Category Archives: Religion

Not a masterpiece, but a mess from Justice Kennedy

The U.S. Supreme Court today announced its long-anticipated opinion in Masterpiece Cakeshop, Ltd. v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission (.pdf), in a 7-2 plurality decision by Justice Anthony Kennedy. Justice Kagan filed a concurring opinion, in which Justice Breyer joined. Justice Gorsuch filed a concurring opinion, in which Justice Alito joined. Justice Thomas filed an opinion concurring in part and concurring in the judgment, in which Justice Gorsuch joined. Justice Ginsburg filed a dissenting opinion, in which Justice Sotomayor joined.

Justice Kennedy’s opinion, as he is wont to do in these type of cases, tried to satisfy both sides producing a narrow decision that, in practice, will only invite further litigation on the specifics of each case in the future. That is a dissatisfactory result for all.

Amy Howe of SCOTUSblog has the Opinion analysis: Court rules (narrowly) for baker in same-sex-wedding-cake case:

The Supreme Court ruled today in favor of Jack Phillips, a Colorado baker who refused to make a custom cake for a same-sex couple because he believed that doing so would violate his religious beliefs. This was one of the most anticipated decisions of the term, and it was relatively narrow: Although Phillips prevailed today, the opinion by Justice Anthony Kennedy rested largely on the majority’s conclusion that the Colorado administrative agency that ruled against Phillips treated him unfairly by being too hostile to his sincere religious beliefs. The opinion seemed to leave open the possibility that, in a future case, a service provider’s sincere religious beliefs might have to yield to the state’s interest in protecting the rights of same-sex couples, and the majority did not rule at all on one of the central arguments in the case – whether compelling Phillips to bake a cake for a same-sex couple would violate his right to freedom of speech.

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AZ’s Worst Legislator: Mark Finchem is Bad for Schools, Women, and Veterans

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Arizona Rep. Mark Finchem (R-Oro Valley) wants to sell the Grand Canyon to pay the state’s debt. That’s not the only bad idea he’s come up with since representing Oro Valley and Marana in Legislative District 11 since 2015. He injects … Continue reading

The Religious Right’s ‘blitz’ on American democracy

Last week Ireland, long a Roman Catholic country, held a vote to repeal a constitutional provision criminalizing abortion.  Ex-pat Irish citizens from around the world flew home to cast their votes. It wasn’t even close. Ireland votes overwhelmingly to overturn abortion ban:

The Irish have swept aside one of the most restrictive abortion bans in the developed world in a landslide vote that reflects Ireland’s emergence as a socially liberal country no longer obedient to Catholic dictates.

With all ballots counted and turnout at a near-historic high, election officials reported Saturday that 66.4 percent voted to overturn Ireland’s abortion prohibition and 33.6 percent opposed the measure.

The outcome of the referendum Friday was a decisive win for the campaign to repeal the Eighth Amendment to the Irish Constitution. The 1983 amendment enshrined an “equal right to life” for mothers and “the unborn” and outlawed almost all abortions — even in cases of rape, incest, fatal fetal abnormality or non-life-threatening risk to maternal health.

“What we have seen today is a culmination of a quiet revolution that has been taking place in Ireland for the past 10 or 20 years,” Prime Minister Leo Varadkar said.

The United States, however, is now moving in the exact opposite direction. Religious Right extremists have taken Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale not as a dystopian vision of a totalitarian Christian theonomy that has overthrown the United States government, but as a handbook on how to actually make it a reality.

In March, GOP-run Mississippi enacted the strictest abortion law in the nation, for the intended purpose of a legal challenge that may get in front of the U.S. Supreme Court to directly challenge Roe v. Wade (which permits abortions in the first 24 weeks). Mississippi gov signs nation’s toughest abortion restrictions:

Mississippi’s governor signed a law Monday banning most abortions after 15 weeks’ gestation, the tightest restrictions in the nation.

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The bill was drafted with the assistance of conservative groups including the Mississippi Center for Public Policy and the Alliance Defending Freedom [based in Scottsdale, Arizona].

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Evolution, Climate Change, and The Big Bang Theory to be Eliminated From Arizona K-12

Superintendent Diane Douglas

Superintendent Diane Douglas

Later this year, the Arizona State Board of Education will consider adopting new K-12 standards in both Science and History/Social Studies.

The consideration of standards for these core subjects has nearly always met increased scrutiny and controversial consideration from segments of the population with different perspectives because these disciplines touch on topics that can potentially challenge a person’s or group’s belief system.

This year is no exception as the new proposed Arizona K-12 Science Standards have invited negative reactions from members of the mainstream education and science community because of the terms and concepts it has attempted to strike away and the closed-door process Superintendent Diane Douglas’s unknown internal reviewers adopted after being presented with the original draft version of the standards.

Forbidden terms, reworded behind closed doors.

Evolution is the most prominent term altered in the proposed new Arizona K-12 Science Standards. Stricken mostly wherever it is mentioned and redefined as the Theory of Evolution, the word is not even included among the many key terms the reviewers added. Several standards and terms pertaining to the process do remain in a more openly worded form. (Changes in green writing can be found on pages 4, 20, 27, 30, 32, 42, 44, 46, 64, 69, and 72 of the Proposed Science Standards)

The term Climate Change is nowhere to be found. There is a sentence that includes the phrase change of climate and there are standards that allude to it and some concepts/terms. However, discussion of alternative energy options, depending on the grade level is nonexistent, stricken, or reworded. (Changes in green writing can be found on pages 21, 25, 40, and 60 of the Proposed Science Standards)

The Big Bang Theory: Stricken entirely and the more ambiguous consideration of all theories of the universe has been substituted in a probable attempt to appeal to the proponents of Intelligent Design. (Page 62 of the Proposed Science Standards)

One saving grace in these standards is at least we have progressed since the time of the Scopes Trial that the geological ages of the planet and continental drift are included and do not seem to be in question.

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‘Economically forgotten’ have much in common with America’s poor

Axios.com has an Exclusive: 40% in U.S. can’t afford middle-class basics:

Screen Shot 2018-05-16 at 6.19.16 AM

Data: United Way; Chart: Chris Canipe/Axios

At a time of rock-bottom joblessness, high corporate profits and a booming stock market, more than 40% of U.S. households cannot pay the basics of a middle-class lifestyle — rent, transportation, child care and a cellphone, according to a new study.

Quick take: The study, conducted by United Way, found a wide band of working U.S. households that live above the official poverty line, but below the cost of paying ordinary expenses. Based on 2016 data, there were 34.7 million households in that group — double the 16.1 million that are in actual poverty, project director Stephanie Hoopes tells Axios.

Why it matters: For two years, U.S. politics has been dominated by the anger and resentment of a self-identified “forgotten” class, some left behind economically and others threatened by changes to their way of life.

  • The United Way study, to be released publicly Thursday, suggests that the economically forgotten are a far bigger group than many studies assume — and, according to Hoopes, appear to be growing larger despite the improving economy.
  • The study dubs that middle group between poverty and the middle class “ALICE” families, for Asset-limited, Income-constrained, Employed. (The map above, by Axios’ Chris Canipe, depicts that state-by-state population in dark brown.)
  • These are households with adults who are working but earning too little — 66% of Americans earn less than $20 an hour, or about $40,000 a year if they are working full time.

When you add them together with the people living in poverty, you get 51 million households. “It’s a magnitude of financial hardship that we haven’t been able to capture until now,” Hoopes said.

By the numbers: Using 2016 data collected from the states, the study found that North Dakota has the smallest population between poverty and middle class, at 32% of its households. The largest is 49%, in California, Hawaii and New Mexico. “49% is shocking. 32% is also shocking,” Hoopes said.

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A Tale of Two Realities

The relationship between Israel and Palestine is truly a tale of two realities where, over the decades,  people on both sides had their lives prematurely taken from their loved ones. Strong leadership committed to peace and prosperity on both sides for both sides is needed to resolve this dispute as well as the United States leadership returning to the role of Honest Broker instead of its recent overt pro-Israel posture.

On one side you have the Israelis who represent the only vibrant democracy in the region. In this country, everyone, including the Arabs, has equal rights and representation in the Israelis Parliament, the Knesset.

However, the Israelis have a problem trusting their neighbors for good reason. Before it achieved nationhood, its mandate to establish a homeland in Palestine was reduced by roughly two thirds when the British, in the first land for peace deal, called the Palestinian Territories east of the Jordan River Trans Jordan (later just Jordan) and gave it to the Arabs. Not satisfied with two-thirds of the land, the Arabs in the Jewish third of Palestine wanted that too. Giving into Arab protests, the British decided to divide that parcel up in a similar way that they haphazardly partitioned India and Pakistan (whose eastern boundaries would become Bangladesh). This arrangement was doomed to cause future conflict as the future states of Israel and Palestine were born. In the war for independence, Israel, despite the odds, survived increasing its territorial holdings on lands Palestinians abandoned at the leading Arab elites request (thinking they would return after Israel was defeated) or when the Israelis ejected them.  Whatever was left was scooped up by Jordan and Egypt in the occupation nobody seems to remember in the history books. In the later Six Day War in 1967, Israel acquired the remainder of Jerusalem, the West Bank, the Golan Heights, Gaza, and the Sinai Peninsula. Israel offered to return all the captured lands in exchange for peace and the Arab countries rejected the overture. Only later when Egypt made peace with Israel in 1979 was the Sinai returned. Gaza was also offered back to Egypt but the Egyptians did not want the headache. Jordan probably felt the same way when it did not insist on the return of the West Bank when it made its peace treaty with Israel in 1994.

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