Sunday, February 28, 2010

"As a Thief in the Night" - The Utah Theocracy Regains Power

For 4.25 years Utah enjoyed some progressive thought. Under Governor Jon M. Huntsman we saw a relaxing of our liquor laws and support for civil unions. If it weren't for his economic policies and the idea that the government could be run like a business....he would look like a Utah Democrat. Now by definition and actions a Utah Democrat looks like a Moderate Republican in any other state.

Huntsman's legacy was marred when he resigned to take the Ambassadorship in China and he left the state to Gary Herbert. Herbert, a not very smart mean spirited ultra conservative voice and lackey of the Eagle Forum. I know this sounds harsh but under Huntsman Gayle Ruzicka and the Eagle Forum had significantly reduced influence. However, Herbert, who would not have ever been elected governor, needs her support to win the special election this year.

Unfortunately, the rise of power for Herbert also means a rise to power for Gayle Ruzicka. Now you might think that the curmudgeon has lost his mind or that I am subscribing to conspiracy theories...Take a look at this video posted by Chino Blanco on his Youtube Channel:

I am not sure if the significance of this video occurred to Chino Blanco when he posted it but I watched with a knot in my stomach as I saw the obvious work of the Knitting Needle Mafia. My instincts were confirmed at 1:11 into the video when the evil Empress Darth Ruzicka approached the chair and was greeted with a two handed clasp or honor.

Okay, it is true that Utah's STD rates are lower than the national average but the current trend is a near doubling of cases or STD's over the last five years. It is so concerning that pediatricians and primary care physicians are speaking out. According to the Utah CDC teens are more likely to get chlamydia than the seasonal flu. Girls are infected at 2:1 ratio over boys. If we don't have educational intervention with measurable outcomes we will soon be chasing the trend.

According to Paul Rolly of the Salt Lake Tribune the whole sorted affair went down like this:

Ruzicka pulled out all stops last weekend to muster her Eagle Forum forces to pressure legislators to slam the door on Urquhart's sex education bill before it could ever rise to the level of public debate on its merits.

Thanks to Ruzicka's Eagle Forum, the bill died in the Senate Education Committee on Monday. Ruzicka and her minions didn't need persuasive argument to kill the bill. They didn't need facts. They didn't even need to be on the right side of the issue. All they needed was a tool to dig a grave in which to bury the bill. And the perfect tool they found was Sen. Curtis Bramble, R-Provo, chairman of the Education Committee.

Gayle Ruzicka is the mother of 12 children all of which were educated at home. I don't understand why she feels she has an obligation to tell me or any other parent how we can choose to have our children educated. Her track record as a parent is not spotless. She is not the shinning example of benevolence and love that we might look to for our leadership. The fact is she is a bigot who counts as her friends Senator Chris Buttars and Senator Curtis Bramble. None of which have ever been burdened with the facts, logic, critical thinking or a real desire to serve the interest of the Great State of Utah.

I am a believer that it is time to start standing up for reason. That is why I believe that more than complaining about topic on my blog it is time for a call to action. I encourage those who are ill-served by Senator Bramble to call for his resignation. I also suggest local formation of phone trees to get combat the knitting needle mafia and email's to your local representatives to let them know where you stand. Gayle Ruzicka has shown that a minority interest can get a disproportionate share of the influence by being the squeaky wheel. I am willing to stand up, to lobby, to support candidates who are willing to vote for issues based upon the facts not ideology. It is time for disciples of reason to come out of the shadows and take control from theologues in the legislature. This is not an is a if delayed represents further harm to our children and our citizens.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Who threatens which?

sec·u·lar·ism   /sek-yuh-luh-riz-uhm]
1.secular spirit or tendency, esp. a system of political or social philosophy that rejects all forms of religious faith and worship.
2.the view that public education and other matters of civil policy should be conducted without the introduction of a religious element.

Three articles in the last 10 days have appeared in the Deseret News Mormon Times telling readers that secularism is the greatest threat to religion, Mormonism, Catholicism, and life on the planet as we know it.

From the Feb.14th article Secularism is growing obstacle for Mormon Church:
An attorney for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints predicts secularism will be one of the most significant obstacles facing the LDS Church over the coming decade.

William F. Atkin, associate general counsel for the LDS Church, made the prognostication Saturday during an address at the 2010 J. Reuben Clark Law Society Conference on the University of Utah campus.

"When governments become neutral towards religion, we see less and less protection of religion and religious activities," he said. "Secularism in the world is neutral at best towards religions and hostile at worst. We're seeing more and more that it is hostile, not just neutral, towards religion." ....

...."We think there's going to be a tightening now of what kind of entities get tax-exempt status," Atkin said. "Maybe churches are no longer going to be viewed as such a positive influence in society -- therefore (maybe) they're not going to be granted tax-exempt status."

Abroad, secularism is manifesting itself in a wave of anti-discrimination measures in Europe that could, for example, prevent the LDS Church from requiring its employees to adhere to a basic level of personal worthiness and moral conduct.

"We're seeing more and more, particularly in Western Europe, the countries who are very secular are pushing anti-discrimination and not permitting any religious exclusions," he said.

From the Feb. 12th article Gay-marriage battle endangering religious voices - Elder Wickman:

SALT LAKE CITY -- As the battle over same-sex marriage winds its way through the federal courts, the fundamental right to voice religious beliefs in political debates is seriously endangered, said Elder Lance B. Wickman.

Elder Wickman, an attorney for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and a member of the Quorum of the Seventy, made the remarks Thursday as part of the 2010 J. Reuben Clark Law Society Conference at the University of Utah.

"I believe that the greatest challenge faced by the church," Elder Wickman said, "is the challenge to religious liberty that is growing worldwide. ... A battle is looming over the effort to acquire civil social rights at the expense of civil religious rights. This battle, I believe, represents the acceleration of a disturbing slide downward in the law regarding the place of religion in the public square."

....Elder Wickman said Perry vs. Schwarzenegger portends to define not just marriage per se but the ground rules for all future political debate as well.

"Perry seeks a court declaration that, as a matter of law, religious views may not be used to justify the denial of a social civil right," he said. "Stated differently, they essentially claim that the voters, from whom all authority in a democracy flows, may not consider religious views and values when deciding these alleged social and cultural civil rights.

"These are serious allegations and represent an arrow directly at the heart not only of traditional marriage but at the place of religion and religious views in the political dialogue of this country."

From the Feb. 24th article MMO: Cardinal's speech set tone for LDS, Catholics:

Cardinal George's words built on that subtext.

"We can and should stand together as one in defense of religious liberty. In the coming years interreligious coalitions formed to defend the rights of conscience of individuals and religious institutions should become a vital bulwark against the tide of forces that work in our government and society that work to move religion to a purely private reality.

"At stake is whether the religious voice will be heard in the public square. Our collaborative efforts in this work may include common statements and court testimonies demonstrating principles that are constant with our religious beliefs."

He also said that Latter-day Saints cannot allow public expressions of faith to be relegated to private worship.

The three articles represent the opinions of two religions with abysmal civil rights track records. If left to their own devices not only would we ban gay marriage but we would prevent interracial marriage, keep abused spouses from divorcing their abusers and the progress made in the 60's and 70's civil rights movements would be undone. Unfortunately these regional oppressors are now calling themselves the victims of the neutrally intolerant secular society.

I believe in freedom of religion as much as I believe in freedom from religion. However, I also see religious beliefs similar to our private bedroom habits and believe they are best served when expressed with like minded willing participants not forced upon a nation. To a Catholic, the rituals are comforting; to someone on the outside they are perverse.

Religions, I think can and should serve their flocks. However when they reach out and use their wealth and influence to deny any portion of our society equal rights they should be pushed back and in the case of the LDS Church their tax exempt status should come under scrutiny.

William F. Atkin stated above "Maybe churches are no longer going to be viewed as such a positive influence in society -- therefore (maybe) they're not going to be granted tax-exempt status." If churches are not seen as such a positive influence in the world it is at their own hands. The self righteousness that comes from most pulpits including the LDS churches that puts religion before science, Quantitative measurable out comes behind superstition and hateful biases before compassionate policy should be shunned by our ever growing secular society.

It is religion that has spread propaganda such as the black man is descended from cane and is inferior, women are less than men because they caused Adam to fall, It is a sin to prevent pregnancy, and sex for whatever purpose is mired in sin. This propaganda has resulted in abuse, marginalization and horrible public policy whenever the religious entity has stuck its nose in the business of governing. So yes Mr. Atkin it is questionable as to whether churches are a positive influence in our society. I am with Christopher Hitchens in the belief that "Religion Poisons Everything."

Monday, February 22, 2010

Quote of the Day

When I left Mormonism I considered myself still a Christian and attended a local Baptist church for about 18 months, but when I put to use the same critical thinking methodology that caused me to leave Mormonism, I had to leave behind Christianity and ultimately theism as well. Based on my experience, once you switch on critical thinking, at some point you have to switch it back off to some degree in order to remain a 'believer.' That is, after all, what being a believer means -- you set aside reason and just believe.
- Jeff Ricks

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Question of the Day

Is it OK for the stupid and gullible people to get worthless treatments, if they want?
PZ Myers