Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Hi Debbie

We should do lunch.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Rewriting History

I have posted once or twice before on the First Amendment, particularly on the concept of religious liberty. It's been some time since I really got deeply involved in the concept, and I'm not likely to do so today, but let's gloss over the basic premise here real quick.

The first Amendment provides that "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of Religion, nor prohibiting the free exercise thereof..."

Practically, this means that if you choose to practice a religion in this country, you are free to do so, and if you choose to not have a particular religion or religious doctrine foisted upon, you have that freedom as well. Over the years, this First Amendment has been found to apply not just to the Federal Government, but also to the states, incorporated through the 14th Amendment.

There have been a few Court cases that have provided some (not crystal) clarity on the meaning of the First Amendment, including the oft-cited (by me) Lemon v. Kurtzman, 403 U. S. 602 (1971) which explains how a proposed act would not be violative of said Amendment: (it must have) 1. a legitimate secular purpose, 2. a pimary effect that neither advances nor inhibits religion, and 3. the statute must not foster an excessive government entanglement with religion.

Additionally, we have Justice Black's explanation of the First Amendment in Everson v. Board of Education, 330 U. S. 1 (1947), in which he states,
The "establishment of religion" clause of the First Amendment means at least this: Neither a state nor the federal government can set up a church. Neither can pass laws which aid one religion, aid all religions, or prefer one religion over another. Neither can force nor influence a person to go to or to remain away from church against his will or force him to profess a belief or disbelief in any religion. No person can be punished for entertaining or professing religious beliefs or disbeliefs, for church attendance or non-attendance. No tax in any amount, large or small, can be levied to support any religious activities or institutions, whatever they may be called, or whatever form they may adopt to teach or practice religion. Neither a state nor the Federal Government can, openly or secretly, participate in the affairs of any religious organizations or groups and vice versa. In the words of Jefferson, the clause against establishment of religion by law was intended to erect "a wall of separation between church and State.
beyond this we have a few other cases that touch on the First Amendment, see e.g. Lee v. Weisman, 505 U.S. 577 (1992), Santa Fe ISD v. Doe, 530 U.S. 290 (2000), and Epperson v. Arkansas, 393 U.S. 97. One of the best resources for studying the history of 1st Amendment Religion Clause history is Kitzmiller v. Dover Area Sch. Dist., 400 F. Supp. 2d 707, which I encourage those interested in Religion Clause issues to read at least once.

Now that I've gotten the brief history that I said I wasn't going to get into out of the way, let's get to the crux of this post. What I'm looking at this morning is a quote by a member of the American Family Association, who has claimed recently that "Islam has no fundamental First Amendment claims, for the simple reason that it was not written to protect the religion of Islam. Islam is entitled only to the religious liberty we extend to it out of courtesy. While there certainly ought to be a presumption of religious liberty for non-Christian religious traditions in America, the Founders were not writing a suicide pact when they wrote the First Amendment."

If we go back and look at the legislative and Court history, we can see very easily how wrong-minded this notion is, but in order to combat untruths like this, we need to explain a lot. This is what makes untruths so dangerous - they are quick soundbites that (may) seem to pack a good amount of information in them but the explanation afterward takes so much longer to get through that people don't want to hear it.

I don't begrudge people their opinions, but before spouting off on those opinions, particularly of Constitutional Matters, I wish people would do their homework.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Abusing Open Records to Attack Academic Freedom

I am a little reluctant to repost this as I don't want to appear as though I'm taking sides or steadfastly agreeing with what he says, but if we presume for the moment that he is speaking the truth, then I agree that using FOIA as a sword with which to intimidate those who by your perception have insulted you is wrong on many levels.
Abusing Open Records to Attack Academic Freedom

Tuesday, March 22, 2011


So I've been back to work for a bit more than a day now. I need to note that I don't particularly mind my work - It's a bit tedious, which is fine for me, and detail oriented, which I don't mind, necessarily - transactional work is more my cup of tea than adversarial work.

However, I do miss an office. I miss having people with whom I can interact. Frankly, I miss having friends, both work and personal. Virtual commuting doesn't do much for cultivating camaraderie, and socially, my wife and I aren't exactly good fits within the local community. While I was already a bit of a centrist, which doesn't always bode well in a solidly red district, my marriage has certainly moved me more to the left (I still am not a Democrat, but I'm starting to wonder if I will end up one). I get a little concerned with some of the conversations I hear in the neighborhood and at the church we had attended for some time. We stopped after the pastor exclaimed his fondness for Glenn Beck on the pulpit - we figured that was a signal that this church and our philosophies weren't a good match.

Anyway, I keep my ears open and look for something else that might pop up, but I think I'm getting to the point where I'm pigeonholing myself. Ah, well. That's what happens, I guess.

Saturday, March 19, 2011


We just spent a week in Washington State for Spring Break. It was nice to get out of Texas for a bit, and while I spent a good portion of the time feeling anxious, stressed, or driving the car with anxiety or stress, it did appear that everyone had a good time.

We managed to take the kids fishing for rainbow trout, which the Boy thought was rather tasty. We also went to White Pass to do some sledding, and I was tempted (a little) to try my hand at skiing again - I went once about 18 years ago and dislocated my thumb, but had a great time. We took the kids to Seattle and saw Pike Place Market, the fishmongers, got some good (or so my wife says) coffee, bought some good smelling tea, went to the Seattle Center, Gasworks Park, the U, and a few other things here and there.

The wife really wants to move back up there. I'm not quite as enthusiastic, but inasmuch as I love my wife, I'll go where she wants. There's pretty good fishing and hunting up there, and my friends are all still there, as well.

I did have quite the bit of fun showing the posse a little bit about wine, and they seemed to have a good time with it as well.

Now we just need to get the wife a job up there (Bruce, Microsoft needs more admins), and maybe find a way to finagle admission to the UW MBA or LLM program for myself so I can look attractive to area employers.