Does the new birth control mandate "compromise" really do anything to protect religious freedom?
(Posted by Bryana Johnson on Feb 5, 2013)
The Obama administration sparked a massive controversy last year when it was announced that a new federal mandate would require all health insurers and employers to include coverage in their health plans for every form of contraception approved by the FDA. The mandate also required coverage for sterilizations.
Faith groups who teach against the use of contraceptives became immediately fearful that such a mandate would force violations of conscience. Some Catholics view every form of contraceptive use as sinful. A far broader base of Christian people accepts the use of most contraceptives but opposes the use of abortifacient “emergency contraception,” like the “morning-after pill.”
Unfortunately, the Obama administration did little to allay their fears. While the mandate included a religious exemption, it only applied to church organizations themselves. It did not apply to church-affiliated non-profit institutions, such as hospitals, or to employers. An amendment was proposed that would have made provisions for employers to “refuse to include contraception in health care coverage if it violated their religious or moral beliefs.” The Blunt Amendment was voted down 51-48 by the U.S. Senate last March.
Between then and now, nothing much has changed. After an unsuccessful appeal to the Unites States Supreme Court, the Christian owners of the craft store chain Hobby Lobby announced at the beginning of this year that they would refuse to add the contraceptive coverage to their employee insurance plan. According to NPR, their attorney stated that they consider the emergency contraceptives “tantamount to abortion.” The company faced up to $1.3 million a day in fines for defying the mandate. Two weeks later, however, it was learned they had discovered a way to delay the fines. Peter M. Dobelbower, the company's general counsel, stated, “Hobby Lobby discovered a way to shift the plan year for its employee health insurance, thus postponing the effective date of the mandate for several months.” But their time is running out.
Late last week, the Obama administration released a new version of the infamous birth-control mandate. Religious and pro-life groups were hoping the new regulations would spell out broader conscience rights for employers – like the Hobby Lobby owners – and institutions whose faith prohibits them from funding sterilization and various forms of contraception. Sadly, after examining the altered version of the mandate, pro-life legal groups have bad news. The new proposal barely changes existing policy and still allows for no business or individual opt-out, they say.
Dr. Charmaine Yoest, CEO and President of Americans United for Life, stated Friday, “With another phony compromise, the Obama Administration continues to insult the intelligence of the American people and trample our Constitutionally-guaranteed rights.”
LifeNews reports of the new proposal that it will not have any impact on businesses run by people of faith, such as Bible publisher Tyndale House or Hobby Lobby. They also explain that it “provides no options for individuals seeking plans that accommodate their values on the exchanges.”
So, what does the new proposal do? Well, the only major difference for people of faith seems to be that the religious exemption has been modified so that it no longer specifies that churches must have “inculcation of religious values” as their purpose and primarily employ and serve people of their same faith in order to qualify for the exemption.
This doesn’t sound like much of a concession, once you get down to it. The change only broadens the definition of a church for the purposes of the exemption, and does nothing to protect the conscience rights of for-profit employers and individuals.
The absurdity of this state of affairs is truly remarkable. To state it plainly, the Obama administration has conceded the right of churches to opt-out of participating in the funding of procedures their faith prohibits, but won’t provide the means for members of these same churches to avoid violating the dictates of their faith in their workplaces. What is the point of protecting the rights of a church as an institution and then trampling the rights of the individuals that comprise that same institution?
Will legalization of same-sex marriage result in religious persecution?
(Posted by Bryana Johnson on January 28, 2013)
Earlier this month, 1,067 UK priests, bishops and abbots prompted a significant stir by collectively signing what is being called one of the largest open letters ever produced in British political history. The letter was issued as a warning against the legalization of same-sex marriage. Such a development may spark religious persecution against Catholics, who oppose same-sex marriage based on the tenets of their faith, cautioned the multitude of priests.
The letter comes as British Prime Minister David Cameron has announced his intentions to push through a bill legalizing same-sex marriage in the UK by the end of the month.
“The natural complementarity between a man and a woman leads to marriage, seen as a lifelong partnership,” the clergymen declared in their statement. “This loving union – because of their physical complementarity – is open to bringing forth and nurturing children. This is what marriage is. That is why marriage is only possible between a man and a woman.”
“Legislation for same-sex marriage, should it be enacted, will have many legal consequences, severely restricting the ability of Catholics to teach the truth about marriage in their schools, charitable institutions or places of worship,” they went on to warn. Those who signed the letter make up about one-fourth of all the Catholic clergy in Britain.
Regardless of where we stand on the issue of same-sex marriage, it’s important for us to determine whether or not this statement is backed by evidence and by the collective experience of states and nations that have already enshrined homosexual marriage in law. Surely the rights and religious liberties of the proponents of traditional marriage must be protected even as same-sex partnerships become more widespread and more widely accepted.
Is truth on the side of the UK clergy and should Christian people be taking a warning from their words? Is legalization of same-sex marriage a doorway into an era of universal goodwill and harmony? Or is it merely a sign that a new form of bigotry is at hand – a bigotry of hatred and violence unleashed against the traditional family and its supporters?
The obvious question is, have opponents of same-sex marriage suffered persecution and loss of religious liberty in other countries that have embraced this radical redefinition of marriage? The answer is in no way elusive. Let’s take a look at a little very recent history.
“Tolerance” in Brazil
Last week, members of the Catholic Plinio Correa de Olivera Institute gathered in the Brazilian city of Curitiba to protest abortion and the homosexual ideology and stand in support of the traditional family. Homosexuality has been legal in Brazil since 1830 and enjoys widespread acceptance in that country.
However, the Catholic demonstrators, who marched peacefully and carried signs, were not greeted with tolerance and acceptance. In fact, an angry mob soon gathered around them and began yelling threats and making obscene gestures. The Catholics were spat upon and one of them had an object thrown at his head which drew blood. As he held up his bloodied hand to show the camera, the crowd cheered. These incidents were caught on camera by the Institute and by an onlooker sympathetic to the unruly mob.
In 2007, the Brazilian Association of Gays, Lesbians, Bisexuals, and Transgender People (ABGLT) filed several lawsuits against opponents of the homosexual movement in Brazil. One of these suits targeted the websites that had just exposed homosexual activist Luiz Mott for his promotion of pedophilia and pederasty.
Another motion was filed against psychologist and therapist Rozangela Alves Justino, who provided counseling and therapy for homosexuals who wished to change their sexual orientation. Because Brazil’s Federal Council of Psychologists prohibited psychologists from performing reparative therapy for homosexuality, the ABGLT asked that Alves Justino’s license be revoked.
Several years ago, Christian pro-life writer Julio Severo fled Brazil after charges were reportedly filed against him for his “homophobic” coverage of Brazil’s 2006 Gay Pride parade. Severo left the country abruptly with his pregnant wife and two small children. At the time, there was still no official law in Brazil criminalizing “homophobic” behavior.
In February of 2009, LifeSiteNews reported that, “the Brazilian government has determined that 99% of its citizens are ‘homophobic,’ and therefore must be reeducated.” According to Brazilian newspaper O Globo, the federal government of Brazil intended to use the data from the study to “plan new policies.” Those new policies were implemented in May 2012, when the senate in Brazil passed a law criminalizing ‘homophobia.’
In the summer of 2012, Julio Severo interviewed Brazilian Christian psychologist Marisa Lobo, who said that the Brazilian Federal Council of Psychology pressured and terrorized homosexuals who were looking for help in overcoming their unwanted same-sex attractions. Marisa was also attacked by the Council when she questioned the “gay kit” that the Brazilian government attempted to distribute to students in public schools for the purpose of fighting “homophobia.” Due to explicit content in the kit and its favorable portrayal of homosexual behavior, the program was eventually suspended by Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff.
“When they learned that [I was] a Christian, they began to persecute me,” Marisa explained, “as a psychologist who categorizes herself as a Christian, and later in the process as a homophobe, because I said on Twitter that I love gays, but I prefer for my child to be heterosexual. And I still don’t understand why having an opinion instigates violence.”
It seems that the range of tolerated activity in Brazil is fairly narrow, despite decades of campaigns by same-sex marriage advocates against “hate” and “bullying” and “harassment.” And it is becoming increasingly evident that Christian family virtues are not included in the group of “tolerable” ideas.
“Diversity” and “Freedom of Speech” in Canada
Canada Day in Ontario last year was marked by a disturbing incident when Rev. David Lynn and a small group of friends attended the Toronto Gay Pride Parade. Setting up a small stand on a street corner with a microphone and a video camera, Lynn preached, held conversations with passers-by, and handed out Bibles and tracts – that is, until Toronto police wearing LGBT rainbow stickers shut him down and forced him to vacate the area. Ignoring the profanity and violent behavior of angry parade attendees and demonstrators who verbally assaulted the group and even doused Lynn and his cameraman with water, police told Lynn he was ‘promoting hate’ and must leave. Videos of the incident are available here and here and here.
It seems only certain forms of free speech are protected in Canada nowadays. Criticism of homosexuality, even peaceful and motivated by loving concern, isn’t one of these.
When the Toronto District School Board revealed their new “anti-homophobia curriculum” in 2011 (Challenging Homophobia and Heterosexism: A K-12 Curriculum), many people were understandably disturbed. Naturally, things only got worse when the news came out that parents would not be able to opt their kids out of the program – not even their kindergarteners. Teachers would also not be permitted to decline to teach the course based on religious convictions.
It seems only certain brands of diverse thought are encouraged in Canada nowadays. Christian family virtues aren’t among them.
The curriculum taught students that “you can’t choose to be gay or straight, but you can choose to come out.” In 3rd grade, it is recommended that students read the book Gloria Goes to Gay Pride. Students are encouraged to have their own “Pride Parade” in their school.
Unfortunately, most real-life Pride Parades are scarcely suitable for elementary school children.
The disturbing and seemingly totalitarian approach embraced by the Toronto District is but a foretaste of what lies ahead, suggests an education minister in the United Kingdom. Elizabeth Truss, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State of the Department for Education, warned in November that school teachers could be punished for not teaching pro-gay topics, should the British government follow through with plans to redefine marriage.
More Instances of Love and Acceptance
The adoption agency Catholic Charities has been systemically shutting down its branches in various states throughout the US, following a series of bitter legal disputes over the agency’s right to refuse to place children with homosexual couples. Similar laws have also forced church-affiliated agencies in Britain, such as Catholic Care, to separate from their churches or shut down entirely.
In January 2012, a New Jersey judge ruled against a Christian retreat house that refused to allow a same-sex civil union ceremony to be conducted on its premises, ruling that the Constitution allows “some intrusion into religious freedom to balance other important societal goals.” Last September, a gay couple filed suit against two Illinois institutions that refused to host their civil union. Christian “Bed and Breakfast” establishments, which are often family-owned businesses, have been especially targeted by homosexual rights activists for this type of harassment.
In Ladele and McFarlane v. United Kingdom, plaintiffs Lillian Ladele and Gary McFarlane were fired from their places of work for declining to perform services involving same-sex partnerships and counseling. Ladele, a marriage registrar for Islington Council in London, “was disciplined after she asked to be exempt from registering same-sex civil partnerships.” McFarlane was a counselor who was fired after he “declined to unequivocally commit to provide same-sex couples with psycho-sexual therapy.” They appealed to the European Court of Human Rights, but the court refused to hear their case.
"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,” commented Andrea Williams, the Director of the Christian Legal Centre.
Certainly this is a tragic remark and one that signals a gloomy answer to the question of whether or not the legalization of same-sex marriage will result in a loss of religious liberty. It is, of course, unfair of homosexual activists to expect people of faith to cast away their creeds and their dear, cherished ideals. But these activists make themselves odious indeed to civilized people when they force dissenters to violate their codes of morality and their very consciences by endorsing and promoting a lifestyle they consider abhorrent.
If the aim of legalizing same-sex marriage is, as we are so often told, to eradicate intolerance and bigotry, surely its activists should be alarmed to find that their efforts have been entirely unsuccessful. However, as shocking as it may seem, the advocates of same-sex marriage are proving repeatedly that they only endorse the toleration of one view and only believe in the protection of one speech – their own.
Are politicians buying your vote with money and elaborate voter analysis programs or winning it with a display of consistent standards and ethics?
(Posted by Bryana Joy on April o3, 2012)
“To defeat Barack Obama, Republicans can’t nominate a candidate who relies on outspending his opponents 7-1,” said Presidential Candidate Newt Gingrich earlier this week, referring to rival Mitt Romney who overwhelmingly won the Illinois primary on March 20th. Indeed, the Associated Press reported that Romney and his allies outspent Santorum and his backers by $3.5 million to $500,000, an advantage of 7-1.
Gingrich’s remark showcases an inevitable aspect of the election process: our votes are up for auction and the highest bidder gets them. Sadly, he doesn’t always have to offer payment in the form of results, credentials, policies, or history. And he doesn’t always have to offer it to us. More often than not, the lucky buyer who walks away with the prized purchase of our votes has not given us anything at all, but has shelled out his funds on advertising, analysis, traveling and staffing costs. I can’t help but feel that we’re getting the raw end of the deal.
Gingrich’s insightful comment does not, of course, signify that his campaign has decided to take a principled stand against exorbitant spending, but merely that his synapses are still firing quickly enough to turn out those characteristically witty comebacks which were responsible for his short-lived surge in the polls late last year. When reports came in last month that big-money Republican donor Sheldon Adelson was expected to give $10 million to Gingrich’s Super PAC, the media networks were all abuzz with predictions that the new funds would shake up the primary race and give the former House Speaker a dramatic rise in the polls. This story serves to illustrate the fact that the pecuniary nature of elections is well-known generally and not frowned upon by our society.
There is another metaphor that aptly describes the means by which political hopefuls manipulate their voting blocs: we are the potential buyers and they are the products that are up for sale. Their number one focus is on selling themselves to us, and, in order to do that, they invest heavily in elaborate analysis programs that they use to plumb the quagmire of public opinion. One very disturbing example of this is Romney’s New Hampshire modus operandi as catalogued in this hard-hitting piece by the LA Times.
“Romney's operatives paired the voter data with several hundred thousand paid and volunteer calls. They knew his sweet spot was among older, higher-income voters — those with annual household incomes of between $75,000 and $150,000 and with upscale interests like gourmet cooking. He was particularly appealing to older women and did best — as they knew from 2008 — among self-identified Republicans. They also knew that Romney, a father of five sons, held particular appeal for voters whose consumer preferences showed a focus on children and family-centered activities. That knowledge guided the $1.3 million that Romney spent on television ads in New Hampshire, which focused heavily on his four-decade marriage and family values, as well as his business background.
Most important, the Romney team was able to weed out voters unlikely to support him — allowing it to steer away from socially conservative voters whose affinity for church or Bible interests, for example, suggested they might be a tougher target for a Mormon candidate.”
In a video that went viral across the web on Wednesday, Eric Fehrnstrom, a top aide for the Romney campaign, explained that taking conservative positions during the primary that may upset the liberal media is no problem for Mitt Romney. “Everything changes,” Fehrnstrom told CNN. “It’s almost like an Etch-A-Sketch. You can kind of shake it up and restart all over again.”
During President Obama’s meeting Monday with outgoing Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, Obama let fall an appalling statement, unaware that his mic was still on.
“ On all these issues, but particularly missile defense, this, this can be solved, but it’s important for him to give me space,” Mr. Obama told Mr. Medvedev at the end of their 90-minute meeting, apparently referring to incoming Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Mr. Medvedev replied, “Yeah, I understand. I understand your message about space. Space for you…”
“This is my last election,” said Obama. “After my election, I have more flexibility.”
The Russian leader responded, “I understand. I transmit this information to Vladimir.”
Needless to say, when the biggest concern faced by a candidate is how he might best sell himself to the public, trifles like principles, ethics and standards are almost foreordained to fall by the wayside. Rather, the sum of the candidate’s energies will be devoted to probing the interests of his voting bloc and catering to them through advertisements and statements carefully crafted to hit them in their most vulnerable places. We shouldn’t be surprised if this preoccupation with public opinion causes those in the limelight of politics to stumble around a bit, on occasion. Or to be forced to cede major talking points when polls show that a large number of voters have changed their minds about something.
Should politicians put a cap on their campaign spending and stop using in-depth analysis programs like those utilized by the Romney campaign? Perhaps. But those are unrealistic goals, to say the least. What we must do as citizens is make ourselves aware of the fact that we are being played “like violins,” (to steal a phrase from Hamlet) and that, in elections, as in all other business transactions, the byword is caveat emptor: buyer beware! (First posted at The College Conservative)
Internet cafe customers who pay cash or who obtain "photos, maps, or diagrams of populated locations" now considered terror suspects by FBI
(Guest Post by Luke Montgomery -- February 7, 2012)
In a secret inter-agency contest to see which federal bureaucracy can deadpan the funniest press conference, Vegas bookies are indicating that the FBI has surged into the lead with its release of a new flyer designed to help internet cafe operators identify potential terrorists . Odds are now 7 to 1 that the FBI will win the contest as this list provides more material for late-night humor than the announcement by Department of Defense Secretary Leon Panetta last week that Israel has been planning for years to strike Iran in the next two months. This statement was only funny to citizens without Alzheimers, and some pundits wonder whether it was a violation of the contest’s anti-discrimination provisions and might disqualify the DoD from the competition altogether. Others said that budget cuts were already having an effect on military intelligence.
The list from the FBI, on the other hand, gives ‘tried-and-true’ tips to help internet cafe employees catch terrorists in the planning stages. These include customers who:
1) pay for their coffee with cash
2) try to shield the computer screen so that others can’t see personal or credit card information
3) search for the terms “police” or “government”
4) obtain photos, maps or diagrams of transportation, sporting venues, or populated locations
The list is much longer, but it is estimated that these four tips alone will identify another 72,561,000 potential terrorists in the US, not only justifying current budget levels but making a strong argument for more hiring. The additional jobs are already being touted as TARP III (Total Annihilation of Rational Principles).
Vegas bookies speaking on the condition of anonymity suggested that if the FBI can successfully deadpan the press conference related to the flyer, it will have a significant lead over other agencies. The contest ends in November, so there is still time for the TSA and the Department of Education, but only if they work together.Author, researcher and motivational speaker, Luke Montgomery lived for over a decade in the Middle East and now writes and works in an undisclosed location with other pilgrims traveling towards the Celestial City. Follow his writing online at www.lukemontgomery.net and on twitter at @LukeM_Author
New Hampshire HB 1264 would protect religious business owners from being forced to provide services for same-sex weddings; Governor Lynch promises to veto...(Posted by Bryana Joy on February 04, 2012)(First posted at The College Conservative) “Guard with jealous attention the public liberty.
Suspect everyone who approaches that jewel…”
A bill currently pending in the New Hampshire State legislature would allow business owners to turn away customers on the basis of “conscience or religious faith.” Introduced by Rep. Frank Sapareto, HB1264 aims to protect Christian wedding vendors from being forced to provide services for homosexual couples.
The fear that conscience rights may be violated in the Granite State is hardly far-fetched: many US small-business owners have already faced lawsuits for refusing to host or perform same-sex marriage ceremonies. In January, a New Jersey judge ruled against a Christian retreat house that refused to allow a same-sex civil union ceremony to be conducted on its premises, ruling that the Constitution allows “some intrusion into religious freedom to balance other important societal goals.” Last November, Christian cake-baker Victoria Childress of Des Moines was threatened with legal action by a lesbian couple that had hoped to commission her to design their wedding cake. In September a gay couple filed suit against two Illinois institutions that refused to host their civil union. Christian “Bed and Breakfast” establishments, which are often family-owned businesses, are especially targeted by homosexual rights activists for this type of harassment.
The new bill, which was scheduled to come up for a vote last month but has been pushed back to February, would prevent such suits from coming before New Hampshire courts by ensuring that individuals will be legally permitted to “choose not to provide accommodations, goods, or services for a marriage if doing so would violate his or her conscience or religious faith.” Needless to say, the bill has been roundly attacked by homosexual rights activists and mainstream media networks. New Hampshire Governor John Lynch has promised to veto it.
So, just what is it that’s so repugnant about the idea of allowing business owners to make their own decisions about who they want to work with? Probably this aversion to freedom in the marketplace is due in large part to a common misconception about the nature of the business world. There is a popular myth that permitting private vendors to express opposition to aspects of their society by refusing service to customers will somehow foster attitudes of intolerance and cultivate so-called “haters.”
Proponents of this view, however, have put forward a proposition based on laughably fallacious reasoning. Passing laws that force businesses to perform actions which are prohibited by their convictions doesn’t alter the mindsets of business owners and certainly doesn’t make for a content citizenry. On the contrary, it is counterproductive and wrong to attempt to change the thought patterns of a culture by forcing its people to engage in and endorse activities which they believe to be immoral. Additionally, such legislation promotes division and stifles individuality in a population. Unless businesses are engaging in activities that directly harm others, these heavy-handed methods to coerce them are totalitarian and must not be endured by a free and thoughtful people.
Let us illustrate this premise with a simple example: suppose a white business owner in a southern state in the 1920’s decides to refuse service to Ku Klux Klan members. The business owner finds the KKK’s racist beliefs and creed despicable and doesn’t want to associate with its members. Surely most modern people would agree that the business owner has every right to make this decision. After all, his business is his property and a transaction made with a customer is a form of contract that the owner must enter into. Can there be a truly free society that forces people to enter into contracts against their will?
What many homosexual rights activists do not seem to understand is that opposition to their lifestyle is, in many cases, at least as strong as any southern business owner’s opposition to the KKK might have been a century ago. While they try to paint their opposition as an insignificant minority, 2011 polls showed that 46% of Americans opposed same-sex marriage, while only 45% favored it. The Bible teaches that homosexual acts are not only a sin but an abomination. In a nation that identifies itself as predominantly Christian, is it any wonder that a significant portion of the population is horrified by the idea of being involved in a same-sex wedding? Is it really fair for government to take sides on an issue that has the nation split into a cultural divide? Does an individual’s right to be served by a private business overrule the property rights of the business owner?
When government doesn’t interfere in the workplace, the free market tends to right itself. If a business begins to annoy potential customers as a result of its discriminatory practices, the boycott system comes into play and the owner begins to lose money. If the convictions held by the business owner are strong enough, he or she will be willing to take the loss. If not, monetary distress will force the owner to alter his or her policies. If no consensus can be established between two opposing camps of ideas, the nation can at least agree to disagree. It’s called free trade, and it’s how civilized adults handle their differences. When government gets involved in such a conflict, it only short-circuits the efficiency and precision of a perfectly functional natural process. It also serves to warn a people that they are not free; that they are, in fact, considered unfit to rule themselves and to do business in the way that seems best to them. Rather, they must do their business in the way that seems best to their leaders.
You lovers of freedom in the great state of New Hampshire, might you take just a few minutes out of your day to give your senators and representatives a call. You are the only ones who can defend liberty in the Granite State. . .
Live free or die. Find your New Hampshire state representative
Find your New Hampshire state senator
Neil Postman, author: Amusing Ourselves to Death
What Orwell Missed: Not Just Gulag Bound, But Amusing Ourselves to Death
"It is not necessary to conceal anything from a public insensible to contradiction and narcotized by technological diversions"
(Posted by Bryana Joy on December 03, 2011)
(Cross-posted at The College Conservative
)The political activists which are the most astute when it comes to history today are conservatives. This is why we are the ones concerned about government overreach, the breakdown of the family and the moral bankruptcy of our nation. By studying the past, we’ve come to understand the inevitable consequences of these courses of action. We realize that excessive government involvement leads to tyranny, and that the disintegration of the family unit is sure to produce a disoriented and emotionally unhealthy citizenry. We know that the searing of a society’s collective conscience is a sure road to chaos, and that widespread idleness and disdain for wholesome labor opens the door to depravity and perversion. But the one thing that we history buffs find most alarming is the communist ideology – because it’s been arguably the most destructive ideology in recent history.
Communism, which is “scientific socialism,” and the only form of socialism that has been implemented in a significant way, is estimated to have caused the deaths of between 23 million and 149 million people. George Orwell and Ayn Rand, two firsthand witnesses of totalitarian communist regimes and vehement critics of the system, both became popular and influential writers whose works have had a profound influence on the conservative movement. Orwell is known for his satirical Animal Farm and Nineteen-Eighty-Four. Ayn Rand authored Atlas Shrugged and Anthem. Their works depict communist societies, where manipulation and coercion are masked as equality and justice. They create fictive settings in which government employs the despised tactics of book-burning and censorship and silences the press in order to effectively control the public. Today, conservatives hold up these writings as examples of the consequences of unfettered government, and suggest that we are “Gulag Bound.” Liberals make a big show of promoting banned books and support campaigns like “Delete Censorship”. Neil Postman says we’re all wrong.
In his landmark book, Amusing Ourselves to Death, published in 1985, Neil Postman turns on its head the notion that the absence of Newspeak and the renewed interest in opposition to censorship,which has reached historically unparalleled proportions, is a positive sign, or that we are to be congratulated for having avoided the doom laid out for us by Orwell. Orwell, he suggests, did not warn us of the real threat we are facing. Orwell could not have warned us, because Orwell could not have known. It probably didn’t even occur to Orwell that the world in 1984would not need to be scared into submission by heavy-handed policies, but would walk docilely into the slaughterhouses of the intellect with their iPhones in their hands and their headphones in their ears. Orwell didn’t tell us that it is not necessary to conceal anything from a public insensible to contradiction and narcotized by technological diversions.
Postman’s main premise in his book is that the medium used to communicate a message affects what that message will be. Television, he explains, is not just a different medium of communication than typography – it expresses a completely different message. Being image-based, television has, in taking over communication in the Western world, put the lid on the long Age of Exposition which was made possible by the printing press, and ushered in a new Age of Show Business. Television has fragmented the mental powers of our culture, divorced information from action, and served, in general, to distract our national consciousness through consistent entertainment away from relevant issues. In short, television has made government suppression of ideas unnecessary because people are no longer capable of deep and complex thought.
While censorship is a subject that people on both sides of the political spectrum love to get riled up about, Postman explains why it isn’t really an issue:
I would venture the opinion that the traditional civil libertarian opposition to the banning of books…is now largely irrelevant. Such acts of censorship are annoying, of course, and must be opposed. But they are trivial. Even worse, they are distracting, in that they divert civil libertarians from confronting those questions that have to do with the claims of new technologies…The fight against censorship is a nineteenth-century issue which was largely won in the twentieth. What we are confronted with now is the problem posed by the economic and symbolic structure of television. Those who run television do not limit our access to information but in fact widen it. Our Ministry of Culture is Huxleyan, not Orwellian. It does everything possible to encourage us to watch continuously. But what we watch is a medium which presents information in a form that renders it simplistic, nonsubstantive, nonhistorical and noncontextual.
We are a “public adjusted to incoherence and amused into indifference,” he ventures. And our danger is not that we are unable to read the controversial books that have acted upon our culture, but that we no longer care to do so.
So, are we “Gulag Bound?” Probably. Thinking people are watching the times and warning us of the fast-approaching totalitarian chasm splitting the road. But the immediate danger facing us is the fact that there are so few thinking people left, and that most of them are non-thinking by their own choice simply because Jay Leno and football are so much more fun. If we are heading for the gulag, we are heading for it in perfect freedom, with our eyes wide open.Purchase the book here:
Cake-Baker Victoria Childress
The flipside of the Paypal problem: lesbian couple may sue Christian baker who refused to make their wedding cake
(Posted by Bryana Joy on November 17th, 2011)
A few months ago, Paypal caved to pressure from the homosexual activist group, All Out, and shut down the accounts of several prominent bloggers who speak out against the homosexual lifestyle. I was offended and seriously upset by their decision, but I wrote a piece explaining why I believe that the internet giant was well within its rights to take this action, even though I didn’t think that the termination of the account was handled in an ethical or an honest manner. I wrote the piece because I believe that the right of businesses to refuse service to absolutely anyone is a fundamental of free trade.
There is a popular myth circulating about this concept of allowing businesses to choose whether or not to serve customers based on personal convictions. The myth is that such an allowance will foster attitudes of intolerance and promote so-called “haters.” But this is a laughable fallacy, because, as a general rule, legislation is not what shapes a culture. It is popular opinion that shapes both culture and legislation, and popular opinion in the United States is shaped by our education system and the media.
Think about it. The bills that are passed – even the bills that are considered and rejected – by the U.S. Congress are bills that some elected official feels are necessary. The official is influenced by his own culture, and by his knowledge of his constituents’ culture. He will probably hesitate to propose a bill that he knows will be unpopular with the overwhelming majority of his electorate.
Thus, the most effective way to combat a society’s mode of thinking with regards to discrimination is not to make laws that prohibit them from doing what they want, but to convince them to want something else. Passing laws that force businesses to perform actions that are against their convictions doesn’t serve to change the minds of business owners. It only serves to promote division and to stifle individuals’ freedom of expression. Unless businesses are engaging in activities that harm others, such methods to control them are totalitarian and should not be endured by a free and thinking public.
So yes, I stood up for Paypal’s rights. But that doesn’t mean that I support their actions. Quite the contrary. And just as the business has the right to refuse service, so I, as an individual and a potential customer, have the right to refuse to patronize the company; to boycott, protest, and vehemently complain about their decision. It’s called free trade, and it’s how civilized adults handle their differences.
Sadly, some homosexual activist groups don’t seem to understand how to play fair. In a recent case that is just one of several others like it, a Christian business owner is being threatened with legal action for refusing service to a homosexual couple. In an interview Tuesday with KCCI 8 Des Moines, Victoria Childress, who runs a cake-baking business out of her home, described what happened when a lesbian couple came to make arrangements for a wedding cake,
"They came in and she introduced herself, and I said, 'Is this your sister?' She said, 'No, this is my partner.' I said, 'OK,' and I asked them to sit down and I said, 'We need to talk.’ I said, 'I'll tell you I'm a Christian, and I do have convictions.' And I said, 'I'm sorry to tell you, but I'm not going to be able to do your cake.’ "
Childress explained further,
"I didn't do the cake because of my convictions for their lifestyle. It is my right as a business owner. It is my right, and it's not to discriminate against them. It's not so much to do with them, it's to do with me and my walk with God and what I will answer (to) him for. They thanked me for being honest with them, and they were very pleasant. I did not belittle them, speak rudely to them. There were no condescending remarks made, nothing. "
The lesbian couple, Trina Vodraska and Janelle Sievers, also implied by their remarks during the interview that the conversation was cordial. Now, however, they say they are contemplating filing a civil rights complaint.
“It was degrading, you know, it was like she chastised us for wanting to do business with her,” said Vodraska.
Do Vodraska and Sievers support Paypal’s recent decision to cut off the accounts of bloggers who verbally oppose the homosexual lifestyle? Of course, we have no way of knowing the answer to this question; but if they were watching from the sidelines and enthusiastically cheering Paypal in September, they should pause right now and ask themselves if their system of values is really consistent. Or are they insisting on having their cake and eating it too (no pun intended)?
Frankly, I find this attack on conscience rights highly alarming. Surely, if Paypal has the right to refuse service to individuals who fundamentally disagree with the homosexual lifestyle, Christian business owners should have the right to refuse service to homosexual couples – especially in situations as ceremonial and spiritually significant as weddings.
81-year-old columnist and economist Thomas Sowell offers some wise comments on the entitlement mentality of the occupy crowd and the fallacy of long-term government "help"
(Posted by Bryana Joy on October 17, 2011)
This is a man whom I greatly respect and admire. I've enjoyed reading his books and you'll find some of them listed on our booklist. He brings sanity and consistent ideology to the chaotic fields of economics and sociology. If you're interested in my stance on the Occupy Movement, check out yesterday's post.
Brazilian blogger Julio Severo
the sinister significance of Paypal's decision to freeze Julio Severo's personal funds due to pressure from homosexual activist groups
(Posted by Bryana Joy on October 01, 2011)
(If you don’t know about the Julio Severo saga, you can read about it at LifeSiteNews here)
I’m a big fan of those boldly-lettered signs that hang in thrift stores and restaurants out here in my part of the country, stating unequivocally that the owner reserves the right to refuse service to anyone and everyone that he or she should not take a fancy to. I get warm, fuzzy feelings inside whenever I see these placards of freedom posted ambiguously in places of business, and one thing that really riles me up is stories of small business owners being sued for exercising their "rights to discriminate."
Therefore, I want to start off by asserting my opinion that Paypal ought to be able to shut down any account they want to. No, I mean it. In spite of my unapologetic and wholehearted support and sympathy for Julio Severo, I really do want to uphold Paypal’s right to refuse service to anyone for any reason whatsoever. Paypal is a privately-owned business and I enthusiastically defend their right to make their own policies and terms.
That said, I am, nevertheless, angered and disappointed by their decision and will refuse to patronize them unless they restore all of the accounts they have shut down due to pressure from the homosexual activist groups. I will vehemently disagree with them and will talk, post and write negatively about their choice whenever I have the opportunity to do so. I am shocked and alarmed that Paypal has accused Severo of encouraging “hate speech,” when he is merely an individual expressing his opinions in the form of a blog. He does not incite violence, nor does he preach hatred. He is a married man with four little children. All of these facts taken together give me a queasy feeling about this apparently very unjustified decision of Paypal’s.
However, as Voltaire is famously supposed to have said, “I disagree with what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it,” and this is how I feel about Paypal’s choice -- because I think about all of those little thrift shops and restaurants in my town and I don’t want anybody coming in and taking down their brave little signs.
Where Paypal really infuriated me was in their arbitrary and indefensible decision to freeze Severo’s personal funds for six months. I feel that this kind of action is both immoral and unjust and should not be permitted. After all, the money is Severo’s and Paypal has no rights whatsoever over a private individual’s funds. If Paypal feels that it is justified in setting itself up as arbitrator on the scene of the homosexual controversy - or any other controversy, for that matter - and in punishing individuals with whom it disagrees by depriving these people of their own money, it is clearly not a trustworthy solution for my financial needs.
If you also feel this way and wish to support Julio Severo by asking Paypal to restore his account, please take a minute to sign this petition. Every little bit helps.