It Shouldn’t Require A “Theocracy” to Decide THIS Lawsuit Correctly

The Capitol Hill Baptist Church in the District of Columbia, is suing Mayor Muriel Bowser and the District government for violating its First Amendment right to worship.

Good.

“CHBC desires to gather for a physical, corporate gathering of believers in the District of Columbia on Sunday, September 27, 2020, and on subsequent Sundays, and would do so but for those actions of the Defendants that are the subject of this Complaint,” the lawsuit charges. It seems pretty clear that Bowser is applying one set of rules against religious institutions and another set of piorities entirely when it comes to activities she cares about. In March, Bowser (Is she the most unethical big city mayor in the U.S.? She’s certainly in the running, but it’s a tough field) issued an executive order prohibiting churches from meeting indoors or out because of public health concerns related to the pandemic. D.C.’s  four-stage plan would bar in-person worship gatherings until there is an “effective cure or vaccine” for the Wuhan virus, a rule that can be counted on to wound, perhaps mortally, church communities that have been built up over many decades. Right now gatherings are supposedly limited to 100 people or up to 50 percent of the building’s capacity, whichever is fewer. The 850-member Capitol Hill Baptist Church  has been meeting in a field in Virginia.

The 142-year-old congregation explains in its suit that “a weekly in-person worship gathering of the entire congregation is a religious conviction for which there is no substitute. The Church does not offer virtual worship services, it does not utilize a multi-site model, and it does not offer multiple Sunday morning worship services.”

The church’s covenant, to which all members must agree, pledges that they “will not forsake the assembling of [them]selves together,” as decreed in the Bible.  The church’s website explains,

“Since its founding in 1878, CHBC has met in-person every Sunday except for three weeks during the Spanish Flu in 1918. That changed following Mayor Bowser’s first orders concerning COVID-19 on March 11, 2020. Since that time, the members of CHBC—most of whom live in the District—have been unable to meet in person, as one congregation inside District limits (even outdoors)….CHBC has applied for multiple waivers to the policy. District officials refuse to provide CHBC with a waiver beyond 100 persons as part of a mass gathering…A church is not a building that can be opened and closed. A church is not an event to be watched. A church is a community that gathers regularly and that community should be treated fairly by the District government.”

Fairly? On June 10, the church asked for a waiver so the congregation could meet at currently abandoned RFK Stadium, which is large enough to permit social distancing. The mayor’s office didn’t respond to the request and subsequent appeals until September 15, and then issued a rejection stating that “[w]aivers for places of worship above that expanded capacity (100 attendees) are not being granted at this time.” Continue reading

Lazy Sunday Afternoon Ethics, 8/30/2020: A Letter, A Slapdown, A Poll, Sherlock Holmes, And A Dinosaur Walk Into An Ethics Post…

1. Oh-oh…Ethics Alarms has been and will continue to use “Wuhan virus” rather than various versions of Covid or corona virus as a matter of principle. China inflicted this contagion on the world and greatly abetted its spread by its cover-ups and lies, and pandemics and flus usually are identified by their site of origin. Furthermore, the political correctness edict against using the province where the first outbreak (we know of occurred) was yet another anti-Trump ploy, simultaneously covering for a brutal foreign adversary.

Syracuse University placed chemistry Professor Jon Zubieta on administrative leave and will be investigated by its Office of Equal Opportunity, Inclusion and Resolution because he used the terms “Wuhan Flu” and “Chinese Communist Party Virus” in his syllabus. In a joint statement from Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences Karin Ruhlandt and Interim Vice Chancellor and Provost John Liu, explained,

“Syracuse University unequivocally condemns racism and xenophobia and rejects bigotry, hate and intolerance of any kind. The derogatory language used by a professor on his course syllabus is damaging to the learning environment for our students and offensive to Chinese, international and Asian-Americans everywhere who have experienced hate speech, rhetoric and actions since the pandemic began.”

There is no racism here, and the theory, much in vogue, that  irrational people reacting to factual statements by persecuting others justifies suppresng the truth is unethical and perverse.

2.  Res Ipsa Loquitur. This is the letter Portland mayor Ted Wheeler sent to the President of the United States.

Wow. Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 8/28/2020: A Bad Couple Of Months For Museums And Sexual Predators

Good morning!

1. Related to absolutely nothing anyone is currently thinking about...I was re-watching “Spotlight” to remind myself that the news media sometimes does its job, and again was reminded how Hollywood constantly makes Americans more ignorant by its sheer arrogance and laziness. The film, which reasonably accurately recounts how the Boston Globe’s investigative “Spotlight” team broke the story of the extensive Catholic Church cover-up of pedophile priests, a scandal still unfolding now, 20 years later, has a scene in which a lawyer who represents the victims of such priests tells a reporter that he’s effective because he’s an “outsider.” “I’m Armenian,” he says. “How many Armenians do you know in Boston?” Having been brought up in Boston, I know that the answer to this question is “A LOT.” Boston was a center of Armenian immigration at the turn of the 20th Century, and its Armenian community, in the city and especially the suburbs, is huge and influential. There are many Armenian organizations as well. In Arlington, Mass., where my family lived, Armenian-Americans were prominent in business and government. The little side street where we lived, Brunswick Road, had ten families living on it: the Marshalls, the Gares, and the Moreland,  the Zeffs (who were Jewish, then two Sakoians, the Nazarians, the Catherians, the Berbarians, and the Masmanians. Just Googling “Boston Armenian conmmunity” would have let the film-makers know the scene was nonsense, and they couldn’t be bothered.

2. And speaking of  sexual predators…the cover-up of sexual predators in the coaching ranks for Olympic sports is being exposed slowly but surely.  Last month a lawsuit was filed against Richard Callaghan, an elite American figure skating coach best known for coaching Tara Lipinski to an Olympic gold medal in 1998 and coaching Todd Eldredge to a world title and six national championships. The suit alleges ongoing sexual abuse of one skater that endured over two decades. Callaghan’s victims were male, not female, but the story is familiar: parents guilelessly entrust their talented athletic children to mentor/coaches in swimming, skating, and gymnastics, without considering for a moment what attracts many of these people to working with children and teens.

Another sport that is coming to terms with a sexual predator is equestrian competition.  George Morris, an Olympics equestrian coach known as  a “kingmaker” for his success with riders,  was barred for life from the sport by the United States Equestrian Federation  based on an investigation of alleged sexual misconduct He is now facing lawsuits filed this month by two people claiming that he raped them as teenagers. Jimmy Williams, another  riding coach who guided many Olympians and  was also named in a lawsuit by a woman who said Williams had sexually assaulted her from the ages of 12 to 17.  Though Williams died in 1993, he was recorded as barred for life from the federation in 2018—yes, a dead man was banned for life— after an investigation by The New York Times revealed accusations by nearly a dozen women, including the Olympian Anne Kursinski, that he had preyed upon them as girls.

Parents are so desperate to live vicariously through their offspring that they willingly hand their kids over to the care of predators. I’m sorry to say this, but absent thorough, thorough investigation, it is irresponsible to trust these coaches. The history and what we know of human nature presents too much of a risk.

The same applies to allowing children to work in professional theater, TV, and movies. Continue reading

No, The Trump Campaign Is Not “Stealing” Neil Young’s Songs

Despite what you may have read, Neil Young is being a jerk.  This month, the singer sued the Trump campaign over its use of “Rockin’ in the Free World” and  “Devil’s Sidewalk,” both of which were played at a Trump  rally in  June. In his suit, the musician accused the campaign of copyright infringement for playing the tracks without a license, and asked for the campaign to be ordered to stop using them, as well as for statutory damages.

It’s a dishonest suit. The real reason for it is also in the complaint, in which he says Young “cannot allow his music to be used as a ‘theme song’ for a divisive, un-American campaign of ignorance and hate.”

Of course, it is the party Young’s sympathies presumably  lie with that have been inflicting hate and ignorance on the U.S., but never mind.

Young was on sounder legal and ethical ground in 2018, when he wrote that he had  no legal recourse to stop Trump from using his music, writing on his website, “Legally, he has the right to, however it goes against my wishes.”

Well too damn bad, Neil. You sold your right to have your wishes obeyed in such matters. You’re just virtue-signaling, and I hope the Trump Campaign counter-sues.

Campaigns purchase the same right to play songs that radio stations, shopping malls  or concert halls do by paying for blanket licensing deals with licensing companies like ASCAP and BMI. They act as agents of artists to sell the public performance rights for millions of songs on their behalf, including Neil Young, in exchange for a fee. Campaigns purchase special licenses , allowing them to use songs at venues around the country.  The licensing organizations’ consent decrees with the Justice Department preserve a fair marketplace by requiring them to offer their catalogs of songs to any “similarly situated” party that wants to use the music. Continue reading

Now THIS Is The Streisand Syndrome: The Strange Saga Of Professor Bruce Hay

You have to go to the links; I can’t do justice to this story without giggling. Primarily, I want to highlight this epic mess because it’s the best example of the Streisand Effect ever, a situation where an attempt to seek redress for an alleged smear brings more publicity to negative details about the supposed victim far beyond  anything the original conduct could have. To make the fiasco more juicy still, here is a Harvard Law professor revealing himself as an utter fool, and engaging in a frivolous—that is, unethical— attempt to use “sexual harassment” to apply to “you used your feminine whiles to manipulate me, and I fell for it.”

Sexual harassment doesn’t mean that.

The hilariously baroque story involves… Continue reading

Monday Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 8/10/2020: Stelter Gaslighting, “Neither Rain Nor Snow,” A Good Lawsuit, And Orwellian Marketing [CORRECTED!]

Goooood Morning!

The song is from one of my favorite Broadway cast albums. The show (which I directed in college) is something of a mess, but the songs are terrific. Anthony Newley was a talented songwriter (with writing partner Leslie Bricusse) and a triple threat performer who was just a little bit too intense for some people. Among his best known songs with Bricusse are “The Candyman,” “Feelin’ Good” (from “Greasepaint,”) “Gonna Build A  Mountain” and “What Kind of Fool Am I?” (from “Stop the World, I Want To Get Off.” “On a Wonderful Day” is sung on the album by Cyril Richard, whom older readers will remember as the definitive Captain Hook, menacing Mary Martin in the live TV versions of “Peter Pan.”

1. This is wonderfully hilarious. Brian Stelter strikes again. From his CNN show yesterday:

STELTER: “When you see entire media companies essentially exist to tear down Joe Biden, is there an equivalent of that on the left, tearing down Trump?”

GUEST: “There really isn’t.”

Do any CNN viewers really believe this? How much gaslighting can a CNN talking head get away with?

2. Res Ipsa Loquitur. Running a small business trying to struggle through the lockdown when our main income is from live presentations, my wife and I are finding cash flow tougher than ever. Today we were alerted by the USPS that a large check we have been waiting for was delivered two days ago. (It wasn’t.) A few weeks back, we received what looked like an important letter addressed to someone in Spokane, Washington. Yet I will be encouraging voter suppression if I suggest that mail-in ballots are a disastrous idea.

It’s interesting: the same people who insist that the United States is out of step if it doesn’t emulate “other developed nations” in such matters as government health care and banning capital punishment are oddly silent about the overwhelming hostility to voting by mail in Europe. Paul Bedard points out,

Most developed countries, especially in Europe, ban mail-in voting to fight vast fraud and vote buying that had threatened the integrity of their elections, according to an exhaustive review of voting rules and histories in over 30 major nations. In the European Union, 63% have put a ban on mailing in ballots except for citizens living overseas. Another 22% have imposed a ban even for those overseas. And most of those that allow mail-in ballots require some form of photo ID to get one, according to the report from the Crime Prevention Research Center shared with Secrets. “These countries have learned the hard way about what happens when mail-in ballots aren’t secured. They have also discovered how hard it is to detect vote buying when both those buying and selling the votes have an incentive to hide the exchange,” said author John R. Lott, the center’s president.

Meanwhile, we don’t have to rely on Europe’s example to figure out this is a terrible and dangerous idea. From NBC:

More than 1 in 5 mail-in ballots were rejected in New York City during the state primary June 23, the city’s certified election results revealed this week. City election officials rejected 84,000 ballots — 21 percent of all those received by election officials. More than 403,000 ballots were returned to election officials, according to city data, but only about 319,000 absentee ballots were counted, the certified results showed… The U.S. Postal Service, unused to the deluge of prepaid mailers, reportedly left postmarks off ballots, leaving thousands of them to be rejected because it was unclear they were sent on time.

If I were conspiracy-minded, I’d suspect that Democrats want chaos in the November election–all the better to reject the results and take to the streets. Continue reading

A Sunday Morning Ethics Quiz: “Ass and Boobs” vs. “The Camel’s Toe” [Corrected]

Roenick, Lipinski and Weir. Wait…Johnny Weir is gay?

Ex- pro hockey star Jeremy Roenick has sued NBC Sports for wrongful termination, claiming the network discriminated against him as a heterosexual. At issue is his firing in February of this year for saying,  during a Barstool Sports podcast called “Spittin’ Chiclets”, while discussing his wife and Kathryn Tappen, a coworker,

“I’m swimming with my wife and Kathryn, and they’ve got their bikinis on, and they look fuckin’ smokin. Ass and boobs everywhere. It’s great.”

I suppose I should mention by way of context that sports fans do not listen to ex-hockey players  blather on “Barstool Sports” to be enlightened on the writings of Marcel Proust. Nonetheless, NBC quickly suspended Roenick, and though he issued an apology, his NBC supervisor, Sam Flood, subsequently informed him that he was fired.

[Notice of Correction: I originally wrote that Barstool Sports was an NBC production, It isn’t. So Roenick was fired for comments made when he was not under the auspices of NBC.]

What sparked the lawsuit now was the absence of any discipline levied by NBC sports after NBC Sports commentators Tara Lipinski and Johnny Weir participated this May in a leering promotional video for the At-Home Variety Show on the Peacock streaming service, joined by “Pitch Perfect” actors Elizabeth Banks and John Michael Higgins. Continue reading

Afternoon Ethics Agony, 7/9/2020: I See Awful People…

Hi!

I am feeling stressed because there are a lot of Ethics Alarms projects  and commitments that are languishing: I’m trying to work out the logistics of a Zoom symposium for commenters; I have to compile the many submissions for the corporate and organizational grovels to the George Floyd mobs so we can vote on the best and worst; I am finishing the Ethics Alarms glossary of fake news categories, and I still owe Michael  West his prize from an Ethics Alarms contest he won a couple of years ago—and that’s still not all of them. The best I can say is: please be patient, because I’m not.

1. Is this a good sign, or something else? I turned on Sirius-XM’s “Comedy Greats” channel while driving to pick up some prescription and heard a segment of a Nick DiPaulo routine that was unbelievably politically incorrect, or, as many would say today, racist, misogynist and anti-trans. The audience was in hysterics; several of the jokes were so extreme—but funny!—that I nearly lost control of the car. I had to check: no, he hasn’t been assassinated yet. Neverthless, I felt like I had fallen into a parallel universe. DiPaulo makes Dave Chappelle seem like Art Buchwald.

2. How about “Lady Asshole”? Several readers sent me links to this story, telling us that the Grammy-winning vocal group  formerly known as Lady Antebellum, having decided to ditch the second half of their name to grandstand and show that they support tearing down statues, are now suing Anita White, a blues singer who has called herself “Lady A” for decades, because she wouldn’t sell  the rights to that name to them for a price the group found reasonable.

I can’t imagine anyone being sympathetic with the group, especially a jury. Nobody made them change their name, and choosing “Lady A” without doing sufficient research was negligent. The group is using wealth and fame as a cudgel, with three rich white jerks trying to bully a local (and black) artist into bending to the their will. I hope someone has started a GoFundMe page to help Anita with her legal fees.

3. Find my 2011 post on Donald Trump running for President, substitute Kanye West’s name for his, and you’ll have the Ethics Alarms position on Mr. Kardashian’s candidacy. I know a lot of celebrities and too many members of the public don’t comprehend this, having the civic literacy of gerbils, but our democracy is not a game. Running for President as an exercise in ego-massage and branding is wildly irresponsible, and threatens to distort voting and results. West is not a serious candidate, but he’ll attract attention and the support of those who vote purely on the basis of group biases.  But the news media will give him more attention than he deserves, which is none, and he could easily take votes away from Democrats.

The good news is that since Kanye has approximately the attention span of a mayfly, it’s a good bet that this impulse will be fleeting, just as Trump’s was in 2011. Continue reading

Friday PM Ethics Discoveries, 5/15/2020: A Coup Option On The Way Out, A Narrative Reappears, Trump Tweets, Reasonable Discrimination Opposed, And More

Well let’s check the ol’ ethics box and see what we have today!

1. That’s one coup option down the drain! Based on what reporters heard during the phoned-in oral arguments on Chiafalo v. Washington and State v. Baca, it appears that the Supreme Court is going to rule that states can require electors to vote for the candidates the state’s voters instructed them to vote for. If so, good. That will eliminate at least one of the unethical coup options that were attempted after Trump upset Clinton. You will recall that there was a mass effort to hijack the Electoral College using the rationalization that Alexander Hamilton would have approved.

Lawrence Lessig, the wacko Harvard law professor we have discussed here more than once, represented the electors who were blocked from voting against the electorate’s wishes. Maybe its just me, but if I’m going to be represented before the Supreme Court, I think I’d choose a lawyer who hadn’t announced that he was running for President  as a “referendum president” who would serve only as long as it took to pass some pet progressive legislation, and then would quit and let his VP take over. Lessig obviously does not take elections seriously; no wonder he thinks electors should be free to vote for Chucky Cheese.

2. “Nah, there’s no mainstream media bias!”, Fake History Division.  Adam Liptak, long-time SCOTUS reporter for the Times, writes in his story about #1 above,

“A swing by just 10 electors would have been enough to change the outcomes in five of the previous 58 presidential elections, according to a Supreme Court brief. In the 2000 election, after an assist from the Supreme Court, George W. Bush beat Al Gore by just five electoral votes.”

See how Liptak pushes a progressive narrative in what is supposed to be a news story? There was no “assist”; we now know that Bush would have won Florida’s electoral votes with or without SCOTUS halting the recount. What the ruling in 2000 assisted was the nation having an orderly transfer of power within a reasonable time. Even though the “Bush and the Supreme Court stole the Presidency” lie has been thoroughly exposed as such, Democrats and the news media keeps injecting it into the public’s consciousness by constant repetition. Continue reading

Mystery Solved! Now We Know What The ACLU Has Been Doing While State Governments Were infringing On Basic Civil Rights

It was rotting.

The non-profit organization that is supposedly dedicated to protecting the rights of all Americans against government incursions, as the Bill of Rights holds in both letter and spirit, made no effort to protect the citizens whose liberties have been arbitrarily manacled by power-mad governor and mayors, though the pandemic over-reach seemed to be a perfect battleground for the once non-partisan and idealistic group.

However, once Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos spearheaded a much-needed revision of Title IX designed to protect the due process rights of male students accused of sexual misconduct on campus, the ACLU sprung into action—to try to block her.

It is hard for me to imagine how any objective reader could  peruse the revised federal guidelines on how sexual assault allegations should be handled on college and K-12 campuses and conclude that they are hostile to the Bill of Rights in any way. Nevertheless, the  federal lawsuit filed yesterday, with the backing of the ACLU, claims  the changes would “inflict significant harm” on victims and “dramatically undermine” the civil rights of accusers—you know, those women who must be believed when they want men to be punished.

The suit was filed on behalf of four advocacy groups for such women, including Know Your IX and Girls for Gender Equity. The objective is to block the Education Department’s fixes, made necessary by the Obama Education Department’s unethical “Dear Colleague” letter that threatened universities with the loss of funds and other sanctions if they didn’t make it easier for women to get male students kicked out of school in she said/he said disputes.  The  reform regulations will go into effect by August 14 unless they are rejected by the courts.

The rules championed by DeVos  bolster  the due process rights of those accused of sexual assault and harassment, allowing for live hearings and cross-examinations.

The suit, filed in U.S. District Court in Maryland by the American Civil Liberties Union and the New York-based law firm Stroock & Stroock & Lavan LLP, is Orwellian. “This new federal effort to weaken Title IX makes it more difficult for victims of sexual harassment or sexual assault to continue their educations and needlessly comes amid a global pandemic.”

What does the pandemic have to do with anything? I guess it’s because the ACLU had a retreat or something and decided that the Wuhan virus  suspended civil liberties. Says Yahoo!, Continue reading