Indiana state trooper pulls woman over and asks “Do you accept Jesus Christ as your savior?”

A lot of Christians criticized me when I pointed out that WranglerStar, a YouTube content creator, should keep his religious views to himself after he spent the last minute of a six minute, ostensibly secular, video proselytizing.

While that persons behavior was inappropriate the behavior of Indiana State Police Trooper Brian Hamilton is so egregious he should be fired immediately. According to this Daily Kos story Trooper Hamilton used his position of power to proselytize for his religion after stopping a motorist for a chicken-shit offense for which he issued a verbal warning. While detaining the motorist he asked multiple questions unrelated to the traffic infraction. For example, “Did she accept Jesus Christ as her savior?” He also handed the driver a pamphlet from his preferred church. Holy shit! What motorist in the same situation would not feel intimidated to provide the answers Trooper Hamilton wanted to hear rather than tell him it’s none of his fucking business?

Fortunately the ACLU has filed a lawsuit.

Updated 2015-10-18: Sigh. This story is a year old. I really, really, hate it when an otherwise reputable site like Daily Kos doesn’t make it clear that they’re talking about ancient history.

I had to scroll to the seventh page of Google search results to find this link to PacerMonitor.com that provides some details about the lawsuit. It says the case terminated 2015-04-03 but provides no details regarding the disposition of the lawsuit.

After a lot of searching the only web page I could find that was not about the original incident and dated October 2014 was this article dated 2015-09-24. It talks about an accident to which Cpl. Brian Hamilton gave an official statement. Is that the same Brian Hamilton that was working for the Indiana State Police a year earlier? I would bet it is the same individual but the name is common enough that it could be coincidence. So, as all too often happens, it appears a “bad apple” simply moved from one police department to another.

Let’s treat gun owners like we treat pregnant women

This is making the rounds but can’t be repeated often enough, so…

The text from the image (so it’s searchable):

“Gun violence problem solved. Or, “hey, how about we treat every young man who wants to buy a gun like every woman who wants to get an abortion” — mandatory 48-hr waiting period, parental permission, a note from his doctor proving he understands what he’s about to do, a video he has to watch about the effects of gun violence, an ultrasound wand up the ass (just because). Let’s close down all but one gun shop in every state and make him travel hundreds of miles, take time off work, and stay overnight in a strange town to get a gun. Make him walk through a guantlet of people holding photos of loved ones who were shot to death, people who call him a murderer and beg him not to buy a gun.

It makes more sense to do this with young men and guns than with women and health care, right? I mean, no woman getting an abortion has killed a room full of people in seconds, right?” — via a friend of a friend

America’s finest beat and arrest another innocent black juvenile male for jaywalking

You’ve got to read this article at TruthDig and watch the video contained within it. Unless someone is creating a safety problem there is no justification for harassing someone for jaywalking. This incident reminds me of the arrest of 9th grade student Ahmed Mohamed for bringing a digital clock he created to school that I wrote about since it incensed me enough to send an email to the Irving, TX police department. I’m going to do the same thing about this incident. In fact, I’m going to suggest they implement an officer-exchange program so each department can learn from the other about how to behave without repercussion in ways that would get any non-officer of the law arrested (probably after being beaten).

I also observed two police officers hassling a black man sitting at a bus stop on my way home from the supermarket this afternoon. The man appeared to be clean, sober, and doing absolutely nothing that would warrant police interrogating him. I’ve got to say that even as a middle-aged white male I’m no longer willing to give the police the benefit of the doubt.

The humiliation of 9th grade student Ahmed Mohamed

The title of this article deliberately mirrors that of Dr. Jerry Coyne’s article at Why Evolution Is True. I agree with Dr. Coyne that we have created a society in which “infractions” that three decades ago when I was in primary school would have been ignored or, at most, resulted in a lecture about how to behave now result in police arrest. This is both counterproductive and idiotic.

We have to stop thinking in terms of “security at all costs”. I’m tired of taking off my shoes when flying. I’m tired of taking off my belt when reporting for jury duty at the San Jose Federal court. Which happened two years ago and will likely be repeated when I report for jury duty again this coming monday.

Below is the mail I sent to the Irving, TX police department prior to reading Dr. Coynes article.

from:   Kurtis Rader 
to:     lboyd@cityofirving.org, bredburn@cityofirving.org, jspivey@cityofirving.org, bjolley@cityofirving.org
date:   Fri, Sep 18, 2015 at 6:31 PM
subject:        the arrest of 9th grade student Ahmed Mohamed

I'm a 54 year old white male software engineer who grew up in a middle class suburban family that attended a Protestant church. In other words I'm a member of a demographic you could reasonably expect to support you. Yet every time I read about incidents like the arrest of 9th grade student Ahmed Mohamed I become more firmly convinced the police cannot be trusted to exercise good judgement and it is reasonable for me and my neighbors to fear an encounter with the police.

In my opinion the officers involved in that incident are not competent to issue parking tickets let alone arrest people. And your department's defense that

    “It could reasonably be mistaken as a device if left in a bathroom or under a car. The concern was, what was this thing built for? Do we take him into custody?”

and that you

    wanted "a broader explanation" from the teen

is absurd. Hang your heads in shame.

P.S., I'm also appalled at the behavior of the school staff. Your officers should have defused the situation (pun intended) instead of escalating tensions. Get a fucking grip.

P.S., I’ve included the “religion” tag on this post because I strongly suspect that the skin color and name of the student, suggesting he is a Muslim, was a factor in how he was treated. I have no love for Islam. As an atheist I dislike all religions. Nonetheless I feel it is wrong to discriminate against a person solely due to the religion you believe they adhere to.

The FRC wants you to “Help free Kim Davis from jail”

Todays I received the following email from the Family Research Council (FRC) headed by Tony Perkins. A theocratic grifter of some renown.

Kim Davis is the county clerk in Rowan County, Kentucky. She has been jailed by a federal judge for refusing to issue a marriage license to a same-sex couple. And Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear (D) wants to keep her there.

Gotta love the gratuitous swipe at a Democratic governor. Especially since he has no control over whether Ms. Davis is in jail or for how long. Also, she wasn’t jailed for refusing to issue a marriage license to a same-sex couple. She was jailed for contempt of court.

Her refusal is based on her belief that God has ordained marriage as the union of one man and one woman. Regardless of the recent Supreme Court decision claiming same-sex marriage is a constitutional right, Kim is standing on a higher law, one she believes derives not from the decision of any court but from the hand of our Creator.

Apparently the FRC believes that everyone should be able to flout civil law if they hold a belief incompatible with that law. Not to mention all the people who want to be paid to do jobs that conflict with their deeply held religious beliefs. What do you want to bet that they will hastily modify that assertion once it is pointed out that by their reasoning

a) A Protestant paramedic can refuse to give aid to a Catholic and vice-versa.

b) A Muslim working at the DMV should be able to refuse to give a drivers license to women.

c) A Hindu working at McDonalds should be able to refuse to cook or serve hamburgers.

d) An Amish bus driver should be able to refuse to drive busses but still be paid.

Etcetera.

Our Constitution guarantees Kim Davis the right to practice her faith. It's called "freedom of religion," and is the first freedom listed in the Bill of Rights.

Yes, Ms. Davis is free to practice her faith. She can attend the church of her choosing as often as she wishes. She can give that church as much of her $80K/year salary as she wishes. She is free to read and write about her religion without government interference. What that right does not include is violating civil law and refusing to do the job for which she is paid.

The couple demanding she issue them a marriage license claims Kim's exercise of her freedom of religion has imposed a burden on them. Yet they have had many other options for obtaining a license and have, in fact, now gotten one.

Irrelevant point. Also disingenuous. Ms. Davis’ behavior imposes an unreasonable burden on the members of her community she is obligated to serve.

Apparently Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear is more concerned with imposing a moral and personal burden on Kim Davis than he is with accommodating her deeply-held Christian convictions. So, he is keeping her in jail.

Yawn. Repeating a tiresome lie doesn’t make it true. A federal judge is keeping her in jail. You’re asking that Gov. Beshear provide her a “get out of jail free” card.

This is wrong. We jail criminals, not people of conscience. We penalize wrong-doers, not people who simply decline a service for moral reasons -- a service which is readily available in other places.

We do jail people of conscience. All the fucking time. People who protested the Vietnam war were jailed. People who protest nuclear war are jailed. And by telling a federal court she won’t abide by their ruling in a matter she has committed a crime known as “contempt of court”. What the FRC really means is that Christians shouldn’t be jailed for following “biblical law”. But only the parts of biblical law they feel like following. Not those other bits like killing adulterers (I’m looking at you Ms. Davis) or people who work on the sabbath.

American Christians need to stand with Kim Davis's right to stand by her religious convictions. You can help by signing our petition below to Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear asking him to issue an accommodation to Kim Davis allowing her to live and work according to her beliefs…

I followed that link. A full 48 hours after I received the FRC’s email they had 32,158 signatures including mine. Yawn. And, of course, the petition page had the obligatory prominently placed “DONATE NOW!” button. Grifters gotta grift.

It is easy to edit video to make people opposed to Planned Parenthood look like they support it

The group Majority Ohio has created a video showing how easy it is to edit video footage to make it appear that “pro-life” supporters who are trying to shutdown Planned Parenthood actually support the organization:

It isn’t difficult to take sentences (or fragments) out of context and portray them to mean the opposite of what the speaker intended.

The irony is that if the forced-birthers get their way and Planned Parenthood didn’t exist there would be even more abortions. Regardless of what you think about abortion you should support Planned Parenthood. That so many people want to see the organization killed makes it obvious their real agenda isn’t about abortion. It’s about controlling peoples sexual activity and keeping sex something that is only done if you intend to create a person.

H/T Daily Kos

How to Determine If Your Religious Liberty Is Being Threatened in Just 10 Quick Questions

I can’t take credit for this post. It came to my attention via a comment at the blog Why Evolution Is True. That lead me to the Daily Kos article which was the source of the WEIT comment. That in turn lead me to the original article by Rev. Emily C. Heath. It’s a shame more religious people aren’t as reasonable and rational as Rev. Heath.

It seems like this election season “religious liberty” is a hot topic. Rumors of its demise are all around, as are politicians who want to make sure that you know they will never do anything to intrude upon it.

I’m a religious person with a lifelong passion for civil rights, so this is of great interest to me. So much so, that I believe we all need to determine whether our religious liberties are indeed at risk. So, as a public service, I’ve come up with this little quiz. I call it “How to Determine if Your Religious Liberty Is Being Threatened in Just 10 Quick Questions.” Just pick “A” or “B” for each question.

1. My religious liberty is at risk because:

A) I am not allowed to go to a religious service of my own choosing.
B) Others are allowed to go to religious services of their own choosing.

2. My religious liberty is at risk because:

A) I am not allowed to marry the person I love legally, even though my religious community blesses my marriage.
B) Some states refuse to enforce my own particular religious beliefs on marriage on those two guys in line down at the courthouse.

3. My religious liberty is at risk because:

A) I am being forced to use birth control.
B) I am unable to force others to not use birth control.

4. My religious liberty is at risk because:

A) I am not allowed to pray privately.
B) I am not allowed to force others to pray the prayers of my faith publicly.

5. My religious liberty is at risk because:

A) Being a member of my faith means that I can be bullied without legal recourse.
B) I am no longer allowed to use my faith to bully gay kids with impunity.

6. My religious liberty is at risk because:

A) I am not allowed to purchase, read or possess religious books or material.
B) Others are allowed to have access books, movies and websites that I do not like.

7. My religious liberty is at risk because:

A) My religious group is not allowed equal protection under the establishment clause.
B) My religious group is not allowed to use public funds, buildings and resources as we would like, for whatever purposes we might like.

8. My religious liberty is at risk because:

A) Another religious group has been declared the official faith of my country.
B) My own religious group is not given status as the official faith of my country.

9. My religious liberty is at risk because:

A) My religious community is not allowed to build a house of worship in my community.
B) A religious community I do not like wants to build a house of worship in my community.

10. My religious liberty is at risk because:

A) I am not allowed to teach my children the creation stories of our faith at home.
B) Public school science classes are teaching science.

Scoring key:

If you answered “A” to any question, then perhaps your religious liberty is indeed at stake. You and your faith group have every right to now advocate for equal protection under the law. But just remember this one little, constitutional, concept: this means you can fight for your equality — not your superiority.

If you answered “B” to any question, then not only is your religious liberty not at stake, but there is a strong chance that you are oppressing the religious liberties of others. This is the point where I would invite you to refer back to the tenets of your faith, especially the ones about your neighbors.

In closing … remember this: Religious liberty is never secured by a campaign of religious superiority. The only way to ensure your own religious liberty remains strong is by advocating for the religious liberty of all, including those with whom you may passionately disagree. Because they deserve the same rights as you. Nothing more. Nothing less.

Michigan representative Todd Courser wants to make it hard for non-hetero Christians to get married

Updated 2015-09-11: Todd Courser, bigoted homophobic Republican state representative, has resigned. His coworker, that he was having an adulteress affair with, has been fired (technically “expelled”) by the rest of the state legislature. Please excuse me while I experience some schadenfreude.
Updated 2015-08-08: I just learned that Todd Courser, the elected representative responsible for the Christian motivated legislative bill I discuss below was having an affair (i.e., committing adultery) with legislator Cindy Gamrat. You can read about it in the Detroit News. Honestly, what the fuck is with these moralizing assholes who insist on imposing their religious morals on everyone else when they themselves are breaking that very code of conduct?

I read this article at The Friendly Atheist blog. It so outraged me I took the time to send the following email to Rep. Courser:

Mr. Courser,

Have you actually thought about the ramifications of your proposed legislation? What about atheists? Mixed faith couples? Religious couples who simply don't want a religious "leader" involved? No one is asking that government officials responsible for issuing marriage licenses agree with the beliefs of people seeking to be married. If a government official is incapable of doing the job they were hired to do they should be encouraged to seek another job.

To my surprise I received a reply:

from:      toddcourser@house.mi.gov
to:        krader@skepticism.us
date:      Mon, Jun 22, 2015 at 9:56 AM
subject:   Re: so you believe atheists shouldn't be able to marry?
mailed-by: email.nationbuilder.com

Dear Kurtis,

Please read the bills.  You will see that you will not be required to be married in any faith.  In fact, the marriage does not have to be religious.  There does not have to be a ceremony.  The marriage can be recognized by an affidavit signed by both parties and given to the county clerk.  The bills are taking the government out of the marriage process, not determining who should be married and how.  There will be more freedom, not less.

Respectfully,
Karen Couture
Legislative Aide
Rep. Todd Courser

Hmmm, perhaps Mr. Mehta and other sources I’ve read about this legislation have drawn the wrong conclusion. So I did read each of the three bills: HB 4731, HB 4732, HB 4733. There is also an announcement at gophouse.org regarding the three bills. This is the reply I sent Ms. Couture and Mr. Courser:

Ms. Couture,

I just finished reading all three bills (HB 4731, 4732, 4733). What you say is literally true in as much as the bills do not require the  applicants to affirm a specific faith. However, the bills expressly require the applicant to have their "MARRIAGE CERTIFICATE SIGNED BY CLERGY"(from page one of HB 4733 but similar language and provisions are in the other two bills). At the top of page two it says "AS USED IN THIS ACT, "CLERGY" MEANS A MINISTER OF THE GOSPEL, CLERIC, OR RELIGIOUS PRACTITIONER."

The bills also explicitly modify the language to read "minister of the Gospel" rather than simply "minister" which makes it quite clear Mr. Courser favors Christian sects. These bills quite clearly make it more difficult for anyone not a member of a Christian, Muslim, or Jewish faith tradition to get married. The bills effectively make it impossible for an atheist to be married in your state unless they're willing to disregard their beliefs regarding religion and beg a "minister of the gospel" to grant them the boon of a certified marriage certificate.

You should hang your head in shame for lying like that. Lying for Jebus is still lying and not acceptable in civilized society.
Rep. Courser’s office sent me another email pointing out that section 1A (page 3, line 13) of HB 4733 does provide for registering a marriage by filing a notarized affidavit. I’m not a lawyer but it does appear that section allows for atheists, homosexuals, and any other minority group to have their marriage recognized by the state of Michigan.

Nonetheless I find the bill odious. It clearly signals that Christian marriage is preferable to marriages not recognized by Christian sects. There is absolutely no legitimate secular (i.e., government interest) for doing so. Rep. Courser could simply omit section 1 and require everyone follow the requirements in section 1A and his goal of protecting the fragile religious sensibilities of state employees would still be met.

The Rude Pundit nails it again regarding crime and punishment

I’ve been binge watching “The Wire” for a couple of weeks since I signed up for HBONow. This is a show renowned for its realistic depiction of how police handle crime in Baltimore, MA, USA. I love the show and hate what it says about the America I live in as a privileged white male.

The Rude Pundit writes another article you should be reading instead of mine about “America’s Obsession With Punishment: Who Cares If You’re Guilty?“. How can anyone, even a Republican, agree that holding someone in jail for three years for petty theft (even assuming there is sufficient reason to believe they are guilty) without trail is moral and consistent with American ideals?

See this article from the New York Times in April, 2015 where they claim

As of late March, over 400 people had been locked up for more than two years without being convicted of a crime, according to city data that is to be released publicly for the first time. And there are currently a half-dozen people at Rikers who have been waiting on pending cases for more than six years.

FRC says xtian persecution in Middle East same as in America

Another day, another begging for money email from the Family Research Council. This one asks us to

Please Take a Stand for Persecuted Christians In American… and Everywhere!

By providing “My Gift to Stand!” (which are links to pages where you can give the FRC money). They continue with

Christians overseas are our example. They are being crucified. They are being beheaded. They are being tortured. And yet they refuse to renounce Jesus Christ.

I agree that we should fight against the beheading and crucifixion of people just because they don’t believe a particular religious dogma. But unlike the FRC I don’t care if the victims are believers in Christianity, Islam, Judaism, or some other religion. Nobody should be killed because they hold a religious belief different from yours. Including if that person does not believe in any God. The FRC email goes on to say

The “persecuted church” is no longer confined overseas. It’s here.

In America, fellow Christians are being fired, threatened, shamed, financially depleted, labeled as “haters,” forced out of growing categories of career fields and more.

What the FRC conveniently forgets to mention is that those xtians being fired, shamed, etc. in the USA are violating the secular laws of our nation that apply to everyone. Including believers of other faiths and non-believers (i.e., atheists). Too, conflating what happens to xtian bigots in the USA with what happens in the Middle East is so outrageous you have to wonder if Tony Perkins, head of the FRC, feels physically threatened when a non-xtian has the temerity to publicly say his beliefs are bullshit and he should stop trying to impose them on everyone else.