Residential schools in Canada

I mean residential schools for aboriginal peoples. John Wilkins at Evolving Thoughts blogged about the Roman Catholic residential schools scandal in Ireland and PZ Myers had a few things to say on Pharyngula: The Catholic League downplays the evils of child abuse.

That reminded me that I hadn’t covered the Truth & Reconciliation Commission in Canada. In 2007, it Canada’s parliament formally apologized for the wrongs done and a compensation package of $1.9 billion was put in place. You can read about it on the CBC’s Residential Schools FAQ. For one thing, the schools were hotbeds of tuberculosis infection.

The main purpose of the schools was to separate children from their ancestral culture. This purpose is now considered to be genocidal, because to obliterate a culture has similar effects in history as obliterating a people.

Why people believe in God

We’re getting closer to understanding the need for belief.

Iowa Supreme Court drop-kicks discriminatory law into dustbin of history

Iowa’s Supreme Court has unanimously rejected a law, on the books for 11 years, that denied the right of same-sex couples to marry. As  lawyer Michael Fox explains, the judicial opinion dismantles the discrimatory rationalizations that accompany prejudicial laws:

The Court’s decision in Varnum v. Brien (2009) is enormously significant not only because it allows same sex couples to marry in Iowa, but also because it so clearly, cogently, and conscientiously dismantles and destroys each and every one of the arguments that the anti-gay forces have made – and continue to make — against sex same marriage.”

The case was brought by six couples who  “seek to declare the marriage statute unconstitutional so they can obtain the array of benefits of marriage enjoyed by heterosexual couples, protect themselves and their children, and demonstrate to one another and to society their mutual commitment.”

The Court first asserted and defended its right and obligation to rule on the constitutionality of the anti-gay marriage statute.  Among the “basic principles essential to our form of government,” the Court explained, is that the state constitution “defines certain individual rights upon which the government may not infringe” including the right to equal protection of the law.

Certain fundamental rights, including the right to the equal protection of the law, are beyond “the vicissitudes of political controversy” and “beyond the reach of majorities and officials” to limit or deny.  Accordingly, the Court has the responsibility “to protect constitutional rights of individuals from legislative enactments that have denied those rights, even when the rights have not yet been broadly accepted, were at one time unimagined, or challenge a deeply ingrained practice or law viewed to be impervious to the passage of time.”

Turning to the equal protection question, the Court first noted that “equal protection can only be defined by the standards of each generation… So, today, this court again faces an important issue that hinges on our definition of equal protection…. How can a state premised on the constitutional principle equal protection justify exclusion of a class of Iowans from civil marriage?”…

The Court first emphatically rejected the claims that permitting same sex couples would undermine the institution of marriage or would harm the state’s children….

The Court next unequivocally held that “scientific research has repudiated the commonly assumed notion that children need opposite-sex parents or biological parents to grow into well-adjusted adults.” …

The Court next rejected the claim that prohibiting same sex couples from marrying would advance the legitimate governmental objective of promoting procreation…

The Court also rejected the claims that prohibiting same sex marriage promoted stability in opposite-sex relationships…. and that prohibiting same sex marriage would conserve state resources….

Based on these findings, the Court concluded that none of the purported objectives of the ban on same sex marriage “were furthered in a substantial way by the exclusion of same-sex couples from civil marriage.”

Strikingly, and courageously, the Court then addressed the real basis for the same sex marriage ban – religious opposition to homosexuality: “While unexpressed, religious sentiment most likely motivates many, if not most, opponents of same-sex civil marriage and perhaps even shapes the views of those people who may accept gay and lesbian unions but find the notion of same-sex marriage unsettling… Whether expressly or impliedly, much of society rejects same-sex marriage due to sincere, deeply ingrained — even fundamental — religious belief. Yet, such views are not the only religious views of marriage… other equally sincere groups and people in Iowa and around the nation have strong religious views that yield the opposite conclusion… Our constitution does not permit any branch of government to resolve these types of religious debates and entrusts to courts the task of ensuring government avoids them… civil marriage must be judged under our constitutional standards of equal protection and not under religious doctrines or the religious views of individuals. This approach does not disrespect or denigrate the religious views of many Iowans who may strongly believe in marriage as a dual-gender union, but considers, as we must, only the constitutional rights of all people, as expressed by the promise of equal protection for all. We are not permitted to do less and would damage our constitution immeasurably by trying to do more.”

So there you have it.

I'm totally stealing this picture!

I'm totally stealing this picture!

UPDATE: The illustration is by Mirko Ilic.

Pat Condell: “Free speech is sacred”

Hat tip to PZ Myers for “Pat Condell doesn’t hold back.”


What is the U.K. coming to?

Philip Pullman weighs in with an impassioned opinion piece, called “Malevolent voices that despise our freedoms,” about laws published or proposed in the United Kingdom:

It is inconceivable to me that a waking nation in the full consciousness of its freedom would have allowed its government to pass such laws as
the Protection from Harassment Act (1997),
the Crime and Disorder Act (1998),
the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (2000),
the Terrorism Act (2000),
the Criminal Justice and Police Act (2001),
the Anti-Terrorism, Crime and Security Act (2001),
the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Extension Act (2002),
the Criminal Justice Act (2003),
the Extradition Act (2003),
the Anti-Social Behaviour Act (2003),
the Domestic Violence, Crime and Victims Act (2004),
the Civil Contingencies Act (2004),
the Prevention of Terrorism Act (2005),
the Inquiries Act (2005),
the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act (2005),

not to mention a host of pending legislation such as
the Identity Cards Bill,
the Coroners and Justice Bill, and
the Legislative and Regulatory Reform Bill.

Hey, U.S.! Don’t divorce our friends!

“Fidelity: Don’t Divorce Us” from the Courage Campaign on Vimeo.


Ditch proposition H8. Hate is not a family value.
Why vote to take away people’s rights to enjoy the rights that you do?

The Darwin Window

Darwin Window, originally uploaded by shefightslikeagirl.

I’d never heard of this church, but apparently the Fountain Street Church in Grand Rapids, Michigan, U.S., is a flower of church liberalization from the late 1800s. It has gone non-denominational. The secular windows of Plato, Da Vinci, Darwin, et. al., were installed in 1924.

“Why marriage matters” by Andrew Sullivan

I don’t get why making marriage legal for more consenting adults invalidates it. If anything dishonours marriage, it’s Hefner-like cavorting,Larry Craig’s hypocrisy, and Mormon polygyny and child marriage.

I read this a few years ago and it made clear to me the real tragedy of denying some people the right to marry those they love. I think it’s impossible to take the sugar out of the coffee but some people are agitating to do just that in California. “Proposition 8” would take away the right of same-sex couples to marry and enjoy the same legal status as heterosex couples. At the moment, they have that right. Many are married. Yet certain busybodies want to dissolve their marriages and change their legal status. I don’t know if this is a legal opinion or not, but I’ve heard the argument that it’s a principle that if some people have a right then everyone should have it. That is, if some people to marry a man or woman, then every consenting adult should be able to. And that automatically makes same-sex marriage legal.

Anyway, here’s Andrew Sullivan’s article: “Why marriage matters.”

What really mattered was family and the love you had for one another. The most important day of your life was not graduation from college or your first day at work or a raise or even your first house. The most important day of your life was when you got married. It was on that day that all your friends and all your family got together to celebrate the most important thing in life: your happiness — your ability to make a new home, to form a new but connected family, to find love that put everything else into perspective.

But as I grew older, I found that this was somehow not available to me. I didn’t feel the things for girls that my peers did. All the emotions and social rituals and bonding of teenage heterosexual life eluded me. I didn’t know why. No one explained it. My emotional bonds to other boys were one-sided; each time I felt myself falling in love, they sensed it, pushed it away. I didn’t and couldn’t blame them. I got along fine with my buds in a nonemotional context, but something was awry, something not right. I came to know almost instinctively that I would never be a part of my family the way my siblings might one day be. The love I had inside me was unmentionable, anathema. I remember writing in my teenage journal one day, “I’m a professional human being. But what do I do in my private life?”

I never discussed my real life. I couldn’t date girls and so immersed myself in schoolwork, the debate team, school plays, anything to give me an excuse not to confront reality. When I looked toward the years ahead, I couldn’t see a future. There was just a void. Was I going to be alone my whole life? Would I ever have a most important day in my life? It seemed impossible, a negation, an undoing. To be a full part of my family, I had to somehow not be me. So, like many other gay teens, I withdrew, became neurotic, depressed, at times close to suicidal. I shut myself in my room with my books night after night while my peers developed the skills needed to form real relationships and loves. In wounded pride, I even voiced a rejection of family and marriage. It was the only way I could explain my isolation.

It took years for me to realize that I was gay, years more to tell others and more time yet to form any kind of stable emotional bond with another man. Because my sexuality had emerged in solitude — and without any link to the idea of an actual relationship — it was hard later to reconnect sex to love and self-esteem. It still is. But I persevered, each relationship slowly growing longer than the last, learning in my 20s and 30s what my straight friends had found out in their teens. But even then my parents and friends never asked the question they would have asked automatically if I were straight: So, when are you going to get married? When will we be able to celebrate it and affirm it and support it? In fact, no one — no one — has yet asked me that question.

When people talk about gay marriage, they miss the point. This isn’t about gay marriage. It’s about marriage. It’s about family. It’s about love. It isn’t about religion. It’s about civil marriage licenses. Churches can and should have the right to say no to marriage for gays in their congregations, just as Catholics say no to divorce, but divorce is still a civil option. These family values are not options for a happy and stable life. They are necessities. Putting gay relationships in some other category — civil unions, domestic partnerships, whatever — may alleviate real human needs, but by their very euphemism, by their very separateness, they actually build a wall between gay people and their families. They put back the barrier many of us have spent a lifetime trying to erase.

It’s too late for me to undo my past. But I want above everything else to remember a young kid out there who may even be reading this now. I want to let him know that he doesn’t have to choose between himself and his family anymore. I want him to know that his love has dignity, that he does indeed have a future as a full and equal part of the human race. Only marriage will do that. Only marriage can bring him home.

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