Atheists & secularists, like anyone else, will sometimes speak of what gives their life meaning and purpose. It might be fighting against religious dogma, or helping people think rationally, or spending time with their family, or "making the world a little better place", or... whatever. Note that these are self-imposed "purposes" or "meaning", often involving leaving some sort of intellectual or philosophical legacy. But, is this really consistent with their worldview? Have you ever heard of Lawrence M. Krauss or Glenn D. Starkman? Even if you don't run in scientific circles, you may be familiar with Krauss, who is a well-known ...
"Those who are unwilling or incapable of discerning or judging between good and evil are in this manner revealing either their disobedience or their immaturity." -- Pastor E.L. Bynum In our last "episode", we began to address the issue of what it means to "judge" others. Specifically, we took a practical, nonsectarian look at why people cry, "Don't judge me!" and why we should, in fact, make fair judgments about others' behaviors & beliefs, always with the welfare of them and others around them in mind. Now, what about Christians, in particular? Aren't we supposed to be extra loving and kind and ...
If you are at all familiar with Christian apologetics, whether engaging challenges from non-theists or from Christians with different views, you know that the topic of pain, suffering, and death is a major issue. (In fact, Darwin's struggle with this was the impetus for developing his theory.) These things are considered "evil", so the question is "Why would a 'good' God make a world full of pain, suffering, & death for His creatures to endure?", or "How could God include pain, suffering, & death (for millions of years) in His 'very good' creation?" The Young-Earth Creationist (YEC) solution is that none ...
Welcome to the 3rd and penultimate installment of this series, in which I explain how self-deluded I have been about my own hatred and bigotry regarding, well, just about everyone but straight, white, white-collar males between 18 & 65 years of age (or thereabouts). Where was I? Oh... [caption id="attachment_1341" align="alignleft" width="225"] Pro-choice Activists[/caption] 7) I hate women. And it's not just because I'm single. (Or, should that be the other way around?) ;-> In particular, I think most of today's "feminist" positions and causes reveal a certain level of narcissism and another excuse to play the blame game for ones woes, real ...
"America will never be destroyed from the outside. If we falter and lose our freedoms, it will be because we destroyed ourselves." -- Abraham Lincoln "AAAAAAAAAARRRRRRRRRRRGGGGGHHHHHHHH!!!" That was my response (posted on Facebook), give or take an "R" or two, to the 2012 Election results. Actually, that was my second FB post. My first was, "Crap on a stick! I'm so depressed." But, that's not quite right. I'm very disappointed, obviously. And a bit morose. But, really, I'm angry. So, here goes the rant... Are you freakin' kidding me?!! Do we really have to listen for 4 more years to this pompous, Marxist ...
Sometimes, I can't help myself. I mean, people make spurious claims and ridiculous accusations against God, Christians, "the Church", etc., all the time. Usually, I let it go. Can't be constantly getting into long, drawn-out internet debates ALL the time, after all. But, sometimes, I just have to say something. And, so it went the other day, when a FB friend of a FB friend, amidst generally mocking comments, claimed that Christians were responsible for "lots of mass murders." Of course, I had my suspicions about what she was referring to. There are some nasty stains on Christianity's record. But, I also ...
"I am pro-life. I believe that abortion is the wrong choice except in cases of incest, rape, and to save the life of the mother." -- Mitt Romney, in an op-ed piece in The Boston Globe (7/26/2005) In "The Pro-Life Position: Just One Question", I argued that if the unborn is indeed a member of the human family, no matter how small or odd it looks, then "no justification for killing it is adequate." But, then I left a footnote saying that there are rare exceptions to that rule. So, I figured I may as well address those now.... When the ...
Part 1: Firm Foundation "I yam what I yam, and that's all what I yam." -- Popeye, the sailorman Given the subjects that I usually read and write about on this blog, critical thinking really comes in handy. Not that I'm some great logician or anything. Far from it! But, over the last few years, I've been exposed to the discipline of informal logic by some pretty darn good thinkers. (At least, I think they are.) I've noticed that I am now more apt to notice logical errors & fallacies when reading or listening to someone's arguments for his/her position on a ...
[caption id="attachment_1464" align="alignleft" width="300"] Original Star Trek bridge crew[/caption] I remember when, many years ago, I first found out that the cast of the original Star Trek series did not always get along and a huge part of the problem was William Shatner's ego. Star Trek was one of my all-time favorite TV shows (and the movies and the books), and Shatner was a favorite actor when I was growing up -- right up there with Lee Majors, the Six Million Dollar Man, and later Tom Selleck of Magnum, P.I., fame. So, I was understandably disappointed to find out my "heroes" ...
"[S]cience and religion are two essential components in the search for truth. Denying either is a barren approach." -- Dr. Martin Andreas Nowak, mathematical biologist Once upon a time (actually, it was about a year ago) in a land far, far away (OK, it was here in NE Florida), I had a brief but interesting discussion. I had been taking a few skills & personality assessment tests, which involved identifying what I thought my strengths & weaknesses were, figuring out my personality traits, etc. While discussing the results with a couple family members, the religiously-agnostic one noted, "Huh! You consider yourself ...
This post is a little different — a break for me (since I wasn’t sure I’d have something else ready in time) and, hopefully, a treat for you. It is a video from a conference held not long ago at Woodcrest Worldwide Church called “In the Beginning” — not to be confused with another conference by that title — that featured Dr. Hugh Ross and others from the Reasons to Believe (RTB) apologetics ministry/organization.
This particular clip is different than the usual seminar or debate-style vidoes. Instead, Dr. Ross is essentially interviewed by a pastor (who reminds me a bit of Glenn Beck). They begin by talking a little about Ross’s early interest in science (e.g., reading books on physics and astronomy at age 7) and what struck him about the Genesis account, when he first read through the Bible at age 17. Then, they step through Genesis chapter 1 (with reference to passages in other books, like Job and Psalms), discussing the Creation Days and the scientific discoveries that support/confirm what is stated and described in the biblical text.
It’s a fun exchange, and Dr. Ross gets to lay out much of the RTB Creation Model, explaining several points of fine-tuning and -timing in the preparation for life on Earth. (He even mentions how YouTube is becoming a “research database”!) Whether you are a Christian or not, creationist or not, I think you will find it fascinating.
The other day, I was listening to a Christian podcaster by the name of Joe Messina — the first time I’d ever heard him. His normal topics are, I think, politics and culture. But, he had on a guest who was explaining his skepticism of the validity of radiometric dating. At one point, they were discussing how conservative Christians are often accused of being “against science”. Not so, they said. Well, if it were me, I would amend that by saying that Christianity or “traditional, orthodox Christian doctrine” is not against the practice of science. But, there are some Christians that are either deeply suspicious of science — really, of scientists in general, who they see as being in a great, secular conspiracy to hide the truth about God’s Creation — and/or their own methods of doing & evaluating science are somewhat suspicious and skewed toward proving their own biblical interpretations. To that extent, I suppose it could be said that those Christians are at least partially “against science”. I think both cases are sad, even shameful.
Of course, it is also true that much of the “scientific consensus” nowadays about some topics presupposes a decidedly non-Christian view of the world and/or of what is allowed in science (see below). Therefore, while the facts of science — to the degree that current technology and careful practice allows — are simply facts, the interpretation of those facts is often biased toward one’s philosophical world-and-life view. So, when the interpretation of particular scientific evidence is presented — whether in scholarly journals or in the popular press — with “anti-Christian” implications, then I think the Christian is justified in questioning the interpretation. Some skepticism is warranted. But, one is not justified in being “against science”.
The next thing the podcaster said (and his guest agreed) was that “God created science.” I think I understand what he meant by that, and maybe he was just using a sort of shorthand to get across the idea. But, technically, I don’t think that claim is accurate, and it’s worth closer examination. Perhaps I’m being nit-picky, but let’s think about it for a minute….
What is “science”? Well, I’m sure you could get a million-and-one variations on an answer to that. Those with naturalistic or deistic leanings would probably be sure to throw in something about empirical proof or limiting scientific theories and interpretations to the purely “natural”. However, I am among those who hold to a more historically traditional definition of science that does not pre-determine the kinds of answers that are philosophically (and socially) acceptable. So, here’s my attempt at a workable definition:
“Science is the practice of using systematic methodology to study the natural realm in search of answers.”
It could probably be tweaked a bit, but that’s sufficient for my point. “Science” is a particular type of activity conducted by curious and intelligent beings. Such activities are not themselves created. Rather, the beings that conduct them may be, and as a “creationist” I believe that humankind was indeed created de novo by God. Secondly, God is indeed responsible for creating humanity in general with the intellectual capacity for such study, and some of those humans have a particular natural curiosity about the world around them that can be nurtured and encouraged, so that they get the education and training to become “scientists” — i.e., those whose profession is to do some sort of work in one or more branches of “science”. (Though, of course, there are knowledgeable amateur scientists, too.)
Is Christianity “anti-science”? Certainly not — but, definitely against, or highly skeptical of, certain interpretations of scientific data.
Did God “create” science. Not exactly, but He did create beings with the intellectual capacity and curiosity to engage in endeavors leading to discovery about His Creation.
“The general Principles on which the Fathers achieved Independence were the only Principles in which that beautiful Assembly of young Gentlemen could unite, and these Principles only could be intended by them in their Address, or by me in my Answer. And what were these general principles? I answer, the general Principles of Christianity, in which all those Sects were united; and the general Principles of English and American Liberty, in which all those young Men United, and which had United all Parties in America, in Majorities sufficient to assert and maintain her Independence.”
– John Adams to Thomas Jefferson, June 28th, 1813
When discussing the Founding of America and the language of the founding documents, especially with skeptics and non-theists, the issue often comes up of whether or not America was founded on Judeo-Christian beliefs/principles, which also speaks to the question of whether or not America can legitimately be called a “Christian nation”. Once in a while, a more historically-informed skeptic will point to the Treaty of Tripoli as proof that America was never intended to be “Christian”.
Before I address the treaty itself, some background/context is in order….
Following the American Revolutionary War, the new nation of the United States of America went about securing agreements of trade, peace, and mutual defense with nations everywhere, thereby establishing itself on the world stage. At the time, Europe was dealing with the Barbary States of North Africa, who made their living via piracy and extortion. Even Britain and France had agreed to pay annual tribute to the leaders of these states in exchange for them leaving their ships/goods/people alone. That’s right, the Barbary pirates even captured and enslaved European and American sailors and citizens. In fact, the white slave trade was big business! Did I mention that the Barbary States were Muslim?
Anyway, the British (sore-losers) encouraged the Barbary pirates to attack the U.S. ships. (Algiers even declared war on the U.S. in 1785.) It became quite a problem. Washington’s Secretary of State, Thomas Jefferson, tried to organize an alliance of less-powerful nations whose combined naval forces would attack and defend against the Barbary pirates. He was unsuccessful, due largely to British and French influence. America’s leaders realized that, in order to (sort of) guarantee safe passage of their ships in the area, they would have to negotiate similar agreements. Early attempts at diplomacy were doomed by incompetence, bad timing, and just plain bad luck.
The “Treaty of Peace and Friendship” with Tripoli was initiated under George Washington’s administration in 1796 and completed/signed by President John Adams in 1797. Unanimously approved (without discussion or argument) by the Senate on June 10th of that year, it consisted of 12 articles in total, dealing mostly with matters of commerce and maritime trade. But, there was one part towards the end that briefly addressed matters of state and is our current concern. Here is the relevant section of the Treaty (see also image above):
Article XI: “As the Government of the United States of America is not in any sense founded on the Christian religion, — as it has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion or tranquility, of Musselmen [i.e., Muslims], — and as the said States never have entered into any war or act of hostility against any Mahomitan [i.e., Mohammedan, or Islamic] nation, it is declared by the parties that no pretext arising from religious opinions shall ever interrupt [alternately, 'produce an interruption of'] the harmony existing between the two countries.”
Some have argued that Article 11 merely reflects the views of Joel Barlow, U.S. consul-general to the Barbary States. It was Barlow’s duty to negotiate agreements with leaders in North Africa — particularly Tripoli, Tunis, & Algiers — and (hopefully) keep the U.S. from getting into armed conflicts. After an original drafting by Richard O’Brien, one of the first American seamen captured by Barbary pirates, Barlow finished negotiating the revised treaty with Jussof Bashaw Mahomet, Bey of Tripoli.
Unfortunately, peace under the Treaty of Tripoli did not last. Relations broke down due ostensibly to lateness of tribute payments, leading to renewed attacks on U.S. ships, U.S. naval blockades, and a new treaty. The corresponding article in this 1805 treaty, while stating clearly that the U.S. has no established church, contained no anti-”Christian nation” language.
Now, it is possible that the content of Article 11 was requested by the Bey of Tripoli or even suggested by the Bey of Algiers. Barlow himself, a Congregationalist-turned-Deist whose writings revealed a strong antipathy toward the idea of a “state church”, may have taken it upon himself to insert the article for his own reasons. Historians have yet to figure it all out. But, whether or not it reflected Barlow’s private prejudice, it seems to me that the wording is diplomatic-speak that served primarily to assure the Muslim Bey(s) that America did not consider Christianity its national religion, nor did it hold the same religion-based grudges as other “Christian” nations with whom Islam had tangled in the past.
History Professor Frank Lambert of Purdue University echoes this — or, I suppose, I echo him — when he asserts that the phrasing of Article 11 was “intended to allay the fears of the Muslim state by insisting that religion would not govern how the treaty was interpreted and enforced. John Adams and the Senate made clear that the pact was between two sovereign states, not between two religious powers.”
Looking at Article 11 in its entirety, I notice three things:
1) It is the U.S. “Government” that is declared “not in any sense founded on the Christian religion”. This supports the point I just made above.
2) It points out the “tranquility” of the “Musselmen”. Of course, they were not being tranquil, and that was the problem. But, once the treaty was in place, if any “Mahometan” nation acted aggressively toward America or her interests, thereby no longer displaying “tranquility”, the U.S. would have grounds to respond. (In fact, we did so then and do so now.)
3) It specifies that “no pretext arising from religious opinions” shall cause disharmony. But, if Muslim faith & practice inspires them to act belligerently toward America or her interests, it is not merely Christians who would want to defend themselves, and they would be quite justified in doing so for solely non-sectarian reasons. (Again, we did so then and do so now.)
In other words (and some of this is implied), as long as they play nice, the U.S. will leave them alone. (Unlike them, we were/are not out to conquer other lands and/or force obedience to a particular religion.) But, if they mess with our lives and livelihood, regardless of their reasons, we reserve the right to respond in kind.
With all of this in mind, I agree that the U.S. government was not “founded on the Christian religion”. Surprised? However, that is different from denying that the nation was founded largely on, or grounded in, Judeo-Christian principles (see opening quote above) — though, of course, influenced also by some Enlightenment thinking. As I have blogged on elsewhere, we were intended to have a “secular” government but not a “secular” society. Indeed, it is clearly evident from state constitutions and other official documents (state and federal), from the words and actions of America’s founders (and other influential leaders throughout our history), and from the general character of traditional American culture, that the U.S. was intended to be a nation of religious — primarily, but not exclusively, generally “Christian” — people, ruled by a body of law grounded in a basic understanding of God and of biblical principles. While sometimes disagreeing on doctrinal specifics, a broad agreement on Judeo-Christian principles and beliefs was the cornerstone of (most of) the Founders’ reasoning.
In this sense, the United States of America was founded as a “Christian nation”.
“[The U.S. income tax is] a disgrace to the human race.” — President Jimmy Carter
[Editor's note: I would probably get more mileage out of this post if I published it during "tax season". On the other hand, it is a perennial topic, so maybe it will pique someone's interest....]
We all like to complain about preparing and paying taxes, especially income taxes. And rightfully so. I’m not going to get into the issues of whether or not income tax is constitutional, whether or not the IRS should be abolished, etc. Just for now, let’s assume that some such tax is necessary, legal, and needs to be administered. As I have recently been reading through Hall & Rabushka’s The Flat Tax, 2nd ed. (1995), I have been reminded of just how astoundingly huge are the total costs in time, effort, and money that go into the functioning of and compliance with our current tax system — totally aside from the taxes themselves. Also, the unbelievable complexity of the tax code and inefficiencies of it all are just ridiculous!
“The federal income tax is a complete mess. It’s not efficient. It’s not fair. It’s not simple. It’s not comprehensible. It fosters tax avoidance and cheating. It costs billions of dollars to administer. It costs taxpayers billions of dollars in time spent filling out tax forms and other forms of compliance. It costs the economy billions of dollars in lost output of goods and services from investments being made for tax rather than for economic purposes. It involves tens of thousands of lawyers and lobbyists getting tax benefits for their clients instead of performing productive work. It can’t find ten serious economists to defend it. It is not worth saving.”
The authors give several examples of direct and indirect costs of compliance and administration. I’ll just give one here, which happens to be somewhat relevant to current events in the news:
“Every year, the IRS undertakes more than one million audits, which are heavily focused on high-income taxpayers and large corporations. The cost to taxpayers of office, field, and mail audits easily exceeds $1 billion, with assessed penalties another $2 billion. The IRS’s own annual reports admit a high rate of errors, and the IRS telephone information service gives out wrong answers as much as one-third of the time. A General Accounting Office study of the IRS’s business nonfile program found an error rate of 75 percent. Keep in mind that the government does not bear the cost of its errors; they are shifted onto taxpayers who must defend themselves against IRS mistakes. Payne documents more than a dozen government investigations of IRS mistakes. The important numerical finding is that the private-sector burden of initial enforcement contacts is higher than the total budget of the IRS. Here the taxpayer pays twice: once, to pay IRS salaries and overhead, second, to defend himself from the IRS. Estimates of tax litigation stemming from IRS contacts are again in the multibillion dollar range.”
And that was 20 years ago! I don’t know about error rates, but I’m sure that the estimated costs have grown along with everything else. Also, while typing this, I can’t help but think of the parties and bonuses enjoyed by IRS personnel, which we have been hearing about lately.
“To be fair, the IRS is responsible for ensuring compliance with the tax code. Those who make mistakes or deliberately misreport income and deductions should be required to meet their lawful tax obligations. Therefore, a portion of these compliance costs is a legitimate burden of taxpayers. The difficulty arises from the complexity of the tax code. It’s easy to make mistakes, even when taxpayers purchase electronic tax preparation programs. In addition, frustrated taxpayers are not likely to take extreme care with each of the hundreds of entries in as many as a dozen or more forms…. A simple system of low tax rates would remedy a good part of this.
… On balance, we think it fair to estimate compliance costs imposed on individuals and businesses at a minimum of $100 billion but probably higher.”
Fun fact: According to the most recent (2012) IRS estimate I could find for tax revenue lost due to evasion (i.e., where taxes are illegally underreported and underpaid), the “net tax gap” for 2006 is estimated to be $385 billion.
There is, of course, much more to say on this. In short, I think we can all agree that it is foolish to continue limping along with such a burdensome tax code & system. We need something simpler, fairer, more time- and cost-efficient. From what I have read so far, I really like Hall & Rabushka’s proposal, which has had bipartisan support and been brought up for congressional consideration multiple times over the years. What about you?
P.S. I highly recommend the book, too. Note that the “Hoover Classics” edition published in 2007 (and linked to above) is the same “second edition” I’m reading, with the cover seen here. (The original came out in 1985.) I *hope* they put out an updated (with recent numbers and other historical facts), 30th-anniversary edition in 2015.
Lately, it seems like every week we read about another Christian in America being told by his (or her) employer and/or the courts that he either has to do something that goes against his religious convictions (e.g., photograph a same-sex wedding ceremony) or must stop doing something that he *thought* was protected under religious freedoms in the Constitution (e.g., posting a Bible verse on a personal whiteboard). When the case goes to court, as often as not, the judge rules that one’s religious liberty is overruled by the hurt feelings of a minority and their vocal — often militant — activists. (Well, that is the effect, anyway.)
Last month, you many have caught wind of a case involving a Tulsa, Oklahoma, police officer who was ordered to attend an event at the local mosque. When he objected to the assignment, citing religious reasons, he was punished. It went to court, and the panel of judges on the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals finally ruled against him. Sounds like another case of unconstitutional, anti-Christian bigotry, right? I mean, how can a Christian be forced by his employer to attend a mosque, right? But, there is more to the story, so let me back up and start over….
Several years ago, the Islamic Society of Tulsa organized a “Law Enforcement Appreciation Day” to be held at a local mosque to thank the Tulsa Police department (TPD) for its work protecting and investigating threats against the mosque. As it has for thousands of community events over the years, roughly 10% of which were “at religious venues or institutions affiliated with religious faiths”, the department planned to send representatives from all shifts. They were expected to politely mix with Muslim attendees who may want to tell them about Muhammad, the Qur’an, and their beliefs. When it looked like TPD wasn’t getting enough volunteers, the order went out that each shift must send at least two officers and a supervisor or commander.
Captain Paul Fields, a conservative Christian, objected on religious grounds. In an email to both superiors and subordinates (but addressed to his Major), Fields explained:
“I have no problem with officers attending on a voluntary basis; however, I take exception to requiring officers to attend this event. Past invitations to religious/non-religious institutions for similar purposes have always been voluntary. I believe this directive to be an unlawful order, as it is in direct conflict with my personal religious convictions, as well as to be conscience shocking….
[F]orcing me to enter a Mosque when it is not directly related to a police call for service is a violation of my Civil Rights.”
He also could not in good conscience order any similarly-minded subordinates to go. However, it would later be pointed out that Fields’ comments regarding sending others was about constitutionality, so it was a legal rather than a specifically religious objection.
Deputy Police Chief A. Daryl Webster responded, emphasizing the need for good community relations and a desire to avoid possible legal repercussions due to “disparate treatment”. More to the point, he countered Fields’ claim regarding “calls for service”, saying that these sorts of community policing events are just as much part of the department’s mission as public servants. Furthermore,
“[Officers are] not required to participate in any religious ceremony, make any profession of faith, or express opinions on or sympathy with any religious belief system. They are simply expected to meet with members of the public who have expressed a desire to meet with them at a place of lawful assembly.”
Webster also reminded Fields of the potential consequences for him personally and for department discipline, if he disobeyed orders, and urged him to reconsider. In the end, Fields refused to attend or send anyone else from his shift to the event. Despite this, there ended up being sufficient volunteers from the other eight shifts and no one had to be ordered. Following a quick Internal Affairs investigation, Fields was suspended for 2 weeks, demoted, and “reassigned to less desirable duties.”
Captain Fields, feeling he had been the victim of religious discrimination and other constitutional violations, filed a lawsuit dubbed Fields v. City of Tulsa, though the primary defendants are Police Chief Chuck Jordan and Deputy Chief Webster. First it went to the district court, which ruled against Fields. His counsel from the American Freedom Law Center (AFLC) appealed the decision, which is how it ended up at the 10th Circuit Appellate Court.
Fields claimed that the “Attendance Order” and the “conduct of the event conveyed an official endorsement of Islam,” thereby violating the Establishment Clause. The courts disagreed. The defendants pointed out that Webster advised the Society early on to make the discussion of any topic discretionary. This was reflected in event flyers, announcing a “Casual Come and Go Atmosphere”, with opportunities (upon request) to tour, observe, talk and learn about Islam. Fields maintained that the event’s occurrence on a Friday (i.e., Islam’s holy day), dominated by religious discussion and encouragement to purchase books & pamphlets, constituted proselytization, which made it unlike other such events. (There was also the fact that the Islamic Society had hosted Shariah-adherent, anti-Western speakers, like Imam Siraj Wahhaj.) The courts disagreed, stating that none of the “proselytizing” activities were required, and efforts to understand a religion or promote tolerance cannot be deemed a violation of the Establishment Clause.
To be honest, I’m sort of ambivalent about these issues. I can understand Fields’ concerns, especially if he felt pressured by his superiors to fully engage with the Muslim leaders and/or attendees. He also may have felt that the Muslims would be somewhat aggressive, which could be *quite* uncomfortable for a (presumed) minority of non-Muslim attendees. But, the court makes good points, too. Remember, though, Fields’ main concern was not so much attendance per se — though he was reluctant to do so voluntarily himself, and I’m not sure I agree with his reasons — but the questionable constitutionality of being ordered to attend such an event and what he felt was an implied endorsement of Islam.
What is equally of interest and perhaps more disturbing to me has to do with the second part of the suit, involving Freedom of Association and Free-Speech Retaliation. According to the Tenth Circuit’s analysis:
“Fields contends that the City, Jordan, and Webster violated his right to freedom of association by punishing him for objecting to the Attendance Order, which, he claims, compelled an association contrary to his religious beliefs. This claim fails because there was no interference with his freedom of association….
[Fields] does not assert that he has been prevented from engaging in any association. His complaint is that he was being forced to associate with the Islamic Society. But the Attendance Order did not require him to attend the event, much less join the Islamic Society or endorse its faith or message in any way.”
This seems clear to me, as well. But, the other part of the lawsuit claims that “the city’s ‘reason for imposing punishment, or at least the reason for the severity of the punishment, was the religious nature of Fields’ objection to the order.’” According to Robert Muise of the AFLC,
“We have argued throughout this case that Capt. Fields was summarily punished for simply raising and asserting a religious objection to the order mandating attendance at the Islamic event, and that such discriminatory treatment violates the First and 14th Amendments. Yet, inexplicably, the 10th Circuit refused to address this main issue on appeal, claiming that it was not raised below.”
I certainly understand (and generally agree with) Fields being punished for disobeying a direct order and for the manner in which he publicized his objections. But, the extent of his punishment may not have been necessary to make the point his superiors felt needed to be made.
“The appellate court further noted that ‘there is evidence in the record that would support [Fields'] assertion. Some statements by TPD officials suggest that at least part of the motive for punishing Fields was that he posed a religious objection to the order and refused to attend the mosque event on religious grounds.’ Yet, the court refused to address the issue on appeal, claiming ‘that it was not preserved in the district court.’ Instead, the court avoided this central issue and simply held, as did the district court, that the order ‘did not burden Fields’ religious rights because it did not require him to violate his personal religious beliefs by attending the event….’
It is impossible to square the court’s opinion with the briefs and the record presented on appeal.”
This matter really should be addressed, and it seems either lazy or suspicious that the appellate court didn’t take it up.
David Yerushalmi, co-founder of the AFLC, added:
“The evidence is overwhelming that the city and its senior police officials wanted to make an example of Capt. Fields by harshly punishing him, a Christian, for objecting on religious grounds to an order compelling attendance at an Islamic event.”
My assessment is that Fields may have a case regarding the severity of his punishment, assuming the AFLC can get the courts to address it. The rest, I’m not so sure. But, this mess could have been avoided if:
a) the Police Chief had rescinded the Attendance Order and made it voluntary again (as Jordan admitted in his deposition); or,
b) a religious exemption was made for the Attendance Order; or,
c) the Major in charge of Fields’ division had ordered the requisite officers & supervisor to the event and Fields’ punishment had not included permanent demotion (which I suspect is the part deemed unnecessarily severe); or,
d) Fields had not included subordinates in his email, had lodged a formal complaint with his superiors and the state, but then proceeded to do his best to assign representatives from his shift who had no religious objections.
All of this having been said, I do have to wonder — and the AFLC and others have also brought this up — how things might have gone differently if a Muslim officer was ordered to attend such an event at a Christian church or, “worse” yet, at a Jewish center or temple. (Of course, Jews don’t normally proselytize, but evangelical Christians do.) Given the history of disdain and hostility between Muslims and Jews, would the powers-that-be have made a religious exemption for a Muslim officer? If not, would the politically-correct courts have let them get away with it?
Growing up, I always had a fascination with “human oddities” (among other things). I would read about them in the latest Guinness Book of World Records and Ripley’s Believe It or Not books. From dwarves and giants to Siamese twins, people with blue skin, 14 toes, a third arm, skin like tree bark, or their heart on the “wrong” side of their body. Weird (or, at least, unusual), sometimes gross, often sad, but true.
One genetic anomaly that one hears about from time to time — mostly in science debates/discussions or in popular fiction, because it is actually very rare — is a human born with a “vestigial tail”. Certain pagan cultures tout this sort of thing as evidence of divinity or divine blessing. The kid (and his/her parents) become local celebrities, of a sort. Among more modern cultures/societies, most people consider such things an unwelcome deformity and an embarrassment to be surgically removed as soon as possible. But, evolutionists — professionals (e.g., Jerry Coyne, Karl Giberson) and laymen alike — point to such “tails” as evidence for atavism, i.e., an evolutionary throwback “proving” Darwin was right (or, at the very least, common descent).
The evolution advocates claim that sometimes “babies are born with perfectly formed, even functional tails,” but they otherwise tend to be quite healthy. Also,
“The scientific explanation is that we inherited these instructions from our tailed ancestors but the instructions for producing them have been shut off in our genomes…. Sometimes the ‘ignore these genes’ message gets lost in fetal development, however.” (Giberson)
Many would accept these claims and concede, “Oh? Well, that *does* seem like a reasonable explanation. They may have a point.” But, is it, really? Fortunately, most doctors these days don’t fall for the Darwinist propoganda on this matter, instead turning to the mountains of clinical research evidence documented in medical journals. The real data reveals that these “tails” are not “perfectly formed [or] functional,” and they are typically indicators that the baby has serious associated neurological defects, as well. As for the etiological claim, Casey Luskin of The Discovery Institute sums it up:
“The exact causes of tails are debated, but because of their persistent association with neurological defects, the most plausible view is that they result from abnormalities and deviations in development.”
In fact, Luskin recently wrote a series of articles on this “icon of evolution”, where he examines both the claims and the facts more closely. For example, researchers have traditionally recognized two types:
“‘true tails,’ which extend from the coccyx (tailbone) where one might expect a so-called ‘vestigial tail,’ and ‘pseudotails’ which are often found in other locations on the lower back, and seem to be obvious aberrations since they are often associated with anomalies.
This distinction is based upon evolutionary assumptions, … [for] even such so-called ‘tails’ aren’t anything like those found in tailed mammals.”
He goes on to quote the Journal of Neurosurgery (which is echoed by other prominent medical research journals):
“In all reported cases, the vestigial human tail lacks bone, cartilage, notochord, and spinal cord. It is unique in this feature.”
So-called “pseudotails” can contain some bone. But, they are located at various places along the lower back, even off to the side, and do not contain vertebrae. Rather, as the Journal of Child Neurology (and others) point out,
“The pseudotail is an anomalous prolongation of the coccygeal vertebra, lipoma, teratoma, chondrodystrophy, or parasitic fetus.”
I’ll let you look up those other terms, but you get the gist. Also,
“The pseudotail is often short, stump-like, and occasionally bulging.”
Later in the series, Luskin delves into the harm that has resulted — more so in the past than now — from doctors’ and medical researchers’ Darwinian assumptions. For example,
“A paper in Journal of Child Neurology likewise elaborates the dangers of failing to look for these other defects, since the human tail ‘can be associated with an underlying spinal lesion that, if not recognized early, can lead to permanent neurologic disabilities.’ If you treat the tail as a vestigial throwback in ‘otherwise healthy’ babies, then you won’t do the detailed examinations necessary to find these problems and properly treat them.”
Unfortunately, similar damage has been done, and lack of progress made, due to other evolutionist/Darwinist assumptions, too (e.g., “junk DNA”).
There is a lot more, of course, and I recommend reading Luskin’s series (linked below). In a subsequent article, Dr. Michael Egnor (Vice-Chairman, Department of Neurological Surgery / Director, Pediatric Neurosurgery, at State University of New York at Stony Brook) applauds Luskin’s research and adds confirmation from his own experience treating and operating on children with these and other deformities. I’ll end with an excerpt from Egnor’s article:
“A tail has vertebrae, is a continuation of the coccyx, has developed muscles, nerves and other soft tissues, etc. The appendages described in the literature, and all of the appendages on which I have operated, are dysmorphic mesenchymal tissue, often epithelialized exophytic dermal sinus tracts, that bear a superficial resemblance to a “tail.” None have the structure of a tail, even in rudimentary form, and none of the ones I have operated on were attached to the coccyx in the way that a tail is. I don’t know what to make of the terms ‘true tail’ and ‘pseudo-tail’ — I’ve yet to find a cogent definition, and I don’t know of any case report of a genuine tail in a human being….
There is no reason whatsoever to associate it with any sort of ‘evolutionary regression’ or any such nonsense. Again, these Darwinists really have to let ‘ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny’ go. It’s embarrassing.”
Date: June 6th, 1984
Place: U.S. Ranger Monument at Pointe du Hoc, on the northern coast of France where Allied soldiers stormed the shores and scaled the cliffs to liberate Europe from the grip of Nazi oppression
Who: U.S. President Ronald Reagan, speaking to an audience of D-Day veterans and various heads of state
We’re here to mark that day in history when the Allied armies joined in battle to reclaim this continent to liberty. For four long years, much of Europe had been under a terrible shadow. Free nations had fallen, Jews cried out in the camps, millions cried out for liberation. Europe was enslaved and the world prayed for its rescue. Here, in Normandy, the rescue began. Here, the Allies stood and fought against tyranny in a giant undertaking unparalleled in human history.
We stand on a lonely, windswept point on the northern shore of France. The air is soft, but forty years ago at this moment, the air was dense with smoke and the cries of men, and the air was filled with the crack of rifle fire and the roar of cannon. At dawn, on the morning of the 6th of June, 1944, two hundred and twenty-five Rangers jumped off the British landing craft and ran to the bottom of these cliffs.
Their mission was one of the most difficult and daring of the invasion: to climb these sheer and desolate cliffs and take out the enemy guns. The Allies had been told that some of the mightiest of these guns were here, and they would be trained on the beaches to stop the Allied advance.
The Rangers looked up and saw the enemy soldiers at the edge of the cliffs, shooting down at them with machine guns and throwing grenades, and the American Rangers began to climb. They shot rope ladders over the face of these cliffs and began to pull themselves up. When one Ranger fell, another would take his place. When one rope was cut, a Ranger would grab another and begin his climb again. They climbed, shot back, and held their footing. Soon, one by one, the Rangers pulled themselves over the top, and in seizing the firm land at the top of these cliffs, they began to seize back the continent of Europe. Two hundred and twenty-five came here. After two days of fighting, only ninety could still bear arms.
And behind me is a memorial that symbolizes the Ranger daggers that were thrust into the top of these cliffs. And before me are the men who put them there. These are the boys of Pointe du Hoc. These are the men who took the cliffs. These are the champions who helped free a continent. And these are the heroes who helped end a war. Gentlemen, I look at you and I think of the words of Stephen Spender’s poem. You are men who in your “lives fought for life and left the vivid air signed with your honor.”
I think I know what you may be thinking right now — thinking “we were just part of a bigger effort; everyone was brave that day.” Well everyone was. Do you remember the story of Bill Millin of the 51st Highlanders? Forty years ago today, British troops were pinned down near a bridge, waiting desperately for help. Suddenly, they heard the sound of bagpipes, and some thought they were dreaming. Well, they weren’t. They looked up and saw Bill Millin with his bagpipes, leading the reinforcements and ignoring the smack of the bullets into the ground around him.
Lord Lovat was with him — Lord Lovat of Scotland, who calmly announced when he got to the bridge, “Sorry, I’m a few minutes late,” as if he’d been delayed by a traffic jam, when in truth he’d just come from the bloody fighting on Sword Beach, which he and his men had just taken.
There was the impossible valor of the Poles, who threw themselves between the enemy and the rest of Europe as the invasion took hold; and the unsurpassed courage of the Canadians who had already seen the horrors of war on this coast. They knew what awaited them there, but they would not be deterred. And once they hit Juno Beach, they never looked back.
All of these men were part of a roll call of honor with names that spoke of a pride as bright as the colors they bore: The Royal Winnipeg Rifles, Poland’s 24th Lancers, the Royal Scots’ Fusiliers, the Screaming Eagles, the Yeomen of England’s armored divisions, the forces of Free France, the Coast Guard’s “Matchbox Fleet”, and you, the American Rangers.
Forty summers have passed since the battle that you fought here. You were young the day you took these cliffs. Some of you were hardly more than boys, with the deepest joys of life before you. Yet you risked everything here. Why? Why did you do it? What impelled you to put aside the instinct for self-preservation and risk your lives to take these cliffs? What inspired all the men of the armies that met here? We look at you, and somehow we know the answer. It was faith and belief. It was loyalty and love.
The men of Normandy had faith that what they were doing was right, faith that they fought for all humanity, faith that a just God would grant them mercy on this beachhead, or on the next. It was the deep knowledge — and pray God we have not lost it — that there is a profound moral difference between the use of force for liberation and the use of force for conquest. You were here to liberate, not to conquer, and so you and those others did not doubt your cause. And you were right not to doubt.
You all knew that some things are worth dying for. One’s country is worth dying for, and democracy is worth dying for, because it’s the most deeply honorable form of government ever devised by man. All of you loved liberty. All of you were willing to fight tyranny, and you knew the people of your countries were behind you.
The Americans who fought here that morning knew word of the invasion was spreading through the darkness back home. They fought — or felt in their hearts, though they couldn’t know in fact, that in Georgia they were filling the churches at 4:00 am. In Kansas they were kneeling on their porches and praying. And in Philadelphia they were ringing the Liberty Bell.
Something else helped the men of D-day; their rock-hard belief that Providence would have a great hand in the events that would unfold here; that God was an ally in this great cause. And so, the night before the invasion, when Colonel Wolverton asked his parachute troops to kneel with him in prayer, he told them: “Do not bow your heads, but look up so you can see God and ask His blessing in what we’re about to do.” Also, that night, General Matthew Ridgway on his cot, listening in the darkness for the promise God made to Joshua: “I will not fail thee nor forsake thee.”
These are the things that impelled them; these are the things that shaped the unity of the Allies.
When the war was over, there were lives to be rebuilt and governments to be returned to the people. There were nations to be reborn. Above all, there was a new peace to be assured. These were huge and daunting tasks. But the Allies summoned strength from the faith, belief, loyalty, and love of those who fell here. They rebuilt a new Europe together. There was first a great reconciliation among those who had been enemies, all of whom had suffered so greatly. The United States did its part, creating the Marshall Plan to help rebuild our allies and our former enemies. The Marshall Plan led to the Atlantic alliance — a great alliance that serves to this day as our shield for freedom, for prosperity, and for peace.
In spite of our great efforts and successes, not all that followed the end of the war was happy or planned. Some liberated countries were lost. The great sadness of this loss echoes down to our own time in the streets of Warsaw, Prague, and East Berlin. The Soviet troops that came to the center of this continent did not leave when peace came. They’re still there, uninvited, unwanted, unyielding, almost forty years after the war. Because of this, allied forces still stand on this continent. Today, as forty years ago, our armies are here for only one purpose: to protect and defend democracy. The only territories we hold are memorials like this one and graveyards where our heroes rest.
We in America have learned bitter lessons from two world wars. It is better to be here ready to protect the peace, than to take blind shelter across the sea, rushing to respond only after freedom is lost. We’ve learned that isolationism never was and never will be an acceptable response to tyrannical governments with an expansionist intent. But we try always to be prepared for peace, prepared to deter aggression, prepared to negotiate the reduction of arms, and yes, prepared to reach out again in the spirit of reconciliation. In truth, there is no reconciliation we would welcome more than a reconciliation with the Soviet Union, so, together, we can lessen the risks of war, now and forever.
It’s fitting to remember here the great losses also suffered by the Russian people during World War II. Twenty million perished, a terrible price that testifies to all the world the necessity of ending war. I tell you from my heart that we in the United States do not want war. We want to wipe from the face of the earth the terrible weapons that man now has in his hands. And I tell you, we are ready to seize that beachhead. We look for some sign from the Soviet Union that they are willing to move forward, that they share our desire and love for peace, and that they will give up the ways of conquest. There must be a changing there that will allow us to turn our hope into action.
We will pray forever that someday that changing will come. But, for now, particularly today, it is good and fitting to renew our commitment to each other, to our freedom, and to the alliance that protects it.
We’re bound today by what bound us 40 years ago, the same loyalties, traditions, and beliefs. We’re bound by reality. The strength of America’s allies is vital to the United States, and the American security guarantee is essential to the continued freedom of Europe’s democracies. We were with you then; we’re with you now. Your hopes are our hopes, and your destiny is our destiny.
Here, in this place where the West held together, let us make a vow to our dead. Let us show them by our actions that we understand what they died for. Let our actions say to them the words for which Matthew Ridgway listened: “I will not fail thee nor forsake thee.”
Strengthened by their courage and heartened by their value [valor] and borne by their memory, let us continue to stand for the ideals for which they lived and died.
Thank you very much, and God bless you all.
Thanks again, Mr. President, for another respectful and heartfelt speech, honoring those who sacrificed so much for the cause of liberty now 70 years ago.