This post is a bit behind the news because I’ve been catching up after an illness. However, almost two weeks ago, the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit (aka “the Ninth Circus”) ruled that a public university law school (University of California, Hastings College of Law) could require student groups to adhere to a “non-discrimination policy” forbidding discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or religion.
The policy poses obvious problems for any religious student group that wants recognition by the school and access to the fund of student fees available to student groups. The policy requires that any such religious group not discriminate on the basis of religion, which would seem to undermine the group’s whole reason for existence, which is to affirm its own religious tenets.
The appellate court’s opinion in the matter was extremely short, short enough to reproduce in its entirety here:
Before: KOZINSKI, Chief Judge, HUG and BEA, Circuit Judges.
The parties stipulate that Hastings imposes an open membership rule on all student groups—all groups must accept all comers as voting members even if those individuals disagree with the mission of the group. The conditions on recognition are therefore viewpoint neutral and reasonable. Truth v. Kent Sch. Dist., 542 F.3d 634, 649–50 (9th Cir. 2008).
This decision is interesting because, even though it went against the Christian group that brought the lawsuit, in an odd way, it limits its holding so much as to render it insignificant. After all, the policy that is upheld is characterized as a policy requiring that all students be afforded voting membership in all student groups, regardless of the mission of the group. The court did not go out of its way to place any value in preventing discrimination or comment on any religious matter at all. The opinion means, ironically enough, that under the policy as defined by stipulation of the parties in the lawsuit, Christians could join the “Outlaw Club” (the openly homosexual group recognized by the law school), and if they could get enough votes, take over the leadership and use the group’s allotment of student funds to host a homosexuality recovery program, or a Bible study and ice cream social. That would be quite bizarre, but not much more bizarre than the school’s policy itself.
Something tells me that it won’t take long for the parties to return to court if the law school takes the predictable step of selectively enforcing its non-discrimination policy. I hope there are a lot of Christian women ready to join their local law school feminist clubs to spread the word about how abortion has harmed women.
In any event, it may be best in the end if the Christian group gives up on the idea of getting its miniscule share of the student funds anyway. I had the misfortune of being part of the Student Bar Association when I was in law school, and when I went to bat for the Christian Legal Society after seeing it get shafted on its funds award, I was amazed at the inconsistent reasons that were given. “You didn’t do as many activities last year as (club A that got more funding than the CLS).” “Yeah, but we had more activities than (club B that got more funding).” “Well, club B has more members.” “But we have more members than club A. And further, we had more activities last year and we have more members than the Softball Club, which got more funding.” “Yeah, but the president of the Student Bar is on the Softball Club, so good luck with that one [laughs].” The real discrimination occurs in the Student Bar Association, and I’d be shocked if anyone involved in the process of alloting student funds thinks they are distributed in a “viewpoint neutral” way. I’m guessing that the law students at UC Hastings have no qualms with a little religious discrimination of their own…
[Update: the Supreme Court has decided to review the Ninth Circuit’s opinion.]
March 24, 2009
It seems that some judges now deem themselves to be not only policy-makers, but medical experts:
A federal judge ordered the Food and Drug Administration yesterday to reconsider its 2006 decision to deny girls younger than 18 access to the morning-after pill Plan B without a prescription.
U.S. District Judge Edward R. Korman in New York instructed the agency to make Plan B available to 17-year-olds within 30 days and to review whether to make the emergency contraceptive available to all ages without a doctor’s order.
In his 52-page decision, Korman repeatedly criticized the FDA’s handling of the issue, agreeing with allegations in a lawsuit that the decision was “arbitrary and capricious” and influenced by “political and ideological” considerations imposed by the Bush administration.
“These political considerations, delays and implausible justifications for decision-making are not the only evidence of a lack of good faith and reasoned agency decision-making,” he wrote. “Indeed, the record is clear that the FDA’s course of conduct regarding Plan B departed in significant ways from the agency’s normal procedures regarding similar applications to switch a drug from prescription to non-prescription use.”
This strikes me as, frankly, incredible. Admittedly, I have not yet had time to read the judge’s 52-page opinion, but if the Washington Post’s story is accurate, then it appears that a judge has taken it upon himself to declare that minors, who cannot obtain birth control pills without a prescription, must be given access to the morning-after pill on an over-the-counter basis. Surely teenage girls can be trusted to behave responsibly in using such dangerous “medication” without any medical or other supervision, especially the ones who were responsible enough to get pregnant in the first place.
Besides the irresponsible nature of the judge’s decision, this goes to the heart of what a judge does. Should a judge be making policy decisions like this? The judge says the FDA’s policy was “political”, and then promptly made his own political judgment in setting the policy himself. The FDA has doctors and decision-makers with (hopefully) the appropriate expertise. A judge is not appointed for his ability to make medical or political judgments. He or she is appointed for legal judgments. Labeling a policy-maker’s judgment as “arbitrary” hardly gives a judge carte blanche to make an equally arbitrary decision (the judge decided that although the FDA arbitrarily set the age requirement for the abortion pill at 18, it should be set at 17 and the FDA must re-examine, within 30 days, whether the age should be lower, which will somehow be less arbitrary).
President Clinton is probably seen as more intelligent than President George W. Bush by most of the mainstream media. However, he revealed his complete ignorance of basic biology in a recent interview on CNN, in which he claimed that stem cell research would be embraced by the American public as long as the embryos cannot “be fertilized and become little babies.” Click here for an article describing the interview; here is the video:
Now I’m no scientist, but I’m pretty sure I know that an embryo is by definition “fertilized”. I confirmed it in an online medical dictionary (“Embryo: The organism in the early stages of growth and differentiation from fertilization to, in humans, the beginning of the third month of prenancy. After that point in time, it is termed a fetus.”). An embryo is a living human life in a stage of development (after fertilization) toward becoming a “little baby”. To borrow the quote provided in the WND article linked above, Clinton said, “I think the American people believe it’s a pro-life decision to use an embryo that’s frozen that’s never going to be fertilized for embryonic stem cell research.”
Despite the oxymoronic idea of an embryo that isn’t going to be fertilized, Clinton is on to something: maybe Americans would support stem cell research that didn’t harm early developing human lives? Indeed; they already did that under the supposedly anti-science Bush administration. In fact, if you click the link I just inserted, you’ll see that there are already non-embryonic (i.e. “unfertilized”) stem cells that “are genetically identical to patients and are generated without destroying human embryos”. Indeed, according to another article, those alternative stem cells “meet the defining criteria we originally proposed for human embryonic stem cells, with the significant exception that [those stem] cells are not derived from embryos”.
So, to summarize: under the Bush administration, there was federal funding of non-embryonic stem cell research that apparently has proved as valuable as the unethical embryonic stem cell research that kills human life. Even Bill Clinton sees the ethical problems with funding the killing of embryos, as evidenced by his confused comments in the video above, where he essentially admits that harming a “fertilized embryo” (which is redundant) would be unethical. When he says he thinks the American people would support stem cell research that does not support killing growing human life that could “become little babies”, he is right, and they already have.
Furthermore, there is not, and never was, a ban on stem cell research under the Bush administration; not even on embryonic stem cell research. It has always been legal. The only issue is that Bush would not allow federal tax payer money to be used for (most) embryonic stem cell research (Bush did permit funding for embryonic stem cell research on cell lines where the embryos had already been destroyed before Bush’s new policy was issued). The federal government continued to fund non-embryonic stem cell research throughout the Bush administration.
Thus, the only thing Obama is changing from the allegedly anti-science Bush administration is that he is taking federal tax payer money and directing it specifically at embryonic stem cell research. Quite the promotion of science. Perhaps another thing Obama could do to promote science is hand Mr. Clinton a ninth-grader’s biology text book.
One final note: the CNN reporter who interviewed President Clinton was a neurosurgeon. I find it amazing that he gave Clinton a complete pass on such an obvious gaffe. I have to think that if it was George W. Bush on the other end of the microphone, he gets laughed out of the room after the neurosurgeon tears him apart. Even if not, Clinton definitely should have been questioned about whether he finds stem cell research on living human beings (and cloning of living human beings) to be unethical. His answers probably would have hurt Obama’s plan, though. Perhaps the CNN neurosurgeon was worried about that?
March 10, 2009
While I don’t want my blog to focus solely on two issues (you probably know which two, based on recent posts anyway), I still wanted to share this:
A similar video (a different version of the above) is available here.
Additionally, for the “pro-choice” out there, I double-dog dare ya to check out the pictures available on this website (this is not a direct link to pictures; if you click it, you will not see images until you click on another link at the website, so you can go to the site without facing the atrocities immediately). Note that the most impactful images on that page are at the bottom–and theseare even worse.
These pictures do not, in themselves, make the argument against abortion. If abortion looked cleaner, it would be just as immoral. Even so, I challenge any pro-choice person out there to view each of these images and then make the case for abortion in the comments to this post. Not to say it can’t be done…I’m just curious if it will happen.
I don’t post links to pictures that are difficult to look at with the intention of grossing people out, or offending anyone. I do it in the same spirit that Martin Luther King, Jr. said the following:
We merely bring to the surface the hidden tension that is already alive. We bring it out in the open, where it can be seen and dealt with. Like a boil that can never be cured so long as it is covered up but must be opened with all its ugliness to the natural medicines of air and light, injustice must be exposed, with all the tension its exposure creates, to the light of human conscience and the air of national opinion before it can be cured.
March 6, 2009
Yesterday 55 Pro-ChoiceAbortion Senators voted against a measure that would “require that amounts appropriated for the United Nations Population Fund are not used by organizations which support coercive abortion or involuntary sterilization.”
In other words, a majority of United States Senators apparently approve of funding forced abortions and sterilizations. Three Republicans joined 52 Democrats in defeating the amendment designed to stop funding involuntary abortions. Only three Democrats voted in favor of the amendment to stop funding such atrocities.
Exactly what about these organizations can possibly be considered beneficial for women, let alone pro “choice”? Obviously, “choice” involves at least two alternatives; forced abortion does not qualify. These women are essentially raped and their children are murdered. We fund this?
So can the mainstream American media continue to use the term “Pro Choice” to describe liberals while in the same breath using the term “Anti Abortion” to describe the conservatives on this issue? The label “Pro Choice” has become a farce, at least in the United States Senate.
March 4, 2009
I think the following quote is a nice follow-up to my last post:
As Lincoln said in his first inaugural address, “[I]f the policy of the Government upon vital questions affecting the whole people is to be irrevocably fixed by decisions of the Supreme Court, . . . the people will have ceased to be their own rulers, having to that extent practically resigned their Government into the hands of that eminent tribunal.”
I got the above quote from this article.
When is the last time you or any of your direct representatives (that you voted for or against) had any power to decide whether to make abortion legal or illegal? To deny or permit school prayer? To determine whether unlawfully obtained information could be used by prosecutors in state criminal proceedings?
Have we Americans not already “ceased to be [our] own rulers, having to that extent practically resigned [our] Government into the hands of that eminent tribunal”?
What would happen if a President one day told the US Supreme Court that one of its decisions was unconstitutional, and since he took an oath to the Constitution, he could not enforce the Court’s decision? I think that would be really interesting.