Should Christian photographers take gay photos?

July 3, 2012

Worthy of a special round of Scruples, this one. I ran across a story of New Mexico event photographers who wound up in a bit of hot water over refusing to take photos for a lesbian wedding. The lesbian couple in question took the matter to the Human Rights Commission back in 2006 and Elaine and Jon Huguenin, joint owners of Elaine Photography, have now been asked to pay $7000 for discrimination based on sexual orientation.

I’m going to say they shouldn’t have to. This isn’t a case of a Justice of the Peace refusing to wed a lesbian couple, or people who won’t rent to them. It’s wedding photography and I think all the couple should have done was say, “Screw you then, we’ll give our money to somebody else,” and then paid for some less homophobic company to capture their memorable day forever. I can’t imagine they were the only photographers available in town.

I’m also going to say that I think consumers need to do more research into the companies they want to deal with and maybe this couple was right to want to make an example of the Huguenins. If their beliefs are going to be getting in the way of doing their job, then perhaps they should either switch beliefs or switch jobs.

Another article about the case quotes Peter Sprigg of the Family Research Council, who tries to make the case that this is still more evidence of religious “rights” being whittled away:

“I think this case illustrates a disturbing trend that we’re seeing in general, which is a shrinking of religious liberty and [a shrinking] of the area in which we can act on our religious convictions to only the four walls of our homes or the four walls of our churches,”

he warns, but NEWS FLASH! Religion needs to be pulled out of the public areas. It really needs to be. Keep the public areas secular and be as religious as you want to be at home and your church. The rest of the city/province/state/country should be kept religion free so no group gets preferential treatment and no group winds up feeling slighted. Christians are used to assuming they ought to get preferential treatment but that’s an assumption that needs to be set aside as places get more and more multicultural. I know many Christians think they ought to be allowed to convert everyone they see so the whole world is Christian like they are, but tough tits. People are allowed to hold other religious beliefs. Including no religious beliefs. Laws and ethics and morality can be built up and upheld without resorting to what people think some god thinks.

I’m just throwing all that out there. What about readers? What are your thoughts here?

Old news: it’s hard to be atheist in Indonesia

May 22, 2012

Via the Jakarta Globe, January 19, 2012:

An Indonesian civil servant who posted “God does not exist” on his Facebook page has been taken into police custody for his own protection after he was badly beaten.

The man, identified as Alexander, 31, now faces the prospect of losing his job, or even being jailed, if he fails to repent and accept one of six official state religions.

Blasphemy carries a maximum sentence of five years in jail.

Atheist Ireland felt like taking a stand over this. Their own country passed a blasphemy law in July of 2009. While briefing local politicians about the Indonesia case, they implied that Ireland is partially to blame for it. Two Senators agreed and in February of this year, they asked their government leaders to support Alexander Aan. Said Jillian van Turnhout:

While I fully support the repeal of this law, I do not believe the intention of the blasphemy legislation introduced by Mr. Dermot Ahern in 2009 was to infringe upon the rights to freedom of expression, religion, belief and conscience in Ireland. Nor do I think it is a desirable consequence that our law is being used to support such infringements, including against Christian religions in Islamic countries anywhere else in the world.

The Guardian picked the story up again in May. The article states that the country runs with a state philosophy of pancasila, which requires all citizens to pick one god (or set of gods) and believe in that completely. Aan’s initial refusal to choose to be Muslim, Catholic, Protestant, Buddhist, Confucian or Hindi might encourage more people to reject every religion and thus become uncontrollable individualists without ethics or morals, so he has to be beaten by mobs and imprisoned as a warning for everyone.

While his lawyers estimate there may be up to 2,000 atheists in Indonesia, “there’s no real way of knowing”, Fajrin says. The repercussions are too dangerous.

According to Andreas Harsono, a local human rights activist, Aan’s case is just one of a growing number of examples of religious intolerance across Indonesia, ranging from harassment to mob and arson attacks against groups such as the Baha’i, Shia and Ahmadiyah Muslims – sometimes ending in death.

Last year, the local Setara Institute for Democracy and Peace recorded 244 acts of violence against religious minorities – nearly double the 2007 figure.

Official state religions there might be, but some are preferred over others. President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has closed 80 Christian churches a year since he took power in 2004. Aan has “converted” to Islam – he’d been going to mosques as a kid with his family even though he didn’t believe – and issued a public apology for his Facebook post, too. Unfortunately, the Islamic Society Forum still calls for the death penalty in this case; too little, too late.

He looks out the window to where a group of inmates are celebrating their Sunday by performing karoake to drum’n’bass in the dusty prison yard, most of them smoking, all of them barefoot. “I only want to see a better world and help create a better world,” he says. “If I cannot … then I would prefer to die.”

While he has Atheist Alliance International and Britain’s Council of ex-Muslims in his corner, it probably won’t affect the predicted grim outcome. His country will make an example out of him, and then atheists the world over will have to double efforts to try to stop this from happening again. But it will probably happen again. None of those guys will wake up the next morning and think they made a mistake. No, they’ll think they did Allah’s will and will pat themselves on the back for it, then go after some other person who dares to think or dress a bit differently.

I feel for him.

I don’t know if I’d want to see Jesus getting touched…

February 2, 2012

…but it’s good to find out that a short film featuring JC on the cross and St Teresa of Avila giving him a “sexual caress” is no longer banned in Britain. And it only took 20 years. Well done. It was the only film in Britain’s history deemed blasphemous enough by law to warrant the ban but now that blasphemy is no longer a crime (as of 2008), the film has finally gotten a pass.

In a statement today, the board said: “With the abolition of the offence of blasphemy, the board does not consider that the film is in breach of any other UK law that is currently in force.

“Nor does the board regard the film as likely to cause harm to viewers in the terms envisioned by the Video Recordings Act.

But it added: “The board recognises that the content of the film may be deeply offensive to some viewers.

“However, the board’s guidelines reflect the clear view of the public that adults should have the right to choose their own viewing, provided that the material in question is neither illegal nor harmful.

“In the absence of any breach of UK law and the lack of any credible risk of harm, as opposed to mere offensiveness, the board has no sustainable grounds on which to refuse a classification to Visions Of Ecstasy in 2012.”

Still doesn’t sound like anything I’d watch, but then again, I sat through “Club of the Discarded” recently which features stop motion mannequins having “sex” (among other things) so who really knows for sure…

Tacky Whitefish Jesus remains on mountain top – for now

February 1, 2012

The Forestry Service has caved to Christian pressure decided to renew the Knights of Columbus special permit which allows them to advertise for Jesus keep their memorial in place for a further ten years.

Forest Service supervisor Chip Weber stated reasons for the decision, namely the statue can be considered a historical monument if people want to go that route, “and that no substantive concerns related to environmental conditions were found in about 95,000 comments received by the agency.”

Environmental concerns? It’s not hurting the land to have it there, so leave it there? That’s their answer? True, it’s just a statue on a ski hill and no doubt Whitefish and the Service have a good arrangement in place for keeping the land cared for while still letting skiers have at it, but there’s a bigger picture they’re ignoring as they check the grass for owies. I guess part of the problem here is a pick-your-battles kind of thing. Of all the issues out there for people who want to raise awareness, separation of church and state isn’t necessarily going to be a high priority for all listeners. There’s environment, there’s education, there’s this other thing and that one. Yes, there are other things that need attention but that doesn’t mean this issue should be swept under the rug and forgotten. It matters, and will matter so long as so many diverse groups believe different things and want different things but still all want to live in the same country. Which means, it’ll matter forever.

The Freedom From Religion Foundation, which argues the religious statue does not belong on public land, said it anticipated the agency’s reversal. It argues that the Forest Service was breaching separation of church and state rules by leasing the 25-by-25 foot patch of land for the Jesus statue.

“We have no objection to shrines like these on private property. That is where they belong,” said Annie Laurie Gaylor, FFRF co-president. “I think it will be very easy to show that this special permit is a sham.”

Gaylor said the public comments received by the Forest Service do not make its decision any more constitutional.

“We think we have a very strong case. There is just no question that the Knights of Columbus should not be given a special use permit,” she said

But for now the statue stays. Better luck next decade, I guess…

A move that surprises no one – Jesus statue not moving

November 29, 2011

I thought the headline, “Disputed Jesus statue stays for now” was going to refer to the Whitefish war memorial/kitchy Jesus statue. It’s fine to be wrong, however. This story winds up being an update about a completely different Jesus statue I’ve written about before so it’s all good. Vietnamese immigrant Tuan Pham took yard decorating to a whole new level when he decided to place a seven foot high Jesus statue in his yard, on a platform that raises it a further 10 feet. While most St. Paul, Minnesota, Christians probably applauded the man for being so obvious in his devotion, the thing was and still is in violation of zoning laws, being placed too close to the edge fo the bluff overlooking the Mississippi river The city is slow to do much about it, though.

Pham bought his bluff home in 2007 and planted a Lady Liberty statue out front. He added two sets of leaping dolphins, a Virgin Mary, a St. Joseph and tropical fish. The Jesus statue, however, has been the subject of the city’s attention since November 2010 when the city received an anonymous complaint about it standing too close to the bluff.

Pham received a letter from the city telling him that the Jesus statue violated the city code that forbids development within 40 feet of the bluff that drops sharply off the back yard.

The Zoning Board denied his appeal as did the City Council, but Pham hasn’t heard from the city since and he’s not eager to move the statue, which sits on a reinforced 10-foot base of concrete and steel.

If he does hear from the city at some point, he’s willing to bring a lawsuit against them. Americans love their lawsuits.

Council Member Dave Thune represents the ward in which Pham lives. Thune contacted the city’s zoning department early last week, but did not hear back before the Thanksgiving holiday.

The city hasn’t given up. “Oh, no, no,” Thune said. “Really, it’s a pretty important zoning issue as well as the bluff preservation.”

Just as Pham isn’t on a property rights crusade, Thune said he isn’t out to chill free speech or religion. “We don’t want to have statues of religious or political figures on the bluffs,” he said.

If they want to sell it as a conservation issue, then they’d better check all the properties along the bluff to see who else they can penalize for breaking zoning laws. Otherwise it does look like they’re picking on him specifically because it’s a Jesus statue.

He can have whatever he wants in his yard, obviously, and I’ll agree that zoning laws can get a bit ridiculous and overly specific. There was a story I’d found out of Florida where a cross that hung on a woman’s garage was 2.5″ too tall according to the rules set there, either by the town itself, or just the neighbourhood she lived in. There weren’t enough details to know for sure. Give an inch and they’ll take a mile, though, right? Isn’t that how that old chestnut goes? Have to be completely anal over the little things before big things go overboard…

Ramadan is no excuse to not pay parking tickets

August 30, 2011

The end of Ramadan is today and devout Muslims filled the nearby sports stadium and its parking lot this morning for some sort of celebratory service. More of their cars filled our work parking lot and the grass and sand surrounding it, some all the way from Alberta and B.C. The police came in, too. All the cars were parked illegally; there are signs up around the parking lots at the library indicating those areas are for employees and patrons only. Some in our work area have put notes on the calendar for the next Muslim holidays in case it becomes necessary to call the cops again. This was not the first time we’d had this problem, either.

I’m not sure how many cars ultimately got dinged. I heard seventeen, but there had to be double that number taking up our space and getting in the way of those who arrived at work later. When some car owners were told they’d have to move their vehicles, staff were accused of being racist. One reportedly said something like, “You pray for us at Christmas, we shouldn’t get tickets when it’s Ramadan.” I’m not sure I’m quoting it correctly, but it was something that illogical. Who cares when you pray and to whom. You break city parking laws, you get tickets. No matter what religion you follow, that’s a fact.

Later at lunch people were chatting about what had gone on and someone who’d gone over to the stadium for a workout came back with word that an NDP politician (likely Muslim, but I never heard a name) had been over there passing out pamphlets. I don’t recall precisely what that staff member said but she wasn’t impressed by that and I think she called it something like “morally reprehensible behaviour!” She was quite irate.

The minion part of me was itching to pipe up, “Would it still be reprehensible if it were a Catholic politician handing stuff out after Mass?” I really couldn’t tell if she meant mixing politics with religion was appalling, or if it was specifically appalling to see a Muslim doing it. In the end, the “keep your head down” part of me won out. It’s one thing to wear a Darwin shirt to work, but another to get religiously snippy around superiors.

Appalling news out of Uganda, too..

May 10, 2011

The Martin Ennals Award for Human Rights Defenders went to a gay-rights activist this time around. Some church leaders there have criticized the decision to award Kasha Jacqueline Nabagesera.

The award, given by the Martin Ennals Foundation in honour of the first Secretary General of Amnesty International, will help the campaign for minority group rights in the East African country, said retired Anglican bishop Christopher Senyonjo. “It is appropriate and encouraging … We now know there are people who understand what we are suffering from and support our position,” he said on 6 May in a telephone interview with ENInews.

However, conservative church leaders criticised the award, saying it went to a “disgraceful ground,” where the recipient is not a hero. They have charged that homosexuality is evil; and is rejected by the scriptures and African communities.

“We are outraged … but not surprised. This is a public embarrassment …. There is nothing to celebrate,” said the Rev Martin Ssempa, a Pentecostal pastor, who has been crusading against homosexuality in Uganda. He accused the West of forcing its practices on Africa. “We pray that Kasha is changed so that she can help the other gay people change their ways,” he said.

A tabloid paper there called Rolling Stone recently ran a series promising to highlight the country’s top “homos” :

Two of them, including a gay activist named David Kato, were pictured on the front page, under the words “Hang Them.” Kato, who the paper said “spots [sic] a clean shaven moustache,” took Muhame and Rolling Stone to court, winning an injunction preventing Muhame and the paper from publishing any more pictures or information identifying gays. Three weeks later, shortly before I met Muhame, Kato was bludgeoned to death with a hammer.

According to the article, Muhame is considered a crank in some circles, but anti-gay sentiments are certainly running high there; as evidenced by the bill getting debated this week in their parliament.

The original bill included capital punishment for “serial offenders” of homosexuality and for active homosexuals who were in HIV-positive, or for cases of same-sex rape. Anyone convicted of a homosexual act would face life in prison, and anyone who “aids, abets, counsels or procures another to engage of acts of homosexuality” would face seven years in prison, including landlords who rent rooms to homosexuals.

David Bahati, the bill’s author, told the AP last month that the death penalty provision was “something we have moved away from.”

Good, but not good enough. I don’t know if a petition with a million names will have any effect on the end result here, but go ahead and sign it if you want.

“Thou shalt not steal” — unless Jesus is watching over you?

April 19, 2011

That seems like a poor amendment to the rule to me. Here’s the story:

A man accused of crashing a stolen car into a lorry during a high-speed police chase through rush-hour motorway traffic claimed Jesus was looking after them, the High Court has heard.

An officer who saw the Nissan Sunny being wrecked by the collision was relieved to see the suspect flee because he feared the driver could not have survived.

Sean O’Callaghan also collided with three other vehicles, including a police car, along parts of the M1 near Belfast, it was alleged. The 22-year-old, of no fixed abode, was arrested and claimed not to have slept for five days.

He was also charged with being under the influence so clearly his ability to be sensible and, you know, not steal a car and run from police with it and crash it into people, was severely diminished. If he had any sense in the first place, of course.

It’s good that everyone survived his stupidity but that doesn’t mean Jesus had a hand in any of it. Wouldn’t it make more sense to thank the automakers for building cars that can withstand hits and save lives?

Hardly a headline that would stand out, though, right? Better to play a god angle and be assured an audience. It’s the whole reason why I read it…

Found a poll for fans of Pham’s Jesus

April 7, 2011

The question reads, “Should St. Paul force Tuan Pham to take down the statue that rises 17 feet and violates zoning rules?” with two choices:

Yes. It doesn’t matter whether it’s yard junk or a religious icon, it has to conform to zoning laws.

No. Neighors aren’t complaining and it should be protected under the First Amendment.

“Yes” is the sensible answer, obviously. “No” is the one for people who want to claim Pham’s free speech (read: religion) was on trial at the same time.

The City Council decided to make him move it or lose it.

During the discussion, some council members noted that more than 40 neighbors had signed a petition in support of the statue.

Members called Pham a popular, likable fellow whose name appears on a plaque outside council chambers. He made the “St. Paul Neighborhood Honor Roll” for his good works in the community.

“This isn’t a popularity contest,” said council president Kathy Lantry, noting that she, the council and Pham were all bound by law. “It doesn’t matter who signed a petition or not.”

Council member Dave Thune recommended that Pham’s appeal be denied, and the council voted 5-2 in favor of Thune’s motion, with Dan Bostrom and Pat Harris opposed.

The family’s now bitching that they were unaware their side would only get 15 minutes to present their case. The “popular, likeable fellow” spent most of that time chatting with council and telling everyone present how much he loved the country. Nobody on his side got to snitch on everyone they know that leaves stuff within the “forbidden” zone.

Huy Pham said he never got the chance to share evidence he collected showing legal precedent for allowing “minimal disturbances” along the bluff line, including several existing structures.

They haven’t been forced to move their stuff so why should we, etc. Yeah well, I bet a cookie this lot is the only family with a 17 foot high statue ten feet from the edge of the bluff. Makes it a wee bit more noticeable for the City than the next door neighbour’s garden shed, even if it does sit on the other side of the invisible line between Can and Can’t.

Did you check out the poll and vote? I did.

The Yes votes: 482 (39%)
The No votes: 742 (60%)

I wish I had the power of P.Z. Myers to break this one. Isn’t that stupid? Laws are laws and they aren’t insisting he take down all his religious nuttery. They just want him to move the statue away from the edge. Why does this become a big deal as soon as a “holy” figure winds up being part of the story? Laws are laws. Follow or pay the price.

Quick edit: wish I would have thought of this before hitting publish. Grabbed a picture of the statue via My Fox Twin Cities which has a video up about the family’s plight (such as it is).

Blasphemy should be the least of their worries

April 4, 2011

The National Police Commissioner for South Africa recently compared his force to Jesus and his disciples, and not in a good way. This has sparked a blasphemy concern for the Christian Democratic Party and its leader Theunis Botha. They’re the opposition for the African National Congress party and Jacob Zuma who won the election in 2009. Botha got interviewed for this piece.

He said it was clear that President Jacob Zuma and his cronies were not getting the message that Christians took offence to comments using the Christian faith in statements about the ANC and other government institutions.

“The latest remarks from General Bheki Cele comparing the [SA Police Service] with Jesus and His disciples sends out the message of someone who is set on offending Christians,” he said.

Cele was quoted in Beeld saying: “Jesus Christ had an organisation of 12 people… among those 12 there was a criminal who sat with Jesus every day.”

He was speaking at a ceremony for the handing over of police cars in Pretoria on Friday.

“Even when Jesus berated him [Judas], he denied that it was him who was a criminal.

“In the Garden of Eden, there were two people. God himself did an inspection every morning. One day, He could not find them. They were hiding, because they had committed a crime,” he said.

“If you will find criminals amongst two people, then you will find criminals in an organisation with 193,000 members,” Cele said.

I don’t think comparing himself to God is the real problem here.

Remember when the Pope forgave the Beatles for comparing themselves to Jesus? Wasn’t that a nice distraction after all those accusations of pedophilia that the Holy See has hidden under the rugs? Have they shaken the rugs out yet and cleaned house? I see today that the Vatican is claiming celibacy is not the problem, homosexual priests are. Let’s take that as a “No” then, shall we?

Cele isn’t apologizing for the fact that police are committing crime, nor is he promising to make changes.

Beeld reported that in the past seven months, 254 police in Gauteng have been arrested for alleged involvement in robberies and corruption.

Crime Intelligence boss Richard Mdluli and some of his colleagues were arrested last week for their alleged involvement in a murder committed in the late 1990s.

He’s aware of a problem in his country’s police force but what will he do about it? Is there anything he can do about it? These Jesus lovers need to care less about feeling insulted over His ability to pick friends and care more about the corruption levels. That really is more important.


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