Saturday, June 27, 2009

Article II Revision Voted Down... an observation

I will note here that I did not attend the mini-assembly (four reasons: I'm not a delegate, I already got my input into the process starting nearly a year ago, I was satisfied with the language (not enthralled, but this is bylaw language, in the bylaws, not poetry), I knew that the bylaws-established process did not permit sumstantive amendment at this stage, and I fully expected that there would be amendments--in the future--to the painstakingly drafted language).

So I was rather shocked to find that there was a coalition of people hostile to the change. I'll have to explore (please, feel free to explain your part if you're part of it) those reasons.

Two I've heard that I'll admit that I dismiss is that "they're not broken" (one doesn't only address things that need to be "repaired") and that changing them would create chaos for various R.E. people and somehow violate the wonderful Sources Cantata (which was performed at the PSWD D.A. and is wonderful). Those are crappy reasons for embracing creedalism. If that's where we're going, fine--that should be argued for in public.

One of the arguments I'd put forth for a serious change is that the Principles themselves have started to be treated like a creed by some--hurling some principle at another, citing it as being violated, and accusing the violator of being a bad UU because of it. If that's not creedal thought and behavior, I'm not sure what is.

The words aren't the essence. The essence is what we're about, and to my mind, ought to be expressed and re-expressed regularly so that we avoid mistaking the container for the contents.

The support of nearly half of the voting delegates (tangent: where were the others on such a major issue?) for the change makes clear to me that a change is coming, and soon. Of course, the bylaws forbid it being brought back up for two years. But I suspect that will sorely test our beloved moderator's insight, grace, and good will. Would a proposal to amend only one section of Article II qualify as bringing the same issue up? Given the fervent call (supported by the Youth and Young Adults) for the statement of inclusion in place of the statement on non-discrimination, I would hope to see that change sooner, rather than later.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Thursday - GA 2009

It's late, so this is going to be short...

Berry Street Essay -- awesome. The start as a head fake, and then... Paul Rasor taught us the mathematics of oneness. And the formal response was as powerful.

Opening Plenary -- Gini Courter, as usual, added to her fan base. And they haven't even seen her herd cats in a full plenary session yet. Sinkford spoke movingly--very, very movingly. And yes, he spoke to Iran, too. Not that I have any fantasy that Iran's leaders give a damn what the head of a small religious community in the USA thinks.

Opening worship -- lovely. Wonderful.

What you can see streamed, watch.

A few hours of sleep call...

Friday, June 19, 2009

The Summer

Much quoted of late -- made more famous by being Twittered -- are Ahmed Shamlou's lines "To slaughter us/ why did you need to invite us / to such an elegant party?"

Reading more of his work, it's easy to find it very relevant.

The Summer (published 1973)

The trustees of the Garden

From the depths of the confine

send the tired passer of the route

a green tinted kiss.


On the wide shoulders of the breeze

slowly dance the seeds of a new fragrance.

And what would it be

The fruit of the grown tree

This year,

So that the birds are spared

from the defined lines of the cage?

By Ahmad Shamlou

Translation: Maryam Dilmaghani

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Haiku, applied topically

Beneath the Alborz
I hear free birds a-twittering
In Tehran's green trees

Wednesday, June 10, 2009


Having observed a discussion of the various titles used for ministers, and how various ministers don't care for them, or approve of them, or want them, or use them... or wish that there was one that was right... proper... acceptable...
Many titles, one heart.
Many objectives, one task.

All serving hands are these.
I'm struck by all the titles--terms of address--I bear, or have borne. They serve the needs and lips of others, and I'm fine with all of them.

Back to work.

Just, as the old joke has it, don't call me late for dinner.

Saturday, June 06, 2009

How Much Bigotry is Protected?

It has long been the unchallenged right of any clergy member to decline to perform any marriage. There are rabbis who will not perform a marriage between a Jew and a non-Jew. There are significant strictures around the Catholic marriage of a Catholic and a non-Catholic, with the non-Catholic obliged to meet with a priest for an interview and to attend pre-marital classes given by the Church--and that is a significant liberalization of earlier practice. Any member of the clergy may decline to marry individuals who aren't members of their faith (or who are) for essentially any reason.

Religious marriage is not a right. Religious communities are not arms of the state. The only marriage that the state acknowledges are civil marriages. Religious marriage is only accepted where it has been performed lawfully--meaning that the marriage license granted by the state has been duly exercised and signed, and delivered to the state. In other words, where a clergy member has acted as an agent of the state. But the same clergy member could perform a marriage ceremony and--bereft of the license--the state will not accept and acknowledge the wedding as legal. The state merely allows a member of the clergy to perform lawful--civil--marriages.

The clergy person is not a state employee.

The clergy person is providing a religious service. And because of the Constitution's First Amendment, this is a highly protected thing.

As a result, no one can oblige the clergy to perform any particular marriage.

Thus the exemption clause in the law legalizing same sex marriage in New Hampshire was utterly redundant. That's not a big deal, really.

Only some people would like to insist that this exemption should be very broad--and permit religious objection to legally justify acts of bigotry that are not religious in character. This, in fact, is urged by Thomas Berg, in The Christian Century, in an article titled Gay Marriage; A threat to religious liberty? What's most disturbing is that Mr. Berg teaches law.

He suggests that florists and photographers, for example, should be able to refuse to serve same sex couples, because of religious objections to same sex marriage. Presumably this extends to caterers and others... which leads to the obvious question; how is this any different from being able to decline to serve blacks or other groups--so long as one avers a sincere religious belief that to do so is contrary to one's religion? Cry race mixing.... He insists that it's somehow different.

But one can support same-sex marriage and acknowledge that there has been bigotry against gays and lesbians without labeling all traditionalist believers as bigots or equating the discriminatory treatment of gays with America's unique legacy of race discrimination, which includes slavery and a bloody Civil War and led to three landmark constitutional amendments. That history has led us to penalize race discrimination in virtually every context, with few conscience exemptions.
But one can? The justification for enforcing equal legal rights for black Americans is not that they are entitled to them because hundreds of thousands died in that cause in the Civil War. The justification is that every last one of us has the same fundamental and inviolable rights as every other. The only time that the state gets to weigh rights is where rights conflict.

So, what's protected?

Your thoughts are. Your speech is. You can say what you like--unless it falls into that very narrow category of speech that is legitimately seen as endangering someone else (my right to flap my lips isn't as weighty as your right to not be injured or killed). Your right to practice your religion is. Your right to not practice any particular religion, or any religion at all, is also protected.

But one cannot take one's anti-Catholic opinions and refuse to rent to a Catholic, any more than one can take one's bigoted views and refuse to sell a home to a Jew, or refuse to feed a black family in a restaurant because they're black.

But Berg is suggesting that one ought to be able to refuse to serve gays and lesbians getting married, to refuse to do business with them, because one claims that one has religious objections to same sex marriage. Logically, why would this not also oblige and permit those with such religious views to refuse to serve them at all?

But beyond that, why should one be permitted legally to take one's religious views into the marketplace as grounds for refusing to deal with another party? This requires a good--solid--legal justification, and one that is generalizable, not merely homophobic (just as racist justifications were rejected).

Face it, selling flowers is not a religious service. Neither is taking photographs. Nor is providing food.

The First Amendment bars Congress from establishing religion, and from prohibiting the free exercise of religion.

When providing drugs (pharmacy), selling flowers, photographic services, housing and feeding people can be described as a distinctly religious practice, perhaps the Court will need to decide which rights in conflict take precedent. But in the meantime, the notion that there is a religious exemption for non-religious services and providing goods to others is simply nonsense. Wanting to protect one's bigotry doesn't make it constitutional, or legal. And indulging in sophistry to try to suggest it is is shameful.

Monday, June 01, 2009

Justice for Tiller

I'm confident, alas, that that phrase, justice for Tiller, is what some groups and individuals believe happened.

Justice, of course, is the last thing that happened. What happened was first degree murder. Cold blooded, evil. The planned killing of someone who faced an ongoing ethical challenge and refused to embrace a simplistic answer, of someone who did not demonize those who disagreed with him.


In a church.

During a worship service.

Those who fed and fueled this murder did so, fanning the flames of hate and violence. Radio Rwanda didn't kill Tutsis--but they urged it, encouraged it, and approved of it. It's as much their fault as it was those wielding machetes.

And it's clear that those like O'Reilly and Limbaugh and Operation Rescue and the rest are as culpable in this murder as Radio Rwanda was of genocide.

They've talked about Tiller and provided information about Tiller and demonized him in the most outrageous ways, and to pretend that they didn't think that this could be--would be--the result is nothing but an attempt to delude the rest of us (and themselves).

If there's any justice for Tiller, it will be that people like Randall Terry and Bill O'Reilly have lives where they need someone like Tiller, and don't have him.

As for Tiller's murderer, I hope he gets what McVeigh should have gotten--life in a gray concrete cell; decades of looking in a mirror with the conviction of murderer stamped on them by society--and then to be forgotten.