Breaking Down the Marriage Cases

My sister-in-law is from Brazil.  She never worked or went to school in the U.S.  When she met my brother, she didn’t speak English very well.  A few months after meeting each other, they moved in together and shortly thereafter, got married.  Their marriage allowed her to become a legal permanent resident.   She has enjoyed this status for the past 9 years.

My friend is from Germany.  She came to the U.S. to go to school at Webster University.  She quickly became fluent in English.  While in college, she met Kelli.  They have been in a committed, loving relationship for over 7 years.  My friend works as a high school math teacher.  Despite going to school here, working and educating our children here and being in a long-term relationship with an American citizen, my friend is not a legal permanent resident.  Her time in the U.S. is dependent on visas.  There have been times where she has feared she may lose her visa or not get it renewed.  Kelli and my friend would like to get married.  However, even if they were to get married in Iowa or Massachusetts or New York, my friend would not acquire legal permanent resident status.

My friend has been kept from becoming a legal permanent resident because she wanted to marry another woman, and DOMA refused to recognize such a marriage.

After today, that will change.

Can you find the 4 a-holes who don’t want to give same-sex couples any rights? Hint: they’re all men and 3 of them are sitting right next to each other.

Here’s the good news from the Supreme Court:

  1. Marriage is legal for all consenting adult couples in California.
  2. The federal government can no longer deny benefits to couples whose marriage is legally recognized by a state.
  3. My friend will be able to get married in California (or another state that allows all consenting adult couples to marry) and will be able to get (at least some) federal benefits, including a legal permanent resident status.

If I’m being honest, I wanted more.

So here’s the bad news from the Supreme Court:

  1. The Court didn’t find due process or equal protection violations.  The Court reversed DOMA because defining marriage has historically been a power reserved to the states.  It was Congress’s usurping of that power which got DOMA ruled unconstitutional.  A due process violation would have recognized that marriage is a fundamental right for same-sex couples, just as it is for opposite-sex couples.  An equal protection violation would have recognized that there is no good reason to distinguish among same-sex and opposite-sex couples for the purpose of defining marriage.  If the Court had ruled on either due process or equal protection, it would have given states and lower courts a good guideline of how to approach laws targeting homosexuals.  The decisions today instead left us with the same hazy policy that the Court has denied to refine for years. The Court could have been much clearer if they had ruled on same-sex marriage the way they ruled on interracial marriage.  In Loving v. Virginia, the Court ruled that bans on interracial marriages violated both the due process and equal protection clauses of the 14th amendment.   This decision invalidated anti-miscegenation laws across the country.
  2. This guy’s job is very similar to that of the Supreme Court’s.

  3. Sexual orientation was not given protected status under equal protection.  This means that it is still much easier to make laws targeting homosexuals than laws targeting women or racial minorities, which enjoy judicial protections.  Romer v. Evans is the case that has the last word on the issue, and it gave sexual orientation a small amount of protection.  A state would never get away with limiting adoption to women or white people.  Unfortunately, they can still get away with limiting adoption to opposite-sex couples.
  4. Same-sex couples’ rights will not be entitled to full faith and credit.  The Windsor case ruled section 3 of DOMA (which defined marriage as between one man and one woman) unconstitutional.   Section 2 of DOMA allows states to refuse to recognize the legal status of same-sex couples legally married in other states.   This means that a couple married in Iowa might not be treated as a married couple in Missouri.   This could prevent same-sex couples from getting state-specific benefits, divorce decrees, etc.
  5. 16-year-old bride + 51-year-old groom = marriage recognized by federal government and given full faith and credit by every state in the union.

  6. The 9th circuit opinion on Prop 8 was vacated.  This means that the district court opinion stands.  The district court opinion found that Prop 8 was unconstitutional, so marriage for all consenting adult couples will be available in California.  Nonetheless, this opinion is only good in California.  If the Court had affirmed the 9th circuit’s decision, same-sex marriage bans in other states would be called into question, if not out rightly unconstitutional.  Because of their decision to vacate, every other state ban on same-sex marriage remains firmly in place.  In fact, there could be issues with obtaining certain federal benefits if their state of residence does not recognize their marriage.  Many of these questions are left to the executive branch now, which must figure out how federal benefits will be distributed given the myriad of state laws on same-sex marriage.  Luckily, the head of the executive branch is pretty keen on getting all married couples their federal benefits.

So, while today is a great victory for human rights, it is also a reminder of how far we have to go.

Lesbian lovers v. Christian baker

Hi, my name is Maggie!

There’s a story coming out of Iowa about a lesbian couple who demanded that a poor, humble Christian baker provide a cake for their abomination of  a “wedding.”  Here they each tell their side of the story:

Iowa is one of the few states that treats the LGBTQ community like equals to us regular humans. *Shivers* They amended their Civil Rights Act to forbid discrimination against sexual orientation in areas of employment, housing, and public accommodation.  So, were these lesbians applying for a job?  No, they were trying to get a cake.  Were they trying to get a house?  No, they were trying to get a cake.  Public accommodation?  No, it’s a freaking private business, not owned by the government.  Therefore, this beautiful, strong Christian woman has every right to stand by her true religious beliefs and follow the Bible when it says, “Thou shall not make a cake for lesbian couples” Paul 5:something.

If I was that poor baker and some lesbos walked into my store, I’d shit on a plate and serve it up free of charge!  I have that right.  It’s in the Constitution.  “If some lesbos walk into your cake store, you can serve them shit on a plate” Art. 12 Section 2something.  Why can’t they just find a different cake store?  They’re just trying to force their radical gay agenda on all of us and force us to participate in their “weddings” and have gay sex with them.  They’re all mentally ill perverts.  They’re bullying this poor woman because she actually has morals.  Disgusting.

How could anyone not be disgusted by this?

Ok, so in case you were not aware, the beginning of this post was largely taken from comments on the article from The Blaze.  Have a look at the story and comments here if you can stomach it.  I did leave out a lot of the most offensive comments because I felt uncomfortable posting them. http://www.theblaze.com/stories/lesbian-couple-may-sue-christian-baker-who-refused-to-make-their-wedding-cake/

Now let’s take an educated look at the issue.  A private business can be a place of public accommodation.  I have not looked into the Iowa statute in depth, but generally hotels, restaurants, movie theaters and like places are considered to be places of public accommodation.  The word “public” really just means that it is open to the general public.  So, a privately owned cake shop is still public.  Now, I do not know if a cake shop is or will be considered a place of public accommodation.  Generally, places open to the public that serve food are considered places of public accommodation.  A cake shop could probably go either way because it certainly sells food and is open to the public but it can be easily distinguished from a restaurant or fast food place.

Another business destroyed by the radical gay agenda.

For the sake of argument, I’m going to assume that the cake shop is a place of public accommodation.  So does the owner have the right to refuse service to gay couples?  No.  No she does not.  Nor does she have the right to refuse service to black people, Muslims, quadriplegics or Puerto Ricans.  Why doesn’t she have this right?  Because it conflicts with a right that the state of Iowa deemed to be more important: the right to not be discriminated against in a place of public accommodation.  States have generalized policing powers which allow them to enforce laws that provide for the general health, safety and welfare of their citizens.  In providing for these things, personal rights often become more limited.  Like these kids’ right to go to a Negro-free school:

Can’t those black kids just find their own school? Note: Integration was the result of the Supreme Court, not state police powers

The conservative commentators as seen on the Blaze focused a lot on the lesbian couple’s ability to just go to another cake shop.  I’m sure they did go to another cake shop.  Also, the lesbian couple were not the individuals breaking the law, so I find it inappropriate to focus on their actions.  No one is suggesting that they did anything illegal.

I’d like to put the focus where it rightfully should be: the business owner.   As a responsible business owner, she should look into the law in the state in which she operates.  She chose to have a business in a state which 1) legalized gay marriage and 2) prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation and 3) she runs a cake shop.  If I were a math person, I’d say that adds up to a possible conflict of interest for her.

The kind of complex math problem required to see a problem here

If serving wedding cakes to gay couples were such a big problem for her, she should have traveled a little South or West and set up shop in Missouri or Nebraska where you can discriminate against as many gays as you want, and they certainly can’t marry one another.

As to the business owner’s “right” to refuse server, she still has plenty of grounds on which to turn away a willing, paying customer.  She can refuse service to someone who is not wearing shoes.  She can refuse service to someone who has brown eyes.  She can refuse service to people who wear fanny packs.  She just can’t discriminate based on sexual orientation in a state that forbids it.

Some people actually find this unattractive.

And if this cake shop qualifies as a public accommodation, this lesbian couple has, what I like to call, a slam dunk case.  I mean, cake lady said she wasn’t going to give them the cake because of their gay lifestyle.  That is just too easy.  If the lesbian couple had said they were sisters, cake lady certainly would have served the cake.  If they said they were friends, she would have served the cake.  It was only when she realized they were lesbians that she refused service. Most people who want to discriminate at least aren’t stupid enough to tell you they’re discriminating against you!  They can at least make up some excuse like, “I’m too busy right now” or “I just ran out of cake.”  They don’t say, “I’m not serving you because I’m a Christian and you’re gay.”  That’s as bad as choosing the box!

The Holocaust Never Happened

You know you wanna like this.

My name is Maggie.  I am not a holocaust denier.  You probably aren’t either.  That’s good.   This post is about Global Warming (GW). We’ll get to the Holocaust though, don’t you worry.

Much like Ricky Bobby, this Holocaust denier does not know what to do with his hands.

A nice young man (NYM) asserted that there was no consensus among scientists as to humans’ contribution to GW.  I provided him with this study.  He then asserted that there was still no consensus and that scientists who did think humans contributed to GW were motivated by money.  Here’s how the conversation went:

NYM:

“Maggie [Hey that's me!], a consensus is a general agreement or unanimity. To demonstrate that there is NOT a consensus, one needs merely to provide several examples of those within the group who disagree. I showed several prominent scientists in the field who disagreed, and then a site of scientists (not necessarily related to the field) who also disagree.

Here is an article from the US Senate Committee on Environment… http://epw.senate.gov/pressitem.cfm?party=rep&id=264777

In it you will find:

French geophysicist, Claude Allegre, who was a prominent global warming advocate, accused proponents of manmade catastrophic global warming of being motivated by money, noting that “the ecology of helpless protesting has become a very lucrative business for some people!”

http://epw.senate.gov/pressitem.cfm?party=rep&id=264777

Senator Inhofe stated, “The mainstream media needs to follow the money: The further you get from scientists who conduct these alarmist global warming studies, and the further you get from the financial grants and the institutions that they serve the more the climate alarmism fades and the skepticism grows.”

To Read all of Senator Inhofe’s Speeches on global warming go to: http://epw.senate.gov/speeches.cfm?party=rep

And of course, the biggest mouthpiece of the movement stands to make the most money – Al Gore http://www.telegraph.co.uk/earth/energy/6491195/Al-Gore-could-become-worlds-first-carbon-billionaire.html

Gore would have made billions of dollars if cap and trade had passed http://www.canadafreepress.com/index.php/article/11607 Follow the money http://www.humanevents.com/article.php?id=22663

Also in the US Senate article you will find regarding the science of global warming:

“Inhofe Correct On Global Warming,” by David Deming geophysicist, an adjunct scholar with the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs (ocpathink.org), and an associate professor of Arts and Sciences at the University of Oklahoma. http://epw.senate.gov/fact.cfm?party=rep&id=264537

In 2006, a group of prominent scientists came forward to question the so-called “consensus” that the Earth faces a “climate emergency.” http://www.canada.com/nationalpost/financialpost/story.html?id=3711460e-bd5a-475d-a6be-4db87559d605 YOU SHOULD READ THIS ARTICLE AS WELL–FURTHER EVIDENCE THAT THER E NOT A CONSENSUS. Plus, I should remind you that “science” is not based on consensus of opinion.

In August 2006, Khabibullo Abdusamatov, a scientist who heads the space research sector for the Russian Academy of Sciences, predicted long-term global cooling may be on the horizon due to a projected decrease in the sun’s output. See: http://en.rian.ru/russia/20060825/53143686.html

There have also been recent findings in peer-reviewed literature over the last few years showing that the Antarctic is getting colder and the ice is growing and a new 2006 study in Geophysical Research Letters found that the sun was responsible for up to 50% of 20th-century warming. See: http://www.agu.org/pubs/crossref/2006/2006GL027142.shtml

Paleoclimate scientist Bob Carter has noted that there is indeed a problem with global warming – it stopped in 1998. “According to official temperature records of the Climate Research Unit at the University of East Anglia in the UK, the global average temperature did not increase between 1998-2005. “…this eight-year period of temperature stasis did coincide with society’s continued power station and SUV-inspired pumping of yet more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere,” noted paleoclimate researcher and geologist Bob Carter of James Cook University in Australia in an April 2006 article titled “There is a problem with global warming… it stopped in 1998.” See: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/op

inion/main.jhtml?xml=%2Fopinion%2F2006%2F04%2F09%2Fdo0907.xml&sSheet=%2Fnews%2F2006%2F04%2F09%2Fixworld.html

According to data released on July 14, 2006 from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the January through June Alaska statewide average temperature was “0.55F (0.30C) cooler than the 1971-2000 average.” See: http://www.publicaffairs.noaa.gov/releases2006/jul06/noaa06-065.html

In a September, 2006 article in the Geophysical Research Letters which found that over 20% of the heat gained in the oceans since the mid-1950s was lost in just two years. The former climatologist for the state of Colorado, Roger Pielke, Sr., noted that the sudden cooling of the oceans “certainly indicates that the multi-decadal global climate models have serious issues with their ability to accurately simulate the response of the climate system to human- and natural-climate forcings.“ See: http://climatesci.atmos.colostate.edu/2006/09/

The “Hockey Stick” temperature graph’s claim that the 1990’s was the hottest decade of the last 1000 years was found to be unsupportable by the National Academy of Sciences and many independent experts in 2006. See: http://www.epw.senate.gov/pressitem.cfm?party=rep&id=257697

Question: What caused the earth to warm after the ice age if man wasn’t driving SUVs and raising cattle for McDonalds (cow farts are a larger contributor to greenhouse gasses)?”

What I wouldn't give to have those pantaloons come back in style...

Okay, now, I know what you’re thinking.  You wanted to read something about the Holocaust, right?  Well it gets mentioned in my response to NYM.

Me(Maggie):

“[NYM], thank you for the very in-depth response.

Rather than try to refute everything you posted, I’ll just be criticizing the analysis and relevance of the things you’ve posted.

Beginning with the definition from Merriam-Webster, it seems you are wrong in your analysis of what is needed to defeat a consensus.  If a consensus is a general agreement or unanimity, then to show that there is not a consensus, you would have to show there is neither a general agreement nor unanimity. You have only showed there is not unanimity.  General agreement is present among scientists.  There is a large majority of scientists in agreement.  This is what I take to mean by “general agreement” and this analysis is furthered if you just read the second definition in the dictionary.  Because over 80% of scientists agree that humans contributed to GW, just showing examples of the other 18% doesn’t defeat the consensus.  Under your analysis, even if 99% of scientists agreed GW was affected by humans, this still would not be a consensus because you could give several examples of scientists who disagreed.

Next, you’ve given me an article published by US Senate Committee on Environment, followed by some Senator Inhofe quotes/speeches.  I guess this is irony.  You are using this article to show that scientists may have other motivations besides science.  Yet, Senator Inhofe is a man who personally rejects GW, argues that its proponents are motivated by money  and, of course, was the head of the committee that published this article.  And he had to go all the way to France to find a scientist who would give him the quote he wanted.  How convenient that a man who personally rejects GW and claims GW proponents are motivated by money happened to find the one scientist who agrees with him…

And what about Inhofe’s bachelor’s degree in economics gives him any standing to make claims about science?

But, I’ll ignore the irony and address the Frenchman.  It seems that you’re saying that because one French scientist accused scientists of being motivated by money, that means that you get to throw around this accusation as if it were a fact?  What a terrible world this would be if that’s how accusations were treated.

Al Gore is not a scientist.  He is not at issue as to the consensus of scientists.  His possible motivations say nothing of motivations of scientists.

As for David Deming, how incredibly convenient.  Senator Inhofe found another scientist who agreed with him and again published the story under the committee he headed!!  That Senator Inhofe probably is just posting these articles because he’s not trying to further his own agenda.  Right?

For all of the examples you give of scientists refuting GW, I’m just going to lump them into the 10-18% of scientists who don’t accept GW.  This does nothing to affect the 82-90% of scientists who do accept it.

Similarly, I could give you quotes from historians who deny the holocaust.  That doesn’t mean there isn’t a consensus among historians that the holocaust did in fact happen.

Furthermore, I never stated that science was a consensus.  I don’t know  why you felt the need to remind me of something I hadn’t forgotten.  The sole issue that has been in debate is whether there is a consensus among scientists.  However, I would like to address why a consensus is important.  You see Christian, I am not a scientist.  I have had no formal training in climatology, earth sciences, biology, chemistry, physics, etc.  While I have taken a few undergraduate classes in science, I don’t think this in any way makes me qualified to analyze or interpret scientific data.  So, instead of looking at studies and quotes from scientists and thinking I can analyze them myself, I generally rely on the consensus of the scientific community.  So whether or not there is a consensus is important to me, and probably to many people.  Of course, this doesn’t mean that I think a consensus=science.

I’m going to assume that you made an innocent mistake when you said “a new 2006 study in Geophysical Research Letters found that the sun was responsible for up to 50% of 20th-century warming.”

In fact, the study said “The sun might have contributed up to 50%…” (emphasis added)

As for your question: “What caused the earth to warm after the ice age if man wasn’t driving SUVs and raising cattle for McDonalds…?”

You are clearly mistaken as to what it means for humans to have contributed to the current GW.  There have been several ice ages, so I cannot answer your question without knowing which one you are referring to.  Instead, I’d like to point out the flaw in your understanding here.

You seem to be suggesting that if humans contributed to the current GW, then humans are always a necessary component of GW.  You can easily defeat this argument by pointing out that humans could not have been a component for at least most ice ages ending.  Therefore humans could not have contributed to the current GW.  The problem with this is that scientists aren’t arguing human contribution is a necessary component of GW.

Let’s say that smallpox reappears in the US.  I give the hypothesis: the US government released smallpox.  Your response would be something like: Well, there was no US government when smallpox first appeared, so if they didn’t release it then, they couldn’t have released it now.

Do you see the problem in this understanding of my hypothesis?”

Sorry these were long.  If you stayed for the whole thing, here is your reward:

You’re an animal!

Please keep in mind that the point of the blog is not to accuse anyone of being a bad or immoral person.  Also, please like our page on facebook!

The vast majority of our meat, dairy and eggs come from AFOs and CAFOs (factory farms).  These systems cause the confined non-human animals considerable pain, distress and suffering.

This blog will not argue that eating meat is inherently wrong nor that killing non-human animals is inherently wrong.  These as not our positions.  This blog will debunk some non-religious defenses to eating meat from the factory farming system.

In 1975, Peter Singer wrote Animal Liberation which, in part, explores how and why eating non-human animal products from the factory farming system is morally wrong.  We suggest reading this book if you eat meat, eggs or dairy products.

Here is part of Penn and Teller’s Bullshit episode on PETA, full of straw-mans, bias, fallacies and, of course, bullshit.   Our position is not the same as PETA’s, but the arguments used to dismiss PETA are often the same arguments used against our position.  Also, Penn and Teller’s bias in favor of humans is pathetically obvious.  They even think that humans can physically best chimps.  Adorable.

1)      “Vegetarians/vegans kill animals too!”  True.  Everyone inevitably will be in some way responsible for the death of other animals.  The death of non-human animals is not at issue here.  Rather it’s the suffering.

2)      “Humans are smarter than other animals.”  This is true in relation to most humans and most non-human animals.  But certainly no one would seriously argue that all humans are smarter than all other animals.  Even if that were true, it still wouldn’t be a moral justification for not treating other animals ethically.

3)      “We need meat to survive.”  Well, not exactly.  Humans are omnivores and we are more than capable of eating meat substitutes and non-meat foods that provide essential nutrients.  Even if this were true, it doesn’t justify the system, but rather the eating of meat, which is not at issue.

4)      “Not eating meat is unhealthy.”  False.  Plenty of vegetarians are healthy.  There are a plethora of options for nutrients to supplement a meat-free diet.   Also, the morality of eating meat in general is not at issue.

5)      “Humans are at the top of the food chain.”  This is the might makes right fallacy.  An animal’s position on the food chain should not affect whether it is treated ethically.

6)      “Animals are cruel to each other in nature.”  This is the naturalistic fallacy.  Just because something occurs in nature does not make it morally permissible for humans.  Mallards gang rape females, but we don’t conclude it is moral for humans to gang rape female mallards.

7)      “Eating meat is natural.”  This is the naturalistic fallacy.  Again, whether something is natural has no affect on whether or not it’s moral.  However, we’re not saying eating meat is wrong or unnatural.  The system which produces our meat is immoral (and unnatural!).

8)      “Animals cannot act morally, so we cannot be expected to extend our morality to cover them.”  This is a form of special pleading.  Babies can’t act morally, but certainly we agree that babies should be free from abuse, torture and rape.  Just because an agent cannot act morally does not mean it should not be treated morally.

9)      “Humans are special.”  Certainly, humans are special.  But every animal is special in some way.  Those birds of paradise are amazing!  This is actually the most reminiscent of a religious argument.  If you believe in evolution, you know that humans are the product of completely natural processes, just as every other animal is. There’s nothing supernatural about us.  We have no souls, we were not created in a god’s image.  We are animals.

10)   “Our ancestors ate meat.”  This is true.  They also sacrificed virgins.  This is not a basis for a moral claim.

11)   “Animals can’t suffer the way humans can.”  This is a red herring.  The issue isn’t whether other animals suffer the same way as us, but whether they can suffer at all.  Not all humans can suffer to the same degree as other humans.  Even if non-human animals suffer differently from humans and less than humans, this doesn’t mean that the suffering they do experience can be discounted.

12) “Isn’t the horror of the factory farming industry an aesthetic value rather than a moral one?  It looks disgusting, but does that make it morally bad?”  How it looks has nothing to do with whether it’s moral or not.  It’s immoral because these animals have complex central nervous systems that enable them to experience substantial amounts of pain, and they actually experience great pain.  So even if you think it is pretty (as some do with bullfighting) causing this kind of unnecessary suffering is immoral.

We are greatly interested in hearing feedback from the skeptic community and would love to engage in dialogue on this issue.  We’re sure there are other (hopefully better) defenses that we’d love to hear and address.

Grammar Nazis

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My name is Maggie and I am a recovering grammar nazi.  We all know someone who is a grammar nazi.  Some of you no doubtedly are yourselves.  Now, my Nazism wasn’t limited to grammar.  It also went to mechanics and spelling.  Comma splices, split infinitives, incorrect use of semicolons all drove me crazy.  One of my friends has this caption on a facebook photo: i know there good david… their mine.  I would roll my eyes and dismiss that person’s intelligence.  After all, who doesn’t know the difference between they’re, their and there?  For all of you grammar Nazis out there, are the three “there”s homophones or homonyms?  Dialect dependant or independent?  The correct answer is the “there”s are homophones that are dialect independent.  I know most of you realize that I gave part of the answer away because only homophones can be dialect dependant or independent.  Everyone knows that!

What’s interesting about my former compulsion to correct someone’s grammar, punctuation or mechanics, is that in order to correct it, I necessarily had to understand what they meant.  Take the example “i know there good david… their mine.”  I am not completely perplexed by this sentence.  I know exactly what this person was trying to say which is how I knew they used the wrong spelling.  There might be mistakes that do leave you completely at a loss.  But then you wouldn’t correct anything, you would simply say you didn’t understand or ask for clarification.  These types of mistakes seem to happen more often with phone auto-correcting technology.  The site Damn You Auto Correct is dedicated to such mistakes.

For example, one unlucky texter sent this message: …”The tickets are $18 but you get a hot dog and a gay.”  One would understandably be genuinely perplexed as to what one is getting for just $18.   Using context clues, it seems that maybe one could also be getting a soda or chips.  Looking at a typical keyboard, you could look at the letters close to those in gay and try to figure it out.  However, I would say that for most people it’s not intuitively obvious what the mistake was and suggest a correction.  Honestly, how many of you knew that the texter meant hat?

The key to this anecdote was that a simple mistake of spelling can lead to complete misunderstandings, but this isn’t the case when grammar Nazis at work.  Grammar Nazis only correct things that they understand to be clear mistakes in rules.

A few years ago I began teaching grammar, spelling and mechanics, among other things.  As seems to happen so often in life, the children’s skepticism left me at a loss.  Me, a self-professed grammar nazi!  Since I had received my degree in English, I felt I had a compelling grasp of the rules needed to teach youngsters, and I did.  But I found myself often stumped by their simple, poetic curiosity.

You can’t end a sentence in a proposition.  Why?

You can’t split an infinitive.  Why?

I comes before e.  Why?

Why? Why? Why?

My answer often was: that’s just the rule.  AS the years wore on, I actually began saying things like “Honestly, the rules don’t even make sense.”  Or “I don’t know why it’s a rule.” Or occasionally, “I don’t think that should be a rule.”  Try teaching a child the rule I comes before E except after C.  Now teach them that E often comes before I even without C (deity, neighbor).  Tell them why I comes before E even after C (society, vacancies).  Now tell me, why is this a spelling rule?  Is there any good reason for why we teach kids this rule?  Why can’t I just always come before E.  Is recieve just too crazy?

Whenever the kids asked me why to any one of the rules I was teaching them, I really can’t think of any time when I said, Well, it would confuse people if you didn’t follow this rule.  I mean really, we all break the rules all the time.  As you might have noticed, I have been breaking the rules throughout this entire post.  How many errors did you spot right away?  Do you know why they are errors?  Did these errors prevent you understanding the sentences?

I would love to have feedback on this.  I challenge you to find a rule that is necessary for our understanding most of the time (as a rule should be).

One of the reasons why this is an important topic is because we base ACT and SAT scores partly on these rules.  Students wanting to do well on these parts of the tests will need to know rules about:

who v. whom

which v. that

appositives

dependant and independent clauses

all verb tenses (perfect, subjunctive, etc.)

Seriously, who out there right now can write a sentence in past perfect tense?  How about subjunctive (I’m looking at you Beyonce)?

The lesson here is twofold.  1) Precriptivist grammar/spelling/mechanic rules are really hard, largely unknown and completely unnecessary.

2) Kids may have horrible grammar, but they are great skeptics.

Making the Establishment Clause Work for You!

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The Establishment Clause is the bane of the religious right’s existence.   This blog is going to explore why.  It’s also going to explore how it can be used by religious folk.  For the most part, I’m going to be re-posting facebook comments in an effort to lessen the burden of actually writing.  Also, if I use the word “opinion” I’m probably referring to a judge’s explanation of a verdict.
The relevant portion of the 1st amendment, known as the Establishment Clause, states, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion…” This has been interpreted by the Supreme Court and many (if not most) legal scholars to mean that the federal government cannot endorse any religion or irreligion. It must remain neutral. In the words of Supreme Court Justice Souter (quoting another opinion in support of his own), “…the ‘First Amendment mandates governmental neutrality between religion and religion, and between religion and nonreligion…'”  So while the words “separation of church and state” may not be in the Constitution, the basic idea of it certainly is.  This is the reason why the National Day of Prayer, creationism in schools, and 10 commandments in courthouses are (usually) unconstitutional.  I’ll explain why I added (usually) if there’s a demand.
Now, let’s explore how this can be misinterpreted by religious folk.  I’m going to be actually quoting a Christian who responded to me.
Unnamed Christian:  “@Maggie: “”Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion…” This has been interpreted to mean that the federal government cannot endorse any religion or irreligion”
Who’s interpretation? Your interpretation? The key phrase in the first amendment is “shall make no law”. Hmmm, I wonder what that could mean. IT MEANS, no LAW shall be made that encroaches on a state’s exercise or non-exercise of religion. You intentionally reworded it to say that “the federal government SHALL NOT ENDORSE any religion…”, completely leaving out the key phrase of the amendment. How about you people put your own selfish agendas aside and start looking at the facts objectively. No law is being made here. Nothing is being encroached upon. The amendment simply takes as a given that states will exercise religion and declares that they may do so freely. Obamo, along with just about every president before him, in “endorsing” the national day of prayer is simply reaffirming this fact.”

I suppose that if someone just picked up the Constitution and read the 1st amendment, this viewpoint wouldn’t be absurd.  But it is absurd.  It’s as if someone argued that the 2nd amendment protected the right to display bear limbs and supported the assertion by using obnoxious caps and being inappropriately condescending (BEAR ARMS.  HMMM.. wonder what that could mean!?).  What is really funny about this though is that the National Day of Prayer is a law.  28 U.S.C. 119 if anyone’s interested.

The key word in the 1st amendment is not “law” but “establish” (hence the term Establishment Clause rather than Law Clause).  As I said the current rule on this, given to us by the Supreme Court, is that “establish” means something along the lines of endorse.  Justice Antonin Scalia is the strongest opponent of this interpretation.  He’s very dishonest in his approach however.  He is an originalist, so he seeks to find the founding fathers’ original intents in crafting the 1st amendment.  He takes examples like Washington giving a Thanksgiving proclamation in which he thanks God as support for his position.  He also thinks that the founding fathers thought it was okay for the federal government to endorse not just God, but the monotheistic God of the Abrahamic religions.  His dissents fail to mention the damning pieces of evidence that contradict his position (IE: Jefferson’s letter characterizing the Establishment Clause as a “wall of separation of church and state”).  Rather, Scalia just asserts the separationists were too inconsistent to be of any help.
So, moral of the story, the Establishment Clause was one of the more brilliant and fore-thinking pieces of law crafted by the founding fathers.  I suggest anyone interested in protecting our civil rights wield it like a sword in fighting against the attempts at oppression and theocratic invasion.