. 

    Of course, hormonal contraception has other important primary uses: there are plenty of folks who are capable of conceiving but for which a pregnancy would either end in severe birth defects in the fetus (example: folks on those drugs above) or would severely impact their health, and they also are the standard treatment for a lot of gynecological disorders. 

    But, somehow employers seem to think that because hormonal contraception is also prescribed to healthy people to avoid pregnancy, that it’s different from all the other drugs that have effects on the uterus and ovaries and/or a fertilized egg/embryo/fetus. 

  • http://twitter.com/Jenk3 Jen K

    Not to mention that birth control drugs are also used to control painful and potentially life-threatening conditions like endometriosis.  I have friends who would like children, but would have to stop their endometriosis treatment to have them.  

  • Wednesday

    (1) Preventing implantation is, scientifically speaking, not an abortion. Pregnancy begins with implantation, not conception (because boatloads of fertilized eggs don’t implant). So no, they are still making up their own facts when they say HBC is an abortificant. 

    (2) LOTS of things could affect chances of implantation, including timing of sex relative to ovulation — back-of-the-envelope computations show that fertility awareness methods of contraception very likely result in many more dead blastocysts than using HBC. Becca Stareyes pointed out that plenty of other drugs pose risks to embryos and actually _are_ known to interrupt pregnancies, but Tyndale doesn’t seem too concerned with them. (Heck, there’s an anti-acne drug which is a popular DIY medical abortion drug in countries where legal abortions are hard to get.)

     (3) Probably half of all embryos fail to implant. As has been repeatedly noted by Fred here on this blog, the anti-legal-abortion crowd doesn’t actually care about finding out what actually reduces the chances of implantation and saving those embryos that fail to implant. If Tyndale objects to HBC because maybe possibly it might hypothetically prevent an embryo from implanting, but aren’t concerned about other things, then I think we can safely conclude they don’t actually give a crap about saving embryos,  just about controlling women’s sexuality.

  • Daughter

    …then I think we can safely conclude they don’t actually give a crap
    about saving embryos,  just about controlling women’s sexuality.

    I wonder if that’s the case. Despite having attended conservative churches for many, many years and reading boatloads of Christian books and issues of Christianity Today, I never heard any objections to birth control pills until this year. I think it’s safe to say that the vast majority of American evangelical women (outside of the Quiverful movement)  past the age of say, 23, have used them. Furthermore, they have done so in good conscience, not believing their use to be going against their churches’ teachings, the way Catholic users of BCP might.

    So if it opposition to BCP were merely about controlling women’s sexuality, they would have opposed them before now. (Note: I do think there are many ways that many evangelical churches try to control women’s sexuality. Until this year, however, opposition to BCP hasn’t been one of them).  Instead, I think this new anti-BCP push  is about tribalism (“we must oppose anything Obama proposes”); scare-mongering (“This is another example of gov’t encroachment on our freedom!”); and jumping on the bandwagon (“If we don’t start clamoring that we oppose the birth control mandate, too, then people might think we’re liberals!”).

  • Wednesday

     Actually, the opposition-to-contraception thing by the anti-legal-abortion movement (not to be confused with “within the general population which identifies as pro-life” or “within Christianity” or even “within the group of people who morally oppose abortion, whatever they call themselves”) has been going on for a lot longer than just this past year.

    It’s been going on since 2006 at the very least — the deliberate and dishonest conflation of emergency HBC with abortion and pharmacists refusing to fill emergency HBC prescriptions dates back at least that far, and probably longer — that’s just when I started to be aware of it. And Crisis Pregnancy Centers have long been known to discourage clients from using contraception.

    The anti-legal-abortion movement (again, not to be confused with
    Christians or “pro-life”ers in general) recognizes that contraception is
    really popular with everyone in the US except for a handful of people (moistly old celibate dudes), and  they’ve been deliberately and steadily trying to rebrand it as ABORTION!!!1. (See, eg, http://www.feministe.us/blog/archives/2008/06/05/the-pill-kills-9-day-old-children/)

    That it has become a relatively mainstream matter of tribalism is just an indication of how successful that group has been, not an indication that opposition to contraception is a new thing due to Oh Noes Black President.

  • stardreamer42

    They have indeed been opposed before now. The anti-Pill movement has been riding on the coattails of the anti-“morning-after pill” movement almost from its inception, and the (inaccurate) claim that the Pill prevents a fertilized egg from implantation has been there from the very beginning. It’s just that until this election cycle, you mostly heard about it in cases involving pharmacists refusing to prescribe.

  • stardreamer42

     Heck, there’s an anti-acne drug which is a popular DIY medical abortion drug in countries where legal abortions are hard to get.

    That would be Accutane. I took a course of it once, and it is nasty, nasty stuff — my skin dried to the point where my lips cracked and bled and no amount of lip balm would help, all my bones ached like I had advanced arthritis, and I suspect it did some permanent damage to my hip joints. And to add insult to injury, it didn’t work.

    But more to the point, I had to sign about a dozen different forms swearing up and down that I was not pregnant and had no intention of becoming pregnant while taking it before they’d give me a prescription. It’s a vicious teratogen, which is why it works as an abortifacient.

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    A person I know was going to try Accutane, but was put off by the fact that the side effects were so potent.

  • Lunch Meat

    there are scientific studies that show that birth control pills thin the uterine wall.

    Could you please provide a citation for this? As far as I know it has never been shown that contraceptives, at the dosages that are prescribed for contraception, can have an effect on the uterine lining anywhere near enough to prevent implantation. At much, much higher doses there’s an effect, but then, nearly everything can kill you at an extremely high dosage. If religious companies can deny coverage of contraceptives to their employees because they object to the possibility of being responsible for a theoretical effect that has only ever actually been shown to happen when they’re used wrong (by taking too many at once), then I should be able to deny coverage of any health care at all to my employees, because there’s a nonzero chance that any medical procedure or prescription could kill them, and I don’t want even the possibility of being responsible for someone’s death. Since this effect has never actually been shown, it should be the employee’s choice whether or not they want to assume the risk.

    And heath care that includes coverage for contraception has a higher cost.

    Again, citation. I understand that insurance companies would rather fund contraception, because pregnancy, babies, and children are much more expensive. The same way they would rather fund dental checkups, because root canals are more expensive.

    Anyway, the ACA’s compromise for this was to mandate that if the employer does not want to offer insurance covering contraception, then the insurance company would contact the employee directly and offer the coverage at no extra cost. So the employer doesn’t have to pay for anything if they don’t want to.

  • Brad Jones

    For a citation that birth control pills thin the uterine wall, it’s on the back of the box (and their website):

    http://www.mirena-us.com/what-it-does/how-mirena-works.jsp

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_2CUJHSQSQYTYT4DPZSKTVESYNQ B

     My understanding is that the manufacturer’s statements about thinning the uterine wall, failure to implant, etc. were based on beliefs about how the Pill and Plan B might work when they were first released.  No studies had actually been done, but the manufacturers thought it MIGHT happen, so it went into their information.

    Subsequent studies have indicated that these initial beliefs were incorrect.

  • Lunch Meat

    For a citation that birth control pills thin the uterine wall, it’s on the back of the box (and their website):

    First of all, I never said that contraception doesn’t affect the lining of the uterine wall. I said at that dosage, it doesn’t affect it enough to have an impact on whether or not embryos can implant, because there’s just not enough hormone there. Secondly, by “citation” I mean some kind of scientific study. Prescription drug product information lists all sorts of side effects that “may” occur, even if they’ve never been proven. Again, employers shouldn’t be allowed to refuse to offer insurance covering certain products or services based on hypothetical side effects.

    By the way, Mirena is not a birth control pill. Pills and IUDs are quite different.

  • Mark C

    It’s my understanding that since the pill reduces the number of eggs available for fertilization, the number of fertilized eggs naturally flushed out of the body in a sexually active woman would be reduced.  If the fertilized egg/embryo is a person… birth control would actually reduce the number of fetuses naturally aborted.

  • http://jamoche.dreamwidth.org/ Jamoche

     And heath care that includes coverage for contraception has a higher cost.

    Higher than health care that has to pay out for pregnancy? Or anything, really – hey, we can make health care a lot cheaper by dropping all sorts of things.

  • Shayna

    1. Actually, no.  Warnings to that effect were originally put on emergency contraception and hormonal contraceptives because scientists thought they might do that.  More recent studies show that EC (and by extension HBC) do not work that way.  There was an article in the NY Times not too long ago that linked to said studies.

    2. You cannot have an abortion without a pregnancy, you cannot have a pregnancy without an implantation.  So, even if HBC did result in uterine thinning, it wouldn’t be an abortion.  I will admit that this would probably be regarded as semantics by Tyndale though.

  • Lunch Meat

    You cannot have an abortion without a pregnancy, you cannot have a pregnancy without an implantation.  So, even if HBC did result in uterine thinning, it wouldn’t be an abortion.  I will admit that this would probably be regarded as semantics by Tyndale though.

    This is also true. If an egg is extracted from me and fertilized with someone’s sperm, I am not suddenly pregnant just because an egg that came from me has been fertilized. I am not a mother just because an egg that came from me has been fertilized. If that egg is later destroyed, it is not an abortion. If an egg is fertilized in my body, I am not pregnant if it doesn’t implant–even the best, most accurate, and most sensitive pregnancy test would show a negative. However, I don’t focus on this argument a lot because it does seem to be a matter of semantics, and if you regard an embryo as morally equivalent to a baby, then preventing implantation is just as bad as abortion.

  • Joykins

    ” So, even if HBC did result in uterine thinning, it wouldn’t be an abortion.  I will admit that this would probably be regarded as semantics by Tyndale though.”

    The distinction is that if you do something that happens to thin the uterine lining, or if the zygote does not implant by chance or some unknown mechanism, then this is fine and dandy.  If you take something for the purpose of birth control that might  (along with other unrelated mechanisms) inhibit implantation– ZOMG ABORTION.  So apparently the only abortions here it’s OK to have are the abortions God gives you. 

  • EllieMurasaki

    About that. A lot of people say God saved them and he used a doctor’s hands to do it. Why then is it impossible that abortions are God-given regardless of whether a doctor is involved?

  • Carstonio

    In this case, intent is evil magic.

  • http://friendfeed.com/jim Pseudonym

    Do women have a never-ending affirmative responsibility to ensure that their uterine walls are as receptive as possible to potential blastocyst implantation? Why do we let them outdoors or allow them to feed themselves potentially harmful substances if this is such an important responsibility for them that it becomes a societal and/or legal issue?

  • EllieMurasaki

    And why do we let them refrain from het sex.

  • http://friendfeed.com/jim Pseudonym

    Sex is evil, but it’s a lesser evil than abortion or birth control or a non-procreative marriage.

    By the time we’re discussing whether certain birth-control drugs (hormonal pills or IUDs) might have secondary effects on the uterine lining that could inhibit the attachment of an undetectable fertilized zygote or blastocyst to the uterine wall, a process known a implantation and that medically denotes the beginning of a pregnancy, we have to admit that we’re putting restrictions on women simply because of their possession of uteruses that may have the potential to incubate fetuses to term. A woman’s uterus at that point is no longer under her control, because the potential existence of a small bundle of cells who may require uterine attachment for further growth are said to have a stronger claim to that woman’s womb than the woman herself. A woman is no longer a person: parts of her anatomy can be taken away from her arbitrarily based on the merest suspicion of potential for pregnancy, and those parts are forcibly reconsigned to a small clump of cells that may or may not exist. It doesn’t end with the womb either: women could never be allowed to ingest toxic substances, for example, which might lead to the womb formerly considered hers cutting off any attached parasites leaching oxygen and nutrients from the woman’s bloodstream. A pregnant woman really has no right to bodily autonomy over any part of her body, since her entire bodily health must be held subservient to the zygote or embryo or fetus growing within her, with or without her consent.

    If I had some rare disease that could only be treated if I were to crawl up the vagina of you or your mother or sister or wife or any other woman, whereupon I would attach to her blood supply and start sucking out her nutrients, meanwhile distorting her physical shape and hormonal balance and emotional state like crazy, and this many-month-long process held the potential for serious or even fatal health consequences for the woman, and even after this painful and injurious process you would still be legally responsible for my care for a number of years—if I were to come down with that sort of disease, would you consider it my right to take you or your female friend and subject her to that abuse with no concern for her choice?

  • EllieMurasaki

    Direct that screed at Ginny Bain Allen or another known anti-legal-abortion advocate, if you don’t mind. I am pretty sure I am well known in these parts for being vehemently pro-legal-abortion, pro-contraception, pro-the-whole-sexual-and-reproductive-freedom-package, and also sarcastic.

  • http://friendfeed.com/jim Pseudonym

    Ah, I wasn’t aiming that at you in particular, I was agreeing with your earlier comment and then started dumping more stream-of-consciousness thoughts into the comment box. Sorry for the confusion.

  • Münchner Kindl

    She may cling to a theology that literally demonizes the entire
    school district, but since it’s also a flaccid, impotent theology that
    doesn’t require her to confront this supposedly Satanic evil in any
    meaningful way, she’s probably mostly harmless.

    Until the day she shoots up the school in her brave fight against the agents of the Antichrist?

  • AnonaMiss

    I think we can’t use harm as a gauge of what religious practices to allow or not, because the religious groups would then be able to counter-claim with harm beliefs. Birth control is an abortifacient, and taking an abortifacient is a danger to your immortal soul, potentially damning you to hell for all eternity, which is a far greater harm than merely receiving slightly lower wages. I wouldn’t go so far as to call it wage theft or withholding wages by fraud, unless it was intimated that birth control would be covered, e.g. if the health plan offered was called ‘comprehensive’. Instead it would be an exemption from the federal requirement to either provide comprehensive birth control or pay a fine – i.e., an exemption from federal minimum wage laws, similar to what wait staff/tipped employees have. Not that that’s good, just that it isn’t deceit.

    I wonder – what would organizations claiming religious exemptions from birth control coverage choose if they were given a choice between providing insurance that covers birth control, or providing otherwise-comprehensive insurance that didn’t cover birth control and paying women an extra ~$50/mo in cash? On the grounds that providing comprehensive insurance to men but not to women is sex discrimination in pay, and the extra cash to women would make up the deficit. Since contraception coverage doesn’t increase the cost of insurance, I suspect their objections would melt away…

    ***

    I’m a little surprised that no one has brought up that we allow Catholics to give alcohol to minors on religious grounds, and that they want to give alcohol to minors because they believe that it ceases being alcohol once blessed – another demonstrably untrue claim.
    I think my brain isn’t working properly this morning because it’s just sort of spinning uselessly on this comparison, recognizing it’s relevant but not gaining any traction. 

    Does relaxing a mandate to do something on religious grounds differ from relaxing a mandate to not do something on religious grounds? 

    If you believe the Catholic mass exemption for drinking age is right, would it still be right if the participants were explicitly supposed to get drunk, a la the Tohono O’odham ceremony to welcome the rain? 

  • http://dpolicar.livejournal.com/ Dave

     My own position here is that secular laws are justified, and exemptions to secular laws are justified, on secular grounds. It’s fine if, as a matter of historical practice, the exemptions that actually come up to be evaluated are disproportionately being proposed by religious groups, as long as the legal evaluation itself is conducted on secular grounds.

    For example, I have no problem with saying it’s OK to serve alcohol to
    minors with their parents’ approval, even if the minors subsequently become intoxicated. And, sure, that should apply to Catholic religious
    services as well, if Catholics want it to.

    But transubstantiation should have absolutely nothing to do with the legal decision, because there are no secular grounds for believing in transubstantiation, and the law ought to concern itself with secular grounds.

    That’s the only way I can think of for a single legal authority to act
    with justice towards several different religious traditions at once.

  • Carstonio

    Yes. Not every religion teaches that immortal souls exist, and even among the ones that do, only some of these teach the existence of eternal damnation. It’s a sectarian argument and thus invalid for making secular law.

  • http://dpolicar.livejournal.com/ Dave

    True, though I actually consider that irrelevant. Even if every religion taught the eternal damnation of immortal souls, it would still not be admissible grounds for justifying a law without secular grounds for such belief.

  • AnonaMiss

    For example, I have no problem with saying it’s OK to serve alcohol to minors with their parents’ approval, even if the minors subsequently become intoxicated. And, sure, that should apply to Catholic religious services as well, if Catholics want it to.

    Correct me if I’m wrong, but I don’t think that’s how it works. While in practice parents can serve their children alcohol in their homes, if the home were raided for an unrelated reason, I believe those parents could be charged with corruption of a minor and that the child (if above the age of 18) could be charged with underage drinking. As far as I’m aware, the religious exemption is the only exemption to the underage drinking ban on the books.

    Your position seems to be that there should be no such thing as a religious exemption – that religions should not have privileges not also afforded to other people on secular grounds. While this is a perfectly rational position to take, it’s not the position of the law in the United States. Christians are allowed to serve wine to minors, Alaskan natives are allowed to hunt endangered species, some native tribes are allowed to smoke peyote, and religions of all stripes (theoretically) are allowed to ignore federal labor laws for employees serving a religious purpose.

  • http://dpolicar.livejournal.com/ Dave

    As far as I know, you’re correct about current U.S. law.

  • The_L1985

    Actually, the peyote exemption was struck down.

  • Carstonio

     

    Birth control is an abortifacient, and taking an abortifacient is a danger to your immortal soul, potentially damning you to hell for all eternity, which is a far greater harm than merely receiving slightly lower wages.

    But these folks are not claiming that they’re being forced to use birth control. They’re insisting that participating in any scheme that enables others to obtain birth control goes against their religious consciences. The last term is vague, perhaps deliberately so, but it could mean that they believe their souls to be in danger just from the participation. It’s possible that they are simply out to save the souls of others, but they sound as if they’re concerned chiefly about themselves, even if it’s accumulating saved souls like afterlife green stamps.

  • EllieMurasaki

    I think we can’t use harm as a gauge of what religious practices to allow or not, because the religious groups would then be able to counter-claim with harm beliefs. Birth control is an abortifacient, and taking an abortifacient is a danger to your immortal soul, potentially damning you to hell for all eternity, which is a far greater harm than merely receiving slightly lower wages.

    We can in fact use harm for that purpose; in fact, we must. The people claiming that something is harmful and should be prevented, reduced, and/or discouraged must prove the claim, though. Reasons preventing contraceptive use is harmful: some people don’t dare get pregnant or can’t bring a pregnancy to term (for a variety of reasons), some people have reproductive health issues that are best treated by daily doses of the hormones in the Pill. Citations, anybody who’s prescribed contraceptives ever. Reasons contraceptive use is harmful: it endangers one’s immortal soul and risks eternal damnation. Citations…um, first prove the existence of ‘immortal soul’ and ‘eternal damnation’.

    I don’t see a problem with minors drinking communion wine. A once-weekly sip of alcoholic substance isn’t going to hurt anybody.

  • AnonaMiss

    I just want to clarify  that I am totally in favor of contraception being included in any health plan labeled ‘comprehensive’, with the attendant penalties on those who don’t wish to provide comprehensive health insurance to their employees. I’d be even more in favor of single-payer, but baby steps.

    Personally I’m against pretty much all religious legal exemptions on the grounds that law should be entirely secular – with the exception of exemptions for Native Americans on tribal land because they deserve far more autonomy than we allow them, and religious exemptions are one of the few ways they’re able to exercise autonomy.

    I was raised in a liberal mainline protestant church with a heavy prohibitionist & social justice tradition and was taught that, while drinking and gambling weren’t wrong in themselves, if someone drinking or gambling with you was set on the road to addiction or did something harmful to themselves under the influence, that harm was partially your fault and definitely your responsibility to correct. (The denomination is also legally recognized as conscientious objectors, or-so-I-was-told, though from what I’ve heard of other branches of the denomination I’m not sure that’s actually the case). So I’m sympathetic to the idea that enabling-something-you-consider-harmful can be something you’re religiously opposed to.

    I happen to think Tynsdale are lying out their asses that it’s a principle they actually hold, since let’s face it, it’s Tynsdale House, but you’d have a hard time proving that in court. 

    The relevance of the wine comparison comes down to this, now that I’ve thought about it some more: if we can’t legally hold religious organizations to prohibitions because of their religious beliefs, how on earth can we claim we can hold them to legal requirements? And ultimately, for institutions that are religious enough, we don’t even try to: churches etc., actual ‘houses of worship’, are exempt from the healthcare fine for their religious employees. The harm that giving access to birth control does or does not do is irrelevant to the legality of the situation in their case, and so if Tynsdale House can successfully claim the protections afforded to houses of worship, the harm done by birth control or lack thereof would similarly be irrelevant.

    Fighting the battle on ‘harm’ comes down to a he-said she-said where we end up being required by legal precedent to come down in favor of the ‘he’ because ‘he’ thinks his god told him to and the precedent is that law is supposed to respect that, at least when it’s a religion that’s legally recognized. Imo the only ways to win this battle would be to 1) demonstrate that Tynsdale House isn’t ‘religious enough’ (murky legal ground to say the least, especially since as a purely religious publisher they could claim all of their publications as ‘ministry’); or 2) argue that if Tynsdale House wants a policy that doesn’t cover birth control pills on the grounds that they have their own definition of ‘abortifacient’, it must also refrain from covering any other drugs that fit that definition of ‘abortifacient’. Which would just further their ultimate goal of not being required to support 11!!SOCIALISM!11!.

  • EllieMurasaki

    Fighting the battle on ‘harm’ comes down to a he-said she-said where we end up being required by legal precedent to come down in favor of the ‘he’ because ‘he’ thinks his god told him to and the precedent is that law is supposed to respect that, at least when it’s a religion that’s legally recognized.

    Only if he can produce evidence that his god (1) exists (2) told him to (3) ought to be obeyed despite the fact (which she has produced evidence to prove) that obedience on this point hurts people. If what he wants to do doesn’t hurt anyone, then he doesn’t need to produce any evidence beyond it being a religious thing. But if it hurts people, and triply so if the person being hurt is not the person whose religious beliefs are under discussion (case in point, someone nonreligious whose Catholic employer doesn’t want to cover the contraception that the employee needs), then there’s a higher standard.

  • AnonaMiss

    I disagree that all of this evidence is legally necessary for an exemption. If it were, then houses of worship would be required to provide insurance including contraception for their religious employees (not that a church conservative enough to oppose contraception would likely have many female employees). As the law stands now, churches & houses of worship are exempt from providing contraceptive coverage under the ACA, despite being unable to prove the three things you listed, so there is legal precedent for exemption for ‘sufficiently religious’ employers. 

    The legal question isn’t what the right thing to do is. The question is whether Tynsdale House, by virtue of being a for-profit organization which engages in nothing but “ministry”, should be categorized as an exempt ‘religious institution’ or a non-exempt ‘business.’I completely agree with you on what the law should be, but I disagree with you on what it is.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_2CUJHSQSQYTYT4DPZSKTVESYNQ B

     “…if we can’t legally hold religious organizations to prohibitions because of their religious beliefs, how on earth can we claim we can hold them to legal requirements?”

    But we CAN legally hold religious organizations to prohibitions, despite their religious beliefs.   It’s illegal to cut off your daughter’s clitoris in the US, for example, although unfortunately it’s still done.   Many states have laws protecting parents who fail to provide medical treated for religious reasons, at least in some situations.  However, not all of them do, and parents *have* been convicted on those grounds. 

    Try murdering someone and claiming that your religious beliefs required you to murder them.  It’s unlikely to go over well.

    Yes, the federal and state governments have CHOSEN to provide religious exemptions to some laws.  They’re not REQUIRED to.

  • AnonaMiss

    I suspect the situation would be different if FGM were a Christian tradition/practice.

    Point taken, though.

  • http://jamoche.dreamwidth.org/ Jamoche

    they believe that it ceases being alcohol once blessed

    No we don’t.

  • AnonaMiss

    I was pretty sure not believing in literal transubstantiation was a heresy; at least, the Catholic mother of a friend of mine pointed me to a verse that in that edition said that anyone who takes communion without believing the wine and host to be the blood and body of Christ damns themselves to Hell. (She seemed to think this would make me convert to Catholicism, and was put off/stopped talking to me for a while after my reaction was basically “Huh, that does seem to be the proper reading. Good thing I don’t believe in the bible!”)

    Does the transubstantiation happen after you’ve eaten it? Or is this one of those Trinity-esque “it’s both at the same time” things that, as a materialist, I have a hard time grasping?

  • Tricksterson

    Okay, I can see your confision and I’ll admit up front that it’s been a real long time since I was Catholic so any corrent Catholics, or even other exes that remember better feel free to correct me.  The wine is wine and the literal blood of Christ, just as Jesus was 100% God and 100% man and God is simultaneously three beings and one being. (Okay, I’ll admit that since I believe in the existance of the Triple Goddess I have no room to poke fun on the last one).

  • http://jamoche.dreamwidth.org/ Jamoche

    Or is this one of those Trinity-esque “it’s both at the same time” things that, as a materialist, I have a hard time grasping?

    Yes. It’s not transformation, they’re still wine and bread, they’ve just become something more.

  • The_L1985

    Generally, it is believed that the consecrated wine is both wine AND blood at the same time. Because miracle.

  • Michele Cox

     “Or is this one of those Trinity-esque “it’s both at the same time” things that, as a materialist, I have a hard time grasping?”

    The theory is that while the essence is transformed to the body and blood, the accidents remain the accidents we associate with bread and wine.  I would expect that would include alcohol :)

    There are basically three approaches to the question of “what happens in the eucharist” — 1. transubstantiation, in which the essence of the body and blood boots the essence of the bread and wine out, leaving only the accidents of bread and wine; 2. consubstantiation, in which the essence of teh body and blood is added to the bread and wine, which also retains its original essence as well as its original accidents; 3. memorialization, in which the transformative power of the eucharist is centered not in the transformation of the bread and wine, but only and directly in the transformation of the believer via contemplation of of Jesus’ death and resurrection.

    That’s an oversimplification, but it’s usually good enough for going on with.

  • EllieMurasaki

    What do ‘essence’ and ‘accidents’ mean in this context? I can make that paragraph make sense if we’re talking about a body-soul duality thing, like, when the priest prays over the wafers and wine, they change from being wafers and wine in both body and soul to being wafers and wine in body and Jesus Christ in soul. But I don’t know how accurate that is.

  • Michele Cox

     “accidents” are the things about something that are not, and I’m *really* sorry about this phrasing but it’s English, “essential” to its nature.  So, the ability of a chair to hold your body up when you sit on it is essential, but the color or fabric or material or design or what have you are “accidents.”

    The language comes from medieval philosophy, and is not exactly common these days.

    (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Accident_%28philosophy%29)

  • EllieMurasaki

    Huh. Because I would say that an essential part of bread’s nature is that it contains carbohydrates, and the carbohydrate content of communion wafers is a physical property that doesn’t change during the Mass. But you’re saying that all the properties of communion wafers that don’t change during the Mass are accidents, that they’re not essential.

  • http://blog.trenchcoatsoft.com Ross

    Huh. Because I would say that an essential part of bread’s nature is
    that it contains carbohydrates

     Nope.

    But seriously, you’re using “essential part” in the normal everyday sort of way, not in the metaphysical sense.

    I find it convenient to think in these terms: If it is an essential property, then it is present even when the thing is imaginary.

    Imaginary bread has no carbs. But it does have breadiness.

    (If this all sounds ridiculous to you, all that means is that you are probably an existentialist.)

  • EllieMurasaki

    I can sort of follow that. Mostly not. When a little kid’s playing tea party, it’s generally imaginary tea with imaginary cookies, which means imaginary calories. But for the duration of the tea party, we are…I think the best description is we are the collective authors of a piece of real-person fiction starring ourselves, and our fictional selves exist on the same level as the fictional tea and cookies. On the Watsonian level, the cookies have real calories. We can reboot the fictional universe at the conclusion of the tea party so that our fictional selves can eat their own weight in cookies and never gain an ounce, and of course our actual selves out here on the Doylist level are consuming no calories because our actual selves are consuming no actual cookies.

    The point is that ‘cookies have calories’ is not a property that is lost when dealing with imaginary cookies, provided one is dealing with the imaginary cookies on the level at which one deals with all imaginary things. But ‘cookies have calories’ is a property that is retained by real cookies when one applies the same transformation to the cookies that is applied to communion wafers at Mass, which means that Michele Cox is calling it a nonessential property of cookies and I am calling it an essential property. Which still leaves me with question marks hovering over my head.

  • http://blog.trenchcoatsoft.com Ross

     Okay. My son loves cookie monster, so this is apropos. There’s a cookie monster sketch where he paints a picture of a cookie and explains that if he paints the cookie, he can enjoy it twice as much as if he just eats the cookie. (The punchline is that he eats the cookie, then eats the painting, then for good measure eats the easel too, but this is neither here nor there) What if it’s a painting of a cookie? A painting of a cookie is not a cookie (Thanks Magritte!), but in order for it to be a painting of a cookie, there must be some thing that a cookie is for it to be a painting of.  That cookie in that painting has no calories. It is not a painting of an imaginary cookie — that would be ridiculous — so it does not have imaginary calories. It is not itself an imaginary cookie, so it does not have imaginary calories. (And frankly, I’d dispute the idea that when I imagine a cookie, it somehow also has imaginary calories. I’m the one doing the imagining, and I’d know if I were imagining calories).  If there is a real cookie which it is a painting of, the real cookie has real calories, but *that* cookie has those calories; the one in the painting is not (thanks again, Magritte) the one with those real calories.

    Or put another way: Suppose I presented you with an object which was like a cookie in every way except that it had no calories. What would you call it? Would you say “Well sure, this is round and crunchy and delicious. But since it has no calories, it is clearly not a cookie.” 

  • EllieMurasaki

    The first thing is going to take some thinking over, but the second one, what exactly is this object composed of? I know there’s sugar substitutes that take advantage of some quirk of chemical structure to taste sweet but be indigestible and therefore calorie-free, but I don’t think there’s a similar substitute for anything else on the ingredients list of any cookie recipe ever.

  • EllieMurasaki

    I think I have it: a painting of a cookie is not a cookie, any more than http://mssarcyksartclass.weebly.com/uploads/5/6/4/7/5647186/7798292.gif is a vase or two faces. It bears a visual resemblance to a cookie, just as that image bears a visual resemblance to either the faces or the vase depending, but the moment we begin speaking of the painted cookie as a cookie and not as a painting, we are engaging with the painted cookie as we do with fictional cookies (probably because the painted cookie is in fact a fictional cookie), and fictional cookies still have fictional calories.

  • AnonaMiss

    It occurs to me that if Catholic theology is cool with things having an inner ‘essence’ completely divorced from their outer form, you’d think that this would make Catholics or at least the Catholic hierarchy more open than most to the idea of trans people – e.g., the person’s “accidents” are female (uterus, breasts, XX chromosomes, etc.), but his inner “essence” is masculine, making him feel he’s in the wrong body. Otherkin would seem to be another natural consequence of this kind of divorce of form from essence.

    As a materialist trans-ness is valid to me primarily in that it’s experiential – in the case of the trans man, whatever his body, he experiences things as a man and since he knows himself better than I do, I defer to his judgment. But if we postulate that Platonic forms exist and that trans identity is a reflection of greater-than-usual disparity between the Platonic ideal and its manifestation in this world, then it would make sense that even objects which don’t have the ability to experience could be “mis-assigned.”

    I am quite amused by the idea of the eucharist as bread and wine that “identifies” as flesh and blood in the same way that a trans person identifies as a different gender.

  • http://blog.trenchcoatsoft.com Ross

     It’d be a gimme if the gnostics had won. They’d explain transmen as having an icky flesh body SO degenerate that it was one of those horrible disgusting inferior barely-human females. Though they’d probably be at a loss to explain how a lowly female soul could end up in a horrible disgusting but slightly less inferior male meat-prison.

    But the Church rejected that kind of dualism, instead following what was basically an aristotelian not-quite-dualism wherein a body isn’t simply a meat suit that the “real essential you” wears. In orthodox catholic thought, the soul is not the essence of a person; rather, has-a-body and has-a-soul are both essential traits of being a person: a body without a soul is not a person, and neither is a soul without a body in the same way that flour and sugar and butter aren’t a cookie.

    Now, you can still make the basic philosophical argument that you make, but it’s a bit more complex. You have to argue, basically, that the gender of the body is an accident, and that trans people have bodies with one of those fleshy imperfections in the genital department.  But this is a bit tricky, because it’s hard to argue that what are for some people perfectly good genitals are for other people defective — defects tend not to work that way.  You can do it, but it’s hard to get your mind around.

    So instead, just like the basic Catholic argument about contraception, they see it as something derived from dualist heresy: a normally functioning male body or female body is not defective (in much the same way that a female body being fertile is not a defect), and to reject a normally functioning body’s normally-functioning-ness is, they say, treating your body like it is a thing or possession rather than essential.

    One might even call it gender “essentialism”. In fact, let’s.

    From a purely philosophical standpoint, I find this a pretty compelling argument, but not a conclusive one. Namely, I don’t think it is necessary to view it as “soul makes a unilateral decision to treat the body as an Other and override it,” and also, I think you could make an equally compelling argument in the opposite direction about letting the body run according to factory specs at the expense of Othering the soul.

  • EllieMurasaki

    it’s hard to argue that what are for some people perfectly good genitals are for other people defective — defects tend not to work that way. You can do it, but it’s hard to get your mind around.

    How long’s it been since someone first said some variant on ‘one person’s trash is another’s treasure’?

  • http://blog.trenchcoatsoft.com Ross

    Yeah. but “trash” and “treasure” are different essentia. My broken mug might be your useful art supplies, but it won’t be your functional mug. Whatever use someone else might have for my defective eyes, it won’t be “fully functional eyes”. (I suppose the natural parallelism might be “his perfectly normal penis is her unfortunately-penis-shaped vagina” but I’m not sure that solves more difficulties than it creates.)

  • Lori

    (I suppose the natural parallelism might be “his perfectly normal penis
    is her unfortunately-penis-shaped vagina” but I’m not sure that solves
    more difficulties than it creates.)  

    Actually, his perfectly normal penis is her unusually large and multifunctional clitoris, so I’m thinking this doesn’t really work.

  • AnonaMiss

    So the physical properties of the eucharist are all “accidents” and unrelated to its essence – it can change essence from bread to flesh without any change in outer appearance – but some of the physical properties of the human are essential? Even suspending my disbelief on Platonic forms, that seems suspicious to me.

    Plus, I was under the impression that Catholic holds that being made perfect in heaven includes the removal of sex differences – in God there is no male and female, and all that. If so this would seem to indicate that sex characteristics are inherently defects (no moral judgment on my part, I here solely indicate a deviation from the Platonic ideal), which would seem to indicate that there’s no such thing as a non-defective penis or a non-defective vulva.

    I’m not surprised that the fathers of the church would teach that their junk-privileges are innate in their “essence”, but it seems to contradict other parts of their philosophy to me.

    Also all this talk of essence and penises is sending lines from Dr. Strangelove running through my head. 

  • http://blog.trenchcoatsoft.com Ross

     Have you ever seen the episode of the Simpsons where Lisa goes to a fortune teller at the carnival? Before she does, the police chief  is hosting a cabinet of curiosities, and one of the exhibits is the mythical Esquilax, the horse with the head of a rabbit and the body of a rabbit (That is, it’s a rabbit).

    Remember, catholic theology evolved out of neoplatonism (Though catholic orthodoxy explicitly rejects gnostic dualism).  Everything that physically exists has both physical properties (“accidents”) and an underlying nonmaterial quiddity (“essence”) that gives it the intrinsic property of being what-it-is rather than just a random collection of attributes (It is also the thing that all instances of a thing have in common. Some cats are large, some cats are small, some cats are fluffy, some cats are bald, some cats are even just images in my mind, but all have in common the trait of essential catness (also, they are gray when it rains. I have no idea what this means, except that it’s a proverb in french)).

  • EllieMurasaki

    Have you ever seen the episode of the Simpsons

    No.

  • http://ifindaudio.blogspot.com/2010/02/joe-hill-sung-by-paul-robeson.html Murfyn

    Prosperous, well-educated women have fewer children than their poorer sisters.  Education and economics (and engineering and agriculture, etc.) are obviously “abortifacient.”

  • BaseDeltaZero

    There must be an abortion spell somewhere, right? (Probably in the Book of Erotic Fantasy. I’m thinking necromancy, wiz/sor 3rd or 4th?

    There is in GURPS!  Like three different ones, because it’s GURPS, and they have details for everything.  The GURPS spell list is remarkable in that it’s like 30% obvious adventuring use, 70% utility (things like ‘season’ and ‘tell time’), and 100% amazing.

    Meanwhile, I’m pretty sure that an abortion spell in D&D may be unworkable due to LoS rules.

  • http://profiles.google.com/marc.k.mielke Marc Mielke

    LOS Rules? I’d say the fetus remains part of the woman, who can be targeted by line-of-sight, or more likely make it range Touch like most Healing/Harming spells.

    My opinion has always been that life begins when you get your own character sheet. 

  • Albanaeon

    Heck, if we really go whole hog logic here, than any sex has a non-zero chance of creating a fertilized egg.  That egg has a pretty significant chance of not-implanting.  Since Tyndale (and others) seem to think this is the same as an abortion, sex in and of itself can be considered an abortifacent.  In fact, it is the ultimate one since no abortion would ever occur if there wasn’t sex.

    So I expect these good folk at Tyndale to immediately abstain from sex, forthwith.

  • http://dpolicar.livejournal.com/ Dave

     > any sex has a non-zero chance of creating a fertilized egg.

    I am startled to learn that.

  • Albanaeon

    Yep, that was my fault for forgetting the male with female part of sex. 

    Sorry about that folks.  It’s fixed.

  • The_L1985

    Gay people don’t exist, haven’t you heard?

  • xuinkrbin

    Oy, Got. Where to begin? Okay. If I may start with a diplomatic summary: this article has so many flaws, it’s not even wrong.

    “Tyndale is Protestant, and thus lacks any longstanding doctrinal or theological basis for its alleged religious objection to contraception.” — The Supreme Court has long held “doctrinal or theological basis” is not a necessary condition for raising and sustaining a Free Exercise Clause objection to a law.

    “So Tyndale House is pretending it’s not about an objection to contraception, but to abortion — because, contrary to science and reality and Tyndale’s own religious tradition, they ‘believe’ that contraceptives are ‘abortifacient.'” — No, Tyndale objection is the fact /some/ products classified as “contraception” may have an abortifacient-like effect by preventing a fertilizing egg from successfully implanting into the uterine wall. Tyndale may have good reason to believe such since, for example, copper IUDs, *seem* to have, as one mechanism of action, the destruction of said egg before implantation occurs. If such a mechanism did not exist, the theory goes, copper IUDs would have similar “failure rates” as, say, Plan B; however, copper IUDs have lower “failure rates”, in line with the theory.

    “But what if this student were to refuse school lunches containing beef, asserting that he believes beef to come from pigs and therefore to violate his religious commitment to keeping kosher. … Does the school have an obligation to accommodate the delusional belief that beef comes from pigs? Tyndale House says yes.” — The school in this hypothetical scenario would have the option of allowing Students to bring lunch in from home, thereby “opting out” of the otherwise government mandated food choices with no penalty attached. In the Tyndale case, no “opting out” is permitted, absent the payment of fines which amount to almost $40,000 per Employee per year regardless of the number of violations involved: leave such coverage out for even just 1 Employee and the fine is levied. Since 50 full time equivalent Employees are needed for the mandate to apply, the fines easily reach the $2 million level per year, if not more.

    “The Christian publisher says it has a right to its own sectarian facts and sectarian reality, and that no such thing as objective truth exists that might constrain that.” — No, Tyndale’s Owners say They have a right to Their own *beliefs* and no court may say review the accuracy of those beliefs, both of which are true. The right to belief is guaranteed by the Free Exercise Clause and the Supreme Court has for years held the judiciary will not inject itself into assessing religious beliefs, most recently in the Hosanna-Tabor case.

    “The Rutherford Institute — which is like a much more thoughtful and interesting version of the religious right — is making a similar legal argument on behalf of a Texas high school student who objects to the GPS tracking in her school’s student ID badges. … her church.” — Red Herring fallacy. Tyndale =/= Rutherford Institute.  However, even if they were the same, clearly, the Student is free to belief what She wants to believe and Courts are not permitted to second guess that belief. What matters in both cases is whether the belief, whether accurate or not, has been balanced with any compelling government interest.

    The bit about religious liberty including belief in demonstrably true, demonstrably false, and neither, and about the state needing to stay neutral with respect to the three is absolutely correct. At the same time, the reductio ad absurdium is undercut by the examples given. “[W]hat of students who claim to believe that vaccination is the Mark of the Beast? Or what if a student, emboldened by Tyndale House’s suit, claims that his religion forbids algebra because it is an ‘abortifacient’?” — Courts have held, since alternative sources of education exists in the form of private schools, parochial schools, and home schooling, a public school may require vaccination (and in the alternative scenario, algebra) as a condition of enrollment; Those not vaccinated are free to seek schooling elsewhere without penalty. In the Tyndale case, however, even if Tyndale Employees were offered no health insurance coverage, Tyndale and, by extension, Tyndale’s Owners would face massive fines; no zero-penalty provision exists.

    “But Tyndale House is not harmless. The publisher is refusing to provide the health insurance its employees have earned. That is ‘wages kept back by fraud,’ as the book of James says, and it should not be legally permitted, no matter what trumped up religious delusions Tyndale claims as justification for such wage theft.” — This is where the logic train completely flies off the rails. (1) Health insurance coverage =/= “wages”. Health insurance is far closer to a voucher for specific purchases, each of which involve binary choices [i.e., get a vasectomy or don’t, have a pap smear or don’t, see a Specialist or don’t], and is distinctly different from the generally universal fungibility of cash. (2) Fraud can only occur where deception exists; no deception has occured. (3) Theft involves either fraud or the deliberate taking of something which belongs to Someone Else, neither of which is happening by Tyndale’s refusal to pay for contraception in its Self-insured medical plan. (4) Getting a law passed is not the same as Employees “earning” what the law says They should get; while the law may be a good one, the goodness of a law is not the same as Employees “earning” the changes that law brings. (5) Tyndale telling Employees, “If You want contraception, You have to pay for it out of the cash We give You in salary/wages, as opposed to the funds left in the Tyndale checking account after We have paid You,” is not harm; if it were, Tyndale would be harming Employees Who are mugged if Tyndale did not provide every Employee a loaded gun to carry around. Neither is Tyndale preventing Competitors from offering an otherwise identical line of employment with the same salary and benefits plus contraception coverage, which would be the only other way I can imagine Tyndale might possibly “harm” Employees by not directly providing contraception.

  • Lunch Meat

    I haven’t the slightest idea where you’re getting your “$40,000 per employee per year” figure. This is from healthcare.gov, which explains all the requirements of the ACA:

    Starting in 2014, large businesses (those with 50 or more full-time workers) that do not provide adequate health insurance will be required
    to pay an assessment if their employees receive premium tax credits to
    buy their own insurance. These assessments will offset part of the cost
    of these tax credits. The assessment for a large employer that does not
    offer coverage will be $2,000 per full-time employee beyond the
    company’s first 30 workers.

    $2,000/year is less than the average amount that most people pay for their insurance coverage. Most companies who are not self-insured would save money if they refused to offer insurance. I don’t know how much self-insured companies pay for their employees’ health care, but it’s probably not much more than $2,000.

    Health insurance coverage =/= “wages”. Health insurance is far closer to
    a voucher for specific purchases, each of which involve binary choices
    [i.e., get a vasectomy or don’t, have a pap smear or don’t, see a
    Specialist or don’t], and is distinctly different from the generally
    universal fungibility of cash.

    Health insurance may not be wages, but it is compensation/earnings. If the employees haven’t earned their health insurance, if Tyndale is only paying for their healthcare out of the goodness of Tyndale’s heart, then can Tyndale refuse to cover any procedure just because they have a problem with it? Can Tyndale refuse to cover surgery because the employee hasn’t prayed hard enough for God to heal them? Can a Jehovah’s Witness institution, if self-insured, refuse to cover blood transfusions? Can an institution whose owners are vegan refuse to cover medications derived from animal products or tested on animals? Can a Jainist institution refuse to cover procedures that kill bacteria, viruses or tumors?

    The bottom line is that employers do not get to police their employees’ healthcare choices just because they are involved in the payment of health insurance.

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    $2,000/year is less than the average amount that most people pay for
    their insurance coverage. Most companies who are not self-insured would save
    money if they refused to offer insurance. I don’t know how much
    self-insured companies pay for their employees’ health care, but it’s
    probably not much more than $2,000.

    This explains why I see so many people carping and moaning about how zomg they want to offer their employees health insurance but that big McMeanypants Obama isn’t letting them do it.

    This strikes me as one of those unintended-effects things that the health exchanges will probably fix if people can buy into the federal gov’t employee plan en masse.

  • Kubricks_Rube

    (2) Fraud can only occur where deception exists; no deception has occured.

    The deception is that contraception = abortion.

    (3) Theft involves either fraud or the deliberate taking of something which belongs to Someone Else

    Are the female employees of Tyndale paying the same amounts for their piece of the insurance policy as the male employees? Then they have earned and paid for equal access to comprehensive coverage.

    (4) Getting a law passed is not the same as Employees “earning” what the law says They should get

    Tell that to the EEOC, which ruled that an insurance plan that inlcudes prescription drug coverage but does not cover contraception is discriminatory.

  • Dr. Rocketscience

    If you read a bit more carefully, you’ll find that Fred has made your first argument for you: Tyndale, like the high school student, has the right to believe anything they wish to believe, even things that are a) not matters of faith, and b) factually incorrect. (That this particular belief is not, in fact, in line with what they claim are their doctrinal beliefs just makes this a particularly odd hill for them to fight over.) Fred’s objection is that Tyndale wants to make decisions for it’s employees based on their beliefs. 

    “Tyndale objection is the fact /some/ products classified as “contraception” may have an abortifacient-like effect…”

    Then they ought to be suing for exemptions for those specific products, should they not, rather than relying on bullshit reasoning?

    The school in this hypothetical scenario would have the option of allowing Students to bring lunch in from home, thereby “opting out” of the otherwise government mandated food choices with no penalty attached. “

    Will the school be paying for these lunches? Not much of a government mandate if they don’t.

    If there exists a state in the union that does not have a religious objection exception to vaccination requirements, I’m not aware of it.

    Your argument about wages assumes that James was using the word in the same (conveniently narrow) terms you want to use it. Fred takes James’s “wages” to be synonymous with “compensation”. And all compensation is earned. That it isn’t strictly monetary doesn’t make it any less compensatory. The government already mandates a minimum compensation, measured in U.S. dollars per hour. 

    Tyndale would be harming Employees Who are mugged if Tyndale did not provide every Employee a loaded gun to carry around. 

    What were you saying about red herrings?

  • Katie

    The Pill can slightly thin the uterine lining.  If it is taken according to direction and it is working properly.  But if the Pill is working as its supposed to, then the cervical mucous will be thicker and ovulation will be suppressed, which will prevent conception.  If the Pill isn’t working as its supposed to, and conception happens, then a woman has the same odds  of of successful implantation as a woman who isn’t using contraception at all.  At least, this was the finding of a study that was done in England a few years ago that Google isn’t helping me find. 
    The idea that a thinned uterine lining can cause a embryo to not implant is based on a theory of how implantation works, and how the Pill works, that, it appears isn’t correct.  Which is good news, if you actually care about the fate of embryos, and bad news, if your real goal has to do with controlling sexual behavior or scoring political points.

  • Joykins

    Tyndale doesn’t have only one religious belief here.  There are a whole chain of religious beliefs here, actually, to wit:

    1) certain types of birth control prevent or inhibit implantation.  FACT: This is speculative at best. We do know that Plan B almost does not work this way, and all the ways IUDs work are  not fully understood. (It is also thought that breastfeeding inhibits implantation).

    2) Inhibiting or preventing implantation intentionally is exactly the same as an abortion.  (see breastfeeding, above–that doesn’t count, apparently, although it has the same kind of effect on the endometrium–although I do not know whether Tyndale covers lactation services.  And of course probably most fertilized eggs fail to implant on their own).

    3) Abortion is immoral.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_2CUJHSQSQYTYT4DPZSKTVESYNQ B

    Re: the Pill as an abortifacient.  My understanding is that ANYTHING that messes with the menstrual cycle can, occasionally, lead to a failure to implant.  That means not only the Pill, but exercise, stress… 

    Breastfeeding definitely can lead to failure to implant: if any action that could hypothetically cause a zygote to fail to implant is abortion and therefore a mortal sin, breastfeeding after the menstrual cycle resumes is certainly a sin and should be avoided at all costs.  But if religious organizations have rules prohibiting breastfeeding, it’s news to me.

     

  • Carstonio

    But if religious organizations have rules prohibiting breastfeeding, it’s news to me.

    Sure, because they’re treating the real wrong as not wanting to be a mother, or worse, wanting to have sex without wanting to be a mother.

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    ILU-486 is a short story based on real pieces of legislation right-wing legislators have floated and failed to pass in our world.

  • Carstonio

    Chilling. Thanks for the link. I admit I was expecting the story to involve women being locked into life-support machines during their pregnancies, and uterus monitors that would instantly detect a pregnancy.

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    Yeah. It’s pretty scary how realistic it feels and it makes me wonder how close to reality that story is to the 1960s and 1970s when abortion was illegal but medical science had advanced enough to make it safe to do.

  • Michele Cox

     That is a truly *excellent* and powerful short story; thank you for sharing the link.


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