Westboro Supreme Court mis-rule

SUMMARY: This isn’t Free Speech, it’s freedom of politico-(pseudo-)religious gang-persecution organized on a national basis against random mourners (as such) uninvolved in the grievances supposedly being protested by Funeral Invasion.

Mob pseudo-religious persecution of mourners’ Free Exercise of Religion — the Baptists’ “speech” is usually not on-point, but irrelevant to the life and death circumstances of the decedent at funerals they INVADE — is just like the mob persecution of Christians in Turkey, long winked at by a supposedly-secularist State.  It violates the civil rights of decedents and their grieving survivors.  Only an unholy alliance between the Court’s fellow-fundamentalists and its (this time) misguided “liberals” would rule that the civil rights of off-topic, political, media-hog, worship-invaders trump Freedom of Religion.

Yes, all defenses of Westboro defend their protests as political, though they are veiled in religion.  If (Westboro) politics now trumps (everybody else’s) religion, maybe the rest of the Religious Right IS right, that religious freedom is being flushed down the toilet with the politicization of everything — IRONICALLY, BY THEM!

Another way of approaching it is that the Religious Right, a vast well-organized group, may now abuse its “rights” to violate the rights of usually-tiny groups of mourners anywhere in the country — not unlike the invasive, disgusting, terroristic tactics of Operation “Rescue” abortion-clinic protesters and their incited gunmen / bombers / racketeers / conspirators.  If the Bill of Rights is about anything, it’s about protecting the rights of the oppressed — not only those oppressed by governments or officials, but by their fellow human beings in this country generally, especially by groups bigger than them.  Look for other hate groups to go back to the Courts now for vindication against explicit civil rights legislation — the Ku Klux Klan, “sovereign citizens,” (neo?)Nazis, self-appointed “militias” and border guards, “Dot Busters,” ‘crosshairs’ assassins, the whole sorry, scary lot of them.  What will the lawless Scalia/Roberts Court say then?  Cross-burnings and lynchings are OK again?  Literacy tests and poll taxes for voting?  Forced segregation of public schools?  ‘The disabled or mentally ill, gay or “different,” should be neither seen nor heard’?  Torching Catholic churches?  Slavery?  Human females as their males’ property?  State-Established religions again?  Swastikas scrawled on synagogues’ outside walls are OK because they don’t violate the “privacy” of the interior of the building??!!  It seems the Court liberals, including two Jewish women and a “wise Latina,” have been tricked into signing on to the rollback of the whole 20th century, if not worse.  (And Clarence Thomas? Nevermind!!!)

Ironically, this unholy alliance represents the difference between Classical Liberalism, in all its forms, and Classical Conservatism, ie, progressive conservatism … the former represented by the whole near-unanimous Court Westboro majority, the latter represented by most Americans’ gut-reaction to Westboro’s atrocities, and this ruling, more bad law, ie, incorrect law, from the Republican Courts and Party.

Learn about the ascendant hate groups and domestic terrorists from the  Southern Poverty Law Center, and support the SPLC.

And how did this case become merely about “privacy and emotional distress“?  The mourners’ lawyers should be disbarred for incompetence!  Were they law students?!  Was this one of those volunteer, workshop, law school projects they do???

Furthermore, does the ruling consider that funeral “privacy” only applies inside a building-of-worship, funeral parlor, chapel, mausoleum, etc.?  What about processions outdoors, burials, cemeteries, motorcades, even the going TO the funeral by the mourners — Some Protestant services even sacralize this with a “Gathering for Worship” recitation or song.  What about Neopagans, adherents of Indigenous religions, or other “outdoorsy” faiths, which might not often even USE a building with a real “indoors” component?  Obviously outdoor portions of a funeral share the vicinity with the neighbors, if any, of the funeral sites, so that’s presumed within Free Exercise.  I’m not sure being attacked, verbally assaulted, or finding yourselves involuntarily amid a political demonstration, controversy, or riot, especially one featuring offensive language, IS presumed within Free Exercise, except during times of Persecution of your freely-chosen (or -retained) religion … something the Court seems to endorse today, even its Fundies!  (Appropriate, I suppose, since their fellow Repugs drove the President out of the church of his choice, then complained he wasn’t Christian enough!  “I played you a tune but you did not dance, I sang you a dirge but you did not wail….”)

I’m willing to consider that baptisms/circumcisions, funerals, and weddings aren’t the same as routine religious services which might be invaded by hecklers urging you to change your religion.  I’m not sure though!  When I was a Quaker in the 1990s I admired George Fox and his Friends’ doing so in 17th-century Anglican and other Protestants’ “meetinghouses.”  Maybe they would’ve really converted  England if they’d just waited till after services, and stumped outside the buildings as the faithful were leaving!  But IIUC these Baptists aren’t recruiting, merely advocating for their ethical or political positions.  And often their protests seem aimed not at anyone present, except the newsmedia.  That’s just rude … Supremely rude.

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ADA doomed?

Will New Corporate America — The Second American Republic, if you will — chuck the Americans With Disabilities Act?

After all, look how expensive we are!  Do we spend enough to be worth it?

Hell, they could take away Disability assistance / benefits, and basically put us out on the street and/or kill us!

Native American rights not equality vs. inequality

The human rights case against a neocon former MP in Canada gives me an opportunity to explain briefly how he misunderstands (or perhaps deliberately confounds) Native peoples’ position in the United States and Canada … a misunderstanding shared by most Americans, not cleared up by our civics or history classes, which treat Natives as nothing more than a vanishing, if uppity, ethnicity.  Although Natives’ legal positions in the two countries are not identical at this time because of legal divergence since the American Revolution, for my current purpose they are close enough.

There are over a thousand societies in North America: the U.S., Canada (perhaps Francophone and non-Francophone!), and hundreds of Indian, Inuit, Aleut, and Mixed-Blood Indigenous Sovereign Nations, from Florida and the Caribbean to the North Pole, and from the Southwest and Pacific to Alaska.  Legally all these societies live side-by-side with each other.  Obviously the first two, the US and Canada, currently have a certain pre-eminence on account of military or other inequality, respectively, vis a vis the Native peoples.  But the Native peoples retain certain rights or privileges never ceded to the US or Canada, possessed by them from before European establishment here.  The English/North American Common Law, at least since the 17th century, as well as subsequent Acts of Crown, Parliament, or Congresses, have held that Native peoples are to be “treated with” — hence “treaties” — for what the European Sovereign — British or North American — desires from them, otherwise its seizure is generally not according to law.  And generally, these treaties did not deprive Native peoples of everything they ever possessed (just almost everything).  In addition, in recent years US and Canadian governments have felt a desire to make good to Native persons and peoples for centuries of INequality, illegality, unfairness, etc., by some (relatively few) programs of affirmative action or “privileges;” also, to help them as persons and peoples to make better of a bad situation.

Native North Americans are not the same kind of ‘thing’ as non-Native ethnic groups.  Irish-Americans, Ukrainian-Canadians, etc., have never had Sovereignty in North America as such, except through the non-Native governments of Canada or the American States.  The Natives have, and still do.  If not for British/American treaties with the Natives, the colonization of this continent could not have happened, or only by truly wiping out the Natives militarily, rather than just most of them.  Native residual rights and Sovereignty isn’t a question of equality or inequality with non-Native North Americans; in fact, if we Natives would just assimilate, all our problems would be solved, right?  Except we would be unfaithful to ourselves and what we are, like no other group here is required to be.  Therefore, ironically, occasional preferences for Natives in hiring or admissions are a sign not of Native superiority, but Natives’ inferiority and discrimination in US and Canadian societies.  They’re not “special rights,” just the same rights Europeans would retain if 350 million Native Americans had colonized Britain instead of the other way around.

Settlers are a Tribe — a very large and powerful tribe, but just one among hundreds or thousands here — it’s a whole continent, after all, just like Europe or Africa or Asia! — each having certain rights and, on a good day, recognizing or according others to others.  Natives cling to these rights because they continue to exist as Sovereign Peoples, and hope to restore some of what they have had taken from them over the last 500 years and more, of their life together, cultures, self-sufficiency, freedom from discrimination and racism and exploitation; and for these reasons they also attempt to use any help forthcoming from the big “tribes” that the US and Canada are, as small as that help may be, and as seldom.  For the Settler Tribe to call for the unilateral dismantling of Native Peoples is indeed racist, in fact genocidal, whether it stems from ignorance or intentional malice.  I prefer to believe most of it does stem from ignorance, though culpable on the part of Settler education systems, which teach Settlers all kinds of things in all kinds of depth and detail, but not these facts which are fundamental to the very existence and founding of their States.

Consider if the Honourable MP had instead called for the absorption of Canada’s Jews into its Christian Churches … or its Hindus, Muslims, atheists, etc.  Or for the abolition of, say, Catholic schools and colleges in Canada — ‘No more special rights for Catholics; old Churches have no relevance in modern times.’  And with taxpayer-funded mailings, yet!  ISTM religion is a helpful analogue to Native sovereignty and rights and “privileges” and existence.  It’s not just “political correctness” that prevents him from doing so, but the legal freedoms increasingly recognized by liberal democracy … and entrenched in Canada’s constitution by 1982’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms … the same constitution that now explicitly guarantees the Aboriginal and Treaty Rights of Canada’s Indians, Inuit, and Metis.  And considering the evidence that inflammatory public speech can tend to incite violence against the targets of that speech, the MP might even be held liable.

Orthodox vision of human rights?

Last week the quadrennial Council of all Bishops of the Russian Orthodox Church from throughout the world promulgated a statement, The Basic Principles of the Russian Church Teaching on Human Dignity, Freedom and Rights, discussed here by Interfax’ religion service.  It’s been a topic of discussion and continuing work since the release of the year 2000 Council’s The Basis* of the Social Concept of the Russian Orthodox Church, as well as of course ongoing human rights criticism of Russia, Serbia, and some other Orthodox and neighboring countries, the spread of the U.S./NATO/EU eastward into the former Warsaw Pact and the Commonwealth of Independent States, the Western-backed ‘color revolutions’ in Georgia, Ukraine, and threatening in Belarus and Mongolia, as well as notable contradictions in Western human rights and election practices itself.  It doesn’t seem available on the Web in English yet, but Interfax emphasizes its confrontation with what some Russians, using a term echoing the “militant atheism” reference to Communism, are now calling “militant secularism”:

According to the authors of the Orthodox vision of human rights released Thursday, “blasphemy shall not be justified by the rights of artist, writer or journalist.” Under the pretence of human rights protection, civilizations “should not impose their lifestyle patterns on other civilization{s}” and the human rights protection “should not {be used cynically to} serve interests of certain countries.”

The right to education provides for gaining knowledge with a view to cultural traditions and visions of a family and a person. Most world {cultures} are based on religion, therefore, any comprehensive education and upbringing should include the basics of religion which created the culture where such person lives,” the Basics read.

The document also states that private life, vision and people’s will should not be subject to “total control”. “Manipulation of people’s conscience and choice by government agencies, political powers, economic and information elites is dangerous for the society. It is also unacceptable to collect, concentrate and use information on any aspects of person’s life without his/her consent,” the Basics’ authors believe.  {Corrections, emphases, and clarifications Tiernan’s.}

Of course, most Russians living today well remember the abuses alluded to in the last paragraph!  I can’t endorse it without seeing it in detail, but I commend its reading, at least, to all of us who seek to deal rightly with Eastern Europe, the Orthodox World, and ultimately the whole Two-Thirds World.

(*–Sometimes translated as Bases, the plural of Basis.)

“Muslim leaders want to curb ‘Islamophobia'”

From MSNBC.  Though they could start by working on their own people who give their faith a bad name, like the Saudis and their highly sectarian and provocative Wahabbism (a minority among the world’s Muslims), bin Laden and his ilk, get Ahmadinejad to tone it down a scooch, introduce those radical madrasa schools a little bit into the Reality-Based Community, stuff like that.

Then, just try to understand where “libertarian” Westerners are coming from: today’s Western Christianity and “post-Christianity” are built on the foundation of the Rennaissance of Classical pagan Greek and Roman culture, which was much aided by translations of Classics via the Muslim world at the height of its own culture.  As an Orthodox Christian, I see alot of problems with this too, but it’s there and it’s highly influential around the world now.

If the Islamic Conference just tries to beat countries over the head it doesn’t like with international law, they’re more likely to drive more countries into the U.S. camp, which largely disdains international law.  Then nobody benefits, as the Iraqis and Saddam Hussein have learned, and the Iranians may yet learn, sadly.

Maybe what they should do is work domestically, within countries, based on their own existing legal systems and parliaments.  Form “Anti-Defamation Leagues” in each country, like Jewish folks have in the U.S.

I personally have a growing problem with growing Muslim influence in the West, in particular the retrograde influence of Saudi / Wahabbist and other radical ideologies who take advantage of “liberal” Western immigration, speech, and publishing laws to oppose Western values, societies, and people’s lives and safety, and so-called honor killings (aka revenge vendettas).  But I oppose all false rhetoric, and favor critiques based only on truth.  In a Western country, if you can prove slander or libel in court, you can win some kind of award.  As for non-Muslim cartoonists or their publishers who violate Muslim rules, well, you shouldn’t just expect people who don’t belong to your religion to follow its rules, any more than Jews expect non-Jews to keep kosher; you have to inculcate genuine sensitivity.  We do that with White police; there’s no reason rational Muslim representatives can’t peacefully ask to meet with Western periodical publishers, etc., and help them voluntarily become more sensitive to your religion’s concerns, just like any other growing minority religion here.  But does a problem in Denmark have to provoke violence in Pakistan and the East Indies?  Is that reasonable?  Isn’t that just “Westophobia”?

OTOH, if you come to the West, you implicitly agree to the rough-and-tumble of Western democracy and political “dialogue,” which sometimes is “in your face” and offensive.  I oppose gratuitous, senseless offensiveness, but sometimes legitimate critique and questioning will offend, but in the end is helpful.  Where’s the rationalism and reasonableness of Medieval Islam, the cultural height of your civilization?  There were limits to potentially-scandalous criticism, but there was also literary give-and-take.  Embrace the best of your heritage; we’re supposed to embrace the best of ours as Westerners; challenge us to do so.

There’s productive confrontation, and there’s just unproductive point-scoring.  The latter feels good only for a short time, like self-gratification; the former can bring significant, permanent improvement for everybody concerned.  Ask American Jews and Blacks.

Insofar as “Islamophobia” is a “phobia,” it is an irrational fear, one not based in reality, and so in theory has a psychotherapeutic treatment and cure, even on a societal scale.  Outlawing it through the UN won’t cure it, only make it worse.  Treat the phobia, show it to be irrational and not based in reality.  What Westerners fear is terrorism, war, weapons of mass destruction, violence, unruly mobs, senseless property damage, intolerance, any real loss of rights or freedom or democracy, threats to their elected governments and to what they value in their own historic cultures, etc.  Is this unreasonable, irrational?  Don’t Muslims fear the same things?  Yet Westerners feel these things are being threatened by some people in the name of Islam, rightly or wrongly.  Help us out, please.

Then again, if all you’re going to be about is avenging 800 years of Western victories over Muslims, well then I guess it’ll be World War 3 and the end of everything.  Then the Promised One will come, and we’ll see who was right.  Is that it?  Do you want the same thing as American Fundamentalists, Armageddon?

Why can’t we both choose peace?

WE HAVE A QUEEN? Some American monarchists, I hea…


[Updated 10 April 2009, filling-out list of Rebel allies, adding Categories, Tags, and Summary.]

Some American monarchists, I hear, question the legality of the American Revolution. Other American monarchists, I hear, reply that U.S. independence (including the abolition of monarchy) became legal when the lawful Sovereign, King George III (or his representative on His Majesty’s behalf) signed the Treaty of Paris of 1783. [To this day Brits usually date American independence from that year, not 1776, the year it was jointly “declared” by 13 of the colonies.]

Let’s try a thought experiment.

Can the Monarchy be abolished? It’s a principle of Western moral and legal philosophy that “an unjust law is no law at all.” This is so old it’s attributed to Bishop Augustine of Hippo, Roman North Africa, 5th century A.D., considered a saint by the Western Church as well as some Orthodox.  Theologian Thomas Aquinas, also a Western saint, fleshed it out.  Now, republics throughout history are almost always, at best, oligarchic (in a bad way), and frequently, dictatorial…protestations of “democracy” notwithstanding. From ancient Athens to America to the USSR to Idi Amin’s Uganda, “republics” are usually lorded over by one or a few, who simply lack the noble or royal titles of monarchies – and their (more usual than not) respect for law, tradition, and ethics. Therefore, any law creating a republic is arguably unjust, and in the Western legal tradition, “no law at all.” Keep in mind that an important job of the British Monarch was to protect the people – his subjects – from the Barons’ – their local lords’, including landlords’ – exploitation. Yes, creating our oligarchic republic was a step backwards in terms of political development! Remember how much the “Founding Fathers” harked back to republican Athens and Rome – with good reason it turns out! Those of us outside the American oligarchy have been living with the results ever since. In fact, since 1980, they’ve been turning this country – and the whole planet – into even more of a plantation than ever before – remember most of the colonies were founded as plantations. But they forgot one thing: English (and Welsh and Irish) people take the Common Law anywhere they colonize. Now granted, there were a few problems with Britain’s colonial policies, and certain inconsistencies. What probably should’ve happened was the formation of the colonies, with their cooperation (as opposed to the imposed 1686-89 “Dominion of New England”), into an autonomous Dominion as would happen with Canada less than a century later (1867). Canada started negotiating on trade with the United States almost from Day One, was a distinct signatory of the Treaty of Versailles ending World War One, and became completely free of British government advice in the 1920s and ’30s; in 1982 Canada’s right to amend its own constitution without even the pro forma approval of the Parliament of Westminster was recognized; and Canada retains Her Majesty as Queen of Canada voluntarily, separate and distinct from her roles as Queen of the United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand, Jamaica, and eleven other independent countries.

Of course, The Crown assented to the American independence and republic under the duress of eight years of armed rebellion (even of a tiny minority of colonists), aided by French, Spanish, some Native American, some German, and Polish forces. Another Western legal principle is that consent given under duress is not binding either. But both The Crown and most Americans, being loyal to it, nevertheless acquiesced to the de facto conquest of this country by its wealthiest landowners and their supporters, who had previously overthrown their provincial governments, harassed or killed or exiled their political opposition, conspired under the color of a joint “government,” and made war on their lawful Sovereign. And make no mistake, the Revolution was not launched with the consent of the American people – this was conquest! My research leads me to conclude that when John Adams said a third of Americans supported the Revolution, a third were Loyalists, and a third were “neutral,” he was being generous to his own side; more like twenty percent supported the Revolution, and the rest by any definition would be considered Loyalists, active or passive.

If the Revolutionaries were going to set up their own monarchy – and some briefly considered it – the King’s assent might have been warranted, provided his subjects’ wellbeing was to be taken care of at least as well as under his rule, if not better. But despite what you here from (small-R) republicans about flirtations with Continental princes or George Washington (formerly de Washington), it was never very serious. Having freed themselves from one Monarch, these oligarchs weren’t about to subject themselves to another!

I won’t begrudge certain African and Asian countries essentially conquered by Britain – or the Irish Republic for that matter – their abolitions of the Monarchy. It might not have been a good idea for them, either, to become republics, but generally they were more dominated than colonized by Britain. But the 13 American colonies (plus Vermont) were essentially new England (sic), English and Irish and Scottish subjects of His Majesty transplanted here, or others who willingly moved into His Majesty’s Realms (or African slaves who, at that point in British legal and social development, had no choice). Even the Indians were mostly pushed out and/or killed.

The fact that both The Crown and American republican propaganda have ignored the above facts for 223 years doesn’t make them go away. Any freedom and rights you have weren’t given to you by the “Founding Fathers,” but are recognized at all by dint of the English legal tradition, whose fount is The Crown. “If you heart your freedom, thank The Queen!”

If you want it back (nonviolently)….

(Quite a thought experiment, eh?)