Here’s my roundup of legal machinations over the past week. No, I haven’t listed everything, and yes, I may have missed something important. Please leave comments on other events involving the law and secularism that you consider noteworthy.
Despite the IRS suspension of egregious political activity by 501(c)(3) tax-exempt religions organizations, FFRF decided this past week to take on the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association for its political ad that essentially endorsed Mitt Romney for President. Billy Graham reportedly told Romney that he would support the Republican candidate for President because he would support the “biblical definition of marriage.” Read FFRF’s letter to the Director of Exempt Organizations Examinations (DEOE), in which Annie Laurie Gaylor reminds us, once again, that she rocks.
As I mentioned in my earlier post today, the Director of Exempt Organizations Examinations is a high-ranking official, one level removed from the Secretary of the Treasury, and thus under the current Treasury Department organizational structure, is the correct person to determine whether an investigation is necessary. There were several people of that rank and authority before the 1998 bureaucratic restructuring.
FFRF will probably get a weekly upvote from me. Just sayin’.
Tuesday was a great day for same-sex marriage ballot measures. State by state, it’s slowly happening. I’ve never seen any objection other than than those based on religion, so despite the “why do I care” attitude of some atheists, I feel strongly that as secular humanists we should co-own this issue with our LGBTQ friends. We’ve shared their closets all these years, after all.
Ballot measures addressing the issue were voted on by citizens of four states Tuesday, and all of them passed handily. Nine states and D.C. now have no-holds-barred same-sex marriage, which confers all rights to homosexual couples that heterosexual couples enjoy. Another dozen states are almost there, giving same-sex couples almost all the rights of heterosexual couples through domestic partnerships and civil unions.
They’re at it again, that quirky group of deep thinkers. Global climate change is the current target of the anti-scientists on the Kansas Board of Education.
Adherents of the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster may recall that it was an intelligent design curriculum proposed by the Kansas Board of Education that prompted FSM Prophet Bobby Henderson’s letter, the erudite lyricism and persuasive argument of which caused the noodly goodness of Pastafarianism to explode across the globe. I can’t wait to see what creatively crafted new religion comes out of this train wreck.
But wait! There’s more!
Certifiable wackjob Jack Wu ran for the Kansas Board of Education on the anti-science platform. Go to his website and read his biography for yourself. Personally, I can’t decide if it’s pathetic or hilarious. Wu moved to Kansas from California after seeing the light of Fred Phelps’ infamous Westboro “God Hates Fags So Let’s Picket a Military Funeral” Baptist Church. He promised to end the teaching of that “satanic lie” of evolution in Kansas schools. If he could find his way to the board meetings, that is.
Followers of the Friendly Atheist may remember that a month ago Hemant Mehta interviewed Jack Wu and concluded, “If there’s anything we ought to take away from this, it’s that Wu shows how anyone can run for office.” This statement proves, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that Hemant can find something nice to say about absolutely anyone.
Fortunately, Jack Wu was overwhelmingly defeated.
The Democratic incumbent, Carolyn Campbell, worried that this guy, whose name is presumably pronounced “woo” for a reason, would win his seat just by having the oh-so-coveted “R” next to his name on the ballot, but Kansas Republicans distanced themselves from him. “He has not and does not have any connection or been in contact with the Kansas Republican Party, other than filing as a Republican — something the party has no control over,” said Clay Barker, the Executive Director of the Kansas Republican Party.
Wu’s campaign collected a whopping $5 in donations and received a princely $9.99 in donated goods and services. Maybe there’s hope for Kansas, yet.
During my misspent youth, which even at my advanced age is still not over and done with, I spent way too much time on Fark.com. The tag was always a warning that a stupid people/stupid government story was about to happen, and I’d click on it with glee, glad that there was one place in the country that might, occasionally, top the stupidity I saw on a daily basis right here at home.
On election night, Florida experienced at least a partial redemption.
In an outstanding FU to those who would merge church and state, Florida voters squelched Amendment 8, one of 11 proposed constitutional amendments on Florida’s ballot this election season. Amendment 8, humorously titled the “Florida Religious Freedom Amendment,” would have repealed a provision in the Florida Constitution that prohibits using state revenue “directly or indirectly in aid of any church, sect, or religious denomination or in aid of any sectarian institution.” That’s right: it would have directed taxpayers’ dollars to support religious institutions.
As bad as we might think we have it in the Bible Belt and other red states, there are places where religion is even more suffocating. Take Egypt, where 95% of the population is Muslim. There are still very quiet pockets of non-believers who dare to meet to discuss religion, despite the arrest last month of Alber Saber, a 27-year old who was physically attacked in the street because of irreligious statements appearing on his Facebook page. Egypt does not have a freedom of belief, and no matter how ludicrous it seems, the Egyptian courts can prosecute and punish someone who is incapable of believing in a god.
The bravery of the small groups who continue to manage to meet and discuss their philosophy, beliefs, and iconoclastic understanding of the world cannot be adequately described. I don’t know that I would be brave enough to defy courts and criminal punishment to talk about my lack of belief.
Alber Saber’s blasphemy trial resumes next week.
In 2005 Spain’s Socialist-dominated Cortes Generales (parliament) passed a same-sex marriage bill over the strenuous objections of the conservative Popular Party. Spanish prime minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero signed it into law, making Spain the third country in the world – the Netherlands and Belgium had been first and second – to legalize same-sex marriage. When he left office last year amid Spain’s economic woes, Zapatero forthrightly stated that the same-sex marriage law was his proudest achievement in office.
The Popular Party appealed to the Constitutional Court, the highest court in Spain, which agreed to hear the case. The Catholic Church, led by the scions of that compassionate humanist Torquemada, unsurprisingly sided with the conservative challengers.
Tuesday, in an 8-3 ruling, the Spanish Constitutional Court upheld the same-sex marriage law. A written decision is expected within a week.
This is excellent news for more than 25,000 same-sex couples who have tied the knot in the intervening years. While the court challenge wended its way to a decision, same sex couples married, adopted children, and created families. Imagine the chaotic limbo those families might have endured with a different decision.
There was a dubious Republican triumvirate running for various seats in the Arkansas state legislature. Two were merely crazy racist bigots, but the third, Charlie Fuqua, was all that and then some. Fuqua proposed passing a law based on the Bible that allowed parents to kill their recalcitrant children. Oh, he didn’t necessarily want to enforce it, mind you – he just wanted to give parents a bigger stick than the one they already have.
A bit of background: I practiced in juvenile court for fifteen years before I burned out completely on the daily dose of unthinkable child abuse and neglect. Fuqua’s stupidity staggered me. This man was running for re-election, and he actually thought it was a good idea 1) to pass a law that “wouldn’t be enforced” and 2) give parents who murder their children a defense of justifiable infanticide. I can hear it now: “Your Honor, I know he was only six months old, but he wouldn’t stop crying so beating him to death just made sense,” and “Your Honor, she was dating that boy I didn’t like, and she climbed out of her bedroom window to go see him. It was the second time this month, so I had no choice but to kill her.” Those scenarios happen already with despicable regularity. Can you imagine how much more prevalent child abuse would be if it were legally acceptable?
These are the same people who have to have a vindictive God to give them morals. All three of these assclowns lost their races Tuesday.
Got a legal question? Email me at email@example.com. I’m a lawyer, but there’s only a 2% chance I’m licensed in your state. Whether I answer your question or not, sending me an email or reading this blog post does not create an attorney-client relationship between us. You can see my regular blog at www.aramink.com, where I write book reviews, ruminate on Life, the Universe, and Everything, and occasionally – frequently – rant about Stuff.