Church & state and ‘beliefs’ that believers don’t care about

Republican state Sen. Dennis Kruse of has introduced a bill that would allow Indiana public schools to require students to recite the Lord’s prayer each morning.

Um … which Lord’s prayer?

Sen. Dennis Kruse wants to require Indiana schoolchildren to pray to Lord Cthulhu in His House at R’lyeh.

I don’t just mean the subtle differences of “debts” and “trespasses,” I mean that there are as many different Lord’s prayers as there are different Lords.

Could a school require students to recite this one?

In His House at R’lyeh Dead Cthulhu waits dreaming, yet He shall rise and His kingdom shall cover the Earth. …

To select an “official” Lord’s Prayer is to select to privilege one sect above all the others. It is, in other words, to establish an official religion.

Sen. Kruse wants to make a law respecting the establishment of religion and prohibiting the free exercise thereof. That’s not allowed.

Speaking of the First Amendment: Three nurses no longer work at an Indiana hospital because they refused to get flu shots.

The hospital has at least two good reasons for dismissing these nurses. First is simple public safety — having nurses who might be walking around and giving all of your patients the flu would be negligent bordering on reckless.

And second, hospitals really aren’t looking to hire medical professionals who don’t believe in professional medicine. Nor are they looking to hire nurses who defiantly refuse to protect the health of patients. Hiring a nurse who doesn’t “believe in” flu shots is a bit like hiring an auto mechanic who doesn’t believe in internal combustion. Or, you know, like hiring a nurse who doesn’t believe in hand-washing.

But the nurses’ attorney says their disbelief in modern medicine must be respected, because it’s their free exercise of religion:

lan Phillips, who represented several nurses at the hospital, says his clients had the right to refuse their flu shots under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits religious discrimination of employees. Religion is legally broad under the First Amendment, so it could include any strongly held belief, he said, adding that the belief flu shots are bad should suffice.

“If your personal beliefs are religious in nature, then they are a protected belief,” Phillips said.

But Phillips case has nothing to do with his clients’ “personal beliefs,” it has to do with their right to work as medical professionals despite their purported “religious” devotion to holy influenza. Phillips is pretending that this is a civil liberties case akin to the defense of conscientious objectors. It’s far stranger than that — it’s more like a pacifist Mennonite suing to become a U.S. Marine.

In any case, I have a very hard time accepting that these nurses really do believe “flu shots are bad” when, at the same time, they are completely uninterested in the question, “Are flu shots, actually, bad?” and when they seem unconcerned with the hospital’s flu-shot policies except as they pertain to themselves.

These nurses formerly worked at a hospital that requires its staff to get flu shots, and that administers flu shots to patients. Anyone who worked there and really believed “flu shots are bad” ought to be fighting those policies, arguing that the hospital must stop providing the shots for patients and stop requiring the shots for employees.

But Phillips isn’t arguing that the hospital should change its rules, only that the rules shouldn’t apply to his clients.

In other words, it doesn’t seem that these nurses lost their jobs out of devotion to their belief that “flu shots are bad.” It seems they lost their jobs out of devotion to their belief that “Nobody can ever make me get (or understand) a flu shot.”

When someone claims that a belief is a deeply held religious conviction, but simultaneously doesn’t seem at all interested in the substance of that purported belief, then it’s hard to see them as sincere. “Conviction” suggests interest and concern. Faith without interest is dead.


In South Dakota, a state senator, Jeff Monroe (R-Pierre), has introduced a bill making it easier for parents to refuse to get their children vaccinated thus guaranteeing an increase in deaths from preventable causes. Monroe says it’s all about religious freedom. South Dakota is already one of the states that allows parents to opt out of vaccinations if that is part of the doctrine of their sect. That’s not good enough for Monroe. He believes parents should be allowed to opt out if they have a “sincere, verifiable religious belief,” even if it’s at odds with the teaching of their sect.


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  • AnonymousSam

    The same thing happens with m/f platonic relationships in both fiction and reality. In a way, I consider it a good thing that same-sex relationships are no longer automatically assumed to be platonic — it shows that people are at least assuming it to be a possibility, rather than pretending it doesn’t exist at all. On the other hand, I wish they didn’t focus on it at all sometimes.

  • Also, the Yugoslav partisans needed regular army support in the form of airlifts from the US and the UK, but they also had the advantage of combatting troops who were not first-rate, since the majority were being sent off to fight the Soviets.

    Luck can often help a revolution or conflict as much as any amount of planning. :)

  • vsm

    Did you watch the other episodes of Sherlock? They make such a big deal of the potential romance between Sherlock and John that if nothing comes out of it, lots of people are going to have a good reason to be unhappy. Even my homophobic mom sort of ships them.

    As for who gets to write slash, I’ve never really liked the idea that artists should only be allowed to write stories about people like themselves. It rather defeats the point of fiction and would result in even more scripts about sensitive guys listening to indie rock and having trouble with love. There are certainly issues to consider, however.

  • On balance, I agree that it’s a good thing. Inappropriately sexualizing same-sex relationships is no better than inappropriately sexualizing opposite-sex relationships, but it’s at least more equitable, and it creates a space for normalizing same-sex sexual relations. I assume we’ll collectively calm down in a generation or two. 

  • Carstonio

    So far I’ve only seen the first season of Sherlock. And my point wasn’t about artists writing only about people like themselves, but about their treatment of characters that the artist would find sexually attractive, and whether the artist is using these to realize hir own fantasties.

  • Tricksterson

    Never happened and stop confusing us with facts dammit!

  • Rugosa

     A big difference is that while your employer may be able to accommodate your religious practice without compromising another person’s life, a nurse’s refusal to be vaccinated could be dangerous to a patient.  Many people die from influenza every year, and most strains are especially deadly for the elderly and people who are already weakened by illness.  In short, you are right; “we are now trying to decide what accommodations are reasonable to require.”  My vote is that we should take the consequences of an accommodation into account in deciding what is reasonable in a society.  Remember the Hippocratic Oath: first do no harm.  That seems like a good starting point to me.

  •  > My vote is that we should take the consequences of an accommodation into account in deciding what is reasonable in a society.


  • Lee B.

     I knew a drag queen who had headlight eyelashes on his car, but I can’t remember if it also had truck nuts — the most notable thing about the car was actually the paint.  He’d spray-painted it with wild colors, so (to me) it resembled a 1980s NYC subway car.

  • Mike Timonin

    And I agree that a disciplined force moving in a tactically sensible formation has a huge advantage over an undisciplined force moving in no formation at all. 
    Exactly. Which is the point of the article Carstonio linked – h/t to hir. 

  • fraser

     I almost forgot, he also wanted all references in court cases and police records to “rape victim” changed to “rape accuser” until someone was convicted. You will be astonished to know he doesn’t think we need “theft accusers” “assault accusers” or “fraud accusers.”

  • vsm

    I think artists being attracted to their own characters can come up in lots of different forms, though, not just when writing opposite-sex slash. It’s something one should be aware of, if only because it’s often awkward to read, but not really something that should stop one from writing. Besides, fanfiction is a gloriously low-stakes form. Even if you mess up horribly, it’s probably not going to be read by that many people, so it’s ideal for experimentation.

  • Carstonio

    While I don’t disagree, my point is really about writing to fulfill one’s fantasies or to gratify one’s ego like a Reginald Barclay holodeck program.

  • EllieMurasaki

    Which…is one of the purposes of writing.

    Not usually a wise thing to do in writing one means other people to see, especially if it fucks up the depiction of a key subset of the people who would see it, but that’s one of the things writing is for.

  • Carstonio

    Suppose I started a story like this: “Carstonio was a god among men. His Herculean body was the object of desire for women everywhere, even the lesbians, and men burned in jealousy of his Benchleyesque wit.” Wouldn’t it be reasonable to conclude that I was writing with one hand on the keyboard and another hand under it? That I was living in my own little world where other people were merely characters to redefine according to my own agenda? That’s what both types of slash seem like to me.

  • EllieMurasaki

    Bzzt, overgeneralization.

  • EllieMurasaki

    (Who’s Benchley?)

  • Launcifer

    Firstly, obviously, I’m not Carstonio – so take this with the necessary bucketload of salt. Secondly, I’m assuming Robert Benchley, although there are a few trademarks of Peter Benchley (why, yes, I have read far too many of his novels for comfort, thank you) present, enough for me to hope that this was not the inteded reference.

  • EllieMurasaki

    Thanks, Launcifer.

    Oh for fuck’s sake, Fred, just ban Winston Blake already.

  • Lori


      I don’t think this is quite the same thing. For one, fandom’s tendency
    to interpret close m/m friendships as romantic doesn’t make depicting
    such relationships more difficult. On the contrary, they often attract
    female fans to works that would have traditionally had a mostly male

    I think these are two different issues. I think when people talk about having difficulty depicting close m/m friendships they’re not talking about attracting an audience, or if they are they mean that as a secondary issue. I think they mean what you were talking about WRT to Hawks. He was telling stories about m/m friendships and the impact that they had and people were seeing romance or sexual relationships.

  • Lori


    I suspect (and think you agree) this is extremely rare, and that
    approximately none of the people who complain about it are actually
    concerned with this case, but it certainly can happen.   

    I’m not sure it’s actually extremely rare. Or at least I’m not sure it would be extremely rare if man card policing wasn’t such a thing. I definitely agree that most of the people who loudly complain about it are driven by homophobia, not an artistic investment in exploring the bonds between male friendss.

  • Lori


    It’s one of those neverending fandom arguments. Are straight women who
    write m/m turning gay men into a fetish for straight women the way
    lesbians often find themselves fetishes for straight men, or are gay men
    trying to control straight women’s sexuality by telling them how or
    whether to write m/m?   

    I certainly don’t want to be the sexuality police and I don’t think I’m qualified for the job even if I did want it. That doesn’t mean that I don’t wish that some women would cut it the hell out, just like I think a lot of guys need to stop with the fixation of faux lesbian porn. I have grown vary wary of m/m written by women and read very little of it these days. I’ve just gotten the icks way too many times. (I obviously don’t expect writers to particularly care that I’m very unlikely to read their work.)

  • EllieMurasaki

    Like I said, in this argument everybody’s right, but so is everybody else, and it would behoove everybody to pay attention to the people who disagree with them because they’ve got some good points that should be taken into consideration.

  • Lori


    But the question remains: why am I telling a narrative for which
    establishing a completely platonic relationship is so important in the
    first place?

    There are lots of possible answers to that, some of which I respect more than others. 

    I think male friendship is a legitimate subject for story telling and it sort of sucks that so often it’s treated as if it’s not. Stories about female friendships are practically their own subgenre because it’s a given that f/f friendships are important. M/M friendships really don’t tend to be treated with the same respect and I think that’s bad for both men and women. 

    Think about the term “bromance”. WTH is that about any way? My response to seeing a movie described as a “bromance” is usually something along the lines of, “Back in the day we called that a ‘comedy” or maybe “gross out comedy”. Why are they suddenly called bromances and why are they always about some stone stupid man child and his posse? (I realize that last part is in no small part thanks to Judd Apatow, but still.) We don’t call movies about females friends “femance” or something, and they’re usually not comedies.

    Female friendships = nurturing bedrock of a woman’s life; male friendship = thing that makes you act like a moron and get in trouble with your shrew of a girlfriend/wife is not a dichotomy that does any thinking person of any gender or orientation any favors.

  • EllieMurasaki

    Yeah, that’s one of the respectable answers.

  • Lori


    In a way, I consider it a good thing that same-sex relationships are no
    longer automatically assumed to be platonic — it shows that people are
    at least assuming it to be a possibility, rather than pretending it
    doesn’t exist at all.  

    ITA. Which is one of the things that makes this a major extra hand problem* for me.

    *On the other hand…. but on the other, other hand….. = extra hand problem

  • EllieMurasaki

    Though I do note that movies with female friendships are either heterosexual romantic comedies or quite uncommon. A movie with a female friendship that isn’t a heterosexual romantic comedy has a hard time avoiding passing the Bechdel test, and screenwriters all know that Bechdel-passing films don’t sell.

    How they know this when they so rarely test the hypothesis, I don’t know.

  • Lori


    I assume we’ll collectively calm down in a generation or two.  

    From your lips to FSM’s hearing appendages.

  • EllieMurasaki

    And f/m friendships can’t possibly be platonic because they’re f/m and therefore sex must be involved, and let’s just gloss over all the possible permutations of sexuality and takenness and just-not-attracted-to-you that would keep sex out of such a friendship…

    How about we just declare that platonic relationships of all flavors are sadly underrepresented in the media?

  • Lori

    How they know this when they so rarely test the hypothesis, I don’t know.  

    IDK either, and I’ve asked people who are actually in the business. No one seems to have an answer that rises above the level of “you can’t get financing because everybody knows….” It’s just a given that say, Steal Magnolias, is a total fluke.

    And of course stories about gay characters who are the focus of the film instead of the sassy gay friend or the scary killer are also still a ridiculously tough sell. See this interview with Steven Soderbergh for a mind-boggling example:

    No studio would give him $5 million for a movie starring Matt Damon and Michael Douglas because a Liberace biopic was “too gay” to make any money. On a $5 million budget. That’s not even the wardrobe budget for Dark Knight Rises and probably in the neighborhood of the craft services bill for The Avengers. I mean really, WTF?

  • Lori


    How about we just declare that platonic relationships of all flavors are sadly underrepresented in the media?   

    I will absolutely sign onto this.

  • That’s just one example. If you want to see the man card in action among women pick a fandom, go to boards devoted to it and start looking for discussion of gay subtext. You’ll mainly find people speaking of it with great approval instead of opprobrium, but the foundation is the same—those two men are interacting in a way that’s outside the “manly” box, therefore they’re obviously gay. Everyone knows that men don’t have real friendships, not like women. So any two men who have a real conversation about personal things or who do anything together that’s not related to sports, video games or killing stuff are clearly gay. Ho yeah!

    I would say that maybe they are missing the option that the two guys might be brothers, but we both know even if they are established as brothers that does nothing to dim the Shipping Goggles (linked page has a relevant picture illustrating this effect.)  

  • The Guest Who Posts

    Thank you for saying this so much better than I could have. I’m a straight woman, and I have to admit that I find male homoeroticism very appealing. (I simply can’t enjoy a sexual scenario that involves a woman, because media has primed me to see all sexualised depictions of women as objectifying, even the few cases that aren’t.) But I despise the idea that male/male romance and erotica should be packaged for people like me, and I feel the same about lesbian romance and erotica intended for straight male consumption.

  • Amaryllis

    I realize it’s three days later, and the discussion has moved on.

    Writer’s Almanac poem for today made me laugh.

  • Carstonio

     Not sure what you mean by overgeneralization. I wasn’t accusing every straight person who writes same-sex slash of fetishizing the other sex to stroke their own egos. I’m more concerned about the claim that creating ego-gratification fantasies like Barclay is a legitimate part of writing. It strikes me more as an avoidance of reality.

  • ReverendRef


  • EllieMurasaki

    ‘Same-sex slash’? Paging the Department of Redundancy Department.

    And what the fuck is wrong with avoidance of reality? Like all things, it’s better in moderation, and like many things, it’s better restricted to oneself or a small group of consenting people, but what is actually wrong with it?

    (I don’t know who Barclay is either. Except for the bank issued one of my credit cards, but I don’t think that’s what you mean.)

  • AnonymousSam

    Hey, if you’d like to experience raw, unfiltered reality, I’d be happy to assist you in removing your natural dissociative defense mechanisms so you can experience unfettered awareness of the physical world. Just sign on this dotted line — what, the contract? Oh, it’s the standard medical/spiritual waiver.

    In all seriousness, fiction getting a person away from reality is a feature, not a bug, and I can’t recall the last time I saw someone claim it was an evil with which we should do away, but I remember very clearly that it either came from an android or a fundamentalist. Same thing, really.

  • Carstonio

    Here’s the Barclay reference:

    I should emphasize that my point is not about fantasy fiction in general. If that were the case, I wouldn’t have enjoyed the Harry Potter books or The Hobbit or Rick Riordan’s The Lost Hero. Or the many science fiction books I’ve read. Rewriting reality to tell a good story or to make an allegorical point is a longstanding tradition in fiction. My beef is with using fantasy for ego gratification, where real people and groups are retconned solely to please or heroize the writer.

  • Carstonio

    Is there an equivalent term for “slash” for opposite-sex pairings in fanfiction? I was inaccurately using the term to apply to both types of pairings.

  • EllieMurasaki

    And we’re back to the overgeneralizing.

    Yes, some people who write, uh, anything involving people do so in a way that portrays some of those people differently from reality, or in a fetishized manner, or just plain wrong. Not everyone does. Stop conflating ‘particular genre of writing’ and ‘writing people wrong’.

  • EllieMurasaki


  • My beef is with using fantasy for ego gratification, where real people
    and groups are retconned solely to please or heroize the writer.

    So, OK.

    If I’ve understood you correctly, if I write a story in which Dave mysteriously appears  in the Oval Office in 2007 and takes over from Bush, Cheney, etc. and saves the day because Dave is just that awesome, you have a beef with that… and specifically, your beef is that this sort of fiction is intended for ego gratification and is an avoidance of reality, which is not a legitimate part of writing.


    If I’ve understood you correctly, I disagree with you.

  • Carstonio

    Maybe if your story also had me and Sgt. Pepper and Anonymous Sam singing ballads about your achievements, and Ellie and Amaryllis offering to bear your children…

    “Illegitimate” is not the word I would use. Perhaps “unhealthy”? The Barclay character created his hero fantasies to avoid dealing with his emotional problems in the real world, and this exacerbated his inability to relate to others. This sounds like a more advanced version of the type of personality who blames others for hir problems. Perhaps the person really believes that others exist for hir benefit.

  • Greenygal

    Er, I’ve seen “Hollow Pursuits,” and that’s a very extreme comparison you’re making there.  You’re comparing all slash fanfiction (or possibly all fanfic that involves romantic relationships; I’m not sure which one you meant) to fantasies in which specific real people that the fantasizer knows are portrayed as either brainless romantic objects for the fantasizer or incompetent fools that the fantasizer can triumph over.   Which, yeah, is all kinds of overgeneralization.

  • AnonymousSam

    You’re not specifying any difference between dabbling, using in moderation and obsession. Where is the line drawn?

  • EllieMurasaki

    Yeah, how about you stop explaining to me the motivations of every single person in a subculture of which I am part.


  • Carstonio


    You’re comparing all slash fanfiction (or possibly all fanfic that
    involves romantic relationships; I’m not sure which one you meant)

    I was referring specifically to same-sex pairings in fanfiction where the writer is of the other sex, and where the stories focus primarily on the sex and not on the relationship. That is what seems most like Hollow Pursuits to me, again because of the great potential for viewing an entire category of people as sex toys. (A “bumper” that aired on a local FM rock outlet: “The station that supports gay marriage…as long as both chicks are hot!”)

    Somewhat less hincky is a specific type of opposite-sex fanfiction where the writer places hirself as one member of the couple and the other as hir ideal mate.  To clarify, I’m not slamming both broad categories of fanfiction – although the relationship stories aren’t my taste, I can appreciate the ones where a character isn’t an author avatar.

  • EllieMurasaki

    Objecting to things which actually do view people as sex toys: good.

    Objecting to categories of things where some members of the category do that and some don’t, on the grounds of the category’s potential to do that: fuck off. And also assure us that you’re trying to shut down the whole porn industry. (You’d still be wrong if you are, but at least you wouldn’t be targeting erotic fiction, primarily produced and consumed by women, and not erotic video, primarily produced and consumed by men.) But mostly fuck off.

  • vsm

    He was telling stories about m/m friendships and the impact that they
    had and people were seeing romance or sexual relationships.

    The question is, which people? The vast majority of the people who went to see Only Angels Have Wings or Rio Bravo most likely took them as stories of male friendship. The problem was telling those stories to too clever intellectuals. I suspect the dynamic is similar today. Most people who watch TV series don’t post about them on the Internet and probably don’t think that hard about which characters are secretly having sex.