Indiana law

Some say that the Indiana religious freedom law is just like a Federal one Senator Obama supported in 1993, neglecting to mention it was held unconstitutional in 1997. Some say Indiana’s is like that in 19 other states, though it defines exercise of religion exceptionally widely:

“exercise of religion” includes any exercise of religion, whether or not compelled by, or central to, a system of religious belief.

So it encourages antisocial behaviour if the actor imagines s/he might attempt a defence of it using that law.

Other such laws give a defence to litigation by the State, but in Indiana it applies to litigation by any legal person. So this law encourages speculative and frivolous defences to court action. Thanks to Benjamin Studebaker, who had done the work already. The law protects the religious acts of businesses as well as individuals, though only in America could a business have religious beliefs. That Atlantic article points out that quite recently, Americans were pretending race discrimination was a religious issue. It is, but those Americans had it the wrong way round.

I wanted to know why any Christian would want to discriminate against gay people. The lobbyist behind the bill, Eric Miller of Advance America, said Churches, Christian businesses and individuals deserve protection from those who support homosexual marriages and those who support government recognition and approval of gender identity (men who dress as women).  SB 101 will help provide the protection! Ew. But, why? I got that quote from Pragmatic Mystery, who points out that Jesus dined with prostitutes and thieves, and those of us who follow him should see the image of God reflected in all people, and reach out in friendship to them.

I thought of St Paul, and found this quote from Proverbs in Romans: To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” Jesus said, Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.

So I asked bloggers appearing sympathetic to the Act. Susan Bea Good, whose aunt is a trans woman ostracised by Susan’s mother for transitioning, says that baking a cake for a gay marriage is encouraging the sin of homosexuality, which is not loving. MT Hayes uses the word “Condoning”, but has another point: I believe the exaggerated response to sexual sin is a matter of psychology, not Scripture. We’re afraid of the powerful temptations of sex and so fixate on those sins in fear. Mmm. I can get uncomfortable seeing PDAs. The unashamed gay person is a symbol of sexual freedom, which torments the sexually unfree.

Black3Actual alludes to 1Cor 8. Even those Christians who know they may associate with queers, if they tell that to those who believe otherwise, they may wrongfully harm their faith. So a refusal to associate with queers should be respected, even if not truly Christian. And bad company ruins good morals. But for him, it is chiefly a freedom thing. That if enough ostracised them, gays could be driven out of a place, which would hurt the straights too, carries no weight with him. Though I have some respect for his contrariness: we explain to him, and he refuses to be told what to do. It is what made America great. Appalachian philosopher goes further: forcing the Christian to bake that cake is “akin to rape”.

For The Grey Enigma, his right to freedom is absolute. The right of free association is the right to refuse to associate; the right to free speech is the right to say nothing. Both derive from the right to freely think, deduce, infer and judge. Collectivists cannot accept these facts as they know that their desired stances are incapable of being derived from these freedoms. Indeed. They derive from the fact that we are a social species. The bell tolls for thee.

Earlham college, of Indiana YM, an Orthodox YM affiliated to FUM which had a schism over homosexuality, opposes the law.

Manet, copy after Delacroix- Bark of Dante


File:L'Automne E Manet Nancy 2718.jpgYou do not exist. You are a figment of my imagination.

Toddlers learn, often traumatically, that other people have different desires than they; but only my experience matters to me. A plum just now exploded in my mouth in extreme sweetness, delighting me and consuming all my attention, but if it could be miraculously reconstituted I would not recognise it among a dozen others. Often I learn more from forcing my own inchoate ideas into words than from listening to other people. Their perspective is too alien for me to take it in. Sometimes a hint from what you say may take root and germinate in me, coming to consciousness months or years later. I was embarrassed as well as flattered to hear from my friend that she could remember our conversations from years before: I cannot.

An ancient example of how our senses deceive us is that an arrow half in water appears to be bent, though it is straight. I can explain this from high school physics as the refraction of light in water. The arrow is straight: my senses deceive me in an explicable and predictable way.

Descartes said “je pense donc je suis” in considering how science works. He doubted that human beings could usefully learn and generalise from our environment. How can we know that our understanding does not fit reality simply by accident? He doubted that it could, and realised that those doubts came from somewhere, a self he called I. Helleu- Alice GuérinCicero said “There is no statement so absurd that no philosopher will make it” but, rather, philosophers explore what we all take for granted, apparently ridiculously but eventually increasing understanding. Bertrand Russell wrote a book proving that 1+1=2.

If there is an external world, my understanding of it has to be constructed from my sense-impressions. So says David Hume. I did not understand this: of course the tree falling in a forest makes a noise even if there is no-one to hear it; but it depends what you mean by “tree”, “forest” and “noise”. The event is different from my experience of it and my understanding of it, so the event itself is unknowable.

Hume doubted the external world, then went out and played Backgammon with Edinburgh friends. He said it is human nature to believe in that world and interact in it, but Rationalist philosophy cannot prove it: we act on our programming, not on the World as it Is.

You might respond that this has nothing to do with human experience: we know things with varying levels of certainty, and correct our mistakes or drift deeper into delusion but rub along well enough. Philosophers themselves addressed that: Thomas Reid argued that philosophical theory must relate to the life you live in the real world. Centuries later, my understanding is enriched by both Hume and Reid, on how I can be wrong, and how I can be right enough.

Most of this comes from In Our Time. I have played a lot of In Our Time, mostly at night: before Melvyn Bragg says “With me to discuss” it has normally put me to sleep.

Are you a Terrorist?

File:Weather vane in Jūrmala.jpgBelow is a list of 72 types of Americans that are considered to be “extremists” and “potential terrorists” in official U.S. government documents. As you can see, this list covers most of the country… Are you a conservative, a libertarian, a Christian or a gun owner? Are you opposed to abortion, globalism, Communism, illegal immigration, the United Nations or the New World Order?…

Reclaim our Republic followed my blog, an admirable show of openmindedness seeing as our views diverge so greatly. His “Great Post” from the email notification was this bizarre bit of paranoia. Well: the list covers large numbers of people who would vote Republican- anti-gay, anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim- widespread if more or less icky views.

A Google for that first sentence came up with perhaps fifty sites which have quoted this, beginning in August last year, with names like Modern Survival Online, Your Civil Defense, and Patriots for America. Eventually I traced it back to The Truth Wins. I thought it worth checking his sources.

10. Anti-gay. It is an email from a battalion commander to his subordinates about challenging groups and behaviours which are inconsistent with “Army Values”. Groups named include Focus on the Family. The email quotes its founder James Dobson as saying “The battle against gay rights is essentially a second civil war”. As gays are accepted in the US military, prejudice against a soldier because of his sexuality is not conducive to good discipline, and so should be challenged by officers. No-one here is being called a terrorist or threatened with Guantanamo, except by “Truth Wins”.

30. Anyone that “complains about bias“. This is a US Army document, so it only applies to soldiers, not civilians. It concerns radicalisation into violent extremism, and the first personal issue which commanders should look out for is “complains about bias”. But- that list is of indicators of predisposition to radicalisation, not of people who have been radicalised. That document is the source for Michael Snyder’s points 30-39. The context shows why such things might be considered a threat to army discipline, and what is the proportionate response.

42. Citizens that have bumper stickers that are patriotic or anti-UN. The source comes from the Bureau of Justice Assistance, part of the US Department of Justice, from its State and Local Anti-Terrorism Training (SLATT) programme. It is a 97 page powerpoint presentation. It starts on Al-Qaeda, and reports that the shock-wave from a car bomb can kill someone thirty metres away. It explains terrorists might have forged documents, and gives some tips on detecting these.

When it goes on to car stops and searches, after mentioning passports and training manuals the potential terrorists hold, it mentions bumper stickers (p68) and from p75 there are logos which could be bumper-stickers, for Aryan Nation, World Church of the Creator, or the Real American Patriot Militia. A bumper sticker illustrated says “If you love your country the UN is not your friend”. Whether the accompanying talk would say this sticker is grounds for a car stop and search is not clear, it is powerpoint, but a Google for that slogan leads to horrid paranoia.

So, no. This Chinese whisper of paranoia goes round the Right. It conflates indicators of concern with reasons to be taken to Guantanamo. Being whipped up to fear and anger so delights them that they do not question the source.

“Religious persecution” in Canada Whatcott, a poor deluded man who imagined his own sexual orientation was “sinful”, circulated flyers claiming that sex education about gay people in schools would result in children “paying the price in disease, death and abuse”. In Saskatchewan (Human Rights Commission) v Whatcott, these were found unlawful.

In England, it is a criminal offence to use threatening words or behaviour with the intention of inciting hatred against gay (or straight, or bi) people. In Saskatchewan, no person shall publish… any representation…that exposes or tends to expose to hatred, [ridicules, belittles or otherwise affronts the dignity of] any person or class of persons on the basis of…sexual orientation.

The same statute specifies that this shall not restrict the right to freedom of expression under the law upon any subject. The statute is interpreted in conformity with the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which guarantees the freedom of conscience and religion and the freedom of thought, belief, opinion and expression, including freedom of the press and other media of communication.

Mr Justice Rothstein gives reasons why the publication is hatred, at Para 180-190:

[187]                      Passages of Flyers D and E combine many of the “hallmarks” of hatred identified in the case law.  The expression portrays the targeted group as a menace that could threaten the safety and well-being of others, makes reference to respected sources (in this case the Bible) to lend credibility to the negative generalizations, and uses vilifying and derogatory representations to create a tone of hatred…  It delegitimizes homosexuals by referring to them as filthy or dirty sex addicts and by comparing them to pedophiles, a traditionally reviled group in society.

[189]                      The flyers also seek to vilify those of same-sex orientation by portraying them as child abusers or predators.  Examples of this in Flyers D and E would include: “Our children will pay the price in disease, death, abuse . . .”; “Sodomites are 430 times more likely to acquire Aids & 3 times more likely to sexually abuse children!”; and “Our acceptance of homosexuality and our toleration [sic] of its promotion in our school system will lead to the early death and morbidity of many children”.

Rothstein, J. finds that the section infringes the right to freedom of expression, and then decides whether the infringement is demonstrably justified in a free and democratic society. Paras 63-164 balance hate speech against free speech.

If you read any of the judgment, I recommend paras 69-77 on the harm done by hate speech. The emotional reaction of gay people to the hate is not issue: instead, it is that hate speech tends to reduce the social standing of the vilified group, promotes discrimination against them, and prevents them from taking part in the national discourse (para 82).

Note the extreme nature of the speech prohibited. The court removes from the statute reference to speech which “ridicules, belittles or otherwise affronts the dignity of” gay people or other protected groups, as unconstitutional (para 92). Reasoned debate is always permissible. Whatcott can still advocate that homosexuality and homosexual behaviour should not be discussed in schools, but not by calling us a threat to children.

Whatcott sought to argue that his pamphlets only attacked sexual behaviour, not people of a sexual orientation. The court found that homosexual conduct is a crucial aspect of the identity of the homosexual group, so that attacks on the conduct stand as proxy for an attack on the vulnerable group (paras 121-124).

The Bible calls for us to be stoned to death. Is it hate speech? No. While use of the Bible as a credible authority for a hateful proposition has been considered a hallmark of hatred, it would only be unusual circumstances and context that could transform a simple reading or publication of a religion’s holy text into what could objectively be viewed as hate speech (para 199).

Whatcott was ordered to pay $7,500 Canadian to two complainants, and cease to distribute his two most objectionable pamphlets. Others saying “Saskatchewan’s largest gay magazine allows ads for men seeking boys” and “[t]he ads with men advertising as bottoms are men who want to get sodomized. This shouldn’t be legal in Saskatchewan!” were permitted (paras 194-202).

So this article claiming that the Bible, or anyone calling homosexual sex “immoral”, could be prohibited as hate speech, is in error, and as it quotes from the judgment, that error is likely a deliberate lie. And that poor silly cakemaker, who writes that even claiming that homosexual behaviour is immoral is now classified as ‘Hate Speech’, is mistaken. I hope she will delete her false claims from her blog.


I heard of a solicitor in Liverpool who took the old Advice and Assistance forms down the pub, and bought a pint for people who would sign them. He then claimed to have given the basic advice to each, and claimed the fee from the Legal Aid Board.

fat lawyer coining it on Legal Aid

A con, or at least playing the system, which I saw: a firm leafleted an area saying that people may be entitled to state benefits they are not claiming: ask for advice. Anyone who called would see an unqualified person for half an hour, and get a useless seven page letter inaccurately summarising the whole benefits system, and would sign the LAB’s basic advice form, each bringing about £80 or so to the firm.


Given that, it was hardly surprising that the LAB’s attitude seemed to be, “we’re going to catch you wasting our money, and we’re going to punish you for it”. My colleague left the CAB and became an LAB auditor. She told me that when her victim answered the door to her, he began visibly shaking.


I found the audits pettyfogging and pointless. For example, we were criticised for keeping papers in a fold of cardboard, rather than a proper file which would keep them all in the correct order. What if we dropped a file? Well, we pick it up. We got marked down for that one, and after in another office I had to pull things out of poly pockets before I could read them. Petty, and arguably not an improvement. I also got marked down for not having documentary evidence on a file that I had given my client my name. Of course I have given my client my name. So I drafted a document which recorded all the information we were supposed to take from a client, and told the client all that we were supposed to tell them: and was criticised for not personalising it more. As if you can tell someone that the appeal time limit is one month in more than one way.

Today (in case you have not noticed) I am having a whine.


Given my personality, I found the pressure of audits terrible. Just before my first in 1995, I was in the office at 7pm sorting files out, and I screamed at the floor. A good way to release pressure, but not necessarily a good way to convince colleagues of ones reliability. My usual way of dealing with emotion was to suppress it.

I feel that now, when I am working on being conscious of my feelings and accepting them, permitting them and not suppressing them, I can go back to old feelings about old situations, and cleanse them, accept them and let them go. And I feel that this is valuable to do: it was as it was, and it was alright, and my discomfort was bearable; and it is all right now. 

Picture by LS Lowry.