The Week in Review: Law and Atheism, 1/10/13

Although it isn’t legal news, necessarily, it is related to activism: let’s celebrate that upvoteMalala Yousafzai has been released from the hospital in Birmingham, England, pending another round of surgery, which should take place several weeks from now. Word is that her family will not be returning to Pakistan. Since the Taliban has vowed to attack her again, that is probably a very good decision. The breathtaking bravery of this teenage activist for female education should inspire us all.

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Although only half of 2011′s number of abortion restrictions passed into law in 2012, these two years have been far and away the costliest with respect to American women’s reproductive rights, according to a study by the Guttmacher Institute. In case you aren’t familiar with it, the Guttmacher Institute produces a wide range of resources on topics pertaining to sexual and reproductive health, and is an official Collaborating Center for Reproductive Health by the World Health Organization. It arose from the Planned Parenthood Federation of America and was founded by one of Planned Parenthood’s former presidents in 1968.

This crackdown on women’s reproductive rights is absolutely essential, because crazy liberals want drive-thru abortion-on-demand services to be paid for by anyone but them. I mean, pregnancy resulting from rape is rare, according to our new Secretary of Defense (thank you ever so much, President Obama, for putting such an intelligent, well-informed, and compassionate man in a cabinet position), so forcing a few impregnated rape victims to bear the children of their attackers is okay. And even when the life of the mother is at stake, the public should not have pay to save her. If she’s too poor to save her own life, then that’s her own fault. She should have maintained a special savings account to pay for any abortions she might need to save her life. The public cannot be held responsible for some poor tart’s lack of financial foresight.  And we certainly don’t want to be put in the position of having doctors force abortions on mentally incompetent pregnant women to save their lives. That’s just not fair to the doctor, who has to choose whether to save the life already in existence or the potential Einstein still in the womb, who would be better off raised without a mother at the state’s expense anyway. And if some treatment the mother receives kills the fetus, well, that’s not really abortion.

I feel really dirty after writing that last paragraph.

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According to Canada Free Press, Egypt’s new constitution is not exactly a creature of the popular vote:

In the two rounds of voting in the referendum on Egypt’s constitution (December 15 and December 22, 2012), only 17 million Egyptians – 32 percent of the 52 million Egyptians eligible to vote – cast ballots. Of these, 10 million, i.e., 64 percent of those voting, voted in favor of the constitution, and 7 million, 36 percent, voted against. For every 100 Egyptians, 20 voted in favor, 12 voted against, and 68 did not bother to vote.

When 68% of eligible voters don’t bother, there is a message – but what is it? Did those who stayed home have no faith in the process? Were they prevented from participating somehow? Boycotting a vote because you don’t like what’s being voted on seems to be a sure recipe to get exactly what you don’t want. Only those who care enough to pass it will show up – but evidently that’s exactly what happened in Egypt last month.

Coptic Christians in Egypt have condemned the Islamist Constitution as a violation of basic human rights. More than anything the bishops are distressed at the provision in the new constitution that Shari’a law serves as a basis for Egyptian law by the terms of the Constitution. Without a doubt, Shari’a is bad for women and bad for religious minorities. Bishop Joannes Zakaria of Luxor said, “It was already hard to get permission to repair a church in [former] President Mubarak’s time, now it will be ever harder. But it will be much worse for Shiite Muslims, Baha’is, Buddhists and others who are not even recognized in the constitution.” Another bishop condemned the document as establishing an “Egyptian caliphate.”

And aupvote former judge of Egypt’s highest court has lodged a legal challenge to the constitution, which she claims was passed illegally. A prominent Islamic televangelist, upvoteAmr Khalid, has proposed amendments to Egypt’s new constitution that would require gender equality and freedom of religious belief. The political party of the televangelist the Egypt Party – is not the Muslim Brotherhood party of Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi.

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Kansas passed a law in 2011 that says private insurance companies cannot cover abortion services unless the mother’s life is in danger. The ACLU sued. This week, the federal judge assigned to the case held that the upvoteACLU was not able to prove that the law was motivated by a legislative desire to limit abortion access to Kansas women. The case will go to trial, though, because the judge has to decide whether the law unduly limits access to abortions that women should have under Roe v. Wade.

Virginia raised the bar for abortion providers last week when Gov. Bob McDonnell signed off on stricter regulations for clinics offering pregnancy termination services. Virginia’s new regulations mandate irrelevant and unnecessary architectural and design requirements in clinics offering abortion services. The requirements are intended to create barriers to abortion providers. As Mississippi aptly demonstrated, when the licensing requirements establish impossible criteria, the services cannot be rendered to anyone. Texas may also be joining the ranks of states that prevent women from acting in the best interest of their own lives and their own bodies. Republican Virginia State Senator Thomas A. Garrett also introduced a bill to eliminate public funding of abortions for low-income women whose doctors have said that their fetuses would be born with a “gross and totally incapacitating physical deformity or mental deficiency.”  We assume that Republicans in  Virginia would prefer to  subsidize the care and medical treatment of such children.

A bill was introduced Monday in Indiana that will require doctors to provide state-approved literature to women seeking abortion services. Senate Bill 101 is not Paperwork Reduction Act friendly: the women would be given a printed copy of the materials to take with them. I wasn’t able to access the bill before posting this, but as soon as it’s available I’ll provide a link to it.

TIME Magazine’s cover article last week was all about the abortion rights fight. Bottom line according to TIME? The “decisive victory” granted by Roe v. Wade in 1973 “kicked off a war that the pro-choice movement has been losing ever since.” When we read about current anti-choice legislation, we are inclined to concern, if not outright agreement, even though one writer at Slate.com says that abortion rights are as inevitable as marriage rights.

Ireland continues its push toward legalizing abortion is certain circumstances. Suicidal pregnant women are a topic of debate: if a woman is suicidal because she is pregnant, is this a life-threatening condition that will justify terminating the pregnancy?

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As we wait with great anticipation for the Supreme Court to hear the DOMA case and the California Prop 8 case in late March, many places in the nation continue the march toward more progressive family values.

Rhode Island entered the marriage equality fray with bills in both the state house and senate that would permit same sex marriage. Representative upvoteArthur Handy of Cranston introduced the bill in the Rhode Island house, and Senator upvoteDonna Nesselbush, who is openly lesbian, introduced the bill in the senate. Nearly half of the sitting legislators signed on to the bills as co-sponsors.  Rhode Island has a law permitting civil unions, but apparently not many couples have taken advantage of it. All other New England states recognize same-sex marriage, and Rhode Island Governor upvoteLincoln Chafee signed an executive order last year requiring the state to recognize same-sex marriages performed elsewhere. He has said that he will sign a same-sex marriage bill into law if given the opportunity.

We’re still watching the Illinois same-sex marriage bill closely, but, disappointingly – because not enough members of the lame duck body showed up for work – the Illinois senate did not act last week on the bill that has drawn the ire of the Catholic Church and the support of other church leaders statewide. For the same reason, the Illinois senate did not take up a measure to ban assault weapons. The same-sex marriage bill has the approval of the senate committee that has studied it.

upvoteState Sen. Scott Dibble of Minneapolis, Minnesota has also said that he plans to introduce legislation this spring to legalize same-sex marriage there. Dibble is openly gay, and one of his state senate colleagues, upvoteJohn Marty, who has also pushed for a 2013 vote on the matter, has decided to allow Dibble to take the lead on it.

Dead, Devil-Possessed Newt

Did you hear in December that Newt Gingrich had actually expressed some tepid support for same-sex marriage – or that he at least acknowledged it as inevitable? Turns out that a former Navy chaplain, Gordon Klingenschmitt, bowing to the inevitable qualifies Gingrich for the same Biblical fate of those nasty sodomites: death. Because if Newt says that the country will inevitable allow equal rights even for (gasp!) homosexuals, then he is surely possessed by demonic forces.

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To put things in perspective, there are places in the world where homosexuality is treated far worse than here. For instance, if you are ever in Cameroon with a friend and go to a bar, do not, under any circumstances, order Bailey’s Irish Cream, especially if you are a cross-dressing male. You and your buddy will find yourselves arrested for “looking gay.” Bailey’s is a gay drink, and you look gay doing it, according to  a judge in Cameroon, so therefore you must be guilty of gay stuff.  You will be convicted and imprisoned for up to five years, and thereby subject yourself to prison rape by – you guessed it – other men. And do not send a text to another man saying “I love you,” because that will also net you five years in prison.

Taiwan has held its first hearings on the issue of same-sex marriage in the wake of a lawsuit brought by a gay couple who were denied a marriage registration.

France expects to pass a national law permitting same-sex marriage in a few months, but an unholy alliance between the Catholic Church and French Muslims is staging rallies and fighting progressive change tooth and toenail. Had Salah al-Din Yusuf ibn Ayyub and Richard the Lionheart formed such an alliance, how much bloodshed would the world have been saved?

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In related news, the Church of England is allowing gay men in celibate civil unions to become bishops, as long as they don’t have sex. Despite the fact that Queen Elizabeth is the head of the Church of England, women still don’t have the chromosome officially qualifying them to become Anglican bishops, so apparently this new rule does not apply to celibate lesbians in civil unions. Now, how the church is going to police priest and bishop celibacy is another issue entirely. Hey – maybe the Catholics can teach …. nevermind.

The good news is that seat of the Anglican Church’s American counterpart, the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C., will start hosting same-sex marriage ceremonies. That’s right, England. You aren’t the boss of us.

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Speaking of churches and England, London’s first atheist church opened  for business this week. It was begun by a pair of stand-up comedians, and promises to offer a full range of services from weddings to funerals to foot-stomping shows. “We thought it would be a shame not to enjoy the good stuff about religion, like the sense of community, just because of a theological disagreement,” said Sanderson Jones, one of the co-founders. A Catholic priest in a nearby church wondered who the atheists would be worshiping at their new church. “It is important to debate and engage with atheists but for them to establish a church like any other religious denomination is going too far. I’m cautious about it.” Only cautious? It would seem the atheist church co-founders are not the only comedians around.

The goal of the church is to build community and encourage volunteering. There’s certainly nothing wrong with either of those things.

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upvoteWilliam Hamby has written a great article about the Christian crime spree of vandalism and theft of atheist billboards, signs, and displays over the holidays. Maybe because the atheist movement is becoming more visible, the Christian reaction has become more violent and destructive. It’s funny how they claim we clamp down on their First Amendment rights while publicly defacing ours, isn’t it?

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Texas is determined to keep Christmas in schools. A bill introduced last month by state representative Dwayne Bohac of Houston (he’s a Republican, in case you couldn’t guess) would change nothing in the law, except to underscore that Texas is all about promoting religion in its public schools. upvoteAronRa, Texas state director of American Atheists, is not amused.

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Get your activism hat and your activism shoes out, because the second annual day of cyber-protest against hereditary religion happens January 20, 2013. You don’t have to leave the safety of your keyboard to participate.

Richard Dawkins said in The God Delusion that childhood indoctrination into religion was tantamount to child abuse. As children, we tend to assume that the religion of our parents is correct. That’s why even in “Christian America” the children of Muslims remain Muslim, the children of Hindus remain Hindu, and the children of non-theists remain skeptical. People don’t tend to shrug off their parents’ beliefs until they reach their own age of reason, or even adulthood, when they explore the religion they were exposed to as they grew up.

There is an entire website dedicated to ending hereditary religion, plus a Facebook Page and a Facebook Event. How realistic is this effort? Not very, I wouldn’t think. Religious people tend to indoctrinate their children the moment the kids start asking why it thunders (My dad said it was the angels bowling in Heaven. It wasn’t until I was much older that I understood that he thought that answer was just as goofy as I did – but, it was what his parents had told him.)

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We have high hopes for “None” congresswoman Kyrsten Sinema, but despite the fact that one in five Americans has no religious affiliation, Sinema has not only refused to use the “A” word to describe herself, but rejected it entirely. Disappointment reigns.

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FFRF UpvoteObligatory FFRF upvote: A middle school in Jackson, Ohio, has a big painting of Jesus in the hallway, and says that it isn’t coming down just because FFRF asked nicely. It was a gift from students back in the 1940′s, and no one has complained until now, so there’s no reason to take it down, says the superintendent. Sure. There’s no reason to take it down except that it’s illegal. With apologies to my mother, who said something similar to me about my friends and jumping off bridges: if students donated a truckload of methamphetamine to the school, would you keep it because it was a student gift? Methinks the Jackson City School District needs lessons in logical fallacies.

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Got a legal question? Email me at anne@aramink.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. I’m on Twitter as @aramink, and 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.

 

  • iknklast

    In all fairness, I really do wish they would quit focusing on women’s health and raped women in the abortion debate, and recognize that the right of choice accrues to all women, even if they are a “slut” and had sex voluntarily. I know why we focus on those issues; I understand the motivation to not let it look like “bad girls” might be able to get abortions, but I fear we might be hurting ourselves later on. Right now the law doesn’t distinguish between “good” abortions and “bad” abortions (except late-term abortions), and this excessive focus on that might end up limiting us even more than what we are limited now.

    And, before you say it, I am NOT sacrificing the good in favor of the perfect; I am just pointing out that it shouldn’t matter why a woman has an abortion, or who she has slept with, or whether she is going to die without it. Perhaps if we got that voice out there a bit louder (I suspect this is the view most readers on this site have), people would hear that shocking idea, and would think about it a bit.

    • IslandBrewer

      I totally agree. The right to control one’s own pregnancy ultimately should be a matter of personal bodily autonomy.

      However, it’s so very easy to get sucked into debates about things like rape and fetal personhood simply because the anti-choice advocates make the dumbest arguments. When a rabid right winger says, “A fetus feels pain and can appreciate music and has a soul and loves God”, it’s hard to avoid attacking that sack of ludicrousness and instead say, “that shouldn’t affect a woman’s right to control her own body.”

    • Brad1990

      Big ol’ +1 for you my friend; I completely agree.

  • baal

    Wow Ann, that’s a lot of content in one post.
    “And if some treatment the mother receives kills the fetus, well, that’s not really abortion.”
    I did a tour at my State’s House. A group of rapid anti-abortion republicans pushed for every anti-abortion bill they could think of and raged about the folks who have abortions. One of their staffers, however, had the horrific pregnancy situation where the brain forms outside of the skull. This type of defect is invaribly lethal to the fetus but the pregnancy can continue for a long while. The woman choose to “give birth early” (medically induced) and that was ok by the anti-abortion squad since it was ‘natural’ and thus not an abortion. I wish these folks were capable of empathy and understanding without having to go through a personal experience.

    • baal

      By ‘tour’ i mean i worked there.

      • http://www.aramink.com Anne

        Maybe I should break these weekly update posts into topical segments. Is there anyone out there who looks at these and thinks, “too long; didn’t read”?

        • John Eberhard

          I appreciate ALL of your writings here, regardless of length. Gotta tell you, though, the first part of this one sickened me. Keep up the good work.

        • Nate Frein

          Your columns are long but they read pretty easily. Although, to be fair, I don’t really read them as one long column, but as lots of little columns.

  • eric

    When 68% of eligible voters don’t bother, there is a message – but what is it?

    That Egyptians care more about their government than Americans do in a non-presidential election year, but less than they do in a presidential election year?
    Sorry, couldn’t help the snark. When it comes to election turnout, we should not really be casting stones at other countries.

  • invivoMark

    Can we please make an agreement among the Blue states, that for every anti-abortion bill passed in a Red state, we pass a pro-abortion bill? Like, for every dollar that someone in Texas is charged for the operation, we put a dollar toward paying to transport pregnant women out of their state to have an abortion in a place where they won’t be harassed?

    That’s the best I can come up with at the moment. Seriously, this shit needs to stop.

  • http://www.godlessteens.com/ Godless Teen

    “Representative (upvote) Arthur Handy of Cranston”…

    Nice to see somebody getting an upvote from Cranston, of all places.

    • http://www.aramink.com Anne

      I know. Where was he when Jessica Ahlquist needed him?

      • http://www.godlessteens.com/ Godless Teen

        Indeed.

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