Via Al-Jazeera Europe and the New York Times…

In a referendum vote Sunday, Swiss citizens supported a ban on new minaret construction, voting against the protests of the Swiss government and liberal parties:

Pre-referendum polls had indicated a comfortable, if slowly shrinking, majority against the proposal, but official results Sunday showed that the S.V.P. and its allies had won 57 percent of the vote. The result came after a controversial campaign that played aggressively on the same fears of Muslim immigration and the spread of Islamic values that already resonate in other European countries.

“That Switzerland, a country with a long tradition of religious tolerance and the provision of refuge to the persecuted, should have accepted such a grotesquely discriminatory proposal is shocking indeed,” David Diaz-Jogeix, Amnesty International’s deputy program director for Europe and Central Asia, said in a statement. (From the New York Times story)

A surprising development, to say the least. Switzerland is a strange country, institutionally – the legislature is generally constrained by the need to create supermajorities in order to enact any law, and altering the constitution is harder still. But, as is the case in California, the “rule by ballot initiative” throws things off considerably, giving fringe groups within the populace a lot more clout than minority parties in the legislative houses possess.

So far, I have yet to read any statements from the right-wing supporters of this proposal that clearly explain how banning minarets will do anything to prevent the spread of radical Islam.


“Operation Rescue” founder Randall Terry seems to have gotten a pass for a release he issued a few days ago, which I noticed in my general news inbox when it came out:

WASHINGTON, July 17 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — The following was released today by Randall Terry, founder of Operation Rescue.

Randall Terry, Founder of Operation Rescue, and other local pro-life advocates will hold a press conference at the National Press Club (529 14th Street NW, Washington, DC) on Tuesday, July 21, at 2:00 P.M. Mr. Randall Terry to discuss what he and other pro-life leaders will and will not do if healthcare passes and includes paying for child-killing, and what convulsions follow.

Health Care, Murder, and the Coming Convulsions

“Let all those in government be warned: They cannot order people to pay for the murder of babies, and betray God Himself, without horrific consequences.”

Randall Terry

Background: It is clear that many elements in the pro-abortion congress and White House want to force Americans to pay for the murder of the unborn in their “healthcare” program.

If that happens, it is tantamount to the government putting a gun to taxpayers’ heads to pay for the brutal murder of an innocent child. This is tyranny and evil of the highest order.

“Please understand: neither I, nor any thinking person wants the convulsions that would inevitably come from such a government policy — the decision to force Americans to pay for the murder of their neighbor.

“Nevertheless, the sheer horror and frustration of such an evil policy will lead some people to absolutely refuse to pay their taxes. And I believe — if my reading of history from America and around the world is correct — that there are others who will be tempted to acts of violence.

“If the government of this country tramples the faith and values of its citizens, history will hold those in power responsible for the violent convulsions that follow.”

While Terry includes some perfunctory throat-clearing about not wanting any “convulsions,” make no mistake: he is making a very clear threat, not just about refusing to pay taxes, but about the kind of violence that we’ve already seen at least one instance of this year. In that case, the murder of Wichita abortion doctor George Tiller, Terry pronounced that Tiller had brought his slaughter on himself.

Let’s run a little mind-experiment. Imagine that you are assigned the task of making a statement designed to show as much support for domestic terrorism as you possibly could, without crossing the line into explicitly calling for murder. What would that statement look like? Would it be very much different from Terry’s thinly-veiled “warning” about coming “convulsions”?

It is time to stop using the term “pro-life” to describe Mr. Terry. He can be accurately described as “anti-abortion,” but he is no advocate for human life.

Via Pharyngula, here are two reactions to the reports of systemic abuse within the Catholic reform schools in Ireland:

Dublin Archbishop Diarmud Martin:

The church has failed people. The church has failed children. There is no denying that. This can only be regretted and it must be regretted. Yet “sorry” can be an easy word to say. When it has to be said so often, then “sorry” is no longer enough.

And on the other side of the spectrum, we have the American president of the Catholic League, Bill Donohue, who decided that it really wasn’t all that bad, and it was a long time ago anyway:

The Irish report suffers from conflating minor instances of abuse with serious ones, thus demeaning the latter. When most people hear of the term abuse, they do not think about being slapped, being chilly, being ignored or, for that matter, having someone stare at you in the shower. They think about rape.

By cheapening rape, the report demeans the big victims. But, of course, there is a huge market for such distortions, especially when the accused is the Catholic Church.

Bill, being as he is blinkered by his affiliation with the church, is unable to see the implications of this latest Catholic scandal. Instead, his organization has been spending its time decrying Obama’s visit to Notre Dame.

Oh — and it’s interesting to note that Donohue is very concerned about possible rapes of children. Just not when the rapists are Catholic clergymen.

Nine years ago, while studying abroad in Austria, my girlfriend at the time and I visited Ireland on a 10-day break. At that point in my life, I was a rather serious Catholic, and I figured Ireland would be a study in devotion — in addition to yet another locale on the European landmass devoted to beer.

While I wasn’t disappointed on the second count, I was surprised — after a many-hours-long hitchhiking trip along the south coast of the island to the city of Cork — to sit down in a large church Sunday evening and hear the mass said at breakneck speed. It was over in less than half an hour. I found it stunning that people in Ireland (clergy included, apparently) were so eager to get out of church as quickly as possible.

Little wonder, after today’s headline: Catholic Church shamed by Irish abuse report.

DUBLIN – After a nine-year investigation, a commission published a damning report Wednesday on decades of rapes, humiliation and beatings at CatholicChurch-run reform schools for Ireland’s castaway children.

The report details the institutionalized humiliation of thousands of Irish children sent to “reform schools” run by the “Christian Brothers” and other clerical orders. This was no case of Abu Ghraib-type “bad apples” (although we’re getting more of a picture of the institutionalization of that abuse, too, which puts the lie to the “bad apples” argument to begin with); this was a system-wide program of humiliation and torture — mental, physical, and, of course, sexual.


This from our “friends” in the Middle East:

Saudi judge: It’s OK to slap spendthrift wives

Happy Mothers’ Day.

Over the last couple weeks, I’ve gotten into a few arguments with Catholics upset at President Obama’s upcoming commencement address at Notre Dame University (scheduled for Sunday). There’s a petition you can sign online to “stop the scandal,” and prevent the president from giving the address.

Their argument is basically that since Obama supports abortion rights, it is therefore evil for him to speak at a Catholic university.

My argument has been that it isn’t, and it’s in fact a positive overture for the president toward American Catholics, as well as a significant honor for the Notre Dame class of 2009.


Has it been a while since you’ve had an apparition in your breakfast nook? Well weep no longer, because you can now own the HOLY TOAST BREAD STAMP.

With this simple tool, you can make the Blessed Mother a part of your complete breakfast:

Holy Toast, Batman!

One wonders, who is this marketed for? Is it for folks who take this kind of grilled-cheese spirituality seriously, or for people like me, who think it’s hysterical?

Thanks to my friend Erica, who thought this would make an awesome birthday present for me.