Saturday, March 29, 2014

Lara Updike: In debate about same sex marriage, we need a 'conscientious objector' status

Many Americans in Utah, Oklahoma, Virginia and elsewhere are waiting to learn whether federal courts will require same-sex marriage to become law in their state. For me, as a resident of Washington State, gay marriage is a done deal. I am waiting to learn whether people who adhere to a traditional morality will be able to live according to their conscience.
Last month there was a great uproar in Arizona over modifications to a law that would have provided a legal defense for people who refuse to provide services on religious grounds. The bill was killed in a storm of controversy, with protesters, pundits and politicians talking about Jim Crow laws. The controversy didn’t draw much attention to why the bill was proposed. It had nothing to do with separate lunch counters. Rather, it was an attempt to create a conscientious objector status for people who don’t want to participate in or lend their creative powers to same-sex celebrations.
Many Americans have been sued for refusing to provide services for same-sex ceremonies. A couple who run a bed and breakfast in Vermont; they paid $35,000 in fees and promised to never again host a wedding or wedding reception of any kind. A baker in Oregon had to close his business. A photographer lost at the New Mexico Supreme Court. A florist in Washington State is being sued by her Attorney General. Also in Washington State, a judge who asked his colleagues to whom he might refer gay couples should they ask him to officiate at their wedding was officially sanctioned by the Washington State Commission on Judicial Conduct and agreed to never perform any marriages.
There are other similar cases. The most troubling of all began in January. A man filed a complaint with the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination because a Catholic School withdrew its job offer upon learning he was married to a man. Though the employer is a religious organization, he has been arguing that the position in food service has nothing to do with religion.
These conflicts boil down to the fact that marriage is not a private activity; it is a social institution. It's a title granted by the community that places obligations upon all community members. Friends and relatives are expected to attend the wedding and offer gifts. Family members are expected to accept the new spouse as one of their own. Acquaintances and colleagues are expected to invite the spouse to social events. Single people are expected to leave the spouses alone. Employers are expected to provide the spouse with insurance. Courts are expected to ensure certain spousal privileges and enforce certain spousal obligations.
In short, everybody is expected to recognize and show deference for the marriage, the idea being that it’s a building block of society and thus deserves our support. In the eyes of social conservatives, though, same-sex marriage is not a building block of society. It’s an affront to our consciences. We believe homosexuality defies the purpose of our creation and offends our Creator. Yet the obligations that homosexual marriages place upon community members are also placed on us.
How are people of traditional faiths supposed to act in this environment? Should we abandon a core tenet of our religion? Should we shut up and pretend we agree? Should we employ our creative skills toward something we find fundamentally immoral? Or should we retreat to a different neighborhood? A different state? A different livelihood? It makes sense to permit conscientious objector status to activities that offend our moral values.
I hear people express hope that the fuss will soon be over, that soon all Americans will accept same-sex marriage. This thinking is naïve. In the coming decades a significant portion of religious Americans will accept homosexual marriage. But the most faithful will not. Christians, Muslims, Jews, Sikhs, and others are governed by scriptures. That is why, unless they are prepared to burn or rewrite these books, progressives need to be satisfied with only a partial victory.

People of traditional faiths don’t think chastity is an incidental or private virtue. While homosexual people are afraid of being treated as blacks were during the Jim Crow era, people of faith are also afraid of being treated like second-class citizens. Our religious heritage is out of step with the new majority. We may be pushed out of certain industries, ostracized from certain circles, and confined to a legal ghetto. This is why individuals must have a right to deny offering services. It is the only way for our legal system to allow both gays and people of faith to live outside the closet.

Lara Cardon Updike is a writer for the Family Policy Institute of Washington State. She lives near Seattle with her husband and four children.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Opportunity by Edward Rowland Sill (1841-1887)

This I beheld, or dreamed it in a dream:—
There spread a cloud of dust along a plain;
And underneath the cloud, or in it, raged
A furious battle, and men yelled, and swords
Shocked upon swords and shields. A prince's banner
Wavered, then staggered backward, hemmed by foes.
A craven hung along the battle's edge,
And thought, "Had I a sword of keener steel—
That blue blade that the king's son bears, — but this
Blunt thing—!” he snapped and flung it from his hand,
And lowering crept away and left the field.
Then came the king's son, wounded, sore bestead,
And weaponless, and saw the broken sword,
Hilt-buried in the dry and trodden sand,
And ran and snatched it, and with battle shout
Lifted afresh he hewed his enemy down,
And saved a great cause that heroic day.

"Opportunity" is reprinted from The Little Book of American Poets: 1787-1900. Ed. Jessie B. Rittenhouse. Cambridge: Riverside Press, 1915.

Friday, March 14, 2014

"freedom from religion" v. "freedom of religion"

As the attack upon Christianity and other religions grows, twisting the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution to a platform of "freedom from religion" v. "freedom of religion", thankfully there are many good men and women fighting for religious rights.

The two links above outline the same speech. The second contains written footnotes of the address and has a 33 minute video of the talk. The first link is the full written script.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Malaysia flight 370 — a terrorist final rehearsal with more disasters to come?

Malaysia flight 370 — a terrorist final rehearsal with more disasters to come?
March 10, 2014
Jeffrey Denning

The Boeing 777 that disappeared over the ocean may not have been a fluke.  Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 suddenly went missing, without warning or any mayday, recently.  But why? How?
As a former undercover Federal Air Marshal, I have some serious concerns.
The flight from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing had 239 people onboard. Sadly, all of them have passed away.  
Authorities have confirmed that two of the passengers used stolen passports to get onboard.  Those passports were taken from two European tourists who were visiting Thailand in 2012. These two suspicious and currently unknown passengers’ names have not been released to the public if they are even known. Obviously they were up to no good. But was it terrorism? Were they terrorists? Perhaps. 
Regardless, something serious is amiss.
In 1995 authorities undercovered an al Qaeda-based plot called the Bonjinka plot. Ramzi Yousef and Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, who were both intimately involved in the 9/11 terrorist attacks, planned and orchestrated a horrific terrorist attack.  In the Bojinka plot, these evil men tested a bomb on Philippine Airlines Flight 434.  One of their henchmen took a bomb and placed it under the seat, got off the plane, and when it hit the air again, KABOOM! 
The unsuspecting passenger sitting on the timed explosive died and others were injured, but the plane didn’t fall from the sky. 
This 1995 attack was a final rehearsal. These terrorists wanted to see if the plane would get obliterated into the ocean. Since it didn’t, they realized they needed to use a little more explosive power.  
This rehearsal was a success. Why? Because they knew what would make it work. They could attack without even losing one shaheed (suicide martyr). Their plan was to take down several planes using this technique in the future. 
Al Qaeda likes to work in fours. They figure one will chicken out, and another will get caught, so having at least two simultaneous or near-simultaneous attacks work is good-to-go in their sordid playbook. 
The problem with Bojinka is their safe house was compromised following a fire. Bomb mixtures aren’t that stable. The terrorists took off and authorities thwarted their plan. So, they devised another: 9/11. Unfortunately, to our chagrin, that plan worked very well.   
While Bojinka may likely occur again someday, I’m not so sure Malaysia flight 370 was a mere accident. 
Think about it, a plan goes down without warning. I believe it very well could have been an inflight explosion, caused by terrorists.  Could it have been a Bojinka-type plot? Sure, but with two suspicious characters onboard, it’s pretty easy to suspect — at least initially — terrorism. 
While some of the air traffic and radar tracking protocols of other nations might not be quite perfect, I’m sure they aren’t completely inept. Shoot, even the ATC in the US has issues. If the plane simply disappeared without warning, it goes without saying that the most likely cause of the crash was violent and swift—a horrific, spectacular explosion. 
No witnesses have been reported. Terrorists like the fact that black boxes and plane parts get buried deep in the ocean. It will take time to recover those items and conduct an investigation.
From Richard Reid, the infamous shoe bomber, to the London Bomb Plot to the underwear bomber on Christmas 2009, terrorists really like the Atlantic ocean as their cemetery for crashed planes.  Testing a plane by taking it down over the Pacific is what happened in Bojinka, and now, ironically, Malaysia flight 370. 
There are a lot of Muslims in Malaysia and in Southern Thailand, from where the two passports were stolen. While the same amount of barbaric and suicidal terrorism isn’t as prevalent in those areas and countries, similar ideologies and radical connections make the area a great testing ground for future attacks. 
So, until more concrete evidence surfaces, I’m making a small prediction. But, first, as a disclaimer, further investigation may show there was no explosion or terrorism on Malaysia flight 370. I could be wrong. However, while the news usually gets a lot of things right, I have personal knowledge and experience they they regularly get things wrong when it comes to some things, like terrorist attacks, simply because they can’t get close enough to real intelligence or they lack access to purely evil terrorists. 
Okay, so here it is: I suspect that this downed commercial airlines could have very well been a final rehearsal for terrorist attacks against the west. In the future, who knows when, if this plane was indeed a rehearsal for bad things to come, there will be several planes attacked over the ocean, using whatever tactic they used on this flight. 
We know that it’s all too easy to smuggle bomb parts onboard airplanes and assemble them, too. Perhaps at least two terrorists (with stolen identities) were needed to smuggle those pieces onboard and assemble them in mid-flight. 
Like I said, I could be wrong.  I hope I am.  But even if this wasn’t the case, it makes a lot of sense to me.

Note: I’m going to bed, without proof reading this. Goodnight. Sweet dreams. Fly safe and don’t fear.

March 14 ... UPDATE.

Malaysian police chief Abu -- --- said in a press conference (or press release) that it had been previously reported that there were five passengers who loaded luggage on the plane, but didn't get on the plane. He said that that wasn't true.

It was also confirmed that the two men who stole the passports were Iranian. Were they intelligence officers or agents of Iran -- a State sponsor of terrorism?  Perhaps. Iranians aren't of al Qaeda ilk. However, Iran certainly has bloody hands from terroristic acts for many years. I wouldn't put it past them.

A spokeswoman in Malaysia did a press conference showing pictures of the two Iranians taken from airport security cameras. The really fishy thing, however, is that while both men were different from the waist up, they both had the same lower half. When questioned, they admitted the images were photoshopped.

Something really weird is going on. Perhaps there were five passengers who loaded up luggage, but didn't get on the plane.

Something's being covered up.