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"Confraternity of Catholic Clergy" Calls for Punishment of Blasphemy in the U.S.:

From their press release, I learned that University of Minnesota Professor P.Z. Myers, author of the Pharyngula blog, has deliberately destroyed a consecrated host (and, Myers' post says, apparently a Koran as well), apparently as a protest against what he sees as the irrationality and magical thinking of religion (or at least of some religions).

Now I wouldn't have heard of this, and wouldn't be telling you about this, were it not for finding the Confraternity's press release:

The Confraternity of Catholic Clergy (a national association of 600 priests & deacons) respond to the sacrilegious and blasphemous desecration of the Holy Eucharist by asking for public reparation. We ask all Catholics of Minnesota and of the entire nation to join in a day of prayer and fasting that such offenses never happen again.

We find the actions of University of Minnesota (Morris) Professor Paul Myers reprehensible, inexcusable, and unconstitutional. His flagrant display of irreverence by profaning a consecrated Host from a Catholic church goes beyond the limit of academic freedom and free speech.

The same Bill of Rights which protect freedom of speech also protect freedom of religion. The Founding Fathers did not envision a freedom FROM religion, rather a freedom OF religion. In other words, our nation's constitution protects the rights of ALL religions, not one and not just a few. Attacking the most sacred elements of a religion is not free speech anymore than would be perjury in a court or libel in a newspaper.

Lies and hate speech which incite contempt or violence are not protected under the law. Hence, inscribing Swastikas on Jewish synagogues or publicly burning copies of the Christian Bible or the Muslim Koran, especially by a faculty member of a public university, are just as heinous and just as unconstitutional. Individual freedoms are limited by the boundaries created by the inalienable rights of others. The freedom of religion means that no one has the right to attack, malign or grossly offend a faith tradition they personally do not have membership or ascribe allegiance.

The Chancellor of the University refused to reprimand or censure the teacher, who ironically is a Biology Professor. One fails to see the relevance of the desecration of a Catholic sacrament to the science of Biology. Were Myers a Professor of Theology, there would have been at least a presumption of competency to express religious opinions in a classroom. Yet, for a scientist to ridicule and show utter contempt for the most sacred and precious article of a major world religion, is inappropriate, unprofessional, unconstitutional and disingenuous.

A biologist has no business 'dissing' any religion, rather, they should be busy teaching the scientific discipline they were hired to teach. Tolerating such behavior by university officials is equally repugnant as it lends credibility to the act of religious hatred. We also pray that Professor Myers contritely repent and apologize.

This is of course quite wrong in its statement of the law, and in its application to the law. I take it they use "unconstitutional" to mean "constitutionally unprotected," rather than its more normal meaning of "violative of the constitution"; only government actions can be unconstitutional (with very few exceptions that can be relevant here). But "hate speech which incite[s] contempt" is fully constitutionally protected.

In narrow circumstances, speech that incites violence is unprotected, but these circumstances (intent and likelihood that the speech will cause imminent violence against its target) are not applicable here. Lies about factual matters are often unprotected, when they're about particular people. But it's hard to see any "lies" in Prof. Myers' action, unless one stretches the term to mean "expressive behavior that I think are contrary to the Truth as revealed by God," but there's nothing constitutionally unprotected about that broad category.

The analogies are also logically weak, and undefended: Inscribing a swastika on a Jewish synagogue is a trespass to someone else's property. Burning one's own copy of the Bible, the Koran, or a consecrated host is not. Perjury and libel are punishable as false statements of fact; blasphemy is offensive expression of opinion.

And the assertion that "A biologist has no business 'dissing' any religion" takes a mighty narrow of view of "business." A biologist is also a citizen, who is entitled to participate in theological debate just as are nonbiologists. I take it that the clergy believe that commenting on moral, social, and religious questions is part of their "business"; I would think that the rest of us have the same rights on this score that they do.

But beyond that, while one could operate on the view that science and religion inhabit different realms and thus aren't contradictory, one could also take the view that certain views of some religions (whether about supernatural forces generally or the Virgin Birth, the Resurrection, transsubstantiation when taken seriously, and the like) are unscientific and undermine the progress of science -- just as one could take the view that certain views of some scientists (for instance, the insistence on material explanations for phenomena, or the endorsement of the theory of evolution, or the rejection of the Virgin Birth, the Resurrection, and the like) are antireligious. There's an important debate out there about religion and science, and neither the criminal law nor government universities ought to suppress it.

But more broadly, this further illustrates that "blasphemy must be punished by the government" thinking is alive and well in America. I hope that the Confraternity is a fringe group, but I'm afraid that their beliefs on this are hardly a fringe belief. If a Confraternity of Muslim Imams argued that the Mohammed cartoons, or stepping on the name of Allah, should be governmentally punished -- either by firings from a university professorship, or by criminal punishment -- many of us would condemn their views. I think we should likewise condemn the views of the Confraternity.

Related Posts (on one page):

  1. "Confraternity of Catholic Clergy" Calls for Punishment of Blasphemy in the U.S.:
  2. Censorship Envy in England:
Scote (mail):
One should note that Myers "blasphemed" consecrated hosts, a bit of the Koran and a bit from Richard Dawkins "The God Delusion." Thus, he took the trouble to show how he recognizes all of those things are inanimate objects and he doesn't hold a double standard.
7.31.2008 3:52pm
rbj:
Myers' actions were juvenile (and I'm not religious), but if we're going to start punishing childish behavior then a lot of people are going to be locked up.
7.31.2008 3:52pm
some dude:
Burning one's own copy of the Bible, the Koran, or a consecrated host is not.

Is there any way to legally come into possession of a consecrated host? If someone were to leave a church with one, they are taking it under false pretences. It isn't "their own consecrated host."
7.31.2008 3:54pm
Stryker (mail):
I can't immagine that he acquired the host directly or indirectly without some sort of fraud or ruse. That would make it closer to the synagoge example than you allow.
7.31.2008 3:56pm
Matt C. Sanchez (mail) (www):
I agree with Confraternity on the general concept of "freedom of religion" vs. "freedom from religion," but this is probably the most incorrect statement regarding the First Amendment I've heard in a long time:

The freedom of religion means that no one has the right to attack, malign or grossly offend a faith tradition they personally do not have membership or ascribe allegiance.

Particularly given that the First Amendment does give everyone the right to do those things - at least in their speech.
7.31.2008 4:00pm
zippypinhead:
Wait a minute, Professor Volokh. Yes, the "Confraternity" is confused about the Constitution and the law. But there's actually a reasonable argument that Professor Myers committed a crime. You write:
Inscribing a swastika on a Jewish synagogue is a trespass to someone else's property. Burning one's own copy of the Bible, the Koran, or a consecrated host is not. (emphasis added)
I think you're likely wrong in assuming the consecrated Host was in fact Professor Myers' property. I am reasonably confident that Myers is not a baptized and confirmed Roman Catholic in good standing, or the Confraternity would have pursued excommunication as the proper remedy. Assuming he is in fact a non-Catholic, Myers is not entitled to possess a consecrated Host, if I recall the Catechism correctly. Presumably he either acquired the Host by theft or by fraud (by holding himself out as a Catholic in good standing when he was not). His actions are exactly equivalent to, for example, stealing a Torah scroll from a synagogue and burning it as a protest against Jewish doctrine.

You apparently acknowledge trespass and vandalism of a religious property is actionable. Now, unless I'm missing something, a non-member of a faith who steals and destroys a sacred religious item also commits a criminal act. And to the extent enhanced penalties are available under existing "hate crime" statutes, they should be just as fully applicable in this instance as they are for desecrating or destroying any other religious item or property based on anti-religious animus (one can of course attack the general validity of "hate crime" statutes, but that's a separate and broader issue than that raised in this post).
7.31.2008 4:02pm
Scote (mail):
This is all rather silly. Surely an all powerful god cannot be kidnapped or desecrated against His will...

Now, if the offended Catholics would have cared to identify the consecrated wafers from the ordinary ones I suspect Myers might well have returned them...but the fact is that Catholics can't tell the supposed actual body of their lord (a consecrated wafer) from an ordinary wafer, which is why the concern over consecrated wafers is so silly.

What is not silly is the fact that people have been murdered in the past over alleged desecration of Jesus in the form of a wafer. Myers recites a litany of such murders, proudly recorded and even still celebrated by, the Catholic Church.

Who's rights are more important? The right of wafers? The right of people not to be offended? Or the right to freedom of religion, expression and not to be murdered by religious zealots who think their all powerful god is impotent to magically protect Himself from pudgy biologists?
7.31.2008 4:02pm
U.Va. 3L:
I can't immagine that he acquired the host directly or indirectly without some sort of fraud or ruse. That would make it closer to the synagoge example than you allow.

In all the Catholic churches I've been to, the priests and eucharistic ministers give them away to anyone who walks up in line. It's not like you have to sign an affidavit promising to consume it as the Church intends or anything.
7.31.2008 4:06pm
Tom952 (mail):
If the Confraternity really believes that an active supernatural God exists and intervenes in the affairs of men, why do they appeal to the earthly government to stop the bad man?
7.31.2008 4:06pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
Maybe, if somebody slips up and substitutes one religion for another, we might find some concern about Muslim attitudes toward such things.

I believe some guy got his butt in trouble by flushing a couple of his own Korans down a toilet. He was a student in NYC, if memory serves. I don't mean they were his "own" Korans, but they'd been acquired for the purpose.

We'll know the Catholics are taken seriously when arguing against this disappears and NOOOOOBODY ever mentions having the least objection to it.

In the meantime, this reaction gives the good professor the attention his wasted, useless, empty life does not otherwise generate. And validates what a commenter referred to as juvenile behavior.

Maybe just little note to Catholic students to never, ever take his classes. If his class count drops, who knows what principled concern the university will suddenly discover.
7.31.2008 4:10pm
Scote (mail):
BTW, zippypinhead, Myers did not steal the allegedly consecrated wafers. They were sent to him by sympathetic people who were presumably freely given the wafers by the Church. Additionally, there is no proof the wafers were, in fact, consecrated since the supposed miracle of "transubstantiation" produces no detectable change in the wafer, though supposedly the "substance" of the wafer literally turns in to the actual body of Christ. Thus, nobody can prove that any consecrated wafers were "desecrated."

Additionally, if transubstantiation is real then all Catholics are in violation of laws concerning cannibalism and desecration of corpses. So, if Catholics want to bitch about Myers tossing some wafers in the trash then they'll have to explain how they gather weekly for what they claim is genuine mass cannibalism. What's the bigger crime, tossing some ordinary, non human wafers in the trash--as Myers contends he did--or weekly actual mass canibalism, as the Catholics contend they do?
7.31.2008 4:11pm
Halcyon (mail):

Presumably he either acquired the Host by theft or by fraud (by holding himself out as a Catholic in good standing when he was not). His actions are exactly equivalent to, for example, stealing a Torah scroll from a synagogue and burning it as a protest against Jewish doctrine.


From what I understand he didn't procure it himself, but used a host that was sent to him by others who presumably were or are Catholics. To be honest if you want to deal with it, check his blog where he gave all the details you could want on what happened.
7.31.2008 4:12pm
DangerMouse:
Here we go. Another thread to bash Christians, and specifically Catholics, on this blog.

Eugene,

They're a crank group, and are only trying to respond as they view CAIR or other Muslim groups would, for P.R. purposes.

Maybe Myers didn't commit a crime, but he should probably be fired anyway because it's clear that a practicing Catholic would have no chance of passing any of his courses. This guy engages in the most hostile act imaginable to Catholics, which is equivilent to parading around with a swastika or burning a cross, and he expects people to think it's no big deal. Whatever else, his amazing stupidity would be cause for his employer to kick him to the curb. I'd expect that any professor who went out of their way to parade around with swastikas would be asked to find another job as well, even if it was constitutional for him to do so.
7.31.2008 4:13pm
Observer:
"I take it they use "unconstitutional" to mean "constitutionally unprotected," rather than its more normal meaning of "violative of the constitution"; only government actions can be unconstitutional (with very few exceptions that can be relevant here)."

Isn't this state action if the University of Minnesota is a public university?
7.31.2008 4:19pm
Scote (mail):

Maybe Myers didn't commit a crime, but he should probably be fired anyway because it's clear that a practicing Catholic would have no chance of passing any of his courses.


That is a false statement. Myers doesn't teach religion in his biology class. Catholics can pass his class the same way all other students do, by learning biology. Myers' blog is his personal hobby on his own time and not part of his work for the University.
7.31.2008 4:19pm
anon.:
Presumably he either acquired the Host by theft or by fraud (by holding himself out as a Catholic in good standing when he was not). His actions are exactly equivalent to, for example, stealing a Torah scroll from a synagogue and burning it as a protest against Jewish doctrine.

I've never been to a synagogue where, halfway through the service, they started handing out Torah scrolls from a big pile to anyone who walked up and silently held out their hand. But, other than that, you're absolutely right: taking a cracker that was offered to you for free is just like stealing a scroll that hasn't been offered to you.
7.31.2008 4:21pm
Just a thought:
As a Catholic, I'm horrified by Prof. Myers's actions. (Just to make it clear to those unfamiliar with Catholic teaching, Catholics believe that the consecrated host is actually and essentially the Body of Christ, not a symbol; that after the consecration, the host is no longer bread, but God Himself.)

As zippypinhead argues above, I wonder if this is a different situation then burning one's own copy of the Bible. Under canon law, no one is entitled to "own" a consecrated host without the Catholic Church's permission. I wonder how the civil law recognizes this precept of Catholic canon law.

Suppose this hypothetical: A group of anti-Catholics illegally obtain a consecrated host and put it up for display without the Catholic Church's permission. Would the Catholic Church be able to invoke civil law and force the anti-Catholic group to turn over the consecrated host?
7.31.2008 4:23pm
CJColucci:
it's clear that a practicing Catholic would have no chance of passing any of his courses.

Surely you mean it's "obvious."
7.31.2008 4:24pm
Ben P (mail):

apparently as a protest against what he sees as the irrationality and magical thinking of religion (or at least of some religions).


I suppose that's accurate, but it doesn't tell the whole story.

For the benefit of the commenters here, this event occured in reaction to the Church's reaction to a University of Central Florida student who kept a consecrated host.

This student attended church, received a communion wafer, and rather than consuming it as expected, left the church with it. To my recollection He later did nothing more offensive than post a picture of it on the internet.

The church's reaction was rather extreme, calling the "theft" of the cracker a "hate crime" and issuing public statements that quite seriously called for criminal charges to be brought against the student. Further the student senate of UCF subsequently voted to impeach this particular student for this event.

At some point during this fracas PZ Myers got involved posting a blog entry entitled "It's a goddamned cracker!" and in the post he threatened to do something "Far worse" than merely posting pictures of a wafer. Subsequently apparently some of his readers at Scienceblogs sent him communion wafers.

Due in part to some of the enraged responses he recieved, Myers apparently decided to drive a rusty nail through the communion wafer, which of course caused an even bigger stink.

All in all it's a rather silly situation, but the underlying event is pretty serious. A student faces real consequences for doing something as trivial as failing to eat a communion wafer he was given.
7.31.2008 4:25pm
Thales (mail) (www):
"Maybe Myers didn't commit a crime, but he should probably be fired anyway because it's clear that a practicing Catholic would have no chance of passing any of his courses. This guy engages in the most hostile act imaginable to Catholics, which is equivilent to parading around with a swastika or burning a cross, and he expects people to think it's no big deal. Whatever else, his amazing stupidity would be cause for his employer to kick him to the curb. I'd expect that any professor who went out of their way to parade around with swastikas would be asked to find another job as well, even if it was constitutional for him to do so."

*Blink* At first glance, the "amazing stupidity" involved in this situation inheres in the continued calls (by the Catholic Leaque, among many other organizations) for Myers to be fired and the death threats he has received for daring to express a heterodox opinion. There is no evidence whatsoever that Myers has or would discriminate in objectively grading practicing Catholics. Myers acted deliberately and provocatively, but as far as anyone can tell, completely legally. He expressed the opinion that there is no difference between sincerely held religious belief and irrational superstition and proceeded to express that opinion through the symbolic act of "desecrating" inanimate objects that belonged to him, in a way that caused harm to no one (I am not counting offended sensibilities as a harm). I placed "desecrating" in quotation marks because Myers believes that the objects are simply objects, and not imbued with supernatural powers.

Legal issues aside, is this an insensible or dangerous belief worthy of intellectual or moral condemnation, let alone threats to his safety and livelihood? People need to grow up a bit.
7.31.2008 4:26pm
subpatre (mail):
The act calls into question the 1st Amendment protection --or lack thereof-- on 'fighting words' grounds. It was an act designed and intended to infuriate and provoke, and appears to have been a success from that standpoint.

That people have been hurt or killed in the past illustrates the degree of provocation, and may be seen as restraint (or timidity) of modern believers.

Going back to 'Original Understanding' --or 'Original Intent'-- of the Constitution and Amendments, I would be amazed of any evidence that this type of act was intended to be protected.
7.31.2008 4:26pm
Cleland:

Isn't this state action if the University of Minnesota is a public university?


No. He writes on his private time on a website that's not hosted by or endorsed by the university. If I recall correctly, the university even at some point removed a link to his blog from its site so that they would not be perceived as endorsing it.
7.31.2008 4:28pm
Anderson (mail):
Why isn't the eternal damnation of Myers's immortal soul enough for these people?
7.31.2008 4:28pm
frankcross (mail):
I'm intrigued by the number of people who assumed he acquired it illegally, when there was the obvious possibility that it was given to him. Is this grasping at straws? Or is it illegal to take a consecrated host, not consume it, and give it to another? If so, would this be by some contract?
7.31.2008 4:29pm
Jack M. (mail):
To anon at 3:21:

1. It is worse. Burning a Torah is bad, but, equivalently, this is like burning the ark of the freaking covenant.

2. Your anti-catholic bigotry is showing.

3. You don't hold your hand out silently. The giver states: "The Body of Christ." To which you state: "Amen." A giver is not allowed to give it to you unless you respond in this way. Importantly, "Amen" is a raitification/assertion (see merriam-webster). You are stating, in saying Amen, that you believe that the Eucharist is the Body of Christ, and that you will treat it with the reverence the Catholic Church demands.

In other words, dear little bigot, whether it was Myers himself or one of his little minions that he asked to do this (through his website), someone lied to the Catholic Church and achieved the Eucharist via fraud, because the end result was to desecrate it and treat it as a "cracker", as you so intelligently call it.
7.31.2008 4:30pm
Jack M. (mail):
[Post deleted, for a pointless insult of a fellow commenter. Folks, substantive arguments, even ones that others are offended by, are fine. Using vulgarities or other personal insults to fellow list members is not fine. The point of the comments is to foster rational discussion, not name-calling. I'm not the government, so I do get to set some rules for what's allowed in discussions here. This is one of the rules, so please abide by it. -EV]
7.31.2008 4:33pm
Just a thought:

I'm intrigued by the number of people who assumed he acquired it illegally, when there was the obvious possibility that it was given to him. Is this grasping at straws? Or is it illegal to take a consecrated host, not consume it, and give it to another? If so, would this be by some contract?
From the perspective of Catholic Church and canon law, it is highly improper, illegal, and sacrilegious for even Catholics in good standing to do something unauthorized with the host (like not consume it and give it to another). There is absolutely no possible way for Prof. Myers to have gotten a host "legally" from the point of view of the Catholic Church.

As to how the civil law is vis-a-vis the law of the Catholic Church, I don't know.
7.31.2008 4:35pm
wfjag:
After reading Prof. Myers' blog, why do I have the feeling that it was a publicity stunt to generate publicity and traffic for his blog? Sorry, Morris, but when I'm interested in the views of Richard Dawkins, I'll read Dawkins, and not a wannabe.
7.31.2008 4:35pm
GV:
For those of you who think Myers should be punished for this, should people who showed a picture of Muhammad have been punished as well? If not, how do you draw the line?
7.31.2008 4:38pm
Ben P (mail):

In other words, dear little bigot, whether it was Myers himself or one of his little minions that he asked to do this (through his website), someone lied to the Catholic Church and achieved the Eucharist via fraud, because the end result was to desecrate it and treat it as a "cracker", as you so intelligently call it.


You can buy them online for Christ's sake

I don't deny the magnitude of the offensiveness to catholic beliefs, but they're just that, beliefs, no matter how sincerely you believe them.

Had the Catholic church simply decided to excommunicate the original student for such a grievous offense as keeping a consecrated host, none of this would have ever happened. But they had to make a big deal about it and try to get civil authorities involved for an offense against religious doctrine. This is not the middle ages and the courts of the United States are not there to punish Blasphemy.

The student was a Catholic and PZ is not, so apparently the particular remedy of Excommunication may not have been available, but that doesn't change the situation.
7.31.2008 4:38pm
Eugene Volokh (www):
Observer: The actions of an individual public university professor do not constitute government action, just as my posts on this blog aren't government action.

DangerMouse: Help me out here -- you say the Confraternity is "a crank group." But then you seem to agree with them that "he should probably be fired anyway because it's clear that a practicing Catholic would have no chance of passing any of his courses. This guy engages in the most hostile act imaginable to Catholics, which is equivilent to parading around with a swastika or burning a cross, and he expects people to think it's no big deal. Whatever else, his amazing stupidity would be cause for his employer to kick him to the curb. I'd expect that any professor who went out of their way to parade around with swastikas would be asked to find another job as well, even if it was constitutional for him to do so." So you actually agree with the "crank group" that a university professor should be fired by his government employee for blasphemous actions, presumably whether they are blasphemous against Christians, Muslims, or whoever else.

So which is it? Are you a crank? Or if your views are similar to those of the majority of Christians, then wouldn't the Confraternity's views -- at least as to the need to fire professors for blasphemy, even if not to prosecute them -- be mainstream as well?
7.31.2008 4:38pm
Dilan Esper (mail) (www):
The cracker was freely given out by the Church at a mass, and was sent by the recipient to Mr. Myers. In no sense is it anyone's property but Mr. Myers.

It would violate the Establishment Clause for the regular laws of property to be suspended and for the secular authorities to defer to Catholic canon law with respect to this cracker.

Treating the cracker disrespectfully is not fighting words because it does not provoke an IMMEDIATE breach of the peace. Rather, it is analogous to flag burning, which is constitutionally protected.

And no, the fact that Myers is an atheist who thinks that Catholic beliefs regarding the cracker are BS does not either make him an anti-Catholic bigot or means that he wouldn't be able to grade the work of a Catholic believer fairly.

At bottom, you either believe in free speech when your own ox is gored or you don't.

And by the way, I am agnostic and would never desecrate a communion cracker. There is no doubt that Myers showed a lack of respect for Catholics, and I think there's a lot to be gained from a basic level of religious tolerance where we do not go out of our way to gratuitously insult other people's religious traditions. But there's no doubt that Myers had the right to do what he did.
7.31.2008 4:38pm
Jack M. (mail):
And to those of you thinking that this is the same as the Muhammad cartoons: wrong.

The Muhammad cartoons were directly done to show that free speech was ok, because of death threats. The writers didn't hold deep hatred for Muhammad; they just wanted to make it plain that he should be mocked if people are trying to make you afraid to do it.

However, Myers was doing this deliberately to mock the Catholic church, not for free speech. it's become a cause celebre now, but his purpose remained to attack Catholics and their beliefs in a degrading and mocking manner.

Quite frankly, Myers is showing a profound disrespect for the religious beliefs of his students. If he had stood up and said, "Muhammad is a prick. Here's a picture. Everyone who believes this guy is loony tunes," no self-respecting Muslim would have taken his class, and he would have been fired for religious bigotry.

If the U. of Minnesota fights for diversity and tolerance, Myers is an example of extreme public intolerance. He should be fired. immediately.
7.31.2008 4:39pm
Happyshooter:
Michigan law:

MCL 750.102 Blasphemy; punishment.


Punishment—Any person who shall wilfully blaspheme the holy name of God, by cursing or contumeliously reproaching God, shall be guilty of a misdemeanor.

MCL 750.103 Cursing and swearing.


Cursing and swearing—Any person who has arrived at the age of discretion, who shall profanely curse or damn or swear by the name of God, Jesus Christ or the Holy Ghost, shall be guilty of a misdemeanor. No such prosecution shall be sustained unless it shall be commenced within 5 days after the commission of such offense.

MCL 750.169 Disturbance of religious meetings.

Disturbance of religious meetings—Any person who, on the first day of the week, or at any other time, shall wilfully interrupt or disturb any assembly of people met for the worship of God, within the place of such meeting or out of it, shall be guilty of a misdemeanor.
7.31.2008 4:41pm
Jack M. (mail):
[Post deleted, for a pointless insult of a fellow commenter. -EV]
7.31.2008 4:42pm
Scote (mail):

And to those of you thinking that this is the same as the Muhammad cartoons: wrong.

The Muhammad cartoons were directly done to show that free speech was ok, because of death threats. The writers didn't hold deep hatred for Muhammad; they just wanted to make it plain that he should be mocked if people are trying to make you afraid to do it.


Dude, that is exactly what Myers is doing. Read Ben P's post.

In both cases, religious zealots claimed "blasphemy" and issued death threats.
7.31.2008 4:43pm
Anderson (mail):
Easy, dick.

Sorry, my name's Anderson, not Richard.

But I say unto you, That whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment: and whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the council: but whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire.
7.31.2008 4:43pm
Jack M. (mail):
Dilan Esper (mail) (www):
The cracker was freely given out by the Church at a mass, and was sent by the recipient to Mr. Myers. In no sense is it anyone's property but Mr. Myers.


Property you received by fraud is not your property. Ergo, it was not Myers's property. Please go back to criminal law.
7.31.2008 4:44pm
R Gould-Saltman (mail):
Please excuse my ignorance, but how and where do churches get communion wafers, anyway? Are they baked at some special bakery? Prior to their arrival at the "customer" church and use in communion, are they consecrated at all? Is there any particular clerical supervision, or religious participation required in the manufacture, ala Passover matzohs?

Can someone simply buy some over the internet?
7.31.2008 4:44pm
Jack M. (mail):
[Post deleted for pointless vulgarity. -EV]
7.31.2008 4:46pm
Scote (mail):

Moron. According to Catholic dogma, the wafers are not the Eucharist until consecrated by the Priest during Mass. So you can't buy "them" online, because those things being sold are not the Eucharist. Please bother learning something about a religion before you open your mouth to attach it, moron.


My, what a forgiving Christian spirit you demonstrate.

While it's true the wafers you can easily purchase aren't said to be Consecrated, how do you know? They are 100.0000% indistinguishable from "consecrated" wafers, nor can you tell the difference. You can't differentiate the supposed body of Jesus, your lord, from an ordinary flower wafer. And if you think different I have a piece of the True Cross to sell you.
7.31.2008 4:47pm
Dilan Esper (mail) (www):
Property you received by fraud is not your property. Ergo, it was not Myers's property. Please go back to criminal law.

A fraud requires a false representation, made in order to induce reliance, and which actually induces reliance and results in damages. Further, even where fraud exists, you aren't always entitled to your property back; rather, damages can compensate you.

The church doesn't have a fraud claim because there was no false representation (an "Amen" is not a specific representation) and because there are no damages. Further, evne if there were a fraud claim, the church could not necessarily get the cracker back; it could get damages.

Finally, a person who RECEIVES fraudulent property is not civilly or criminally responsible for fraud unless they conspired in the fraud. Myers simply received the cracker. Thus, the Church would have additional obstacles to a claim against Myers.
7.31.2008 4:48pm
Jack M. (mail):
Please excuse my ignorance, but how and where do churches get communion wafers, anyway?

Communion wafers can be bought, but the Eucharist is what happens when the wafer is consecrated by the priest during a Mass. The communion wafers are not the "body of Christ" until that point.
7.31.2008 4:48pm
cathyf:
Well, to sling a racial taunt, Myers is most certainly a cracker. Anyone object to me driving rusty nails through him?
7.31.2008 4:48pm
Scote (mail):

but his purpose was not "free speech" but "attacking the truth of a religion."


er, which you think, for some reason, is not a free speech issue?????? You do realize this is a legal blog, not a fantasy blog, right?
7.31.2008 4:49pm
Anderson (mail):
Fwiw, I've been critical of Myers's little stunt.

But people like Jack M. certainly help me understand Myers's motivation.
7.31.2008 4:50pm
Scote (mail):

The communion wafers are not the "body of Christ" until that point.


And everyone but Catholics agree that they are not the body of Christ even after that point.
7.31.2008 4:51pm
Caliban Darklock (www):
"The freedom of religion means that no one has the right to attack, malign or grossly offend a faith tradition they personally do not have membership or ascribe allegiance."

I take issue with this.

As a Jew, my faith tradition is attacked by the mere existence of the christian faith, which purports to bring all the benefits of the Jewish faith and more with fewer rules and less stringent observance of those rules.

The notion that Jesus fulfilled Jewish prophecies of moshiach further maligns that tradition by actively denying the vast body of Jewish rabbinical opinion that the christian interpretation is inaccurate.

The insistence of christian apologists in trying to convert my children is grossly offensive to me, especially when those apologists represent themselves as "messianic Jews", which is really just another way of saying "not Jews".

But what I have always believed to be the case, in both the law of God and that of man, is that freedom of religion demands that all religious traditions have an inherent right to disagree with and even take offense at the behavior of other religious traditions.

I don't think Professor Myers conducted himself properly. However, I do believe he had a right to conduct himself in this fashion, even if it is offensive to those who witnessed it. If their religious beliefs are accurate, he will be punished quite effectively by God, and that should be plenty - so their demand to punish him here and now is, at the very least, some indication that they doubt their own faith.

Which I believe was his entire point. The Catholics appear to be missing it.
7.31.2008 4:51pm
GMS:
You know, under normal circumstances, I can't imagine myself ever destroying a religious symbol. It's just not polite, and I'd sure hate to be mistaken and accidentally offend the wrong deity. However, there is one circumstance where I would consider it almost a duty to do so, and that is when PEOPLE ARE TELLING ME I SHOULD BE ARRESTED OR KILLED IF I DO ANYTHING TO MALIGN THEIR RELIGION!!!! In that case, I pretty much have an obligation to offend them, just to make a point.

It seems to me that, if religion involves telling people who is and isn't going to get into heaven or hell, that it's a pretty important thing. I mean, if you're telling me I'm going to hell because I don't believe what you say, I should have every right to say, "You are a complete and utter idiot, and I hold you and your views in utter contempt." And I should have the right to express that contempt. And if you have to resort to legal action or violence to keep me from doing so, then your religion is pretty weak.

That being said, the thing that really redeems Prof. Myers' actions is the fact that he apparently desecrated a Koran as well. I mean, it's not particularly heroic offending Catholics (much less evangelicals -- it's more heroic to defend them), and if you publicly flush a consecrated host without simultaneously pissing on the Koran, you're pretty much a blowhard and a coward.

In short, I think the world could do with a few more public Koran burnings. But do it politely, just to show that you can, and that you will not be cowed.
7.31.2008 4:52pm
Jack M. (mail):
[Comment deleted because of a personal insult. -EV]
7.31.2008 4:53pm
Scote (mail):

Well, to sling a racial taunt, Myers is most certainly a cracker. Anyone object to me driving rusty nails through him?


As embodied in a wafer? Of course not. But to suggest physically harming an actual human being. Yes, I object. Myers only tossed some wafers and bits of paper into the trash. No humans were hurt or even threatened by him, so your remarks seem particularly off base.
7.31.2008 4:53pm
R Gould-Saltman (mail):
Whoops. Sorry. Didn't read carefully far enough up the thread; there's the on-line link for wafers!

Now that I know that, I have a subtler theological question: if, as I understand it, wafers're not "consecrated hosts" until actually in use in communion, if they're received under false pretenses as to the recipient's intent, wouldn't that "un-consecrate" them, and make them revert to plain old wafers?
7.31.2008 4:54pm
Anon21:
Canon law is not civil law. Civil law, by and large, ignores canon law because the United States is a secular republic, not a theocracy. The fact that canon law would proscribe any use of a communion wafer other than consumption is completely irrelevant to the civil law status of such an action. As you might guess, there is no civil law status to such an action: anyone is free to do what they like with regard to crackers in their possession.

As to this whole issue of whether the people who obtained and sent the crackers to Myers committed fraud, I am extremely skeptical. Obviously, there is no written agreement that they consume the cracker. You could argue that there's an implied oral agreement, but I think such an argument would fail, inasmuch as religious doctrine regarding the sacredness of the communion wafer is not binding on any person, Catholic or non-Catholic. If the primary safeguard against someone's removing the wafer from the church is a shared set of beliefs that some member of the community actually lacks, then fraud just doesn't come into it. You'd have to show some agreement between the person who took the wafer and the person who gave it to them, or perhaps between the former and the Catholic Church. I doubt you could demonstrate the existence of any agreement to do anything in particular with the wafer, but rather only an expectation of what would be done with it.

Jack M.:
Easy, dick. Myers is making a public spectacle out of mocking a deeply held belief that has survived hundreds of years. He is deliberately mocking a deep-seated belief. Perhaps if someone takes one of your deep-seated beliefs and publicly mocked you, you would understand. But most likely, because you don't buy Catholic dogma, you think the emotional wounding of a billion people for the purpose of wounding them is no big deal. Dick.

Ok, so people are offended. I can understand that, on an intellectual level. Do you think this offense, or the "public spectacle" that caused it, can constitutionally be punished under secular American law, or do you disagree with the press release Eugene quotes in the post? If you do believe Myers' actions can be punished due to the offense he caused to millions of Catholics, do you also believe that any action which causes offense to millions ought to be criminally or civilly punishable? As an example, Bill O'Reilly published an op-ed in this morning's Washington Times referring to people under a certain income as "Folks who dropped out of school, who are too lazy to hold a job, who smoke reefers 24/7." In the process, he probably offended millions of liberals across the country. Should his statement be punishable?
7.31.2008 4:54pm
Ben P (mail):

Moron. According to Catholic dogma, the wafers are not the Eucharist until consecrated by the Priest during Mass. So you can't buy "them" online, because those things being sold are not the Eucharist. Please bother learning something about a religion before you open your mouth to attach it, moron.


I'm actually quite familiar with the process of Celebrating the Eucharist. However, you yourself stated why it is also irrelevant. "According to Catholic Dogma."

According to any impartial observer, the Church purchases thin unleavened wafers. At a service the Priest preforms a ceremony and then distributes the wafers to those in attendance.

You may believe they've been transubstantiated, I may believe the same thing, however, to someone who accepts none of this, the item is still just a thin unleavened wafer and has no reason to consider the post ceremony item different from the pre-ceremony item.
7.31.2008 4:55pm
Per Son:
Lol
7.31.2008 4:55pm
Scote (mail):

Fwiw, I've been critical of Myers's little stunt.

But people like Jack M. certainly help me understand Myers's motivation.


Jack M writes with a similar angry style to that guy who got his wife fired from 1-800-Flowers by sending a death threat to Myers using his wife's company email account.

Hmmm...I wonder...
7.31.2008 4:56pm
Suzy (mail):
People trample on my most cherished beliefs all the time. How can I start prosecuting them or getting them fired from their jobs? Some of them even work in my office!
7.31.2008 4:58pm
Ben P (mail):

Michigan law:

MCL 750.102 Blasphemy; punishment.


Punishment—Any person who shall wilfully blaspheme the holy name of God, by cursing or contumeliously reproaching God, shall be guilty of a misdemeanor.


Ok, you got me there. :) My states laws still contain references to the "crime which cannot be named in Christian Company."

Now show me evidence of an actual prosecution for the blasphemy law.
7.31.2008 4:58pm
Dilan Esper (mail) (www):
1. first, ass, quit being a Myers' bigot. Call it a wafer or host, have some respect for the religious beliefs of those around you.

Jack, please be civil. Stop throwing the words "ass" and "bigot" around. You do not help your cause by calling people names.

Second, it is a cracker. I don't believe it to be a "host", because I do not agree with the Church that it contains the Body of Jesus or any other substance other than the ingredients to the cracker.

As for "cracker" vs. "wafer", they are synonyms. Is there something about it that makes it not a cracker?

2. Amen is a specific representation, eejit. It is equivalent to "yes." And the act of taking communion implies both catholicism and the belief system involved in it. It is equivalent to someone saying, "Are you a police officer?" and the person saying, "I would say so" or not answering but is wearing a police uniform and the person asking then entrusting the police officer with property to be returned. The false police officer who takes goods is stealing via fraud, and can't claim "oh, well, I didn't positively assert anything. No fraud."

Again, don't call me "eejit" or other names. It doesn't help your case.

I don't think a long discussion of fraud is necessary or appropriate here. But the representations have to be pretty specific. Merely saying ambiguous things, or things that might mislead people, is not fraud. It is true that silence despite a legal (not religious) duty to speak can constitute fraud, but since the Church doesn't ask people "do you intend to consume this cracker at this time and for this purpose", you can't stretch the "Amen" to be more than it is. It's simply a ritual.

3. Intentional infliction of emotional distress? Negligent infliction of emotional distress? Have you been to law school?

Long enough to know that those doctrines don't apply unless the conduct is directed to a specific person, and that under Hustler Magazine v. Falwell, it doesn't apply to parody or criticism of religious beliefs.
7.31.2008 4:59pm
Jack M. (mail):
[Comment deleted for personal insult. -EV]
7.31.2008 5:00pm
drgeox (mail):
"Maybe Myers didn't commit a crime, but he should probably be fired anyway because it's clear that a practicing Catholic would have no chance of passing any of his courses."

In order to fire him, you would have to prove that 1) there is a clear pattern of bias in the grades awarded to Catholics in his classes, and 2) that the bias is due to their religious preference. You can't fire someone for what you think they might do, they actually have to do something.

Regarding the legal status of the wafer, it seems to me that if it is given freely to someone, it becomes their property. The agreement between the parisioner and the church may be binding according to Catholic law, but this has no status at all in US civil law. If I give you a ham sandwich, with the express intent that you eat it, and instead you throw it away, it is not a violation of any law, even if I fully believed that the two of us had entered into a binding contract. After following this little controversy for some time now, I find myself wishing that someone would sue Dr. Myers, the resulting verdict (which would certainly be in the professor's favor) would be an important precedent that would clarify the legal status of church law vs. civil law.
7.31.2008 5:01pm
shawn-non-anonymous:
"Nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition!"
--Monty Python

"Lies and hate speech which incite contempt or violence are not protected under the law. "
--Confraternity of Catholic Clergy

Unless they incite contempt for homosexuals wishing to marry in a civil ceremony in the state of California, apparently. $250,000 will buy a fair bit of contempt for your favorite punching bag, yes?
7.31.2008 5:01pm
Dilan Esper (mail) (www):
This is why Non-Catholic persons should be outraged.

Jack, I think I was clear. Though I wouldn't say I was outraged by what Myers did, I do think he showed disrespect to Catholics and that our society functions better when we don't go out of our way to insult each other's religious beliefs.

That, however, is a very different issue from whether he had a legal right to do what he did.
7.31.2008 5:02pm
John McG (mail) (www):

While it's true the wafers you can easily purchase aren't said to be Consecrated, how do you know? They are 100.0000% indistinguishable from "consecrated" wafers, nor can you tell the difference


Is it possibly for you to imagine something having value to you even though it may be indistinguishable from something that doesn't have value? If your grandfather smoked a pipe, and passed away and you kept it, and I put it on a table with the same type of pipe, would you be able to tell which was your grandfather's? If not, would it be OK if I smashed one?



I don't have an opinion on the firing. What I do have an opinion on is that Myers is being a jerk, and being a herk ought to have social consequences.

The hosts are not "freely given" — the communicant must say "Amen" to the proposition that it is the Body of Christ. Do we want a society where ministers have to look each communicant in the eye and make sure they clearly enunicate "Amen," because failure to do so will be seen by some as assent to sunts like Prof. Myers's

And even if they were given freely, so what? My wife might "freely" give me a gift. I'd still be a jerk if I took it and smashed it.
7.31.2008 5:03pm
DangerMouse:
So you actually agree with the "crank group" that a university professor should be fired by his government employee for blasphemous actions, presumably whether they are blasphemous against Christians, Muslims, or whoever else.

Not really. For the record, I think he has the legal right to say whatever he wants. I don't think he should be fired for opining on his disagreement with Catholicism, or any religion. What he should be fired for is his unbelievable stupidity and character flaws. I think he fundamentally compromised his position as a professor, by showing how far out of the way he'll go to offend, demean and destroy the most precious object of a specific group of people. He lacks the character to be a professor, irrespective of his opinions. Somebody who says "it's just a cracker" doesn't deserve to be fired. But someone who engages in a publicity stunt to purposefully hurt people and then relishes the hurt he has imposed on them is a twisted individual whose character is seriously demented. It's all legal, to be sure, but I don't think it's the role of an educator. As a government employee, he has fundamentally compromised his ability to fairly teach Catholics. A man who like him relishes the hurt he caused Catholics cannot seriously be objective in grading or teaching someone if he learns a student of his is Catholic. Opinions notwithstanding, this guy is messed up.
7.31.2008 5:04pm
cathyf:
For all of you people who insist on using racial/ethnic slurs in this conversation, let's make it clear: the Catholic belief is that the consecrated host is a kike. (A particular one who walked the earth 2000 years ago.) The cracker in this event is Myers.
7.31.2008 5:05pm
Dilan Esper (mail) (www):
Do we want a society where ministers have to look each communicant in the eye and make sure they clearly enunicate "Amen," because failure to do so will be seen by some as assent to sunts like Prof. Myers's

I want a society where: (1) people don't go out of their way to disrespect Catholics, including by pulling stunts like Myers', but (2) conservative Catholics understand that the doctrine of transubstantiation is rather distinctive and implausible to many people, and therefore don't make such a big deal about communion crackers that don't make it into parishoner's mouths.
7.31.2008 5:06pm
Per Son:
ROTFL
7.31.2008 5:06pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
Being a butthead is generally constitutionally protected. But the constitution does not protect buttheads from being referred to as buttheads.
Myers is a butthead.
Considering his attitude toward religion in general, it's, if not obvious, worth considering for an observant anything whether taking a biology class from him would be a good idea.
Recall that Duke paid up some undisclosed big bucks for one of their profs screwing with a couple of laxers. It's not that it doesn't happen. What happens is that it's hard as hell to prove. And that some profs seem to think it's a perk and what is anybody going to do about it?
And, were I a student needing biology creds at that U, I'd avoid Myers just to be on the safe side.
If this cretin is expending all this energy in his spare time--which hard-working profs claim they generally lack--what would he be doing at "work"?
If I were a Catholic and Ash Wednesday was on a day I'd be scheduled to be in his class, should I worry? Ditto other religions' public observances.
7.31.2008 5:07pm
zippypinhead:
Having spent some time reading the admissions on Myers' rather tasteless and vulgar (but Constitutionally protected) blog, he appears to have done the following:

1. brought up the issue by commenting at length about the controversy caused by someone absconding from a Roman Catholic service with a consecrated Host rather than consuming it during the Eucharist as required, and specifically demonstrating his awareness that this was not a use of the Host that is permitted by the Church;

2. actively solicited someone to steal a consecrated Host and send it to him (an action every Roman Catholic knows is wrong under fundamental Church doctrine);

3. received and then destroyed a consecrated Host (and a Koran and some other unspecified religious item), and bragged about it on his blog.

Sounds like he more than meets all the elements of knowing receipt and destruction of stolen property. And his behavior is probably also chargable under criminal solicitation and conspiracy statutes to boot. Myers flatly violated criminal law. No different from burning a Torah. And fully as actionable under "hate crime" statutes and sentencing enhancements as any other destruction of others' religious symbols done out of anti-religious animus.

Incidentally, those commenters who merrily assert that Priests just give out "crackers" to anybody do not understand basic Catholic theology. Only baptized Catholics in good standing (and a few other Christian faiths in full communion with the Roman Catholic church) are permitted to receive the transubstantiated Body of Christ during Eucharist. This is printed in the missalettes available in every Catholic church pew, and is often announced from the pulpit when there is reason to believe a number of non-Catholics are present at a Mass (e.g., at most weddings and funerals). IMHO, it does not generally reflect well on one to make ignorant (but Constitutionally protected) comments about religions one does not understand.
7.31.2008 5:07pm
roystgnr (mail):
subpatre: "'fighting words' grounds ... That people have been hurt or killed in the past illustrates the degree of provocation ... I would be amazed of any evidence that this type of act was intended to be protected."

I would be amazed if, in order to turn an action or speech I didn't like into "fighting words", all I would have to do is hurt or kill enough people to demonstrate that my target illustrated a high "degree of provocation". In a free society, when you're afraid that Dark Ages mouthbreathers might start violence over an idea, the right thing to do is to lock up anyone who initiates violence and protect their intended victims, not the other way around.
7.31.2008 5:10pm
Scote (mail):

Sounds like he more than meets all the elements of knowing receipt and destruction of stolen property. And his behavior is probably also chargable under criminal solicitation and conspiracy statutes to boot. Myers flatly violated criminal law. No different from burning a Torah.


First, prove the wafers are consecrated. Keep trying. You can't.

Second, the wafers are **disposable**--designed to be freely given, used up and not returned, so your Torah analogy fails by, well, not being analogous.
7.31.2008 5:11pm
anon.:
[I]f [communion wafers are] received under false pretenses as to the recipient's intent, wouldn't that "un-consecrate" them, and make them revert to plain old wafers?

You would think that an all-knowing, all-powerful deity would be able to swoop in and make just that kind of adjustment. Heck, you would think that such a deity would know in advance which cracker the heretic was going to receive and would simply prevent that one from turning into the body of Christ. That would have saved everyone a bunch of grief. But apparently God can't do that.
7.31.2008 5:11pm
Jack M. (mail):
[Comment deleted for personal insult. -EV]
7.31.2008 5:11pm
Observer:
Professor Volokh,

"The actions of an individual public university professor do not constitute government action, just as my posts on this blog aren't government action."

This makes me a bit confused. If a public school teacher decides to lead a Christian prayer in class (even if not at the direction of higher authorities, and even if students are not required to participate), I am of the understanding that this is government action and prohibited by the First Amendment. Unless I am missing something, it seems to me that desecrating the eucharist in class is more analogous to praying in class than it is to making a blog post (which has nothing to do with a professor's employment).
7.31.2008 5:11pm
Chris Bell (mail) (www):
Just a Thought said:
From the perspective of Catholic Church and canon law, it is highly improper, illegal, and sacrilegious for even Catholics in good standing to do something unauthorized with the host (like not consume it and give it to another). There is absolutely no possible way for Prof. Myers to have gotten a host "legally" from the point of view of the Catholic Church.

As to how the civil law is vis-a-vis the law of the Catholic Church, I don't know.


Ooh! I know, I know!

Civil law > cannon law in non-theocracy.

On another (Catholic) blog there was a long discussion about the level of "force" that is acceptable when the goal is rescuing the host. The legal answer (NONE) was unacceptable to the Catholics.

Because when an item is sacred to you, it gives you the right to break the laws of men. Didn't you know that?
7.31.2008 5:12pm
Jack M. (mail):
to anon at 4:11 :

[I]f [communion wafers are] received under false pretenses as to the recipient's intent, wouldn't that "un-consecrate" them, and make them revert to plain old wafers?

Not understanding a religious belief. That's not how it works in Catholic dogma. So no.


You would think that an all-knowing, all-powerful deity would be able to swoop in and make just that kind of adjustment. Heck, you would think that such a deity would know in advance which cracker the heretic was going to receive and would simply prevent that one from turning into the body of Christ. That would have saved everyone a bunch of grief. But apparently God can't do that.

Ah, the old Athiest argument. If God does act exactly how I think he should, he does not exist, because I know exaclty how a God should act. Nice logic.
7.31.2008 5:14pm
Dilan Esper (mail) (www):
Sounds like he more than meets all the elements of knowing receipt and destruction of stolen property. And his behavior is probably also chargable under criminal solicitation and conspiracy statutes to boot. Myers flatly violated criminal law.

No way. Let's be clear here. He didn't tell anyone to go steal communion crackers from a Catholic Church. He just said if someone obtained one (without specifying a means) he would desecrate it.

The one he received was obtained not by theft but was freely given to a parishoner by a priest. Nor were the legal requirements of fraud met (see above).

So, he asked someone to obtain the cracker, the cracker was obtained, and it was obtained legally. He neither asked anyone to break the law nor specified a means that was illegal. There was no criminal solicitation, and no receipt of stolen property.

Look, I can imagine cases where there was no way to obtain the property except by false pretenses. If Myers asked a reader to obtain the veil from the celestial room of a Mormon temple, and the reader obtained it, I can see the argument. But communion crackers are too freely given out to qualify.
7.31.2008 5:15pm
Ben P (mail):

Unless I am missing something, it seems to me that desecrating the eucharist in class is more analogous to praying in class than it is to making a blog post (which has nothing to do with a professor's employment).


Unless I'm very mistaken this was not done in a class of any sort, nor is Myers blog related to his teaching except in that they sometimes cover the same general subjects.

I believe it's rather more akin to if Professor Volokh were to post a video of himself doing something that's against University Policy here on this blog.
7.31.2008 5:16pm
Scote (mail):

I demand you at least have some human decency and call it wafer.


Here, Jack M, let me summarize your previous argument for you:


I demand you at least have some human decency and call it wafer, asshole.


You've been rude from the start. Your hypocritical demands for civility are incredible. And you really do write like that angry Catholic who got his wife fired...
7.31.2008 5:16pm
Dilan Esper (mail) (www):
Incidentally, those commenters who merrily assert that Priests just give out "crackers" to anybody do not understand basic Catholic theology. Only baptized Catholics in good standing (and a few other Christian faiths in full communion with the Roman Catholic church) are permitted to receive the transubstantiated Body of Christ during Eucharist. This is printed in the missalettes available in every Catholic church pew, and is often announced from the pulpit when there is reason to believe a number of non-Catholics are present at a Mass (e.g., at most weddings and funerals). IMHO, it does not generally reflect well on one to make ignorant (but Constitutionally protected) comments about religions one does not understand.

That may be, but that's not legally enforceable. It's too vague (can the Church sue if a parishoner receives a cracker despite being in a state of sin?), and there's no mutual consideration.
7.31.2008 5:17pm
DangerMouse:
Jack,

You know, I wouldn't call people names here. I don't think it gets you anywhere. Frankly, people are always going to hate Catholics. You can't fight them with the tools of Satan.
7.31.2008 5:17pm
Bama 1L:
This is just sad. Back in the good old days, hosts taken under false pretenses regularly bled, transformed into identifiable flesh, etc. Holy persons could distinguish consecrated from unconsecrated hosts. Some subsisted entirely on consecrated hosts.

More seriously, the good old days are a bit instructive. I particularly refer you to the English Corpus Christi plays (Croxton, Towneley, York, etc.), which I think most scholars nowadays take to be anti-Lollard in orientation. (The Lollards, followers of Wyclif, were basically English proto-Protestants who were skeptical of, among anythings, the Real Presence. Wyclif inspired Hus, who was a bit more successful.) In the plays, Jews--probably standing in for Lollards--steal hosts and try to determine whether they are actually the body of Christ or not. In some, the hosts kill the thieves in gory fashions; in others, there are miracles and the thieves are converted.

Look, I'm a Catholic who would like to remain free to criticize other religious--even in terms they would consider blasphemy. I am reasonably confident my religion can withstand criticism being, you know, true and all. When other people act thin-skinned about pictures of Muhammad or the like, it makes me wonder why they're so insecure about their truth claims. So I can't come up with a reason to do anything bad to Myers. So I'll let God handle this one.
7.31.2008 5:19pm
DangerMouse:
For the record, I don't think there's any merit to a legal claim that the Host was "stolen" or obtained via a legally enforceable means of "fraud." Nice try, though.
7.31.2008 5:19pm
Per Son:
Observer.

I do not believe he desecrated the host, Koran, and other materials on school property in front of students. That makes it different than leading a class in prayer.

Also, do you all think that Muslims and Dawkins have a good civil suit against the prof? It seems that offending people is now gonna get you an IIED claim. Heck, I recall seeing a nazi preaching on public access TV, maybe that can be my cash cow to pay my loans. he said really awful things that were deeply offensive to millions of people.
7.31.2008 5:19pm
Chris Bell (mail) (www):
These discussions about "theft" are ridiculous. True or false, I could walk into a Catholic church off the street, walk up to the front, and have a wafer handed to me, which I could then EAT? It's hard to say that all that is true AND that the wafer is "property of the Catholic Church".

Here's a YouTube video of a guy accepting a host and then taking it home. It's not hard, nor is it theft. A criminal complaint brought against this guy would be dismissed.
7.31.2008 5:19pm
Jack M. (mail):
Because when an item is sacred to you, it gives you the right to break the laws of men. Didn't you know that?

Well, to steal a bit from Thoreau, when the law "requires you to be the agent of injustice to another, then I say, break the law." I would say that if the law requires you to bow down to an injustice against your own beliefs, then yes, a person has a moral (not legal) right to break the law.

Thoreau did not state that he had a legal right to break it, but a moral one. Thoreau didn't believe in the supremacy of human-made law; he held a belief in "Higher Laws," and that human laws were a nuisance to be tolerated unless they required you to break your own beliefs of morality.
7.31.2008 5:19pm
Dilan Esper (mail) (www):
Very nicely said, Bama.
7.31.2008 5:20pm
Observer:
Ben,

I did assume that this was done by Myers in the classroom during a Biology class. If I was wrong on this, I agree that there is no question that this is not government action.
7.31.2008 5:21pm
snoey (mail):
Maybe it really was just a cracker and PZ's provider defrauded him.
7.31.2008 5:21pm
Anderson (mail):
So I'll let God handle this one.

"Vengeance is mine; I will repay."

Note that the Lord God didn't even find it necessary to call anyone an "asshole."
7.31.2008 5:24pm
Jack M. (mail):
These discussions about "theft" are ridiculous. True or false, I could walk into a Catholic church off the street, walk up to the front, and have a wafer handed to me, which I could then EAT?

Not without lying to the people there, you couldn't.

It's hard to say that all that is true AND that the wafer is "property of the Catholic Church".

No, it is relatively easy. Here's an analogy: you walk into a crowded bakery. One person is manning the cash register, another is doling out treats. You get a cookie and start eating it. You start walking out. the cash register guy says, "did you pay for that?" You say yes. You've committed theft and fraud of the bakery property, although the cookie is now gone.

Here's a YouTube video of a guy accepting a host and then taking it home. It's not hard, nor is it theft. A criminal complaint brought against this guy would be dismissed.

Simply because it is not hard to do doesn't make it not theft. Plenty of homes are easily robbed and plenty of people are easily pick pocketed. Does that make it not theft? (Note to the slow: rhetorical)
7.31.2008 5:25pm
cathyf:
[I]f [communion wafers are] received under false pretenses as to the recipient's intent, wouldn't that "un-consecrate" them, and make them revert to plain old wafers?
Well, trying to parse that sentence, what you seem to be suggesting is:

An action: [a person takes the consecrated host under false pretenses]

Causes another action: [Jesus evacuates the host and it reverts to its unconsecrated state]

The Catholic answer is that Jesus could certainly choose to do so, but we have no way of knowing one way or another whether he does. But, anyway, the person who takes the consecrated host under false pretenses has no power to force Jesus to do anything that he does not choose to do. So the underlying assumption to the form of your question is false.
7.31.2008 5:25pm
zippypinhead:
To quote virtually every law professor who ever stood at a lectern, "let's change the hypothetical a bit."

Assume, arguendo, that the University of Minnesota has a statement of nondiscrimination that includes, inter alia, commitments that members of the University community will not show animus against others because of their "religion . . . or sexual orientation." What, if any actions would/should the University of Minnesota take if our hypothetical Professor Myers organized an anti-gay rally off-campus, and as part of the rally, burned a California same-sex marriage certificate that had been stolen from the rightful owners by a confederate, at Myers' request? And then crowed about it on his blog?

Guess who would immediately be brought up before the faculty disciplinary committee on charges of having violated the University's nondiscrimination code?

Myers' actual behavior is not distinguishable -- legally, morally, or otherwise.
7.31.2008 5:26pm
Just a thought:

Civil law > cannon law in non-theocracy.

On another (Catholic) blog there was a long discussion about the level of "force" that is acceptable when the goal is rescuing the host. The legal answer (NONE) was unacceptable to the Catholics.

Because when an item is sacred to you, it gives you the right to break the laws of men. Didn't you know that?

Chris, come now, be gentle with the sarcasm. I'm honestly curious.

Obviously we live in a non-theocracy and the civil law trumps canon law. And it makes sense to me that no one normally has the right to break the laws of men (civil law) for the sake of religious sensibilities. But there are civil laws which protect religious institutions, at least incidentally: for example, I don't have a right to march over to the local Protestant church and spray paint its walls. I don't have a right to go into a mosque when it is open and take its Koran and then destroy it. I don't have a right to demand a consecrated host from a priest, and then assault him and take a host from him by force if he doesn't want to give me a host. In all those instances, there would be civil protections and remedies to the religious groups. Maybe there is no civil protection in the current case and the Catholic Church can't reclaim a host from someone who obtained it under false pretenses. If so, then so be it. I was just wondering what the civil law was in this case.
7.31.2008 5:27pm
Bama 1L:
Incidentally I have never seen any evidence of gatekeeping at the communion line. Unless you are John Kerry, Doug Kmiec, or some other SERIOUS SINNER you get in line, murmur "amen," and receive the body of Christ.

I have served as an extraordinary minister of the Eucharist and was never instructed to inquire whether prospective communicants had struck any clerics, been married illicitly, failed to give internal assent to that which the Church infallibly teaches, engaged in nonprocreative sex, etc. before giving them the sacrament. I suppose all those people all misrepresented themselves. Since I had good reason to suspect that, globally, a lot of the communicants were doing so, my reliance on their representations was not reasonable, so I lost the Church's fraud claim.
7.31.2008 5:27pm
Jack M. (mail):
[Deleted, for the same reason as above. -EV]
7.31.2008 5:29pm
Dilan Esper (mail) (www):
zippy:

You are begging the question. What constitutes "Myers' request"?

Myers didn't ask anyone to steal a communion cracker. He asked that someone obtain one. And since the Church relatively freely hands them out, it is quite easy to obtain one legally.
7.31.2008 5:30pm
GMS:
If all Catholics were like Jack M., I think we could all get behind cracker destroying more often. Seeing him get offended is worth the price of admission. "I demand respect, you friggin' idiots!" Priceless. I'm sure he's JUST the image the Catholic Church wants to project.

If they were all like Bama 1L, on the other hand, there would be no reason to give offense.
7.31.2008 5:31pm
Ben P (mail):

California same-sex marriage certificate that had been stolen from the rightful owners by a confederate, at Myers' request? And then crowed about it on his blog?


This is the one part that's significantly differentiable.

Although certainly not exact, it would be closer to allege a confederate went to the county records office and copied the certificate without the knowledge of the parties involved and presumably against their wishes.
7.31.2008 5:33pm
Anon21:
Jack M.:
No, it is relatively easy. Here's an analogy: you walk into a crowded bakery. One person is manning the cash register, another is doling out treats. You get a cookie and start eating it. You start walking out. the cash register guy says, "did you pay for that?" You say yes. You've committed theft and fraud of the bakery property, although the cookie is now gone.

No, that is fraud and theft. You have failed to give the consideration necessary to execute the contract (the payment). In the case of communion, no consideration is expected, nor given. Moreover, you have not lied, not that lying is, in and of itself, a criminal offense. What Catholic doctrine or canon law regard the status of "Amen" as is irrelevant. Under secular civil law, that word is not an undertaking, a promise, or a statement of intent. Thus, it cannot be false, or by itself constitute a promise that can later be broken.

zippypinhead:
What, if any actions would/should the University of Minnesota take if our hypothetical Professor Myers organized an anti-gay rally off-campus, and as part of the rally, burned a California same-sex marriage certificate that had been stolen from the rightful owners by a confederate, at Myers' request?

The point is that Myers' confederate in the instant case didn't steal anything. He was freely given a communion wafer, and he then mailed it off to Myers. The law (the actual law, not canon law) does not recognize participation in a ritual on false pretenses as a crime. Nor does the law regard as theft the disposal or giving of an object freely imparted as theft or fraud. A lot of this confusion in this thread arises from the continued tendency to conflate Catholic law/doctrine with civil law.
7.31.2008 5:34pm
Scote (mail):

No, it is relatively easy. Here's an analogy: you walk into a crowded bakery. One person is manning the cash register, another is doling out treats. You get a cookie and start eating it. You start walking out. the cash register guy says, "did you pay for that?" You say yes. You've committed theft and fraud of the bakery property, although the cookie is now gone.


No, Jack M, there is no payment involved. No theft. The wafers are handed out for free. Iit's like being given a free donut at Krispy Kreme and deciding not to eat it on the spot.
7.31.2008 5:34pm
John McG (mail) (www):

He didn't tell anyone to go steal communion crackers from a Catholic Church. He just said if someone obtained one (without specifying a means) he would desecrate it.


Yes, and when the beautiful women tells the sucker that she'd run away with him, except she can't as long as her lousy husband is still alive, since he'd track her down and beat her, she's not telling anyone to go kill her husband.

—-

Jack: You are not doing yourself or Catholicism credit with your involvement in this thread.

——-


Here's a YouTube video of a guy accepting a host and then taking it home. It's not hard, nor is it theft.


I didn't realize something had to be "hard" and not capturable on YouTube in order for it to be theft.

If you leave your bike unlocked on a campus, it's still theft if someone takes it.

If you are justifying this action on the premise that consecrated hosts are easy to come by, then the natural reaction will be for Catholics to make them more difficult to come by. Just like we respond to ordinary theft by locking things down and regarding each other with greater distrust.

This is where Myers is leading us.
7.31.2008 5:35pm
Lior:
I think it should be noted that our current laws do prevent the Catholic Church from practicing its faith regarding this controversy. Traditionally, the Church believes that it should be the one responsible for investigating and punishing heresies, including this blasphemy. It's quite surprising that the Confraternity is arguing that by not handing Prof. Myers over for his trial-by-fire the government is denying the Church's right of "free exercise".

More seriously, the press release clearly shows that the Cofraternity understands itself (contrary to its claims) to be engaged in the same business as Prof. Myers: understanding the world around us and helping others come to terms with it. As is commonly pointed out on this blog, asking for the government to restrain the competition hardly inspires confidence in your product, does it?
7.31.2008 5:36pm
Chris Bell (mail) (www):
Jack, that bakery analogy is silly. If you want to use food, imagine getting a free sample at a grocery store. You tell the clerk, "That looks good!". She hands you the sample, then you start to walk away with it. The clerk cries, "Hey! That's for eating!" You say, "Maybe so, but I would like to take it home and feed it to my dog." The store clerk responds, "Our store pamphlets clearly state that free samples are available only for eating." You say, "That's nice, but I never read your pamphlet and I didn't agree to it."

You have not committed theft.

Just a Thought, sorry to be snarky. I don't think I originally understood your question.

To answer it, there is no civil law protection for the church here. If the Gideons were passing out Bibles they might be furious when I tore my copy up, but they gave the Bible to me to keep as my own property and I can do what I want with it. It may be rude, but it's not illegal.
7.31.2008 5:37pm
Jack M. (mail):
Bama 1L:

The act of saying amen. It may be perfunctory in many parishes, but its similar to a judge asking a pleading guilty defendant if he understands that he has a right to a trial by jury beyond a reasonable double. Often this is perfunctory, but perfectly legitimate to defeat an appeal by a defendant claiming he didn't "know" he had a right to a trial.

The defendant's affirmation is the same as the person saying amen. It is enough to defeat a defense of "not committing fraud" or not knowing. Amen requires a positive act of affirmation.
7.31.2008 5:38pm
Ken Arromdee:
1. brought up the issue by commenting at length about the controversy caused by someone absconding from a Roman Catholic service with a consecrated Host rather than consuming it during the Eucharist as required, and specifically demonstrating his awareness that this was not a use of the Host that is permitted by the Church;

That helps exonerate him, rather than incrominate him like you think. He did it specifically with the intent of commenting upon an incident in which the church was involved related to communion wafers. It's not just pointless nastiness done for no reason other than to offend.
7.31.2008 5:38pm
Thales (mail) (www):
zippypinhead:

The flaw in your argument is that you equivocate between canon law and the human law of the land. In your first point, assuming the facts to be as you state, you've demonstrated simply that Myers is aware of some aspects Catholic doctrine. In your second point, assuming the facts to be as you state, your use of the word "steal" begs the question. If the person who removed the communion wafer actually did so by furtively walking up to the altar and taking it while trespassing on the property of the church, that is likely stealing under human law. But if the person participated in the ritual and was handed the wafer as part of that ritual, in the eyes of human law, that wafer is a gift and belongs to the recipient to do with as he pleases, regardless of whether some such actions are wrong or illegal in the eyes of the Church. Therefore, to your third point, unless you have evidence to the contrary, the person who removed the wafer merely gave his own property to Myers, at which point Myers was free to do what he wanted with it, including destroy it. Not obeying the religious instructions of the Church or failing to complete an expected ritual is not fraud or theft under human law, regardless of whether it may offend someone else's deeply held beliefs.
7.31.2008 5:39pm
von (mail) (www):
Jack M. is a troll. The first rule of The Internets is: "don't feed the trolls." Ignore 'em; you'll have better arguments with smarter people.

And, yes, in case you were wondering: I am aware of all internet traditions.
7.31.2008 5:39pm
Lior:
ugh ... The Cofraternity has so far not argued that Prof. Myers should be handed over to them.
7.31.2008 5:39pm
A.:
Let's at least end one bit of nonsense now: NIED and IIED are torts, not crimes. Regardless of whether the church may have civil actions for NIED or IIED, these are not crimes with which Myers or anyone else may be charged.

Of course, the tort actions would fail, too, unless someone knows how to show the extent of the injury suffered by the alleged victim.
7.31.2008 5:39pm
Anon21:
John McG:
I didn't realize something had to be "hard" and not capturable on YouTube in order for it to be theft.

If you leave your bike unlocked on a campus, it's still theft if someone takes it.

If you are justifying this action on the premise that consecrated hosts are easy to come by, then the natural reaction will be for Catholics to make them more difficult to come by. Just like we respond to ordinary theft by locking things down and regarding each other with greater distrust.

This is where Myers is leading us.

The point is the legal character of the act, not how difficult it is. As Dilan Esper has pointed out, this doesn't rise to the level of fraud. Nor is it theft, because the priest voluntarily relinquished possession of the object in question. His incorrect expectation that the person taking it would consume it on the spot does not transform the voluntary giving into theft.

If the church begins to require explicit agreement on the part of those who receive communion to use the wafer as intended, and gets a decent (non-canon) lawyer to figure out how to make such an agreement reasonably airtight, but still susceptible of presentation and acceptance orally and quickly, I think they'd have their bases covered. If someone then defrauded them, they really would have a legal claim to make. But that isn't the current practice, so the action taken by Myers' helper in this case simply was not illegal.
7.31.2008 5:42pm
David Schwartz (mail):
This is simply a call for a heckler's veto. Myers destroyed a cracker. That other people have religious beliefs that he did something else is simply irrelevant to the legal status of his actions.

Maybe some people do consider what he did equivalent to burning a flag, burning a cross, hanging a noose, or wearing a swastika. But if there exists one person who considers saying "hello" equivalent to those things (because of the "hell" in there) must the rest if us refrain from saying "hello"?

Objectively, he crushed a cracker.
7.31.2008 5:42pm
David Schwartz (mail):
This is simply a call for a heckler's veto. Myers destroyed a cracker. That other people have religious beliefs that he did something else is simply irrelevant to the legal status of his actions.

Maybe some people do consider what he did equivalent to burning a flag, burning a cross, hanging a noose, or wearing a swastika. But if there exists one person who considers saying "hello" equivalent to those things (because of the "hell" in there) must the rest if us refrain from saying "hello"?

Objectively, he crushed a cracker.
7.31.2008 5:42pm
Morat20 (mail):
Ben,

I did assume that this was done by Myers in the classroom during a Biology class. If I was wrong on this, I agree that there is no question that this is not government action.


Why did you assume that? There is nothing I have seen that even hints at when and where this was done, and the only information in this thread about Myers is that:

1) He a professor.
2) He has a non-university affiliated (IE: private) blog that he posted this particular bit on.

There's nothing there to infer he did it on university grounds period, much less during an actual class.

Now, from the level of anger some people have about it, I can see thinking he MUST have done it right there in class to get people this angry.

But as far as I can tell, the entire thing took place privately. His private blog, his private home.

I personally don't desecrate religious symbols, but I think the reaction is rather interesting. Christianity isn't as enlightened as it likes to claim to be, nor as secure. Catholic doctrine says Meyers will burn in Hell for such an act, unless he confesses and does pennance (unlikely, given he's an atheist). Why agitate to fire him and threaten to kill him, when the core of your belief has already condemed him to the worst possible punishment?
7.31.2008 5:42pm
Jack M. (mail):
Jack, that bakery analogy is silly. If you want to use food, imagine getting a free sample at a grocery store. You tell the clerk, "That looks good!".

These are not free samples. The Eucharist requires a payment, just not in monetary terms. It requires being a Catholic and believing in the Eucharist---it requires you to do something and affirm that you've done it (i.e. believe). The free sample analogy fails, because it doesn't require anything more than just showing up.

Catholics don't give away the Eucharist for free. Its given to people who, by their actions and words, express the notion that they are Catholics in full communion with the beliefs of the Catholic church.

Similarly, the bakery requires you to act by paying--not with belief, but with money.

So your analogy fails.
7.31.2008 5:43pm
NRWO:
(1) The host is generally given to people by a Eucharistic minister to consume in mass or in other ceremonial occasions, sanctioned by the Church. The host is not generally (to my knowledge), given for any other purpose, and of course not given to people who have the intention to desecrate it (or to transfer it to somebody with that intention).

(2) Buying communion wafers on-line. Those wafers are probably not blessed by a priest. To be sure, a jerk could desecrate those wafers just as a jerk could desecrate the real thing. But, there’s a difference in the eyes of Catholics and, I believe, in the eyes of the law. You can desecrate all kinds of inanimate objects that you rightly possess. You cannot so easily desecrate objects that you don’t righty possess for a given purpose.

Wafers bought on-line probably come with no legal strings attached. Wafers blessed by a priest and obtained in a mass might come with such strings. The question, in the latter instance, is whether the Church has a reasonably claim against a person who obtains its property and uses it, without permission, in a way that is antithetical to the way the Church intended people to use it, when the person who obtained the property knows they’re using it in a way that was not intended.

(3) Fighting words: Context matters here. My sense is that if Mr. Myers pulled such a stunt in public, most Catholics would not respond favorably.

(4) Ownership. The key question is whether the Church has a reasonable claim against a person who obtains its property and uses it in a way that is a clear violation of the way the Church intended the property to be used. In many circumstances, you receive property for specific purposes only; using that property for other purposes may be a contract violation, it seems to me.
7.31.2008 5:44pm
Jack M. (mail):
Why agitate to fire him and threaten to kill him, when the core of your belief has already condemed him to the worst possible punishment?

This is the typical non-religious reply---some uneductaed non-believer telling religious folks how they should act, merely because they think they should act this way, based on very little knowledge of the religion in question.
7.31.2008 5:45pm
Dilan Esper (mail) (www):
These are not free samples. The Eucharist requires a payment, just not in monetary terms. It requires being a Catholic and believing in the Eucharist---it requires you to do something and affirm that you've done it (i.e. believe). The free sample analogy fails, because it doesn't require anything more than just showing up.

But that's a spiritual contract, not a legal one. (It's also not one that the Church really enforces, except for the odd incident every now and again where a Doug Kmiec gets denied commuion.)

The law only enforces contracts that have a legally cognizable form of consideration.
7.31.2008 5:45pm
Chris Bell (mail) (www):
Minute legal points have consumed this thread, but can't we all agree that this is a direct call for censorship?

"The freedom of religion means that no one has the right to attack, malign or grossly offend a faith tradition they personally do not have membership [in]."

Hear that? No more offending Muslim for being sexist. Also, telling Mormons that Joseph Smith was a con artist and pedophile is strictly forbidden.

I for one welcome our new alien overlords.
7.31.2008 5:46pm
David Schwartz (mail):
Jack M: All of this agreement is entirely implicit. By this type of argument, what Myers did is equivalent to grabbing a lottery ticket form from a store display and using it to write down your phone number to give to someone.

Yes, you took something of objectively negligible value, freely given, in violation of the giver's expectations for what you would do with it.

(Sorry for the double submit of my previous comment. I have no idea how it happened.)
7.31.2008 5:47pm
Anderson (mail):
Jack M. is not even a Roman Catholic.

Rather, he's playing off the stereotype of the Catholic as someone who respects the Eucharis and the Church, but otherwise find it unnecessary to comply with any of the commands of Scripture or of Christ.

A *Lutheran* troll, I suspect.
7.31.2008 5:47pm
Lior:
... but its similar to a judge asking a pleading guilty defendant if he understands that he has a right to a trial by jury beyond a reasonable double [sic]


Let's say the judge instead only said: "Are you making this plea accepting the usual conditions and limitations incident thereto", and the defendant said "Amen". Do you think the defendant can be inferred to have knowingly given up all his legal rights?

Before participating in this discussion, I would had no idea that saying "Amen" and accepting the wafer signifies anything more than acknowledgment that the priest believes that host is the body of Christ. If the Church wants to create legal obligations among participants in the ceremony, it should make them sign forms at the door.
7.31.2008 5:50pm
Dr. Scott (mail):
OK, here's the game score so far:

PZ Meyers is a butthead for publicly desecrating what he claims is a consecrated host. (As pointed out, he can't prove it was in fact consecrated.) But he's not a criminal, and not liable in civil court.

The Confraternity of Catholic Clergy, representing about 1% of RC priests in the US and looking somewhat like a crank group, is a butthead for various wrong claims about the law, including the claim that Meyers' act was "unconstitutional". If they are calling for government punishment of blasphemy, then they're buttheads for that, too.

Let buttheads be buttheads, I say, and let the government keep out of it.

It is instructive to consider Meyers' fate had he offended something truly sacred to the university. Imagine that he had made fun of rape victims. Or displayed a noose. Isn't it reasonable to ask for a consistent standard of civility, and penalties for its breach? Or are some animals more equal than others?
7.31.2008 5:51pm
Morat20 (mail):
This is the typical non-religious reply---some uneductaed non-believer telling religious folks how they should act, merely because they think they should act this way, based on very little knowledge of the religion in question

And now you insult my teachers. Do you know how much time and effort they put into educating us knuckleheads on theology? We had classes and tests and all sorts of shenanigans.

Heck, there was even this ritual when he had decided we knew enough theology to be safe explaining it to other people. Darn if I can't remember the term....perhaps your infinite religious education can remind me?

Darn Jesuits -- never know what they're talking about.
7.31.2008 5:51pm
Scote (mail):

(2) Buying communion wafers on-line. Those wafers are probably not blessed by a priest. To be sure, a jerk could desecrate those wafers just as a jerk could desecrate the real thing. But, there’s a difference in the eyes of Catholics and, I believe, in the eyes of the law. You can desecrate all kinds of inanimate objects that you rightly possess. You cannot so easily desecrate objects that you don’t righty possess for a given purpose.


What if I consecrate the wafers? Would it then be ok by you to manhandle them?

For that matter, how do we even know that Catholic priests haven't accidentally consecrated all bread products world-wide? What if a priest of some religion blesses my house without my permission and declares it holy, must I "respect" his supernatural claim and not "desecrate" my house by living in it?

What about bibles and the Koran? Would it be theft and fraud to burn them if they came with a shrink wrap ELUA that said "no desecration?"
7.31.2008 5:52pm
Speedwell (mail):
You know, if I buy jars of Jif peanut butter from the grocery store, and tell my husband as I make my peanut butter sandwiches that Jif peanut butter is the body of my beloved dead mother, and I am honoring her by consuming her body, then my husband is going to think I'm a lunatic. If he then gets a friend to give him a jar of Jif , takes it to work, and makes a peanut butter sandwich, eats half, and feeds the rest to the pigeons in the park, he is NOT dishonoring my poor dead mother.

Craziness is craziness. Noone can tell the difference between a wafer that a priest picks up and consecrates, and the next wafer in the same box that he picks up and doesn't consecrate. Maybe a faint smell of incense?

|—-(+)—>
7.31.2008 5:52pm
cathyf:
Note that communion is not freely given. Receiving and consuming communion is the act by which a Christian joins the Catholic Church, and the act by which a Catholic remains Catholic. That's why we use the word "excommunicated" to refer to Catholics who've been thrown out. As others have pointed out, it is stated in writing, and sometimes repeated verbally, who is and is not eligible to receive. Every person who receives must verbally assent to the assertion that it is the body of Christ. Every person who receives it is required to consume it right there, on the spot. After Communion, leftover consecrated hosts are locked up, and the key is taken away in another room.

I think that the assertions that someone could acquire without consuming a consecrated host without committing fraud are vastly over-stating their case. Fraud is still fraud, even if the fraud victims are inattentive enough to let the fraudster get away with it. In fact, a common characteristic of successful vs. unsuccessful fraud is a degree of inattentiveness on the part of the fraud victims.
7.31.2008 5:52pm
Just a thought:

To answer it, there is no civil law protection for the church here. If the Gideons were passing out Bibles they might be furious when I tore my copy up, but they gave the Bible to me to keep as my own property and I can do what I want with it. It may be rude, but it's not illegal.


Chris Bell,

Fair enough. The one last distinction I can raise is that, from the perspective of Church law, you are not given a host to keep as your own property and cannot do what you want with it. When you stand in line to receive the host, there is an understanding that you agree to receive the host and consume it without doing anything else with it. If you told the priest that you were planning on not consuming it as you stood in line, the priest would not give you a host. So, from the Church's perspective, there may be an implied contract that you consume the host and any other act you do would breach that contract.

Now, I realize that the civil law probably does not recognize that distinction or these pseudo-implied-contracts, and even if it did, it would be impossible to determine as a practical matter. So there is likely no remedy that the Church can or should be able to obtain against people like Myers.
7.31.2008 5:52pm
Morat20 (mail):
A *Lutheran* troll, I suspect.

Party foul! Some of my best friends are Lutherans. And as they'd tell you, the only difference between them and Catholics is they don't need a priest there to explain the big words. *grin*
7.31.2008 5:53pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
EV. What do you mean "if a Confraternity of Muslim Imams...." "IF"????

Feigned offense seems to work. See "water buffalo". What if a bunch of Catholic students showed up at the Office of Permanent Outrage and recited the (excuse me) litany of usual complaints about their various angstseses.

The way to tell if you're in an accredited victims group is to complain about something to the OPO and see if you're told to go away and get a life, or if the entire campus is turned upside down. My guess is Catholics would be in the first group.

To apply the gay marriage change-the-variables, suppose what was desecrated was a gay-friendly church's cert of holy matrimony, or whatever they call it, instead of a document from the county clerk's office. Actionable? More sympathy? Probably no and yes, but the first would only be non-actionable after a prosecution had been instituted. And large legal fees imposed.
7.31.2008 5:54pm
LM (mail):
Jack M,

Some guy does something obnoxious, and he doesn't care if it offends people. You think it's wrong, and it pisses you off. Understandable. So how do you justify your own behavior here? Especially after you've been told by the site's proprietor that you're breaking the rules and offending people?

As for your being certain that he couldn't have bought a consecrated host online.
7.31.2008 5:55pm
Dilan Esper (mail) (www):
I think that the assertions that someone could acquire without consuming a consecrated host without committing fraud are vastly over-stating their case. Fraud is still fraud, even if the fraud victims are inattentive enough to let the fraudster get away with it.

That's not true. The reasonable reliance element imposes a duty on the party alleging fraud to take normal and reasonable precautions.
7.31.2008 5:55pm
Scote (mail):

Fair enough. The one last distinction I can raise is that, from the perspective of Church law, you are not given a host to keep as your own property and cannot do what you want with it. When you stand in line to receive the host, there is an understanding that you agree to receive the host and consume it without doing anything else with it.


Because participating in cannibalism is soooo much better than not doing so by taking the wafer with you.
7.31.2008 5:55pm
Bama 1L:
Jack, I'm not sure your spiritual contract analogy takes us somewhere we want to go, because it implies some sort of desert. I know Catholics have a right to receive the Eucharist through the Church, and that there are certain preconditions to receiving the Eucharist, but I don't think that's because of bargained-for exchange cognizable in contract law.

Would Christ willingly deliver his body to his enemies to be destroyed, and be glorified thereby? Discuss.

I really don't know what CCC was trying to accomplish by the press release. Probably just get people talking. Success!
7.31.2008 5:58pm
Ben P (mail):

A *Lutheran* troll, I suspect.


Actually I happen to be a Lutheran troll.

Actually, the nature of the insults thrown about in this thread show a striking resemblance between Jack M, and everyone's favorite Christian Anti-Video Game Crusading Florida Attorney.
7.31.2008 5:58pm
Chris Bell (mail) (www):
Just a Thought:

That is exactly my view. There is an expectation, an understanding, that you are taking the host only for the purposes of eating it, but you never explicitly said so and therefore there is no contract.

I am irreligious, but have taken communion. (Not in a Catholic church, but in churches where they "ask" that only Christians participate.) They would probably refuse to serve me if my beliefs were known, but they make no effort to verify those beliefs.

Don't get me wrong, it's extremely offensive to steal a host, but offensiveness is not illegal. Myers just thought it was worth it as part of making his point about the kid getting death threats in Florida.
7.31.2008 5:59pm
wm13:
Chris Bell: Ah, but suppose you go back the next week, scoop up some free samples and try to take them home. Now I think you are guilty of theft, because you knew that the samples were offered only for on-premises consumption.
7.31.2008 6:00pm
Bama 1L:
Receiving and consuming communion is the act by which a Christian joins the Catholic Church, and the act by which a Catholic remains Catholic.

I see what you're saying, but baptism joins one to the Church, and one need not receive the Eucharist but, what, once per year? Conversely one could continue to attend mass and receive the Eucharist by fraud, theft, or whatever we are saying but still be separated from the Church.
7.31.2008 6:01pm
drgeox (mail):

Note that communion is not freely given.

In the sense of church law, it isn't, but in the sense of civil law, it is.
7.31.2008 6:02pm
zippypinhead:
Dilan, anon21 and a couple of other folks are misunderstanding a fairly fundamental point:

The consecrated communion Host is not "freely given" to anybody wandering in off the street during the Eucharist for the recipient to do with as she wants. Legally, possession is best described as transferred only in the form of a limited-purpose bailment. The bailee who left church with the consecrated Host and gave it to Myers exceed the scope of her bailment. Legally, this is both tortious conversion and theft.

Nobody is advocating an actual prosecution here (at least I'm not), but merely pointing out that Myers' actions can be seen as not only morally wrong, but legally wrong and not Constitutionally protected. Among other things, at a really trite level there's an evidentiary problem on the current record, since Myers' blog admission does not detail the exact circumstances under which the consecrated Host was improperly removed from the Eucharist (although the doctrine of res ipsa loquitur seems circumstantially applicable if one understands the Roman Catholic theology involved).

On a (much) higher level, I would argue that the Christian reaction to the antics of a boorish prig like Myers should be to turn the other cheek, since this matter will be addressed in due time, and Myers will eventually get to spend the rest of Eternity dealing with the consequences.

Although I would be concerned that a person of faith might reasonably be concerned about taking courses from a professor who pulls such outrageous stunts. For example, a student might reasonably wonder if Myers would have another of his anti-religious outbursts at the expense of a student wearing a Crucifix. If Myers had demonstrated an equivalent amount of hatred and disrespect toward gays, the University of Minnesota would undoubtedly take whatever actions it could. But mere Christians are not nearly so favored in academia today, I'm afraid...
7.31.2008 6:04pm
GMS:
Jack M: This is the typical non-religious reply---some uneductaed non-believer telling religious folks how they should act, merely because they think they should act this way, based on very little knowledge of the religion in question.

Not only is Jack M. a Lutheran troll, but he affirms the second (or maybe third?) law of posting, which is that when you try to criticize someone else's intelligence or education, you almost always demonstrate your own lack thereof. (I believe it's a variant of the "I'm rubber, you're glue" principle).
7.31.2008 6:05pm
John McG (mail) (www):
I suppose if churches have to display signs saying that people can't bring handguns to church, they may also have to hang signs saying what is acceptable to do with communion.

I don't think either is a good sign for society, though.

But what about the death threats?

Nobody is defending the death threats. And, BTW, I have still not seen evidence that the Florida student did in fact receive death threats. Bill Donohue did what Bill Donahue does.
7.31.2008 6:05pm
Chris Bell (mail) (www):
wm13, I don't know about scooping up the free samples (which implies a physical taking) but if I went back and received another one knowing the policy it would still not be theft. I never agreed to the policy, and they gave me one anyway.
7.31.2008 6:06pm
Eugene Volokh (www):
Folks: Please avoid personal insults and vulgarisms. As I mentioned in one of my notes above (explaining why I deleted a comment that engaged in such insults), I'm happy to say that I'm not the government, and I am therefore entitled to set rules about what is said here and what's not. One of those rules is that while people may make substantive arguments, including ones that others find offensive, personal epithets ("ass," "dick," "moron," etc.) tend to contribute little to reasoned discussion and detract a great deal from it.

Please abide by these rules, or, if you feel you can't, please refrain from commenting.
7.31.2008 6:07pm
Scote (mail):

Nobody is defending the death threats. And, BTW, I have still not seen evidence that the Florida student did in fact receive death threats. Bill Donohue did what Bill Donahue does.


I suspect people do defend the death threats. There is certainly condonation of them. And we know for a fact Myers received them. It is entirely probable that the student also received threats, especially considering he'd already been physically assaulted over a wafer.
7.31.2008 6:08pm
Steve in CA (mail):
I hate to acknowledge Jack at all, but since he's made it through like 3 comments without calling anyone an asshole, I'll indulge.

Jack, I've been to many, many Catholic services, including weddings and funerals (I'm a baptised Catholic myself, never really a believer). Never once have I heard a priest tell the congregation that only Catholics (and Methodists or whoever else) are allowed to take Communion. When I attended with non-Catholics, they would either take communion or stay there in the pews, according to their own conscience. If you go to a church that restricts communion to baptized Catholics or professed believers or something, perhaps your church is a little atyptical.
7.31.2008 6:09pm
Happyshooter:
crime which cannot be named in Christian Company

I give, what is it?
7.31.2008 6:09pm
Chris Bell (mail) (www):
Zippy, it's not a bailment. I bailment implies that you're getting your property back or retaining title in some way. You are only loaning, not giving. It's hard to seriously argue that you are preserving title to the wafer while also giving someone else the right to chew it up and digest it. You can't destroy something that is just loaned to you.

And I don't think you want the wafer back. That's just gross.
7.31.2008 6:10pm
Scote (mail):

Folks: Please avoid personal insults and vulgarisms.


Given that they all pretty much come from one poster, an IP ban might be the more practical approach...
7.31.2008 6:10pm
John McG (mail) (www):

On a (much) higher level, I would argue that the Christian reaction to the antics of a boorish prig like Myers should be to turn the other cheek, since this matter will be addressed in due time, and Myers will eventually get to spend the rest of Eternity dealing with the consequences.


I'm inclined to agree, perhaps adding "shake the dust from our feet." I think when Dr. Myers was planning his stunt, it was appopriate he was somewhat ignorant of how offensive he was being, and let him and his acolytes know.

As he and his acolytes continued to defend it, I came to care less and less, and the actual desecration was a non-event for me.

The damage Myers did was mostly to himself.
7.31.2008 6:11pm
Anon21:
zippypinhead:
The consecrated communion Host is not "freely given" to anybody wandering in off the street during the Eucharist for the recipient to do with as she wants. Legally, possession is best described as transferred only in the form of a limited-purpose bailment. The bailee who left church with the consecrated Host and gave it to Myers exceed the scope of her bailment. Legally, this is both tortious conversion and theft.

I'm simply not convinced that that kind of relationship describes the situation of communion. In order to distinguish it from the freely-given gift it appears to be, you would really have to establish some sort of agreement cognizable by secular law. As Dilan has pointed out, a spiritual contract for spiritual consideration does not qualify; secular courts are under no obligation to enforce such a contract. As far as I can tell, there is no agreement between supplicant and priest. Arguendo, perhaps the "Amen" constitutes an agreement to the factual proposition that the wafer is the body of Christ. Even so, while that may have particular consequences within Catholic religious doctrine and canon law, I don't think the existence of a stipulated "fact" such as the divine nature of the wafer has any bearing on the existence of an agreement to only use the wafer for certain limited purposes.
7.31.2008 6:11pm
Dilan Esper (mail) (www):
Legally, possession is best described as transferred only in the form of a limited-purpose bailment. The bailee who left church with the consecrated Host and gave it to Myers exceed the scope of her bailment. Legally, this is both tortious conversion and theft.

Um, no. I do not deny that the Church COULD create such a bailment, with appropriate contractual language. But it would have to comply with the strictures of the UCC, you'd need the clear knowing assent of the recipient that he or she was entering into a contract, and you'd need consideration (and spiritual consideration doesn't qualify).
7.31.2008 6:15pm
Speedwell (mail):
I think people are overlooking the fact that actual Catholics are actually permitted to remove the Host uneaten from the premises if they did so for a good reason, like visiting the sick or taking it home as a relic to pray over. It's not unlikely that someone who was a recent ex-Catholic had one or two lying around and decided to send them to PZ.
7.31.2008 6:16pm
Ben P (mail):

I give, what is it?


The crime which cannot be named and variants thereof were old laws prohibiting sodomy. The great majority of them were struck down as being unconstitutionally vague quite some time ago, but a few states still retain the unenforced ones on the books.
7.31.2008 6:17pm
Steve P. (mail):
Ben P — The similarity is striking, except that the Jack you're thinking of is a Presbyterian and won't be an attorney much longer.

Scote — Hilarious:
You do realize this is a legal blog, not a fantasy blog, right?
7.31.2008 6:18pm
frankcross (mail):
Actually, from my experience, the consecrated host is given to anybody wandering off the street. I'm not a Catholic, when I attended Church, I happened to know not to go through communion. But my Catholic friend told me that had I done so, I would have received it. There was no screening of recipients. And from observation, they didn't all say "Amen" either yet received communion. Perhaps these were doctrinal errors of the church.

Of course, another defense to claims of fraud or theft would lie in scienter. Tis very possible that the folks who did this were not knowledgeable that it was in any way wrong to take the wafer. I doubt there's any "should have known" rule for religious doctrines not your own.
7.31.2008 6:18pm
Morat20 (mail):
Um, no. I do not deny that the Church COULD create such a bailment, with appropriate contractual language. But it would have to comply with the strictures of the UCC, you'd need the clear knowing assent of the recipient that he or she was entering into a contract, and you'd need consideration (and spiritual consideration doesn't qualify).

Lost in the noise is the simple question: "Would crimalizing this be a good idea?".

I suspect to some it'd be a great idea -- until their particular ox is gored, on the strength of an "implied contractual obligation due to their being witness to a religious ceremony".
7.31.2008 6:19pm
John McG (mail) (www):

It is entirely probable that the student also received threats, especially considering he'd already been physically assaulted over a wafer.



FWIW, the "assault" was a female campus minister half his size grabbing his arm on the way out.

Not an ideal pastoral response, obviously, but not an inevitable precursor to death threats, either.
7.31.2008 6:20pm
NRWO:
Dilan,

I’m curious: What would constitute reasonable precautions by the Church to protect against fraud and that would allow a mass to be conducted without undue interference?

I think the strongest argument for a contractual infringement in this case is that a reasonable person knows that a host is to be consumed during mass, and is not given to be kept and desecrated later on.

The host is analogous to property. When you receive property for a specified purpose, and you have knowledge of that purpose, and you desecrate the property in contravention to that purpose, are you not engaging in a contract violation? Is the property owner entitled to relief?

I don’t understand your distinction between spiritual and secular contracts. There is an arguable point about whether a contract is reasonable and enforceable by law, but labeling a contract as “spiritual” does nothing to make the point.

See here for my take, which is above.
7.31.2008 6:20pm
Lior:
@John McG:
Nobody is defending the death threats.


Indeed people are defending them. Others have argued on this very thread that Prof. Myers's acts are so likely to incite violence as to be constitutionally unprotected.
7.31.2008 6:22pm
Bama 1L:
Steve, my experience with weddings is that sometimes the priest says something and sometimes he doesn't.

When Raymond Hunthausen was archbishop of Seattle, he had a policy of allowing everyone at Catholic weddings to receive the Eucharist. He got in big trouble. (Hunthausen was a little wacky, but his policy was rooted in a provision that allows the baptized and Real Presence-affirming but non-Catholic spouse to take communion during the wedding mass only. There's also a provision for persons in a similar state to receive from Catholic missionaries when they do not have access to their own clergy.)

A non-Catholic I know and trust fully was in a wedding which the current bishop of Colorado Springs celebrated. He is pretty well known for enforcing Eucharistic discipline, but he gave no instruction at this wedding, with the result that a few well-meaning but ignorant non-Catholics received. (It did not help that the bride's mother told the bridal party it would look better if they all got in the communion line and received, and that it wouldn't bother anybody.) My friend had called me during the rehearsal--which included a dry run of the distribution of the sacrament--and I told her our beliefs on the topic.

Pretty much the same thing with ordinary masses. Sometimes there's a notice pasted in the missal or hymnal. Good luck finding that. Sometimes there's an announcement. Sometimes it's in the program. Sometimes nothing. And of course there are people who feel they can take communion anywhere because there should be no divisions among Christians.
7.31.2008 6:22pm
Just a thought:

Jack, I've been to many, many Catholic services, including weddings and funerals (I'm a baptised Catholic myself, never really a believer). Never once have I heard a priest tell the congregation that only Catholics (and Methodists or whoever else) are allowed to take Communion. When I attended with non-Catholics, they would either take communion or stay there in the pews, according to their own conscience. If you go to a church that restricts communion to baptized Catholics or professed believers or something, perhaps your church is a little atyptical.

Steve in CA,

I can assure you that the Catholic Church teaching is that only Catholics in good standing can receive Communion. Unfortunately, it doesn't get mentioned enough at Catholic services (though I've been to many services, especially weddings with people of other faiths in attendance, where it did get mentioned).
7.31.2008 6:22pm
Randy R. (mail):
Jack M: " But most likely, because you don't buy Catholic dogma, you think the emotional wounding of a billion people for the purpose of wounding them is no big deal. Dick."

And yet, the Catholic church has no problem offending billions of people around the world by proclaiming themselve the one true religion, that gays are objectively disordered, and all sorts of other statements.

Something tells me that doesn't bother you, right?

"Why agitate to fire him and threaten to kill him, when the core of your belief has already condemed him to the worst possible punishment? "

Jack M. "This is the typical non-religious reply---some uneductaed non-believer telling religious folks how they should act, merely because they think they should act this way, based on very little knowledge of the religion."

IN other words, when you don't have an answer to a question, just attack the questioner. Hey, it worked in the Inquisition!

(Oh, geez, now I'm gonna get it from Jack...)
7.31.2008 6:26pm
David Schwartz (mail):
NRWO: You just can't do that, sorry. You have combine convenience and obligation because we don't want it to be convenient for you to obligate people. If that makes things inconvenient for your religion, you'll just have to deal with it.

You can't hand out free samples with a "one sample per person" sign and then try to take legal action against the person who comes back for a second sample. If you want to be able to take action, you need to get a more formal agreement. And if you want the convenience of not having to do so, you bear the cost that it's unenforceable.

What do you think should happen to a person who takes a lottery ticket form from a store display, writes his phone number on it, and gives it to a woman he met? Jail time? A 2 cent fine?
7.31.2008 6:28pm
Dilan Esper (mail) (www):
What would constitute reasonable precautions by the Church to protect against fraud and that would allow a mass to be conducted without undue interference?

I could certainly think of some examples, like making someone sign something before receiving the communion, or giving the mass an oral disclaimer before the ceremony.

Mind you, I think that there are a lot of other problems with a fraud claim here, as stated above. But a person who wanted something to be used a certain way but took no precautions at all to ensure it wasn't is not your ideal fraud plaintiff.

I think the strongest argument for a contractual infringement in this case is that a reasonable person knows that a host is to be consumed during mass, and is not given to be kept and desecrated later on.

But that's not enough to create an enforceable obligation. To create an enforceable obligation, you have to show that the parties had a meeting of the minds and exchanged consideration. This is what prevents every little mutual understanding we ever think we reach with anyone from turning into a legal obligation.

Yes, you can imply a contract from conduct, but the conduct has to be unambiguous in manifesting an intention to be legally bound. We aren't even close to this here.

The host is analogous to property. When you receive property for a specified purpose, and you have knowledge of that purpose, and you desecrate the property in contravention to that purpose, are you not engaging in a contract violation? Is the property owner entitled to relief?

Actually, not in most cases. First, you'd need a contract that spelled that out and conditioned the sale or lease on that use. In many circumstances, someone intends for you to use something in a certain way but doesn't create a legal obligation. (For instance, if your mother gives you a car to drive to work and you use it to make out with your girlfriend instead, that doesn't void the gift.)

Second, you'd need mutual consideration (and spiritual consideration doesn't count). Third, even if there was a breach, the plaintiff would probably be limited to actual damages, and could not get the property back.

I don’t understand your distinction between spiritual and secular contracts. There is an arguable point about whether a contract is reasonable and enforceable by law, but labeling a contract as “spiritual” does nothing to make the point.

Contracts require a mutual exchange of something valuable. That's called consideration. E.g., I give you $10,000, you give me a car.

The believer gives nothing legally cognizable for the communion cracker. He or she may give spiritual promises, i.e., promises about the nature of his or her religious belief, but those don't have any legal worth. Thus, the contract fails for lack of consideration.
7.31.2008 6:28pm
Hoosier:
Scote: Now, if the offended Catholics would have cared to identify the consecrated wafers from the ordinary ones I suspect Myers might well have returned them...but the fact is that Catholics can't tell the supposed actual body of their lord (a consecrated wafer) from an ordinary wafer, which is why the concern over consecrated wafers is so silly.

I cannot tell a married woman from an unmarried woman simply by looking at her. Which is why I think this concern about boffing other guys' wives is so silly.
7.31.2008 6:32pm
Hoosier:
Jack M: " But most likely, because you don't buy Catholic dogma, you think the emotional wounding of a billion people for the purpose of wounding them is no big deal. Dick."

(Randy R:)And yet, the Catholic church has no problem offending billions of people around the world by proclaiming themselve the one true religion, that gays are objectively disordered, and all sorts of other statements.


So you think the Catholic Church teaches what it teaches "for the purpose of wounding" people? Or did you just choose to ignore that part of Jack's comment?
7.31.2008 6:35pm
Anderson (mail):
Given that they all pretty much come from one poster, an IP ban might be the more practical approach...

Banning Jack M.'s offensive speech would be pretty ironical, in this context.
7.31.2008 6:35pm
wm13:
I agree with zippypinhead, and disagree with chris bell, dilan esper etc. Bell seems to think that only explicit agreements are enforceable, so that, for instance, if I go to a doctor's office and have a consultation, I could walk out without paying, on the grounds that he never mentioned a fee. (Of course, that wouldn't probably happen these days, but that's another issue.) In fact, I would be obliged to pay the doctor's reasonable fee. And if I know that the store is offering free samples solely for on-premises consumption, and induce the clerk to hand me one with the intent of taking it home, I am stealing. Or if I shovel the peanuts set out on the bar into my purse and take them home, I am stealing, because any reasonable person knows that those peanuts are only for consumption by patrons sitting at the bar.

Now conceivably, there is a factual question here: "Does a reasonable person know that the Catholic Church is offering consecrated wafers only for reverent consumption during the communion ceremony?" Is there someone here who argues that a reasonable person doesn't know that? Another question is "Does a reasonable person know that the Catholic Church is offering consecrated wafers only to baptized Catholics?" Harder question--this one would definitely have to go to the jury.
7.31.2008 6:36pm
cathyf:
I think people are overlooking the fact that actual Catholics are actually permitted to remove the Host uneaten from the premises if they did so for a good reason, like visiting the sick or taking it home as a relic to pray over.
Simply not true. Catholics ministers of the Eucharist (a specific office; not Catholics in general) may take Communion to the sick outside of Mass. But this is on a specific basis, for specific people at a specific time, the host is carried in a specific container which belongs to the church. It's not simply that any Catholic who goes up in the Communion line has the option of taking it home.

Given various discussion in this thread about what would be required to establish a contract, I think that it is pretty clear that if a trained Eucharistic minister took and used a host under false pretenses (e.g. was given three hosts, two to take it to Mrs Smith and Mr Jones in the hospital, and one to Mrs Brown who is homebound, and instead mailed one to PZ Myers for desecration), then the Church would have a good cause for action for fraud.
7.31.2008 6:38pm
NRWO:
Mr. Schwartz: I’m not sure what you’re arguing.

What constitutes a more formal agreement? A reasonable person knows that a host is to be consumed during mass, and is not to be kept and desecrated later on.

(As noted above) The host is analogous to property. When you receive property for a specified purpose, and you have knowledge of that purpose, and you desecrate the property in contravention to that purpose, are you not engaging in a contract violation?
7.31.2008 6:39pm
Chris Bell (mail) (www):
I cannot tell a married woman from an unmarried woman simply by looking at her. Which is why I think this concern about boffing other guys' wives is so silly.
You could try asking the woman. If she lied, you'd still be off the hook as a moral matter because you acted without bad intent.

I don't think you could ask the wafer....

---

I told a Catholic friend about this whole event. He told me that when he was growing up in the Catholic church he was actually told that scientists had performed "DNA tests" on consecrated hosts and there was actual human DNA present.

My friend has since become less gullible. Still, there are people who believe that kind of stuff. The smarter ones say that the host is just filled with the "essence" of Christ.
7.31.2008 6:39pm
Randy R. (mail):
This whole experiment is really, at least to me, a good discussion on the power of symbols. Now, if I were a devout Catholic, I would probably be offended by Myer's actions. But why? It doesn't affect me. It happened far away from me. I wouldn't have known about it except for this blog.

But it's sort of like the American flag. People go bonkers over symbols. The church knows this, and so every religion has its own symbols. These symbols are declared 'sacred' to ensure that no one will dishonor them. And so when some invading force comes in, what's the first thing they do? Why, dishonor the symbols!

The wafer is really nothing more than a symbol. The church got smart and realized that symbols are easily desecrated, so they elevated this particulary symbol into the real thing -- the actual body of Christ. Of course, there is absolutely no grounds for believing (scientific test show nothing has changed), but the belief is nonetheless strong.

Here's a simple solution: Eliminate all symbols. everything. Then there is nothing to desecrate. And then religion can get back to their basics, which is about teaching about God and how one should lead one's life. Jesus had no symbols (or if he did, it was only for teaching purposes and not intended to create meaning in it for all generations hence).

But whether the symbols are pictures of the prophet, or wafers, or crosses, or swastikas, just get rid of them. Then you don't have to worry about someone attacking your symbols.
7.31.2008 6:39pm
Scote (mail):

So you think the Catholic Church teaches what it teaches "for the purpose of wounding" people?



I think this Cectic comic will explain the situation to you.
7.31.2008 6:39pm
Dr. Weevil (mail) (www):
Am I the only one who thinks it's funny (in a sad sort of way) that Scote can write (5:10pm) that the "personal insults and vulgarisms" on this thread "all pretty much come from one poster" after twice (3:11pm and 4:55pm) accusing Catholics of cannibalism and once of desecrating corpses? (How God can be a "corpse" is not clear.) That may not be personal but it's certainly vulgar and insulting, as well as ignorant. I do agree that "an IP ban might be the more practical approach" in some cases.
7.31.2008 6:40pm
Bama 1L:
But you can't possibly pay for the Eucharist! It would be simony if anyone took the payment! So how is there a breach of implied contract and what are the damages?

"Stealing" a consecrated host is more like crashing a wedding than not paying a doctor or eating peanuts at a bar--which suggests trespass is a good route to explore.
7.31.2008 6:40pm
Scote (mail):

My friend has since become less gullible. Still, there are people who believe that kind of stuff. The smarter ones say that the host is just filled with the "essence" of Christ.

Such people are more properly called "Protestants."

Accepting that the host is the actual, not symbolic, body of Christ is a fundamental tenet of the Catholic faith and is not optional. If you don't believe it you are not catholic. Catholicism isn't a democracy.
7.31.2008 6:42pm
Randy R. (mail):
Hoosier: "So you think the Catholic Church teaches what it teaches "for the purpose of wounding" people? Or did you just choose to ignore that part of Jack's comment?"

Surely, they know that it *would* wound people to even imply that their religion is false, no? But even if they are that careless, the intent isn't the issue, but rather the effect. People are wounded regardless.

I'm not sure if Myer's ever heard of Jack M, much less intend to would him. Yet wound him he did, as we have all found out.
7.31.2008 6:43pm
Dilan Esper (mail) (www):
I agree with zippypinhead, and disagree with chris bell, dilan esper etc. Bell seems to think that only explicit agreements are enforceable, so that, for instance, if I go to a doctor's office and have a consultation, I could walk out without paying, on the grounds that he never mentioned a fee. (Of course, that wouldn't probably happen these days, but that's another issue.) In fact, I would be obliged to pay the doctor's reasonable fee. And if I know that the store is offering free samples solely for on-premises consumption, and induce the clerk to hand me one with the intent of taking it home, I am stealing. Or if I shovel the peanuts set out on the bar into my purse and take them home, I am stealing, because any reasonable person knows that those peanuts are only for consumption by patrons sitting at the bar.

Now conceivably, there is a factual question here: "Does a reasonable person know that the Catholic Church is offering consecrated wafers only for reverent consumption during the communion ceremony?"

You are confusing monetary payment, which is a valid form of consideration, with spiritual consideration.

If a reasonable person knew that the Church charged money for communion crackers, then acceptance of the cracker could constitute a binding contract. But since the only things the Church requires in exchange are spiritual, there is no enforceable obligation.
7.31.2008 6:45pm
Scote (mail):

Am I the only one who thinks it's funny (in a sad sort of way) that Scote can write (5:10pm) that the "personal insults and vulgarisms" on this thread "all pretty much come from one poster" after twice (3:11pm and 4:55pm) accusing Catholics of cannibalism and once of desecrating corpses? (How God can be a "corpse" is not clear.)

Are those either personal insults or vulgarisms? No, they are not. Eating the flesh of your own kind is called cannibalism. Catholics claim to eat the actual body of Christ and drink the actual blood of Christ in Communion. Those are just facts.

As to how a god can be a "corpse," why not ask, oh, I don't know, Christians, who claim their god "died" on the cross for their sins. Rather an odd theological concept but not one of my making.
7.31.2008 6:46pm
Randy R. (mail):
Dr. Weevil: "Am I the only one who thinks it's funny (in a sad sort of way) that Scote can write (5:10pm) that the "personal insults and vulgarisms" on this thread "all pretty much come from one poster" after twice (3:11pm and 4:55pm) accusing Catholics of cannibalism and once of desecrating corpses? (How God can be a "corpse" is not clear.) "

The answer, so far, is yes you are.

The wafer becomes the body of Christ. Although Christ was the son of God, he isn't God himself. Rather, while on earth, he was flesh and blood, which is exactly what the wafer and the wine turn in to. Therefore, Catholics are indeed eating his body and drinking his blood. That the whole POINT of it!

In fact, one of my favorite hymns from Sunday School goes as part of the refrain, "Eat his body, drink his blood, gather round, the table of the Lord...."
7.31.2008 6:48pm
Scote (mail):

If a reasonable person knew that the Church charged money for communion crackers, then acceptance of the cracker could constitute a binding contract. But since the only things the Church requires in exchange are spiritual, there is no enforceable obligation.


If money were involved I'd have a hard time seeing a court enforcing the "you must swallow the Lord" provision. I pay money for food all the time but with the exception of an all you can eat buffet (where taking food would cost the establishment money) or alcoholic drinks, I'm free to take the food with me.
7.31.2008 6:50pm
Thales (mail) (www):
I claim only a reasonably educated layperson's knowledge of biblical scripture, but whatever happened to rendering unto Caesar? Silly legal arguments (and they are silly, for reasons detailed ad nauseam above) aside, why not just conclude that Myers did something completely legal under the only law that binds him, human law (of his country and state), and that he did something grossly offensive to the mores and possibly canonical law of a religious organization, which has no claim over him whatsoever?
7.31.2008 6:51pm
Hoosier:
The wafer is really nothing more than a symbol.
Not to Catholics. Absolutely not.
7.31.2008 6:52pm
Randy R. (mail):
Chris Bell: " He told me that when he was growing up in the Catholic church he was actually told that scientists had performed "DNA tests" on consecrated hosts and there was actual human DNA present. "

Well sure there was! From the flaks of dead cells from the person who held the host.

If it were a person of the church who told him this, then the church was either lying to get you to believe, or at the least was intentioanally misleading.

Of course, the Catholic Church would NEVER do such a thing. Ever.
7.31.2008 6:52pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
The only way one can be "wounded" by hearing one's faith is false is if one suspects just a teeny, leetle bit that it might be true.
If you don't think that, it's just hot air, meaning nothing. The "wounding" is a fake, a pretense to get somebody to apologize or self-censor, or to advertise how sensitive you are.
7.31.2008 6:52pm
Dr. Weevil (mail) (www):
Why don't you ask Christians yourself, Scote, who will gladly tell you that Christ rose from the dead on the third day around 1975 years ago. He's not dead any more -- or so Catholics and other Christians believe -- so calling the host a "corpse" is ignorant and insulting. I assume the latter is intentional. Who was it who said that anti-Catholicism is the anti-Semitism of the intellectuals? I'm getting more than a whiff of that here.
7.31.2008 6:53pm
Hoosier:
Randy R: Although Christ was the son of God, he isn't God himself.

I think you have us confused with the Jehovah's Witnesses.
7.31.2008 6:53pm
Hoosier:
Randy R:

"God from God
Light from Light
True God from True God
Begotten, not Made
One in being with the Father . . . "

Sound familiar?
7.31.2008 6:55pm
Dr. Weevil (mail) (www):
Richard Aubrey (5:52pm):
Like most other religious believers, Catholics don't object to hearing others calling their religion false. They do object to having their sacred rites desecrated.
7.31.2008 6:57pm
Dilan Esper (mail) (www):
If money were involved I'd have a hard time seeing a court enforcing the "you must swallow the Lord" provision. I pay money for food all the time but with the exception of an all you can eat buffet (where taking food would cost the establishment money) or alcoholic drinks, I'm free to take the food with me.

But without money, you don't really have any consideration and thus no enforceable contract. With money, then it becomes a question of whether the conditions that are placed on the usage of the item are legally enforceable.
7.31.2008 6:59pm
Hoosier:
If it were a person of the church who told him this, then the church was either lying to get you to believe, or at the least was intentioanally misleading.

Of course, the Catholic Church would NEVER do such a thing. Ever.


You know, I hear a lot of these "The Catholic Church used to say . . ." stories. But the Catholic Church makes these stories easy to follow up. Just check and see if, around that time, there was ever any sort of decretal regarding Jesus's DNA and consecrated hosts.

I could save you the time, since this was all resolved in Patristic times. But, hell, lots of people on here seem to have as much free time as I do.
7.31.2008 6:59pm
Randy R. (mail):
Hoosier: "The wafer is really nothing more than a symbol.
Not to Catholics. Absolutely not."

Well, certianly, from the perspective of the Catholic, it isn't a symbol. It's the real body of Christ. And the wine is the real blood of Christ.

However, I can believe that my chair has healing powers and is holy. I can even believe that my chair is made with the bones of Christ, and I can venerate it. I can even start a new religion, and have as a requirement that all believers must believe that the chair is made with the bones of Christ. That doesn't make it true.

If someone came in and smashed my chair, I would be mightily angry, and upset. Reasonabley so. But bottomline: It isn't about the chair, and it isn't about the wafer. It's about what faith and religion is really about, which is who or what God is, and how we are supposed to treat each other, and live our lives that really matters.

At least that's just me. Others may disagree.
7.31.2008 6:59pm
Scote (mail):

Dr. Weevil (mail) (www):
Richard Aubrey (5:52pm):
Like most other religious believers, Catholics don't object to hearing others calling their religion false. They do object to having their sacred rites desecrated.

One and the same.
7.31.2008 7:00pm
musefree (www):
My thoughts on the matter (which are similar to some of the views expressed on this thread) are here. Excerpt:

When I first read about P.Z. Myers' decision to destroy a consecrated communion wafer (which he followed up with actual action), I was appalled at his lack of regard for the feelings of a billion people who had never personally offended him.

However the angry reaction of fundamentalists (who are now calling for a law against blasphemy) has tempered my view of Myers' action. Being nice to people is a wonderful trait but there can be no real compromise with those who believe in enforcing niceness through censorship.

I am not sure what the appropriate reaction to religious fundamentalists is. Myers' way -- which I certainly sympathize with -- may not unfortunately be the most effective approach to quieten them. However, I happily welcome attempts to convince me it is; anyone who succeeds in doing does that earns a photo of me destroying a holy cracker. No kidding.
7.31.2008 7:01pm
John McG (mail) (www):


Now conceivably, there is a factual question here: "Does a reasonable person know that the Catholic Church is offering consecrated wafers only for reverent consumption during the communion ceremony?" Is there someone here who argues that a reasonable person doesn't know that?


It is possible someone would not know that.

In the context of Myers's stunt, I think it is vanishingly unlikely that the host was acquired out of ignorance of what should be done with it.

---

I think it's unfortunate that people are pushing for criminal and legal consequences, when I think social consequences would be more appropriate and sufficient.

If someone empties the tray of samples at Sam's, I don't want to see him arrested, but he is being a jerk.

That communicants are expected to reverntly consume the Eucharist may not be a legally binding contract, but our society works based on the assumption that people respect implicit agreements like this.
7.31.2008 7:02pm
cathyf:
Like most other religious believers, Catholics don't object to hearing others calling their religion false.
No, actually the 1st amendment protects our right to object to it, or to object to or assent to pretty much anything else.
7.31.2008 7:02pm
Hoosier:
Dilan Esper

IANAL, but I can't fault your reasoning. This strikes me as one of those times where people think "There Oughta be a LAW!" under the influence of righteous indignation. But there isn't a law.

If the Catholic Church is right, then this prof will be punished, by and by.
7.31.2008 7:03pm
Elliot123 (mail):
Thank god his faithful Christian followers have lost their civil power.
7.31.2008 7:04pm
Scote (mail):

If someone empties the tray of samples at Sam's, I don't want to see him arrested, but he is being a jerk.


Not analogous. The analogy would be taking one sample at Sam's and walking out with it for later use. Nobody has been accused of taking an entire tray of communion wafers in relation to this story.
7.31.2008 7:04pm
Randy R. (mail):
As a lapsed Catholic (can't I EVER escape it's clutches!) I'm not up on what church doctrine is, so I concede to others what it teaches.

And yes, there are plenty of stories about the church, some true, some false. I love making fun of the church, because I grew up in it and saw a lot of hypocracy and silliness, so I'm a little hard on it. What I loved was the music, the stained glass, all the ceremony, and the best of the theology. Another of my favorite hymns was "They will know we are Christians by our love, by our love, yes they'll know we are Christians by our love." IT's a strange hymn because it's written in a minor key, giving it a hint of menace, which is a wonderful counterpoint to the lyrics.

I only wish the Church would actually live up to its ideals instead of playing to it's basest nature. But then there wouldn't be any thing left to make fun of....
7.31.2008 7:04pm
Hoosier:
Well, certianly, from the perspective of the Catholic, it isn't a symbol. It's the real body of Christ. And the wine is the real blood of Christ.

Actually, the host is both body and blood, as is the consecrated wine. The Church claims many things. But the ability to subdivide God-Made-Flesh into his constituent components ain't one of those things! ;-)
7.31.2008 7:05pm
Hoosier:
What I loved was the music, the stained glass, all the ceremony, and the best of the theology
From your mouth to God's ear, my friend. And ENOUGH WITH THOSE STUPID 'GUITAR MASSES' ALREADY!
7.31.2008 7:06pm
Morat20 (mail):
This strikes me as one of those times where people think "There Oughta be a LAW!" under the influence of righteous indignation. But there isn't a law.

And good thing there isn't. Questions of free speech and secular law aside, the potential for abuse would be staggering.
7.31.2008 7:08pm
Scote (mail):

Actually, the host is both body and blood, as is the consecrated wine. The Church claims many things. But the ability to subdivide God-Made-Flesh into his constituent components ain't one of those things! ;-)


Well, if the wiki is to be believed, that isn't so:

In 1551 the Council of Trent officially defined, with a minimum of technical philosophical language, [18] that "by the consecration of the bread and wine there takes place a change of the whole substance of the bread into the substance of the body of Christ our Lord and of the whole substance of the wine into the substance of his blood. This change the holy Catholic Church has fittingly and properly called transubstantiation."[32]
7.31.2008 7:09pm
Randy R. (mail):
Heck, I say bring back the latin mass. At least, for no other reason, we get to learn a dead language.
7.31.2008 7:10pm
cathyf:
Hey, Hoosier, you might have noticed that both of the specific examples of beloved music proferred were late-60's 'guitar mass' staples. (But then, as we've seen multiple times in this very thread, you don't need to actually know anything about a practice to scream -- in capital letters -- that it's STUPID.)
7.31.2008 7:12pm
Morat20 (mail):
Heck, I say bring back the latin mass. At least, for no other reason, we get to learn a dead language.

It's not as useful as you'd think, unless someone needs a good motto in what Pratchett calls "dog Latin". *sigh*. I used to read it almost as fluently as I did English, but those days are LONG past.
7.31.2008 7:12pm
Public_Defender (mail):
The complainers need to get a life. Why can't they be happy that pretty much everyone agrees that Myers is a douche bag? The complainers are playing Myers' game, and they risk turning a douche bag into a martyr. They should just declare victory in the near-universal belief that Myers is a jerk, and move on.

The complainers remind me of how some liberals foolishly fall into the traps that David Horowitz sets.
7.31.2008 7:19pm
chuck c (mail):
I go to an all-you-can-eat buffet, pay the $4.95, place some food in a bag and exit.

Is this considered theft if there is a "no takeout" rule?

Does the amount of food matter? (One drumstick vs 5 pounds of shrimp)

Does the location of the "no takeout" sign matter?
(Big sign vs printed on menu)

Is there an implied notice? ("all you can eat implicitly implies no-takeout")

Does it matter if the food has no value to the buffet? (I do this at closing time, the restaurant throws any leftover food out)
7.31.2008 7:22pm
Anderson (mail):
wm13: I could walk out without paying, on the grounds that he never mentioned a fee.

I think that's one reason why every doctor's office I've been in has a sign by the window, "Payment Expected At Time That Services Are Rendered."

But really, I think that the doctor would have to file a quantum meruit action -- I provided a service, patient benefited from it, I'm entitled to receive reasonable compensation.

Quasi-contract, in other words.
7.31.2008 7:22pm
Hoosier:
Randy R: The REAL reason I advocate for a more, um, "lenient" treatment of gays by the Church: Without you guys, liturgy would die a horrible, and very ugly, death. Really, the number of gay Catholics who want to be allowed to hear Mass in Latin is very high. One of my former housemates was so devoted to the aesthetics of the Church, he became a priest. (A Dominican, of course.)

Scote:

I wouldn't trust Wiki on this. Here's what the Catholic Encyclopedia (First Edition) has to say, in part:

In order to forestall at the very outset, the unworthy notion, that in the Eucharist we receive merely the Body and merely the Blood of Christ but not Christ in His entirety, the Council of Trent defined the Real Presence to be such as to include with Christ's Body and His Soul and Divinity as well. A strictly logical conclusion from the words of promise: "he that eateth me the same also shall live by me", this Totality of Presence was also the constant property of tradition, which characterized the partaking of separated parts of the Savior as a sarcophagy (flesh-eating) altogether derogatory to God. Although the separation of the Body, Blood, Soul, and Logos, is, absolutely speaking, within the almighty power of God, yet then actual inseparability is firmly established by the dogma of the indissolubility of the hypostatic union of Christ's Divinity and Humanity.
7.31.2008 7:23pm
Hoosier:
cathyf--You mean like "They Will Know We are Chrisitans"?

Yeah. I'm a Tantum Ergo Sacramentum guy living in a "Glory and Praise" world. It sucks, really.
7.31.2008 7:25pm
Anderson (mail):
Chuck C suggests an important new field of study -- Empirical Law!

Go try it &let us know what happens, Chuck!
7.31.2008 7:26pm
wm13:
"If a reasonable person knew that the Church charged money for communion crackers, then acceptance of the cracker could constitute a binding contract. But since the only things the Church requires in exchange are spiritual, there is no enforceable obligation."

I don't think that's the law. Someone above made the "wedding crasher" analogy. If I sneak into a party, the host may have me arrested. This is so even though he didn't charge admission to the party. The condition for attendance at the party, which I didn't meet and knew I didn't meet, was that I be an invited guest. Financial consideration is irrelevant. Or if I knew that a church group of which I was not a member was getting on a bus to someplace I wanted to go, and I got on, I would be guilty of theft of services, even though the church group didn't offer bus trips for money.

I repeat, obtaining property or services under false pretences, which includes taking the items when you know they are intended for another person or another purpose, is illegal.
7.31.2008 7:26pm
Chris Bell (mail) (www):
John McG said:
That communicants are expected to reverntly consume the Eucharist may not be a legally binding contract, but our society works based on the assumption that people respect implicit agreements like this.
I think that's about right and I would completely agree if people just wanted to call Myers names and then call it a day.

However, the whole thing started when it was reported that a kid was receiving death threats for taking a host. Myers flipped and said he would treat a host badly too, I guess as punishment to those who sent death threats to the kid. (Look what you did with your bad behavior, you just got another host desecrated sort of thing.) Myers received many a death threat himself.
7.31.2008 7:27pm
Hoosier:
Scote--Extra-credit if you can paraphrase that statement in 50 words or fewer.
7.31.2008 7:27pm
drgeox (mail):
A thought occurred to me while reading this, couldn't the CAtholic church simply institute a rule that says that transubstantiation is void if the host is removed from a consecrated site of worship? I think they already have a rule that if the host is sold, it is no longer considered the body of Christ? If so, then there is a precedent for consecration of the communion wafer to be reversed under a given set of circumstances. In this case, Catholics could rest easy because any host removed in an unauthorized way would no longer be considered the Body.
7.31.2008 7:30pm
John McG (mail) (www):

Not analogous. The analogy would be taking one sample at Sam's and walking out with it for later use. Nobody has been accused of taking an entire tray of communion wafers in relation to this story.


Thank you for illustrating my point -- the emphasis on legal remedies leads to this tiresome argument over details and over whether certain analogies are perfect.

Jerky behavior is jerky behavior. Whether it's taking more than your share of free samples, or packing a cooler at an all you can eat buffet. Yes, if the buffet doesn't have a sign saying you shouln't do it, it might not be a prosecutable theft. But it's jerky behavior regardless.

I guess this is a legal blog, so this is what I should exepct.
7.31.2008 7:30pm
Hoosier:
Myers received many a death threat himself.

If the threat takes the form of a disembodied hand writing the words on his dinning-room wall, he should probably take it seriously.

Though I don't know whom he could report it to. The police? The U of M Department of Religious Studies?

So many questions . . .
7.31.2008 7:31pm
Morat20 (mail):
Jerky behavior is jerky behavior. Whether it's taking more than your share of free samples, or packing a cooler at an all you can eat buffet. Yes, if the buffet doesn't have a sign saying you shouln't do it, it might not be a prosecutable theft. But it's jerky behavior regardless.

There's no one here -- or at least, no one I've seen -- who considers it unjerky behavior. Even Myers showed quite clear awareness that he was doing something particularly upsetting, and knew exactly why others found it upsetting even if he found it meaningless.

The question -- and problem -- at hand is the people straining to make it a crime. It's not just here on a legal blog. When I first bumped into this story, it was people trying to make the initial kid a criminal for it. As in "get him arrested and charged".
7.31.2008 7:32pm
Anderson (mail):
The condition for attendance at the party, which I didn't meet and knew I didn't meet, was that I be an invited guest.

It could, in theory, be an open party -- right?

Jerky behavior is jerky behavior.

Right. I have no remedy at law for Jack M.'s calling me a dick. I just have to live with the pain as best I can, until the healing tides of Forgetfulness have washed my spirit clean.
7.31.2008 7:33pm
Dilan Esper (mail) (www):
I don't think that's the law. Someone above made the "wedding crasher" analogy. If I sneak into a party, the host may have me arrested. This is so even though he didn't charge admission to the party. The condition for attendance at the party, which I didn't meet and knew I didn't meet, was that I be an invited guest. Financial consideration is irrelevant. Or if I knew that a church group of which I was not a member was getting on a bus to someplace I wanted to go, and I got on, I would be guilty of theft of services, even though the church group didn't offer bus trips for money.

In each of those examples, you have tangible property that is not going to be consumed in the endeavor (the land that the wedding is held upon, or the bus that is being used to transport the church group). So nobody is being given anything; people are being allowed to use property for a limited time and for a limited purpose. Because one of the bundle of rights inherent in property is the right to exclude others from using the property, someone who is not using the property for the limited purpose is a trespasser.

In contrast, the cracker is being given by the Church for consumption. They don't want it back. When you give something to another person, and do not ask for it back, you generally do not have any legal right to proscribe how that object is used, absent a contract and legal consideration. When you give your son a car (sign over the title) so that he can drive to work, and he uses the car to make out with his girlfriend instead, you can't use the legal system to preclude him from doing that or get the car back.

Doctrinally, you need a source for the right to prevent a person from using a cracker given to him or her for consumption and without legal consideration in exchange in the manner in which that person sees fit. There's no such doctrine in property law, because the Church is giving the property, not letting it. There's no such doctrine in contract law, because there isn't a contract.
7.31.2008 7:34pm
zippypinhead:
Here's a simple solution: Eliminate all symbols. everything. Then there is nothing to desecrate. And then religion can get back to their basics, which is about teaching about God and how one should lead one's life.
Sigh... a simple solution actually implemented by the Taliban. Google "Buddhas of Bamiyan" or read about what they did to the National Museum of Afghanistan.

Here's a thought, since we're speaking of symbols: in related contexts, symbols matter Constitutionally and legally, regardless who "owns" them. Publicly burning a cross that the actor possesses in fee simple absolute is not protected speech if done with the intent of intimidating the target of the "speech," or if it will tend to incite an immediate breach of the peace. I believe the Supreme Court reiterated this general point as recently as 2003, in Virginia v. Black.

Here, Myers carried out and publicized what most folks (not including Scote, apparently) agree was a deliberately outrageous act of disrespect toward a sacred symbol of a specific religious group. Whether this rises to the level of "fighting words" or was specifically intended to intimidate is a question of fact that depends on the context. Even assuming it does not, a strong argument can be made that such a publicly overt act of intentional hostility toward a specific religion would raise a reasonable question in the mind of a student whether Myers as a professor might retaliate against a student he discovers is affiliated with that religion (e.g., by being seen wearing a crucifix). Thus raising significant concerns about whether he should face employment related discipline. Regardless whether it took place off campus.

Do you think an 18-year old college student might just be intimidated into not wearing her crucifix in Myers' biology class? Of skipping participating in Ash Wednesday services? Especially if she was pre-med and even a slightly-lower grade could adversely impact her future career? Heck, as a 40-something lawyer, I think I'd still be rather torn between the practicalities of free exercise of my own rights versus offending someone with basically unfettered discretion over my future.

Instead of destroying a consecrated Host, what if Myers had burned a cross off-campus while wearing a Klan robe and hood -- and then blogged about it to make sure everyone understood he was doing it out of racial animus? Or if Myers had done something similarly outrageous to show hostility towards, say, gays? In either event, the faculty disciplinary committee of the University of Minnesota would be all over him. But since he "only" did it to Catholics, he gets a bye? Something smells like a bit of a double-standard here, folks.
7.31.2008 7:35pm
Hoosier:
couldn't the CAtholic church simply institute a rule that says that transubstantiation is void if the host is removed from a consecrated site of worship?

Nope.

The Church asserts that it confers sacraments, but cannot undo them. This is why the rules on divorce, though pastorally hard, are the only thing the Church could teach. To recognize divorce--don't get me started on annulment!--would imply that the Church can confer a sacrament, and then take it back.

Smae goes for Holy Orders. There is no such thing, canonically, as an "ex-Catholic priest." Just a laicized priest, who can no loger licitly perform the priestly role. But he is still a priest: sacraments confer ontological change, as per the Church's teaching.

Keep in mind that even an excommunicated Catholic is not an "ex-Catholic." He still is required to attend Mass on Sundays and Holy Days of Obligation. The Church can't remove his baptism as a Catholic. Thus, he still has all of the obligations of a communicant, with the obvious exceptions.

In other words: being Catholic ain't easy.
7.31.2008 7:37pm
cathyf:
A thought occurred to me while reading this, couldn't the CAtholic church simply institute a rule that says...?
The urge to respond to this with snark is almost irresistable, but I will try...

drgeox, do you really believe that Catholics make up whatever random things they want because they seem convenient? As opposed to teaching the things that they actually believe because, well, they actually believe them to be true? What about other religions?
7.31.2008 7:38pm
Bama 1L:
I came up with the wedding crasher, but we still need to nuance it.

The wedding crasher was a trespasser the minute he entered the reception hall without an invitation and could be ejected upon discovery.

The false communicant, however, was not a trespasser on entry, because Catholic masses are open to all. I guess that he became a trespasser when he took a host without permission. It's the "break a rule, become a trespasser" situation.

But then all we can do is eject the trespasser and extract damages, which are probably nominal. I don't think you can get emotional damages on trespass--does anyone think you can?

Not to mention that there's the practical problem of identifying the trespasser. We spot the wedding crasher because he's a stranger, but at most Catholic parishes we expect a few strangers--we even welcome them!

I was also thinking through unjust enrichment/quasi-contract/quantum meruit claims, but I think damages there are based on the benefit received, which, again, is nominal. (Indeed, if you stick to dogma, Catholics would believe that those who receive the Eucharist unworthily do so to their destruction!) Even if it is based on service provided, again, tiny. No emotional damages in contract generally, and certainly not in this case. And if the false communicant puts a dollar in the offering dish, then he's probably paid more than the value and there can be no damages.
7.31.2008 7:39pm
John McG (mail) (www):
I see your point zippy, but as a Catholic, I'm not particularly eager to join the Coalition of the Oppressed.
7.31.2008 7:40pm
Hoosier:
The question -- and problem -- at hand is the people straining to make it a crime. It's not just here on a legal blog. When I first bumped into this story, it was people trying to make the initial kid a criminal for it. As in "get him arrested and charged".

Yeah. IANAL, so perhaps there is something to the "theft of property" argument. But even if so, speaking as something of an RC, I don't want to see the state brought into this.

Non-Lawyer Question: The state CAN prosecute me if I claim my product is Kosher, but it isn't. Does this apply even if I have given it away for free? The above discussion of hosts has me curious: Does there have to be a monetary damage for the state to get involved in a matter of religious law? Some sort of "impled contract" that has a monetary component?
7.31.2008 7:40pm
Charlie (Colorado) (mail):
My best guess is that someone is holding a "who can be the biggest asshole?" contest.
7.31.2008 7:41pm
drgeox (mail):
I don't think that's the law. Someone above made the "wedding crasher" analogy. If I sneak into a party, the host may have me arrested



I think they could have you arrested, but you would probably be charged with trespassing, not with stealing food. It's a little tougher to charge trespass at a church service, since they are more-or-less open to the public. I think the congregation would be more than within their legal rights to bar Webster Cook from its premises and ask that he be arrested for trespass if he violates, but there really is no basis on which to bring legal action against him for the original act of removing the wafer.
7.31.2008 7:41pm
Hoosier:
Umm . . .

Is there any reason why we can't agree to say "host" instead of "cracker"? Would that courtesy to VC's Catholics constitute a serious assault upon anyone's conscience?
7.31.2008 7:45pm
drgeox (mail):

drgeox, do you really believe that Catholics make up whatever random things they want because they seem convenient?



No snark intended, and, well, yes. After all, wasn't the ban on selling the host (along with all kinds of other rules against selling of indulgences) instituted in order to curb clergical abuses in the medieval church?
7.31.2008 7:45pm
Scote (mail):

Hoosier wrote:
I wouldn't trust Wiki on this. Here's what the Catholic Encyclopedia (First Edition) has to say, in part:


I'm going to stick with the wiki. It is an exact quote from the Council of Trent. Your claim was:

Actually, the host is both body and blood, as is the consecrated wine. The Church claims many things. But the ability to subdivide God-Made-Flesh into his constituent components ain't one of those things! ;-)


i.e, that the Church doesn't claim that the wafer is body and wine is blood. The Council of Trent clearly contradicts that claim:


CHAPTER IV.
On Transubstantiation.

And because that Christ, our Redeemer, declared that which He offered under the species of bread to be truly His own body, therefore has it ever been a firm belief in the Church of God, and this holy Synod doth now declare it anew, that, by the consecration of the bread and of the wine, a conversion is made of the whole substance of the bread into the substance of the body of Christ our Lord, and of the whole substance of the wine into the substance of His blood; which conversion is, by the holy Catholic Church, suitably and properly called
7.31.2008 7:46pm
Dilan Esper (mail) (www):
Publicly burning a cross that the actor possesses in fee simple absolute is not protected speech if done with the intent of intimidating the target of the "speech," or if it will tend to incite an immediate breach of the peace. I believe the Supreme Court reiterated this general point as recently as 2003, in Virginia v. Black.

I don't think much of the reasoning of Black. But to the extent it was rightly decided, it turns on cross-burning being an actual threat. In other words, someone who burns a cross is saying "I am going to kill you" and is saying it in a manner that is particularly associated with actually carrying out the threat.

In contrast, Myers isn't threatening Catholics. He is pissing them off. Enormously. (Which is why I don't think he should have done it.) But that's very different from a threat.

Rather, the better analogy is to flag burning, which is not a threat, but which pisses a lot of Americans off quite a lot. And the Supreme Court has ruled twice that flag burning is constitutionally protected.

Whether this rises to the level of "fighting words" or was specifically intended to intimidate is a question of fact that depends on the context.

Not if "context" has its ordinary meaning. I suppose one could come up with some set of facts in which the disrespect of a communion cracker could constitute an immediate breach of the peace. Doing it inside a Catholic Church, in a particularly demonstrative manner, during the middle of Mass, perhaps.

But what Myers did-- disrespecting a communion cracker in his private quarters and then posting a photo of it on the Internet-- cannot be fighting words if that exception doesn't swallow the First Amendment.

Even assuming it does not, a strong argument can be made that such a publicly overt act of intentional hostility toward a specific religion would raise a reasonable question in the mind of a student whether Myers as a professor might retaliate against a student he discovers is affiliated with that religion (e.g., by being seen wearing a crucifix). Thus raising significant concerns about whether he should face employment related discipline. Regardless whether it took place off campus.

This is a big stretch. It seems to me that you could make the same claim about any strident public expression of atheism or non-Catholicism by a college professor. Not only is it not plausible, but if we accepted this, we would put a serious dent into academic freedom.

Instead of destroying a consecrated Host, what if Myers had burned a cross off-campus while wearing a Klan robe and hood -- and then blogged about it to make sure everyone understood he was doing it out of racial animus? Or if Myers had done something similarly outrageous to show hostility towards, say, gays? In either event, the faculty disciplinary committee of the University of Minnesota would be all over him. But since he "only" did it to Catholics, he gets a bye? Something smells like a bit of a double-standard here, folks.

I am sure that some college administrators would apply double standards. And they would be wrong to do so. Other college administrators would stand up for academic freedom. But the proper response to a double standard is not to restrict the freedom of everyone. It's to defend the rights of everyone.
7.31.2008 7:46pm
Hoosier:
It's a little tougher to charge trespass at a church service, since they are more-or-less open to the public.

drgeox is almost certainly correct on this one, though, again, IANAL.

Catholic Churches that, for instance, are used for concerts--MUST be sacred music--are not allowed to sell tickets or charge admission. The church building, when unlocked, is open to all. So I cannot see a "tresspass" charge getting very far.
7.31.2008 7:48pm
Dilan Esper (mail) (www):
Is there any reason why we can't agree to say "host" instead of "cracker"? Would that courtesy to VC's Catholics constitute a serious assault upon anyone's conscience?

Non-believers don't believe that it is a "host" for anything. So it's down to "wafer" vs. "cracker", and they are synonyms. For some reason, "cracker" rubs some people the wrong way, but until someone can provide me with a secular reason for why it is a "wafer" but is not a "cracker", I don't see what the big deal is.
7.31.2008 7:49pm
Scote (mail):

Hoosier:
Umm . . .

Is there any reason why we can't agree to say "host" instead of "cracker"? Would that courtesy to VC's Catholics constitute a serious assault upon anyone's conscience?


Why should anyone have to pander to Catholic's choice of words? Why can't you pander to mine? Why are yours deserving deference to the exclusion of mine?

Though, you might note, I, myself, have not, IIRC, called the wafers "crackers" in this thread.
7.31.2008 7:50pm
Morat20 (mail):
Yeah. IANAL, so perhaps there is something to the "theft of property" argument. But even if so, speaking as something of an RC, I don't want to see the state brought into this.
No, theft is right out since they were giving the things away. All that stuff about "the ritual being an implicit contract" only works if you ignore virtually all the related law and legal reasoning in order to force it to be a crime.

Now, the Church was certainly within their rights to ask him to leave (and have him arrested for trespassing if he didn't), and certainly could bar him from the premises in the future (As they could anyone, really).

If I was straining to make a crime here, I think I'd have better luck against the Church proper for attempting to prevent him from leaving with the wafer. Under any reasonable reading of the law, the wafer was given to him freely and was his property. Attempting to prevent him from leaving unless he surrendered his property to them would seem to violate a few laws.

Now, no one in their right mind would ever prosecute it -- especially since the restraint was pretty much "hand on the arm, 'Hey, give that back'" sort, but it's a far more solid offense than trying to force undertaking Communion as a legally binding contract in which the celebrant is agreeing to dispose of the Church's property in a specific manner.

Especially since the penalty clauses are all about hell, and not about civil or legal liability. :)
7.31.2008 7:50pm
cathyf:
The question -- and problem -- at hand is the people straining to make it a crime.
Well, I think that there is another problem at hand, which are people arguing that it can't be a crime because the Catholic Church does X, Y and/or Z, and/or believes A, B and/or C, when in fact the Cathlic Church does not do X, Y, or Z nor believes A, B or C. A conclusion may or may not hold based upon other factors, but false things being asserted in support of true arguments are still false.
7.31.2008 7:52pm
Hoosier:
Scote:
I'm sorry to have to disappoint you on the Tridentine matter. But the neat thing about being RC is that, in our confusing world, we can answer certain things with certainty. Thus I give you, directly from the Cathechism of the Roman Catholic Church, the ANSWER:

1377 The Eucharistic presence of Christ begins at the moment of the consecration and endures as long as the Eucharistic species subsist. Christ is present whole and entire in each of the species and whole and entire in each of their parts, in such a way that the breaking of the bread does not divide Christ.

As to why you have to "pander" to Catholics: You don't. But you might decide to be polite.

Dilan Esper: Re: "host" isn't the host of anything.

So by using the word 'Catholic,' are you asserting that that the Church is in fact Universal?
7.31.2008 7:56pm
Hoosier:
OK. Gotta go.

If you need me, I'll be in the Loggia. (Or, to make Dilan Esper happy, "the open-air walky place.")
7.31.2008 7:58pm
wm13:
Dilan Esper, you have made up a very specific rule: "Theft of property does not include taking tangible personal property intended for immediate consumption if I didn't commit a trespass to real property in the course of obtaining the personal property in question." I agree that your particular rule gets Myers off the hook. But I don't think your rule is the law. You didn't deal with my peanuts on the bar hypothetical. Are you saying that it's not theft to shovel the peanuts into your purse?
7.31.2008 7:58pm
Scote (mail):

1377 The Eucharistic presence of Christ begins at the moment of the consecration and endures as long as the Eucharistic species subsist. Christ is present whole and entire in each of the species and whole and entire in each of their parts, in such a way that the breaking of the bread does not divide Christ.


I've already proved that the Church has said the bread turns into the body and the wine into the blood. That was sufficient to disprove your claim. The extent to which the Catholic Church may or may not contradict itself does not affect that disproof of your claim.


So by using the word 'Catholic,' are you asserting that that the Church is in fact Universal?


Some Christians think so, and call it the "Roman" Church, instead.
7.31.2008 8:00pm
anon.:
(But then, as we've seen multiple times in this very thread, you don't need to actually know anything about a practice to scream -- in capital letters -- that it's STUPID.)

If belief in the supernatural is unjustified--as many of us believe it is--one hardly has to consider whether belief in each individual supernatural phenomenon is justified to know that it is not. I don't believe in the supernatural; ergo, I don't believe Catholics can supernaturally transform a cracker into human flesh.

This isn't radical, it's how most people operate most of the time. You probably don't know much about most of the supernatural beliefs that you reject. The other religious commenters on this thread undoubtedly know very little about the hundreds of gods that they feel, for whatever reason, aren't worth worshiping. Atheists are no different, except that one of the beliefs they reject happens to be one you hold dear?
7.31.2008 8:01pm
Scote (mail):

wm13:
Dilan Esper, you have made up a very specific rule: "Theft of property does not include taking tangible personal property intended for immediate consumption if I didn't commit a trespass to real property in the course of obtaining the personal property in question." I agree that your particular rule gets Myers off the hook. But I don't think your rule is the law. You didn't deal with my peanuts on the bar hypothetical. Are you saying that it's not theft to shovel the peanuts into your purse?


You are making the same false analogy that has become so popular in the thread, you try and up the quantity to make your case seem like theft. The proper analogy would be waiting in line to get one peanut and walking out with it, not shoveling a bowl of them into a purse.
7.31.2008 8:03pm
Dilan Esper (mail) (www):
So by using the word 'Catholic,' are you asserting that that the Church is in fact Universal?

The difference is that nobody knows the meaning of the word "catholic" anymore, so when you say "Catholic", nobody thinks you are making a theological claim.

"Host" still has its original meaning, so I prefer not to use it.
7.31.2008 8:05pm
Scote (mail):

Hoosier:

As to why you have to "pander" to Catholics: You don't. But you might decide to be polite.


I have been in regards to wafers being called wafers. But note the presumption on your part that the only way to be polite is to use the terms you like. It doesn't enter into your mind to be "polite" to me by using mine. There is an assumption by Catholics and other theists that their views are owed an automatic and hushed deference and a freedom from criticism or demands for proof or justification of the religion's beliefs--a standard we don't apply to other belief systems such as politics.
7.31.2008 8:10pm
zippypinhead:
Dilan, I doubt we're ever going to come to a meeting of the minds (one of the great things about VC, BTW), but
It seems to me that you could make the same claim about any strident public expression of atheism or non-Catholicism by a college professor. Not only is it not plausible, but if we accepted this, we would put a serious dent into academic freedom.
If the "public expression" is strident enough, then it may well be plausible, and "academic freedom" would reasonably have to be tempered in light of students' counterveiling rights in a public university setting.

Assume Myers had instead posted a video of himself burning a cross, or even just standing in a white robe in front of a Confederate flag, announcing to the world that "N*gg*rs are stupid!" Would an 18-year old African American pre-med student in his biology class reasonably be expected to be intimidated? And would such intimidation be permissible in a public educational institution? You know the answers. It would be immediately actionable, and I daresay the courts would uphold any employment discipline meted out, up to and including dismissal.

And, frankly, I would expect the 18-year old Catholic pre-med student in his class to be similarly intimidated by Myers' actual antics, to the point where she would undoubtedly want to conceal any evidence of her religious affiliation. What he did was wrong, and shows a level of intolerence incompatible with tenure in a public institution.
7.31.2008 8:10pm
Dilan Esper (mail) (www):
Dilan Esper, you have made up a very specific rule: "Theft of property does not include taking tangible personal property intended for immediate consumption if I didn't commit a trespass to real property in the course of obtaining the personal property in question." I agree that your particular rule gets Myers off the hook. But I don't think your rule is the law. You didn't deal with my peanuts on the bar hypothetical. Are you saying that it's not theft to shovel the peanuts into your purse?

I haven't made up anything. You are saying that the Church has a property right in the cracker AFTER it is handed out. What is the source of that right? It isn't property law, which says that after a piece of property is given with no expectation of return, the giver has no rights to control its later usage. It isn't contract law, because there is no contract.

I didn't see your peanuts on the bar hypothetical, but in general, whether there is some sort of civil or criminal wrong depends on (1) whether there is a property interest, which depends on whether the giver expects that it is going to be returned; (2) whether there is a contractual right, which depends on whether or not there was a mutual exchange of legal consideration and definite terms; and (3) whether the giver suffered any damages.

The problem with legal claims in the Church communion cracker situation is that (1), (2), and (3) are all absent. But one or more of them may be present in other hypotheticals, depending how you structure them.
7.31.2008 8:12pm
cathyf:
Is there any reason why we can't agree to say "host" instead of "cracker"? Would that courtesy to VC's Catholics constitute a serious assault upon anyone's conscience?
Well, it does deprive one of the amusement of appreciating that "cracker" is a term for a person, while "wafer" has no such meaning, and Myers claims to be disputing precisely that claim that the consecrated host is a person.

(Back in the 70's my mom was one of the few white students at a college about 97% black. This was about the time that the term "black English" was coined. My mother's English teacher, who had already marked things wrong on her paper that were marked correct on black students' papers, spent most of a class period ranting about the evil racists who "denigrate black English". Yes, the word "denigrate", used over and over. Mom, of course, had enough sense to remain silent until after class. After class she remarked to her friends (the ones whose answers were marked right when my mom's identical answers were wrong and had already been to the dean to complain) that you couldn't "denigrate" black English because it was already black and they all chuckled together.)
7.31.2008 8:12pm
AngelSong (mail):
I'm not sure about the idea that a church is open to the public and can't prosecute a trespassing claim. Isn't a church considered private property, such that an invitation can be offered and/or withdrawn? Ushers certainly can (and do) ask people to leave (albeit usually because of disruption). But if I were an usher in a bad mood, I don't think there would be any legal cause of action if I decided to remove anyone wearing green say. Moreover, can't a church specifically instruct a certain person that this person is no longer welcome and have that person charged with trespassing if he/she returns to the property?
7.31.2008 8:14pm
Scote (mail):

And, frankly, I would expect the 18-year old Catholic pre-med student in his class to be similarly intimidated by Myers' actual antics, to the point where she would undoubtedly want to conceal any evidence of her religious affiliation. What he did was wrong, and shows a level of intolerence incompatible with tenure in a public institution.


Would you espouse the same views if, instead, there were a video of a hypothetical Catholic PZ Meyers accepting holy communion? Catholicism being a mutually exclusive religion, how could any non-Catholic expect fair treatment from such a person? Would that show a "level of intolerance incompatible with tenure in a public institution?"

You need to think through the consequences of your arguments before you make them.
7.31.2008 8:14pm
Dilan Esper (mail) (www):
Assume Myers had instead posted a video of himself burning a cross, or even just standing in a white robe in front of a Confederate flag, announcing to the world that "N*gg*rs are stupid!" Would an 18-year old African American pre-med student in his biology class reasonably be expected to be intimidated? And would such intimidation be permissible in a public educational institution? You know the answers. It would be immediately actionable, and I daresay the courts would uphold any employment discipline meted out, up to and including dismissal.

Well, what you are doing is simply testing the outer limits of academic freedom. And at some point, perhaps there is something that someone could say that was so offensive and so antithetical to educational values that it would be held to be outside of academic freedom. Or perhaps not. So what? This case is not that.

Further, I might add that although actual anti-Catholic discrimination is despicable, there is a huge, huge difference between criticism of Catholicism, even through offensive means, and racism. In fact, this is a point conservative Catholics often make with respect to homosexuality. And I accept it (though I also think it is sometimes used as a cover for anti-gay bigotry).

The point is, we have to have substantial social room for people to ridicule belief systems, and saying that we wouldn't leave the same room for people to ridicule people's skin color isn't really a persuasive point. Both racism and criticism of religious belief are equally protected by the First Amendment, but that doesn't mean that the latter is the same thing as the former.
7.31.2008 8:18pm
Dilan Esper (mail) (www):
I'm not sure about the idea that a church is open to the public and can't prosecute a trespassing claim. Isn't a church considered private property, such that an invitation can be offered and/or withdrawn? Ushers certainly can (and do) ask people to leave (albeit usually because of disruption). But if I were an usher in a bad mood, I don't think there would be any legal cause of action if I decided to remove anyone wearing green say. Moreover, can't a church specifically instruct a certain person that this person is no longer welcome and have that person charged with trespassing if he/she returns to the property?

The problem with this argument is the Church has to do it. It's not trespassing to come onto property that is freely open to visitors. It may be trespassing if the Church then asks the person to leave and he or she doesn't.

The other problem with this argument is that it really doesn't affect the issue of the receipt of the communion cracker.
7.31.2008 8:21pm
David Schwartz (mail):
NRWO: "The host is analogous to property. When you receive property for a specified purpose, and you have knowledge of that purpose, and you desecrate the property in contravention to that purpose, are you not engaging in a contract violation?"

If the contract is enforceable, yes. I'm arguing that the contract is not enforceable. If you want something to happen in this case, you have to want something to happen in analogous secular cases.

I notice that you didn't comment on my lottery form example. What should happen to the person who uses a lottery form to write down his phone number in violation of the implied agreement to take them only for use to buy lottery tickets?
7.31.2008 8:23pm
Randy R. (mail):
Aubrey: "The only way one can be "wounded" by hearing one's faith is false is if one suspects just a teeny, leetle bit that it might be true.
If you don't think that, it's just hot air, meaning nothing. The "wounding" is a fake, a pretense to get somebody to apologize or self-censor, or to advertise how sensitive you are."

Then it must follow that those who are upset to be informed that the wafer is just a wafer shouldn't feel offended, and if they are, it's because they suspect just a teeny little bit that it might be true. If you don't think that, then it's just hot air, meaning nothing.
7.31.2008 8:23pm
Morat20 (mail):
I'm not sure about the idea that a church is open to the public and can't prosecute a trespassing claim. Isn't a church considered private property, such that an invitation can be offered and/or withdrawn? Ushers certainly can (and do) ask people to leave (albeit usually because of disruption). But if I were an usher in a bad mood, I don't think there would be any legal cause of action if I decided to remove anyone wearing green say. Moreover, can't a church specifically instruct a certain person that this person is no longer welcome and have that person charged with trespassing if he/she returns to the property?

I don't think anyone's arguing that. However, for it to be trespassing, you FIRST have to inform the person in question that he needs to leave or may not enter.

So, if the local Catholic church says "Everyone but PZ Myers welcome here. If you are PZ Myers, trespassing will be prosecuted" then PZ Myers walking in to attend Mass is trespassing. If no sign exists, but an representative of the property owner walks up to Myers while he attends Mass and says "You're not welcome here. You must leave", refusal to do so would be trespassing.

However, up until some representative of the owners notified him that he wasn't allowed there, he's not guilty of trespassing.

Assuming the Church in question follows the general habit of being open to non-members for services. If it's a "member-only" thing, PZ's only defense would be if he had a reasonable belief it was open to the public.
7.31.2008 8:24pm
zippypinhead:
Would you espouse the same views if, instead, there were a video of a hypothetical Catholic PZ Meyers accepting holy communion? Catholicism being a mutually exclusive religion, how could any non-Catholic expect fair treatment from such a person? Would that show a "level of intolerance incompatible with tenure in a public institution?"
Another of your bad straw man arguments, Scote. Your premise that Catholicism is a "mutually exclusive religion" is false and has been so documented since at least Vatican II. Then again, since you reject the authenticity of statements in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, there's no sense any of us mere "theists" arguing with you.

Your argument is silly. But there are circumstances where a video of Myers worshiping might be incompatible with teaching in a public institution. Your argument wouldn't be at all silly if, say, Myers was instead shown at a different kind of worship service shouting "Death to the Infidels" -- where "infidels" was clearly understood in context to include anybody showing up in his classroom wearing a Crucifix.
7.31.2008 8:29pm
Dr. Weevil (mail) (www):
For defenders of P. Z. Myers, I have some hypothetical questions about partially-parallel situations. I apologize in advance if anyone decides to act on any of these: let the guilt be on their heads. I already tried out the first two examples on the 7/19 'Humans are Complicated' thread at Assymetrical Information, to deafening silence from Myers' defenders. Here are the hypotheticals, followed by questions about them:

1. Jains are said to sweep the path before them wherever they walk to avoid inadvertently crushing any tiny bugs they would otherwise step on. They consider all life sacred, no matter how tiny. (Whether this is true or not hardly matters: this is a hypothetical exercise.) A family of Jains lives next door to you, and you consider their religious beliefs ridiculous and obviously untrue. You get some big boxes of tiny live insects or crustaceans from Carolina Biological Supply, or just some worms from the bait and tackle shop, and pour them out on the ground in your own yard, in full view of the Jains as they sat down for their vegetarian dinner, and crush thousands of tiny squirming beasts to death by stomping on them with hobnailed boots and glee.

2. Many American Indians are said to worship white buffaloes. Somewhere in the west (or so I've read) is a non-Indian farmer whose buffalo herd includes a white buffalo calf, which he refuses to sell or give to the Indians because he wants more money than they have offered. You buy the white buffalo from him, kill it in some legal and humane but very public way, and throw a big barbecue to cook and consume it, while making sneering remarks about how a sacred buffalo shouldn't be so easy to kill.

3. Local Muslims are having some sort of religious celebration (perhaps a wedding) involving a communal meal with prayers and blessings from an imam. You slip into the kitchen and add a 20% admixture of ground pork to the lamb kabobs, have a friend film you doing it, and put the film on YouTube for the world to see, making sure to send the URL to the mosque.

4. Same as #3, but change 'Muslims' to 'Jews', 'ground pork' to 'lard', and 'lamb kabobs' to whatever stereotypically Jewish dish might normally have plenty of non-pork fat in it. (I wouldn't know.)

5. Same as #3, but you put 20% grain alcohol in the fruit juice or whatever the adults are drinking with their kabobs. (We'll assume that you make sure none of the children get any.)

6. Same as #5, but change 'Muslims' to Southern Baptists of the non-drinking variety. (I got the idea for this from Wynonie Harris' amusing song "Who Put the Whiskey in the Well?".)

7. Your devout Hindu neighbor's grandmother just died. You buy a cow, paint "Sanjay's grandma? Could be" on it, and tether it in your front yard close to theirs on the day of the funeral. Then you kill it and have a barbecue, making sure to wait for a day when the wind will blow the smoke their way. Be sure to invite them, and tell them Scote thinks Christians are cannibals too, so it's OK to eat beef even if it is grandma.

8. After snickering about the sacred underwear devout Mormons wear, you decide that mere words are not enough, and stomping or spitting on them isn't enough either (it's been done), so you get hold of some authentic examples and use them in a filmed striptease or an out-and-out porno movie.

9. Vegans like Megan McArdle annoy you, especially when they argue that no one should eat pâté de foie gras, so you wangle an invitation to one of her soirées and slip 100g of the cruelestly-made pâté you can find into the lentil soup, wait until it's all eaten and someone comments on the oddly meaty taste, then brag about what you did and take pictures of the reaction.

Questions for each one:

a. Would it be fair to call you an utter a-hole and a contemptible creep?

b. Would it be fair to presume that you are bigoted against Jains, American Indians, Muslims, Jews, Southern Baptists, Hindus, Mormons, or vegans, as the case may be?

c. Would anyone be surprised if you received death threats from members of the religion you had mocked, or were even physically assaulted by them?

d. Would you lose your job teaching at a third-rate university?

e. Even if you were tenured?

f. Should you?

g. Could you be prosecuted for what you did, and on what charges?

h. Should you be prosecuted?

I'm most interested in questions 'd' and 'e', where I'm pretty sure the answer is 'yes' on more than one of my hypotheses. Note that none of them (except possibly #2) involves any desecration of something thought to involve the real presence of God, so what P. Z. Myers did is arguably a worse sacrilege than any of these.
7.31.2008 8:32pm
Chris Bell (mail) (www):
Zippy,

PZ has stated before that he begins each semester by admitting that he is "that" PZ Myers and telling every student that they will be graded on biology only. He tells them that their religious beliefs will not affect their grades (unless they try to use them to answer a test question).

I don't know if PZ uses blind grading or multiple-choice exams, but I would advise him to do this just to avoid claims like yours. Still, I think he makes a substantial effort to allay fears and be fair.
7.31.2008 8:35pm
njones (mail):
I'm not a lawyer but bear with me:

* You have to be Catholic to take a consecrated host. This is very clearly stated in the front of every missal in any Catholic parish. So no one can claim they "didn't know" you couldn't just take a host.

* If you are a Catholic you had to go through a class (either Confirmation for the young or RCIA for adults). During that class you are taught that you must not steal or desecrate a host. After the class, you stand before the parish in a public ceremony and affirm that you accept the Catholic teaching that you must not steal or desecrate the host. Now wouldn't this constitute some sort of contract?

* When you go forward to receive the host you say "Amen" when the priest says "the body of Christ." "Amen", as others have explained, means "yes" or "I believe." So you are saying you believe that the host is the body of Christ (and you won't steal or desecrate it.) So wouldn't this also constitute some sort of contract?

* Professor Myers must know all of this. So when he asked for readers of his blog to send him a consecrated host, he was asking for someone to trespass into a Catholic parish with the intent of stealing a host. If the person was not a Catholic, he or she should have noted the printed request for non-Catholics to abstain from the Eucharist and not have taken the host. If that person was a Catholic, he or she should have been bound by promises made during confirmation or reception and the "amen" and not have stolen the host so it could be desecrated.

Now, granted, it is *just* a cracker. But why wouldn't the above be actionable in some way? Someone disregarded clearly printed requests and/or promises made not to steal or desecrate hosts in order to do this. Surely the host does not then belong to Professor Meyers and Catholics should have some recourse to the courts to try to get it back.

Why am I wrong here?
7.31.2008 8:36pm
Thales (mail) (www):
"Non-Lawyer Question: The state CAN prosecute me if I claim my product is Kosher, but it isn't. Does this apply even if I have given it away for free? The above discussion of hosts has me curious: Does there have to be a monetary damage for the state to get involved in a matter of religious law? Some sort of "impled contract" that has a monetary component?
"

The purpose of laws and regulations preventing misrepresenting kosher status of food and goods is consumer protection and ensuring that the goods are what they purport to be (usually there's a label or two on the package). If I sell you a hot dog and claim the animal involved was slaughtered in a particular way and/or blessed by a rabbi, when it was not, I'm making a verifiable (or falsifiable) factual claim. So it's not really a matter of religious law, just a factual representation about the goods.
7.31.2008 8:36pm
Grover Gardner (mail):
Now, where the heck is F.I.R.E. when you really need them?


The damage Myers did was mostly to himself.


I don't believe Prof. Myers has suffered one iota from any of this. His employer backed his right to post on his personal blog, he is a fairly popular and respected teacher, and he really doesn't care what religious people think of him.
7.31.2008 8:41pm
wm13:
"after a piece of property is given with no expectation of return, the giver has no rights to control its later usage"

That is certainly true. But where the gift is fraudulently induced, the recipient is guilty of theft, and obtains no title, and the property remains the property of the giver. It is the difference between obtaining a loan by lying on the loan application, which is fraud, and obtaining a loan that you are later unable to pay back, which gives rise to civil cause of action, but is not a crime at all.

Here, the communion recipient knowingly took the wafer for other than the purposes for which it was intended, which taking was therefore fraudulent. The wafer is still the property of the Church. Recall that the original purpose of this discussion was to determine whether there was a scintilla of crime with which Myers could be charged. Which there is. That being so, current law permits the penalty to be multiplied indefinitely if the crime was motivated by religious hatred. So Myers can be thrown in the pokey for life, maybe.
7.31.2008 8:43pm
cathyf:
If you are a Catholic you had to go through a class (either Confirmation for the young or RCIA for adults).
Just a note, but the class that kids go through is First Communion preparation. Confirmation is a different sacrament.
7.31.2008 8:45pm
Anon21:
njones:
You have to be Catholic to take a consecrated host. This is very clearly stated in the front of every missal in any Catholic parish. So no one can claim they "didn't know" you couldn't just take a host.

See discussion up-thread. Some churches make this clear, others do not. A reasonable person could certainly be unaware that non-Catholics are prohibited from receiving the communion wafer. It beggars belief that anyone could not know that the intent is that the wafer be consumed immediately, but because the wafer is given freely with no expectation of return, the intentions of the giver are irrelevant.

If you are a Catholic you had to go through a class (either Confirmation for the young or RCIA for adults). During that class you are taught that you must not steal or desecrate a host. After the class, you stand before the parish in a public ceremony and affirm that you accept the Catholic teaching that you must not steal or desecrate the host. Now wouldn't this constitute some sort of contract?

See Dilan Esper's several posts on this subject. No consideration = no contract. Secular courts do not recognize spiritual consideration, such as eternal salvation in the next world.

When you go forward to receive the host you say "Amen" when the priest says "the body of Christ." "Amen", as others have explained, means "yes" or "I believe." So you are saying you believe that the host is the body of Christ (and you won't steal or desecrate it.) So wouldn't this also constitute some sort of contract?

You're just sneaking that parenthetical in, thinking no one will notice? The priest does not tell you (or ask you) not to steal or desecrate the wafer during the communion ritual, he simply asks you to affirm that it is the body of Christ. Whether or not that affirmation is true, it has no bearing on the question of whether you are legally entitled to do as you like with the wafer after it is given to you.
7.31.2008 8:48pm
Chris Bell (mail) (www):
Dr., I'll answer.

a. Would it be fair to call you an utter a-hole and a contemptible creep?

Probably. It depends on what motivated me to do this. For example, if the Jains had threatened me with death for killing bugs, I might feel justified. (And some of these, like #8, were funny.)

Next, let me note that several of your examples were battery, which is a crime and a tort. 3, 4, 5, 6, and 9 are illegal and are, therefore, bad examples. 7, with the smoke "blowing their way" is at least a nuisance, maybe battery considering your special knowledge of their aversion to beef. Someone doing these things is subject to arrest.

The rest of your examples were better, and I confine my answers to them.

b. Would it be fair to presume that you are bigoted against Jains, American Indians, Muslims, Jews, Southern Baptists, Hindus, Mormons, or vegans, as the case may be?

"Bigoted" is quite a wishy word. Am I refusing to hire these people at my business? (no) Am I responding to death threats and calls for censorship? (yes) I think the answer depends on the situation.

c. Would anyone be surprised if you received death threats from members of the religion you had mocked, or were even physically assaulted by them?

Yes and no. Perhaps not surprised, but appalled.

d. Would you lose your job teaching at a third-rate university?

No. The AAUP's statement on academic freedom states "College and university teachers are citizens, members of a learned profession, and officers of an educational institution. When they speak or write as citizens, they should be free from institutional censorship or discipline"

e. Even if you were tenured?

Especially if you were tenured.

f. Should you?

No.

g. Could you be prosecuted for what you did, and on what charges?

You could be for the ones that are crimes. For the other ones, no.

h. Should you be prosecuted?

No.

Maybe you received "deafening silence" because your questions were so long, but yet obvious.
7.31.2008 8:48pm
Grover Gardner (mail):

Why am I wrong here?


Personally I think you've got some good points. I think Prof. Myers was committing some serious mischief, at the least, when he suggested that someone obtain a communion wafer for him. I like his blog a lot, but this is certainly one of his more subversive and offensive (to many people) pranks. Crime? I couldn't say. But one shouldn't overlook the truly shabby treatment of the student whose cause he too it upon himself to defend.
7.31.2008 8:49pm
Chris Bell (mail) (www):
njones,

The problem is the distinction between these two similar statements.

-I will not give you the wafer unless you first promise me that you will only use the wafer for eating.

-I am giving these wafers away to all people that are Catholic and promise to eat the wafers.

Catholics may claim that they mean the first one, but they take no actual steps to confirm that the person is making the promise. (Like asking them to sign something or state "I promise only to eat this if you give it to me.") The second statement is closer to the truth. It creates a moral obligation not to take the wafer if you aren't Catholic, but isn't legally enforceable.
7.31.2008 8:54pm
Anon21:
That is certainly true. But where the gift is fraudulently induced, the recipient is guilty of theft, and obtains no title, and the property remains the property of the giver. It is the difference between obtaining a loan by lying on the loan application, which is fraud, and obtaining a loan that you are later unable to pay back, which gives rise to civil cause of action, but is not a crime at all.

Wrong. The gift was not fraudulently "induced," inasmuch as you have no evidence that the person who obtained the wafer made any representation of him/herself as a Catholic. The reasonable person's knowledge test of liability does not extend to the exclusivity of ritual doctrines of every little sect.

As for the loan, there are two separate issues. First is contract-related, where again the issue of consideration causes the analogy to the communion situation to fail. Second is fraud-related, but it only arises because there is a statutory bar to falsifying information of certain types, including financial. There is no statutory bar to holding oneself out as a Catholic, not that there's any evidence that Myers' wafer source did that anyway.
7.31.2008 8:55pm
Dilan Esper (mail) (www):
ut where the gift is fraudulently induced, the recipient is guilty of theft, and obtains no title, and the property remains the property of the giver.

No it doesn't. Rather, where a gift is fraudulently induced, the giver has a right to sue for damages. Only in rare instances does fraud void the title.

And, as I noted above, there is no fraud here, because there was no false representation, no reasonable reliance, and no damages.
7.31.2008 8:57pm
Michael B (mail):
P.Z. bending forward and giving himself a BJ, massaging his own PutZ.

Nothing really new here, move right along, it is one of the things PZ does, does with some frequency. Gains attention, creates some frisson, gives himself some applause, some other forty-something and fifty-something adolescents join in the applause, other motives and interests as well, no doubt, it is what he does. A cheap and ultimately cowardly trick performed in a cossetted environment where he's more likely to receive applause than scorn or ridicule, but it's what he does and likely will do again in one form or another.

And the confraternity needs to consider some other, more fruitful and more meaningful response. Their consciences are sensitive and that can even be admired, but it's not well directed if they are serious about any type of legal recourse for this type of offense.
7.31.2008 9:00pm
Scote (mail):

zippypinhead wrote:

Another of your bad straw man arguments, Scote. Your premise that Catholicism is a "mutually exclusive religion" is false and has been so documented since at least Vatican II. Then again, since you reject the authenticity of statements in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, there's no sense any of us mere "theists" arguing with you.


You misunderstand the full meaning of "mutually exclusive." The Catholic Church believes that it is the one and only True Church and the only way to get into heaven. While Vatican II speaks of respect for other Abrahamic religions, it remains mutually exclusive of them.
7.31.2008 9:03pm
njones (mail):
Thank you for the responses.

It is an interesting topic -- I have been aware of this situation for a few days now -- but it is nice to have a chance to discuss it with people. It is kind of daunting to come across such a long thread (I've been at work) and have to wade through it all!

I guess it comes down to the point that I think the Catholic Church is actually making a claim very close to: "I will not give you the wafer unless you first promise me that you will only use the wafer for eating"

That is why I referred to the classes (First Communion, RCIA, Confirmation, etc.) a Catholic would have to go through before being admitted to comunion AND the two instances of public affirmation (reception into the Church/first communion and the "amen") that take place. In those classes, the priests make clear that hosts are made for eating (not stealing and desecration) and the Catholic-to-be publically states that he or she accepts this.

It seems unreasonable to say that someone could go through all that and not know that hosts were made for eating!

If a Catholic took the host after going through all of that they were acting deceptively and there should be some way to get the host back.

If a non-Catholic took the host, they ignored a clearly printed request not to do so (and perhaps a public statement from the priest), and were stealing and there should be some way to get the host back.

Even though it is *only* a cracker...

(All that said, it is still an asenine press release.)
7.31.2008 9:15pm
Dilan Esper (mail) (www):
If a Catholic took the host after going through all of that they were acting deceptively and there should be some way to get the host back. If a non-Catholic took the host, they ignored a clearly printed request not to do so (and perhaps a public statement from the priest), and were stealing and there should be some way to get the host back.

The problem is, to have that way we would have to overturn all sorts of doctrines in contract, property, and/or fraud law that are designed to ensure that everything we ever do or say in life doesn't create a legal obligation.

It's funny because there's a certain commonality between Catholic doctrine and these legal doctrines. These legal doctrines are hundreds of years old. They weren't just made up on the spot to screw over the Catholic Church; they were the result of long experience about dispute resolution and the kind of situations where court intervention is helpful and the kind of situations where it isn't. These legal doctrines reflect the collective wisdom of tens of thousands of legal practitioners and scholars over centuries.

You are asking to overturn this, for what exactly? Because someone insulted your beliefs? Because someone threw a cracker in a trash can?

He shouldn't have done it, because he knew you would take offense. But asking the legal system to alter doctrines that are hundreds of years old and have proven to contain a lot of wisdom is something that I would think that devout Catholics would perceive might be problematic-- similar to asking the Church to change its longstanding doctrines.
7.31.2008 9:22pm
cathyf:
And the confraternity needs to consider some other, more fruitful and more meaningful response. Their consciences are sensitive and that can even be admired, but it's not well directed if they are serious about any type of legal recourse for this type of offense.
If you are interested in some other more fruitful and more meaningful, response, consider this one from The Anchoress's son Buster: Buster and “The gift freely given…”
7.31.2008 9:27pm
NRWO:
Dilan,

Thanks for your thoughtful comments.

I’m afraid were going to have to agree to disagree.

A reasonable person standard is applicable here, not a “meeting of the minds and mutual exchange” standard. A reasonable person knows that a host is to be consumed during mass and is not to be kept and desecrated later. A person who plans to desecrate a host will not secure one through legitimate means, because no such means exist. The Church would never grant a contract that would allow desecration of a host.

I’d be happy to let a judge and jury decide if a reasonable person standard is controlling in this case.

To the point of “consideration” and value: A blessed host was obviously more valuable to Myers than a non-blessed host. That’s why Myers claims he secured a blessed host for the desecration; a non-blessed host wouldn’t do.

I’d leave it up to a judge and jury to decide the value of damages. You imply a blessed host is nothing more than a cracker. That’s like saying a Picasso is nothing more than canvas and ink.
7.31.2008 9:43pm
Jon Rowe (mail) (www):
What is it about this Myers issue that brings the commenters out so much?

I don't agree with what PZ did; but a free society has to permit "offending" religions; America was founded on blasphemy.

Here is some blasphemy from John Adams:

"The Trinity was carried in a general council by one vote against a quaternity; the Virgin Mary lost an equality with the Father, Son, and Spirit only by a single suffrage."

-- John Adams to Benjamin Rush, June 12, 1812.

And:

"An incarnate God!!! An eternal, self-existent, omnipresent omniscient Author of this stupendous Universe, suffering on a Cross!!! My Soul starts with horror, at the Idea, and it has stupified the Christian World. It has been the Source of almost all of the Corruptions of Christianity."

-- John Adams to John Quincy Adams, March 28, 1816
7.31.2008 9:46pm
Steve2:
Honestly. Wouldn't it be simpler to just do the blanket rule, "No religion has a reasonable expectation to any respect from anyone other than its adherents?" Strikes me as what follows obviously from the reality that no religion inherently deserves respect from any other than its own adherents, and that its tenets have no bearing on any discussion or matter outside its gates.
7.31.2008 9:51pm
frankcross (mail):
I'm struck by the great seriousness with which posters are affected by this. But I wonder if their problem isn't somewhat with their church. What njones said about it being clearly stated is false from my own experience. Communion practice is not so universally regulated

I think Catholic churches are very generous and trusting institutions. Which is a good thing. It enables people to take actions that abuse the Church. But the Church realizes, I think, that it is plenty strong and that actions such as those of Myers are ultimately insignificant to its ends.

I'm not Catholic, but I would find a compelling response to be: "we're sad for him, we'll pray for him," rather than "can we prosecute him?"
7.31.2008 9:52pm
Dr. Weevil (mail) (www):
Chris Bell (7:48pm):
If my questions are so obvious, why do I come to precisely the opposite conclusion? I cannot believe that a professor who publicly barbecued the sacred white buffalo of the Sioux would not be fired by the end of the day (end of the week if he's tenured) and the same goes for most of the other examples.

If 3-6 and 9 are illegal (I'm not a lawyer, and they don't seem any worse than 1-2 and 7-8) change them to hypothesize someone who makes a thorough and convincing pretense of (e.g.) feeding pork to Jews or Muslims, but then denies it after he has enjoyed the gigantic uproar right up to the moment he's about to be indicted. I do not believe that such a vicious hoax would be defended by any administration.

Nor do I see why you think the AAUP's statement on academic freedom is relevant. It talks about what professors "speak or write as citizens", not what they barbecue or stomp or otherwise desecrate as bigots. In any case, it would only prove what universities should do in such a case (f), not what they would do (d and e), which is often quite different. If masses of (e.g.) Hindu or American Indian students are convinced on very plausible grounds that a professor thinks they are all morons for believing what they believe, and doubt that he is capable of grading them fairly, no matter how much he says he will, would his university really reject their complaints out of hand?
7.31.2008 9:52pm
Dilan Esper (mail) (www):
A reasonable person standard is applicable here, not a “meeting of the minds and mutual exchange” standard. A reasonable person knows that a host is to be consumed during mass and is not to be kept and desecrated later. A person who plans to desecrate a host will not secure one through legitimate means, because no such means exist. The Church would never grant a contract that would allow desecration of a host.

Again, you can argue that should be the standard, but if you imposed that standard for implied contracts, you would find that far more of what we say and do would create legally binding obligations. Imagine a car dealership that structured its rituals in such a way that anyone who entered into the premises entered into a legal agreement to buy a car!

We don't allow these cases to get to juries, because we need a bright line rule that protects unsuspecting parties from entering into legally binding obligations. That's why we require proof of a meeting of the minds. You can't change that sensible rule just because you take offense at someone disrespecting a communion cracker.

To the point of “consideration” and value: A blessed host was obviously more valuable to Myers than a non-blessed host. That’s why Myers claims he secured a blessed host for the desecration; a non-blessed host wouldn’t do.

Nobody doubts that the Church gave the congregant consideration. The reason there is no enforceable contract is because the congregant doesn't give the Church any consideration. The only promise exchanged for the cracker is a spiritual one, which is not legally cognizable.

You imply a blessed host is nothing more than a cracker. That’s like saying a Picasso is nothing more than canvas and ink.

I realize that the communion cracker is not just a cracker for those who believe in transsubstantiation. There is no doubt about that. But you missed my point in indicating that you are getting worked up over a cracker. The point is, why would we change wise and longstanding legal rules that reflect centuries of human experience just so the Catholic Church can obtain a remedy against the disrespect of a small object with only religious significance? There is no secular justification for this, and the law cannot consider the religious justification for it when determining what to do.
7.31.2008 9:54pm
cathyf:
I'm not Catholic, but I would find a compelling response to be: "we're sad for him, we'll pray for him," rather than "can we prosecute him?"
Well, I can't believe that no one has pointed this out in almost 300 comments, but the Catholic Church has an extremely well-defined, rigid, hierarchy which establishes what are authoritative and non-authoritative statements, more authoritative and less authoritative. And the "Confraternity of Catholic Clergy" isn't anywhere on the hierarchy and has no authority at all. As far as the church is concerned, they are simply American citizens exercising their constitutional rights to bloviate stupidly.

As for the official church, its response has been to ignore Myers. Probably using the logic that drawing attention to him does more harm than good (but that is my speculation, of course.)
7.31.2008 10:05pm
Scote (mail):
So, for all those who claim leaving with a consecrated wafer is theft, by what right can the Catholic Church claim to own god? Sounds rather hubristic to me...
7.31.2008 10:05pm
David Schwartz (mail):
NRWO: "A reasonable person knows that a host is to be consumed during mass and is not to be kept and desecrated later. A person who plans to desecrate a host will not secure one through legitimate means, because no such means exist. The Church would never grant a contract that would allow desecration of a host."

All true, just not legally binding, and for good secular reasons. A reasonable person knows that lottery ticket forms are not given away for use as scratch paper but instead are to indicate the numbers you want to use to buy a lottery ticket. But we don't let stores sue people for taking one to write their phone number on.

If we allowed the religious value Catholics placed on the wafer to have legal significance, we would get into all kinds of absurd results with arbitrarily high religious value anyone could place on any objectively trivial thing. There would be no way to objectively analyze and validate this religious value.

If I hit your car, you would suddenly swear to a massive religious value to the part of the your bumper that I damaged and demand compensation for the psychic harm I had done you.

Secular law simply cannot recognize religious value. He took a wafer and disposed of it in a manner different from the manner the wafer-giver implicitly got him to agree to. The secular law cannot care or it must care about comparably secularly-trivial things. And that wouldn't burden normal life to an insane level.
7.31.2008 10:15pm
CDR D (mail):
WOW. What a hornets' nest this has stirred!

I haven't been able to carefully read each and every of the many comments, so with that disclaimer, I would suggest that the Catholics might consider taking the attitude of Christ on the cross:

"Forgive them, for they know not what they do."

...and let it go at that.
7.31.2008 10:21pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
Myers is an asshole. He went out of his way to shove his assholeness in other people's faces, with the purpose of offending and hurting certain believers, and with no profit to himself save for the fun of hurting others' feelings. If he claimed he wouldn't hold a religion against a student in class, he'd rightly be suspect of merely setting up another venue for more assholeness. There's a certain level of vileness which can't be contained to one area of life. Or if it can, it wouldn't be the way to bet.

Did somebody say some university administrators would stand up for everybody's freedom of speech? Not just that of the accredited victims' groups? COUGHbullshitCOUGH.

Dr. W. I know that. But the claims of, say, Jews that they are offended or wounded by the claims of Christians that the Christians have buffed up and tuned the old time religion so that it's new and improved, or the claims of atheists to be offended by the beliefs of Christians that atheists are going to hell are bogus. Unless there's this little bit of ...uncertainty.
And, of course, since there's no uncertainty, the claims of offense and wounding are, by definition, bogus.
7.31.2008 10:31pm
njones (mail):
The lottery ticket example is interesting.

A lottery ticket form is worth much less then a penny so it would be silly to allow a store to sue someone for "misuse" of a lottery ticket. In the same way, a cracker can't be worth much more...

But doesn't the law take sentimental value into account? (I'm not a lawyer -- I don't know.) And I mean sentimental value not spiritual value -- I'm trying to be secular here.

I have several items -- trinkets really -- that aren't worth much more than a few dollars in terms of market value but they have great sentimental attachment for me. If someone acquired one of these items of mine through fraud or theft and then vandalized it publically to embarass me, would I really have no recourse in the courts because the item in question is only worth a few dollars?

It seems to me that it would be fair for a jury to consider the sentimental value of the item in question in addition to the market value. It also seems to me it would be fair for the jury to take into account the motive of the person who took my trinket and the underhanded way in which he or she did so. Adding all of this together, we might say it would be appropriate for a court to intervene even though the market value of the item in question is small. But maybe, under the law, that is wrong. Educate me -- please.
7.31.2008 10:34pm
zippypinhead:
Dilan Esper wrote:
Further, I might add that although actual anti-Catholic discrimination is despicable, there is a huge, huge difference between criticism of Catholicism, even through offensive means, and racism.
So criticizing or discriminating against someone for their race is worse than criticizing or discriminating against them for their religion? I'm afraid you're simply grafting your own values system into the discussion. I know of precious few Constitutional scholars who would defend that argument.
7.31.2008 10:42pm
drgeox (mail):

You have to be Catholic to take a consecrated host. This is very clearly stated in the front of every missal in any Catholic parish. So no one can claim they "didn't know" you couldn't just take a host.



The problem with your argument is that the rules you mention are the rules of the Catholic church, they are not laws of the Unites States. If I take the host even though I am not Catholic, the church is fully within its rights to expel me. If I fail to leave, it could call the police and file a complaint on the grounds of trespass. It could not, however, attempt to prosecute me for taking the wafer when it was offered. If I went to the priest and he refused to give it to me, following which I took it by force, then you might have a case (although you would probably have a better case for assault than for robbery). No matter how badly you may want taking a communion wafer during a church service to be a crime, it just isn't.
7.31.2008 10:46pm
Scote (mail):
The Catholic Church is a religion founded on human sacrifice and which regularly engages in what they say is actual cannibalism to celebrate that original human sacrifice, and people here are hating on Myers for not respecting that religion????

Let's turn it around. If Myers decided to claim he was going to pull an anti-religious stunt by eating human flesh and blood don't you think the same exact people would be all over the "Satanic" heretic? But they hold themselves exempt from the claims they would make against Myers.

The people making the outragious and unsubstantiated claims are the Catholics, who unreasonably claim to turn wafers into human flesh and then eat them. Unreasonable because the wafers do not change in any way, shape or form and there is no evidence to the contrary--none, none at all. Yet who are some people defending? They are defending the admitted cannibals who are offended that someone took their sacrificial human flesh from their ritual and did not eat it. I'd say that at an objective level, clearly Myers is the more reasonable one.
7.31.2008 10:47pm
cathyf:
Just because this thread isn't long enough already ;-) I'd like to ask another question. When a Catholic marries a non-Catholic in a Catholic ceremony, the non-Catholic spouse must promise, in writing, that any children will be brought up Catholic. Without the signed agreement, the Church prohibits any priest or deacon from performing the ceremony.

If the non-Catholic parent later reneges on the signed contract, is it enforceable in court? If the parents divorce, will the courts enforce the contract as far as regulating custody? What if the Catholic parent dies?

Just curious... Several people have claimed that Catholics could set up reception of a sacrament as a legally-enforceable contract. In fact, have the courts enforced these contracts?
7.31.2008 10:50pm
zippypinhead:
PZ has stated before that he begins each semester by admitting that he is "that" PZ Myers and telling every student that they will be graded on biology only. He tells them that their religious beliefs will not affect their grades (unless they try to use them to answer a test question).

I don't know if PZ uses blind grading or multiple-choice exams, but I would advise him to do this just to avoid claims like yours. Still, I think he makes a substantial effort to allay fears and be fair.
And I hope he doesn't include class participation or lab work in his grading scale, either. Frankly, by announcing that he's "that" PZ Myers, he's elevating the issue and bringing it directly into the classroom. That 18 year-old pre-med is definitely NOT going to want to wear her Crucifix or show up in class after Ash Wednesday services when the professor explicitly highlights his prominent anti-religious beliefs in the very first lecture of the semester.
7.31.2008 10:50pm
pgepps (www):
...to correct some ignorance repeated above, while a communion wafer is just a bit of cracker, after the elevation and consecration DURING THE MASS, Catholics believe they receive the actual body of Christ (in essence, not accidents); it is a different thing. Commenters who point out that it *should* be impossible for a non-Catholic to acquire a "consecrated host" without fraud are quite correct. At any rate, that fact should affect the quality of analogies--a religion can certainly "fence the Torah" in a number of ways. That is, in fact, part of what "sanctified" or "consecrated" means. If done properly, there will be public, verifiable wrong or criminal acts required to commit such sacrilege. The whole point of which is that some things are right enough and wrong enough to order one's whole life around; that religion really does and must impinge on common-sense reality.

But the Confraternity is wrong to assert that Myers' action shouldn't be accorded First Amendment protetion, I should think. To say that someone who trespasses and vandalizes by marking a swastika has no right to make swastika markings is wrongheaded, and likewise to say that someone who illicitly acquires a consecrated host is not free to make the statement he stole it to make (obviously destroying property illicitly acquired shouldn't be allowed).

Tom952 above was right: Christians ought not to expect the kingdoms of this world to defend God. There's actually Scripture on the topic. And Myers' problems are so much larger than the harm a Catholic might think he has done to Christ--so much so.
7.31.2008 10:54pm
drgeox (mail):

I cannot believe that a professor who publicly barbecued the sacred white buffalo of the Sioux would not be fired by the end of the day (end of the week if he's tenured) and the same goes for most of the other examples.


Provided the white buffalo was the legal property of the professor at the time of the barbecue, there would be no punishment. To understand what, change 'sacred white buffalo' to 'sacred cow' and 'Sioux' to 'Hindu" then ask the same question. There may be particularly unwise administrators that my try to fire the prof, but they would have no legal leg to stand on. Most likely, the university would take one look at the lawsuit they might face if they tried to fire the faculty member, and decide that discretion is the better part of valor.
7.31.2008 10:56pm
pgepps (www):
drgeox seems to think that only robbery can be larcenous
7.31.2008 10:58pm
njones (mail):

No matter how badly you may want taking a communion wafer during a church service to be a crime, it just isn't.


I never said it was a crime. I don't think Myers committed a crime. For the record, I don't think he should be fired. (Or put in jail!)

I do think a Minnesota Catholic bishop should be able to sue Myers to recover the host.

Civil court -- not criminal.
7.31.2008 11:00pm
Scote (mail):

I do think a Minnesota Catholic bishop should be able to sue Myers to recover the host.

Civil court -- not criminal.


Contract issues aside, they'd have to prove he had one of their hosts. I'd like to see them pick out, say, the consecrated one from the unconsecrated ones.
7.31.2008 11:04pm
Michael B (mail):
The astigmatic responses and counsels herein are no less inappropriate than the overly zealous or reactionary (or whatever the proper term might be) responses of those Catholics and others who are offended. A legal response is inappropriate, imo, and other responses might be inappropriate as well, but the notion a bland, astigmatic, lethargic response is the cure is not at all apparent.

That said, I offer no positive prescription or formula, though such things as well written, respectful letters to officials of note, from the governor on down might be one fruitful avenue to explore.

Why are astigmatic or or apathetic or lethargic responses deemed any better than the responses of those who become overly offended, or rather who direct their offense in a poor or unfruitful manner?

cathyf, I thought Buster had some good thoughts there, in the link you provided, I like this recent link about Buster as well.
7.31.2008 11:16pm
njones (mail):

Contract issues aside, they'd have to prove he had one of their hosts.


Myers claims it is one of their hosts on his blog.

(You're right, of course, we can't show chain of custody! Maybe a quick-thinking Catholic sent him an unconsecrated host...)
7.31.2008 11:18pm
drgeox (mail):

drgeox seems to think that only robbery can be larcenous


How do you draw this conclusion? I do know what larceny is and I know that larceny by deceit is still larceny. However, in order to prosecute the item in question has to have value and the aggrieved party has to prove that title was passed fraudulently. Pretty tough in this case.

As an aide, when you make a statement like one above you do two things; first, you commit the logical error of employing a strawman argument, which weakens your position in a debate, second, you assume a conclusion without providing the other party a chance to be heard, which is just kind of rude.


I do think a Minnesota Catholic bishop should be able to sue Myers to recover the host.


The wafer he used was sent to him by a third party, possibly from England. I don't think the Minnesota bishop would have much chance of proving ownership.


7.31.2008 11:23pm
John Armstrong (mail) (www):
I've said this before on blogs in PZ's sphere (I don't read Pharyngula because of just this sort of thing).

PZ has every right to do this. He's also an a_____e for it.

The Catholics have every reason to be offended, and they have every right to call for his job. They're not going to get it, but they can call him out as being the aforementioned a_____e.

Those few Catholics who call for more than his job -- like his head -- are severely overreacting and are at odds with the teachings of the Church herself.
7.31.2008 11:30pm
John Armstrong (mail) (www):
Oh, and all of you accusing Catholics of cannibalism really need to sit down with Aquinas before you go off on your anti-Papist slanderfests. You don't have to believe the same thing they do, and you can even think that their beliefs are silly. But they have every bit as much right to their silly beliefs as you have to think that.
7.31.2008 11:32pm
Scote (mail):

Oh, and all of you accusing Catholics of cannibalism really need to sit down with Aquinas before you go off on your anti-Papist slanderfests. You don't have to believe the same thing they do, and you can even think that their beliefs are silly. But they have every bit as much right to their silly beliefs as you have to think that.


Of course they do, but the death threats? The calls to fire a professor based on his disdain for religion? They don't offer the same rights you grant them to others...
7.31.2008 11:39pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
Dr. Geox.
The university would take one look at the costs of not firing the guy, lawsuit included, and fire his ass.
Some offendees are more equal than others.
Settlements are just money. Offending the Perpetually Indignant, with their Wounded Knee re enactments on the quad, war whoops in the admin building, mass complaints of hostile learning atmosphere by anybody with one red drop, and just money seems like a terrific alternative.

Catholics...they can't hurt anybody. Wouldn't. SCROOM.

Could you imagine two hundred and fifty posts on VC crapping all over the belief in the Great Gitchee Goomee? Me neither.

Then there's PETA.

It could get ugly. Just screw with Catholics, conservative Protestants, and Jews. They don't fight back.
7.31.2008 11:41pm
Hoosier:
Scote:

"Of course they do, but the death threats? The calls to fire a professor based on his disdain for religion? They don't offer the same rights you grant them to others..."

"They"? There are 1 billion Catholics. How many are you talking about? I mean, you might want to be somewhat careful with your accusations. Because they might not, y'know, hold up under scruitiny.
7.31.2008 11:53pm
Hoosier:
Scote: "But note the presumption on your part that the only way to be polite is to use the terms you like. It doesn't enter into your mind to be "polite" to me by using mine."

When talking about events at a Catholic Church, yes, I think the Catholic terms are appropriate.

Look, you can comment on the Kipa thread and use the term "beanie" if you want. I don't think it will make you look tolerant, however. Nor informed.
7.31.2008 11:57pm
John McG (mail) (www):

Atheists are no different, except that one of the beliefs they reject happens to be one you hold dear?


I don't go around declaring how stupid other faiths are, as people here are doing. Most Christians don't, either.


Of course they do, but the death threats? The calls to fire a professor based on his disdain for religion? They don't offer the same rights you grant them to others...


Oh gimme a freakin' break with the damn "death threats" flop, will you. Yes, among the billion Catholics worldwise are a couple sickos who reacted to this intentional provocation in an idiotic manner. They would have no voice, except for people like you and Dr. Myers who seem to think, "they started it! context" justifies the unjustifiable.

Dr. Myers has long had a well-known "disdain" for Cahtolicism and religion, and there wasn't much pressure for his job. He has crossed a line, and done so on purpose with his eyes wide open.
7.31.2008 11:57pm
Dr. Weevil (mail) (www):
One of the most amazing things about this whole kerfuffle is the amazing self-confidence with which so many assert as obvious fact that nothing is or should be sacred, that a host is nothing but a cracker, a flag a mere piece of cloth, and so on.

At least 95% of the population of the world holds something sacred, and those lacking such a sense might want to consider whether they are possibly in the position of a tone-deaf man at the symphony, or a color-blind man at an exhibit of pointillist paintings. If it all sounds like noise, or looks like chaos, to you, but those around you are getting something out of it, maybe there's something lacking in you. If you not only find nothing sacred but can't even comprehend how any one else could, maybe you need to work on your empathy or imagination or anthropological skills or something. If a flag waving in the breeze, or a solemn religious ceremony, or any other symbol important to masses of your fellow humans does nothing for you, maybe you should try to understand the phenomenon instead of just dismissing them all as obvious morons.
8.1.2008 12:00am
Anon21:
It could get ugly. Just screw with Catholics, conservative Protestants, and Jews. They don't fight back.

Depends on what you mean by "fight back," I suppose. If you mean issue death threats, they do. If you mean call for the professor's job, they do that too. If you mean firebomb abortion clinics, that's another one that isn't often laid at the doorstep of radical Native American activists.

Honestly, what trash. Christians, and particularly conservative Christians, are among the most privileged groups in the country, if not the world. Their every whim is anticipated and planned for so adeptly that they rarely have any need to resort to such messy forms of persuasion as protesting, not that they don't choose to do a fair bit of that anyway. You can get all angry about your cracker, but let's not pretend that it's atheist biology professors or Native Americans who venerate white bison who are running the government, the business sector and, yes, the country's major public and private universities, hmmm?
8.1.2008 12:03am
zippypinhead:
Contract issues aside, they'd have to prove he had one of their hosts.

Myers claims it is one of their hosts on his blog.

(You're right, of course, we can't show chain of custody!...)
If chain of custody is all that's standing between Myers and [earthly] consequences for his ill-advised stunt, he has a problem. Anybody who was ever a prosecutor for longer than 6 months knows there are many ways you can prove chain of custody when you can ascertain both the originating source and the endpoint, as appears to be the case here. It's done all the time in drug, theft, firearms, money laundering, and pretty much any other criminal case involving clandestine movement of contraband. Among other ways, it becomes trivially easy if one can "flip" the intermediary -- here, meaning Myers needs to keep hoping that his "source" doesn't have a moral epiphany or becomes remorseful and repentant about his misdeeds, which is probably a greater risk here than in many criminal conspiracies.
8.1.2008 12:04am
Anon21:
zippypinhead:
If chain of custody is all that's standing between Myers and [earthly] consequences for his ill-advised stunt, he has a problem.

Fortunately, however, it isn't, since no one here has managed to come up with even a tendentiously plausible argument as to how the wafer could have been obtained illicitly under secular law. Nor, surprisingly, have I heard anything about a grand jury being impaneled to investigate the Great Cracker Caper. Perhaps there's a sealed indictment, just waiting until the FBI can be sure that they'll be able to take this dangerous 51-year-old biology professor into custody without too many agents lost.

Just give up. You're not going to pretend this into a crime. In a free society, the existence of people who are offended about something is not equivalent to a license lock the offender up.
8.1.2008 12:12am
Hoosier:
"The Catholic Church is a religion founded on human sacrifice and which regularly engages in what they say is actual cannibalism to celebrate that original human sacrifice, and people here are hating on Myers for not respecting that religion???? "

Scote: You really have a problem with this "speaking for the Catholic Church" thing. I posted above, in response to one of YOUR posts, an authoritative statement on the matter of "canibalism." And yet you say "what they [the Church] says is actual canibalism."

That's just shabby.
8.1.2008 12:15am
Scote (mail):

Scote: You really have a problem with this "speaking for the Catholic Church" thing. I posted above, in response to one of YOUR posts, an authoritative statement on the matter of "canibalism." And yet you say "what they [the Church] says is actual canibalism."

That's just shabby.

Oh, please, this cannibalism is part of the reason why there are protestants.
8.1.2008 12:19am
Dr. Weevil (mail) (www):
Actually "this cannibalism" is a result of anti-Catholic bigotry, "the anti-semitism of the intellectuals" (broadly defined).
8.1.2008 12:22am
Hoosier:
"Just give up. You're not going to pretend this into a crime. In a free society, the existence of people who are offended about something is not equivalent to a license lock the offender up."

Yes. I agree that this isn't a crime. And that in a free society, the existence of people who take offense is not enough to summon a law into being.

Too bad universities are not "free societies." Since that sort of crap happens with depressing regularity on campus. As a Catholic, I am not anxious to join in the mau-mauing. I don't want veto power over the speech of others.

This does raise an issue, however, that some people above have discussed: I sure as Hell wouldn't take a chance with this joker as my bio prof. I don't expect him to be canned. But the powers-that-be at The U--if fairness is an issue and freedom of thought a value--will need to make space in a different prof's section for any student who does not feel intellectually safe in his class.

He should have the right to do what he did. Students should be able to opt-out of his course without suffering negative consequences.
8.1.2008 12:27am
zippypinhead:
Drop it, Anon21. You keep decrying the alleged ranting in favor of criminal prosecution. Apparently you haven't been paying attention, or you're reading some other thread. To quote from my earlier post:
"Nobody is advocating an actual prosecution here (at least I'm not), but merely pointing out that Myers' actions can be seen as not only morally wrong, but legally wrong and not Constitutionally protected."

Personally, I do hope that the University does something to ensure that students of faith are protected from this flaming jerk -- who had already proven he is more than willing to engage in petty, anti-religious acts -- but apparently that's already been decided by his fellow inhabitants of the (now somewhat tarnished) Ivory Tower.
8.1.2008 12:28am
Hoosier:
Scote:
"Oh, please, this cannibalism is part of the reason why there are protestants."

Martin Luther (!) insisted on retaining the doctrine of transsubstantiation. And he's often associated with that Protestantism/Reformation thing. So, really, Scote old boy, I think you're out of your depth here.
8.1.2008 12:31am
LM (mail):
I'm surprised that Dilan and Hoosier, who I consider two of the most civil advocates here, can't agree on a word that doesn't leave one of them feeling insulted or bullied. It must mean something, but I'm not sure what. Whatever, it's too bad.
8.1.2008 12:34am
Anon21:
Drop it, Anon21. You keep decrying the alleged ranting in favor of criminal prosecution. Apparently you haven't been paying attention, or you're reading some other thread.

Ah, I see. So the bit about Myers' "[earthly] consequences" and the extended digression about how a "prosecutor" might investigate an analogous "criminal case" was just an irrelevant hypothetical. My apologies for not knowing when to tune out inane chatter.

And in case you were reading a different post from the one you appear to be replying to, I pointed out that "no one here has managed to come up with even a tendentiously plausible argument as to how the wafer could have been obtained illicitly under secular law," which pretty neatly precludes there being any legal wrong in Myers' actions, before the Constitution even comes into things. Unless you want to dispute that, and have another go at tearing down the edifice of property and contract law again?
8.1.2008 12:36am
NRWO:
Me: A reasonable person knows that a host is to be consumed during mass and is not to be kept and desecrated later. A person who plans to desecrate a host will not secure one through legitimate means, because no such means exist. The Church would never grant a contract that would allow desecration of a host.

Schwartz: All true, just not legally binding, and for good secular reasons. A reasonable person knows that lottery ticket forms are not given away for use as scratch paper but instead are to indicate the numbers you want to use to buy a lottery ticket. But we don't let stores sue people for taking one to write their phone number on.

Your lottery analogy seems inapt: A reasonable person should not take those forms, and use them as scratch paper, without asking the clerk. From the clerk’s perspective, the marginal cost of one form, relative to the cost of challenging the customer, is small, so the clerk probably wouldn’t care if the form is taken, assuming that such occurrences are rare. But that’s the clerk’s call, not the customer’s.

I think you (and to some extent, Dilan) are misunderstanding my argument, which, at base, is secular.

My point is that property owners get to decide how their property is used.

We normally don’t allow people to use another’s property as they see fit, when there is an implied contract about how the property is to be used. If an implied contract between a property owner and a user is broken, the user can be held liable.

A person who breaks an implied contract -- and defaces someone’s property -- doesn’t get to determine damages (if they’re found liable). If such people could determine damages, they would simply claim the property was worth nothing. A person who damages a Picasso, because he thinks it’s only oil and canvas, may have a tough time in court.

We normally let judges and juries decide whether somebody who violates an implied contract for property, and determine damages when applicable.

I think I agree with Frank Cross, not a Catholic, who makes a very Catholic argument at 7/31, 8:52p.
8.1.2008 12:49am
Scote (mail):

Actually "this cannibalism" is a result of anti-Catholic bigotry,


If you have a problem with cannibalism you should take it up with the Church not me. Accurate characterizations of Church tenets is not bigotry. It isn't my fault that the tenets of the church seem absurd when objectively described.

Playing the oppressed victim when Catholicism is the largest branch of Christianity doesn't wash.
8.1.2008 12:51am
NRWO:
Me: A reasonable person knows that a host is to be consumed during mass and is not to be kept and desecrated later. A person who plans to desecrate a host will not secure one through legitimate means, because no such means exist. The Church would never grant a contract that would allow desecration of a host.

Schwartz: All true, just not legally binding, and for good secular reasons. A reasonable person knows that lottery ticket forms are not given away for use as scratch paper but instead are to indicate the numbers you want to use to buy a lottery ticket. But we don't let stores sue people for taking one to write their phone number on.

My Reply: Your lottery analogy seems inapt: A reasonable person should not take those forms, and use them as scratch paper, without asking the clerk. From the clerk’s perspective, the marginal cost of one form, relative to the cost of challenging the customer, is small, so the clerk probably wouldn’t care if the form is taken, assuming that such occurrences are rare. But that’s the clerk’s call, not the customer’s.

I think you (and to some extent, Dilan) are misunderstanding my argument, which, at base, is secular.

My point is that property owners get to decide how their property is used.

We normally don’t allow people to use another’s property as they see fit, when there is an implied contract about how the property is to be used. If an implied contract between a property owner and a user is broken, the user can be held liable.

A person who breaks an implied contract -- and defaces someone’s property -- doesn’t get to determine damages (if they’re found liable). If such people could determine damages, they would simply claim the property was worth nothing. A person who damages a Picasso, because he thinks it’s only oil and canvas, may have a tough time in court.

We normally let judges and juries decide whether somebody who violates an implied contract for property, and determine damages when applicable.

I think I agree with Frank Cross, not a Catholic, who makes a very Catholic argument at 7/31, 8:52p.
8.1.2008 12:54am
Scote (mail):

Martin Luther (!) insisted on retaining the doctrine of transsubstantiation. And he's often associated with that Protestantism/Reformation thing. So, really, Scote old boy, I think you're out of your depth here.


How many protestant churches practice the exact same ritual and litteral belief in transubstantiation as the Catholic Church???

Really, old boy...
8.1.2008 12:55am
Hoosier:
Scote:

It is not a matter of "playing oppressed vicitm." It's really just a matter of you saying things that are not correct. The statement that anti-Catholic bigots came up with the "canibalism" argument is historically correct. I don't think it makes any of us victims.
8.1.2008 12:57am
zippypinhead:
Anon21 tries once again: "I pointed out that "no one here has managed to come up with even a tendentiously plausible argument as to how the wafer could have been obtained illicitly under secular law," which pretty neatly precludes there being any legal wrong in Myers' actions, before the Constitution even comes into things. Unless you want to dispute that, and have another go at tearing down the edifice of property and contract law again?"
Anon21, in case you haven't noticed, or are just ignoring posts you can't figure out how to rebut, you're not carrying your cause by anything close to unanimous consent. Frankly, there's more than enough morally and legally wrong with Myers' antics that a public university's faculty disciplinary committee could easily justify discipline, and a court could easily uphold it.

But you don't see it, so there's no sense wasting electrons on it anymore. I just pity his students who are persons of faith, as they're very much at his mercy and can't adequately defend themselves if his anti-religion bigotry leads to petty tyranny in the classroom.
8.1.2008 1:03am
Brian K (mail):
The way I see it, we have two options:
1) accept that most religions/groups try to silence speech they don't like
or
2) believe that the confraternity of catholic clergy is really a muslim group in disguise.

after having read the first 20 responses or so, i think it's safe to conclude that a surprisingly large groups of people believe 2.
8.1.2008 1:04am
David M. Nieporent (www):
The purpose of laws and regulations preventing misrepresenting kosher status of food and goods is consumer protection and ensuring that the goods are what they purport to be (usually there's a label or two on the package). If I sell you a hot dog and claim the animal involved was slaughtered in a particular way and/or blessed by a rabbi, when it was not, I'm making a verifiable (or falsifiable) factual claim. So it's not really a matter of religious law, just a factual representation about the goods.
To clear up a common misconception among gentiles: kosher food is not holy water; it is not something "blessed by a rabbi." A rabbi may certify that the food is kosher, but that certification is not itself a religious act (though it requires religious knowledge); it is no different than the USDA certifying that particular food is organic. If the food is of the proper type and is prepared properly, it's kosher without the intervention of a rabbi. If it is not of the proper type and/or is not prepared properly, it is not kosher and a rabbi cannot make it kosher by "blessing" it.


Going back to the original question, some courts have struck down kosher laws because enforcing them requires that a court delve into a religious issue in violation of the establishment clause. See Ran-Dav's County Kosher, Inc. v. New Jersey, 129 N.J. 141 (1992) and Commack Self-Service Kosher Meats, Inc. v. Rubin, 106 F. Supp. 2d 445 (E.D.N.Y. 2000).
8.1.2008 2:02am
David M. Nieporent (www):
I'm going to stick with the wiki. It is an exact quote from the Council of Trent.
And if English was good enough for the Council of Trent, it's good enough for us!
8.1.2008 2:17am
Ricardo (mail):
From my non-lawyer perspective, it seems to me that there are some matters that courts simply do not wade into. What ever happened to the mostly conservative notion that not every potential conflict or case of ambiguous rights or obligations should be subject to civil or criminal law? Next I suppose courts will be deciding who should pay for dinner when one party gets a date through lying to the other. Or maybe supermarkets will start pressing charges against people who take free samples of things but who are not "genuine" customers.

And those making accusations of anti-Catholic bigotry should be careful to not confuse criticism of a religion or that religion's doctrine with criticism of the practitioners of the religion (which is real bigotry). A certain religious group you are probably familiar with has been very successful with equating criticism of religious doctrine or practices with racism. These baseless accusations of bigotry could come back to bite you next time you want to criticize said religious group which, by browsing plenty of previous comments threads, some are inclined to do.
8.1.2008 4:11am
ReaderY:
I have to confess I don't understand the difference between this matter, or for that matter flag-burning, and laws against destroying paper money. The idea is that paper money isn't a symbol, it actually "is" something of intrinsic value.

But if private citizens and churches can't enforce the idea that what looks from the outside like a piece of cloth or paper or bread is "really" something of value, why should the government be able to do so? The idea that government money is valuable (as opposed to, say, gold or a private currency or barter) is simply an idea. Why should government get a pass on things like this that no-one else does.

As sometimes find, as our society secularizes, that we instinctively hold a reverence for secular things, and permit government to enforce it, that a different civilization might do for religious or moral matters. Why should the government be able to enforce reverence for paper money? Why should expressing the idea that it's just a piece of paper be a crime?

What makes Mammon so different?
8.1.2008 4:36am
Public_Defender (mail):
One man makes a jerk of himself. Pretty much everyone acknowledges that he's a jerk. Then some want to turn the jerk into a free speech martyr.

When the question is whether his actions are immoral, he loses. When the question is whether his actions are legally actionable, he wins. Fight the game he loses, not the game he wins.

Too many people are playing his game. Don't turn him into a martyr. Let him go back to being an obscure professor or something or another.
8.1.2008 6:44am
Richard Aubrey (mail):
anon.
You're right. This is a Judeo-Christian country. The Founders set it up that way and that way it remains. Nice of you to say so.

Anyway, in the real world, UC-Irvine is a bad place to be a Jew, while the Muslims can do no wrong.

The "death threat" meme surprises me. That you'd accept somebody's word. I was accused of sending somebody a death threat. Hadn't. Didn't. Don't. Won't. But it's what the Usual Suspects do. Lie, that is.

I don't know who runs the universities, but those willing to make the biggest stink seem to be in first place. And Catholics, conservative Protestants and Jews are not willing to make the biggest stink.

Suppose a bunch of Baptists took over the ad building, complete with guns. Think we'd have a stand off with demands being met? A $10 mill for a Baptist student center in which only Baptists are allowed? Nope. We wouldn't even need Janet Reno as AG to anticipate a SWAT attack. Not like some others we can all remember.

How far would anybody get with "The Penis Monologues"? Depends. Is it a gay group or a het group making fun of "The Vagina Monologues"?

C'mon, Anon. Pull the other one.
8.1.2008 8:18am
Scote (mail):

Richard Aubrey (mail):
anon.
You're right. This is a Judeo-Christian country. The Founders set it up that way and that way it remains. Nice of you to say so.

No, it isn't. Many of the founders were Deists, not Christians and none, so far as I know, were Jews. There is no mention of God in the Constitution


How far would anybody get with "The Penis Monologues"? Depends. Is it a gay group or a het group making fun of "The Vagina Monologues"?


Have you forgotten the Australian touring perfomance of Puppetry of the Penis? Penis "origami" live on stage. Even the mayor Willie Brown went.
8.1.2008 10:21am
Richard Aubrey (mail):
Scote.
You may or may not be right--you dearly wish to be right--but I was reacting to anon's point that everything in this country is designed to convenience the conservative Christian. Take it up with anon.

Was the Puppetry of The Penis a production of a group on a CAMPUS? CAMPUS. We were talking about a CAMPUS. Try to keep up.

And, yeah, if I'd heard about it, I'd hope I'd forgotten it.
8.1.2008 10:44am
jukeboxgrad (mail):
richard:

I was accused of sending somebody a death threat. Hadn't. Didn't. Don't. Won't. But it's what the Usual Suspects do. Lie, that is.


I'm not sure, but I suppose it's possible you're making reference to an exchange documented here. Just in case you are, I thought maybe it would be good for folks to have a chance to see it.
8.1.2008 10:58am
cathyf:
The "death threat" meme surprises me. That you'd accept somebody's word.
Oh, yeah, that was one of the more amusing parts of the incident. The reason that Myers recruited others to steal the Eucharist for him is that he has this bizarre fantasy that his picture was posted on every sacristy wall in America and that he would be beaten to death by the brownshirt security guards (every parish has a squad!) were he to show his face at mass somewhere.

(Well I suppose technically there was some risk that when they got to the Sign of Peace some disease would be passed on. The germ police are always scolding us that handshakes are so unsanitary after all!)
8.1.2008 11:00am
Richard Aubrey (mail):
juke.
Wrong. Among other things, the only threat was that one should take care not to be on the side that will be massacred should something terrible happen. As I say, prediction isn't approval. You should hear what my doctor predicts if I don't lay off the bacon. I don't think he approves of my early demise..

Nope. I was dealing with some feminists and one claimed I'd e-mailed her a death threat. So another wrote a letter to my employer.
Nice folks.
The usual suspects.
8.1.2008 11:08am
BZ (mail):
Whew, if anyone is still reading at the end of this, I'll add something for the benefit of those non-Catholics who are now totally confused about what to do if they are invited to a Catholic wedding or Mass (I write as a Quaker, son of a Holocaust survivor, who represents, inter alia, churches, meetings (inc. Baptist) in my proudly-Jewish/Indian law firm, who taught at a Catholic school where my friends included reknowned Catholic writers, and whose kids attended Catholic schools):

As a non-Catholic, in most places, you are welcome to participate in the communion, which is why people at the wedding mentioned above asked for everyone to join the line. When you arrive at the priest (or officiant, these days), to indicate that you are non-Catholic, you cross your arms over your chest, placing your hands on your shoulders. You do not hold your hands out for the wafer. The officiant will give you an appropriate blessing but won't give you the host. You may reply if you choose, and then exit in the same direction as everyone before you.
8.1.2008 11:14am
wfjag:

One man makes a jerk of himself. Pretty much everyone acknowledges that he's a jerk. Then some want to turn the jerk into a free speech martyr.


Exactly, PD. In particular, following the Hooiser/Scote debate, what Myers did bears a striking resemblance to tactics David Duke used. Do something outrageous and offensive, then claim Free Speech protections, gin up a few death threats, and use the controversy to get publicity and money. Scote's defenses of Myers sounds a lot like the defenses David Duke's supporters asserted. Myers is a moral force and martyr of First Amendment rights only to the same extent and only if David Duke was one.
8.1.2008 11:19am
Bama 1L:
Would those who think the Catholic Church teaches that the body does not contain the blood please Google "utraquism" and be set straight? Thanks!
8.1.2008 11:22am
some dude:
While it's true the wafers you can easily purchase aren't said to be Consecrated, how do you know? They are 100.0000% indistinguishable from "consecrated" wafers, nor can you tell the difference.
Meyers confessed they were consecrated. A confession is still admissible in court, no?
8.1.2008 11:40am
John McG (mail) (www):

If you mean firebomb abortion clinics, that's another one that isn't often laid at the doorstep of radical Native American activists.


Nor pro-life activsts, these days.
8.1.2008 11:40am
Thales (mail) (www):
The attempts by some of the offended commenters above and the Confraternity to make a secular legal case (or to intentionally blur secular and religious law) against Myers strike me as some strong evidence that people like Hitchens, Rushdie, Dawkins and Myers are on to something with their claims that strongly held religious beliefs are ultimately incompatible with a social order governed by liberal democracy. I hope that the above authors are wrong about that and that we can "all just get along," but it does the religious as a whole little credit to make poorly reasoned arguments that have as their ultimate (if implicit) conclusion, that outspoken atheists should be punished by the civil authorities for heterodoxy. This simply won't do in a free society, and if you don't want that kind of society, your options are: a) lobby to amend the First Amendment out of the Constitution or b) emigrate to a theocratic state.
8.1.2008 11:57am
Chris Bell (mail) (www):
Dr. Weevil (8:52pm yesterday):
I cannot believe that a professor who publicly barbecued the sacred white buffalo of the Sioux would not be fired by the end of the day (end of the week if he's tenured) and the same goes for most of the other examples.
Maybe your hang up is the same mistake I've seen lots of other people make. You seem to be implicitly concluding that Myers did what he did solely to piss off Catholics. He just woke up one morning, yawned, and then said, "You know who I don't like? Catholics. I wonder what I can do to make them upset?"

There were several posts on Myers blog that led up to the desecration. The whole thing started when it was reported that a kid in Florida was receiving death threats for taking a host. Local Catholic leaders were calling it kidnapping and a hate crime. Myers thought the backlash against the kid was over the top and decided to make his own statement on the issue. His response simultaneously said, "This is just a cracker" and "Don't treat the kid like that, because look what happens when you do."

All your examples strongly imply that the Sacred White Buffalo was cooked for the sole purpose of "sticking it to" Native Americans. If I owned a buffalo farm and was receiving death threats over the white buffalo that happened to be born on my farm, then I would be tempted to eat it as a sign of rebellion myself.

Nor do I see why you think the AAUP's statement on academic freedom is relevant. It talks about what professors "speak or write as citizens", not what they barbecue or stomp or otherwise desecrate as bigots.
Two responses

1) The AAUP is kinda the "union" for college professors. You generally can't fire a tenured professor without following their guidelines.

2) I think your statement again shows that you think Myers had no point besides just being rude. Protected "speech", as it universally understood, includes actions that convey messages. You can disagree strongly with Myers, but I don't think you can read his posts and really believe that he didn't think he had a point he was trying to make. (You can say it was a horrible and rude way to make that point, but you seem to think he had NO point. He was just being mean for the sake of being mean and put no more thought into it at all.)

If that's what you think, then I invite you to read the post itself, especially the concluding paragraph:
Nothing must be held sacred. Question everything. God is not great, Jesus is not your lord, you are not disciples of any charismatic prophet. You are all human beings who must make your way through your life by thinking and learning, and you have the job of advancing humanity's knowledge by winnowing out the errors of past generations and finding deeper understanding of reality. You will not find wisdom in rituals and sacraments and dogma, which build only self-satisfied ignorance, but you can find truth by looking at your world with fresh eyes and a questioning mind.
Note the difference between whether you thought he had a point and whether he thought he had a point. Only the second one is needed.
8.1.2008 12:01pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
Thales.
It takes a complaint from Christians to get that kind of reaction.
Other religions...not so much.
8.1.2008 12:01pm
Thales (mail) (www):
Aubrey: "Thales.
It takes a complaint from Christians to get that kind of reaction.
Other religions...not so much."

I am not sure what exactly you mean by your remark, but I had the same basic reaction I do now to some Muslims' violent protests and threats of punishment against the publishers of the offensive cartoons of Muhammed.
8.1.2008 12:05pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
Good for you, Thales. How do you like being so alone?

Did VC have a third of a thousand comments on the subject? What, exactly, were your actual comments? I should have said manifest reaction, not let people off with "I felt that way...."
8.1.2008 12:14pm
njones (mail):

... I pointed out that "no one here has managed to come up with even a tendentiously plausible argument as to how the wafer could have been obtained illicitly under secular law," which pretty neatly precludes there being any legal wrong in Myers' actions...


Let's have another go at this.

I have no problem with what Myers did to the Koran or the Hitchen's book. (I would also have no problem if he defaced a Bible.) Presumably he bought the books he destroyed, so they were his property -- he can do what he likes.

If he destroyed a non-consecrated wafer, I would also have no problem. Again, he would presumably have bought the wafer from a church-supply store so it would have been his property -- he can do what he likes.

A consecrated host is entirely different because he cannot simply buy one like he might buy a book or a (non-consecrated) wafer. The only way a person can come into possession of a consecrated wafer is through fraud or theft, therefore Myers can't "own" it in the same way he might own a book or regular cracker.

As many others have explained, a reasonable person would not (could not) conclude that the consecrated wafers were free for the taking:

* The missalette clearly states that non-Catholics should abstain from the Eucharist. Priests sometimes publically announce this from the pulpit. There is no way a reasonable non-Catholic, upon reading this admoinition, could conclude that they are invited to take one of the hosts.

* Catholics, because they have to go through classes, know that the host is to be eaten immediately during the mass. Catholics also have to publically affirm in first communion/reception ceremonies that, amongst other things, that they will eat the host during the mass. There is no way a reasonable Catholic would conclude that the host is something that can be taken out of the parish and mailed to an athiest blogger.

In addition:

* During the mass, the priest says: "take EAT, this is my body that is given up for you, do this in rememberance of me." And later: "This is the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world, happy are those who are called to his SUPPER." The congregation may say: "When we EAT this bread and drink this cup we proclaim your death, Lord Jesus, until you come in glory."

* During the mass the congregation often sings a hymn while people go forward to receive the host. The themes of these songs are typically about eating.

* A person should also notice that many will choose to receive the host directly in their mouths again proof that hosts are ment to be eaten. He or she would also probably notice that everyone in the parish (whether they receive in the mouth or on the hand) eats the host when they receive it. He wouldn't see anyone taking it away for later!

Can a reasonable person see, hear, and read all of this and conclude that hosts are not for eating? They are given out with the expectation that they will be immediately consumed on the premesis.

Further Myers surely knows all of this this. His original blog post was on the reaction of Catholics when a host was stolen. He then solicited his readers to secure a host for him. He knows that consecrated hosts aren't simply given out for free. His reader, whoever it was, also knows that hosts aren't something given away with no expectation about how they will be used.

Now nothing I have written above is religious (except for quoting from the liturgy but I was quoting from the liturgy to prove a secular point -- that hosts are meant for eating -- not to prove any dogma about what the hosts mean). No reasonable person could go to a Catholic liturgy and conclude that there is nothing wrong with taking a host and sending it to Myers! They would have to know they were committing some sort of a fraud to go forward and take a host without eating it.
8.1.2008 12:26pm
Chris Bell (mail) (www):
njones,

I agree with everything you say except for your legal implications. Of course (most) people know that they shouldn't take the host if they aren't Catholic and don't plan on eating it. That is still very different from a legal obligation not to do so.

You say a reasonable person could not conclude the wafers are free for the taking. Why not? What payment is required? I know that if I wanted to walk into a church this weekend I could probably get a wafer, no problem, no payment.

Sorry, but the wafer is a gift. There are all sorts of requests and conditions, but those really don't work for gifts. If you want to really limit the other person's actions you need a contract, and a contract requires getting something in return.
8.1.2008 12:48pm
Dr. Weevil (mail) (www):
Thales (10:57am):
Absolutely no one has suggested or even implied "that outspoken atheists should be punished by the civil authorities for heterodoxy". Myers can say whatever he wants about Catholicism or religious belief in general, even if it obviously untrue. When he writes "You are all human beings who must make your way through your life by thinking and learning, and you have the job of advancing humanity's knowledge by winnowing out the errors of past generations and finding deeper understanding of reality", who could disagree? Benedict XVI could say exactly the same thing. When Myers continues, "You will not find wisdom in rituals and sacraments and dogma, which build only self-satisfied ignorance", he is saying something that is obviously false: many people do find wisdom in rituals and sacraments and dogma, and only a blinkered bigot could pretend that they are all stupid. They may of course be wrong, but that's quite a different thing. (By the way, if you think you're smarter than either of the last two popes, chances are 1000-1 that you're wrong, though maybe only 100-1 for readers of the Volokh Conspiracy.)

Nevertheless, no one doubts that Myers can say and write such things, true or not. The question is about his actions, not his words, and whether he has publicly demonstrated by those actions that religious students cannot trust him to grade them fairly. I think he has.
8.1.2008 12:49pm
Dr. Weevil (mail) (www):
Chris Bell and others seem to be muddling the issue by using 'free' in two different senses. The fact that consecrated hosts are handed out free of charge (sense 1) does not imply that they are handed out unconditionally (sense 2), which is the whole point.

For example: if you're an invited guest at a wedding reception where the drinks are free, you're still expected to consume them on the premises, even if there's no sign up saying so. Everyone knows that grabbing a few bottles and putting them in your car to save money on your own liquor bill would be theft. If you tried to do so, an usher would very likely put his hand on your arm to try to stop you. Everyone knows that passing drinks out the window to uninvited guests who haven't been allowed in the front door would also be theft. In short, the fact that something is given out 'free of charge' does not prove that it is given out 'free of conditions' and one can therefore walk away with it and use it in ways that would offend the giver.
8.1.2008 1:00pm
Chris Bell (mail) (www):
The question is about his actions, not his words, and whether he has publicly demonstrated by those actions that religious students cannot trust him to grade them fairly. I think he has.
Oh please.

First, that is not the standard that professors are judged by. Professors get in trouble when they actually grade students poorly based on beliefs instead of test scores. Myers has publicly said he makes sure to do this, and evidence trumps your feelings on the matter.

Second, your standard should not be the standard. I had an evangelical Christian for a professor. He and I... did not get along. I was doubtful that he would be fair to me. I think he let his religion enter the classroom in an unacceptable way. Nonetheless, I have to admit that he did grade me fairly, and my suspicions that he would not should not be sufficient to have the man fired.

You're just looking for a loophole because you don't like what he did. Either students (a) will, or (b) will not get a fair shake in his class. Since you have absolutely no evidence of anything that has ever gone on in any of the professor's classes, I suggest that you are blowing hot air.
8.1.2008 1:03pm
Thales (mail) (www):
Weevil: "Absolutely no one has suggested or even implied "that outspoken atheists should be punished by the civil authorities for heterodoxy""

You may wish to read the press release of the Confraternity to the effect that Myers has violated the Constitution and committed a hate crime, and the assertions of others in the comments above that Myers has committed criminal or civil fraud or theft (as such terms are cognizable in human, secular law) and rethink your statement.
8.1.2008 1:05pm
Dr. Weevil (mail) (www):
Thales:
Did the Confraternity say that Myers "violated the Constitution and committed a hate crime" by saying and writing bad things about Christianity, or by physically desecrating a consecrated host? Have they demanded that Christopher Hitchens and Richard Dawkins and John Derbyshire be silenced, or have they only asked that people not be allowed to steal and destroy consecrated hosts? You may want to rethink your statement.
8.1.2008 1:16pm
J. F. Thomas (mail):
For example: if you're an invited guest at a wedding reception where the drinks are free, you're still expected to consume them on the premises, even if there's no sign up saying so. Everyone knows that grabbing a few bottles and putting them in your car to save money on your own liquor bill would be theft.

Although it would be incredibly rude, I doubt it would be criminally actionable. Which is exactly the point being made here. Most of us agree Myers is being an irredeemable jerk, but he has done nothing that is punishable under the law.
8.1.2008 1:19pm
Dr. Weevil (mail) (www):
I doubt that it would be prosecuted, but are you really saying that walking off with bottles of liquor from a wedding reception could not be prosecuted as theft, because drinks were being given out free to invited guests? I'm no lawyer, but that sounds very unlikely.
8.1.2008 1:23pm
Dr. Weevil (mail) (www):
Chris Bell:
Actually, professors have gotten in trouble for looking like they would be unfair, even when they were not. To take one obvious example, Michael Hill, the founder of the neo-confederate League of the South, was a long-time history professor at Stillman, a historically-black college in Tuscaloosa, where students thought him an excellent and fair-minded teacher. Coming out of the closet as a neo-confederate brought his career there to an early and unpleasant end.
8.1.2008 1:29pm
Chris Bell (mail) (www):
Mr. Hill resigned, which is different from being fired.
8.1.2008 1:36pm
c.gray (mail):
<blockquote>
But since the only things the Church requires in exchange are spiritual, there is no enforceable obligation.
</blockquote>

I recently went through the conversion process to become a Roman Catholic as an adult. Trust me, the Church asked me for more than purely spiritual consideration before I was deemed eligible to receive the Host.

Anyway, all this talk of whether Myers received the Host via false pretenses, fraud or outright theft, and whether the Host is actually the property of the Church is besides the point. Nobody is contemplating a legal cause of action against Myers.

All we have here is a fringe group representing about 1% of American Catholic priests, exercising THEIR 1st amendment rights by calling for Myers to be fired or at least reprimanded by his employer. Good for them.

Now maybe their understanding of constitutional law is flawed. But so what? They're a bunch of lay people. And one could argue that speech and conduct codes promulgated by universities like Myer's employer play a large role in the production of such confusion.
8.1.2008 1:38pm
Chris Bell (mail) (www):
This is from an Atlanta Journal article on Hill:
[The President of Stillman] retired in 1997 and was succeeded by Ernest McNealey, a native Alabamian who had spent years in the North and was astonished, upon his return, to find that he had a flaming secessionist in his employ. He says the Hill controversy has embarrassed Stillman and, judging from conversations with parents, has cost it some students. But he isn't looking to fire the professor.

"The views he articulates are somewhat pathetic and sad," McNealey says, "but the right to speak your mind is part of academic freedom. We have no complaints from students. As long as he behaves himself on campus, we have no legal mechanism to limit his activities."
I think you should have picked a better example.
8.1.2008 1:41pm
zippypinhead:
"no one doubts that Myers can say and write such things, true or not. The question is about his actions, not his words, and whether he has publicly demonstrated by those actions that religious students cannot trust him to grade them fairly. I think he has."
Amen.

Dr. Weevil, you hit it spot-on. The problem here isn't with Myers' words, literal or symbolic. It's that Myers decided to act out his bigotry with the self-admitted intent of intimidating and inflicting emotional distress on his targets. Cross-burning, Host-desecrating, or whatever, aren't protected under such circumstances, as the Supreme Court most recently reaffirmed in Virginia v. Black.

Having crossed the line, Myers himself raised questions about his fitness to teach groups of students that include members of the religion he has targeted. Res ipsa loquitur.
8.1.2008 1:44pm
John McG (mail) (www):

His response simultaneously said, "This is just a cracker" and "Don't treat the kid like that, because look what happens when you do."


So, it was extortion and hostage-taking, not just thumbung his nose?

Because that's so much better.
8.1.2008 1:50pm
Chris Bell (mail) (www):
Zippy,

I'm sorry, could you please quote where Myers said he had a "self-admitted intent of intimidating" Catholics?

American Heritage Dictionary
in·tim·i·date
tr.v. in·tim·i·dat·ed, in·tim·i·dat·ing, in·tim·i·dates

1. To make timid; fill with fear.
2. To coerce or inhibit by or as if by threats.
8.1.2008 1:50pm
Chris Bell (mail) (www):
So, it was extortion and hostage-taking
Man, you people really need to invest in a good dictionary.

American Heritage Dictionary
ex·tor·tion
n.

1. The act or an instance of extorting.
2. Illegal use of one's official position or powers to obtain property, funds, or patronage.

What "official position" did Myers use to obtain property again? (Don't say his professorship, because he didn't use that to obtain the property. He would have to charge students for grades for that to make sense.)

Dictionary.com Unabridged (v 1.1)
hos·tage
–noun

1. a person given or held as security for the fulfillment of certain conditions or terms, promises, etc., by another.

What person did Myers hold? What promises did he extract in exchange for the person's proposed release?

You just can't make words mean whatever you want them to mean.
8.1.2008 1:57pm
John McG (mail) (www):
Ok, Chris what do you call taking something of value from another, and threatening to damage it unless some other party behave is the manner you dictate?
8.1.2008 2:14pm
Chris Bell (mail) (www):
Chris what do you call taking something of value from another, and threatening to damage it unless some other party behave is the manner you dictate?
Well, I don't agree that this is what happened. First, I don't think there was a "taking" in the sense of a legal stealing (I've explained why above) but I would agree that the host was physically "taken" from the church, so maybe that's a minor point.

Second, where did Myers say that "he would not crumble the cracker if the Catholics did ________." Sorry, but I can't figure out how to fill in that blank. Myers said from the beginning he was going to desecrate the host and then proceeded to do so. There were no demands, no ransom notes, no hostage negotiations.

So what would I call it? I would call it "rude" and I would call it "free speech" and I would call it "a point worth making."
8.1.2008 2:21pm
njones (mail):

njones,

I agree with everything you say except for your legal implications...

Sorry, but the wafer is a gift. There are all sorts of requests and conditions, but those really don't work for gifts. If you want to really limit the other person's actions you need a contract, and a contract requires getting something in return.


(I'm not a lawyer -- I'm sincerely asking this question)

So if I said "Chris Bell I'm going to give you $5,000" and then a week later I said "No, I'm not going to give you the money after all" -- you would have no cause of action against me because there was no exchange between us? What if we shook on it? What if I said it in front of a crowd of witnesses? What if I "crossed my heart and hoped to die"?

That just doesn't seem right. If I make a unilateral promise to give you something and then renege, you should be able to legally hold me to my earlier promise, regardles of whether you gave me something or not.

----

It is really hard to see what else the Catholic Church could do in your view short of having everyone sign a contract:

They post a written notice on the conditions to take communion, they verbally announce these conditions during their services, some people (Catholics) go through a class where they learn about the conditions and then publically affirm that they will yield to them...

... and yet you say that, if someone walks in off the street and takes a host hostage, the Catholics have no legal recourse to get it back because they don't make the guy (or gal) sign contract when he or she entered the room?

That just doesn't seem right...
8.1.2008 2:22pm
Dilan Esper (mail) (www):
So criticizing or discriminating against someone for their race is worse than criticizing or discriminating against them for their religion? I'm afraid you're simply grafting your own values system into the discussion. I know of precious few Constitutional scholars who would defend that argument.

You took what I said out of context. The Constitution protects racial bigotry just as it protects criticism of a religious belief. But that doesn't mean they are equal or equivalent.
8.1.2008 2:27pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
Seems to me that Myers future is not going to be solely the province of his employer's view of his assholery.
If any kid who's an observant anything avoids his classes, the prof might find himself a liability.

If I were in his class and heard his opening remarks, I'd picture Lucy with the football. "Go ahead, Charlie Brown. Kick it as hard as you can. I won't move it."

Grades are too important to take the word of a psycho like that.
8.1.2008 2:27pm
Dilan Esper (mail) (www):
Let's turn it around. If Myers decided to claim he was going to pull an anti-religious stunt by eating human flesh and blood don't you think the same exact people would be all over the "Satanic" heretic? But they hold themselves exempt from the claims they would make against Myers.

Under Lukumi Babalu Aye, Myers could not be targeted because he was protesting religion. He could, however, be targeted under a general law that prohibited cannibalism.
8.1.2008 2:28pm
Chris Bell (mail) (www):
njones:
(I'm not a lawyer -- I'm sincerely asking this question)

So if I said "Chris Bell I'm going to give you $5,000" and then a week later I said "No, I'm not going to give you the money after all" -- you would have no cause of action against me because there was no exchange between us? What if we shook on it? What if I said it in front of a crowd of witnesses? What if I "crossed my heart and hoped to die"?

That just doesn't seem right. If I make a unilateral promise to give you something and then renege, you should be able to legally hold me to my earlier promise, regardless of whether you gave me something or not.
That's exactly right. We call these "moral promises" and they are not binding. To be legally binding, there must be an exchange, an quid pro quo.

(There are some special ways to make gifts binding. For example, it can be binding when you know the other party will rely on your gift, (you say "Go ahead and use $5,000 as a down payment on a car and I will pay you back") but those doctrines really don't apply here and I don't want to get too off topic.
8.1.2008 2:30pm
Dilan Esper (mail) (www):
And I hope he doesn't include class participation or lab work in his grading scale, either. Frankly, by announcing that he's "that" PZ Myers, he's elevating the issue and bringing it directly into the classroom. That 18 year-old pre-med is definitely NOT going to want to wear her Crucifix or show up in class after Ash Wednesday services when the professor explicitly highlights his prominent anti-religious beliefs in the very first lecture of the semester.

This argument is silly, and frankly, is typical of conservative anti-intellectualism. Professors have strong opinions all the time-- they are not tabulas rasas, but smart, informed people who are likely to have strongly held beliefs-- and yet the bulk of them managed to be basically unbiased graders. Do you think Professor Volokh can't fairly grade the essay question of a student who advocates strict gun controls and would favor taking away Professor Volokh's firearms?

This is not a problem.
8.1.2008 2:35pm
Dilan Esper (mail) (www):
When talking about events at a Catholic Church, yes, I think the Catholic terms are appropriate. Look, you can comment on the Kipa thread and use the term "beanie" if you want.

It's quite different. "Kipa" isn't an English word that concedes the spiritual claim that non-believers deny. "Host" is-- it literally means the cracker "hosts" Jesus, which it does not do.

So it's down to "wafer" and "cracker". And since they are synonyms, I don't see how you can get so upset about "cracker", unless you can prove why it is a "wafer" but NOT a "cracker".
8.1.2008 2:39pm
Dilan Esper (mail) (www):
One of the most amazing things about this whole kerfuffle is the amazing self-confidence with which so many assert as obvious fact that nothing is or should be sacred, that a host is nothing but a cracker, a flag a mere piece of cloth, and so on.

Actually, the problem is the number of conservative Catholics who seem to think that secular laws should impose their religious beliefs on non-believers.

You see, we secular types aren't saying that you don't have the right to believe that a consecrated communion cracker is the Body of Jesus. What we are saying is that the LAWS in a secular country with free exercise of religion have to treat that cracker as nothing more than a cracker.
8.1.2008 2:41pm
David Schwartz (mail):
NRWO:
Your lottery analogy seems inapt: A reasonable person should not take those forms, and use them as scratch paper, without asking the clerk. From the clerk’s perspective, the marginal cost of one form, relative to the cost of challenging the customer, is small, so the clerk probably wouldn’t care if the form is taken, assuming that such occurrences are rare. But that’s the clerk’s call, not the customer’s.


Absolutely, it's just not legally enforceable. The wafer wasn't taken, it was given. The giver and the taker had a shared expectation it would be used in a particular way. The question is whether that expectation is legally enforceable, not whether a reasonable person would honor it.

In fact, if you want to make the lottery form analogy even better, you can have the customer walk up to the clerk and hold his hand out, and the clerk hands him a lottery form. The clerk expects the customer to use it to buy a lottery ticket and the customer knows the clerk has this expectation.

From a secular standpoint, this is almost exactly analogous. All the major differences favor the wafer-taker. For example, in the lottery form hypothetical, the clerk expects the form back. In the wafer case, the expectation is that the taker will destroy the wafer (though in a specific manner). In the lottery form hypothetical, the clerk expects the "gift" to result in a payment. In the wafer case, the giver does not.

Several others in this thread have used hypotheticals where the quantity is upped; where the customer takes the whole stack of lottery ticket forms. The difference -- the clerk would not have given the customer the whole stack.

I wonder if those quantity cases are legally enforceable. Does anyone know? If my local Burger King has a box of ketchup packets (with an understanding that customers take a reasonable quantity to use as a condiment with their purchased food) and I take the box, am I breaking the law?

What if the employee asks me how many ketchup packets I want, I say "500", and he gives me 500 ketchup packets? Did I fraudulent induce the 'gift' because I know he was asking how many ketchup packets I would use according to the understood use?
8.1.2008 2:42pm
Dilan Esper (mail) (www):
Actually "this cannibalism" is a result of anti-Catholic bigotry, "the anti-semitism of the intellectuals" (broadly defined).

I don't see much productivity in calling communion a cannibalistic act. But that claim is not "anti-Catholic bigotry"-- rather it is a claim that Catholics believe in something that's completely silly, i.e., that the cracker can simultaneously be the Body of Jesus for purposes of the sacrament while also NOT being the Body of Jesus for purposes of the prohibitions against eating human flesh.

Again, it isn't bigotry to claim that a religious belief is dumb.
8.1.2008 2:44pm
Dilan Esper (mail) (www):
My point is that property owners get to decide how their property is used.

That's true if they loan property out, but it's not true if they give it to someone else with no expectation of return. Property owners do not get to decide how property they give away with no expectation of return will be used, except if they enter into a valid contract supported by legal consideration.
8.1.2008 2:47pm
Dilan Esper (mail) (www):
But if private citizens and churches can't enforce the idea that what looks from the outside like a piece of cloth or paper or bread is "really" something of value, why should the government be able to do so?

Because prohibiting the destruction of something because someone else values it (but doesn't own it) not only squelches free speech rights, but the possessor's property rights as well.
8.1.2008 2:50pm
Dilan Esper (mail) (www):
Among other things, the only threat was that one should take care not to be on the side that will be massacred should something terrible happen. As I say, prediction isn't approval.

Death threats are often phrased as predictions (e.g., Jesse Helms saying "if I were Bill Clinton, I'd think twice about visiting North Carolina").
8.1.2008 2:52pm
Dilan Esper (mail) (www):
Chris Bell and others seem to be muddling the issue by using 'free' in two different senses. The fact that consecrated hosts are handed out free of charge (sense 1) does not imply that they are handed out unconditionally (sense 2), which is the whole point.

But what body of law makes the conditions legally enforceable? Not property law, because you can't enforce conditions on the later use of something given with no expectation of later return. Not contract law, because there's no legal consideration and thus no contract.

You can repeat that it wasn't handed out "unconditionally" until you are blue in the face, but you are ignoring that unless there is a legal doctrine that makes a "condition" enforceable, you don't have a case.
8.1.2008 3:01pm
Dilan Esper (mail) (www):
I recently went through the conversion process to become a Roman Catholic as an adult. Trust me, the Church asked me for more than purely spiritual consideration before I was deemed eligible to receive the Host.

1. That's conversion, not communion.

2. What do you mean "more than purely spiritual consideration"? The issue is whether you give something of legally cognizable value to the Church. Promises to believe are not sufficient. Nor are rituals.

And that's the point with respect to communion. There's no contract because the recipient doesn't give anything to the Church in exchange for the cracker that the law considers to be a valid consideration.
8.1.2008 3:11pm
Dilan Esper (mail) (www):
So if I said "Chris Bell I'm going to give you $5,000" and then a week later I said "No, I'm not going to give you the money after all" -- you would have no cause of action against me because there was no exchange between us?

Correct. The law does not enforce gratuitous promises, only contracts supported by a mutual exchange of things of value.

You learn this on the first day of Contracts class.
8.1.2008 3:13pm
LM (mail):
Thales:

The attempts by some of the offended commenters above and the Confraternity to make a secular legal case (or to intentionally blur secular and religious law) against Myers strike me as some strong evidence that people like Hitchens, Rushdie, Dawkins and Myers are on to something with their claims that strongly held religious beliefs are ultimately incompatible with a social order governed by liberal democracy.

Or, that a small band of extremists on each side use the extremists on the other side to define all of their opponents is to be expected.
8.1.2008 3:18pm
Chris Bell (mail) (www):
Or, that a small band of extremists on each side use the extremists on the other side to define all of their opponents
I note that Dr. Myers actions would be illegal in many other countries on earth. Western ones. Not just the backwards places.
8.1.2008 3:24pm
Michael B (mail):
Like flies drawn to feces, the standard and generally predictable crowd is drawn to comment concerning these types of situations, as long as it's Xians who are being targeted. The self-righteous presumption, the schadenfreude, the trumpery, the insinuations, the facile sneers, the adolescent smarm and arrogations, the self-applauding, the usual pitchfork and torch crowd of bigots, cowards, the petty minded, twenty-something and beyond adolescents, etc. And all of it in a cossetted environment where no risks whatsoever are involved, even to the contrary.

(And to be clear, I'm not referring to those who are making legal and similar arguments.)
8.1.2008 3:26pm
cathyf:
1. That's conversion, not communion.
In fact, that is in quite active dispute. Catholics believe that communion is conversion. Other Christians who participate in something they call "communion" believe that it is not.

If you can't base the legal principals on Catholic theology, then you can't base them upon Protestant theology, either.
8.1.2008 3:47pm
Hoosier:
Dilan:

"Actually, the problem is the number of conservative Catholics who seem to think that secular laws should impose their religious beliefs on non-believers."

I don't even understand what you mean by "conservative Catholics." I am conservative. I am Catholic. But I don't think anyone would think of me as a "conservative Catholic."

Is you point that "liberal Catholics" have a different view of the Eucharist, or of the law? Both?

What do you mean by that term?
8.1.2008 3:51pm
zippypinhead:
Dilan, a most impressive string of posts. Professor V. is going to marvel at how you single-handedly inflated the comment count on this thread. But...
[your response to] That 18 year-old pre-med is definitely NOT going to want to wear her Crucifix or show up in class after Ash Wednesday services when the professor explicitly highlights his prominent anti-religious beliefs in the very first lecture of the semester.

This argument is silly, and frankly, is typical of conservative anti-intellectualism. Professors have strong opinions all the time-- they are not tabulas rasas, but smart, informed people who are likely to have strongly held beliefs-- and yet the bulk of them managed to be basically unbiased graders. Do you think Professor Volokh can't fairly grade the essay question of a student who advocates strict gun controls and would favor taking away Professor Volokh's firearms?
What's "silly" is dissmissively calling an argument silly and then using an inapposite counter-example to try to make your point. Here, we actually have a public university professor announcing in open class his biases against belief systems and actions protected by the Free Exercise Clause (and undoubtedly explaining his views for the benefit of students who don't immediately grasp the import of him being "that" PZ Myers). So the biology professor puts his class on notice that he believes Christians are "stupid" (to quote from his blog)? He has told persons of faith who otherwise may choose to exercise their right to wear a Crucifix or otherwise publicly display their faith in class that he vehemently disagrees with them, and questions their intellect.

It matters not that Myers makes his classroom pronouncement under the guise of claiming "but I can still be objective, even though I detest your most deeply-held beliefs." That 18 year-old pre-med student in Myers' class DOES have a Constitutional right to visibly express her faith. But here you have Myers explicitly raising his biases in the classroom. Can you say "chilling effect" boys and girls?
8.1.2008 3:51pm
Dilan Esper (mail) (www):
In fact, that is in quite active dispute. Catholics believe that communion is conversion. Other Christians who participate in something they call "communion" believe that it is not. If you can't base the legal principals on Catholic theology, then you can't base them upon Protestant theology, either.

You are elevating semantics above the point.

The point is, there's two rituals here. The one we have been discussing is the one where they put the cracker in your mouth. The one you mentioned is the one where someone who wasn't a Catholic before becomes a Catholic. Even if there is legal consideration given in the second ritual (something I am not sure about, because you didn't specify the consideration), it has nothing to do with whether there is legal consideration given in the first ritual.
8.1.2008 3:52pm
Dilan Esper (mail) (www):
I don't even understand what you mean by "conservative Catholics." I am conservative. I am Catholic. But I don't think anyone would think of me as a "conservative Catholic." Is you point that "liberal Catholics" have a different view of the Eucharist, or of the law? Both? What do you mean by that term?

I use that term because there's a sort of politically active conservative Catholicism that identifies with the religious right more generally, and sometimes they speak as though they speak for all Catholics. (For instance, saying that "Catholics" are against abortion when in fact lots and lots of Catholics are pro-choice, despite the Church teaching.)

So, I am trying to make clear that I don't believe that all Catholics, by any means, believe that the law should impose their religious beliefs on others. But I do believe that a group of conservative Catholics are pushing for that, and you see that in this thread in the arguments that the secular law should disregard established neutral principles of law and protect the communion cracker because Catholics believe it to be sacred.

But I do not mean by that locution that all politically conservative Catholics believe that; simply that there is a group of people who are not all Catholics, but a conservative segment of them, that do.
8.1.2008 3:56pm
Hoosier:
doesn't give anything to the Church in exchange for the cracker that the law considers to be a valid consideration.
Again, IANAL. But this appears to be the most important issue: No consideration, no contract.

The issue of "consideration" may be explained in canon law. But in civil law? How would it? What value could one put on, say, absolution? And what does one give in return?

These are gifts--"Gifts of the Spirit," in RC parlance. Gifts sometimes go to those for whom they were not intended.
8.1.2008 3:56pm
Morat20 (mail):
Like flies drawn to feces, the standard and generally predictable crowd is drawn to comment concerning these types of situations, as long as it's Xians who are being targeted. The self-righteous presumption, the schadenfreude, the trumpery, the insinuations, the facile sneers, the adolescent smarm and arrogations, the self-applauding, the usual pitchfork and torch crowd of bigots, cowards, the petty minded, twenty-something and beyond adolescents, etc. And all of it in a cossetted environment where no risks whatsoever are involved, even to the contrary

Need help with that last nail? Being a Lutheran myself, son of Catholics, married to a Methodist, I feel I have a good insight into the horrible persecution of Christians in America.

It's sad to think that out of the last 43 Presidents, we can only be sure of perhaps 40 were actually Christians. I suspect a Deist or two might have slipped in early.

Of the current Congress, we can only count on 90 or 95% being Christians. Shocking, really.

Our Judiciary is worse. I suspect that no more than 85% or so of sitting judges are Christian.

With the Presidenty, the Legislature, and the Judiciary only running at 90%+ Christian, is it any wonder how persecuted we are?

My God, we're just 534 members of Congress, a Constitutional amendment, and the death of 200+ million Americans away from being extinct.
8.1.2008 3:57pm
Hoosier:
That 18 year-old pre-med student in Myers' class DOES have a Constitutional right to visibly express her faith. But here you have Myers explicitly raising his biases in the classroom. Can you say "chilling effect" boys and girls?

I've been in academia for 18 years. I can vouch: There are professors who grade-down based on intellectual biases.

This one went out of his way, not just to express his opinion, but to offend Catholics as gravely as he could. I wouldn't not trust his objectivity. (Nor would I stand near him during an electrical storm. I mean, just in case.)
8.1.2008 3:59pm
Dilan Esper (mail) (www):
What's "silly" is dissmissively calling an argument silly and then using an inapposite counter-example to try to make your point. Here, we actually have a public university professor announcing in open class his biases against belief systems and actions protected by the Free Exercise Clause (and undoubtedly explaining his views for the benefit of students who don't immediately grasp the import of him being "that" PZ Myers).

You misconstrue the protection offered by the Free Exercise Clause. You are free to practice your religion; your religion, however, is not free from criticism.

And this is exactly analogous to the gun controllers in Professor Volokh's class. Their beliefs, after all, are protected by the Free Speech Clause. That doesn't mean that Professor Volokh has no right to criticize them, in or out of class. And even if he thinks they are stupid or ill-informed and says so, that doesn't mean that he can't grade fairly.

That 18 year-old pre-med student in Myers' class DOES have a Constitutional right to visibly express her faith. But here you have Myers explicitly raising his biases in the classroom. Can you say "chilling effect" boys and girls?

You'll always have that chilling effect unless you silence all political expression by professors. Don't you think that a gun control advocate might decide that he or she doesn't want to express those views in Professor Volokh's class? Not because Professor Volokh will actually discriminate in grading-- he won't-- but because that student says "why risk it?".

I am sure that some conservative students don't say everything they would ordinarily say in Susan Estrich's classes, and some liberal students don't say everything they would ordinarily say in John Eastman's classes. The only way to prevent that sort of self-censorship is to stomp all over academic freedom and silence college professors-- who, by the way, are often experts whom we really want to speak.
8.1.2008 4:01pm
Dilan Esper (mail) (www):
I've been in academia for 18 years. I can vouch: There are professors who grade-down based on intellectual biases.

I am sure there are a few. But if this really happened all the time, it would be pretty easy to document.

In fact, my experience is the opposite. I have talked to many people over the years who have said, e.g., that Professor X treated them fairly despite having deep disagreements in their views.
8.1.2008 4:03pm
Hoosier:
Need help with that last nail? Being a Lutheran myself, son of Catholics, married to a Methodist, I feel I have a good insight into the horrible persecution of Christians in America.

It's sad to think that out of the last 43 Presidents, we can only be sure of perhaps 40 were actually Christians. I suspect a Deist or two might have slipped in early.


This sort of sarcasm is not enlightening. The question is context. If the theoretical pre-med student with the Crucifix around her neck is walking down the road in Anytown, USA, I suspect she will be fine.

In the American university "community," she will be the victim of bias. The extent of that bias won't be the same everywhere. But in secular academe--which includes all public universities in the US--she can expect to face bias. The religious affiliations of presidents don't play a role in this relationship.

(And Wm H. Taft was not a Christian, just to set the record straight.)
8.1.2008 4:04pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
Dilan. So you say it's not a problem. I'm going, as a student, take his word and yours...?
Nope. Not required to. Won't. To do so would be the height, depth, and breadth of credulous stupidity. And I'd expect to hear you both laughing when I protested why my work got all Fs.

As to predictions vs. threats: Helms had a one-step prediction, i.e, show up here and things might get rough.
Mine is a two-step prediction, support a terrible thing and, if the terrible thing happens, you might be in trouble.
Since the person about whom I'm predicting insists that the terrible thing would never happen, that he's not supporting and facilitating it, then, clearly, he has no problem.

After 9-11, it shames me to admit, our church offered to put people on the steps of the local mosque to protect it against mobs. I agreed to go, thereby agreeing in a vile assessment of my fellow citizens, and doing so without a second thought. I won't do that again.

However, that was before we had a polity divided by, among other things, whether it was our fault or the terrorists' and whether we should take it easy on them. It was before Muslim organizations began whining about what was happening to THEM, and practicing lawfare, and issuing threats. See the Tulsa Islamic Center issue. You would expect moderate Muslims to abandon the place and rent a building somewhere until they could get their new mosque built. Can't find any evidence it's happening.

I see--I may be as awful as I was the first time--far less sympathy this time around, especially if a Beslan seems to be homegrown. And people who supported the rights of terrorists will be suspect. And people who supported extraordinary rights of terrorists, will be more suspect.

Nuke? Don't want to think about it.
8.1.2008 4:06pm
Tomwarren:
Does Catholic doctrine really claim the Church has a private property interest in the consecrated host?

(I don't see a civil private property interest in something given away at a public event. Confession (so to speak): I once took communion at a Catholic church and only found out sometime later that I should not have. Did I steal?)
8.1.2008 4:12pm
Morat20 (mail):
This sort of sarcasm is not enlightening. The question is context. If the theoretical pre-med student with the Crucifix around her neck is walking down the road in Anytown, USA, I suspect she will be fine.

Actually, it is. I have no patience for American Christians whining about how they are "persecuted" in a country whose majority religious is Christianty, whose government is -- if anything -- has a higher percentage of Christians than the nation it represents.

There is real persecution of Christians in the world. (And they are not the only religion to suffer it). Comparing the fact that some mean stranger said mean things about your beliefs to people who suffer and die is to belittle their sacrifice.

I am sick and tired of those who seek to elevate their soft lives into martyrdom, by pretending that failure to treat their personal beliefs with kid-gloves is somehow akin to "persecuting them".

Poor Christians. Only 85% of the population, controlling all the levers of power. How horrible it is for us, that we can't force PZ Myers to treat our religion how we want.

I swear, I'm actually gaining sympathy for him.
8.1.2008 4:12pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
Morat.

How about Christians insisting on their right to have as little as possible to do with the son of a bitch.

And I don't see anybody claiming persecution except the confraternity. Bias is not persecution.

Dilan. Easy to document. See Kim Curtis and the laxers. Took a pretty good sized lawsuit to settle that one. I know attorneys and others pretend there is nothing wrong if a lawsuit will fix it. More money for them. Less for the aggrieved, so it's all good.
8.1.2008 4:19pm
Hoosier:
Morat--Your bitterness isn't really an argument. Nor a good reason for universities to foster an environment unfriendly toward the expression of certain viewpoints.
8.1.2008 4:25pm
Dilan Esper (mail) (www):
Dilan. Easy to document. See Kim Curtis and the laxers. Took a pretty good sized lawsuit to settle that one. I know attorneys and others pretend there is nothing wrong if a lawsuit will fix it. More money for them. Less for the aggrieved, so it's all good.

That doesn't document anything.

Again, the claim is that a person who expresses what PZ Myers expresses could never be fair to conservative Catholic students (or perhaps to Christian conservatives more generally).

And if there were that sort of systematic bias on the part of professors who express strident views (or strident liberal views, or strident atheist views, or whatever), it would be very easy to document.

In fact, most ideological professors go out of their way to be fair. Which is why there are plenty of conservatives who succeed in academia.
8.1.2008 4:26pm
Hoosier:
the claim is that a person who expresses what PZ Myers expresses could never be fair to conservative Catholic students

No. The claim is that a Christian has good reason to doubt his capacity to be fair. I don't know why you are being so fundamentalistic on this point.
8.1.2008 4:29pm
Hoosier:

In fact, most ideological professors go out of their way to be fair.

Evidence?
8.1.2008 4:30pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
"doesn't document anything" What the hell does that mean?
What we had was a prof screwing with the grades of two students solely because they played lacrosse. It took a lawsuit to fix it.

Am I going to risk my grades with the understanding that if this psycho decides he doesn't like my religion I merely have to resort to a lawsuit to get it fixed? You have to be joking.

And we're talking not about adults with decades of experience behind them. We're talking about adolescents who have gone from being a big fish (National Honor Society, various science clubs, Varsity Club, top ten academically)in a small pond to being a small, anonymous fish in a huge pond. You think they want to get into a pissing match with a psycho?
My advice, were I asked, and I might be if the same happens around here, would be to avoid his classes entirely and make sure all your friends knew the score, too.

Other profs merely excoriated laxers in class. No biggy.

Pull the other one.
8.1.2008 4:35pm
Michael B (mail):
"Need help with that last nail? Being a Lutheran myself, son of Catholics, married to a Methodist, I feel I have a good insight into the horrible persecution of Christians in America." Morat20

One small thing though.

Who was referring to "persecution"?
8.1.2008 4:38pm
Colin (mail):
Hoosier and Aubrey,

I doubt I'm the only person to notice your consistent and total failure to actually demonstrate any carryover of Myers' private speech into his classroom conduct. He's written before, I believe, that he considers it a point of professional ethics to evaluate his students solely on their academic performance, as objectively demonstrated by biology exams and practical exercises. I looked, and couldn't find any comments from past or present students suggesting otherwise, nor do his online rankings show any student dissatisfaction.

I understand how upset you are, but pointing your finger and spitting at the man doesn't actually demonstrate any professional misconduct on his part.
8.1.2008 4:49pm
Dilan Esper (mail) (www):
No. The claim is that a Christian has good reason to doubt his capacity to be fair. I don't know why you are being so fundamentalistic on this point.

You could be making an emperical claim or a normative claim.

If you are making an emperical claim, I think it is partially true but irrelevant. In other words, just like many conservatives wonder about being able to get a good grade from a liberal law professor, sure, some Christian conservatives (lets get this straight-- the vast majority of Christians don't have dogmatic beliefs and don't think that cracker is anything other than a cracker) will feel that they can't get a fair shake from Myers. That is irrelevant, however, because we can't start talking about squashing academic freedom and free speech just because some students FEEL they can't get a fair shake, absent any evidence that they are actually not getting a fair shake.

If you are making a normative claim, that these students are right to feel that way, I strongly disagree. There's no reasonble basis for feeling that just because professors have strongly held beliefs, they will downgrade those who disagree. This is something conservatives HAVE CONVINCED THEMSELVES about academia, but it goes against the entire ethic of academic freedom as well as strong strictures within the profession (if biased grading were proven, it is a ground to deny tenure or even to discipline or fire a tenured professor).
8.1.2008 4:51pm
Dilan Esper (mail) (www):
Evidence?

That I know quite a few of them; that I knew lots of conservative students as an undergraduate and in law school, that if they were not being fair, it would be easy to document.
8.1.2008 4:53pm
Dilan Esper (mail) (www):
What we had was a prof screwing with the grades of two students solely because they played lacrosse.

That was alleged. About one professor. About just 2 students. And even assuming the worst, it had nothing to do with the student's views but had to do with alleged conduct.

As I said, if there were widespread ideological discrimination in grading, it would be very easy to document.
8.1.2008 4:54pm
cathyf:
What do you mean "more than purely spiritual consideration"? The issue is whether you give something of legally cognizable value to the Church. Promises to believe are not sufficient. Nor are rituals.
In my parish, in order to be eligible for First Communion, children must attend either Catholic school, or the parish religious education program (and no, home schooling does not count) for two years prior to being admitted to the sacrament. There is an attendance policy, and students who have too many absences are not allowed in until a later year. Students in the Catholic school and religious ed program must attend Catholic mass each Sunday, and must bring in a church bulletin each week to prove that they were there. Their parents must place their (pre-printed family) donation envelope in the collection at least 3 Sundays per month (it doesn't have to have money in it) in order to qualify as members of the parish. Different parishes and different diocese have different procedures, but no one is admitted to communion with the Catholic Church without making substantial promises and followed substantial actions of a secular nature. Why doesn't that satisfy the condition of "consideration" in a legal sense?

Catholics have extensive record-keeping set ups. The Church where a Catholic was baptized acts as a central repository of records for that Catholic for the rest of his/her life. Every Sacrament received subsequently is recorded there. (For closed parishes, there is a diocesan office.) Whenever a person is admitted to Communion in the Church (usually in 2nd grade in recent years in the US), notification is sent to that person's baptismal church and it is recorded there. (That also goes for confirmation, marriage and ordination. It serves as a first-line defense against bigamy -- when a second notification of marriage arrives at the baptismal church, it must be accompanied by either a death certificate for the first spouse, or certification of anulment of the first marriage. If it's not, it generates a full-bore investigation.) If someone previously admitted to communion is excommunicated, that notification is stored at the baptismal parish as well.

This means that there is not question who is eligible to receive communion in the Catholic church -- any individual is traceable via standardized procedure. If money were no object, it would be possible to generate a complete listing of every Catholic in the world who is eligible to receive communion in the Catholic church. (We aren't called The World's Oldest Bureaucracy for nothing, after all.) The question of whether Myers, or whomever obtained his wafer, is on the list is unambiguous.

I think a better analogy than the lottery form, or the booze at the wedding, is a graduation ceremony. Suppose some random person who never enrolled in a college, or took any classes, or paid any tuition, were to rent a cap and gown, and line up at the graduation ceremony. He marches across the stage, and is handed an empty diploma folder. (It's one of those large schools where diplomas are handed out later for practical purposes, and so all he needs to do is be reasonably alert and slide into the place of a "no-show" graduate and pretend he is that person.) Can you argue that when the provost "freely gave" the imposter a diploma folder, and so it's not theft-by-fraud? Was it not theft because the college wasn't checking photo ID's while the "graduates" marched in?
8.1.2008 4:58pm
Tomwarren:
How can a professor, whose any good, not have strong views and express them strongly. It would be improper, I think, to hide those views. I have had professors that I strongly and publically disagreed with and somehow managed to still get a fair shake from them
8.1.2008 5:00pm
Michael B (mail):
"That I know quite a few of them; that I knew lots of conservative students as an undergraduate and in law school, that if they were not being fair, it would be easy to document." Dilan Esper

That proves little and your reassurances prove nothing whatsoever. Did you know profs who acted in a manner that in any way was commensurate with the offense committed by Myers? Did a prof go out of his way to desecrate a synagogue or a torah, for example?
8.1.2008 5:03pm
Tomwarren:
Cathyf:

Does Catholic doctrine really claim the Church has a private property interest in the consecrated host?

(I don't see a civil private property interest in something given away at a public event. Confession (so to speak): I once took communion at a Catholic church and only found out sometime later that I should not have. Did I steal?)
8.1.2008 5:05pm
Hoosier:
Colin: I understand how upset you are, but pointing your finger and spitting at the man doesn't actually demonstrate any professional misconduct on his part.

You use of language is creative: "upset," "spitting on the man." Very creative indeed.

Look, my friend: I posted not long ago at all that the issue was whether a student was justified in concluding that he would have a bias against Catholic students. I don't have to prove that he has done anything in the past. If I were eighteen, I would doubt his ability to judge my intelligence, and thus my work, objectively. I am more than twice that age. I still would conclude that.

Why is it so hard to admit that he has given Catholic students a reason to consider him a bit of an anti-Catholic bigot, and, by his actions, a provacateur? Why should a Catholic "be fine" with taking a course from him?

I've avoided analogies based on other biases. But when pressed, I must point out that there would be no questioning the attitude of an Af-Am student if this prof had very openly burned a cross while wearing a white robe and chanting "White Power!" at the top of his lungs. People don't trust people who denigrate them. Not so odd, I suspect.

"Prosessional misconduct"? Incredibly hard to prove in academia when it comes to matters of, say, ideological bias influencing grading. I have no information suggesting that he has engaged in this practice. But let us stipulate that, if he had, we would be unlikely to know. Despite what Dilan says on this topic. Universities are so lawsuit-averse that the circling of wagons happens automatically.

I don't accuse him of anything that would be legal grounds for dismissal. But I don't think it is beyond the pale to suspect him of being uncommonly bigoted. And I am asserting that such things as grading bias will rarely see the light of day in any institution.

I hope I have not upset you.
8.1.2008 5:07pm
John McG (mail) (www):
I know that UMM is a state institution, but I'd be inclined to let the market punish UMM and Prof. Myers is religous studnets really didn't think they could get a fair shake in his class.

It's not like Dr. Myers is the only biology teacher in the country. If the only first grade teacher in the local school district did this, we might have a problem.

I think if Dr. Myers has compromised his position as a professor (and I'm not entirely convinced he has), that's a matter for the UMM to determine.

But what if he had desecrated the sacred symbol of another group considered sacred?

I don't really care. Catholics and Christians are probably a large enough group that we can use the market power and not need interference from others, I can deal with other groups being protected and not ours.
8.1.2008 5:12pm
Hoosier:
As I said, if there were widespread ideological discrimination in grading, it would be very easy to document.

Yes, as you said. But not as you demonstrated. Dilan, I don't want to get into a prolonged row with you. You obviously have good motives. I'm just saying what I say from years of experience. I am one of the very limited number of people at this university who has access to all the grades of all the students--grad, professional, undergrad--at the institution. Going back to the beginning of computerized grade-keeping. So back to the early '90s.

And yet there is no way, even for me, to know the race, religion, sexual preference, or ideological orientation of students in any given class. I can see their names and grades. That's it.

In addition, under FERPA, I cannot share this information with anyone outside of the other people who are so authorized. Not even with parents of under-17 freshmen (though our instituion, in doing this, goes beyond what FERPA actually requires.)

So, if I detected a pattern--say Prof. Italian-Last-Name gives disporportinately low grades to students with Irish surnames--I could tell no one outside a core group within the intitution. And you can guess that the CYA-Effect would be dispostitive.
8.1.2008 5:15pm
John McG (mail) (www):
I guess what complicates this from a legal perspective is that the hosts are eaten.

The songbooks and missallettes are also freely available, and one need not even say "Amen" to receive one. But I think we know that that does not give a license for anybody, Catholic or non-Catholic, to walk out with one.

The hosts, on the other hand, are expected to be consumed. There is obviously no expectation they be returned. Thus weakening the Church's property claim.

Not to give anybody ideas, but what about the chalice? Would it be theft if someone went up to communion, took the chalice, and poured the contents in a flask? (Or even a small amount, since people seem the get hung up on differences in quantity). Does it matter that the communicant is expected to consume the entire host, whereas the communicant for the chalice is expected to only take a sip? The chalice is the Church's property, bur are its contents?
8.1.2008 5:22pm
Scote (mail):

Tomwarren:
How can a professor, whose any good, not have strong views and express them strongly. It would be improper, I think, to hide those views. I have had professors that I strongly and publically disagreed with and somehow managed to still get a fair shake from them


Exactly. What the outraged people here are missing is that **all** people have views, whether or not they are expressed publicly, that **could** bias them towards students. The outraged Christians just happen to know Myers views, which means it would be very difficult for Myers to discriminate against students. Whereas, Christianity is the majority religion and it would be easy for Christians who are less outspoken about their views to quietly discriminate against students. Or, in other words, Christians are letting "vividness" falsely skew their claims.
8.1.2008 5:23pm
Hoosier:
Tomwarren:
How can a professor, whose any good, not have strong views and express them strongly. It would be improper, I think, to hide those views. I have had professors that I strongly and publically disagreed with and somehow managed to still get a fair shake from them

Trom--So have I. But I don't discount that others have not been so fortunate.

But the strength of a prof's views, or power of expression, really are not relevant in cases like this.

I have very strong views on Evolution. How can I keep from expressing those strongly? Easy. I am a diplomatic historian. I avoid making a big stink about my frustration with "ID/Creationist" intellectual dishonesty. And I certainly don't announce to my class on "European International Relations since 1648" that "I am that Prof. Hoosier" who pulled stunt X to draw attention to my beliefs.

If students want to see my collection of fossilized dino poo, I am willing to oblige. I hold to the original understanding that my "academic freedom" extends only to my work in my discipline. I know that this idea of faculty privilege has expanded to encompass just about anything a tenured professor does that does not involve his genitals and an undergrad. But this is an abuse of the freedom, and of the position. I am not an expert on things that I am not an expert on. The honorific "Professor" doesn't change that.

And I am not saying that the fellow in question should be fired. Just that no student has any obligation to respect his "speech" in this case, anymore than my Latter Day Saint grad student has to respect my 'Jurassic Poop'.
8.1.2008 5:25pm
Colin (mail):
I hope I have not upset you.

You haven't. Nor have you demonstrated any factual basis for assuming that Dr. Myers is not able or willing to keep his personal opinions regarding religion out of the classroom. A young, timorous student might well believe that the professor would grade him unfairly, but would have no more factual basis for that fear than you do.

Why should a Catholic "be fine" with taking a course from him?

Because a Catholic at a secular university is going to have to take classes from all sorts of people, and shouldn't assume that all persons with offensive opinions will choose to exercise them with the grading power.

Bear in mind that Dr. Myers didn't recently come to his opinion of religious dogma - he speaks his mind on the topic frequently and openly (albeit, according to all available evidence, only through private channels and never in class). If he were inclined to grade according to his opinion of his students' religious beliefs, he'd have been doing it for a long time now. There's no indication that any of his past or present students believe that's the case.

Why is it so hard to admit that he has given Catholic students a reason to consider him a bit of an anti-Catholic bigot, and, by his actions, a provacateur? Why should a Catholic "be fine" with taking a course from him?

I don't consider his actions bigotry, any more than I consider certain European cartoonists to be bigots based on their drawings of Mohammed. A Catholic student might choose to take offense at Dr. Myers' private conduct, but (again) would have no more basis for believing his private conduct carries into the classroom than you do.

You seem to be saying that students are entitled to boycott a teacher's class on the basis of that teacher's public opinions. I absolutely agree. But that doesn't mean that such students' reaction is reasonable or appropriate, any more than if students who favored gun control angrily boycotted the Conspirators' classes because they won't stop blogging about the right to bear arms.
8.1.2008 5:26pm
Yankev (mail):

After 9-11, it shames me to admit, our church offered to put people on the steps of the local mosque to protect it against mobs. I agreed to go, thereby agreeing in a vile assessment of my fellow citizens, and doing so without a second thought.

Sadly, a handful of our fellow citizens were not underestimated. In our towm, a group of local churches made a similar gesture, even to the point of offering to escort Muslim women to the supermarked to protect them from harrassment.

In some ways, admirable. I often wondered why the same churches made no similar efforts to protect Jews during the first and second intifadas a few years before 9/11, given the number of Jews who were assaulted or harassed n the very same town, and the Jewish institutions that were vandalised or threatened. I guess some neighbors are worthy of more Christian solicitude than others.
8.1.2008 5:30pm
anon.:
I think a better analogy than the lottery form, or the booze at the wedding, is a graduation ceremony. Suppose some random person who never enrolled in a college, or took any classes, or paid any tuition, were to rent a cap and gown, and line up at the graduation ceremony. He marches across the stage, and is handed an empty diploma folder. (It's one of those large schools where diplomas are handed out later for practical purposes, and so all he needs to do is be reasonably alert and slide into the place of a "no-show" graduate and pretend he is that person.) Can you argue that when the provost "freely gave" the imposter a diploma folder, and so it's not theft-by-fraud? Was it not theft because the college wasn't checking photo ID's while the "graduates" marched in?

There are critical differences between a graduation ceremony and communion. For one, the expectation is that everyone seated with the students at a graduation and marching across the stage is a graduating student. But that's not the expectation at a Catholic Church. The church expects--indeed, it welcomes--individuals who are not Catholic to attend services. And these non-Catholics are invited to walk up and be blessed while Catholics take communion. (Incidentally, when my non-Catholic girlfriend did this with her Catholic ex-fiance, the person at the alter crammed the body of Christ into her mouth before she could say anything . . . so much for it being impossible for non-Catholics to obtain the host).

To be truly analogous, you'd need to imagine a bizarre graduation ceremony where graduating students and non-graduating students alike were invited to sit in the same area; where they weren't required to wear the same uniform; where all of them were invited to walk across the stage and shake hands with the dean; and where after the handshake they're handed something inexpensive and disposable, like a manila envelope. I would say that if a school had a setup like that, and the occasional person absconded with a manila envelope, we'd think about that person much differently than we would someone who impersonates a student at a closed graduation ceremony and takes a diploma cover.

People on this thread have struggled to come up with some analogy that absolutely proves that what this guy did was theft, and they've failed miserably. This is probably because, at the end of the day, there aren't many activities that are analogous to handing out pieces of bread, without doing any due diligence, only to people who promise 1) that they participated in some ritual when they were adolescents, and 2) that they believe the bread is magic. And if someone DID engage in that sort of behavior, and it was cloaked as anything other than religion, we wouldn't hesitate--even for a second--to conclude that such a person has no legal remedy if someone who doesn't actually believe in magic occasionally gets a piece. Instead we'd say that the law does not concern itself with trifles and be done with the matter.
8.1.2008 5:41pm
Curious1:
At this point a little over 24 hours since EV put up the original post, there are 425 comments. This topic hit quite a nerve. Wow...

Wonder what the VC comment records are for 24 hours and over the lifetime of the thread?
8.1.2008 5:42pm
Hoosier:
But that doesn't mean that such students' reaction is reasonable or appropriate

Given what he did, yes, it is approriate and reasonable from a Catholic perspective. And from the perspective of a non-Catholic, I should hope. I would avoid his class if he had "merely" flushed a Koran down the crapper. I don't need to be a Muslim to understand how offensive that would be. He should not lose his job: Free country and all. But I don't have to associate with him.

The Danish cartoons? The publication was an assertion of the right of the press in a free society to publish material that might offend a religious group. A right that is under seige in much of Europe.

Myers's stunt asserted what? The inherent right to go into the sacred space of others, violate what is most sacred to them, and then crow about it. I was never aware that this freedom was under seige. Or, frankly, that its excercise was so very important to a free country.

You want it both ways, Colin: Bigots have the right to offend. But the people offended don't have a commensurate right to avoid association with the offenders.

As to they "will have to take classes for all sort of people": true. And when they graduate, they will have to deal with all sorts of people. Racists. Scientologists. Creationists. Elks Lodge members. Why are you not advocating the hiring of these sorts of people in significant numbers by our universities? I mean, since students will "have to deal with them."
8.1.2008 5:43pm
Colin (mail):
And from the perspective of a non-Catholic, I should hope. I would avoid his class if he had "merely" flushed a Koran down the crapper.

Then we have different standards of reasonableness. Nothing wrong with that.

He should not lose his job: Free country and all. But I don't have to associate with him.

I agree on both points, and I should probably apologize - for some reason, I thought you were arguing that he should be fired because it would be unreasonable to ask Catholic students to take his courses. Looking over your prior comments, I see that's totally out of line with what you've actually said, and that's my mistake. I'm not sure how I reached that conclusion. I don't think it changes any of my prior statements to you, though.

The Danish cartoons? The publication was an assertion of the right of the press in a free society to publish material that might offend a religious group. A right that is under seige in much of Europe.

Are you agreeing or disagreeing with my analogy? The publication in question here was an assertion of the right of free speech in a free society to publish material that might offend a religious group. The reaction has been much less severe, but in many respects similar. (To forestall the obvious objection, obviously there's been no violence here. There have been cries to outlaw the speech in question, however, and to punish the offender.)

You want it both ways, Colin: Bigots have the right to offend. But the people offended don't have a commensurate right to avoid association with the offenders.

No, I don't want it both ways. I acknowledge the right of those who were offended by his speech to avoid association with him, even where I find the offense unreasonable. He entered the free market of ideas, and knowingly ran the risk of a market response. If students boycott his class, then I would call them silly and glass-jawed, but within their rights.

And when they graduate, they will have to deal with all sorts of people. Racists. Scientologists. Creationists. Elks Lodge members. Why are you not advocating the hiring of these sorts of people in significant numbers by our universities?

I have a strong contempt for creationism, a feeling that it appears we share. I think we also share the conviction that a professor can be a creationist and a good teacher, as long as they leave their creationism outside of the classroom. Why would being a scientologist be any different?

There are instances in which I would believe that students should avoid a class, for example if the professor were a notorious racist. I think you'd say that Myers' actions are comparable, but I don't think so; I think we'll just have to agree to disagree on that point. The end result is the same - the students are free to avoid the professor or not, and the only variable is the reasonableness of their decision to do so. That depends on facts that, in this case, aren't in evidence. Once again, there's nothing before us to support your instinctive belief that he would be an unfair professor. Let's be clear-eyed about it and remember that none of his students have ever complained.
8.1.2008 6:04pm
Chris Bell (mail) (www):
Hoosier and Zippy,

I told you that PZ Myers starts all of his classes by promising that he will grade all of them fairly, just in case any of them were worried about it. I like the way you have been using that as evidence that Myers is unfair. Well done sirs!
Frankly, by announcing that he's "that" PZ Myers, he's elevating the issue and bringing it directly into the classroom. That 18 year-old pre-med is definitely NOT going to want to wear her Crucifix or show up in class after Ash Wednesday services when the professor explicitly highlights his prominent anti-religious beliefs in the very first lecture of the semester. - Zips
I certainly don't announce to my class on "European International Relations since 1648" that "I am that Prof. Hoosier" who pulled stunt X to draw attention to my beliefs. -The Hooze
8.1.2008 6:07pm
cathyf:
(lets get this straight-- the vast majority of Christians don't have dogmatic beliefs and don't think that cracker is anything other than a cracker)
Do you think that the statistic of "vast majority" matters at all to the validity of your argument? So, in other words, if the "vast majority" of Christians don't believe in transsubstantiation or conssubstantiation, then we are not allowed to carry out death threats against Mr. Myers, but if say, a slimmer-than-vast majority disbelieve in trans/conssubstantiation then you think it's ok for me to gas up the truck, load up my shotgun and go bag me an atheist?

And a piece of friendly advice... If you are going to muddle up your argument with ad hominem irrelevancies which are easily-checked factoids, you might want to stick to the ones that are true. It is false that "the vast majority of Christians ... don't think that cracker is anything other than a cracker." Catholics make up a plurality of Christians in the US, and the majority of Christians in the world. If you add in Orthodox, Lutherans and Anglicans, it's even further away from "vast majority."
8.1.2008 6:09pm
Chris Bell (mail) (www):
Colin,

Before you go too far agreeing with Hoosier you should note that he thinks the right "not to associate" with Myers includes a right to demand that the school offer alternate courses taught by other professors, so students can fully avoid Myers if he/she so chooses.
8.1.2008 6:11pm
Chris Bell (mail) (www):
By the way, I specifically wrote PZ Myers and asked how he grades (Re: fears of discrimination). He responded that he uses blind grading.

Can we drop this now?
8.1.2008 6:14pm
Dilan Esper (mail) (www):
In my parish, in order to be eligible for First Communion, children must attend either Catholic school, or the parish religious education program (and no, home schooling does not count) for two years prior to being admitted to the sacrament.

But First Communion, as I understand it, is a specific ritual. We are talking about communion in general. As far as I know, you don't have to go through all those steps to get Communion under any circumstance, only to have a First Communion ceremony.

In any event, as I noted above, there are all sorts of other problems (no intention to form a contract, no damages, no right of action against Myers for receiving the cracker even if it was obtained in breach of a contract by the parishoner) even if you are able to establish that there was consideration.
8.1.2008 6:16pm
Dilan Esper (mail) (www):
That proves little and your reassurances prove nothing whatsoever. Did you know profs who acted in a manner that in any way was commensurate with the offense committed by Myers?

Let's put it this way. I know professors who have a quite established and extensive record of advocating for liberal beliefs and espousing and supporting liberal causes, and who think that many of the positions of political conservatives are complete BS and have said so. And I also know outspoken conservatives who were students of those professors who feel they got a fair shake.

And this is absolutely normal in academia.
8.1.2008 6:19pm
Morat20 (mail):
Let's play like we're lawyers -- or know some here -- and turn the tables.

HOW would you construct a law to make taking the wafer illegal in either the original kid's case, or in the case of whatever person mailed PZ Myers one?

Mind you, it has to pass the Lemon test -- or at least be within shouting distance -- so you're going to have to restrict yourself to something that is religiously neutral and the government has a secular interest in.

So go for it. Construct a hypothetical law to prevent this from occuring -- and then we'll test it a bit, and see if it's tight enough to both pass the Lemon test AND not catch up everyday activities into it's grasp.

After all, if by protecting a wafer we turn casual utterances into binding contracts, I'm thinking it's a bad law....
8.1.2008 6:21pm
Dilan Esper (mail) (www):
Why is it so hard to admit that he has given Catholic students a reason to consider him a bit of an anti-Catholic bigot, and, by his actions, a provacateur?

I'll go with provocateur, and as I said, I think some CONSERVATIVE Catholic students (again, lots of Catholics are not dogmatic about transsubstantiation) are probably concerned about him, though they shouldn't be.

I will also go with insensitive, boorish, insufficiently respectful of religion.

But I strongly resist "bigot". A bigot is somebody with an irrational prejudice against people because of who they are. A person who stridently rejects BELIEFS, or makes fun of them, or ridicules them, is not a bigot.

Indeed, the doppleganger to the problem I discussed upthread (conservative Catholics who want the state to step in and enact their religious doctrines as law) is that conservative Catholic groups-- the Bill Donahues of the world-- have for a long time been angling to expand the definition of "bigotry" so as to rule any criticism of the Church's practices and beliefs off-limits.

Again, Myers was insensitive, he was boorish, he was provoking people, and he shouldn't have done what he did. But ridiculing Catholicism is not the same as hating Catholics, and it is very important we maintain that distinction so that non-believers retain their full right to offer biting criticism of beliefs that they find absurd or objectionable.
8.1.2008 6:24pm
Dilan Esper (mail) (www):
So, if I detected a pattern--say Prof. Italian-Last-Name gives disporportinately low grades to students with Irish surnames--I could tell no one outside a core group within the intitution. And you can guess that the CYA-Effect would be dispostitive.

Hoosier, you can't detect statistical significance by eyeballing the grade sheets. And so long as IRB requirements are satisfied, it's quite possible to do statistical studies on grades vs. demographic information.

Plus, students who get low grades often complain, especially at higher end schools. These complaints are investigated. Again, if a professor was found to have exhibited a pattern of downgrading people based on some characteristic, that professor would be found out.

You and some other commenters here are making a very serious charge, and one that is actually taken very seriously in academia. You can't just go off half-cocked and say that professors are discriminating or not grading on merit.
8.1.2008 6:36pm
John McG (mail) (www):
Chris,

Did you believe President Bush when he said, "we don't torture."

You are expecting people to whom Prof. Myers has gratuitously and intentionally offended to take him at his word?

He would desecrate a consecrated host, but would never, ever lie? What would I expect him to say, "Oh, I dock Christians a letter grade each to punish them for general stupidity."

What hoosier is arguing is that a Christian would be justidied justified in suspecting that Dr. Myers wouldn't treat them fairly. Dr. Myers's own claims of his fairness aren't going to work to chane that.
8.1.2008 6:36pm
cathyf:
Does Catholic doctrine really claim the Church has a private property interest in the consecrated host?

(I don't see a civil private property interest in something given away at a public event. Confession (so to speak): I once took communion at a Catholic church and only found out sometime later that I should not have. Did I steal?)
Oh, it's far worse than that, Tomwarren. Catholic doctrine claims that, by your acceptance of communion, the Church has a private property interest in you!

Ok, seriously, no, the Church does not bind you as having converted to Catholicism if you lacked the intent to do so because of your ignorance that you were carrying out the act of conversion. Except, of course, now that you DO know that reception of communion is conversion to Catholicism, if you do it again then then you are no longer excused by ignorance. (Digression: in English common law, ignorance of the law is not a defense. In Roman law, it is. So, in Catholic canon law, ignorance gets you out of things.)
8.1.2008 6:37pm
John McG (mail) (www):

You and some other commenters here are making a very serious charge, and one that is actually taken very seriously in academia. You can't just go off half-cocked and say that professors are discriminating or not grading on merit



Hoosier has made no such charge -- he is saying that Dr. Myers's actions have give Christian students reason to suspect they would not be treated fairly.

He has not made the indeed strong and serious charge that Dr. Myers has indeed discriminated in his grading.

The second is a hanging offense so to speak, the first is probably in a grey area that people in authority probably shouldn't venture into.
8.1.2008 6:39pm
Dilan Esper (mail) (www):
Given what he did, yes, it is approriate and reasonable from a Catholic perspective. And from the perspective of a non-Catholic, I should hope. I would avoid his class if he had "merely" flushed a Koran down the crapper. I don't need to be a Muslim to understand how offensive that would be. He should not lose his job: Free country and all. But I don't have to associate with him.

Taking someone's class isn't "associating" with him. Every student has to take classes with professors they disagree with, don't like, don't think teach very well, etc. And that's because you don't choose your classes the way you choose your friends. It has nothing to do with "association".

The truth is, in fact, that we all have a lot to learn from people we disagree with. Hearing arguments that we despise, presented well by well-educated people, sharpens our own responses.

I would encourage any conservative Catholic to take Myers' class, no matter how much he or she disagrees with him.
8.1.2008 6:41pm
Dilan Esper (mail) (www):
Do you think that the statistic of "vast majority" matters at all to the validity of your argument? So, in other words, if the "vast majority" of Christians don't believe in transsubstantiation or conssubstantiation, then we are not allowed to carry out death threats against Mr. Myers, but if say, a slimmer-than-vast majority disbelieve in trans/conssubstantiation then you think it's ok for me to gas up the truck, load up my shotgun and go bag me an atheist?

You missed the point. I object to conservative Catholics in this thread conflating their position with that of "Christians". Most "Christians" do not believe the cracker is the Body of Jesus. A subset of Catholics do, and a subset of that subset once to make an issue of Myers.

It doesn't have anything to do with my legal argument; I am just resisting the attempts of some commenters to wrap themselves in the broader mantle of Christianity when these issues are very much contested within the religion.
8.1.2008 6:44pm
Disbeliever:
Chris Bell:
By the way, I specifically wrote PZ Myers and asked how he grades (Re: fears of discrimination). He responded that he uses blind grading.


Thanks for contacting your friend. We'll be sure to mention you've been an aggressive defender of him. But unless PZ does it a *lot* different than any biology professor I've ever known, how does he pull off pure blind grading?

Undergraduates at least have non-blind labs that count. Grad students -- well, absolutely no way you can do purely blind grading in any grad program. Evals of his TAs and research assts? In other words, this just doesn't pass the sniff test.

Or if he's somehow managed to do it that way, I'd never recommend him to the tenure committee b/c he's obviously skirting major parts of the standard academic evaluation methodology for the sciences.
8.1.2008 6:49pm
Dilan Esper (mail) (www):
Hoosier has made no such charge -- he is saying that Dr. Myers's actions have give Christian students reason to suspect they would not be treated fairly.

John, the post I was responding to said that he had seen evidence of discriminatory grading in his role at the college that he works at.
8.1.2008 6:50pm
cathyf:
But First Communion, as I understand it, is a specific ritual. We are talking about communion in general. As far as I know, you don't have to go through all those steps to get Communion under any circumstance, only to have a First Communion ceremony.
You understand incorrectly. First Communion is a ceremony by which one is admitted into communion with the Catholic Church. It's like being "admitted to the bar". Before you are admitted into communion, you may not receive it; after you are admitted, and as long as you remain in good standing, you may. Just like if in your practice as an attorney you do things things which are only allowed to lawyers admitted to the bar, you had darn well better be admitted to the bar in that state. If the courts in a certain place require admission to the bar in order to do a certain thing, and you do that thing even though you have not been admitted to the bar, then you are committing a fraud upon the court. And that's true even though taking the bar exam and passing and being granted admission to the bar is a specific ritual.
8.1.2008 6:54pm
Dilan Esper (mail) (www):
Thanks for contacting your friend. We'll be sure to mention you've been an aggressive defender of him. But unless PZ does it a *lot* different than any biology professor I've ever known, how does he pull off pure blind grading? Undergraduates at least have non-blind labs that count. Grad students -- well, absolutely no way you can do purely blind grading in any grad program. Evals of his TAs and research assts? In other words, this just doesn't pass the sniff test. Or if he's somehow managed to do it that way, I'd never recommend him to the tenure committee b/c he's obviously skirting major parts of the standard academic evaluation methodology for the sciences.

Can you guys just admit that PZ Myers committed a serious act of Blasphemy, it was very offensive to Catholics (something I have never questioned, and which is good enough reason to me as to why he shouldn't have done it), and that therefore you guys aren't going to believe he can treat Catholics fairly no matter what the contrary evidence?

Because at this point, it really is looking like that. There isn't any evidence that he grades unfairly, there isn't any evidence of systematic bias against conservative students in grading in academia, he says himself that he doesn't grade unfairly, and nobody's produced a student who says that Myers graded him or her unfairly.

There's just no support for the position that conservative Catholic students have anything to worry about. Just be honest-- you guys believe he desecrated the Body of Jesus and you think such desecration is a serious offense that should be punished in some way.
8.1.2008 6:55pm
Dilan Esper (mail) (www):
You understand incorrectly. First Communion is a ceremony by which one is admitted into communion with the Catholic Church. It's like being "admitted to the bar". Before you are admitted into communion, you may not receive it; after you are admitted, and as long as you remain in good standing, you may.

Cathy, that argument might work if the Catholics were like Mormons, who prohibit anyone from entering a Temple without a Temple Recommend.

However, Catholic Churches do not take serious measures to preclude those who are not part of the Communion from taking Communion. (Some pamphlets or a perfunctory announcement really don't count.) So there's no reason to think that these rules, even if they exist in the abstract, give rise to a meeting of the minds with the parishoner sufficient to create a contract (even if there were consideration for such a contract).
8.1.2008 6:57pm
Chris Bell (mail) (www):
Disbeliever:

In my undergraduate biology classes, grading was blind. Lab was a separate grade taught by a completely different professor. I don't believe that Myers teaches a lab.
8.1.2008 6:58pm
Chris Bell (mail) (www):
Cathy:
You understand incorrectly. First Communion is a ceremony by which one is admitted into communion with the Catholic Church. It's like being "admitted to the bar". Before you are admitted into communion, you may not receive it; after you are admitted, and as long as you remain in good standing, you may.
So they check everyone's ID at the door? There's noooo way I could walk in off the street and take communion?
8.1.2008 7:00pm
Michael B (mail):
That proves little and your reassurances prove nothing whatsoever. Did you know profs who acted in a manner that in any way was commensurate with the offense committed by Myers?

"Let's put it this way. I know professors who have a quite established and extensive record of advocating for liberal beliefs and espousing and supporting liberal causes, and who think that many of the positions of political conservatives are complete BS and have said so. And I also know outspoken conservatives who were students of those professors who feel they got a fair shake.

"And this is absolutely normal in academia."

The emphasis was upon a commensurate offense, which would appear to be why you redacted the final question, which re-emphasized that commensurate quality: Did a prof go out of his way to desecrate a synagogue or a torah, for example?

It's either a yes or no question, or, if you have something that is commensurate but doesn't involve a torah or synagogue, that would be fine as well.

Again, your reassurances mean little or nothing. Those fact is doubly supported by your attempt to evade the more probative, commensurate aspect of what was asked.
8.1.2008 7:08pm
Tomwarren:
"Oh, it's far worse than that, Tomwarren. Catholic doctrine claims that, by your acceptance of communion, the Church has a private property interest in you!"

Thanks for that bit of levity, Cathy, in this sometimes emotional topic.

Yet, to me, the more intersting question, from a legal standpoint, is the first one I posed: Does Catholic doctrine really claim the Church has a private property interest in the consecrated host? Or to put it more provacatively, is their an asserted private property interest in the body and blood of Christ?

People have been going round and round on why they think there might or might not be a civil private property crime or tort, but shouldn't we begin with finding out whether the Catholic Church asserts a private property interest, at all?
8.1.2008 7:08pm
Chris Bell (mail) (www):
I wonder if any of the Danish cartoonists teach at a journalism or arts school. I wonder if they have any Muslim students.

I presume that it wouldn't be a big deal as long as the student didn't tell the professor, "If you draw any Muslim cartoons in class, I will kill you."
8.1.2008 7:11pm
Michael B (mail):
"What the outraged people here are missing ..." Scote

And of course you're not referring to your own outrage, directed at others who may merely be deeply offended, or who may seek other forms of expression, but who fall far short of desiring legal redress.

So, why the outrage?
8.1.2008 7:15pm
Dilan Esper (mail) (www):
The emphasis was upon a commensurate offense, which would appear to be why you redacted the final question, which re-emphasized that commensurate quality: Did a prof go out of his way to desecrate a synagogue or a torah, for example?

Part of the problem here is that you guys are overstating the offense, and that is really part of the debate.

In the end, to most non-believers, you simply cannot analogize the vandalism of a house of worship to the destruction of a communion cracker, because we don't think there's anything special about the latter.

You guys do. Which is fine, you have the right to feel that way. And understanding that belief, I think Myers acted inappropriately in doing what he did, because he caused needless offense.

But nonetheless, when you talk about whether people are actually biased against believers, you have to draw a distinction between an anti-Semite who does what he or she does because of a deep-seated hatred of Jews, and Myers, who did what he did because, though he has nothing against Catholics personally, he thinks their religious beliefs are absurd and worthy of ridicule.

In other words, yes, I can imagine a situation where Jewish students wouldn't feel they could get a fair shake from a professor who burned down a synagogue. But I would have a lot less sympathy for Jewish students who felt they couldn't get a fair shake from somebody who criticized gender segregation at the Western Wall as a backward, sexist belief.
8.1.2008 7:16pm
Scote (mail):

Dilan Esper (mail) (www):

Can you guys just admit that PZ Myers committed a serious act of Blasphemy,


No, I can't. Meyers is a non theist and can't blaspheme a non-existent detity. You can't slander a fictional character.

If you are going to claim that Myers was blaspheming Catholics then you'll have to deal with the issue that we all "blaspheme" one religion or another every day--to avoid doing so is impossible. Whether it is eating sacred cows (Hundism) or stepping on a bug (Jainism), it is neither possible or desirable to try and respect the beliefs of all religions simultaneously.
8.1.2008 7:16pm
Chris Bell (mail) (www):
Michael B, earlier in the thread we discussed a white professor that founded the League of the South while teaching at an Black school. The professor wanted to revive secession and re-segregate the races with blacks in an inferior status.

Yet he remained fairly popular among the students, at least according to the school President.
8.1.2008 7:18pm
Hoosier:
Scote: "it is neither possible or desirable to try and respect the beliefs of all religions simultaneously."

Are you now suggesting that what Myers did would have been hard ot avoid?

Why the fundamentalism on this matter?
8.1.2008 7:35pm
Hoosier:
"though he has nothing against Catholics personally, he thinks their religious beliefs are absurd and worthy of ridicule. "

Right. "Nothing personal, you morons."
8.1.2008 7:36pm
Tomwarren:
"I have very strong views on Evolution. How can I keep from expressing those strongly? Easy. I am a diplomatic historian. I avoid making a big stink about my frustration with "ID/Creationist" intellectual dishonesty. And I certainly don't announce to my class on "European International Relations since 1648" that "I am that Prof. Hoosier" who pulled stunt X to draw attention to my beliefs."

But are you saying you would hide these strongly held views, if you taught biology or earth science? And that if you did share them, you wouldn't try to convince of thier validity? Why would you hide or soft peddle them? To what end?
8.1.2008 7:40pm
Hoosier:
"Does Catholic doctrine really claim the Church has a private property interest in the consecrated host? "

No. At least the Church has never articulated such a claim. That's the fundamental reason why you can't find anything *illegal* in what he did.
The Church does *not* claim to own the sacraments, any more than the airlines "owns" the passengers. It is the conduit, not the institutor.

If blasphemy were illegal, you'd have a case.
8.1.2008 7:41pm
Scote (mail):

Are you now suggesting that what Myers did would have been hard ot avoid?

Why the fundamentalism on this matter?

Do you avoid eating beef to appease Hindus? Could a beef eater fairly judge a Hindu in a biology class?

Myers tossed some wafers in the trash **once**. A beef eater might "blaspheme" Hindu beliefs multiple times a day, yet I doubt you are going to go on a tirade about how unfair it is for there to be beef eating biology teachers in public universities--and these beef eating teachers even eat beef in restaurants in public!!!! How dare they.

We cannot, nor should we, cater to the whims of what religions consider sacred.
8.1.2008 7:45pm
Hoosier:
"You and some other commenters here are making a very serious charge, and one that is actually taken very seriously in academia. You can't just go off half-cocked and say that professors are discriminating or not grading on merit."

That's just very strange way to follow-up a post in which I explain why one can almost never *detect*, let alone prove, grading bias. What "charge" follows from that?

Odd.
8.1.2008 7:47pm
Dilan Esper (mail) (www):
Right. "Nothing personal, you morons."

No more than a partisan Democrat who thinks conservative beliefs are idiotic, or a partisan Republican who thinks liberal beliefs are idiotic, is saying anything personal.

Again, you guys want any attack on the BELIEFS of Catholics to be classified as a personal attack or bigotry. But those are two very different things. Nobody should subject you to any sort of unfair treatment because of your religion. But your religious beliefs can never and should never be protected from question, criticism, or ridicule.
8.1.2008 7:48pm
Hoosier:
Scote: 1) I'm a vegetarian; 2) I am not aware of anyone who makes a point of declaring that he eats beff *in order to show his disdain for Hindus*; 3) A prof who *did* do so would not be a good person for a Hindu to associate with; 4) I am not aware of a case in whicha faculty member has made clear that he thinks Hindus are *benighted* for thinking cows should not be killed, but if it comes up, then you'll have a relevant point. Until then, let's try to stay on topic.
8.1.2008 7:53pm
Michael B (mail):
The emphasis was upon a commensurate offense, which would appear to be why you redacted the final question, which re-emphasized that commensurate quality: Did a prof go out of his way to desecrate a synagogue or a torah, for example?
"Part of the problem here is that you guys are overstating the offense, and that is really part of the debate.

"In the end, to most non-believers, you simply cannot analogize the vandalism of a house of worship to the destruction of a communion cracker, because we don't think there's anything special about the latter." Dilan
I said literally nothing about burning down a synagogue, so it's more than a little ironic that you're concerned with "overstating" the offense. I gave two examples concerning desecration: desecrating a synagogue or desecrating a torah. Bare minimum, you could have foregone commenting upon the synagogue and restricted your comments to the latter example, concerning the torah. But even a synagogue could be desecrated with, for instance, a type of paint that is easily removable. Regardless about the particulars - I specifically emphasized (and re-emphasized) a commensurate quality. Hence, if nothing else, you could have forwarded your own example.

Chris Bell,

You're referring to the white professor who was fired from his position.
8.1.2008 7:55pm
Hoosier:
Dilan: "But your religious beliefs can never and should never be protected from question, criticism, or ridicule."

Straw man, yet again. There is no reason a Catholic should not be able to opt out of a class with this chap. No reason that the U can advance for refusing a request for change of section. And no reason to accept your assurances that he is not a bigot.
8.1.2008 7:57pm
Scote (mail):

Straw man, yet again. There is no reason a Catholic should not be able to opt out of a class with this chap. No reason that the U can advance for refusing a request for change of section. And no reason to accept your assurances that he is not a bigot.


Should Hindus be able to demand teacher who don't "blaspheme" their religion by eating beef? Should Jainists be allowed to demand vegetarian teachers? Should Muslim art students be allowed to demand teachers who only paint landscapes and still lifes rather than "graven images" of people or any living thing?

And, yes, that is on topic, because that is the logical extension of what you propose but your prejudice towards your own views prevents you from seeing the situation objectively.
8.1.2008 8:02pm
Morat20 (mail):
You're referring to the white professor who was fired from his position.

He wasn't. This was covered up thread. The university openly stated they had no intention, or even ability, to fire him although the University proper thought his beliefs on race were ludicrous. He resigned sometime later.

So, I guess all the lawyers left. Pity. I was really hoping someone would try to design a law that would criminalize (or at least lead to civil liability) taking a wafer and not eating it, without opening up everyone to constantly entering into contracts.
8.1.2008 8:02pm
jukeboxgrad (mail):
hoosier:

Why is it so hard to admit that he has given Catholic students a reason to consider him a bit of an anti-Catholic bigot, and, by his actions, a provacateur? Why should a Catholic "be fine" with taking a course from him?


and more hoosier:

"though he has nothing against Catholics personally, he thinks their religious beliefs are absurd and worthy of ridicule."

Right. "Nothing personal, you morons."


As far as I can tell, Christianity teaches that non-Christians are excluded from heaven. How is this any different than "nothing personal, you morons?" Why should a non-Christian "be fine" with taking a course from a Christian?

I am not aware of a case in whicha faculty member has made clear that he thinks Hindus are *benighted* for thinking cows should not be killed


Christians believe that non-Christians are damned to eternity in hell, for thinking that Jesus is not to be worshipped. Doesn't that go beyond "benighted?"

There is no reason a Catholic should not be able to opt out of a class with this chap.


Why should any non-Christian be obligated to take a class with a Christian, given what Christians believe about non-Christians?

Scote said something similar:

**all** people have views, whether or not they are expressed publicly, that **could** bias them towards students. … Christianity is the majority religion and it would be easy for Christians who are less outspoken about their views to quietly discriminate against students.


Especially since Christianity teaches that the non-Christian is damned.
8.1.2008 8:04pm
Morat20 (mail):
Scote -- there's no point. Hindus and Jainists are just people with a strange, unimportant religion, and if someone else doing something normal (like stepping on a bug has he walks, or eating a hamburger) offends their religious sensibilities -- tough.

Just because they think it's important doesn't mean everyone else has to go around acting like it.

Whereas by tossing a wafer into the trash, Myers treated an important religious icon with disrespect and personally insulted them. He needs to treat it just as importantly as they do, because unlike meat-eating to Hindus, properly treatment of a consecrated wafer is a big deal that everyone else should be forced to treat right.
8.1.2008 8:06pm
Scote (mail):

I was really hoping someone would try to design a law that would criminalize (or at least lead to civil liability) taking a wafer and not eating it, without opening up everyone to constantly entering into contracts.


That would be a bad idea. Such a law could be used to enforce relgion on people. For instance, it could prevent you from ever throwing away a religious tract handed to you and untold other unintended consequences.
8.1.2008 8:07pm
Colin (mail):
Did a prof go out of his way to desecrate a synagogue or a torah, for example? . . . I said literally nothing about burning down a synagogue, so it's more than a little ironic that you're concerned with "overstating" the offense. I gave two examples concerning desecration: desecrating a synagogue or desecrating a torah. Bare minimum, you could have foregone commenting upon the synagogue and restricted your comments to the latter example, concerning the torah. But even a synagogue could be desecrated with, for instance, a type of paint that is easily removable.

I concur most sarcastically! How dare he conflate burning a synagogue with desecrating a synagogue, without taking the rational intermediate step of merely restricting his comments to the latter example, concerning the torah? The blighter! Surely he realizes that these hairs must be split, or else there won't be any room for your sententious outrage and occasional odd references to faeces. Any fool can see that the specifically emphasized, re-emphasized, and emphatically specified quality being forwarded for consideration is the very same quality heretofore referred to in multiple instances and various occasions as that of commensurateness, which is to say, not the quality of noncommensurateness, which is the adjectival metacharacteristic ascription any rational person would lend to the juxtaposition of desecration and destruction.


You're referring to the white professor who was fired from his position.


Unsarcastically, I believe you're mistaken here. Someone upthread quoted an article that suggested that the professor resigned, and the administration did not intend to fire him.
8.1.2008 8:11pm
Scote (mail):
@Morat20

Yes, yes. You are quite right. I'd misunderstood the issue. Catholicism is a big important religion which must be deferred to in all things, especially where such deference would be mutually exclusive with some other viewpoint. :-)
8.1.2008 8:12pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
Good Lord.
I have no opinion on the desecration. I do have an opinion on the prudence of any observant religious person depending on this moron's assurances.

And somebody, who is probably as dumb as Myers, is trying to compare the injury to an atheist who thinks others think he's going to hell with the perceived injury a Christian or Catholic feels in these circumstances is nuts. Just plain nuts. The atheist doesn't think there's anything to that beief system. So how can the other's belief that the atheist is doomed an injury.

Yeah, yeah. Prof Curtis only messed with two kids' grades and that's okay because they went to a party. No biggy. Jeez. You guys. With that as an excuse, there isn't much you couldn't do to kids' grades.

I'd be happy to look after Jews, if I'd thought of it. But 9-11 got the big ink. I take my buttheads where I find them, it's all one to me, and if I find a synagogue needs a hand, then I'm a happy camper.
8.1.2008 8:28pm
Dilan Esper (mail) (www):
Straw man, yet again. There is no reason a Catholic should not be able to opt out of a class with this chap. No reason that the U can advance for refusing a request for change of section. And no reason to accept your assurances that he is not a bigot.

1. There's no reason the university should grant a change of classes either. It's very good for university students to be forced to take classes from people they don't like and be exposed to ideas they disagree with.

2. People don't have to prove they aren't bigots. People who accuse others of being bigots have the burden of proof. Destroying a communion cracker is an act of great insensitivity. It is not, however, bigotry.

Again, you guys are trying to define ridicule of Catholic beliefs as anti-Catholic bigotry. It isn't.
8.1.2008 8:37pm
Scote (mail):

And somebody, who is probably as dumb as Myers, is trying to compare the injury to an atheist who thinks others think he's going to hell with the perceived injury a Christian or Catholic feels in these circumstances is nuts. Just plain nuts. The atheist doesn't think there's anything to that beief system. So how can the other's belief that the atheist is doomed an injury.


So you are saying that atheists must be thick skinned and bear all insults but religious people are delicate and sensitive and must be catered too? What about Hindus? Should we ban the consumption of beef to cater to their religious sensitivity?

If you want to talk about reasonableness perhaps you'd care to explain how an all powerful god could possibly be harmed by anything, let alone a pudgy biology Professor?
8.1.2008 8:40pm
Dilan Esper (mail) (www):
And somebody, who is probably as dumb as Myers, is trying to compare the injury to an atheist who thinks others think he's going to hell with the perceived injury a Christian or Catholic feels in these circumstances is nuts.

I don't know what calling Myers "dumb" adds to this discussion. He certainly was insensitive and acted like a jerk, but he's also, by all accounts, a brilliant scientist and university professor. I assure you that nobody gets to Myers' position if they are "dumb".
8.1.2008 8:40pm
Dr. Weevil (mail) (www):
Someone upthread did indeed note that Prof. Hill "resigned" from his job at Stillman. Two things need to be said about that:

1. How many people here are unaware that when someone resigns from a job without a better one lined up, particularly when he's done something likely to make him very unwelcome, chances are better than 10-1 that he was given a choice of resigning or being fired? It looks better on a resume to say that you resigned a job, so most people take the first choice. Of course, that's why the application forms for my last three jobs all asked whether I had ever "been asked to resign" from a previous job, not whether I had ever been fired from one. The two are for all practical purposes equivalent.

2. Even if he resigned from his Stillman job without being asked to, I'm pretty certain he was dumped from his part-time position at the University of Alabama when his neoconfederate views became known. How do I know? I read it in the campus newspaper as it happened. Sorry I didn't keep copies.
8.1.2008 8:41pm
Milhouse (www):
I haven't got the time right now to read 460-odd comments, but I'll probably make the time over the weekend. In the meantime, the following comment is made without knowing what others have written:

If I understand RC doctrine correctly (and I'm not sure that I do), and if I were RC (which I'm not), then if I knew someone had a consecrated host and planned to desecrate it I would do whatever was in my power, up to and including the use of deadly force, to rescue it. AIUI, to RCs the consecrated host is not a piece of property but a living person, just RCs also believe a foetus is a living person. In both cases, if that is true, then the law is obvious: not only is any force used in that person's defense legally justified, but even if it weren't, rescuing them is a higher priority than obeying any law. How much more so when it's not just any person but God Himself Who has been kidnapped and is in need of rescue.

As for Myers, AIUI there is no way he could have legally obtained a consecrated host. Before it was consecrated it was the property of the Church; after it was consecrated, as far as the Church is concerned it was no longer property but a person, and thus could not be given away. To legally obtain property from its current owner, that owner must intend to transfer ownership; since the legal owner of the property in question believed itself incapable of making such a transfer, it follows that it did not in fact do so. Therefore whoever took the host was a thief, and Myers was a fence. I believe he ought to be prosecuted for that, and if Minnesota law provides for sentencing enhancements for crimes motivated by hate then they should be applied.
8.1.2008 8:42pm
jukeboxgrad (mail):
richard:

The atheist doesn't think there's anything to that beief system. So how can the other's belief that the atheist is doomed an injury.


In exactly the same way that the beliefs of Myers are being considered an injury against Catholics. Hoosier said it should be possible to opt out of the class because there is allegedly reason to believe the prof is "a bit of an anti-Catholic bigot."

Why shouldn't a non-Christian be concerned that any Christian is also 'a bit of bigot,' in exactly the same way? If someone thinks I'm going to burn in hell, why shouldn't I be concerned that they are bigoted against me? Am I supposed to just think of it as "nothing personal, you morons?"
8.1.2008 8:46pm
Michael B (mail):
Colin, the usual b.s. The commensurate quality inquired of is entirely relevant. You, with Dilan, evade that.
8.1.2008 8:46pm
Dilan Esper (mail) (www):
To legally obtain property from its current owner, that owner must intend to transfer ownership; since the legal owner of the property in question believed itself incapable of making such a transfer, it follows that it did not in fact do so.

That's not true. Manual tradition of personal property under circumstances where a reasonable observer would believe that he or she is free to consume the property transfers ownership, absent a valid contract providing otherwise.

In other words, if you hand a piece of food to someone, after handing a similar piece of food to a bunch of other people which they then eat, there is clearly a transfer of property, because a reasonable observer would believe you are handing the food to the person for purposes of consumption. It doesn't matter what you intend; the act of manual tradition transfers ownership.
8.1.2008 8:47pm
Chris Bell (mail) (www):
Yeah Milhouse.... I'm going to suggest you read the thread ;-) There's a lot of responses there.
8.1.2008 8:48pm
Dr. Weevil (mail) (www):
Is it true that "nobody gets to Myers' position if they are 'dumb'" -- that being tenure at a third-rate university?

I've known two full professors at second-rate universities who were in fact quite stupid. In some fields, a precise knowledge of thousands of pertinent facts will temporarily disguise one's complete inability to draw any interesting or even true conclusions from them. In such a field, even a very stupid person with a near-photographic memory can go quite far.
8.1.2008 8:48pm
Milhouse (www):
A little complication: the commercial value of a host is probably about two cents (I can buy a box of 100-200 for a few bucks at the supermarket). Consecrating it doesn't add to its value — except to RCs. So what value should the law assign to the stolen property? The objective market value, or the subjective value to its owner? It seems to me that such questions ought always to be resolved against the thief, especially when he knew very well what its value was to the owner. But it's a very debatable point.
8.1.2008 8:49pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
Myers is "Dumb" because there is more to life than accumulated seat time in college.

Atheists can't be hurt by something which does not exist. And they think it does not exist. If the Christian thinks the atheist is going to hell, then it means absolutely nothing, can mean nothing, to the atheist.
8.1.2008 8:50pm
Dilan Esper (mail) (www):
The objective market value, or the subjective value to its owner? It seems to me that such questions ought always to be resolved against the thief, especially when he knew very well what its value was to the owner. But it's a very debatable point.

In a civil action, you never get your subjective value. If a jewelry store ruins your wedding ring in attempting to polish it, you get the market value of the ring. You don't get any extra damages because the ring was an heirloom or you have been married 45 years or whatever.
8.1.2008 8:52pm
Michael B (mail):
"Yes, yes. You are quite right. I'd misunderstood the issue. Catholicism is a big important religion which must be deferred to in all things, especially where such deference would be mutually exclusive with some other viewpoint. :-)" scote

No, you're advancing a strawman. Remarking upon P.Z.'s actions here is not tantamount to seeking legal redress, nor is deference "in all things" sought. Far from it. Further, concerning other religions, when people visit lands such as India it is very common to defer to local customs, not necessarily religious customs, and not because someone is kowtowing to those local beliefs, prejudices, or whatever the person in question might regard them as, it's more typically motivated out of a certain reserve, a modesty, a respect for those "other" people as such, not a respect or deference directed toward the customs or beliefs as such.

Strawmen, knocked down, remain strawmen only.
8.1.2008 8:59pm
zippypinhead:
Oh my, every time I check back on this thread it's devolved further into absurdity. It started out at least nominally related to topics addressed by a legal blog, but now? Egads...

I might suspect a couple of folks defending him so vehemently might actually BE Myers, except that their posts aren't nearly vulgar enough to have come from his keyboard, based on what I've read of his writings.

Excuse me while I step down into the mud with you for a minute: dismissing statements of Catholic theology by members of the faith without bothering to check your facts is about as far from an intellectually honest and/or academic discourse as one could get - do some research before making Grand Pronouncements about Catholicism. Here's the authoritative source for you to cite if you wish to honestly research such issues and disagree with comments in posts.

And as far as I can tell, some of the Apologists for Myers haven't actually read what he said about Christians, or they would realize he attacked people, not merely criticized a religion in any sort of intellectual manner. Here are a few cut-and-pastes from only 2 of the postings on his blog (the 7/8 one linked above, and the 7/24 one describing what he did to the Host). Not a comprehensive list, just a few of his gentle observations:

>"Crazy Christian fanatics . . . These people are demented fuckwits"

>"It is a culture of deluded lunatics"

>"the last time a Catholic nation rose up to slaughter its non-Christian citizenry was a whole 70 years ago"

>"Catholicism has been actively poisoning the minds of its practitioners with the most amazing bullshit for years, and until recently, I had no idea that a significant number of people actually believed this nonsense"

>"religion breeds the most disgustingly vile haters in our country, and . . . Catholicism fits right in with the rest"

>"uncritical, unskeptical, nonjudgmental idiocy all religions seek to promulgate"

>"Catholic blogs! We're talking some serious derangement there"

>"if I wanted to be so evil that I would commit a devastating crime against the whole of the human race, twisting the minds of children into ignorance and hatred, I would be promoting the indoctrination of religion in children's upbringing"

Yeah, this wonderful, brilliant fellow is worth defending. And no devoutly Christian student needs worry about his objectivity...

Nice try, guys. You'll never admit it, but that dawg just don't hunt.
8.1.2008 9:04pm
Dilan Esper (mail) (www):
Again, Zippy, I wouldn't write that stuff. But none of it is "no Catholics need apply" or "the Pope is the Whore of Babylon". For the most part, it's criticism of either Catholic beliefs (which are fair game) or Myers' critics (who are also fair game). Vituperative criticism? Sure. But still criticism directed at beliefs and particular individuals.

You will not see me saying that Myers has acquitted himself in an admirable manner here. He hasn't. He deliberately set out to piss off and hurt devout Catholics and he succeeded.

But strident and insensitive as he is, he's still criticizing beliefs, which he believes are absurd and ridiculous.
8.1.2008 9:09pm
Scote (mail):
"Yeah, this wonderful, brilliant fellow is worth defending. And no devoutly Christian student needs worry about his objectivity..."

Do you think that Catholics can be objective to non-Catholics?

Catholics think that everyone who is not Catholic is such a bad person that they will be tortured for all of eternity in Hell for their evil sins. In the past, Catholics considered the rights of presumptively evil non Catholics so trivial that Catholics under official Catholic sanction considered it **proper** to torture people to death if it might save their "souls". Yet you, for some reason, presumably think that Catholics can be objective as Professors.

You are, I think, wearing your blinders of righteousness, which are negating your ability to think rationally on this issue and render you incapable of objective comparison or analysis.
8.1.2008 9:13pm
Dr. Weevil (mail) (www):
jukeboxgrad writes (7:04pm):

"Christians believe that non-Christians are damned to eternity in hell, for thinking that Jesus is not to be worshipped. Doesn't that go beyond 'benighted'?"

Perhaps some Christians do believe that. Catholics emphatically do not, and it was Catholics that Myers targeted for his abuse. It's really not hard to avoid making silly errors about what Catholics believe. The authorized English translation of the Catechism is on-line in full. Here are the pertinent sections, with emphasis added:

"846 Basing itself on Scripture and Tradition, the Council teaches that the Church, a pilgrim now on earth, is necessary for salvation: the one Christ is the mediator and the way of salvation; he is present to us in his body which is the Church. He himself explicitly asserted the necessity of faith and Baptism, and thereby affirmed at the same time the necessity of the Church which men enter through Baptism as through a door. Hence they could not be saved who, knowing that the Catholic Church was founded as necessary by God through Christ, would refuse either to enter it or to remain in it.

"847 This affirmation is not aimed at those who, through no fault of their own, do not know Christ and his Church:
Those who, through no fault of their own, do not know the Gospel of Christ or his Church, but who nevertheless seek God with a sincere heart, and, moved by grace, try in their actions to do his will as they know it through the dictates of their conscience - those too may achieve eternal salvation."

So devout Hindus and Buddhists can go to Heaven, and maybe some atheists, too, but lapsed Catholics who suspect that the faith is true but try not to think about it so they won't feel obliged to follow its teachings are in serious danger.

Speaking of silly errors that could have been avoided with 5 minutes of Googling, Dilan Esper (1:39pm) assures us that the word 'host' "literally means the cracker 'hosts' Jesus". It means nothing of the sort. 'Host' is three entirely different nouns in English, one meaning army, one (from Latin hostis) the reciprocal of guest, and one(from Latin hostia) meaning a consecrated communion wafer. The etymology of the last has nothing to do with guests or hospitality: Latin hostia means 'sacrificial victim', as anyone who can be bothered to check www.dictionary.com will know.

Like many of the other comments here and on other sites, this one reminds me of what A. E. Housman once wrote: Three minutes thought would suffice to find this out; but thought is irksome and three minutes is a long time."
8.1.2008 9:17pm
Chris Bell (mail) (www):
Zippy,

I haven't said that Catholic students don't have cause to worry about his objectivity, I've said:

-Those worries are unfounded because he uses blind grading
-Most importantly, that's not a reason for firing a professor. Worries about objectivity are not evidence of unobjectivity. See my 12:03 comment.

So I don't see your point.
8.1.2008 9:24pm
Dilan Esper (mail) (www):
Speaking of silly errors that could have been avoided with 5 minutes of Googling, Dilan Esper (1:39pm) assures us that the word 'host' "literally means the cracker 'hosts' Jesus". It means nothing of the sort. 'Host' is three entirely different nouns in English, one meaning army, one (from Latin hostis) the reciprocal of guest, and one(from Latin hostia) meaning a consecrated communion wafer. The etymology of the last has nothing to do with guests or hospitality: Latin hostia means 'sacrificial victim', as anyone who can be bothered to check www.dictionary.com will know.

That doesn't really diminish my point, which is that the term "host" concedes that the cracker is the Body of Jesus.

Since the cracker is in fact not the Body of Jesus, non-Catholics as well as Catholics who do not believe in transubstantiation should call it a cracker, not a host.
8.1.2008 9:25pm
Scote (mail):
Dr. Weevil writes:

jukeboxgrad writes (7:04pm):

"Christians believe that non-Christians are damned to eternity in hell, for thinking that Jesus is not to be worshipped. Doesn't that go beyond 'benighted'?"

Perhaps some Christians do believe that. Catholics emphatically do not, and it was Catholics that Myers targeted for his abuse. It's really not hard to avoid making silly errors about what Catholics believe. The authorized English translation of the Catechism is on-line in full. Here are the pertinent sections, with emphasis added:


Oops, you forgot to include the title of the section you quoted from:

"Outside the Church there is no salvation"

I think that kind of disproves your attempt to make the contrary point.
8.1.2008 9:47pm
jukeboxgrad (mail):
richard:

Atheists can't be hurt by something which does not exist. And they think it does not exist. If the Christian thinks the atheist is going to hell, then it means absolutely nothing, can mean nothing, to the atheist.


The atheist does not fear being hurt by God. The atheist has reason to fear being hurt by the follower of God, when that person has power over the atheist (e.g., the power to grade).

"If the Christian thinks the atheist is going to hell," that means quite a bit to the atheist, to the extent that this implies that the Christian professor is bigoted and is going to give the atheist a poor grade.

Please explain why this is not simply the exact reverse of what Hoosier and others have argued.
8.1.2008 9:53pm
jukeboxgrad (mail):
zip:

"It is a culture of deluded lunatics"


Consider these two statements:

A) You are part of a culture of deluded lunatics
B) You are going to burn in hell

Are you claiming that A is really more offensive and hurtful than B?
8.1.2008 9:54pm
jukeboxgrad (mail):
weevil:

This affirmation is not aimed at those who, through no fault of their own, do not know Christ and his Church


That sounds nice, but from a distance (as a non-Christian) I find it hard to reconcile with the likes of this:

While I am a strong supporter of the State of Israel and dearly love the Jewish people and believe them to be the chosen people of God, I continue to stand on the foundational biblical principle that all people — Baptists, Methodists, Pentecostals, Jews, Muslims, etc. — must believe in the Lord Jesus Christ in order to enter heaven.


I'm far from an expert in these matters, so maybe you can help me sort it out.

Also: what scote said.
8.1.2008 9:54pm
Scote (mail):

"847 This affirmation is not aimed at those who, through no fault of their own, do not know Christ and his Church

One of the things Dr. Weevil is failing to mention is that "no fault of your own" does not include "knowingly" refusing Christ or Catholic doctrine. That is, once you've heard of Christ and/or the Catholic Church, and do not convert you are **knowlingly** refusing.

The Catholic Church is not an inclusive Church, in spite of what you, Dr. Weevil, attempt to falsely imply when selectively quoting from the section called "Outside the Church there is no salvation"
8.1.2008 10:31pm
Hoosier:
500 posts!

WOOT! WOOT!
8.1.2008 10:37pm
Hoosier:
Scote: "Oops, you forgot to include the title of the section you quoted from:

"Outside the Church there is no salvation"

I think that kind of disproves your attempt to make the contrary point."

No it doesn't.

Yet again, as with Trent, you have cut, pasted, and bolded. And then said: "Aha!"

I should hope that readers of this blog would understand that this is not a good way to understand a very complex theology. You, as so many others, have completely misunderstood what Catholics mean by 'extra ecclesiam nulla salus'. This understanding goes back to Patristic times. It is laid out quite clearly in the Catechism. And it is quite different from what you think it means.

I'd be happy to explain. But we saw how that went with the matter of transsubstantiation, wherein your response to my citation to dogmatic Church teaching was to re-post a quote from the Tridentine document, taken out of its context, and put some words in bold face. So I'm not really sure what would be the point.

But please try to keep in mind that you don't actually know what you are talking about. So you might want to stop misrepresenting the teachings of other peoples' faiths.
8.1.2008 10:50pm
LM (mail):
Chris Bell:

I wonder if any of the Danish cartoonists teach at a journalism or arts school. I wonder if they have any Muslim students. I presume that it wouldn't be a big deal as long as the student didn't tell the professor, "If you draw any Muslim cartoons in class, I will kill you."

That's because in Europe it's OK to kill the professor. You're just not allowed to say you're going to kill the professor.

I kid. I love the Europeans.
8.1.2008 11:12pm
LM (mail):
I wonder if Eugene had an inkling of the response this post would get.
8.1.2008 11:14pm
jukeboxgrad (mail):
hoosier:

You, as so many others, have completely misunderstood what Catholics mean by 'extra ecclesiam nulla salus'.


I never heard that phrase before, but it led me to this long article, which confirmed all my worst fears. So maybe you can tell me what I should have read instead.

And then I read this, which did the same thing, while also sounding almost like dialog in a Woody Allen movie.
8.1.2008 11:35pm
jukeboxgrad (mail):
Uh-oh.

The Most Holy Roman Church firmly believes, professes and preaches that none of those existing outside the Catholic Church, not only pagans, also Jews, heretics, and schismatics can ever be partakers of eternal life, but that they are to go into the eternal fire 'which was prepared for the devil and his angels' (Mt. 25:41) unless before death they are joined with Her... No one, let his almsgiving be as great as it may, no one, even if he pour out his blood for the Name of Christ can be saved unless they abide within the bosom and unity of the Catholic Church.


Maybe it's safe to ignore that, because it's 500 years old. Then again, the speaker was a Pope.
8.1.2008 11:48pm
Dr. Weevil (mail) (www):
jukeboxgrad:
Try to argue competently and honestly. Jerry Falwell is not a Catholic, he is a Protestant. I specifically said that some Christians probably do believe that all non-Christians are damned, but Catholics do not, and P. Z. Myers aimed his vicious desecration at Catholics, not Protestants.

It is deeply dishonest to quote the Conservative Voice and Wikipedia and catholics.com and a Pope who lived 500 years ago when you have already read the evidence of the very best authority on Catholic beliefs, the Catechism, which is the official compendium of what Catholics believe and was thoroughly revised just a few years ago. It proves that you are simply wrong. The Catholic Church does not teach that all non-Catholics (or all non-Christians) go to Hell. When you wrote that it did, you made a fool of yourself. When you repeated the slur after I'd corrected it, you promoted yourself to bald-faced liar.

Scote:
If you read the Catechism passage with a little more care, you will see that it doesn't say that anyone who has "heard of" the Catholic Church must convert or go to Hell, it says that those who reject the Church "knowing that the Catholic Church was founded as necessary by God through Christ" will go to Hell. I don't think P. Z. Myers "knows" anything of the sort. I even boldfaced that part for you, but that didn't help, did it?

By the way, if you think Catholics are cannibals, why don't you call the police and ask them to arrest any practicing Catholics you know of in your neighborhood? I'm pretty sure cannibalism is a felony in all 50 states and the District of Columbia.
8.2.2008 12:31am
jukeboxgrad (mail):
weevil:

some Christians probably do believe that all non-Christians are damned, but Catholics do not


The key phrase appears to be this: "through no fault of their own." Maybe you can help me understand that it means something other than this:

God is not so cruel as to allow people go to hell who have never heard of Christ and His Church, or in any other way that through no fault of their own never came to a saving faith in Christ. This would be a gross act of injustice. God is a just God and a merciful God.

God will never intrude upon our free will. If we chose to reject God, then God will respect that. He forces no one into heaven and He sends no one to hell. Those who go to hell send themselves there, in effect, by their conscious actions to reject God.

Thus, a person in the jungles of South America, for example, who has never heard of Christ may be able to find salvation. God will judge them according to the intent of that person's heart to seek God and to know Him as best as he can. Such people are NOT saved by their tribal religion, they are saved only through Christ, but Christ, as a loving Savior, recognizes that such people never had the opportunity to accept or reject Him and thus he judges them according to what they do know, and according to what all men know that has been written on their heart by God.

Also, other people who have diminished capacity through no fault of their own and therefore cannot make a free will decision, such as the insane, brain damaged, or some other factor that impairs their judgment, will be judged by God in similar manner as He does the person in a tribe in South America.

Bottomline is that no one goes to hell by mistake, no one trips into hell, and no one goes to hell without a conscious and deliberate free will decision to reject God.


In other words, I'm not damned if I'm in a jungle where I never heard of Christ. Or if I'm insane or brain-damaged. But if I'm a healthy person and I've heard of Christ and I make "a conscious and deliberate free will decision to reject God," then I'm damned.

I realize this person I'm quoting might be a nobody. But I can't imagine a more logical way to interpret "through no fault of their own." His explanation seems to be a natural interpretation of those words. But maybe you can point me toward a better interpretation.

The Catholic Church does not teach that all non-Catholics (or all non-Christians) go to Hell


Just the ones who get the invitation from the Church and never RSVP. Because then they fall outside the protection of "through no fault of their own." Right?

it says that those who reject the Church "knowing that the Catholic Church was founded as necessary by God through Christ" will go to Hell


Huh? Maybe you can help me figure out what "knowing" means. Does it mean I've heard someone say that "the Catholic Church was founded as necessary by God through Christ?" (That seems to be the perspective of the person I quoted above.) Or does it mean I believe and accept that "the Catholic Church was founded as necessary by God through Christ?" If the latter, doesn't that mean I've accepted the Church? So is your statement about those who reject what they accept? I find this a bit confusing.
8.2.2008 2:30am
jgshapiro (mail):
Millhouse:

<blockquote>
So what value should the law assign to the stolen property? The objective market value, or the subjective value to its owner? It seems to me that such questions ought always to be resolved against the thief, especially when he knew very well what its value was to the owner. But it's a very debatable point.
</blockquote>
I don't think this is all that debatable.

If I leave a pencil on my desk and you steal it, you are not guilty of grand theft just because I believe the pencil has magical powers and is priceless. Even if you knew I thought it was priceless. Objectively, it is still just a pencil. It's value is at most a dollar or two (and then only if it is some sort of fancy mechanical pencil).

Likewise with a religious symbol, such as a wafer. Just because you may believe it has sacred value, does not mean its objective value is any more than any other similar non-sacred object. So from a civil law standpoint, the value of a pre-consecrated wafer would be equivalent to that of a transubstantiated wafer -- a few cents each.

To suggest (as some have done in this thread) that someone be prosecuted for stealing something worth only a few cents seems to be just another way of trying to get the law to punish blasphemy under the guise of punishing theft.
8.2.2008 3:14am
Dave N (mail):
I am not a Catholic (liberal, mostly lapsed Presbyterian, actually). I am absolutely astounded by the ignorance shown by some in attacking Catholicism and conflating it with a whole host of other Christian denominations (Jukeboxgrad's Falwell quote was an absolute howler as well as being completely irrelevant).

My take as a casually interested bystander is that Professor Myers is an ass for deliberately insulting Catholics in the way he did. I personally do not believe many aspects of Catholicism (I suspect that if I did believe. I would be a Catholic), but I treat the Roman Catholic Church, Islam, and all religious traditions with respect.

I would never dream of walking into a mosque without removing my shoes, for example. I am not Muslim, but to do otherwise would be the height of rudeness. Likewise, when I have attended Catholic services, I have stayed at my seat and not gone forward for communion, even though my denomination believes that communion should be open to all believers.

A jerk got more than his 15 minutes of fame here. Catholics certainly have a right to be offended by his actions.
8.2.2008 4:24am
Hoosier:
juke--You are way out of your depth. You cite Wiki, and then go on to link to Catholic Answers, saying it did "the same thing," which it most assuredly does not. Catholic Answers sounds like Woody Allen? I always remember him as being . . . funny. I suspect you don't understand what you read. But you don't really want explanation, right? You just want to poke fun and act shocked.

But I truly appreciate Dave Ns comments. It is odd to be told what my Church teaches by people who have no clue what my Church teaches. And I would like to assure the fair-minded VCers--yet again--that 'Google-cut-paste' is not the same as reading Augustine, Aquinas, and Rahner.

"If I leave a pencil on my desk and you steal it, you are not guilty of grand theft just because I believe the pencil has magical powers and is priceless."

OK, shapiro. Enough is enough. Now give me back my pencil.
8.2.2008 9:28am
Hoosier:
From the Catholic Answers dialog that "confirmed all of [jukes] worst fears":


"We don’t know what God will do for those outside the Church, so it’s best not to presume to judge. "

Now, really, does that "confirm your worst fears" about Catholics? This is the OH-fishul (as we say in Indianer) position of the Church. The Church doesn't know what happens to people after they die. So we are encouraged to pray for them.

Scary?
8.2.2008 9:34am
zippypinhead:
A final thought, and then I'm giving up on this thread, since the arguments have gotten awfully circular and repetitive:
Dilan Esper wrote about Myers' rants:
I wouldn't write that stuff. But none of it is "no Catholics need apply" or "the Pope is the Whore of Babylon". For the most part, it's criticism of either Catholic beliefs (which are fair game) or Myers' critics (who are also fair game). Vituperative criticism? Sure. But still criticism directed at beliefs and particular individuals. . . .

But strident and insensitive as he is, he's still criticizing beliefs, which he believes are absurd and ridiculous.
Beliefs versus people? Dilon, you're a regular on VC and generally a reasonable, if passionate advocate of your views. But here I'm afraid zeal has caused your train to leave the rails. Let's try an experiment:

Pick whatever race/ethnicity/gender/sexual orientation/religion you happen to be a member of. Let's say a public figure in a position of authority over you -- the Judge presiding over your trial, the public official deciding your zoning request or whatever, makes and broadly publishes the following comments about the people of your race/ethnicity/gender/sexual orientation/religion, etc.:

>"crazy . . . fanatics"
>"demented fuckwits"
>"deluded lunatics"
>"the most disgustingly vile haters in our country"
>"uncritical, unskeptical, nonjudgmental idiocy"
>"some serious derangement"
>"commit[ting] a devastating crime against the whole of the human race"
>"twisting the minds of children into ignorance and hatred"

Do you think your motion to recuse the aforementioned official from your matter on the grounds of actual or apparent bias would ultimately succeed? Of course it would - not even a close question. The only difference here is that the state-employed public official with compulsory power over members of the target demographic happens to be an academic. So folks believe the rules are somehow different.

That poor 18 year-old Christian pre-med has good reason to be concerned about Professor Myers' announced hatred of "demented fuckwits" like her. The last time I checked, the courts didn't broadly exempt one category of public employee from the same rules applied to all others just because they had the word "professor" in their job description. The fact that the University of Minnesota apparently declines to even inquire as to the effect of his announced hatred on the classroom is just wrong.
8.2.2008 10:13am
Tomwarren:
"Before it [the host] was consecrated it was the property of the Church;"

Undisputed, unless, of course, he bought or baked the wafers, himself.

"After it was consecrated, as far as the Church is concerned it was no longer property but a person, and thus could not be given away."

Yet, that is exactly what the Church physically did. They gave it away.

"To legally obtain property from its current owner, that owner must intend to transfer ownership;"

Not true. The Church can act contrary to any ownership intererst -- as by claiming it has no ownership intererst and handing the object away, without any expectation of return.

"Since the legal owner of the property in question believed itself incapable of making such a transfer, it follows that it did not in fact do so."

I thought you said that the Church does not beleive it to be property? The only thing that follows from that is that it cannot possibly be stolen property. Most assuredly, in any case, the church sought to transfer the Host.

"Therefore whoever took the host was a thief, and Myers was a fence."

As in a body thief? But to be a body thief there must be a dead body. But here, there is no dead body either in the eyes of the Church, nor in the eyes of the civil law. Under civil law, as you point out there is at most a 2 cent wafer, which also precludes there being a kidnapping.
8.2.2008 10:36am
Dr. Weevil (mail) (www):
No, not "as in a body thief". Fences are not kidnappers. Try to keep up.

I still cannot believe that either of the following cases, already mentioned above, would not be prosecutable as theft:

1. An invited guest at a wedding with an open bar decides to save money on his own liquor bill by taking a case or two of wine or liquor from behind the bar and carrying it out the door to put in his car for later consumption. It's being given away free, right? Not for drinking later, it's not.

2. I'm planning to have a big party this weekend and don't want to spend money on ketchup, mustard, salt, pepper, napkins, cups, and straws, so I take a big bucket down to McDonald's and clean out their entire supply of those seven items. They give them away for free, right? Just to establish that I'm a customer, I buy a small order of fries before filling up my (very large) bucket with condiments and accessories. Again, despite Dilan Esper's assurances, I'm pretty sure I'd be hauled down to police HQ in handcuffs if I did such a thing. If I'm right, that proves that giving something away for free for consumption (ketchup, mustard, salt, pepper) or use (napkins, cups, straws) on the premises does not grant the guest/customer an unrestricted right to take said items away for use (or abuse) elsewhere.

Please don't tell me that the quantity makes a difference. It makes a difference in these two cases, since the owner of the goods would be unlikely to prosecute someone who took a single drink away from a wedding or half a dozen ketchup packets away from a McDonald's. But my point is that giving away something for free consumption on the premises does not establish the recipient's right to take that something away for use or abuse off the premises, as so many have assured us.

Whether Myers could be prosecuted successfully is an interesting but irrelevant question. Probably not: all he would need to avoid conviction is one anti-Catholic bigot on the jury willing to engage in jury nullification, and they are not hard to find.

That his supplier is in fact (morally and ethically and quite possibly legally) a thief, and that he himself is therefore (with the same proviso) a receiver of stolen property seems quite clear.
8.2.2008 11:02am
Richard Aubrey (mail):
So what are all you good-hearted liberal profs going to do if Christians, especially Catholics, actively work to avoid this clown's classes?
Outside of harumph, I mean.

Jeez. A kid exerting choice in case a prof would use his power to screw the student. Perish the thought.
8.2.2008 11:24am
jukeboxgrad (mail):
dave n:

Jukeboxgrad's Falwell quote was an absolute howler as well as being completely irrelevant


It's indeed relevant if Falwell expressed a universal Christian belief, i.e., a belief shared by both Protestants and Catholics. As far as I can tell, that's what he did.

I treat the Roman Catholic Church, Islam, and all religious traditions with respect.


Do you treat atheism with respect?
8.2.2008 1:06pm
jukeboxgrad (mail):
hoosier:

You are way out of your depth. … I suspect you don't understand what you read.


No need to "suspect" that. I freely admit it.

Usually when I post here, it's on a subject I've studied (sometimes very extensively). But this time is different. My understanding of Christians, Protestants and Catholics is about as deep as Bush and McCain's understanding of Muslims, Sunnis and Shiites, i.e., not much understanding. I know Christians pray to Jesus and celebrate Easter and Christmas. I have also been a personal witness to more than a trivial amount of hate and intolerance expressed by Christians (or at least people posing as Christians) toward non-Christians. Beyond that, my knowledge tapers off greatly. So I'm sincerely grateful for what I might learn here.

But you don't really want explanation, right?


Wrong, I do. In particular, I'd like answers to what I asked here. Weevil and others seem to not have answers, which only tends to confirm my fears.

You just want to poke fun and act shocked.


The "shocked" isn't an act. And I am indeed inclined to poke fun at things that are funny.

There are obviously many similarities among different religions and religious groups. But one difference I find interesting is with regard to possessing a sense of humor. Just to be clear: I'm not saying that Christians lack a sense of humor. I'm alleging that Christians (or at least certain flavors of Christians) lack a sense of humor about Christianity, and about religion. Compared with certain other religious groups.

'Google-cut-paste' is not the same as reading Augustine, Aquinas, and Rahner


It would be nice to see Christians express the equivalent sentiment when people are condemning, say, Islam via 'Google-cut-paste.'

"We don’t know what God will do for those outside the Church, so it’s best not to presume to judge. "

Now, really, does that "confirm your worst fears" about Catholics?


When I read it in context, yes. The next sentence is this: "We can only hope and pray that God will have mercy on them." English translation: 'It's not my job to decide that you're going to hell. But I expect you will, unless God has mercy on you.'

Why should I find that comforting? And if a person thinks that about me, why should I expect them to grade my exams fairly?

And the sentence isn't terribly comforting even when read alone. It basically says this: 'I don't know that you're going to hell, but I wouldn't bet against it. Also, notice that I'm too genteel to say it plainly.'

The Church doesn't know what happens to people after they die. So we are encouraged to pray for them.


Because non-Christians are headed for hell, by default, unless God decides to go out of his way to have mercy on them. Right? When you pray for non-Christians, aren't you asking God to be merciful enough to exempt them from the hell that they've earned?

So the message I hear is this: 'I view you as someone who is headed to hell. But I also expect you to give me credit for being compassionate, because I sincerely hope that God gives you a pass. Because if he doesn't, you'll burn.'
8.2.2008 1:06pm
jukeboxgrad (mail):
zip:

That poor 18 year-old Christian pre-med has good reason to be concerned about Professor Myers' announced hatred of "demented fuckwits" like her.


There is a long history of Christians expressing hatred, intolerance and violence toward non-Christians. This happened over a long period of time, and in many different places. It was driven by theology. Despite some praiseworthy modern reform, the theological underpinnings seem to remain in place. And it's very easy to find examples of prominent Christians (like Falwell) reaffirming the old ideas. Why don't non-Christians have "good reason to be concerned" about this?
8.2.2008 1:06pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
juke.
Go ahead. Be concerned.
The point is the kid in Myers' class. Tu quoque doesn't solve that problem, does it?
8.2.2008 1:24pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
Some combat guys have said, that, pace absolutists, everybody will take whatever the next chaplain brings to the line units. No sense passing up a chance.
8.2.2008 1:25pm
Dr. Weevil (mail) (www):
So jukeboxgrad thinks two wrongs make a right? The "long history of Christians expressing hatred, intolerance and violence toward non-Christians" was preceded by a couple of centuries of pagans doing the same to Christians with the "violence" often including unusually painful forms of death, and that history has continued to this day in dozens of countries.* I don't think that justifies Christians or pseudo-Christians in abusing non-Christians, but apparently JBG would.

In any case, he is simply wrong in thinking that Catholics believe that non-Christians go to Hell. I quoted the authoritative source for Catholic belief and helpfully bolded the most pertinent parts, but he seems unwilling or unable to understand a straightforward English text. He demands that someone explain to him how "knowing" something is different from "having heard" it, as if anyone who has ever set foot in a Calculus class "knows" Calculus. How can one explain something so simple and obvious?

So what's his problem? Is he blinded by bigotry? Looks like it to me.

- - - - - - - - - - - - -

*First mention of Christians in Roman literature: as governor of Bithynia, the Younger Pliny interrogated some woman deacons about their Christian beliefs. They told him that they met together before dawn, shared a meal, sang hymns to Christ "as if he were a god" (Pliny's words), and encouraged each other not to lie, cheat, or steal. Pliny's reaction: "I decided to have them tortured at once". He couldn't believe in a secret conspiracy to be good. See Letters 10.47-48 in any translation of Pliny's works. Examples could of course be multiplied ad nauseam.
8.2.2008 1:26pm
Dr. Weevil (mail) (www):
One more thing before I log off for a few days to start a new job in a new apartment in a new state:

Many Christians believe that the default destination for Christians is Hell, that without God's grace and Christ's sacrifice no one would get to Heaven. "We are all sinners", as the saying goes. Catholics don't go as far as Calvinists (Presbyterians and Dutch Reformed) who teach the doctrine of Total Depravity (look it up), but they have a rather low opinion of human nature in general, Christian behavior emphatically included.

I'm not going to do anyone's homework for them, but I'm pretty sure this subject is covered in the Catechism, which is (to repeat) on-line in full in an authorized English translation. You don't even have to spend $16.95 or thereabouts for a handsome hardcover hard copy, you can read it for free. And unlike taking Communion, you can do so without offending anyone, no matter what your current beliefs (or lack thereof). To put it another way, the Catechism is the 'manual' of the Catholic Church. As with mechanical devices, the first thing to do if you have any questions about how the Catholic Church works is to READ THE $%#*&&^ MANUAL! If that doesn't work, consult someone at the help desk. There are many Catholic bloggers around, and I'm sure one of them would be glad to answer sincere and respectful questions, as would most priests. Of course, if you come up to them and say "Hey, you guys are like cannibals, right?" they may think your question is insincere, disrespectful, and purely rhetorical and not want to waste time feeding your urge to mock.
8.2.2008 2:33pm
jukeboxgrad (mail):
richard:

Tu quoque doesn't solve that problem, does it?


Tu quoque can be used legitimately or illegitimately. Please show that I have done the latter.
8.2.2008 2:35pm
jukeboxgrad (mail):
weevil:

So jukeboxgrad thinks two wrongs make a right?


No. I think that people who complain about being harmed will be taken more seriously when they do a better job of not imposing that same harm on others.

He demands that someone explain to him how "knowing" something is different from "having heard" it, as if anyone who has ever set foot in a Calculus class "knows" Calculus.


Your analogy is feeble. It would be appropriate if we were comparing 'hear' and 'understand.' Did you 'hear' that E=mc^2? Do you 'understand' that E=mc^2? We can see a difference there.

But that's not the comparison. We're comparing "hear" and "know." These are very commonly used as exact synonyms. Did you 'hear' that Angelina had twins? Did you 'know' that Angelina had twins? No difference. Did you 'hear' that Jesus died for your sins? Did you 'know' that Jesus died for your sins? I don't see a difference there.

Indeed, "have you heard the good news" is a very normal way to talk about Christianity. This tends to underline the idea that 'know' means 'hear,' in this instance. This idea is also underlined when I cite someone who applied precisely that interpretation, someone who is purportedly a Catholic scholar.

So you're not addressing the issue. You had said this:

those who reject the Church "knowing that the Catholic Church was founded as necessary by God through Christ" will go to Hell


You're still not explaining what it means to 'know' that "the Catholic Church was founded as necessary by God through Christ." That's a belief, based on a faith. A belief is either accepted or rejected (once someone invites me to do so; i.e., once I 'hear' about the belief). You're claiming that 'know' doesn't mean 'heard of' (even though I've explained why it's reasonable to read it that way). If 'know' doesn't mean 'heard of,' then what else could it mean, other than 'accept?' Especially since we're talking about a matter of faith. And how does it make sense to say that I reject what I accept? Huh?

These are simple, reasonable, obvious questions, and it's very noticeable to me that you are not answering them.

You seem to be claiming that Catholicism teaches that 'you will know that the Catholic Church was founded by God only after you do extensive study, equal in complexity to the study of calculus.' But the evidence seems to indicate something very different: Catholicism teaches that 'you should know that the Catholic Church was founded by God because that what's the Good Book says, and this is a basic truth, and now you've heard it, and therefore you should accept it, and you'll burn if you don't, unless God has mercy on you. And I will pray for Him to do so.'
8.2.2008 2:35pm
jukeboxgrad (mail):
weevil:

There are many Catholic bloggers around


I cited one. He offered an interpretation very much at odds with yours. You have ignored what he said. He has an impressive resume. One of many questions you haven't answered is why I he should be considered less credible than Dr. Weevil, whose resume I haven't seen.

He also posted a very impressive photo.

READ THE $%#*&&^ MANUAL!


I read the section you cited, very carefully. Maybe more carefully than you. What seems to me to be the natural interpretation is also the interpretation adopted by Bro. Ignatius Mary, OLSM, L.Th. The alternate Dr. Weevil interpretation is comforting, but I can't figure out how it makes sense.
8.2.2008 2:45pm
Dr. Weevil (mail) (www):
One more post before I go:
I have heard that Angelina had twins. I don't know that, though I suspect it's true. I've also heard (from a spam message) that she died in childbirth. I don't know that, either, and strongly suspect that it is false. The fact is that you are playing with words to deny the plain meaning of the text. I checked out your link, and see nothing to indicate that Brother Ignatius Mary thinks you're necessarily going to go to Hell, though I'd avoid murder and rape and bank robbery if I were you, to improve your odds.

Of course, you would look less petty if you would stop demoting me from 'Dr Weevil' to 'Weevil' to 'weevil'. Just one more hint that you're motivated more by spite than a sincere desire to know the truth about anything in particular. Have fun while I'm gone patting yourself on the back for 'winning' all your arguments.
8.2.2008 2:56pm
Dave N (mail):
Jukeboxgrad,

I even treat atheists with respect. I do not go around saying negative things about atheists--which is more than I can say about your behavior toward anyone who disagrees with your viewpoint. My point is that you sounded like an absolute idiot with your Falwell quote. There are many, many shades of belief within Christendom. That you do not realize that is a sign of stupidity, willful ignorance, arrogance, or a combination of the three/.

Since I know you well from other posts, I think I know which it is.
8.2.2008 3:19pm
jukeboxgrad (mail):
The Esteemed Dr. Weevil:

I've also heard (from a spam message) that she died in childbirth. I don't know that, either, and strongly suspect that it is false.


You're putting a lot of effort into arguing what "know" doesn't mean. I wish you would answer the question, which is to explain what it does mean, in this instance.

you are playing with words to deny the plain meaning of the text


I've explained why the interpretation you think is "plain" makes no sense to me. And even though I've asked the question repeatedly, you haven't made even a pretense of directly answering the question (about how it is possible to reject and accept something at the same time).

I … see nothing to indicate that Brother Ignatius Mary thinks you're necessarily going to go to Hell


I cited him at length, here, and his interpretation of the text is obviously very different from yours. Notice he said this:

no one goes to hell without a conscious and deliberate free will decision to reject God


Here's how I interpret that: if I make "a conscious and deliberate free will decision to reject God," then I'm going to hell, unless there's some kind of miracle (maybe on account of Dr. Weevil praying for me) and God has mercy and makes a special exception.

Is there some other interpretation that's more logical?

stop demoting me from 'Dr Weevil' to 'Weevil' to 'weevil'


Talk about picayune. If you look at my posts, you'll notice I use that same style to address everyone, consistently. Even folks who are 'on my side.' It's a matter of convenience and simplification. And I don't make a fuss when the equivalent is done, in reverse.
8.2.2008 3:40pm
jukeboxgrad (mail):
dave n:

which is more than I can say about your behavior toward anyone who disagrees with your viewpoint


You should show an example of me saying something negative about someone merely because they disagreed with me. As compared with saying something negative about someone because they earned it via their behavior (like lying, for example), and I showed proof that they earned it. I'll be waiting patiently.

you sounded like an absolute idiot with your Falwell quote. There are many, many shades of belief within Christendom. That you do not realize that is a sign of stupidity, willful ignorance, arrogance, or a combination of the three


I hope you make the equivalent observation ("many shades of belief") when, say, Islam is being condemned. Maybe you do. I don't know.

You haven't explained why the Falwell quote should be dismissed. (Just to be clear, I quoted the son, but I don't think that makes much difference.) Especially because he expressed a view that can be found in many other places. I see little or no real difference between what he said and what is said in the Catechism. And Falwell is not an unknown person (like, say, Dr. Weevil). There is good reason to believe that he speaks for a lot of other Christians. That you do not realize that is a sign of stupidity, willful ignorance, arrogance, or a combination of the three.
8.2.2008 3:40pm
Michael B (mail):
For some notable perspective, context and depth, there's a thoughtful, indeed a probative (and mutually respectful) exchange between philosophically adept participants who, variously, are Christian and Jewish yet are honest skeptics as well, in keeping with philosophically attuned perspectives (i.e. skeptical in a healthy/rational sense w/o being cynical, presumptuous or tendentiously reductionist). It's an exchange that touches upon and in some areas of note probes with depth into themes including Abraham and Isaac (and Job) and valid interpretations thereof; fideism and rationalism and senses in which they are compatible vs. incompatible; Kant and Kierkegaard as applied to those themes; what constitutes, suppositionally, a "religious" view; other avenues and topoi are explored as well.

That exchange can be found here.

From an entirely different perspective, it might also be noted that virtually all the dialog - both pro and contra - that has occurred in this thread has tacitly presumed a certain perspective, a perspective wherein skepticism (and cynicism) is to be applied from one perspective only. There's nothing wrong with that debate as such, from a limited perspective, nonetheless that tacit assumption is fundamentally flawed from the standpoint of the wider discussions. E.g., an equally skeptical (or cynical) set of forays could be mounted against a philosophical materialism, as variously conceived in contemporary institutions and fora. To state what should be obvious, but which seems lost on some of the twenty-something (and beyond) adolescent commentary herein (fifty-something P.Z. Myers serving as primary exemplar), life and existence is not a one-sided or unidimensional and abstract set of issues.
8.2.2008 3:46pm
jukeboxgrad (mail):
That exchange can be found here.


That's an interesting discussion, but they never mention hell and they barely mention Jesus. So they don't really address the issue that was raised: you're going to hell if you don't believe in Jesus.
8.2.2008 5:04pm
LM (mail):
Michael,

I agree, and I'd gladly engage the person who wrote that comment. The question is how to make the dialog more productive when we all inevitably to some degree presume that "certain perspective?" I (naturally) have some ideas, but the only one I'd mention here, inasmuch as we've all tacitly agreed to it anyone, is to follow the comment policy. But I'd love to see Eugene open a thread for this topic. I can't say I'm optimistic that many people who are inclined to take things to extremes would participate, but if it can't work here, where the debate is mostly substantive (and civil?), it sure wouldn't go very far at Huffington Post or HotAir.
8.2.2008 5:21pm
LM (mail):
"agreed to it anyone anyway"
8.2.2008 5:24pm
Michael B (mail):
The substance, not the civility, was being emphasized most particularly. The latter, absent the former, in our contemporary culture war setting, risks being utterly worthless or even worse, risks being an indication of allowing oneself to be naively coopted or taken for granted. That is why - to merely cite one example - I previously suggested astigmatic counsels and responses to the hyper-extended adolescence of the P.Z. Myerses of the world does not represent any type of genuine or mature tolerance, rather it suggests a type of apathy, lethargy, capitulation, resignation, naivete, etc. Likewise, to cite another example, I would not retract my "as flies drawn to feces" analogy earlier in the thread either. It is supremely fitting and serves to place both P.Z. Myers and a goodly portion of the commentariate herein within proper perspective.
8.2.2008 6:07pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
juke.

Explain how "tu quoque" will relieve the apprehension a student has about going into Myers' class.

It does not apply. This is not a gotcha points game. It's about whether a kid feels he might not get a fair shake in Myers' class. The excesses of the Holy Office will fix that how?

And, since the kid in question doesn't actually have to satisfy you, your argument is meaningless anyway. The kid just fishes around for another instructor. Your input is irrelevant.
8.2.2008 6:08pm
jgshapiro (mail):

Of course, you would look less petty if you would stop demoting me from 'Dr Weevil' to 'Weevil' to 'weevil'. Just one more hint that you're motivated more by spite than a sincere desire to know the truth about anything in particular.

This is just funny.
8.2.2008 6:26pm
Hoosier:
juke:

///"We can only hope and pray that God will have mercy on them." English translation: 'It's not my job to decide that you're going to hell. But I expect you will, unless God has mercy on you.'

Why should I find that comforting? And if a person thinks that about me, why should I expect them to grade my exams fairly? /// Etc.

juke--We pray for EVERYONE who has died, and for the very same reason. NO ONE is considered by any Christian group--that I am aware of--to have EARNED the trip to Heaven. (The perception that Catholics believe in "Salvation by Works" is popular among Evangelical Protestants. But if they would read the Cathechism, they would be rather surprised.)

I am more fanatical about baseball than Catholicism. (Go CUBS!) So I can't help but analogize the RC position on salvation for Cathlics to that comment by Lou Gehrig that he was "Lucky to be a Yankee." We are lucky to be Catholics. The Church teaches us the Faith, and serves as a mother to us our entire lives, since we are never "perfected."

I suspect that's one of the reasons I'm so voluble on this topic. The "Holy Mother Church" analogy was very important to me, since I lost my parents when I was young. (Which raises another problem for communication with you: Andrew Greeley has pointed out that the "Catholic mind is metaphorical." Non-Catholics are more concrete in their thinking about these things, and it is a hard gap to bridge.)

So what do we think of non-Catholics after they die? We don't know what happens. But we don't know what happens to Catholics either. When you see Catholics lighting votive candles, rest assured that half the time, they are asking mercy for a dead loved one.

We DO think that non-Catholics have "earned hell," in the same sense that we think ALL humans have--except, famously, the BVM. Original Sin and all that.

You will hear Catholics who assure you that the Church teaches something other than this. But we are NOT Scientology: What the Church ACTUALLY teaches is no secret. The entire Cathechsim, and all encyclical letters, bulls, and so forth, are on-line.

And there is no secret Papist Password needed for access.
8.2.2008 6:44pm
LM (mail):
Michael,

The substance, not the civility, was being emphasized most particularly.

Who emphasized what substance? The "why," I gather is what makes up the rest of your comment.
8.2.2008 7:08pm
Scote (mail):

stop demoting me from 'Dr Weevil' to 'Weevil' to 'weevil'


Is it really possible to "demote" pseudonymous handle? Unless you are literally claiming to actually be named "Dr. Weevil???" How about "Dr. We evil"?

--Signed,
Emperor Herr Professor Doctor Scote.

PS,
Please do not "demote" me by using less than my full pseudonymous handle :-)
8.2.2008 7:14pm
Scote (mail):
BTW, Hoosier, you are still avoiding the question of what qualifies as a "knowing" "rejection" of Christ and/or the Catholic Church.

And, how is it that all mankind "earned" hell because of Adam and Eve? Clearly that choice is God's, not man's. Catholic doctrine proves that to be the case by showing that God can choose to let humans be born without original sin as Catholics claim Mary was, thus the whole presumptive sentencing people to hell thing for the crime's of being born is merely God's arbitrary and capricious will.
8.2.2008 7:26pm
David M. Nieporent (www):
If I leave a pencil on my desk and you steal it, you are not guilty of grand theft just because I believe the pencil has magical powers and is priceless. Even if you knew I thought it was priceless. Objectively, it is still just a pencil. It's value is at most a dollar or two (and then only if it is some sort of fancy mechanical pencil).

Likewise with a religious symbol, such as a wafer. Just because you may believe it has sacred value, does not mean its objective value is any more than any other similar non-sacred object. So from a civil law standpoint, the value of a pre-consecrated wafer would be equivalent to that of a transubstantiated wafer -- a few cents each.
That's oversimplified. This piece of cloth A, though identical in every material respect to that piece of cloth B, is worth much much more because Derek Jeter once wore it in a game. Solely because of subjective considerations.
8.2.2008 7:30pm
Scote (mail):

That's oversimplified. This piece of cloth A, though identical in every material respect to that piece of cloth B, is worth much much more because Derek Jeter once wore it in a game. Solely because of subjective considerations.


Only if you can prove provenance.

And, again, if you were to take your Derek Jeter shirt to the dry cleaners and they lost it, they would only owe you for the price of the tangible shirt not the intangible quality of having been worn by Mr. Jeter. Likewise, were you to drop a "host" and break it you do not owe the Catholic Church a new god, nor, in fact, even a new wafer, since it was freely given in the first place.
8.2.2008 7:39pm
jukeboxgrad (mail):
richard:

Explain how "tu quoque" will relieve the apprehension a student has about going into Myers' class.


A student could realize that the reverse has been going on forever, and no one seems to mind much (that is, a student who takes into account what I and others have said in this thread). This could help the student understand that special consideration for them is unnecessary and/or unfair.

The excesses of the Holy Office will fix that how?


It's not about "the excesses of the Holy Office." And it's definitely not about ancient history, either. It's about ideas that are at the core of Christianity.
8.2.2008 8:57pm
jukeboxgrad (mail):
hoosier:

NO ONE is considered by any Christian group--that I am aware of--to have EARNED the trip to Heaven. … So what do we think of non-Catholics after they die? We don't know what happens. But we don't know what happens to Catholics either. … We DO think that non-Catholics have "earned hell," in the same sense that we think ALL humans have


I think I get all this, but I think it doesn't address the issue that's been raised. Yes, I understand that Catholics don't go to Heaven automatically. They have to earn it, by accepting Jesus. Catholics and non-Catholics alike are damned if they don't accept Jesus. Right?

If my papers are being graded by someone who thinks I am damned to hell because I have explicitly and consciously rejected the idea that Jesus is God, why should I feel more comfortable than a Catholic in Myers' class?
8.2.2008 8:58pm
jukeboxgrad (mail):
scote:

Please do not "demote" me


scote, sorry I insulted you by calling you scote instead of Scote. Oops, did it again. And again. Darn.
8.2.2008 8:58pm
Scote (mail):

scote, sorry I insulted you by calling you scote instead of Scote. Oops, did it again. And again. Darn.


That's Emperor scote, to you.

Really, some people just have no respect...
8.2.2008 9:05pm
Hoosier:
"BTW, Hoosier, you are still avoiding the question of what qualifies as a "knowing" "rejection" of Christ and/or the Catholic Church. "

I'm not, actually. It just isn't clear that the people raising the questions are actually interested in the answers. Plus, if this thread goes over 600 posts I have to spend an extra century in Purgatory. It has something to do with the Sacred Monkies of the Vatican, but I'm not allowed to tell the heathen about it.
8.2.2008 11:29pm
Disbeliever:
BTW, Hoosier, you are still avoiding the question of what qualifies as a "knowing" "rejection" of Christ and/or the Catholic Church.

scote, or Scote, or Lord Darth Scote, or whatever twirls your mortal wheels:

ROTFL! Sorry you didn't notice, but I think that concept has already been illustrated in depth here. From at least this spectator's vantage point, whatever qualifies as knowing rejection of Christ, you're there and then some. You don't need to worry about the exact boundary anymore, because you're already waaaaaaay over the line. Your question is sorta like asking how far away the center field wall is when you just knocked the ball over the top of the outfield lights and into the parking lot.

Congratulations! Enjoy eternal Death, you've earned it (and if you don't understand that phrase, try reading the New Testament. Any translation or version should do, not just a Catholic-approved one).
8.3.2008 12:05am
Disbeliever:
Sacred Monkies of the Vatican

ROTFL, again! This thread is great!!! I should drop by here more often!

Here's a multiple choice test: "Sacred Monkies of the Vatican" are"

A. The name of Dan Brown's next bestseller
B. A really bad high school dropout metal band on Long Island
C. The type of demons who have already been assigned to torment Scote and Jukeboxgrad for eternity
D. All of the above
8.3.2008 12:14am
jukeboxgrad (mail):
It just isn't clear that the people raising the questions are actually interested in the answers.


But if you had a good answer you would still have no reason to keep it to yourself. After all, the odds are high that there are at least some lurkers with a sincere interest in hearing the answer.

Anyway, you probably realize that the absence of an answer is itself a kind of answer. Aside from the fact that disbeliever came along and let the cat out of the bag (not that it was ever in the bag, to begin with).
8.3.2008 1:13am
jukeboxgrad (mail):
So let's see if I can sum up the official Catholic position (or maybe it's the official Christian position). You're going to be terribly offended if I mock your beliefs. But I shouldn't be offended at all if you teach that my beliefs are sending me to hell. Because telling someone their beliefs are funny is obviously much more offensive than telling someone their beliefs are deserving of eternal damnation. Makes perfect sense.
8.3.2008 1:25am
Richard Aubrey (mail):
juke.
We're getting to the point where disputing your bogus "sum up" is tiring.

Anyway, the reason that does not go both ways is that the atheist claims not to believe in the system which others believe in--including the part about his going to hell. Since you don't believe it, it can't possibly have any meaning.
BTW. Religious folk don't think they made the rules. So you can't blame them for it. Wasn't their idea. Some would prefer it not be so. But...take it up with God. Who does not exist, so I guess you're screwed.

And, as I say, the putative student wondering whether to risk his academic career in that putz' class does not have to argue with you. You're irrelevant. Meaningless. Useless. You can't stop them from finding alternatives. I bet that bites. Enjoy being impotent.
8.3.2008 1:55am
Xenocles (mail):
Dr. Weevil:
"By the way, if you think Catholics are cannibals, why don't you call the police and ask them to arrest any practicing Catholics you know of in your neighborhood?"

Such a charge would raise interesting questions. It's clear that Catholics believe that the bread literally becomes the flesh of Jesus after consecration. However, there is no physical evidence whatsoever to support that assertion and all that the Church offers is meaningless talk of "substance." Prosecution of the crime of cannibalism for participation in the Mass would seem to require an implicit acceptance of the doctrine of transubstantiation - if there's no eating of human flesh, after all, there can be no crime. It seems to me that this would raise establishment issues.
8.3.2008 3:11am
Scote (mail):
Richard Aubrey wrote

Anyway, the reason that does not go both ways is that the atheist claims not to believe in the system which others believe in--including the part about his going to hell. Since you don't believe it, it can't possibly have any meaning.


I think people who were tortured to death by the Inquisition, for instance, would disagree with the idea that Catholic belief has no affect on non-believers.

While Catholic belief may be based on a falsehood it has an undeniable effect on people who, in turn, affect others.

What seems consistent in this thread is that many Catholics are not actually comfortable with the tenets of their religion, the cannibalism, the mutual exclusivity, the idea that people go to hell just for not being Catholic, etc., and insist on trying to minimize these aspects of their Church through obfuscating theocratic prolixity. When the tenets of their faith are laid bare in plain language, they are shown to be rather incredible, and we can see much hemming and hawing ensue, much tap dancing to distract from the uncomfortable doctrine. It seems that rather than try and distract people from the beliefs of the Church, believers should examine whether the actual beliefs are reasonable, and do so in an objective manner rather than lean on the crutch of hundreds of years of rationalizing theocracy, which attempts to explain the unreasonableness of Catholic doctrine through philosophical and semantic slight of hand.
8.3.2008 3:32am
Xenocles (mail):
Also, regarding salvation:

As a former Catholic, I can be said to have known the Church. However, the main reason I am no longer a Christian is the fact that I never experienced Christ in any meaningful way. Any fair observer would say that I honestly sought him out, so my failure could not fairly be said to be my fault. Thus it seems that you're saying that the Church's position is that I, a western-raised atheist, will not go to Hell.
8.3.2008 3:35am
jukeboxgrad (mail):
richard:

the reason that does not go both ways is that the atheist claims not to believe in the system which others believe in


You're repeating your transparently illogical statement while completely ignoring the fact that I've already explained why it's transparently illogical.

And scote also just explained why you're wrong (and he did a better job than I did), but I'm sure you'll ignore that too.

Religious folk don't think they made the rules. So you can't blame them for it.


Brilliant. The perfect blanket excuse for any shabby behavior: 'don't blame me, the Devil made me do it.' Or some other invisible being. It's like that bumper sticker: 'I do whatever my rice krispies tell me to.'
8.3.2008 4:01am
jukeboxgrad (mail):
scote:

What seems consistent in this thread is that many Catholics are not actually comfortable with the tenets of their religion


Good point. But I think for some people the nature of the discomfort might be different. That is, a person might actually be quite comfortable with the reality of the beliefs, but just not comfortable in a situation where outsiders are looking in and noticing things that are not meant to get lots of outside attention.
8.3.2008 4:01am
jukeboxgrad (mail):
xen:

Thus it seems that you're saying that the Church's position is that I, a western-raised atheist, will not go to Hell.


I thought weevil was saying the opposite of that. I thought he was saying that you are exactly the kind of person who would be in trouble, because you should know better, because you "have known the Church."

But I could be wrong, since I couldn't really make sense out of what he said.
8.3.2008 4:02am
jgshapiro (mail):

Anyway, the reason that does not go both ways is that the atheist claims not to believe in the system which others believe in--including the part about his going to hell. Since you don't believe it, it can't possibly have any meaning.

That is an interesting way to explain the double standard, but it is nonetheless a double standard.

If Catholic belief is dismissive of atheistic belief -- actually worse than dismissive, it pretty much condemns 'knowing' athiests to hell -- than Catholics cannot fairly complain if 'knowing' athiests are dismissive of their beliefs The idea that the latter is religious discrimination and the former is no big deal just doesn't wash. Perhaps this would make more sense to you if you viewed athiests as believers in something (albeit, a non-deity based something), rather than simply those with the absence of belief.

No, I am not an athiest, but I am surprised that you seem to think that your views are worthy of so much more respect (and even deference) than those on the other side of the religious debate. After all, if an athiest told you that he considered a monkey or a test tube to be sacred, and insisted that you called it the "Basis of Man" when discussing it, I doubt you would be solicitous of this view (based on your previous responses, including referring to the poster as irrelevant, meaningless, useless, etc.)

As for whether the putative student could choose other alternatives, of course he could. Any student can choose from among the menu of professors who offer particular courses, and the choice does not have to be rational. He could base the choice on perceived bias (whether or not the perception was accurate or reasonable) or base it on any number of other random factors, such as the easiest professor, or the hottest professor, or the professor who hewed most closely to his beliefs. But that was never really the debate. The debate was whether the school should take action against Myers because a rational Catholic student could not expect to receive a fair shake in his courses and therefore was at a disadvantage. The school got this one right. The student remains free to avoid Myers if the student so desires.
8.3.2008 4:12am
jgshapiro (mail):

I think for some people the nature of the discomfort might be different. That is, a person might actually be quite comfortable with the reality of the beliefs, but just not comfortable in a situation where outsiders are looking in and noticing things that are not meant to get lots of outside attention.

Virtually all religions ask or require you to believe things that are objectively hard or impossible to prove, or appear to modern eyes to be absurd. Parting the sea, transubstantiation, virgin births, reincarnation, etc. Believers can either view these ideas as metaphorical or just take them as items of faith. But divorced from their religious backdrop, they are certainly fantastic claims, which would never be accepted in any other context.

I think the problem arises when believers view criticism of these claims/beliefs or even mockery of the claims/beliefs as criticism or mockery of the believers rather than of the beliefs. But if you believe that you can "hate the sin but love the sinner," as most Christians do (and I presume most Catholics as well), its hard for me to understand why you can't believe that someone can dismiss or mock your belief without dismissing or mocking you. These are parallel ideas. You are no more equivalent to your beliefs than you are equivalent to your sins.
8.3.2008 4:51am
Disbeliever:
its hard for me to understand why you can't believe that someone can dismiss or mock your belief without dismissing or mocking you

Another train off the logic rails. That's a nice theoretical argument, but the facts put the lie to theory in this particular case. PZ by his own words made clear he was mocking more than beliefs. He was zinging the people who believe them. The zingers were actually very witty, in a jackass sort of way. But VERY bad form for an academic. Not good form for anybody, but especially inappropriate for a guy who supposedly worships at the alter of scientific rationality. His actual words put the lie to the theoretical argument to the contrary.

PZ seems like the sort of fellow who ought to be teaching at the radical atheist version of Bob Jones University. Not the secular humanist version, since sec humanists express tolerance of others' views in very much the same way as the "love the sinner" theology. PZ would fit in perfectly at the intolerant, rigid sort of place SH's would abhor. Too bad his theoretical defenders earlier on this string who at least admit he'd a pig appear to have abandoned the thread to the atheist Jihadists.

You guys crack me up.



And now your final exam essay question. Discuss:

"God is dead" -Nietzsche
"Nietzsche is dead" -God
8.3.2008 9:29am
Xenocles (mail):
Juke:

Known the Church, yes (and it turns out that it's rotten). But I've never known Christ, and that was an "and" statement.

As for offense taken from others' belief:
Most of the gods worshiped today claim through their prophets that atheists are worthy of and destined for Hell. Clearly the worshipers agree, or else they would oppose their gods and abandon their worship (as I did). Don't you think there might be a little discomfort in dealing with people who hold that view? Can't you see how easy a transition it could be from belief in a person's worthiness for Hell to an active desire to help send him there? If not, you haven't paid attention to history. The record shows that when you judge a man to already be worthy of the ultimate penalty, your standards for his treatment slide.
8.3.2008 12:14pm
Hoosier:
Scote: "What seems consistent in this thread is that many Catholics are not actually comfortable with the tenets of their religion, the cannibalism, the mutual exclusivity, the idea that people go to hell just for not being Catholic, etc., and insist on trying to minimize these aspects of their Church through obfuscating theocratic prolixity. When the tenets of their faith are laid bare in plain language, they are shown to be rather incredible, and we can see much hemming and hawing ensue, much tap dancing to distract from the uncomfortable doctrine."

Well, the ACTUAL problem is that you don't know what you are talking about on this topic. So you attempt to simplify it in ways that vitiate the actual teaching. And THEN you claim that Catholics obfuscate.

FAITH is a very simple thing. THEOLOGY ain't. But perhaps you also get frustrated when consitutional law topics arise, and people start citing all that complicated case law? In which case, this may not the best blog for your tastes.

Not everything is simple, Scote. Sometimes important things take mental effort.
8.3.2008 1:51pm
Hoosier:
"juke.
We're getting to the point where disputing your bogus "sum up" is tiring. "

Amen!

My attempt a turnabout: So, juke, to sum up--You think that non-believers should be able to urinate in the baptimal font of the local Catholic parish, and Church doctrine requires that Catholics respond by buying them some Hummels for their collection.
8.3.2008 1:56pm
Scote (mail):

Not everything is simple, Scote. Sometimes important things take mental effort.


Indeed, trying to argue that the doctrines of religion are reasonable to believe must take quite a bit of mental effort. For instance, it takes quite a bit of juggling for Catholics to explain that Catholicism is a monotheistic religion that condemns idolatry and graven images in light of the fact that Catholicism promotes the idea of a "triune" god, who is one god but also three gods, and given that Catholics have a choice of hundreds of demi gods to pray to for miracles, demi gods called "saints." And all this without sound evidence of any kind to prove the existence of any god, let alone a vague sort of trinity. Yes, clearly that takes a great deal of mental effort to rationalize.

Meanwhile, you have never explained what qualifies as "knowingly rejecting" Christ or the Church, a fact I suspect relates to the uncomfortable truth of the matter and how it tends to contradict your earlier broad claims.
8.3.2008 2:05pm
Scote (mail):

My attempt a turnabout: So, juke, to sum up--You think that non-believers should be able to urinate in the baptimal font of the local Catholic parish, and Church doctrine requires that Catholics respond by buying them some Hummels for their collection.


The difference being that your "summary" is made up from whole cloth where as jukeboxgrad is summarizing actual Catholic belief, be it official doctrine or just general belief of many Catholics. You attempt to dispute jbg's characterization as false but when asked to clarify what constitutes "knowing rejection" of Christ and/or the Church you assiduously avoid the topic, and thus your objections ring hollow.
8.3.2008 2:25pm
jukeboxgrad (mail):
xen:

The record shows that when you judge a man to already be worthy of the ultimate penalty, your standards for his treatment slide.


Exactly. Well said.
8.3.2008 2:44pm
jukeboxgrad (mail):
hoosier:

You think that non-believers should be able to urinate in the baptimal font of the local Catholic parish


You religion teaches that I am damned to hell because I don't accept your religion. Please explain why that is less offensive than pissing in a fountain.
8.3.2008 2:44pm
Scote (mail):
@jbg

I don't think "hell" is quite evocative enough of Catholic thought, Catholics think that you are presumptively sentenced to be tortured for eternity because you were born a criminal and can only be absolved of your crime of birth by the Catholic Church and following its doctrines.

It does seem rather offensive that Catholics see non-Catholics as justly deserving **eternal torture**, though the Catholics in this thread claim that such a prejudice does not, er, prejudice Catholics against non-Christian students, whereas thinking that Catholic beliefs are silly, they say, inevitably must. I think the Catholics are missing several orders of magnitude of prejudicial imbalance on their part.
8.3.2008 2:58pm
Tomwarren:
"Please don't tell me that the quantity makes a difference. It makes a difference in these two cases, since the owner of the goods would be unlikely to prosecute someone who took a single drink away from a wedding or half a dozen ketchup packets away from a McDonald's. But my point is that giving away something for free consumption on the premises does not establish the recipient's right to take that something away for use or abuse off the premises, as so many have assured us."

Not quantity, economic value. Try to keep up. Neither the market, nor the wedding planner, nor the McDonalds, nor the Church requires an economic exchange to gain that "thing" (ie. the single drink, the single packet of ketchup, the single Host), which each one freely gives away. Thus there is is no prosecution, no tort, and no crime.

It is different for the unopend cases of ketchup and beer, which are readily given economic value by both thier owner, and by the market. On the other hand, neither the market, nor the Church put an economic value on the Host, which the later does not even consider to be its private property.

"That his supplier is in fact (morally and ethically and quite possibly legally) a thief, and that he himself is therefore (with the same proviso) a receiver of stolen property seems quite clear."

Saying it's clear does not make it so. If, as I have been repeatedly told, the Church asserts no private property interest in the Host, there can be no stolen property (morally, ethically, or legally).
8.3.2008 3:03pm
Hoosier:
Scote:

"that Catholicism promotes the idea of a "triune" god, who is one god but also three gods,"

Wrong.

"that Catholics have a choice of hundreds of demi gods to pray to for miracles, demi gods called "saints.""

Nope. (Give me an example of miracle that the Church claims was
/performed by a saint/. Or stop making stuff up. Your choice, of course.

"Meanwhile, you have never explained what qualifies as "knowingly rejecting" Christ or the Church, a fact I suspect relates to the uncomfortable truth of the matter and how it tends to contradict your earlier broad claims."

I should post so you can ridicule more? No thanks. You are not even close to fair-minded about these matters, and show no comprehension, thus no respect.

The Bible says something about casting pearls before . . . well, you get the picture.


jukebox: "You religion teaches that I am damned to hell because I don't accept your religion. Please explain why that is less offensive than pissing in a fountain."

1) It doesn't. It doesn't even teach that Hitler and Stalin are in Hell. It says there is no way to know.

2) But my thinking something doesn't affect you. You don't believe in Hell anyway, so what's it to you? Scientologists see me as a servant of Xenu. Until Xenu starts sending me monthly paychecks, I am too busy to worry about it one way or t'other.

On the other hand, I can assure you than there really IS a font. In which we dip babies.

So why should you NOT pee in it? I'll leave it to you.
8.3.2008 5:49pm
Hoosier:
Scote: I can't help but think that you are not really taking this conversation seriously when you post stuff like this:

"It does seem rather offensive that Catholics see non-Catholics as justly deserving **eternal torture**, though the Catholics in this thread claim that such a prejudice does not, er, prejudice Catholics against non-Christian students, whereas thinking that Catholic beliefs are silly, they say, inevitably must. I think the Catholics are missing several orders of magnitude of prejudicial imbalance on their part."

Aside from you factual errors, of which I have tried to disabuse you, you have sought to muddy the waters on the act that prompted the thread. I don't give a good rat's tushie what Myer THINKS of me or my faith. But he deliberately did the most provocative thing that you can do to a Catholic vis-a-vis his faith. This is a significant fact in the debate, which you continually fail to mention. I don't wonder why.

If a Catholic places a billboard on Main Street in your town proclaimig the names of all the heathens in Scoteville, and illustrating the eternal torments they have waiting for them, post mortem, then we would have something more parallel.

Until then, the 'orders of prejudicial imbalance' all seem to derive from . . . well, you.
8.3.2008 5:58pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
scote, juke.

Missed again. That you are believed to be going to hell means nothing to you if you don't believe in the belief system.
The argument says nothing about what happens to you here.
You can be offended by the belief that you're going to hell, but that's your choice. Any atheist with the brains God gave a goose would ignore it. IMO, you only pretend to be offended, in order to obtain some meaningless moral high ground.

I can imagine the school's response if the offended group were one of the accredited victim groups. I think the question of whether Myers pulled some antics might put off, say, a Muslim, or a gay, would have considerably more weight in the school's decisions.
8.3.2008 5:59pm
Xenocles (mail):
Richard Aubrey:

You seem to have missed my point about the extended effects of one's belief system. If all that belief in damnation meant was that people thought I was going to Hell, that would be as meaningless as you claim. The reality of the situation is, however, that these beliefs always lead to perceptions of the damned as subhuman and that those perceptions inevitably lead to atrocity.

Don't try to claim yourself as an exception that voids my claim. I won't pretend to know how you really feel, but this isn't about individuals. The record shows that enough of the mob can always be brought around to perpetrating crimes against out-groups when members of those groups are believed to be condemned.

So, yes, actually, being believed to go to Hell does affect me regardless of my belief in the supporting theology.
8.3.2008 7:12pm
Scote (mail):

scote, juke.

Missed again. That you are believed to be going to hell means nothing to you if you don't believe in the belief system.


I'm sure that similar assurances to Salman Rushdie regarding the fatwa on his life were equally reassuring.

Just because I don't believe something doesn't mean that the belief and actions of others does not and can not affect me. My lack of belief does not create a magical force field of immunity from the actions of deluded believers.
8.3.2008 7:49pm
zippypinhead:
I dropped back to see what happened on this thread over the weekend. I'm not surprised that scote and jukeboxgrad seem to be working so very hard to change the subject.

They can't defend Myers' antics. Nobody can. He was wrong. IMHO, his actions were so far over the line of behavior that is expected of a professor in a public university that they are actionable, at least administratively. But his apologists are working hard at changing the debate to something entirely different, because they know there's no way they can reasonably defend his actions as proper or prudent for someone with his position of public trust. So they are using the old "best defense is a good offense" approach. And in the process are twisting Christian, and especially Catholic, theology almost beyond recognition in their desperate attempt to score points. Basically, they lost the main point about Myers' improper actions but will never admit it.

This debate is over. In fact it's been over for the last couple hundred posts.
8.3.2008 7:51pm
Scote (mail):

This debate is over. In fact it's been over for the last couple hundred posts.


Usually people say that when the know that the only way they can "win' an argument is to leave the room before any reply can show their argument to be vacuous.
8.3.2008 8:21pm
jukeboxgrad (mail):
hoosier:

Give me an example of miracle that the Church claims was /performed by a saint/


At vatican.va, there is information about the process of canonization. It refers to the role of miracles in this process.

Examples of specific miracles that played a role in the process of canonization are here:

• Levitation – the saint floats in the air. St. Joseph of Cupertino (1603-63) often levitated during prayer.
• Stigmata – the saint's body exhibits five wounds of Christ, which usually bleed during Mass. St. Francis of Assisi and Padre Pio are examples.
• Bilocation – the saint reportedly appeared in two places at once. Padre Pio (1887-1968) is an example.


The Catholic Encyclopedia has further discussion on the role of miracles.

I should post so you can ridicule more?


You've been asked a fair question. You're refusing to answer. This tends to create the impression that you have no answer other than the answer I've suggested.

It says there is no way to know.


Yes, your religion teaches that there is no way to know for sure that I'm going to hell. But it teaches that most likely I am, unless God grants special mercy.

But my thinking something doesn't affect you.


Unless someone like you is grading my papers.

he [Myers] deliberately did the most provocative thing that you can do to a Catholic


When I notice what your religion says about me, I consider that a "provocative thing." Funny that you should be so completely blind to this.

If a Catholic places a billboard on Main Street in your town proclaimig the names of all the heathens in Scoteville, and illustrating the eternal torments they have waiting for them, post mortem, then we would have something more parallel.


Even in the absence of that billboard, we have something parallel enough. But you seem to acknowledge no parallel at all.
8.3.2008 8:50pm
jukeboxgrad (mail):
richard:

You can be offended by the belief that you're going to hell, but that's your choice.


It's not just a question of being offended. It's a question of being treated fairly by, say, a professor who believes this about me.

Two other people already explained this better than I just did.
8.3.2008 8:50pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
Xeno. When the pitchfork crowd with the san benitos--did I get this right--come for you, call me.
In the meantime, continue to pretend to be mortally offended that some think you're going to Hell.
Hey, if you're in Hell, does that mean I can't hear you...?
Okay, Juke. Find me a Christian prof who profanes whatever atheists hold sacred and calls you a stupid fuckwit for being an atheist and all the equivalent of Myers' crap and I'll give you a gold star, virtually, not really.

In the meantime, we're not talking about that. We're talking, among other things, about whether it's prudent for a religously observant undergrad to risk his or her academic career taking a class from this moron. IMO, it is not, and any kid who thinks it is not is beyond your control. So keep whining.

In the meantime, somebody explain to me why a uni wouldn't act differently if Myers had pissed off gays or Muslims this way.
8.3.2008 11:55pm
Scote (mail):

In the meantime, somebody explain to me why a uni wouldn't act differently if Myers had pissed off gays or Muslims this way.


You must not have been paying attention :-) Myers is an equal opportunity desecration. He tossed in a bit of the Koran and a bit of The God Delusion in there with the wafers. Try again.
8.4.2008 12:04am
Xenocles (mail):
Go ahead and make your jokes; it won't change the existence of the social phenomenon I described. It doesn't have to be as extreme as a Holocaust or an Inquisition, but the fact that those outcomes happen relatively often should indicate that lesser evils (Ghettos? Bias in the classroom or office? Labor camps?) are well within the realm of possibility.

Not that Hell-belief is the only tool available, it's just a very common one.
8.4.2008 12:23am
jukeboxgrad (mail):
richard:

Find me a Christian prof who … calls you a stupid fuckwit for being an atheist


Consider these two statements:

A) you're a stupid fuckwit for being an atheist
B) you're damned to hell for being an atheist

The Christian prof, by definition, believes B. You seem to be claiming that A is worse than B. Really?

We're talking … about whether it's prudent for a religously observant undergrad to risk his or her academic career taking a class from this moron


Why is it "prudent" for a non-Christian "to risk his or her academic career taking a class" from someone who thinks they are damned to hell for being non-Christian?
8.4.2008 1:16am
Harry Eagar (mail):
Thanks to most for one of the most enjoyable VC threads ever.

Here's a point though: If the confraternity represents about 1% of American Catholic clergy, its outlook probably finds a match with about the same proportion of American Catholic laity.

Although most Catholics would be pained to learn about Myers' stunt, few would rush to throw out the Bill of Rights because of it.

But the same could not be said of the Roman Catholic Church. The two churches are linked by some shared doctrines, but since the 1890s the American Church has been largely democratic and liberal. The Roman church has always been antiliberal and antidemocratic, and the confraternity's position will be embraced by the Vatican and -- isn't this ecumenical? -- by the Muslim Conference.

I have been a PZ watcher for some years and judge that he has been feeding on his own spleen. If he ever wanted to persuade the persuadable, rather than just jeering at the rubes, he unmanned himself long ago.
8.4.2008 1:58am
LM (mail):
Fourteen more comments and there will be one for each member of the Confraternity of Catholic Clergy.
8.4.2008 4:15am
jgshapiro (mail):

We're talking, among other things, about whether it's prudent for a religously observant undergrad to risk his or her academic career taking a class from this moron. IMO, it is not, and any kid who thinks it is not is beyond your control. So keep whining.

Any student is always free to take or avoid taking any professor based on perceived biases of the professor, whether those perceptions are accurate or reasonable, or at least to choose between the various professors that teach a particular class. So if a student believes that Myers is out to shaft them, they are of course free to avoid his class.

The confraternity was not arguing that Catholic students shouldn't take Myers' classes -- no one would have noticed or cared if they had argued that. They were arguing that the university should fire Myers because a reasonable Catholic would feel that they could not get a fair shake and therefore that amounted to discrimination.

If all you are saying is that the students should exercise their discretion to avoid Myers, then I doubt anyone here would care if they did. They might be acting unreasonably, but that is their call. Calling for his job is another think entirely.
8.4.2008 5:18am
Richard Aubrey (mail):
If Myers' main point had been to desecrate a Koran, this would be a different thread. Calling for "sensitivity". I'll have to look up what happened to the kid who did such and how he fared. Not being a prof, of course, the uni had different obligations toward him.
However, throwing in a gratuitous reference to another religion doesn't qualify.
Actually, some folks are arguing the undergrad shouldn't be so prudent. See the Inquisition or something.
The Confraternity ought to call for his job. First amendment says they can and if they feel like it, they should.
The uni ought not to fire him. He makes a good example of atheists, who are the most obnoxiously evangelical folks I ever met. What is higher ed for if not to learn about stuff?

As to what the religious might actually do in this world on account of their view of the atheists' fate in the next, I am reminded of a reasonably good prof I had back in the day. He told us that LBJ was revamping WW II military camps for confining intellectuals. Among which he cheerfully and humbly placed himself. If he really believed it, in his heart of hearts, and not just to make himself feel special, his lunch, as O'Rourke said of a difficult situation, would have been running down his trouser leg.
And if there's one thing I got tired of in college it was the legions of atheists getting screwed in their grades by fundie profs. Happened all the time. After a while, it wasn't funny. It was hilarious. But, still. Enough is enough. Couldn't we talk about football or something. Those were the days.
8.4.2008 7:28am
Richard Aubrey (mail):
Stanislav Shmulevich. Toileted a couple of Korans. Got arrested for hate crimes, etc.
Some are more equal....
8.4.2008 9:49am
Richard Aubrey (mail):
VC August 1, 2007 1:32.

Great discussion about why the Koran should not be considered so much of a much. Not.
8.4.2008 9:59am
Hoosier:
juke--One again you copy and paste and don't know what you are talking about. Humans--even those later declared saints--CANNOT perform miracles, according to the Catholic Church. The Holy Spirit can perform miracles, and can use a person as a vehicle. But since Scote was saying that the saints are "demi-gods," this harldy fits.

And I just don't care what you think about my refusal to get into yet another issue. You have YET AGAIN showed in your saints post that you take the 'Google-copy-paste' aproach to this topic. And you have already admitted that you lack the background to understand what you are pasting. So why should I spend my time in this silliness? You are not really interested in the facts.

Add to this: Scote is agressivley hostile, and determined to get things wrong--even when they are explained clearly. So I'm done here. When you really want to know what the Church teaches, you know where to look.

See you on a different thread.
8.4.2008 1:40pm
Scote (mail):

Add to this: Scote is agressivley hostile, and determined to get things wrong--even when they are explained clearly. So I'm done here. When you really want to know what the Church teaches, you know where to look.


Ah, look, yet another post by you dodging the issue of what constitutes "knowing rejection" of Christ and/or the Catholic Church. And to permanently avoid the top you've also declared that you are taking your ball and going home.

Obviously you know that your earlier attempts to claim that the Catholic Church is not a mutually exclusive religion don't hold up to scrutiny and thus your assiduous avoidance of discussing the details of what the Catholic Church considers "knowing" Christ and/or the Church for purposes of "knowing" rejection. Clearly, "knowing" isn't a term used only for people who go to Catholic Sunday school, but a much, much broader term that is used to condemn all other Christians who reject the Catholic faith, and a wide range of non-Christians.
8.4.2008 1:52pm
LM (mail):
Richard,

Linking from these comments is easy.

1. Copy the URL of the site you want to link to (e.g., Eugene's post on the Koran flushing) onto your clipboard, i.e., right click on the web address shown in your browser or on a link to that site and click "copy" or "copy link location."

2. Highlight (i.e., left click, hold, and drag mouse across) the word(s) you want to link from in the comment you're writing, e.g., "Great discussion".

3. Click on the "Link" box that's immediately above the box you're writing you're comment in.

4. A box will appear with an instruction to "Enter the URL."

5. Right click in the space provided and left click on "Paste."

6. Click "OK."

Thus,

VC August 1, 2007 1:32.

Great discussion about why the Koran should not be considered so much of a much. Not.

becomes

Great discussion about why the Koran should not be considered so much of a much. Not.

...greatly increasing the likelihood that someone will look at the site you want them to.

You're welcome.
8.4.2008 2:07pm
gotborked (mail):
I think there is an excellent case against the guy for discrimination. Religion, like sex or race, is a protected class, and his openly hostile stunt certainly alienates Catholic and Muslim students.

But that aside, why hasn't the University just fired the guy for lacking common sense and lacking civility?

He has clearly violated the university's code of conduct, which commits employees to "the highest ethical standards" and requires them to be "respectful, fair and civil" in dealing with others.

His actions reveal that he doesn't take seriously his profesisonal position. His mindless, public act of hostility shows that he is either mentally ill, unintelligent, a substance abuser, or just a supreme jerk. Whichever it may be, he is unfit for his position.
8.4.2008 4:07pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
LM.
Thank you. I don't doubt that the usual suspects know all about it. They, apparently, don't think I do. I don't refer to other places to educate people, except to the point that I know better, as do they, and they can quit wasting our time. Just so they know I know.

I didn't bother linking to the stories about Columbia's Middle East studies department and how they're screwing Jewish students. You all know about them, and how the complaints have gotten the Jews exactly nowhere.

When somebody said universities take this stuff seriously, I hurt myself. I horked up my liver laughing at that one.

WAWK? Acronym for Who Are We Kidding?

Being professors means spending entirely too much time in front of people who pretend to believe you. Not everybody is beholden to you for a grade.
8.4.2008 4:16pm
Chris Bell (mail) (www):
Juke, you shouldn't fall for Hoosier's traps. Even I know that the Holy Spirit comes down and does miracles "for" or "through" Saints.

On the other hand, when the Pope was shot he said he wasn't killed because the Virgin of Fatima guided the bullet away from his vital areas and saved his life. Maybe the truth is somewhere in the middle.
8.4.2008 6:18pm
Scote (mail):

On the other hand, when the Pope was shot he said he wasn't killed because the Virgin of Fatima guided the bullet away from his vital areas and saved his life. Maybe the truth is somewhere in the middle.


We don't have to average the claims to arrive at an answer. The Pope's claim is clear proof that Catholics at the highest level think of saints as gods, gods who perform miracles. The bit about "through" god is merely a bit of theological window dressing to make the Church seem less hypocritical, but has no practical affect on the way people pray to saints or expect miracles from them. Since god is all knowing, praying to saints should be superfluous unless they are gods in their own right.
8.4.2008 6:46pm
jukeboxgrad (mail):
hoosier:

Humans--even those later declared saints--CANNOT perform miracles, according to the Catholic Church.


That corresponds to what you said before:

Give me an example of miracle that the Church claims was
/performed by a saint/


I didn't realize that you were playing a game with the word "perform." That became clear when you said this:

The Holy Spirit can perform miracles, and can use a person as a vehicle.


So let's see if I've got this straight.

A) Saint X performed a miracle.
B) Saint X was used by the Holy Spirit as a vehicle for a miracle.

I guess you're saying that it's OK to say B but not OK to say A. Uh-oh. Look what Catholic Digest said:

[Peter] was the first Apostle to perform miracles in the name of the Lord.


Huh? I thought "humans … CANNOT perform miracles."

I realize Catholic Digest is not the Pope. Then again, neither are you. So if it's OK for them to say it (that a human did indeed "perform miracles"), then I think it's OK for me to say it too.
8.4.2008 6:49pm
jgshapiro (mail):

I think there is an excellent case against the guy for discrimination. Religion, like sex or race, is a protected class, and his openly hostile stunt certainly alienates Catholic and Muslim students

There is a difference between critiquing religion and critiquing a race or class. You have no choice what race or class you belong to. You do have a choice what religion you belong to, or whether you embrace any religion.

Moreover, religion is about beliefs, and universities exist to discuss and critique beliefs and belief systems. Beliefs that comprise a religion or are associated with a religion are not exempt and should not be exempt. So we should be particularly careful in making sure that when discrimination codes are applied to religion, they they target only discrimination against adherents and not criticism or dismissal of their beliefs.

If he said that all Catholics should be shot or thrown out of school, you might have a point. But saying that transubstantiation is B.S., while perhaps offensive to you, is only a criticism of Catholic belief. And trashing a communion wafer falls into the latter category as well. Calling people 'fuckwits' is another story, but my impression is that this was aimed at people levying death threats against Webster Cook, not all Catholics.

As for whether he has alienated Catholics or Muslims, sure he has, but so what? You don't have a right not to be offended or alienated in the public square (or the public university). That is not what discrimination codes are about.
8.4.2008 7:56pm
In Conclusion:
So, as we're now at 600 comments, what have we learned from this thread? To summarize:

I. Professor PZ Myers can be a tasteless, offensive prig when he wants to be. Although it's frankly astounding how many repeat offenders here (this means you scote, and your alter ego jokeboxgrad), work very hard to avoid this should-be-undisputed initial factoid underlying the entire topic;

II. Most commenters agree PZ has a constitutional right to say whatever he wants about religion from his standpoint as a hard-core atheist. Indeed, EV never would have posted on this topic if all PZ did was continue his long-running blog rants and other public pronouncements;

III. But PZ went a bit further this time and did some conduct that he knew would be deeply offensive to a subset of religious people. This conduct may or may not be protected symbolic speech. Legally, the line between speech versus conduct is not always clear. But one thing is certain, PZ's conduct got him the attention he craved;

IV. And here's where the fun begins: PZ's defenders and PZ's detractors each take opposing positions on whether his conduct and/or speech is constitutionally and legally immune from any consequences. The two sides come at the issue from diametrically opposed places, if not different planets;

IV.A PZ's detractors believe he should be sanctioned in some formal way. Some think what he did went far enough that it is unprotected by the First Amendment. Some are concerned about his apparant bias and whether it affects his performance as a teacher in a state university. And a few are probably just looking forward to his upcoming intake appointment with Lucifer;

IV.B PZ's defenders take a couple of different paths. EV and several other commenters focus on the constitutional and legal issues raised by his speech/conduct. Other commenters, especially ones that came into this thread a bit later, focus on the theological underpinnings of the religion PZ was attacking, for reasons that utterly escape me, unless it is because they know they can't win if they try to rebut the basic proposition that PZ = prig. Although I do complement them for managing to entirely change the running topic of this thread in mid-stream. Very nice feint; and

V. Conclusion: Neither side is ever going to agree with the other. Although it's obvious sct/jbx are having entirely too much fun lately using this thread as a vehicle for bashing christianity at ever turn and may not give up until the comment box for this thread goes dark, if then. And a few of the christian theology defenders rather cluelessly seem intent on feeding these trolls. Basically the bottom line is this discussion is now a catfight between a small handful of obsessed partisans on both sides of an issue that wasn't actually raised by EV's opening comment. Sigh...

About all this post and it commnents need to become a VC "greatest hits" candidate would be a cameo appearance by banned uber-troll Mary Katherine D-P!
8.4.2008 8:23pm
Michael B (mail):
"Go ahead and make your jokes; it won't change the existence of the social phenomenon I described. It doesn't have to be as extreme as a Holocaust or an Inquisition, but the fact that those outcomes happen relatively often should indicate that lesser evils (Ghettos? Bias in the classroom or office? Labor camps?) are well within the realm of possibility." Xenocles

The "social phenomenon" you're describing is one you're positing and lecturing and hectoring about, not substantiating in any sense whatsoever, much less proving.

A study in contrasts. The Spanish Inquisition was responsible for a maximum of ten-thousand deaths over a period of a few hundred years, probably no more than five-thousand. By contrast, the primary totalitarian system of the 20th century was avowedly atheistic and, during a span of seventy years, was responsible for somewhere between one-hundred and one-hundred and fifty million lives. Likewise, while the totalitarian regime in question often murdered people en masse, the Spanish Inquisition held individual trials, never killing people en masse. Quite obviously, none of that justifies what did occur during the Inquisition, but it does provide a study in stark contrasts.

Several other arguments, historical accounts, studies in contrast, etc. come to mind, but that contrast alone should cause any genuinely thoughtful person to resist the assumptions and the simplistic, insinuating arguments you're relying upon.
8.4.2008 8:51pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
Michael B.
The difference in how the two are viewed lies in that no professor will proudly announce he is a Christian or Catholic except at sectarian institutions.
But all the right sort are or were sympathizers with the great crime of the twentieth century.
If a new hire showed up at the faculty lounge and announced one or the other about himself, which would excite more negative reactions?
8.4.2008 10:13pm
LM (mail):

The difference in how the two are viewed lies in that no professor will proudly announce he is a Christian or Catholic except at sectarian institutions.

Hmmm....
8.4.2008 11:25pm
Dilan Esper (mail) (www):
Do you think your motion to recuse the aforementioned official from your matter on the grounds of actual or apparent bias would ultimately succeed? Of course it would - not even a close question. The only difference here is that the state-employed public official with compulsory power over members of the target demographic happens to be an academic.

That's not the only difference. Judges and academics are different jobs, and academics-- whose greatest power is handing out grades-- don't have to recuse themselves except in the most egregious of cases. Judges-- who can send someone to the execution chamber, to life in prison, or to the poorhouse-- do.

Further, I am not even sure that these comments would necessarily give rise to a recusal motion in court, absent an actual showing of specific bias against Catholics, i.e., that the judge could not judge fairly.

Lots of judges think lots of religions are BS, and yet they don't have to recuse themselves, because they can be fair judges. I bet Myers, who clearly has a beef with Catholic beliefs, not Catholics as human beings, is in that category.
8.5.2008 12:42am
Dilan Esper (mail) (www):
That's oversimplified. This piece of cloth A, though identical in every material respect to that piece of cloth B, is worth much much more because Derek Jeter once wore it in a game. Solely because of subjective considerations.

That misconstrues the word "subjective". A uniform worn by Derek Jeter has an objective value, set by a market. It may be based on "subjecive considerations", but an expert can opine on its value, one can reference catalogues and other reference materials to set its value, there are comparable sales, etc.

It's the difference between "this home is worth $10 million because Howard Hughes once lived here and people will pay that amount for it" and "I should be compensated $10 million for this $250,000 home because my grandmother lived here and it's really important to me". The first claim is legally cognizable; the second claim is not.
8.5.2008 12:54am
Dilan Esper (mail) (www):
They can't defend Myers' antics. Nobody can. He was wrong. IMHO, his actions were so far over the line of behavior that is expected of a professor in a public university that they are actionable, at least administratively.

Actually, they are pretty clearly protected by the First Amendment (and likely by his collective bargaining agreement as well).

As I said, I do think the actions were wrong. But this is a classic example of something being wrong but in no way illegal or actionable.
8.5.2008 1:09am
Michael B (mail):
Dilan, it's as if you regard your reassurances as some type of magic wand and a suitable substitute for arguments that might carry more weight. You never did sufficiently address our earlier tet-a-tet, beyond providing yet more insistent reassurances.

LM, you found Ken Miller. So in the age of google scholar and other internet search engines aplenty, you triumphantly comprise a list of exceptions of: one. Now what might that suggest?

Hmmmm.
8.5.2008 12:08pm