Sunday, May 14, 2006

The Trojan Horse of "Group Rights"

Cristopher Hitchens tells the tragic tale of Ayaan Hirsi Ali, a Somali immigrant to the Netherlands, and her continued harassment by Muslims, and the cowardly and shameful way that "liberal" and "tolerant" Dutch society overlooks her oppression under the rubric of "group rights" (the article is excerpted in its entirety):

Three years ago, at a conference in Sweden, I was introduced to a Dutch member of parliament named Ayaan Hirsi Ali. Originally born in Somalia, she had been a refugee in several African countries and eventually a refugee from her own family, which had decided to "give" her in marriage to a distant male relative she had never met. Thinking to escape from such confines by moving to the Netherlands, she was appalled to find that radical Islam had followed her there—or in fact preceded her there—and was proselytizing among Turkish and Moroccan and Indonesian immigrants. In ancient towns like Rotterdam and Amsterdam, where once the refugees from Catholic France and inquisitional Spain had sought refuge, and where Baruch Spinoza had been excommunicated and anathematized for his opposition to Jewish fundamentalism, there were districts where Muslim women were subjected to genital mutilation and where the Dutch police were afraid to set foot.

Entering politics to try to alert the European left to this danger, she was first elected as a deputy for the Labor Party, but after 9/11 she changed her allegiance to the Liberals. This, she explained, was because many Labor spokesmen preferred to think of immigrants as possessing "group rights." They had become so infatuated by their own "multi-culti" style that they had ignored the rights of individuals—especially women and girls—who were imprisoned within their own ghetto. (That, by the way, was precisely Spinoza's problem as well. The Dutch rabbis cursed him and condemned him in their own sectarian "court," of which the Christian authorities approved because it took care of dangerous secularism among Jews.)

At the Swedish event, Ayaan Hirsi Ali spoke calmly and rationally about the problem. I never know whether or not it's right to mention, with female public figures, the fact of arresting and hypnotizing beauty, but I notice that I seem to have done so. Shall I just say that she was a charismatic figure in Dutch politics, mainly because of the calm and reason to which I just alluded? She was the ideal choice of collaborator for the Dutch filmmaker Theo van Gogh (a distant descendant of the anguished painter) on Submission, a film about the ignored problem of enslaved and oppressed women in Holland. Ayaan Hirsi Ali wrote the screenplay and provided the movie's voice-over.

You probably remember what happened next: Van Gogh was bicycling to work one morning in 2004 in the capital city of one of Europe's most peaceful and civilized countries when he was shot down in the street and then mutilated in a ritual fashion by an Islamist fanatic. The murderer (who had expected to become a martyr but who was only wounded in the leg by the gentle Dutch cops) left a long "martyr's letter" pinned to van Gogh's corpse by an equally long knife. In it, he warned Ayaan Hirsi Ali that she was the next target, and he gave a long and detailed account of all the offenses that would condemn her to an eternity in hell. (I noticed, reading this appalling screed when it was first published, that he obsessively referred to her as "Mrs. Hirshi Ali," as if trying to make her sound like a Jew. Other references to Jews in the text were even less tasteful.)

She has had to live under police protection ever since, and when I saw her again last week in Washington, I had to notice that there were several lofty and burly Dutchmen acting in an unaffected but determined way somewhere off to the side. I would urge you all to go out and buy her new book, The Caged Virgin, which is subtitled An Emancipation Proclamation for Women and Islam. The three themes of the story are: first, her own gradual emancipation from tribalism and superstition; second, her work as a parliamentarian to call attention to the crimes being committed every day by Islamist thugs in mainland Europe; and third, the dismal silence, or worse, from many feminists and multiculturalists about this state of affairs.

Before being elected to parliament, she worked as a translator and social worker among immigrant women who are treated as sexual chattel—or as the object of "honor killings"—by their menfolk, and she has case histories that will freeze your blood. These, however, are in some ways less depressing than the excuses made by qualified liberals for their continuation. At all costs, it seems, others must be allowed "their culture" and—what is more—must be allowed the freedom not to be offended by the smallest criticism of it. If they do feel offended, their very first resort is to violence and intimidation, sometimes with the support of the embassies of foreign states. (How interesting it is that the two European states most recently attacked in this way—Holland and Denmark—should be the ones that have made the greatest effort to be welcoming to immigrants.) Considering that this book is written by a woman who was circumcised against her will at a young age and then very nearly handed over as a bargain with a stranger, it is written with quite astonishing humor and restraint.

But here is the grave and sad news. After being forced into hiding by fascist killers, Ayaan Hirsi Ali found that the Dutch government and people were slightly embarrassed to have such a prominent "Third World" spokeswoman in their midst. She was first kept as a virtual prisoner, which made it almost impossible for her to do her job as an elected representative. When she complained in the press, she was eventually found an apartment in a protected building. Then the other residents of the block filed suit and complained that her presence exposed them to risk. In spite of testimony from the Dutch police, who assured the court that the building was now one of the safest in all Holland, a court has upheld the demand from her neighbors and fellow citizens that she be evicted from her home. In these circumstances, she is considering resigning from parliament and perhaps leaving her adopted country altogether. This is not the only example that I know of a supposedly liberal society collaborating in its own destruction, but I hope at least that it will shame us all into making The Caged Virgin a best seller.


Can anyone reasonably deny that "group rights" is no more than a Trojan Horse in which civilized countries can be invaded by the barbarities of the uncivilized world? Such is the moral bankruptcy of the contemporary left, that it can find no basis for defending even the most basic demands of decency and humanity. The point of my earlier post on the clash between the Massachusetts anti-discrimination law and the Catholic Church's adoption program wasn't to draw a moral likeness between the Church and the barbaric culture of the militant Muslim communities in Europe, but to point out the danger of allowing any manifestation of "group rights", or religious based exemptions to secular law to take hold, no matter how well-meaning the request for exemption may be. As a wise man once said, "A house divided against itself cannot stand".

29 Comments:

Blogger Harry Eagar said...

Group rights -- or possibly group wrongs -- are very much a part of the Western tradition.

The right of a Jew to lend at interest, or the right of a Christian not to have to live next to a Jew.

In Europe, though, the rights were generally internal -- the right of Spaniards in 16th century London to have a priest and Masses when no other Catholics could; or the right of traders from Germany to have their own courts (Treaty of the Steelyard).

This was humane and in a shared cultural context. When European traders traveled to very different cultures, they negotiated (sometimes imposed) similar arrangements.

These are now denounced as 'unequal treaties.'

This is what Huntington is talking about, and he's right.

May 14, 2006 10:14 AM  
Blogger Duck said...

Harry,

What did Huntington say?

Yes, Hitchens even alluded to it when he talked about Spinoza. It's a very European model, probably with its roots in the Roman Empire. If the Jews want one of their troublemakers put to death for disorderly conduct, we'll put him to death. Whatever will keep the Jews quiet.

But the European model is not a historically stable or successful model. And the British didn't feel obligated to allow their Indian subjects to practice Suttee, as I recall.

May 14, 2006 11:12 AM  
Blogger Harry Eagar said...

Huntington wrote about 'The Clash of Cultures.'

Jews and Christians may have disdained and/or hated each other, but they came from the same place.

Huntington identified 7 world cultures and opined that they are so different that they do not value the same things the same.

Thoughtful Asians (like Harry Lee, who took the name Lee Kuan-yew and adopted what he regarded as a pure Confucian worldview, despite his Oxford upbringing) have written books trying to tell us westerners that they don't buy individualism. No way.

Without a lot overlooking of things, two such cultures are not going to be able to get along very well.

And while the British may have tried to put down suttee (without great success), they were indifferent to a lot of other Indian practices that would have been regarded as sins or crimes back home.

The place to look is Egypt during the British overlordship. Egypt was, from 1882-1945, an independent kingdom but Britain handled its foreign affairs.

Various kinds of English law were imposed, wil he or nil he, on the Egyptians for the good of the Empire, but the British accepted sharia; they did not try to interfere with Egyptian marriage, inheritance etc.

I don't disagree with you at all about group rights, but I don't accept that they were unknown in Europe or America either.

The difference between EuroAmerican group rights and sharia is that, generally, EuroAmerican group claims were internal: we wish to live without electricity; while sharia claims are external: not only do we seclude our women, we get to tell your women how to dress.

Until we had it shoved in our faces, all of us were content to either be ignorant of or indifferent to clitoridectomy.

May 14, 2006 1:47 PM  
Blogger Bret said...

My largest customer is Dutch and when I asked them about this, the conversation rapidly became very awkward. Realizing that I had made a significant blunder (from a business perspective) bringing it up, I rapidly directed the conversation to other topics. The bottom line is that they were terribly embarrassed by their compatriots lack of support to Hirsi Ali. The Netherlands is a mess right now and I've been told that the rate of emigration is climbing every year.

Duck, you're so vehemently opposed to American religions, that prior to this post I assumed that you wanted the United States to follow in the Netherlands footsteps and ultimately be taken over by foreign cultures such as Islam. As I've previously written, Religion is Like the Pox:

"I don't mean this in an insulting sense, just a metaphorical virus of the mind sort of sense. There are mild strains, like cowpox, and virulent, deadly strains, like smallpox. Exposure to cowpox gives immunity from smallpox. There's also a vaccine which gives immunity to all pox.

"In my opinion, the variants of Christianity in the United States today are similar to cowpox as far as virulence goes, radical Islam similar to smallpox, and Reason (with a capital 'R') sort of like a vaccine.

"I would personally just as soon everyone who's not naturally immune be infected with cowpox (Christianity) so that they develop an immunity to smallpox (radical Islam). Indeed, before the smallpox vaccine, people intentionally exposed themselves to cowpox in order to achieve smallpox immunity.

"I prefer this approach to the vaccine (Reason) for two reasons. First, the vaccine doesn't seem to work very well. It seems impossible to innoculate some people and many of those that are innoculated still seem to become infected anyway. [...]

"I say this as someone who has natural immunity (I'm not particularly religious and not Christian), but consider the disease of cowpox a small price to pay for immunity to things that are worse."


The world that you seem to want, one where Christianity is kept weak and marginalized is exactly what they have in the Netherlands. The cowpox has been so weakened and their society's resistance to what I call smallpox and you call The Trojan Horse of Group Rights (really religious rights) has been completely compromised and is rapidly damaging their society.

I think you damage Christianity at your (and especially my) peril.

May 14, 2006 9:50 PM  
Blogger Peter Burnet said...

Nicely put, Bret. I, too, am flummoxed by the fact that hostility to religion seems to grow in intensity among non-believers as it recedes further and further from public life. It's kind of like smoking. Endemic in Europe, but also palpable here.

I highly recommend Earthly Powers, the story of religious/secular battles in 19th century Europe. There is plenty to delight the anti-clericals, as both Catholicism and Protestantism made some pretty seedy devil's pacts with temporal authority and social injustice, but also no-nonsense, disturbing scenarios of what happened when the liberal anti-clericals took power. But here is a quote from a mature George Elliot (who abandoned faith aggressively when she was 22) that jumped off the page at me:

I have no longer any antagonism towards any faith in which human sorrow and human longing for purity have expressed themselves; on the contrary, I have sympathy with it that dominates over all argumentative tendencies. I have not returned to dogmatic Christianity--to the acceptance of any set of doctrines as a creed, and a superhuman revelation of the Unseen, but I see in it the highest expression of the religious sentiment that has yet found its place in the history of mankind, and I have the profoundest interest in the inward life of sincere Christians of all ages. Many things I should have argued against ten years ago, I now feel myself too ignorant and too limited in moral sensibility to speak of with confident disapprobation: on many points where I used to delight in expressing intellectual agreement, I now delight in feeling an emotional agreement.

Of course, Hitchens would spit contempt at this and be quite happy to see her thrown out of her apartment, so I have a hard time getting animated by his outrage, even if I am in raw intellectual agreement with him.

May 15, 2006 4:06 AM  
Blogger Hey Skipper said...

Bret:

Your analogies to smallpox & cowpox are persuasive.

However, I don't think Duck's motivations are as you describe them.

Rather, his thesis is that Group Rights are poisonous no matter the nature of the group.

Affirmative Action here is an instance of group rights that has nothing to do with religion, and of which it is impossible to say anything good without persistent delusional thinking.

Affirmative Action is the flip side of the Jim Crow coin, which is another example of the noxiousness of group rights where religion is irrelevant.

Do you remember college students getting draft deferments during the Vietnam war? More group rights.

Here in Dearborn, a mosque wanted to use loudspeakers to broadcast the calls to prayer. The non-Muslims parts of the community promptly got the vapors, noting the violation of city noise ordinances.

Unfortunately, for a great many non-Muslims, that opposition carried the nauseating stench of hypocrisy, as their churches had a long standing exception to the noise ordinance so they could ring their church bells.

The allowing of a group right in this case inevitably caused the subsequent conflict as another group tried to grab the same exceptional right.

The alternative, of course, is the one Duck advocates: no group gets any exceptional right -- the noise ordinance applies to everyone equally. No bells, no loudspeakers.

No fricking group rights.

May 15, 2006 4:20 AM  
Blogger Peter Burnet said...

Skipper:

Except what you call the "allowing" of a group right looks and is different if you are taking away a right or privilege long enjoyed as opposed to declining to create a new one. In Ontario and Quebec there are separate Catholic (Ontario) and Protestant (Quebec) school boards stemming from the original pact. No other province has this. Given the state of public education, both have high reputations today. Every once and a while, some other faith sues to have their own boards. They never win because the right is an original constitutional one. Works fine and it would clearly be highly divisive to change it. I wouldn't even think of recommending offical Spanish language rights to my American friends, but I would defend French language rights in Canada.

I'm surprised how quickly you see the solution to the mosque/church bell issue as shutting them both down. Not! That wouldn't have anything to do with your not having much time for either, would it? Why do you have such a hard time countenancing the idea that church bells have pealed for centuries and are part of the historical/cultural landscape and so the mosques can just suck it up?

Also, this kind of dilemma stems as much from the word "right" as it does "group". "Right" today means beyond the purview of legislatures and courts, so it is difficult to be civilized and respect these kinds of traditions while checking extremes at the same time. You will be heartened to know that in 19th century Britain, there were lots of court decisions silencing the excessive pealing of church bells. Something about defending the group rights of atheists to sleep in.

May 15, 2006 5:50 AM  
Blogger Duck said...

Bret,
I'm somewhat puzzled by your characterization of me. I have always stood up for religious freedom, and would never countenance the supression of Christianity or any other religion as long as its expression were peaceable and could integrate with civil society (or isolate itself by choice, as with certain sects and cults).

To use your disease analogy, in America we have no shortage of cowpox. In fact, we are awash with it. I, for one, as a supplier of the reason remedy, do see a short supply, so I offer my simple wares via the internet for whoever is willing to try. After all, there are some people who will have an allergic reaction to the cowpox vaccine, and they need consideration as well.

More later, gotta get to work.

May 15, 2006 6:07 AM  
Blogger Hey Skipper said...

Peter:

In Lebanon, the group rights between Maronite Christians and Muslims were entrenched in their Constitution.

And we all know how well that turned out.


I'm surprised how quickly you see the solution to the mosque/church bell issue as shutting them both down. Not! That wouldn't have anything to do with your not having much time for either, would it? Why do you have such a hard time countenancing the idea that church bells have pealed for centuries and are part of the historical/cultural landscape and so the mosques can just suck it up?

In part my opposition is due to the approach I take to all issues such as this: what would happen if everyone got to do X?

In the case of church bells and mosque loudspeakers, the answer is easy: cacophony.

Which begs the follow on question: is there a defendable reason why one group gets to do X, which is prohibited to all other groups.

By defendable, I mean not to the group enjoying the ability to do X, but rather defendable to those who desire to do X, but are currently excluded.

In this case, there is, IMHO, no defendable reason within shouting distance of fair play that says the ringing of church bells is OK, but mosque loudspeakers are not.

Church bells, and mosque calls to prayer, have rung out for centuries, because for centuries wristwatches were rather thin on the ground.

That excuse is long gone.

My opposition has nothing to do with opposition to religion, but rather everything to do with fair play, and avoiding the conflicts that inevitably follow when government favors one group over another.

May 15, 2006 9:02 AM  
Blogger Harry Eagar said...

So, no one has gone within 10 feet of what I see as the real question, which is not merely inconvenient separate outlooks, but contradictory ones.

If a Muslim thinks that the view of a woman's face (any religion) inflames his desire uncontrollably (it's in the Koran, look it up), then surely if he has any religious rights at all, then he has a right to make women cover up.

That's the problem with religious claims of any sort: they are by nature open-ended.

Let's say I believe I have to smoke pot all the time in order to commune with my deity. Do I still have a right to work as an airline pilot?

I was listening to NPR on the subject of immigration this morning, talking about reuniting families. And I thought of a simple solution: Reunite them on the other side of the border.

But, of course, while perfectly parallel to what the immigration 'rights' activists say, that is not what they want, so no one suggests that.

Same with religion. I note that Aceh province is on the verge of extending shariah to all, including Hindus and Christians.

There can be shariah and SHARIAH, and the report did not go into great detail. One thing it mentioned is that the change, if adopted, would make Aceh dry.

This is exactly similar to the situation in the US under the Volstead Act, which was largely inspired by Protestant religion and was regarded by Catholics as an imposition.

Religion may be like cowpox compared to smallpox, but it's always the camel's nose in the tent. Religionists are never content to leave well enough alone.

May 15, 2006 11:17 AM  
Blogger Duck said...

Harry,
I like your last statement. There is no guarantee that a strain of cowpox won't mutate into smallpox.

May 15, 2006 11:21 AM  
Blogger Bret said...

Harry Eagar wrote: "Religionists are never content to leave well enough alone."

Fortunately, its not religionists who matter ultimately. It's society as a whole, and looking at Russia, Europe, Japan, etc., and even the United States, societies often do a fine job (perhaps too good a job) at mitigating the demands of the Religionists.

Cowpox will evolve, and I can't confidently state that it will never mutate into something as nasty as radical Islam, but I sure don't like the other direction, with weakened cowpox (as shown by the Dutch), either.

By the way, rumor has it that Hirsi Ali is moving to the United States in September to work for AEI. It will be interesting to see her perspective on American Christianity and religion when she gets here.

May 15, 2006 11:44 AM  
Blogger Peter Burnet said...

Skipper:

My opposition has nothing to do with opposition to religion, but rather everything to do with fair play, and avoiding the conflicts that inevitably follow when government favors one group over another.

I assume you don't consider non-believers to be a group. No, of course not. They're the referees.

What has this got to do with who government favours? Careful, Skipper, it sounds like you are starting to get in touch with your inner statist.

May 15, 2006 4:32 PM  
Blogger Hey Skipper said...

Peter:

What has this got to do with who government favours? Careful, Skipper, it sounds like you are starting to get in touch with your inner statist.

What has this to do with gov't favors? And I am singularly mystified as to how opposing group favors is in any way "statist."

Everything. They are always bad.

I assume you don't consider non-believers to be a group. No, of course not. They're the referees.

I don't consider non-believers to be a group with any significant power, since there simply aren't enough to matter.

Nor do I consider them to be referees, for the same reason.

The referees are other-believers, of which there are enough varieties in the US to prevent any particular group of believers from gaining any significant ground. (This in in stark contrast to Muslim countries, where Islam is by far the dominant religion, and where the sects can be easily counted on the fingers of one hand.)

The history of the US Constitution is instructive in this regard. Article VI, the one prohibiting religious tests for office, was advocated by Baptists, who feared the predations of their Anglican compatriots.

So I count on believers, in all their varieties of mutually exclusive Truths, to act as the referees.

May 15, 2006 5:27 PM  
Blogger Peter Burnet said...

I don't consider non-believers to be a group with any significant power, since there simply aren't enough to matter.

But you are awfully clever nonetheless. I mean, here you are just a teensy, inconsequential minority and you still manage to shut down both the mosques and the church bells. Now, that's impressive.

Skipper, you would fit in very well in Ivy League faculty clubs.

May 15, 2006 6:42 PM  
Blogger Harry Eagar said...

The US is a secular country, Peter.

Just barely, sometimes.

We put up with what most people agree we should put up with. Secularists or irreligionists have a lousy record of getting statist benefits for themselves, in contrast to religious groups, which do not pay taxes.

May 15, 2006 7:07 PM  
Blogger Peter Burnet said...

Harry, I'm not going to argue with you about what the US is or isn't, but the rest is a distortion. You make it sound as if the religious individually get tax breaks. The churches don't pay taxes. Neither does the ACLU or the Red Cross. So what?

May 15, 2006 7:14 PM  
Blogger Duck said...

Well Bret,

I hope you haven't invested any money in European cowpox vaccine futures, because it looks like the bottom of that market just fell out.

May 15, 2006 8:50 PM  
Blogger Bret said...

I don't think your Reason vaccine is working so well either, though.

May 15, 2006 10:04 PM  
Blogger Hey Skipper said...

Peter:

I mean, here you are just a teensy, inconsequential minority and you still manage to shut down both the mosques and the church bells.

Well, no.

At boisterous town hall meetings, what actually happened was this: a few people suggested that the noise ordnance should apply equally, meaning no bells, no calls to prayer. A great many Christians insisted they had a special "right" to ring their bells. A great many Muslims insisted they had the same right as the Christians.

The twon council caved to the poisonous notion of "Group Rights." The noise ordnance applies to everyone but Christians and Muslims.

So I don't know how I would do in Ivy League faculty clubs (I suspect quite badly), but it is clear how well I would have fared in a Dearborn town hall meeting.

May 16, 2006 4:32 AM  
Blogger Peter Burnet said...

Skipper:

What a hoot! All you need is the Hare Krishna to round it out and make the streets of Dearborn a spiritual Magic Kingdom.

Sorry, but your side is part of the problem because you are basically buying into the notion that this is about "rights", group or otherwise, and you therefore end up in an all or nothing position, as you do with such earth-shattering concerns like Christmas trees on public property or silent, non-denominational prayer. You simply tell the Christians they get to peal their bells for a short time on Sunday mornings only, as they always have, and maybe at funerals and weddings and you tell the Muslims you understand what their faith demands but there is a strict decibel limit--say, two. They can use Blackberrys to call to prayer. There is no way restricting bells or public calls to prayer impinges on religious consciousness, so there is no right to it, but there is much to be said for respecting religious tradition and ceremony that really does not impose on anyone except the most fanatical ACLU lawyer. You don't even have to mention the obvious aesthetic superiority of a traditional bell pealing for a few minutes over the gawdawful cackling that comes from a mosque five times a day. And you don't have to get your knickers in a knot about group rights, just make Harry's distinction, which is a pretty good one.

Whatever happened to the notions of reasonableness and respectful compromise?

May 16, 2006 6:15 AM  
Blogger Harry Eagar said...

Peter, groups like the Red Cross, to get their tax breaks, have to make some effort to show they serve a desirable public purpose.

Religions don't. Even if it can be shown that they are inimical (Farrakhan), they get it, just for invoking a Big Spook.

May 16, 2006 10:23 AM  
Blogger Peter Burnet said...

Harry:

You Catholics. Always the good works!

I think that isn't quite right. They don't have to show they serve a desirable purpose. They have to show they are non-profit and the objectives in their charter documents are charitable in nature, which is defined as including religious. But I've never heard of a "desirability" audit of activities. If I'm wrong, I want the job of auditing the ACLU.

May 16, 2006 1:17 PM  
Blogger Harry Eagar said...

I grant you, it's a pretty low threshold, but you do have to be approved, go through some gesture of showing a public benefit.

Not so churches. They get a flat real property exemption, everywhere except in Virginia, where the influence of Jefferson lingers powerfully enough that they get the exemption only on the sanctuary, not the church hall.

I'm pretty sure they could get it if they were sacrificing babies, though they might then have some other difficulties with the government.

No invidious distinctions if you claim the cover of a Big Spook. It's all good.

May 16, 2006 2:52 PM  
Blogger Duck said...

What a hoot! All you need is the Hare Krishna to round it out and make the streets of Dearborn a spiritual Magic Kingdom.

I'ts a fallen world after all
I'ts a fallen world after all
I'ts a fallen world after all
It's a fal-len world!

May 16, 2006 4:29 PM  
Blogger Peter Burnet said...

Harry:

Now we are down to the nitty-gritty of lawyers' arguments. Gripping, as always.

In the law on charitable status in most places, religion is defined ipso facto as a public benefit. I understand you don't agree, but I charge you to be honest and say so publically and fight for the removal of charitable status for all churches. To say that is ok in theory but you want "scientific" proof of the benefit, all the while muttering "Ecrasez L'infamme!" under your breath suggests hypocrisy. As a good man of the Enlightenment, you wouldn't want that ultimate sin pinned on you, would you?

Duck:

You know, when I wrote that, I thought: "A Disney Park devoted to all the different faiths? Unfortunately, that just might work."

May 16, 2006 4:39 PM  
Blogger Harry Eagar said...

I did say that, long ago, at Brothers Judd -- I think the churches should pay taxes. Or show a reason why not.

At a minimum, they ought to stop taking my devil-tainted lucre. You'd think they'd have more self-respect.

Perhaps you've forgotten my jeers at the Bishop of Nashville, who preached that it was a mortal sin to take gummint money, until there was a possibility he might get some. I want a refund for the tuition my long-suffering parents paid to his lousy schools, too.

May 16, 2006 9:47 PM  
Blogger Peter Burnet said...

Harry, how could anyone ever forget your jeers at the Bishop of Nashville? Ranks right up there with the Gettysburg Address.

May 17, 2006 4:20 AM  
Blogger Hey Skipper said...

Peter:

Sorry, but your side is part of the problem because you are basically buying into the notion that this is about "rights", group or otherwise, and you therefore end up in an all or nothing position, as you do with such earth-shattering concerns like Christmas trees on public property or silent, non-denominational prayer.

First, please note that I cited several examples of noxious group rights having absolutely nothing to do with religion.

Second, the ones associated with religion seem to develop particular virulence.

On National Prayer Day last year, there was quite the schlmozzle between several Christian groups in Troy, MI (near Detroit). (No link, because the Detroit Free Press archives articles over a week old, and charges for access)

The organized prayer session took place on the steps of City Hall. Since the space available was somewhat limited, the City chose one of the groups to publicly pray (Did Jesus have something to say about ostentatious prayer?)

That group obtained a "right" from the government denied to the others, whereupon there was the inevitable sectarian foodfight.

Lost among all the shouting Christians were shouting Muslims.

Also, it is worth noting that excluded religious groups, for more often then non-believers, who are the ones turning to the turning to the courts over public sectarian displays.

May 17, 2006 8:55 AM  

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