Monday, February 28, 2011

Piety Creates a Marketplace of Ignorance

 The covered Cosmopolitan (left) is a common sight here in conservative Utah.  This was was photographed with my iPhone at our South Jordan Harmon's grocery store.  I really enjoy our Harmon's grocery (as much as you can a grocery store)  They have friendly employees and the store is clean.... for the most part.  They have a good selection of produce and meat in general.  I struggle to understand why a market that is open 7 days a week and only closes on Christmas is willing to pander to religious fundamentalism and to cave to the "morally" outraged prudes who push this type censorship and control.  The reality is that the magazine covers on Cosmopolitan and Fitness magazines as well as the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit edition do not show anything that you will not see if you go the pool, dancing at a night club or on the patrons shopping inside your Harmon's.  Yet we have the 'Coalition for Decency' determining at what lengths we have to go to see the bylines of those covers because they might be surrounding some cleavage.

So we cover this magazine because we are afraid someones's husband may think that Lea Michelle is the standard by which we judge what is sexy or because her cleavage might be titillating to little Johnny increasing the likelihood that he may explore his sexuality while he is alone.

Of Course there is the argument what is being shown is not real and it gives our daughters and women in the community a standard that is unattainable.  While I agree that may be the case are we doing anyone a service?  However we don't think much about breast augmentation which is as common in Utah as it is anywhere else in the country.  When you cover it up you also close off the opportunity for any type of healthy discussion. Discussions like 'your realize that the cover has in all likelihood been airbrushed and she doesn't look like that in real life?' 'Do your think that is a shirt or dress you could wear and feel comfortable in?' 'Do you think the views about sexuality that are discussed on the cover of that magazine are healthy representations of what sex is about?'

I am the father of 5 kids: three boys; 23, 19 ,13 and two girls 20, and 11.  The conversations that went on in my home over the weekend included questions about anatomy: 'What is a clitoris.... what is a douche for?';  A statement: 'Just because a girl likes anal sex doesn't mean she isn't a nice girl'; and concerns about pornography use by underage children.  As adults my wife and I could have brushed the topics under the rug or overreacted making discussion impossible or we could do what we did and address topics head on in a non-threatening educational way that quenches the curiosity and leaves the child feeling empowered to control their own sexual identity and destiny. The STD rates are increasing in Utah.  Teenage pregnancy is on the rise again. Sexual dysfunction inside of marriage is high.  It certainly is not because information and attitudes about sex are free flowing.  It is because we have restricted the information and attempt to create a taboo around sex and sexuality.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

How Legislated Hate Gets a Pass in Religious Communities

Two days ago I posted my commentary on Lavar Christensen's proposed HB 270.  While I still mean everything I said in that post it has come to my attention I may have been distracted by the shiny keys being jangled.  It appears this is one of three bills designed to not directly, but in a round about way, void the progress made by local municipalities to give equal protection to homosexuals or any other fringe group not specifically protected by the federal anti discrimination laws.

This article written by Peg McEntee outlines what she call may be unintended consequences of the HB 109, HB 270 and HB 182.  

McEntee: Unintended consequences in “one man, one woman” bill

Given the way the Utah Legislature works, there is no such thing as an unintended consequence when it comes to piety.  Mr. Christensen has put together a strategy to very callously strip away any inroads we have made toward equality and to affording all of our citizens equal protection under the law no matter what they believe religiously or who they love sexually.  What he will be successful in accomplishing is the further insulation religious bigots from consequences for their actions.

For some reason, Christensen finds it necessary to beef up protections for “religious liberty and freedom of conscience” that already exist in the Utah and U.S. constitutions.
But at what point does religious liberty collide with more secular protections against racial, gender or any other manner of discrimination?
Your religious principles allow you to refuse restaurant service to a person of color? You object to a woman with children working outside the home, so you won’t hire her? You won’t rent an apartment to two single women or men because their possible sexual orientation might be an affront to your faith?
Christensen has an answer: “The free exercise of religious liberty is a recognized exemption to otherwise generally applicable laws and a valid defense to claims of discrimination by others.”

So if you believe that Black Americans are inferior based upon religious dogma you are free to exercise that here in Utah without consequence.  If you want to deny housing, in Salt Lake City, to homosexuals, where the  denial would be illegal you are free to do so under his additional religious expression.  If you want to refuse to teach principles in the class room that have been proven by science you are free to do so.

Equally disturbing is his amendment to 13-8-6 makes a law that violates "public policy" unenforceable.  If paired with HB 270 it makes it so the no fault divorce option may be unavailable to couples who fall out of love and don't want a long messy divorce.  It further prevents gay adoption, marriage, and perpetuates legally protected discrimination when paired HB 109.

As an outspoken Militant Atheist the idea that religion needs additional protection is absurd.  You have the right to practice what you will as long as you don't injure someone else in the process.  Denying someone housing based upon what they might do in their bedroom is causing injury.  Denying a child a loving parent because that parent loves someone of the same sex is injurious.  But it is not just on the gay rights front that this is dangerous.  It is single mothers, unmarried couples, and potentially mixed race couples that will run afoul of the cleverly disguised trifecta of hate proposed by Rep. Christensen.

There is a question that often runs in atheist circles:  "Do we have to show tolerance to that which is intolerant?"  Does religion deserve the respect it demands and that is constitutionally protected?  More importantly, does it deserve additional protections that alters the playing field and gives it a "better than" status.  I submit the answer to the above questions is no.... not when it uses it protections to force the rest of us to live in its shadow and harms any member of our populous in the name of its distorted world view.  Mr. Christensen is using his piety to influence public policy even though the result will ultimately be harmful to our society.  Unfortunately most Utahn's will nod their heads in agreement or are too busy watching the Super Bowl or American Idol to pick up a local news paper to educate themselves the impact of the legislation.  We know we want a democratic republic but we are unwilling to participate in the process.

Write you local Representative and Senator and let them know you find this group of bills unconscionable.  Let's give no public forum for hate.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Who says you get to define the family Mr. Christensen

A couple of days ago the local Salt Lake City questioned Rep. Lavar Christensen (R) about House Bill 270.  This was his response if you can call it that....

Here is the bill:

 Be it enacted by the Legislature of the state of Utah:

Section 1. Section 30-1-4.2 is enacted to read:
  30-1-4.2. Public policy in support of family.

 (1) The institution of marriage and family, consisting of the legal union of a man and a woman and children conceived and born to, or adopted by, the married couple as father and mother, is the fundamental unit of society and the optimum environment in which to nurture and raise a child.

Sure.... when the marriage works and both parents love each other and when there is sufficient money and education and when the rainbow touches ground where the unicorns walk.  But what about those equally beautiful alternatives.  When two people love each other and they are same sexed?  What about the times when the traditional family mode does not work?

This is a public policy statement.  That means the rules the agencies provide services under are free to dismiss the alternative lifestyles people may choose.  That is why this is more concerning than the typical non binding resolutions that the Utah State Righteouslature passes.  Additionally, let's acknowledge that this law only restricts the legal union to a man and a woman here on earth.... not in the three kingdoms of glory where polygamy is still practiced and polygamous marriages are still sanctioned and sealed for eternity in the temples of the lord and this is where the hypocrisy lies.

(2) Marriage and family predate all governments and are supported by and consistent with the Laws of Nature and Nature's God, the Creator and Supreme Judge of the World, affirmed in the nation's founding Declaration of Independence. 

This is where the law runs completely off the tracks constitutionally.  You cannot canonize the existence of any god in state law.  It violates the separation clause of the Constitution.  Nor can you claim a creator exists in the natural law without proof.

Marriage and family do not predate any goverments.  Marriage by definition is:  "The social institution under which a man and woman establish their decision to live as husband and wife by legal commitments, religious ceremonies, etc."  Whether controlled by religious or legal expression the institution was established by a governance.  The government may have been religious dogma or secular laws but it is a government none-the-less.  Before the establishment of governments (either religious or secular) there was no legitimate basis for marriage.  This clause as a policy statement represents logical fallacy and a supposition that there is really a God and that he give two hoots in hell what we do.

Finally, when will creationists stop using the Declaration of Independence as a basis for our governance.  The declaration was the document that plunged the new American Society into chaos.  It did not establish an interim government and was not meant to.  It merely vented our grievances to the dictator that oppressed us and was really today's version of a middle finger.  The Confederate Papers where the first for of governance and they were replaced by our secular constitution that says nothing about a god.

(3) Marriage represents the legal sanction and approval of society and is essential to ordered liberty and public virtue.

The bold highlight is what this is really about.  However our constitution is designed to protect even those who are minorities.  That is why Utah and it's predominant religion has survived.  Because if it was subject to the approval of society it would have never been able to thrive.  As a legal sanction, one that is the be mediated by our courts, it must be a secular exercise.  In fact, the marriages provided justices of the peace are equally binding as those performed in a church and the only thing that makes a marriage binding is the marriage license signed by both parties.  Not the ritual.

The claim that marriage is essential to ordered liberty falls flat when you consider that 50% of all marriages fail.  Of the 50% that survive it is unlikely that all are "happy".

(4) Procreation within marriage links generations and is fundamental to the perpetuity of humanity.

Linking generations has nothing to do with the perpetuity of humanity.  Procreation does.... but our humanity is not determined by our ability to procreate or our attachment to a ritual that was developed to lay claim to property.  It is determined by our ability to engage in compassion and nurture and care for all members of our species without prejudice based upon tribal bonds.  Marriage does not serve all of the species nor should it bind two people who no longer desire to be together.

(5) (a) Families anchored by both a father and a mother, fidelity within marriage, and enduring devotion to the covenants and responsibilities of marriage are the desired norm.

Until it no longer works for both parties.

(b) Cultures and societies where laws, practices, and public policies protect, preserve, and promote such enduring and time-honored family values and principles are happiest,healthiest, and most stable.

Show me how this is true... besides you say it true.  Cultures and societies who value each and every individual no matter what their orientation, isn't that what this is really about, are the happiest and healthiest and most stable.  Cultures who look critically at religion and it's claims are happiest and healthiest.  Cultures who have an evidence base not superstition and supposition are really exercising the time-honored tradition of using our intelligence to further the species.

(6) The furtherance and protection of order and public morality are legitimate and substantial government interests.

Marriage does not protect the public morality.  In fact before we declare it does please define "Public Morality."  The idea of public morality is an intrusion on the individual in this context.  We are not talking about public sex, public nudity, or public sacrifice.  We are talking about giving everyone the same rights and acknowledging that homosexuality is no more prevalent now that it has been historically and there is significant evidence that it has a genetic component.  Truth is at the center of our substantial government interest not the nonsense contained in this bill.

(7) To the extent social problems arise that adversely affect the desired optimum family condition, such as the dissolution of marriage, crime, poverty, immorality, violence, and other conditions that place added responsibilities on individuals and communities through publicly funded and administered social programs and government services, laws and regulations shall be carefully scrutinized to determine how they impact the family and the protection of children.

We already have public policy and laws that deal with violence and immorality as it applies to a child that cannot consent.  We do not need the government to determine what is immoral between consenting adults.  It is foolish to declare society as a victim where there is no proof this is the case.  An unwed parent reproducing has no greater effect on society than a married couple reproducing 8, 9, 10 times without the ability to support the child they bring into the world.  One is not more sacred or more moral than the other.  Unless we are willing to control when and how all people reproduce this statement has all the vibrato of a one handed golf clap.  If you are serious about improving marriage as an institution then promote sex education that discusses, frankly how babies are made and how to prevent them and how to best engage in a relationship with another human that reflects the real world not your ideal version of it.

In this paragraph the item of most concern is the alluding to controlling the dissolution of marriage.  The representative even alludes to this in his interview.  He doesn't want no fault divorces.  To bind two people together, when one does not what to be in the relationship, assigns the disaffected person to the role of property.  That is immoral.

(8) (a) The laws of the state shall, to the fullest extent possible, strengthen, safeguard, and sustain families.

Again..... sex education... comprehensive sex eduction required in middle school and all 4 years of high school.

(b) They shall respect and promote the essential and complementary roles of both a father and a mother and uphold this public policy for the greatest public good.

The greatest public good comes from respecting the individual and in helping them reach their potential.  Not by dogmatic laws that are designed to strip the rights of a valuable class of our species.  Mr. Christensen this law is immoral and indefensible.  Come to us with the specific studies that support your claim, not sound bites from the last General Conference.  You have failed to do your due diligence.  You were asked to provide justification for this bill by the reporter.  Start by answering the questions and providing the proof and then draft a bill supported by evidence.  Your personal morality may work for you but it does not work for anybody else.

(Cue the unicorns)