Monday, July 23, 2012

Religious Intolerance: United States Is more Tolerant than Europe

I hate it when this happens. I read a book review in yesterday's New York Times Sunday Book Review. If the review is accurate, the book is one of those books that I would probably hurl into the fireplace ... if I had a fireplace.

In order to be fair I have to buy the book (it's not available in Canada) but meanwhile I need to vent about it's probable content.

The book is The New Religious Intolerance by Martha C. Nussbaum and the review is by Damon Linker [Church, Temple, Mosque].

Here's the opening paragraphs of the review...
Mitt Romney’s stump speech during the Republican primaries was filled with appeals to his party’s conservative base, but none consistently inspired more heartfelt cheers than his promise to “stop the days of apologizing for success at home and ­never again apologize for America abroad.” The statement speaks to the widely held suspicion on the right that liberals in general, and Barack Obama in particular, prefer other forms of democracy ­(especially those that prevail in Europe) to the American way of life.

Martha C. Nussbaum’s new book could serve as Exhibit A in liberalism’s defense against this charge. The author of 17 previous books on a wide range of topics — from classical Greek philosophy and tragic drama to modern law, literature and ethics — Nussbaum is one of America’s leading liberal thinkers. In “The New Religious Intolerance,” she turns her attention to the rise of antireligious — and specifically anti-Muslim — zealotry since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. Though she writes in her opening chapter that intolerance disfigures “all Western societies,” it quickly becomes clear that there have been far fewer incidents of bigotry in the United States than in Europe — because of America’s vastly superior approach to guaranteeing the rights of religious minorities. When it comes to freedom to worship, at least, Nussbaum is an unabashed proponent of American exceptionalism.
The essence of her thesis is that: (1) several European countries have laws prohibiting Muslim women from wearing the burqa in public, (2) The Swiss government bans the building of minarets outside mosques, and (3) The Norwegian mass murderer, Anders Behring Breivik, didn't like Muslims. The United States hasn't done any of these things. That's because Americans are much more tolerant of other religious beliefs than Europeans.

There are important ways in which the United States protects religious minorities ...
The core of the book explores three preconditions of securing religious liberty for minorities — and in all of them the United States does a much better job than Europe. First, a nation must commit itself to protecting the greatest possible freedom of conscience that is compatible with public order and safety — a principle that the United States codifies in the First Amendment’s disestablishment of religion and guarantee of religious free exercise....

The second precondition of religious liberty is an impartial and consistent civic culture. On this measure, Europe fares especially badly, as Nussbaum demonstrates by methodically exposing the double standards and bias at play in the arguments for banning the burqa.

Finally, there is the need for “sympathetic imagination” on the part of citizens. Here the United States has long taken the lead, cultivating respect for religious differences since the 17th century, when Roger Williams founded Rhode Island, the “first colony (anywhere in the world, it seems) in which genuine religious liberty obtained for all.” Nussbaum is particularly impressed with Williams’s respectful treatment of the Narragansett Indians, whose language and culture he struggled to understand at a time when most of the colonists thought of them as beasts or devils.
Wow! It's news to me that the United States is a paragon of religious tolerance but perhaps that's just my anti-American bias. (For the record, Roger Williams was English, not American, and most of the other colonies were somewhat less tolerant.1)

I tend to think of the USA as a place where religious groups want to restrict women's freedom of choice, infringe on the rights of gays and lesbians, oppose non-Christians (and suspected non-Christians) who run for office, rail against euthanasia, and ban the teaching of evolution.

I was under the impression that there are many states where being an non-fundamentalist Christian would be very uncomfortable. Many of these same states insist that the United States is a Christian nation and there are dozens of political leaders who imply that non-Christians are not real Americans. A majority of citizens see nothing wrong with posting the ten commandments in courtrooms, schools, and legislatures. They don't see anything wrong with reciting the Lord's prayer in schools or putting "In God We Trust" on their money (beginning in 1957).

I seem to recall a recent incident where five representatives of the United States House of Representatives expressed points of view that could be interpreted as possibly anti-Muslim [Michele Bachmann finds plenty of friends back home].

These all seem like pretty intolerant viewpoints to me. Am I wrong?

Apparently, Martha C. Nussbaum is a smart woman. Apparently that's why she says,
As Nussbaum notes, the American and European developments differ in important ways. Above all, she writes, nothing in the United States “even remotely approaches the nationwide and regional bans on Islamic dress in Europe, or the nationwide Swiss minaret referendum” — let alone an anti-Islamic massacre.
I guess I'll have to read the book to see if this is what she really thinks. I hate it when that happens.


1. New Amsterdam, the Dutch colony, was noted for religious tolerance. The French colonies in Canada (somewhat tolerant) were on very good terms with many native tribes. The Narragansett Indians were eventually converted to Christianity but not until many of them had been killed or shipped off to slavery in the Caribbean.

47 comments :

  1. "Europe" is a big, diverse place. My experiences in Sweden versus Germany have been vastly different.

    -The Other Jim

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  2. "the book is one of those books that I would probably hurl into the fireplace ... if I had a fireplace."

    I do have a fireplace (a wood stove)and I'm always looking for fuel. However, I can never bring myself to burn a book. I would probably leave a book entitled _The New Religious Intolerance_ in the vestibule of a church and to increase the faithful's paranoia.

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  3. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  4. I think the intolerance showed by atheists towards religion is truly frightening. Americans of all religious persuasions must unite to defeat a common enemy. How would you like it if PZ Myers was head of government? You can just imagine him setting up an atheistic fourth reich.

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    1. "How would you like it if PZ Myers was head of government?"

      PZ Myers would protect your religious freedoms with every ounce of energy he has. What PZ would not do is draft laws favoring a particular religion as US legislators have done.

      Delete
    2. "You can just imagine him setting up an atheistic fourth reich."

      Yes, you can imagine it, if you are a nitwit.

      Delete
    3. I for one look forward to the day that our evil cephalopod overlord unleashes the Godless horde to do battle with the poopyheads of the world using the dreaded weapons of laughter, ridicule and dsmvwlng.

      Tremble in fear.

      Sheesh, what a doofus.

      Delete
    4. I would take this post to be parody if it wasn't from Atheistoclast.

      Have you ever even read anything PZ wrote?

      Delete
  5. Americans probably are at least as intolerant as Europeans but I am skeptical that we are more so. I would argue that intolerance in the US is much more open because being a vocal bigot and jerk is protected in the US. I have the impression that much of European intolerance is privately-held but not publicly spoken because of laws that jail people for special types of vile speech, such as holocaust denial. Hence Europeans have more institutional intolerance when compared to the US, particularly when it comes to speech. For instance, a ban on minarets outside of a mosque (so long as they were built on private land and otherwise met state building codes for safety and local codes on things like the size of the building) would not pass constitutional muster. It is protected both under freedom of expression and freedom of religion. The Park51 Islamic center in NYC is a good example of this. Lots of idiots (nearly universally Christians, fyi Atheistoclast) spouted off lots of nonsense and filed lawsuits against construction of the Park51 center but the project is protected by the US constitution and is still going forward.

    We have a long way to go in the US. It doesn't help that the religious tend to conflate religious tolerance with government support of religion (and sect) and religious rituals and rules (and generally much more so than atheists do.) Atheists in particular are singled out for considerable vitriol (see Atheistoclast, above for a typical example. Man I hope that's a Poe. Otherwise, get help, take your meds.) in the US despite presenting no physical threat to anyone. Fortunately, our courts tend to interpret our constitution to favor institutionalized tolerance.

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  6. Larry said, “I tend to think of the USA as a place where religious groups want to restrict women's freedom of choice, infringe on the rights of gays and lesbians, oppose non-Christians (and suspected non-Christians) who run for office, rail against euthanasia, and ban the teaching of evolution.”

    - In the USA, “religious groups” (especially Christianity with all its practicing imperfections) still influence American culture, and more women have more rights and freedom in the USA than any country of any remotely comparable size in the world, and more than most women have had throughout history. The women in your family would be honored and valued as individuals in America, especially by Christians like me.
    - If abortion is your frame of reference, maybe evolutionists don’t think a living viable human being harbored in a female womb is person and therefore devoid of rights and choice. If so, that’s not a Christian denial of rights.
    - If gay rights are your frame of reference, maybe you would like to suggest changing the English lexicon, which defines marriage as a union between a man and a woman, and therefore pervert our language even more.
    - What non-Christians or suspected non-Christians who run for office are denied US Constitutional rights, even if their personal philosophical worldview contradicts the letter and spirit of the U.S. Constitution?
    - If it’s euthanasia, that might be because you are proud and adamant about human life having no meaning or purpose, therefore no value or worth beyond short-lived carbon based molecules.
    - I believe it is safe to say that the exceptions to teaching evolution in American schools are nil. All we taxpayers pay for evolutionists to have that philosophical pseudo-science power. I paid for my grandkids to go to a private Christian school, and they were taught evolution way much more than they were taught creationism.
    - As it relates to “rights,” rights can only be granted by someone or something with the power and authority to grant a right. They cannot be arbitrarily and rhetorically claimed. Christians believe God is the ultimate authority.

    Larry, I believe you have lived in America. You know that it was your choice and right to believe as you wish while you were our guest. If you were persecuted for your beliefs in the USofA, enlighten us – assuming an attempt to convert you to theism is not viewed as persecution. You seem to fail to notice that 1.5 billion of Islam’s followers would never dare speak of favorable rights for women, or allow a GLTB branch to open. If you think women are treated badly in America, what about bride-burning and sati in India? Oh, about “choice and rights,” what if you wanted more than one child in China. And what about rape and mutilation being used as weapons of war in many African nations (I know of this personally from both the victim and the perpetrator sides.). So far, that’s nearly half the world’s population vs. 4.5% for the US. Exceptionalism can be an incendiary word. But, I think it may be applicable, when it comes to the practical rights and privileges of women in America. I believe you have a negative bias promulgated by atheism - essentially no different from a negative bias promulgated by theism. Both cloud reason.

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    1. Thank-you for showing me how Christians in America can be so intolerant of the views of others.

      In Germany, women have the right to marry another woman. The have the right to universal health care, including state-funded abortion and birth control. Women have the right to run for the highest office—as they do in the USA—the difference is that women have actually been elected in Germany.

      In many European countries women have access to state supported daycare. They have much better maternity benefits than Americans.

      It is simply not true that "more women have more rights and freedoms in the USA than any country of any remotely comparable size in the world."

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    2. Re Larry Moran

      Is same sex marriage legal in Germany? AFAIK, the only European country to recognize same sex marriage is Spain, although Great Britain may soon recognize it.

      Re Denny, the Christofascist

      I would remind Mr. Denny that same sex marriage is recognized in Canada, as well as 6 US states and the District of Columbia, possibly soon to be 11 if referendums in Maryland, Maine, Minnesota and
      Washington fail).

      As for abortion, I don't think that it's any of Mr. Denny's god damn business. That's for women to decide.

      As for euthanasia, once again, that's a matter for the patient to decide, not busybodies like Mr. Denny.

      As for Mr. Denny's views on the theory of evolution, he has proved on numerous occasions on this blog that he doesn't have the faintest notion as to it's all about; never have I read anyone write so knowledgeably from such a vast fund of ignorance.

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    3. Is same sex marriage legal in Germany? AFAIK, the only European country to recognize same sex marriage is Spain, although Great Britain may soon recognize it.

      Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Iceland, Netherlands, Belgium, Spain and Portugal do. But most of the other countries (including Germany) have have a "civil union" option available, which is effectively the same thing, legally.

      -The Other Jim

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    4. Re Anonymous

      Thanks for the info. What's the difference between a civil union and a marriage in, say, Germany?

      There are a couple of states in the US that recognize civil unions between same sex partners (I believe New Jersey is one of them) but they are not the same as marriage because they don't get the tax benefits, at least at the federal level, that married couples get.

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    5. Thanks for the info. What's the difference between a civil union and a marriage in, say, Germany?

      The difference is where the ceremony took place,as far as I can tell. Couples who are CU'd at work have the same status as my wife and I in terms of taxation, health care, immigration, transferal of benefits, etc. Wikipedia has a not-horrible, but brief description of the status (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Status_of_same-sex_marriage).

      -The Other Jim

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  7. Is PZ a major political power in the USA, as are crazy rightwing fundamental, and highly intolerant, Christians? Why no, he's not. Anyone making an argument based on the idea that he is, or might be, is pushing an argument designed to make himself sound like an idiot. If that is your intention, carry on.

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    1. You mean as much of an idiot as the the who doesn't even have the intellectual honesty to judge a book by its cover?

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  8. Real subtle, Larry...I though free thinkers didn't burn books, even if you are frustrated with the factual inaccuraces you gleaned from a review.

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  9. Larry, putting aside moral issues, did I miss something. Aren't many European countries going broke with all the benefits you cite and more? And aren't they solving their debt problems with more debt? Which of the rights you cite will remain, when no one can pay the bills, because all the money becomes funny money, as it has before, and everyone looses their sense of tolerance?

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    1. The debt problems in Europe are the consequence of the free market ideology that prevailed after 1990. Especially of the consequence of thinking in 'venture capital' and 'private equity'.

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    2. The countries with most social security are in the north of Europe and least likely to go broke.

      Denny shows the one-track mindset of evangelical Americans: no evolution, no social security. Independent of the evidence, biological or economical.

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    3. @Denny

      putting aside moral issues

      You've basically defined what it means to get your morality via revelation, dogma and authority.

      did I miss something

      As always.

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  10. It's a different kind of intolerance. In Europe, anti-Muslim feeling is largely driven by fears over immigration and dilution of national identity. The most potent sources of this are the nominally Christian (i.e. those who adhere to Christianity from a sense of identity and 'traditional culture', rather than regular church goers).

    Ingrid Storm at Manchester University has done some work on this (I summarise it on my blog, here).

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    1. It's about jobs and national identity. That is why 'Muslim' can be replaced by 'East European' anytime of the day.

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    2. Show me a law that prevents Eastern Europeans from being Eastern Europeans, and your hypothesis might something more than hand-waving.

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    3. The Netherlands has a rabble rouser called Geert Wilders, who has shifted from denouncing islam to vilifying Eastern European migrant workers.

      (There is no law that prevents Muslims being Muslims anywhere that I'm aware of - the law is not the point, popular attitudes are).

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    4. Granted "being " is ambiguous phraseology, but I still think that you're being a bit evasive. Laws that prevent outward expression of religious affiliation do expressly prohibit being religious insofar as "being religious" is as much an external performance as it is an internal identity. Thus, prohibiting religious practice, such as characteristic dress and building houses of worship in the way the have historically built is preventing people from being religious, just as legislatively proscribing same-sex sexual contact is preventing people from being gay.

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    5. A burqa is the thing that totally covers the face.
      A burqa is not forbidden because it is a religious dress but because it both frustrates identification and is an indication of the repression of women. In Belgium and France where the burqa is forbidden, head scarves are not forbidden. But it is forbidden to wear a head scarve if one is a judge, as this infringes on the religious neutrality of the state, as the judge represents the state.

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    6. Just because you find some other reason for banning a practice that that it specifically pertains to a certain religion doesn't make banning that practice any less bigotted against that religion. Your argument here is the same as saying that the grandfather clauses, poll taxes, and intelligence tests that were used to prevent African-Americans from voting in the Jim Crow South were not racists because the statutes that implemented them didn't specifically reference race. The whole point of not mentioning in said statutes was to deliberately and dishonestly cirvent the Fourteenth Amendment's Equal Protection Clause which guarantees race equal protection under the law.

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    7. Michael M says,
      Just because you find some other reason for banning a practice that that it specifically pertains to a certain religion doesn't make banning that practice any less bigotted against that religion.

      Actually, it's more complicated than that. You can ban human sacrifice, for example, without necessarily being bigoted against Aztecs. You can ban polygamy even if you've never heard of Mormons. And it's possible to ban honor killings without being anti-Muslim.

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    8. Just because you find some other reason for banning a practice that that it specifically pertains to a certain religion doesn't make banning that practice any less bigotted against that religion.

      Michael M's problem here is that he would justify any practice that uses religion as a justification or pretext. To justify any practice that uses religion as its justification or pretext is bigotted by itself.

      The problem is how to weigh religious freedom against other freedoms. How to to weigh religious freedom against women's freedom? I wrote about this before (heleen Tuesday, July 24, 2012 6:14:00 AM below
      "The problem is not religious liberty.
      The problem is the clash of all other liberties with religion.")
      How to weigh religious freedom against women's freedom, how to weigh religious freedom against gay freedom, how to weigh religious freedom against maltreatment of animals? All three have come up this year in the Netherlands. The outcome of the debate in parlement or court cases went the against religous freedom in the first two case, the third presumably went to religion.

      That is, there is no specific privilege to religion in its claims to freedom, against claims to freedom for other groups. That by itself is hard to swallow for the religious groups.

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    9. So using grandfather clauses to deny the decendents of slave wasn't racist?

      Great to know!

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    10. Look, here in the US, the Supreme Court has ruled that laws that disproprtinately affect one group without showing the government's compelling interest to control another aspect of life are inherently discriminatory and therefore unconstitutional under the Fourteenth Amendment's Equal Protection Clause. This was the basis for the Loving decision, overturned anti-miscegination laws, and Lawrence decision, which overtured anti-sodomy laws. Simply saying "Whites can marry Blacks and Blacks can't marry Whites"* means that such laws that codify these principles don't violate the Equal Protection Clause because they supposedly discriminate equally against everyone doesn't actually follow from the structure and history of Equal-Protection-Clause caselaw. In other words, "equal discrimination" doesn't equal "no discrimination".

      The other principle that is not mentioned nearly as often as that of pure equal protection is that of "compelling interest". The state must have a compelling interest to limit what otherwise would be an inalienable right before it codifies and enforces facially discriminatory laws and that compelling interest must be apparent to a reasonable observer. No reasonable observer would deny that the government has a compelling interest in protecting and preserving its citizens' rights to life and bodily sovereignty. Thus, laws prohibitting crimes against the person, such as murder, rape, and assault, are not necessarily facially discriminatory even if they override the consent of the individuals involved. (Can we all agree that allowing people to cosent to their own grievous bodily, including the death of an otherwise healthy person, is, a thorny legal issue?).

      The whole assertion that the statement that banning the burka violates Muslims' right to free religious exercise, ipso dicto (i.e., by the fact of its having been said), logically entails that Aztec human sacrifice must be allowed under the law is therefore supremely ignorant of the entire principle of "compelling interest". Moreover, such an argument shifts the burden of proof from the state, where, as provided in the law, it actually lies, to the religious practioner or anyone defending the religous practice. The state can't just wave its hands and mutter something about needing to indentify people (which is not what happened in France) and thereby strip the religious of their right to free exercise; it must present argument persuasive to a reasonable person as to why it has a compelling interest to restrict the right of the religious to free exercise. Furthermore, the can't simply write a law that restricts the right of religious people to wear indentity concealing clothes in public and then make special provisions to allow all secular identity concealing garments (which is what happened in France) without opening itself up to criticism of unlawfully discriminatory policies from the same reasonable people it had to make its compelling interest argument to in order to justify the law originally.

      Now, I recognize that I am referring to American legal principles which may not be applicable in other jurisdictions such as France. However, Larry and Heleen, if you want to criticize the US any reason reason pertaining specifically to the laws and constitutions of you countries, I don't see why I should be restricted in my legal arguments from American legal principles.

      *or "Heterosexuals can't have sex with persons of the same sex and homosexuals can't have sex with persons of the same sex"

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    11. That is, in the US religious freedom can be curtailed if there are compelling interests otherwise. As in all countries, religious freedom has to be balanced against other freedoms. Religious freedom does not have a special position overriding all other freedoms.

      Identification of people is a compelling interest in a civilized state. In France, the burqa was prohibited after it was used as a disguise in robbery. Refusing to identify oneself when wearing a burqa even before a female police officer (that was in Belgium) has no bearing on religious freedom. Relious freedom does not justify rejecting the authority of the state.

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    12. I never claimed that thr right to free excercise was absolute, Heleen, but I'm not sureprised that you are still operating umder that assumption. Back in reality, though, the French "burka ban" was never about the state's ability to identify people; it simply banned the wear of face coverings in public and the made exceptions for every face covering except the burka. In other words, the pirpose of the law was, rather transparently, to prohibit the wearing of a religious garment in public, which is facially discriminatory against practitioners of that religion. Similarly the Swiss referendum Nussbaum mentioned specifically proscribed the building of minarets, a rather important element of a mosque was therefore facially discriminatory against Muslims as well.

      Why is so hard to understand that laws that specifically single out Muslims on the basis of their religion are religiously discriminatory?

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    13. Muslims can wear any sort of religious garment in public, from headscarves and long skirts for females to dress-like things with headcaps for males. There is a great variety of thoe.
      The issue is about the burqa is that it goes much further: it prevents identification. That is the point.

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    14. As usual, you are simply lying. The issue isn't the that the burqa prevents identification; it is that the burqa is an Islamic garment. If there were an issue with identification, the law would not have made any provisions for identity concealing secular garments.

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  11. From the review, Nussbaum's book seems a standard piece of American self-congratulation. It is doubtful whether the book impartially reviews both the laws and popular attitudes over the 30 or so countries of Europe.

    The problem is not religious liberty.
    The problem is the clash of all other liberties with religion.

    In the case of the burqa, prohibited in Belgium and France, the argument is that women's liberty is higher than religious liberty - and the assumption is of course that no woman is going to wear a burqa other than by pressure from the closed immigrant group culture. Female circumcision is forbidden too, in more countries than just Belgium and France. Would anyone defend female circumcision as 'freedom of religion'?

    Analogously, the Netherlands has very orthodox Protestant churches that have their own political party (SGP) represented in parlement; at about 2% of the population they get 3 of 150 seats. This political party SGP is convinced that 'the office of governing does not befit a woman', on biblical grounds (they maintain). The party in its constitution said that a woman cannot be elected as a member of parlement or city council for this party. Women's groups have taken the SGP to court. The women's groups have won all the way, including the European court. The SGP still screams about 'non-religious intolerance'. But who would defend in this day and age that women are not fit to govern? Nussbaum, because of 'religious tolerance'?

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    1. I'm sorry, but do you even bother to think before you open your mouth?

      It is intolerant to ban specifically ban religious practice. There is something, to my best recollection in both the French and Dutch constitutions and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, to which both France and the Netherlands are signatories, about religious liberty and freedom of self-determiniation. Next time you see fit to criticize the US for not signing international treaties think fisr about how even to the countries who do sign fail to uphold their own treaty obligations.

      Given that France and the Netherlands are pruportedly so concerned about women's liberties' being violated by being forced by the male relatives to wear religious garments, what makes their goverments so sure that they know better than the women wearing the garments why those women wear the garments?

      Why are you so eager to substitute state paternalism for religious paternalism?

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    2. Religious freedom cannot be equated to male freedom to suppress women. The case is clear in some cases: the European Court for Human Rights has ruled that it is not allowed to put into the rules of a political party that a woman cannot be voted into office as a representative of that party.

      Why are you so eager to substitute state paternalism for religious paternalism? (Now, consider this to be about colour instead of gender .. )

      State paternalism is totally the wrong designation for any aspect of such cases.
      Given that religious liberty has always to be weighed against other liberties, and is never absolute, some institutions have to do the weighing. Parlement and the courts are clearly the institutions that should be involved in deciding where the balance lies. That is not state paternalism, but due process to the benefit of the public interest.


      (NB the burqa is not forbidden in the Netherlands - the number of women wearing it was estimated to be near zero).

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  12. I guess I'll have to read the book to see if this is what she really thinks. I hate it when that happens.

    That's necessary with any book, isn't it?

    I tend to think of the USA as a place where religious groups want to restrict women's freedom of choice, infringe on the rights of gays and lesbians, oppose non-Christians (and suspected non-Christians) who run for office, rail against euthanasia, and ban the teaching of evolution.

    Living here, I see all of that and I also see the unpublicized religious support for womens' freedom of choice, lgbt rights, the wall of separation, the right of self determination in end of life care and keeping religious content out of public school classrooms. That aspect of religious life in the United States is intentionally disappeared by the corporate media, by obvious intention, because it doesn't serve the corporate oligarchs and the electoral strategy of the Republicans.

    You have to draw a distinction between the United States as a federal government, which is supposed to be entirely neutral in regard to religion and the people in the United States who aren't covered by the "no religious test" or non-establishment clauses of Bill of Rights. And you have to take into account that there is somewhat less than 100% compliance with the restrictions on government involvement with religion, both in different locations and at different times. You have to do that everywhere. Welcome to political reality.

    Is PZ a major political power in the USA, as are crazy rightwing fundamental, and highly intolerant, Christians?

    No, and he never will be. That doesn't make his bigotry less bigoted, it only means it has a different political effect, one that is more damaging to the left than it is to right wing fundamentalists. They like to characterize liberals as being anti-religious bigots, it works for them.

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  13. I'm sorry, but in what paralell universe is the state championing women's rights by taking away their right not only to choose to wear a religious garment but also to choose how to feel about wearing said religious garment?

    The fact that the state thinks it can define away a woman's ability to determine whether she is being oppressed is text-book paternalism in the same way that the fact that a religion thinks it can define away a woman's ability to express her sexuality is text-book paternalism.

    Heleen, presumably you see the fallacy in denigrating some women because they have chosen to accept a more traditional gender role by opting to be housewives and stay-at-home mothers, and traditional gender role and the acceptance thereof are inherently misogynistic and sexist. So why do you accept the fact that wearing the burqa is inherently violative of a woman's rights without first considering that the acceptance of a tradition that originated in sexism and misogyny may not be itself, by definition, sexist and/or misogynist?

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  14. Larry and SLC, I’d like to ask a question. Can you rationally (without bias toward others) support your notion that people of the same sex should be granted the rights and language label that have historically traveled with the term ‘marriage’?” In other words, after millennia, as far back as anthropologists can go, the union of a man and woman, who would likely become a Mom and Dad, has been universally seen as a civilizing element for individuals and cultures. What can your notion of ‘tolerance’ bring to civilized societies as a positive contribution that merits the same rights and term? Can either of you articulate your pro-tolerance views as you would a scientific point in a scientific publication, as though you were teaching students, as though you were citing evidence?

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  15. I'll try to be nice to Mr. Denny who has asked a pertinent question that deserves a serious answer.

    One of the problems I have with those who oppose same sex marriage is that they utterly fail to inform us as to how that in any way, shape, form, or regard affects their well being. I presume that Mr. Denny, who I seem to recall indicated in a previous thread that he was a grandfather, has no interest in dumping his wife and marrying another man in the event that he lives in a state where same sex marriage is recognized. Is their any evidence from states and countries that have recognized same sex marriages that there is some deleterious affect on conventional opposite sex marriages? For instance, has the divorce rate gone up in Massachusetts? Or Canada? Or Argentina?

    Mr. Denny's entire argument is based on the proposition that, heretofore, marriage has been defined as between 1 man and 1 women; we've always done it this way so no need to change. Well, up to 1865, slavery was legal in the southern states of the US and was justified as being in accord with scriptures. We have moved on from there and slavery is no longer legal in the US.

    Here's a question for Mr. Denny. What is his opinion of the recent marriage of former Vice-President Cheney's daughter, Mary (who by the way has had 2 children via in-vitro fertilization), to her long time partner in DC? What is his opinion of the recent marriage of Congressman Barney Frank to his long partner in Massachusetts? How do either of these marriages have any affect on Mr. Denny's marriage? How is Mr. Denny in any way, shape, form, or regard, damaged or inconvenienced by these marriages? Inquiring minds want to know.

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  16. SLC said, “Mr. Denny's entire argument is based on the proposition that, heretofore, marriage has been defined as between 1 man and 1 women; we've always done it this way so no need to change.” – SLC, I’m not making an argument. I’m asking you and Larry to make an argument that isn’t reliant on your negative view of the views of others. This issue is big and complicated, crossing many philosophical, religious, moral and other human-related issues. It does not warrant an inflammatory flippant demagogic response. Since you and Larry are among those suggesting acceptance of a humongous social and cultural paradigm shift to something as foundational as marriage, I’m asking you to present a positive case for your point, as if you were speaking formally to a friendly audience, and making it on its own merits. As a part of your argument, I am hoping that you will supply some basis (empirical if possible) for substituting a Mom and Dad with a Mom/Mom or Dad/Dad, and why that may be as good or better for children, other than the fact that some married Mom’s and Dad’s are jerks.

    Concerning the Cheney’s – I have nothing but the highest regard for the entire Cheney family and the way they conduct themselves. Concerning Congressman Barney Frank - What I know of him is that, 1) one of his partners admittedly ran a call-boy ring from the home of Congressman Frank, 2) I saw Congressman Frank stand on the steps of the US Capital in 2005 (two years before the financial meltdown) and declare that there were (upon his careful examination) no problems with the two major federal agencies (Fannie mae and Freddie mac) charged with underwriting billions of dollars worth of home mortgages, 3) I know that Congressman Frank has been chair of the House Banking committee charged with overseeing banking regulations for many years (Clinton, Bush and Obama), regulations that have not only failed so many people in the US and abroad, but have been the cause of problems that we will probably never escape. Even Wall St. banking firms admit that they make the biggest percentage of their political contributions to the party of which Congressman Frank is a fixture. I don’t have a high opinion of Congressman Frank’s ethics or morals.

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    1. I’m asking you and Larry to make an argument that isn’t reliant on your negative view of the views of others. This issue is big and complicated, crossing many philosophical, religious, moral and other human-related issues.

      Many gay and lesbian couples wanted to get married so they could enjoy the same rights and privileges as married heterosexual couples. That seemed quite reasonable to me and I didn't see how it could hurt anyone. It certainly wouldn't affect me or my relationship with my wife.

      The Canadian government agreed, so same-sex marriage was made legal several years ago. Nothing bad happened to our society, or to similar societies in Europe. So I guess we were right.

      Since you and Larry are among those suggesting acceptance of a humongous social and cultural paradigm shift ...

      I don't see evidence of such a humongous social and cultural change in those American states that have legalized same-sex marriage. Do you?

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    2. Larry said, “I don't see evidence of such a humongous social and cultural change in those American states that have legalized same-sex marriage. Do you?” – Really, Larry. If someone asked why it would be good to become a biochemist, you surely would provide more than 21 nebulous words followed by a two word negative question. Not seeing evidence is not a positive indication that the seed of evidence is there, or absent. There is such a thing as delayed results. Even accepting that traditional heterosexual marriage is all but perfect, how much time is required to know if a son or a daughter, raised by two men or two women, will experience negative unintended consequences unique to having gay parents, and in addition to those of heterosexual married parents? That’s one question for you. Her are more.

      What about the old slippery slope hypothesis? Gay couples who are not related? Gay couples who are related? Gay couples, at least one of which is over the local age of consent? No age of consent required? Gay trios, or more? Any combination possible, like the communes of the 60’s? Do you favor government legalizing and providing historical marriage rights and benefits to any and all forms of relationships – in other words, no limits, with regard to sexual activity, and the right to receive traditional marital social power and compensation wherever such benefits have existed? If limits were established at any level, even on bestiality, on what basis would those limits be established? How would that basis differ from current general taboos on gay marriage? Are all these relationships to be measured by one’s libido? Are there other essential developmental aspects to relationships that supercede one’s sexual pleasure and maturity? Will all the non-sexual benefits of conventional marriage logically travel with same-sex partners or multiple partners of various sexes? One of David Suskind’s guests once remarked that his parents were monogamous with each of their partners – is the law to be fashioned to accommodate serial monogamy?

      Marriage (a covenantal union of husband and wife) has been historically seen as an objective reality essential for societal health, justice and the common good. When marriage is changed, and if it fails to provide for the common good, in deference to individual rights and pleasure, is social harm far behind, and how will any harm be undone? Marriage (a covenantal union of husband and wife) has been historically seen as a contract between two heterosexual individuals, and within society. Is it to become a contract with multiple riders? All marriages bring stress. Will gay marriage reduce stress or increase it? In your (Larry) lifetime and mine (Denny) we have seen health risks (mental, emotional, and physical) for gay couples and partners at increased rates over monogamous married couples. Does that go away with gay marriage? Gay marriage is a redefinition of sexual morality. Are you ready to sign that petition for far into the future? If “evidence” ever appears and becomes humongous (effecting society, as it did in the early 80’s with HIV/AIDS), what then?

      You notice I’ve left out any spiritual issues, because you think there is no such thing as spirituality. What if there is, and what if there is for some gay people? Will their spirituality be affected by a gay marriage?

      I hope SLC is not reading this, and will respond to my question with some original thoughts and not simply attack everything I’ve said here.

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