Tag Archives: Freedom of Religion

Incompetent Elected Official Of The Month, Or “You Know, Sometimes The Southern States Really Ask for All The Ridicule They Get”: Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore

This is, I know, akin to shooting fish in a barrel, as Moore has long established himself as a renegade wacko, notably when he defiantly displayed the Ten Commandments in his court house even after a higher court declared that it was unconstitutional. It’s unethical to violate a court order if you are a judge (duh!), and as a consequence of his silly and expensive grandstanding in defiance of the Establishment Clause (Moore believes that the Government of the United States was established to support Christianity,that’s all there is to it, and nobody is going to convince him otherwise, so there), he was quite properly removed from office by a court order he couldn’t defy.

Oh, never mind ethics, law, the Constitution, the U.S. Supreme Court and the general advantages of not having a Chief Justice heading your state’s Supreme Court who makes up the law as he goes along: the citizens of Alabama, in their wisdom, elected Moore to be Supreme Court Justice again, and so he is.

WOW. Continue reading


Filed under Citizenship, Government & Politics, Incompetent Elected Officials, Law & Law Enforcement, Professions

Bob Newhart, Legatus And GLAAD: “What’s Going On Here?” Is Tricky To Answer

"Hey, Bob---What's going on here?"

“Hey, Bob—What’s going on here?”

The news item about comedian Bob Newhart cancelling an appearance for the Catholic executives networking group Legatus under pressure from GLAAD is fascinating.

From the perspective of Ethics Alarms, it illustrates a peculiar phenomenon I experience often, where a prominent story seems to have been designed by the Ethics Gods specifically to combine and coalesce several issues that have been discussed here recently. For Bob’s travails neatly touch on the issues of pro-gay  advocacy groups attempting to restrict expression they disagree with( The Phil Robertson-A&E Affair, Dec. 19), a comedian being pressured to alter the course of his comedy (Steve Martin’s Tweet Retreat, Dec. 23) and an entertainment figure being criticized for the activities of his audience (Mariah’s Dirty Money, Dec. 23). You would think I could analyze the Newhart controversy by just sticking my conclusions from those recent posts, plus some of the more illuminating reader comments, into my Ethics-O-Tron, and it would spit out the verdict promptly.

It doesn’t work that way, at least in this instance, and that prompts the other observation. In most ethics problems, the starting point is the question, “What’s going on here?”, which forces us to determine the factual and ethical context of the choices made by the participants. Here, the question can be framed  several diverging ways, leading to different assessments of the ethics involved. Thus, asking “What’s going on here?” in the Bob Newhart Episode, we might get: Continue reading


Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Business & Commercial, Character, Family, Gender and Sex, Government & Politics, Journalism & Media, Popular Culture, Professions, Religion and Philosophy, Rights, Romance and Relationships, U.S. Society

Ethics Dunces: Columbus (Texas)Track and Field Officials

An athlete who points skyward after an athletic victory in acknowledgement of his faith is not engaging in “excessive celebration,” as prohibited by University Interscholastic League rules. If that is a common interpretation of the rule, it should have been challenged and excised long ago. The equivalent of a quick personal prayer is neither obtrusive, obnoxious nor mocking, and any observers who find it thus are so virulently anti-religion and intolerant that they warrant no respect or attention whatsoever. And still…

Yes, Columbus (Texas) High’s re 4×100-meter relay squad had won its event, spurred by the stellar efforts of  junior Derrick Hayes. Upon learning of the team’s victory, he pointed a finger to the skies. This common gesture, which can be seen dozens of times every day on videotapes of baseball games, was ruled by officials at the meet to have violated the University Interscholastic League (UIL) regulation barring “excessive celebration.” As a result, the entire 4×100-meter squad was disqualified and  barred from moving on to the state championships.

If that harmless and inoffensive gesture was going to be interpreted as a celebration, which it is not, and if it is, excessive, which it also is not, the UIL had an obligation to warn coaches and athletes that it intended to enforce the rule idiotically and in a manner hostile to personal faith.  It does not appear that such a warning was given. The penalty was unjust and cruel, and its effect is hostile to religion, as well as common sense and rationality. Columbus High should rally to the support of Hayes and his team mates, and the other teams ought to protest this result as well. This is “no-tolerance” in all the worst senses of the word.


Pointer: Alexander Cheezem

Source: Yahoo Sports


Filed under Education, Religion and Philosophy, Rights, Sports

Judge Norman’s Dilemma Becomes The ALCU’s Problem

Cruel and unusual punishment? Guess again…

You’re a judge. You have power, in your sentencing, to make various miscreants suffer all sorts of creative punishments, as long as they fall well short of the rack and wheel. For example, a judge in Cleveland recently sentenced a woman (who had driven her car up the side-walk to get around a stopped school bus carrying special-needs children) to carry a sign proclaiming herself an idiot. You are faced with a troubled young man who appears to have received almost no instruction, in his 17 years, in the particulars of right and wrong. You see no productive purpose in locking him up and throwing away the key, for what he needs is a transfusion of ethics. What do you do?

In the throes of this very dilemma, Oklahoma district judge Mike Norman was sentencing Tyler Alred  for DUI manslaughter. Alred was driving his Chevrolet pickup drunk in  2011 when he hit a tree, ending the life of his passenger and friend, 16-year old John Dum. The judge gave Tyler a deferred prison sentence provided that he attend church every Sunday for the next ten years, as well as graduate from high school and welding school. Both Alred’s attorney and the victim’s family agreed to the terms of the sentence. Continue reading


Filed under Government & Politics, Law & Law Enforcement

Stupid Religion Tricks

Efforts by religious and anti-religious interest groups to push their beliefs and agendas are unavoidable, if often annoying. When their machinations threaten real harm, they ought to be condemned, opposed, and told to behave. In its response to two recent incidents, our government is batting .500.

The Memorial Power Play

The Obama administration announced its objection to a Republican-backed proposal to add President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s D-Day prayer to the World War II Memorial in Washington. This would block the intent of Congressman Bill Johnson’s bill, the “World War II Memorial Prayer Act of 2011.” Continue reading


Filed under Around the World, Citizenship, Education, Government & Politics, History, Law & Law Enforcement, Leadership, Public Service, Philanthropy, Charity, Religion and Philosophy, U.S. Society, War and the Military

Religious Tolerance Ethics: Pro

Yes, India, worshipping this silly thing means you are all mad as hatters. Now come to a rational church, and chow down with us on some body and blood of Christ. Hey...what's so funny?

In  State v. Daley, the Ohio Court of Appeals reversed a trial court’s mental incompetence verdict and order of treatment for the defendant  because it appeared to be based solely on the defendant’s passionate religious beliefs.

Daley was charged in March 2010 with retaliation, intimidation, aggravated menacing, menacing, and telecommunications harassment. The trial court referred Daley to the court’s psychiatric clinic for a competency evaluation, and the evaluating psychiatrist opined that Daley was not competent to stand trial because he was not able to assist in his defense.

At the competency hearing, Daley testified that, to the contrary, he was able to continue assisting his attorney in his defense. He also testified that his opinions about the legal system, such as his description of divorce court as the “high court of Satan,” were based on his religious belief that divorce is against the word of God. Nevertheless, the trial court found Daley incompetent to stand trial and ordered him hospitalized for restoration to competency. It based its opinion on the diagnosis of the psychiatrist, who testified that Daley, a “radical Christian,” “expresses such extreme intensity of religious belief in very unorthodox religious beliefs to the point to constitute psychosis.” The psychiatrist further testified that treating Daley would “change his psychotic symptoms of which are a religious theme[,]” so that his “intensity and [ ] preoccupation with his religious beliefs will be greatly decreased.” Continue reading


Filed under Government & Politics, Health and Medicine, Law & Law Enforcement, Religion and Philosophy

Ethics Hero: Arizona Governor Jan Brewer

There is hope for Arizona yet...

Earlier, I wrote about a bill passed by the Arizona legislature that would broadly allow religious practices and beliefs to trump professional obligations, ethics codes and discipline. The bill, SB 1288, directed in part:

A. Government shall not deny, suspend or revoke a professional or occupational license, certificate or registration based on a person’s exercise of religion.

B. Government shall not deny, suspend or revoke a professional or occupational license, certificate or registration based on a person’s refusal to affirm a statement that is contrary to the person’s sincerely held moral or religious beliefs, regardless of whether those beliefs are specifically espoused by a recognized church or religious body…

C. A person’s exercise of religion is not unprofessional conduct.

It was widely assumed, including by me, that Republican governor Jan Brewer would sign this stunningly awful bill into a law which would allow any practice that could be called “religious” to be immune from community, cultural and professional norms of right and wrong unless they were explicitly illegal. She did not. She vetoed it, an act of responsible leadership and political courage.

You can read her veto letter here.


Filed under Citizenship, Ethics Heroes, Government & Politics, Law & Law Enforcement, Leadership, Professions, Religion and Philosophy, Workplace