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American Blasphemy Laws

We are supposed to be horrified that Russia is punishing Ruslan Sokolovsky, a 21-year-old atheist provocateur, for entering a church while prayers were going on, playing Pokemon Go in open and intentional violation of the law, then posting a blasphemous YouTube video of it (here, subtitled [1]). If you look at the clip, he acknowledges that it’s against the law to hunt Pokemon in churches, but he says that’s a stupid law, and he’s going to break it.

Which he does. And he doesn’t get caught, because it looks like he’s just using his smartphone. It wasn’t until he posted this to the Internet to mock the church and authorities that he got in trouble. As one Russian priest put it, “Here we are speaking about an obvious violation of sacred places that religious people consider more valuable than life.” Even so, the local Metropolitan (Archbishop) said last week that he would like to try to get Sokolovsky out of prison, and have him come work with church charities, helping the disabled, elderly, and children. “Maybe it would help him take another look at life,” the Metropolitan said.

The latest news is that a judge released Sokolovsky to house arrest for two months. Maybe that will be the end of it. Personally, I have no problem with the state punishing him for going into a church (or mosque, synagogue temple), doing something the church views as desecration of its holy place, then broadcasting his deed. I do have a problem with the Russian law as it stands, which appears far too broad, such that it covers even street protest. In my view, the Duma should amend the law to make it as narrowly tailored as possible. Still, in principle, I support the idea of a blasphemy law in the Russian context. In the Muslim world, especially Pakistan, blasphemy laws are used to persecute Christians and other non-Muslims, simply for existing. In general, I think, blasphemy laws are a bad idea. But again, given what Russia and Russian Christians (and all religious believers there) endured under Bolshevism — millions murdered — I do not, in principle, object to the concept of a blasphemy law there. There is no plausible need for one in America, and I would oppose the establishment of one here.

The point I made yesterday when I blogged about it is that Westerners who are outraged by the very idea of this law ignore Russian history — specifically, the Soviet-era government persecution of Christianity that resulted in millions of deaths, exile to the gulag, destruction of churches, and the like. It’s like American free-speech fundamentalists who don’t understand why Germany has laws forbidding pro-Nazi speech. I would not want those laws in the United States, but then, we have a very different history here.

So many American liberals are bent out of shape about what Russia is doing here that they fail to notice that we have our own blasphemy laws. Look at this, from Eugene Volokh: [2]

 

From the official Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination’s Gender Identity Guidance [3], just released last week:

Even a church could be seen as a place of public accommodation if it holds a secular event, such as a spaghetti supper, that is open to the general public.

change_me

Now, churches hold events “open to the general public” all the time — it’s often how they seek new converts. And even church “secular events,” which I take it means events that don’t involve overt worship, are generally viewed by the church as part of its ministry, and certainly as a means of the church modeling what it believes to be religiously sound behavior.

More:

Under Massachusetts law, refusing to use a transgender person’s preferred pronoun would be punishable discrimination. (At least this is true of “he” or “she” — I saw nothing in the document about “ze” and other newly made-up pronouns.) The Massachusetts document I linked to makes that clear in the employment context, and it also makes clear that the antidiscrimination law rules apply to places of public accommodations (including churches, in “secular events” “open to the public”) just as much as to employment.

Indeed, a church might be liable even for statements by its congregants (and not just its volunteers, who are acting as agents) that are critical of transgender people. Tolerating such remarks is generally seen as allowing a “hostile environment,” and therefore “harassment.” Indeed, the statement I linked to specifically encourages people to “prohibit derogatory comments or jokes about transgender persons from employees, clients, vendors and any others, and promptly investigate and discipline persons who engage in discriminatory conduct” (emphasis added). But that’s not just encouragement; it simply reflects hostile work environment harassment law, which has long required employers to restrict derogatory speech by clients, to prevent “hostile environments.” See 29 C.F.R. § 1604.11. The same logic applies [4] for places of public accommodation, which Massachusetts says can include churches.

Notice this too:

Under G.L. c. 272, § 92A, the law provides that a place of public accommodation may not distribute, publish or display an advertisement, notice, or sign intended to discriminate against or actually discriminating against persons of any gender identity.

Better not be a sign on the church bulletin board that offends a transgender who wanders in, or there will be trouble. Ah, the People’s Republic of Massachusetts, where if your church holds a fundraising fish fry during Lent, it invites the jackboot of the state onto its neck if a deacon criticizes transgenderism. In Russia, Sokolovsky had to enter a church, intentionally violate its sanctity (and the law), and broadcast to his 300,000 YouTube followers what he had done, for the state to come down on him. In Massachusetts, if a transgender enters into a church to intentionally provoke it because she doesn’t like the church’s stand on LGBT issues, and someone there makes a statement that offends here, she can count on the state coming down on the church.

Volokh, a law professor, says that the Massachusetts law should make it clear that “this is where these rules are headed, at least in places like Massachusetts but likely elsewhere as well.”

But see, Russia has a blasphemy law. America doesn’t.

Check out this Briefing from the US Commission on Civil Rights, which addresses reconciling anti-discrimination law with religious liberty [5] (PDF). You will not be surprised to learn that a majority of the commission has little respect for religious liberty. Here is a statement appended to the report by Martin Castro [6], its chairman:

The phrases “religious liberty” and “religious freedom” will stand for nothing except hypocrisy so long as they remain code words for discrimination, intolerance, racism, sexism, homophobia, Islamophobia, Christian supremacy or any form of intolerance. Religious liberty was never intended to give one religion dominion over other religions, or a veto power over the civil rights and civil liberties of others. However, today, as in the past, religion is being used as both a weapon and a shield by those seeking to deny others equality. In our nation’s past religion has been used to justify slavery and later, Jim Crow laws. We now see “religious liberty” arguments sneaking their way back into our political and constitutional discourse (just like the concept of “state rights”) in an effort to undermine the rights of some Americans. This generation of Americans must stand up and speak out to ensure that religion never again be twisted to deny others the full promise of America.

Castro was appointed commission chair by Obama. Previously, Castro served on the Illinois “Human Rights Commission,” a phrase that strikes fear into the heart of every non-liberal Canadian.

Here’s what the full report says about forcing Catholic hospitals to perform abortions:

In October 2015, the ACLU of Michigan sued Trinity Health Corporation. Trinity, a public funding recipient, is a large Catholic health system. It allegedly “requires that all of its facilities abide by the Ethical and Religious Directives promulgated by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops”which

prohibit a pre-viability pregnancy termination, even when there is little or no chance that the fetus will survive, and the life or health of a pregnant woman is at risk. They also direct health care providers not to inform patients about alternatives inconsistent with those directives even when those alternatives are the best option for the patient’s health.

The refusal to provide reproductive health services such as medically necessary abortions or tubal ligations violates the Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act. As noted below, Members of Congress recently wrote to the Attorney General regarding the 2007 DOJ OLC memorandum addressing RFRA exemptions referred to instances in which it is being used to argue for the supremacy of religious exemptions over access to reproductive health care. One can only hope that Congress cannot have intended RFRA to justify suffering and to endanger human life.

According to the majority opinion of the US Commission of Civil Rights, Catholic hospitals must be made to perform medical procedures that the Catholic churches teachers are tantamount to homicide.

If you read the report, there can be no doubt that a majority of the federal Civil Rights Commission would have no problem with the State of Massachusetts going after churches there. Massachusetts churches who haven’t joined Team #LoveWins™ had better not hold a church supper open to the public, or they risk punishment for violating Massachusetts’ blasphemy law.

Dissenting commission member Peter Kirsanow succinctly summed up the clash of worldviews here:

The tension between religious liberty and nondiscrimination principles appears most acute when religious liberty and sexual liberty conflict. There are at least two ways of conceptualizing the conflict. The first is as a conflict between two rights-the right to be served without discrimination based on one’s sexual orientation, and the right to manifest one’s religious beliefs by choosing whom to serve. The second is whether religious believers should receive exemptions from neutral laws of general applicability. But the conflict goes deeper. It is a conflict between two worldviews, both held with the intensity generally associated with religious belief.

The first, which is secularism, holds an individual’s unfettered sexual self-expression as a preeminent concern because it is an aspect of their self creation. This interest in the individual is now construed as a positive responsibility to ensure that everyone has the ability to engage in sexual conduct without cost or consequence, whether in money, unwanted children, or hurt feelings. An individual’s sexual behavior is considered an act of self-creation and something that goes to the deepest level of their identity.  Criticism of an individual’s behavior is considered an attack on the dignity of the person. Naturally, this worldview is at odds with many aspects of traditional morality grounded in sexual restraint.

The second worldview holds that individuals are not their own judge, but rather are subject to divine law and divine judgment. The morality of a person’s conduct does not ultimately depend upon whether he thinks it is right, or whether it accords with his desires, but whether it conforms to divine law. Moral standards of behavior are external to a person, not internal. Therefore, even though people, including religious believers, fall short of these standards, they do not have the authority to change the standards. Furthermore, it is a sin to assist another person in breaking the moral law, or to applaud breaking the moral law. In a predominantly Judeo-Christian society, this worldview is most closely reflected in the Ten Commandments. Although believers realize that they break the Ten Commandments both through what Christians often call “sins of omission” and “sins of commission,” they are not free to change “Thou shalt not bear false witness” to something more congenial. Instead, they are told to repent of their sin and to try to avoid repeating it.

This is the nub of the conflict between the proponents of nondiscrimination norms and proponents of constitutionally-protected religious liberty.

More:

A version of this approach seems to have been adopted by political and cultural elites. This of course tips the scales in their favor. Defining public reason as encompassing only “presently accepted general beliefs and forms of reasoning found in common sense, and the methods and conclusions of science when these are not controversial” while explicitly excluding reasons based in religion means that what seems like “common sense” to the secular and what seems like “common sense” to the religious can be two very different things. Yet only the former is regarded as legitimate in public debates. For example, a devout Christian may regard it as “common sense” that marriage is between a man and a woman, in large part because that is the pattern laid out in the Bible. A secularist may consider it “common sense” that marriage is between two people who share a deep emotional attachment, and point to the benefits of having someone to care for you in illness, etc. And indeed, as mentioned above, secularism has its own commandments and shibboleths, though it is rarely viewed that way by its adherents. Yet only one of these two versions of “common sense” is regarded as legitimate by our political system, even if the former would be persuasive to a large number of people. In some cases, courts have even implied that because some people favored a particular policy for religious reasons, the entire enterprise is tainted by animus and thus is unconstitutional. In fact, there are really two clashing moralities in play, especially in regard to same-sex marriage, but the courts choose one over another while pretending to be neutral. It is permissible for a pro-same-sex marriage campaign to be animated by the belief that same-sex marriage is morally good, but it is impermissible for a pro-traditional marriage campaign to be animated by the belief that same-sex marriage is morally wrong.

Secular liberalism is a religion that tells itself it isn’t a religion. This is why its adherents don’t believe that their blasphemy laws are blasphemy laws, though that’s exactly how the laws function. It’s all about what — and who — you consider sacred. In Russia, among other things, they consider God and the Church sacred. In America, among other things, we consider gays and transgenders sacred.

UPDATE: Andrew T. Walker says old-fashioned liberals need to reign in the gay-rights Jacobins among them. [7] Excerpt:

Consider the Human Rights Campaign. As the leader of the gay rights movement in America, HRC can control and frame the debate and rhetoric surrounding LGBT rights—especially in the most elite sectors of American culture, from where it draws its strength and support. There has been absolutely zero magnanimity coming from HRC or Chad Griffin, the organization’s president. The Human Rights Campaign has become a primary incubator for communicating the distortions that the media happily laps up concerning religious liberty.

In its worst forms, HRC creates campaigns that insinuate that anyone dissenting on sexuality is guilty of criminal behavior [8]. Furthermore, Griffin’s Twitter timeline is filled with harsh caricaturing toward institutions or persons that believe in biblically orthodox sexual ethics. In the way that Griffin frames the discussion, there is no goodwill. Everyone who isn’t with him is against him.

This is very significant, because Griffin is arguably the most successful political tactician in America concerning gay rights. His inability to see that there are people of goodwill on opposites of the sexuality debate (even President Obama has said as much [9]) is telling, and has disastrous consequences for the future of American discourse.

Then we also must consider the rhetoric from self-professed “progressive Christians” on LGBT rights. For them, LGBT rights has become, fundamentally, a matter of justice. Not only justice, but a form of justice that calls on the Old Testament prophets for their authority and indignation.

Where justice is at stake, like secular progressives these Christian social justice warriors are adopting the posture that any disagreement on LGBT sexual ethics equals directly harming LGBT people. Consider the words of Brandan Robertson, a young LGBT Christian activist.

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83 Comments To "American Blasphemy Laws"

#1 Comment By Anglocat On September 9, 2016 @ 8:09 pm

“Hate speech” is fully constitutionally protected speech under the First Amendment. See Brandenburg v. Ohio, 395 US 444 (1969); RAV v. City of St Paul, 505 US 377 (1992). The sole exception is if it’s combined with action threatening harm. That’s Virginia v. Black, 538 US 343 (2003).

Siarlys has already pointed to the free association doctrine’s ongoing viability, and may I remind you of the Supreme Court’s unanimous decision in Hosanna-Tabor Evan. Luth Church & School v EEOC, 132 S Ct 694 (2012), exempting all ministers, broadly defined, from the reach of anti-discrimination law.

Seriously, guys, some badly written administrative guidance, and overblown rhetoric is leading you to draw a parallel that simply does not exist.

Also, the blasphemy law is deplorable; his robust defense of free speech marks the first time I’ve agreed with Uncle Chuckie.

#2 Comment By John On September 9, 2016 @ 8:11 pm

I have to disagree with your defense of Russia’s blasphemy law, particularly how it was used in this case. What the atheist did was no more offensive than “microaggression.” You’d have to looking for the YouTube post in order to get offended. The atheist did not go in and disrupt the service. He played a game and then posted his admission on YouTube.

Devout Orthodox Christians who heard of this would be offended. So what. Freedom allows for the expression of ideas that others seem offensive.

Had he disrupted the service in any way then the police could have arrested him for depriving the parishioners of their right to worship but he did not do that.

Now the context that is used to excuse laws like this do no such thing. Lufting the ban while returning any forcibly taken property would suffice.

I always not a fan of the anti-Nazi and holocaust denial laws either. I can see why they might pass them but these laws don’t put an end to those views. They merely bury them underground. The solution to hate speech is more speech.

Fwiw Massachusett’s law should not apply to religious groups.

#3 Comment By Siarlys Jenkins On September 9, 2016 @ 8:13 pm

RUSSIA and PUTIN are stepping up to defend Christianity and Western values…

Well, to put that in context, Putin is on record that in the absence of the Young Communist League, he can’t see any way to socialize the youth without the church. This is the KGB veteran being pragmatic. Was it Seneca who said the ruling classes find religion to be useful?

Speaking of context, it is worth noting that Christo’s stated INTENT was to satirize the commercialization of religion… although I think most of us would agree he did a poor job of it. (I resisted the obvious pun about how poor).

Oh, I think Liam has settled the entire question here. The authors of the regulation know they can’t touch religious observance or practice, and they have so provided. (The purpose, even if they had to grit their teeth to write it, is to save on all kinds of litigation by conforming the application of the regulation to First Amendment jurisprudence.)

#4 Comment By anonymousdr On September 9, 2016 @ 9:33 pm

@Siarlys Jenkins

“Any communist regime would have picked him up as a bohemian cosmopolitan and packed him off to learn a decent trade — in this instance, I’m not sure either Hector or I would disagree, as long as he had decent shelter, a healthy diet, and was actually taught some useful skills.”

Im this case, I wouldn’t really argue with that either.

#5 Comment By anonymousdr On September 9, 2016 @ 9:36 pm

“Setting aside abortion for a moment, since I don’t think any hospital performs elective abortions.”

Define elective.

If post-viability (26 weeks) babies with Downs are elective (hint, they are), then, I know for a fact that the Big Academic Hospital where I trained does them.

#6 Comment By anonymousdr On September 9, 2016 @ 9:42 pm

Kinda long, but—

I understand why the prospect of a hospital turning away a gravely ill woman who may benefit from an abortion gets people blood boiling.

However, the idea that “the nearest hospital” needs to be able to treat this particular condition, or any emergent condition (to say nothing of an elective procedure like a tubal ligation), is based on a fundamental misunderstanding of what hospitals do and how medicine works.

There is a decent chance that your nearest hospital doesn’t preform any number of completely uncontroversial and definitely life saving treatments for conditions which are much, much, much, much more common than any of the potential scenarios in which an immediate direct abortion is the only possible solution, which is a vanishingly rare occurance, one that doesn’t even seem to make a bilp in the maternal mortality statistics of countries where the practice is/was illegal.

If you show up at some hypothetical rural hospital, there is an almost zero percent chance that there will be:

A neurosurgeon (plus anesthesiologist and OR staff) on site/on call to evacuate a subdural or place an EVD in the case of head injury

An interventional cardiologist to do PCI in the case of heart attack

An endovascular neurosurgeon/radiologist to to clot retrieval for stroke

A team to put you on crash ECMO in the case of severe respiratory failure.

However any of those procedures would save your life, and head injuries, heart attacks, strokes, and the flu are orders of magnitude more common than the crazy rare scenario of a crash-super-STAT abortion being the only way to save a life. If you show up to a hospital that doesn’t offer these services, they do the best they can and/or transfer. The EMTs are actually very smart, and patients get routed to specific hospitals all the time. In many big cities there are Stroke Centers, Heart Centers, and Trauma centers. One reasonable solution could be to designate crisis pregnancy centers and have EMTs route there. It is well within their capabilities. In rural places this may require a helicopter.

The case for making hospitals preform elective procedures is even weaker. There are plenty of things that I don’t do but others in my sub-specialty might, whether it is because I wasn’t trained in them, find them to be minimally helpful given the difficulty and risk, or find them dubiously ethical—sorry ladies (and gents) no butt injections for you!

What bothers people is the reason for not doing the procedure, ethics, particularly Christian ethics.

Well, what bothers me is the thuggish attitude of many on the left: “Nice school/hospital/adoption agency, sure would be a shame if anything happened to it”. Catholic hospitals were built by generations of people, many of them rather poor, who in the case of many of the nursing nuns, gave up everything for the hospitals.

If you are so concerned about abortion, encourage the young women of your community consecrate their virginity to ensure abortion access for all. Good luck with that.

#7 Comment By Gretchen On September 10, 2016 @ 1:12 am

“The refusal to provide reproductive health services such as medically necessary abortions or tubal ligations violates the Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act. ”
Yes. Because if a miscarrying woman comes to your hospital, you don’t get to allow her to bleed to death because the doomed fetus’ heart hasn’t stopped beating yet.
[11]

#8 Comment By Gretchen On September 10, 2016 @ 1:14 am

Under Massachusetts law, refusing to use a transgender person’s preferred pronoun would be punishable discrimination.

There’s a slight difference between being written up at work (that is, the sort of thing that qualifies as at-work harassment – I just attended a seminar on the subject today) and something that will send you to prison for 5 years.

#9 Comment By Giuseppe Scalas On September 10, 2016 @ 3:27 am

Blasphemy laws are still operating in Canada, Austria, Israel, Germany and Italy.
Such laws don’t punish vigorous and harsh criticism of religion, but blasphemous libel, disrupting religion ceremonies or defiling cult objects. However, they implicitly or explicitly acknowledge the civic value of religion and that religious faith is a deeply rooted element of human personality.

#10 Comment By JonF On September 10, 2016 @ 7:13 am

Re: Under Massachusetts law, refusing to use a transgender person’s preferred pronoun would be punishable discrimination.
There’s a slight difference between being written up at work (that is, the sort of thing that qualifies as at-work harassment – I just attended a seminar on the subject today) and something that will send you to prison for 5 years.

Please cite a credible source that anyone is proposing a five year prison sentence for not using the “right” pronoun.

#11 Comment By JonF On September 10, 2016 @ 7:18 am

Re: RUSSIA and PUTIN are stepping up to defend Christianity and Western values

Orthodox Christianity, maybe. But there is an old, old argument as whether Russia even belongs within the larger clade of European civilization (for the record, I vote Yes), but no one, not even Peter the Great in his fever dreams, ever thought of Russia as a “Western” nation. It isn’t. And Putin’s Russia is defending nothing but Russia’s own perceived self-interest. This is of course what nations do.

#12 Comment By Anne On September 10, 2016 @ 10:38 am

Hate speech and blasphemy are very different concepts, and laws against them serve very different purposes. In short, hate speech laws are aimed at preventing harm to human beings while blasphemy laws punish the disparagement of God and the sacred.

Blasphemy is a specifically religious term and involves speaking sacrilegiously about God or sacred things. The purpose of such laws is to hold these supra-human elements in awe, and above all human reproach. Christians believe blasphemy to be a sin in violation of a divine commandment. The purpose of hate speech statutes, by contrast, is to protect vulnerable human beings by preventing the development and/or perpetuation of hostility and violence against any person or group.

After World War II, many European nations enacted hate speech legislation, as has most of the English-speaking world, with the exception of the US. Because many here consider hate speech statutes a threat to freedom of expression, the US Supreme Court has ruled that only speech that incites “imminent action” may be legally prevented in the US. On the other hand, although church and state are supposed to be kept separate, many US states have had blasphemy laws on the books since the 18th century. Unenforced since the early 19th century, most of these have been ruled unconstitutional by the courts, although a few have never been challenged.

[NFR: “Hate speech” is the blasphemy of the secular liberals. — RD]

#13 Comment By Anne On September 10, 2016 @ 10:55 am

PS to my above comment: Any company rule or state anti-discrimination statute that appears to infringe on speech or expression has yet to be tested in the courts. I wouldn’t assume some “wave of the future” until all that plays out.

#14 Comment By anonymousdr On September 10, 2016 @ 11:23 am

@Gretchen

She didn’t bleed to death, she died of sepsis (blood stream infection leading to shock–>low blood pressure–>end organ failure). Had she been given antibiotics at the appropriate time, it is very likely that she wouldn’t have died.

[12]

We place ethical constraints on medical care all the time. In the case of Savita, even after you’ve missed the diagnosis, you put her on pressors, send her to the ICU, and if she was bleeding, transfuse the living daylights out of her, etc. You don’t directly kill the baby.

For example, people die on transplant lists all the time. You only need one kidney and half a liver, why don’t we take one of your kidneys and half your liver and give it to someone who is about to die and really needs it? Or better yet, lets start harvesting organs from people whose hearts haven’t stopped beating so they will be more fresh. Oh, because we have ethical constraints.

I get that you don’t think that the 18 week old is a “human person”, but there is a good, philosophical argument that doesn’t rely on special revelation, that it is a human person, just as there is a good argument not to harvest organs from people whose hearts are still beating.

We don’t do things to extend people’s lives just because we can.

#15 Comment By hattio On September 10, 2016 @ 11:32 am

Rod,
Serious question, if Germany can ban Nazi symbols because of it’s past of mass murder, and Russia can ban blasphemy because of it’s past of mass murder, should/could the US ban the Confederate Flag? I mean, thousands if not millions of slaves were killed in the middle passage, others were killed or maimed in the US for the crime of trying to free themselves, and slavery caused a civil war that killed nearly a million people on battlefield.
Don’t get me wrong, under current law the US could not ban the Confederate Flag, and I don’t think they should be able to. But isn’t it completely consistent with your logic?

#16 Comment By Fran Macadam On September 10, 2016 @ 11:37 am

” there is a sacred history for many seculars, with martyrs like MLK, Jr. and Matthew Sheppard, ”

MLK called homosexuality a sin.

The Matthew Shephard meme fell apart, when it was revealed they were all involved in drug deals gone bad.

#17 Comment By Siarlys Jenkins On September 10, 2016 @ 11:46 am

Catholic hospitals were built by generations of people, many of them rather poor, who in the case of many of the nursing nuns, gave up everything for the hospitals.

There is no longer any such thing as a “Catholic hospital.” They are all, or very nearly all, subsidiaries of large medical conglomerates that differ in no way from any of the other megamedical businesses dominating the landscape. I’ve just watched Ascension Health Care take over the Wheaton Franciscan edifice, which in recent memory took over several smaller chains like Covenant and independent hospitals, some of which they closed as not profitably efficient… so don’t talk about those poor nuns who sacrificed all, administered the hospitals, changed the bandages, mopped the floors, pre-opped the operating rooms, staffed the desks…

Many religious orders require a bachelor’s degree to even be considered for a vocation. They are an intellectual elite, who might staff few upper level management positions.

#18 Comment By DeclineThe Enjoy On September 10, 2016 @ 11:52 am

The blashphemy law is stupid because it shows a weak Christianity obsessed with slights against itself and running to the secular power the moment something trivial happens. Relying on a heavy-handed state approach is going to foment anti-clericalism in the long run, and reduce any cultural strength Christianity could ever have.

If anything, the Russian orthodox should speak loudly against this law because God can defend his own sacred spaces, and doesn’t need scum like Putin co-opting his name.

#19 Comment By Robert Armstrong On September 10, 2016 @ 12:01 pm

Progressive Christianity and orthodox Christianity relate to each other exactly as the Protestants and the Catholics did during the Reformation. LGBT rights is the area where the conflict is being fought at the moment.

#20 Comment By Hector_St_Clare On September 10, 2016 @ 2:09 pm

Panda,

+1000 for your very insightful comment (I always think your thoughts about Russia are insightful and very well defended, even when I disagree with your conclusions). I would agree with you that the Russian blasphemy laws have less to do with the Soviet persecutions and more to do with 1) modern legal culture and 2) the lack of a tradition of separation of church and state in Russian history. I doubt that mr. Sokolovsky would have gotten away with playing Pokemon in a church in 1900, if Pokemon existed then.

One quibble though: while Russia has a lot of Muslim immigration, and you are right that Putin is really no friend of principled opponents of multiculturalism and mass migration, I don’t think Russia faces the same threats from immigration as Britain, Sweden or Germany do. And that’s because Central Asian Muslims aren’t Pakistanis, Somalis or Moroccans: they’re from a relatively secular and culturally liberalized part of the Muslim world.

Just one quibble

#21 Comment By Anne On September 10, 2016 @ 2:13 pm

PS to my first PS: The same can be said of religious liberty objections to state and federal anti-discrimination statutes. American Catholics especially should remember that, in the course of this country’s long and checkered history, laws infringing on the religious liberty of certain groups have been enacted but ultimately struck down. No Americans, including Christians, can be guaranteed their rights will never be challenged or infringed, only that they have recourse via the courts if and when they ever are.

#22 Comment By JWJ On September 10, 2016 @ 2:54 pm

To anonymousdr:

Great comment. Quite informative.

#23 Comment By Siarlys Jenkins On September 10, 2016 @ 3:54 pm

NFR: “Hate speech” is the blasphemy of the secular liberals. — RD

A pat little unsubstantiated axiom, sound and fury, signifying nothing. Anne is correct that secular liberalism is not a religion, therefore whatever its adherents may get foaming at the mouth screaming mad about is not blasphemy. One would think anyone who treats religion with respect would object to referencing all kinds of secular preoccupations as being on the same plane.

In the case of Savita, even after you’ve missed the diagnosis, you put her on pressors, send her to the ICU, and if she was bleeding, transfuse the living daylights out of her, etc. You don’t directly kill the baby.

Removal of diseased, necrotic, septic tissue because antibiotics just can’t bring the sepsis under control is a standard medical practice. If you rely on antibiotics and blood transfusion alone, the patient is likely to die. Sometimes this means removing essential body parts that are not going to regenerate, but better to live without an arm, or a leg, or even a big chunk of your rear end, than for the whole body to become septic. In the special case of a fetus inside a pregnant woman, IF the fetus itself is septic, then (A) it is almost certainly not going to survive, and (B) failure to remove the septic fetal tissue almost certainly will kill the mother, no matter what volume and variety of antibiotics you deliver by IV.

#24 Comment By Gene Callahan On September 10, 2016 @ 3:59 pm

@GregR: “What about a woman having her tubes tied after pregnancy. This is prohibited by Catholic ethics. But what if the woman has been told by her doctor that carrying another child to term risks her life? It’s still prohibited by Catholic ethics, yet there is no question that having the surgery then instead of in a follow up is far preferable.”

You are simply assuming that the Catholic idea that having this procedure is a serious sin that puts one’s soul at risk is false — if it is true, it is better to not have the procedure at all.

So, basically, if we start with the premise that the Catholic Church is wrong on this matter, then we can reach the surprising conclusion that the Catholic Church is wrong on this matter!

#25 Comment By Gene Callahan On September 10, 2016 @ 4:14 pm

@Anne: “Hate speech and blasphemy are very different concepts, and laws against them serve very different purposes. In short, hate speech laws are aimed at preventing harm to human beings while blasphemy laws punish the disparagement of God and the sacred.”

No: blasphemy laws are very much about preventing harm to human beings. Societies are organized around their sense of the sacred and how they relate to it, and those who would shatter such understandings are naturally and correctly seen as enemies of the current social order. And the breakdown of that order will hurt the weak, the poor, and the disabled first and hardest!

“Blasphemy is a specifically religious term and involves speaking sacrilegiously about God or sacred things. The purpose of such laws is to hold these supra-human elements in awe…”

No, their purpose is to sustain social order.

#26 Comment By Joe the Plutocrat On September 10, 2016 @ 5:07 pm

Have always felt the Church v. State question is moot, as all religion is by nature political and most political entities are more dogmatic than ‘legal’. Ergo blasphemy law is redundant, as Unconstitutional is merely the secular word for blasphemy. Nice Concept to discuss in a Philosophy 101 lecture, but again more samantic than legal in my book.

#27 Comment By Oakinhou On September 11, 2016 @ 8:07 am

@anonymousdr

“What bothers people is the reason for not doing the procedure, ethics, particularly Christian ethics.

Well, what bothers me is the thuggish attitude of many on the left: “Nice school/hospital/adoption agency, sure would be a shame if anything happened to it”. Catholic hospitals were built by generations of people, many of them rather poor, who in the case of many of the nursing nuns, gave up everything for the hospitals.”

I understand your description about why many/most procedures are not available in most hospitals. You need a critical mass of specialists to provide them, which is only possible in large cities.

But I live in one of those, with plenty of hospitals, Houston. And I see local hospitals changing hands from one system to another as a regular feature. A Memorial Hermann hospital might now become a St Joseph’s, or a St Joseph’s becomes a Methodist one.

And what was yesterday a Not Catholic Hospital, with doctors and nurses and patients of all denominations suddenly, through the magic of Capitalism, and Consolidating, and Efficiency, becomes a Catholic one. A Catholic hospital that was Not Built by a Catholic Community and Not Staffed by nuns.

And the Non Catholic doctors and nurses are now told that the new owners do not like the way they are working, and they should stop doing with their patients what they were doing until yesterday.

And when Now Catholic Hospital is sold again, the New Owners will tell Catholic doctors and nurses (and the nuns that I have never seen in a Houston hospital) to please start making ligatures right now.

#28 Comment By Oakinhou On September 11, 2016 @ 8:35 am

Gene Callahan


No: blasphemy laws are very much about preventing harm to human beings. Societies are organized around their sense of the sacred and how they relate to it, and those who would shatter such understandings are naturally and correctly seen as enemies of the current social order. And the breakdown of that order will hurt the weak, the poor, and the disabled first and hardest!

“Blasphemy is a specifically religious term and involves speaking sacrilegiously about God or sacred things. The purpose of such laws is to hold these supra-human elements in awe…”

No, their purpose is to sustain social order.”

Here is it, in black and white. The Gene Callahans do Religion not because is True, but because Religion keeps the social order. It’s a tool to keep the lower classes (the weak, the poor, the disabled) in their place.

The Gene Callahans might happen to be Christian in the USA. But they would be Wahabbists in the Middle East, or Shinto in Japan. It’s the “social order” and their (higher, above the weak, the poor, the disabled) place in it that concerns them.

[NFR: Here’s a thought that might blow your mind: Both can be true! Russia is trying to recover from 75 years of totalitarian tyranny that all but destroyed not just Christian values, but basic human values. I am no Putin admirer, but whoever the leader of that country is, he has to try to put his country back together again, somehow, and restore its society to health. This is going to be the work of generations. Liberals’ remarks here remind me of those Western economic liberals who assumed that post-Soviet Russia would make an easy transition to market liberalism, and who were shocked that it didn’t happen. — RD]

#29 Comment By Stephen Gould On September 11, 2016 @ 12:35 pm

“Hate speech” is the blasphemy of the secular liberals.

Hate speech is targeted at people. Blasphemy is targeted at what people believe. Ergo the two are not at the same level.

[NFR: Let me ask: Are you a religious believer of any kind? — RD]

#30 Comment By Oakinhou On September 11, 2016 @ 1:54 pm

NFR: Here’s a thought that might blow your mind: Both can be true! …….]

But you don’t really believe that. You don’t believe that Christianity and Islam and Shintō are all true. So, no matter how good [generic] Religion is as a tool for Social Order, you would strongly disagree if Islam or Shintō were pushed on the weak, the poor, the disabled.

[NFR: Of course I think Christianity is exclusively true. But I believe religion is universally important for maintaining social order. Defined “pushed on”. Forced conversions? Deeply wrong. But living in a majority-Muslim society and being expected to live by general Muslim norms? I might not like it all the time, but I should expect that a society will be governed, more or less, by the religious assumptions of its majority. America is no different; it’s just that secular individualism is the real religion of contemporary America. — RD]

#31 Comment By Oakinhou On September 11, 2016 @ 5:10 pm

[NFR…..But living in a majority-Muslim society and being expected to live by general Muslim norms?…..]

There’s a significant difference between living under general Muslim norms (don’t drink, women cover their hair and arms, etc.) and religion. I’ve been in Muslim countries in Ramadan and Bstained to eat in front of people from dawn to dusk. That’s not me being religious, it’s me being polite (or following local laws). I don’t get to belief is Islam just because I cease to drink.

Gene Callahan’s argument was that Religion was a tool for Social Order. That means Religion, not just general social norms (*). That was also the post Refotmation -pre Enlightment consensus . Social order requires shared belief “curious regio eius religio” . If your ruler changed religion, social order required that you too changed your religion. The Edict of Nantes, an attempt to create a state of religious tolerance, was revoked lease than one hundred years later, because the powers that be were convinced that religious tolerance destroyed the Social Order.

(*) Current general social norms in America is to congratulate couples when they get married. Even gay couples. Some social conservatives live in America but take objection to that. So in the name of religion they are not ready to follow social norms for the sake of social order.

#32 Comment By Siarlys Jenkins On September 11, 2016 @ 10:22 pm

Current general social norms in America is to congratulate couples when they get married. Even gay couples.

Actually, no. America has a long history of family who think their darling married beneath them gossiping and griping instead of offering congratulations. And, congratulating gay couples is NOT a social norm. Sort of like, at the time Mohammed marched on Mecca, destroying idols was NOT a social norm — it was a new idea. MAYBE congratulating gay couples will BECOME a social norm, or maybe not. Right now, its merely a judicial edict that they shall receive a marriage license if they apply for one and pass the usual medical examinations.

Liberals’ remarks here remind me of those Western economic liberals who assumed that post-Soviet Russia would make an easy transition to market liberalism, and who were shocked that it didn’t happen. — RD

On that I can agree. However, I’m not sure that attempting a transition to market liberalism was a good idea at all.

Societies are organized around their sense of the sacred and how they relate to it, and those who would shatter such understandings are naturally and correctly seen as enemies of the current social order.

Your personal dream? You could even be correct in the ultimate teleological sense, but enunciating this vision does not make it true, much less binding. Our nation was founded on explicit rejection of this vision as a basis for civil law. (Cf. Virginia’s statute on religious liberty, a long line of First Amendment jurisprudence, the consistent crafting of state constitutions for at least states 14-35 with even stronger provisions than the federal constitution…)

#33 Comment By EliteCommInc. On September 12, 2016 @ 1:40 am

With rare exception what goes on in Russia is Russia’s business. Unless there is some incidents of genocide.

What social constructs they create is their business.