April 30, 2010

A senior judge has launched a dramatic assault on religious faith, dismissing it as “subjective” with no basis in fact.

Gary McFarlane: judge's assault on 'irrational' religious freedom claims in sex therapist case

A senior judge has launched a dramatic assault on religious faith, dismissing it as “subjective” with no basis in fact.

Gary McFarlane: Judge dismisses religious freedom claims as 'irrational' in sex therapist case
Gary McFarlane, the Christian counsellor who refused sex therapy to homosexuals Photo: PA
Lord Justice Laws condemned any attempt to protect believers who take a stand on matters of conscience under the law as “irrational” and “capricious”.
In comments likely to set the church on a collision course with the courts, he claimed that doing so could set Britain on the road to a “theocracy”, or religious rule.
His comments came as he dismissed a legal challenge by a Christian relationship counsellor who was sacked after refusing to offer sex therapy sessions to homosexual couples because it was against his beliefs.
Gary McFarlane, 48, challenged his dismissal at the Court of Appeal, arguing that forcing him to go against what he sees as the Bible’s teaching represented religious discrimination.
He was supported in his case by a highly unusual direct intervention Lord Carey, the former Archbishop of Canterbury, who wrote to the judge warning of a tide of discrimination against Christians that threatened “civil unrest”.
Lord Carey called for the Lord Chief Justice to set up a separate panel of five judges with “proven sensitivity” to religious feelings to hear the appeal and other similar cases in the future.
It follows a string of case, including that of a registrar who refused to carry out civil partnership ceremonies, which pointed to a growing “religious bar” to Christians in many professions, he said.
But Lord Justice Laws said Lord Carey’s views were “misplaced” was “mistaken”.
Last night there were warnings that the judgment could enshrine the “persecution” of Christians in modern Britain and sideline religion in public life.
Lord Justice Laws ruled that while everyone had the right to hold religious beliefs, those beliefs themselves had no standing under the law.
“In the eye of everyone save the believer, religious faith is necessarily subjective, being incommunicable by any kind of proof or evidence,” he told the court.
While acknowledging the profound influence of Judeo-Christian traditions over many centuries, he insisted that no religious belief itself could be protected under the law “however long its tradition, however rich its culture”.
“The promulgation of law for the protection of a position held purely on religious grounds cannot therefore be justified,” he said.
“It is irrational, as preferring the subjective over the objective. But it is also divisive, capricious and arbitrary.”
He added: “If they did … our constitution would be on the road to a theocracy, which is of necessity autocratic.”
Mr McFarlane said that his treatment was “without a doubt” an example of Christians being persecuted in modern Britain.
“This is a sad day for our society which I believe is on a slippery slope in terms of balancing competing interests,” he said.
“I represent the Christian faith but I suggest that all other faiths will be concerned about this judgment.”
Last night Lord Carey described the ruling as “deeply worrying”, continuing a move by the courts to “downgrade” the right of religious people to express their faith.
“The judgement heralds a ‘secular’ state rather than a ‘neutral’ one,” he said.
“And while with one hand the ruling seeks to protect the right of religious believers to hold and express their faith, with the other it takes away those same rights.”
Writing in The Daily Telegraph, Bishop Michael Nazir-Ali, the former Bishop of Rochester, said that the ruling had “driven a coach and horses” through the ancient ties between Christianity and British law.
Andrea Williams, director of the Christian Legal Centre, which supported Mr McFarlane, described the depiction of traditional religious views on marriage as subjective as an “alarming” development.
“In effect it seeks to rule out Christian principles of morality from the public square,” she said.
“It seems that a religious bar to office has been created, whereby a Christian who wishes to act on their Christian beliefs on marriage will no longer be able to work in a great number of environments.”
But Terry Sanderson, president of the National Secular Society, hailed the judgment as a defeat for “fundamentalism”.
“The law must be clear that anti-discrimination laws exist to protect people, not beliefs,” he said.
“The right to follow a religious belief is a qualified right and it must not be used to legitimise discrimination against gay people who are legally entitled to protection against bigotry and persecution.”
But Darren Sherborne, a partner at the law form Rickerbys, said that Lord Justice Laws’s judgment “wrong” open to challenge at the Supreme Court because it placed sexual practices over religious beliefs.
“For him to say a subjective idea isn’t capable of protection completely undermines the 2006 Equality Act which was intended to protect people from discrimination on the grounds of their beliefs,” he said.
“The law has developed to the point where even a belief in the environment is held to be protected.
“There is scope for a challenge to the Supreme Court and I would expect it to be.
“If he doesn’t (challenge it), in my opinion this is one more straw in the camel’s back which is heading for the encouragement … of more extreme religious beliefs.
“The law isn’t encouraging moderate belief at the moment.”
Stephen Cave, executive director of the Evangelical Alliance said: “There has to be a better way of dealing with cases such as this outside the courts, which allows space for people of faith and no faith to live and work tog

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8th District Republican Candidates Brag about Gay Bashing

8th District Republican Candidates Brag about Gay Bashing

I’d like to assume this and this are mostly bravado, but who knows? Even if it is bravado, it’s disgusting–grown men, who want to make the laws that govern us bragging about committing violent crimes?
Tennessee, I ask you, even if you are uncomfortable about gay people, why would you elect anyone who wants to make the laws you have to live by who admits, openly, and with glee, that he’s broken criminal law and hurt other people? It’s like some disturbing game show, where you pick with violent bragging psychopath you want to think he’s better than you.
And let’s just be honest here–when it comes to publicly bragging about “taking care” of someone, there are only two reasons you would do that. Either you’re an evil jerk whose minister should introduce you to this guy, Jesus (I know, Jesus sucks compared to the parts of the Bible where you get to run around kicking the asses of people who are weak and vulnerable, but what can you do? When you called yourself Christian, I expected you to be trying to act like Christ. Bragging about beating up people who are different than you is hardly even trying to act like Christ.) or you are trying too hard to assure people that you’re not gay.  People who are sure in their sexuality don’t act like this, you know?
I don’t know. I was going to go off about how men who behave this way are pretty much signally that they have issues and are extremely vulnerable to embarrassing, but hilarious, sex scandals (since they so obviously have some weird sexual hangups), but I’m sidetracked by the idea of how much it must suck to be a guy like this.
I know a lot of men, liberal, conservative, gun-nut, etc., and, while many of them might have been assholes as teenagers about people’s sexualities, once they got their own stuff under control–figured out what they wanted, who they wanted, their likes and dislikes, they became completely disinterested in whether some dudes, somewhere, off in the distance, were gay. By the time you get to be our age, if you’re still worried about who’s gay, it’s not about the gay folks.
I mean, not like it ever was, but really, if you are of legal drinking age and you find yourself obsessed with gay people and what they’re doing as a group, like if you think they’re undermining the military or looking to rape you at any second or leading politicians astray or what have you, it’s time for you to seek therapy. You are stuck in some conspiracy-theory level rut.
But when I read about guys like this, bragging about this stuff in public, I think this must be a very different way to approach sexuality from the guys I’m friends with. This is not an understanding of yourself based on what you like and who you love. It’s an understanding of yourself based basically on “hurt them, before they can hurt you. The person least hurt wins.”
And it’s not that I don’t think that’s one current of American sexual identity. There are a lot of people, of all genders, who move through the world interacting with sexual “partners” (and I use that term loosely with this dynamic) as if it is a struggle to see who can hurt whom first.
But its a sad way to move through the world. It cuts you off from real connection with the people you could love.
So, this whole thing nags at me. I find it really scary that these guys are sitting around bragging about assaulting innocent people, just because they know their audience will eat it up (and shame on you, audience, for eating it up, instead of seeing it for the evil it is). But I also find it really sad and gross, like these are people whose intimate lives must kind of be a nightmare for them and for others.
I mean, because, if not, if they are just imitating this level of fucked-up-ness? Because they think it will get them votes?
All the alternatives are sad and scary.
Edited to add: Holy god. As if it’s not bad enough that they sat around joking about gay bashing, afterward Ron Kirkland tried to claim it was a “joke” and that he has gay friends (and supposedly had them in the military) and that his condoning of violence against gay people SHOULD NOT BE TAKEN AS CONDONING VIOLENCE AGAINST GAY PEOPLE. I don’t even know what to say in the face of that. I mean, if this is even remotely true, if this goes beyond anything I’ve talked about in this post, and is now straight into evil territory.
I mean, imagine that you have an attribute, like maybe you’re a long-haired hippie or you wear those really tight jeans the kids rave about these days, or you’re gay, whatever, you have some characteristic that other people don’t like, and you heard the Republican candidates going on about how they hate those long-hairs or those kids with their tight jeans. If you think they don’t know anybody like that, you can make a case for them just being an asshole.
But when they tell you, “I have friends who have long hair” or “I have friends who wear their jeans way too tight” and then the joke about beating them up? It’s… I don’t know. I want to say “vile” but that seems like an insult to vile things. Kirkland thinks it’s funny to imagine someone kicking the shit out of his friends.
Or he somehow thinks it’s better if we believe he thinks the idea of someone kicking the shit out of his friends is funny rather than we think he’s condoning kicking the shit out of his friends.
And let me be very clear about something. The 8th District has seen the Westboro Baptist folks show up to protest a soldier’s funeral–Sgt. Dustin Laird. That kid wasn’t gay, but those evil fuckers didn’t care. The fact that he’d give his life for a country where gay people aren’t supposed to get the shit kicked out of them pissed them off.
It is not hyperbole to point out that last night, at the 8th District Republican debate, Ray Kirkland and Randy Smith aligned themselves with the Westboro Baptist folks–they are also upset that they live in a country where gay people aren’t supposed to get the shit kicked out of them. In a district where people know so clearly what people who hate gay people will do when motivated, because they’ve seen them at a soldier’s funeral, we’re supposed to believe that a little gay-hating for funsies is okay, that it’s just something soldiers do?
That we should all just be able to take a joke about a little gay-bashing?
Tell that to the people who had to protect Laird’s family from the gay bashers.
Edited to add, again: I don’t want you to think that I don’t think you can follow a link, but over at Speak to Power, they have a post that illustrates exactly what “taken care of” meant in the military when these two guys were in the military. This is what they were joking about.

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HOw We Became White people

Census: Who Am I  
    How we became white people                                                                                                                         

April 30, 2010 10:44 a.m. EDT I am white. I know that's a terribly big surprise, considering that I write a blog called Stuff White People Like, but I mean it, I'm white.
Like really white.I'm not attempting to assert some sort of superiority through my whiteness; quite the opposite actually. Thanks to my liberal upbringing, I am imbued with the appropriate amount of guilt and shame about my ancestors and their actions in the New World.Even in my home, I can't offer a blanket to a nonwhite friend without the fear that they will look at me and say "no smallpox on this right?" A joke, but I still want to apologize.I'm a white male. I belong to a group that pretty much always been able to own land and to vote. I'm more or less from the kind that grabbed power somewhere after the fall of Rome and never let go. In other words, I'm the kind of white guy that has never experienced any real oppression.Although I guess my ancestors technically left England because of some religious persecution and in spite of a rough boat ride and a rough first Thanksgiving, it's safe to say it worked out pretty well. Unless you got one of those aforementioned blankets.But in addition to being white and having ancestors on the Mayflower, I'm also Canadian. Yes, I know that might actually make me more white than before, but it also technically makes me animmigrant to this country.Still, I am loath to call myself an immigrant because I don't want to demean the very real, very difficult challenges faced by immigrants to this country who have had to overcome differences in language, culture and distance from their families. I would say my biggest hardship has been trying to find Ketchup Chips.But in the eyes of the U.S. government, I am an immigrant, the same as someone from China, Mexico or India. I would not be in this country had I not met my wife in graduate school, and I am thankful every day for her and the opportunity to live in the United States.So when the census came around, I was absolutely thrilled. I've lived in the United States for eight years (four of them as a graduate student), and in that time, I have never been able to vote or access any public services. The census meant I was going to be counted, I was going to be a part of American history. A good part, not that blanket part.When the form arrived, I scanned the options and quickly checked "white." I would have checked "Canadian" but that option wasn't anywhere to be found. There it was, I was a white American, or technically a white American Permanent Resident. But then I started thinking about what it really means to be a white American.As long as America has been around, I would have been considered white. I would have checked the same box in the 1790 census, had my relatives decided to stay on their land instead of moving to Canada to stay loyal to the King of England. But not everyone who checked that box on the census has always been considered white. Irish, Italian, Jewish, German and Eastern European have all been considered not white. or at the very least "not American."All of these groups came to America amid widespread discrimination, and yet through the process of assimilation and Americanization, the status of white was slowly conferred upon them (read "The History of White People" or "How the Irish Became White" for actual, intelligent research on how this happened).And with this new-found white status also came the status of "ethnically American." Of course, a lot of people will say that there is no such thing as an ethnic American and that everyone who becomes a citizen is an American. And this is true to the letter of the law, but if we consider the popular perception of immigration and the American dream, to say that white skin has nothing to do with it would be complete folly.In the popular myth, immigrants arrive as huddled masses yearning to be free and most of the women wear scarves around their head. They move to the Lower East Side or some other suitably "ethnic" community, they change a last name, they learn English and within one generation they are welcomed into the country as ethnic Americans and granted that wonderful privilege of checking the white box on the census.The reality is that America has a long history of welcoming immigrants who will never be able to check that white box on the census, and unfortunately that means America also has a long history of discrimination against those people regardless of their status in the country. Just one example would be the treatment of Japanese-Americans during World War II contrasted against the treatment of German-Americans.But all of that was in the past right? Well, ask yourself this: Who is more likely to get pulled over and forced to show his papers in Arizona today? A first generation Canadian immigrant, or a 10th generation Mexican-American?
What I hope this census will force the country to deal with is the fact that white immigrants like me will never again make up the majority of people that come to this country. America is not getting whiter, it will never get whiter. Well, unless we start handing those blankets out again.
The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Christian Lander.

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CLOSE UP AND PERSONAL: Pictures of a man made punch to the belly of the Planet

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Scary Food Breakfasts

 11 Scary Fast Food Breakfasts

posted by Melissa Breyer Apr 29, 2010 5:01 pm
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How would you like to meet your daily sodium and saturated fat allowance, as well as nearly half of your daily calorie needs, in one quick breakfast eaten on the road? It’s becoming progressively easy these day as food technicians, chefs and market researchers, holed away in corporate fast food “studios,” are busy developing monstrous new breakfast items. Trying to get as much of the $57 billion market for fast-food breakfast as they can, the fast food giants are drumming up increasingly cheesy, steak-y, fried chicken-y breakfast dishes that tap into flavor combinations that have proven successful for lunch and dinner items. It’s no longer eggs and English muffins for fast food breakfast–breakfast burger anyone?
What’s most striking about some of these high-calorie items–aside from the unsustainable, industrial and often synthetic ingredients–is the very high sodium and saturated fat content. According to the USDA, the current recommendation for sodium consumption is less than 2,300 milligrams (mg) a day. For saturated fat, the maximum allowance is between 18 grams to 31 grams, depending on your caloric intake needs. (You can calculate your caloric need with this calculator from the Mayo Clinic.) Many of these breakfast items meet or exceed the daily sodium and fat allowances, and provide much more than one-third of your daily caloric needs.
1. Carl’s Jr Breakfast BurgerYes, I’m afraid you read that right, “breakfast” and “burger” in the same menu item. How do you turn a regular burger into a breakfast burger? By adding not only an egg–but an egg, bacon, American cheese and hash brown nuggets too!
Calories: 780
Fat Calories: 370
Total Fat: 51 grams
Sat Fat: 15 grams
Sodium: 1460
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More on Diet & Nutrition (428 articles available)

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