December 28, 2010

Bishop Can Make Better Life and Death Decisions than Doctors

By Francis Nye

The head of the Catholic Church in Phoenix has stripped Arizona's largest hospital of its Catholic affiliation after he ruled that a decision to save the life of a mother by terminating her 11 week pregnancy was morally wrong.

Bishop Thomas Olmsted announced that St Joseph's hospital can no longer be considered to be Catholic. The ruling breaks a relationship that stretches back to the hospital's founding by Catholic nuns 115 years ago. He has also excommunicated the member of the hospital's ethics committee that permitted the abortion to go ahead.

The case concerned an unidentified woman in her 20s, who had a history of abnormally high blood pressure that was under control before she became pregnant. But doctors were concerned on learning of the pregnancy about the extra burden that would be placed on her heart, and they monitored her closely.

Tests showed that in the early stages of pregnancy her condition deteriorated rapidly and that before long her pulmonary hypertension – which can impair the working of the heart and lungs – had begun to seriously threaten her life. Doctors informed her that the risk of death was close to 100% if she continued with the pregnancy.

Consultations were then held with the patient, her family, her doctors and the hospital's ethics team, and the decision to go ahead with an abortion was taken in order to save the mother's life.

The hospital's president, Linda Hunt, said following the bishop's severing of relations that the operation had been "consistent with our values of dignity and justice. If we are presented with a situation in which a pregnancy threatens a woman's life, our first priority is to save both patients. If that is not possible we will always save the life we can save, and that is what we did in this case."

But Olmsted did not see it that way. He drew on the advice of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops' doctrinal committee, which distinguishes between direct abortions that are never justifiable and indirect terminations that happen incidentally as a result of life-saving medical procedures that can be allowed on narrowly-defined grounds.

In this case, the operation was deemed to be a direct abortion because the pregnancy was ended to ease the mother's separate health problem.

I wonder how this would have turned out for the doctor and the hospital if they would have allowed this young woman and her baby to die because of religious doctrine. I am certain that the hospital would have been sued and the doctor incarcerated.

It is easy for Bishop Olmsted to make these outrageous statements and take these actions because his profession and freedom is not on the line.

Don’t misunderstand me. I am not for just any willy-nilly abortion. I have always taken a pro-life position. However, I think in a life threatening situation such as this I would defer to the doctor’s judgment and not that of my spiritual advisor.

Moreover, what has happened to all the moral outrage? After all isn’t what the bishop preaching a form of “death-panel” that incensed so many recently in the health-care debate? He is basically deciding who should live and who shall die and not letting the doctors and their patients decide the matter. I thought for sure all those tea-party supporters would rally around the hospital with their righteous anger much like they did when President Obama and both houses of the legislature tried to pass an all encompassing health-care directive for the United States last year. However I have not heard any of the same cries of indignation as I did before. It makes me ponder the motivations of some organizations. It also further begs the question, why does our society give religion so much power and influence over our health.

We live in a free society that was founded by great men that were truly enlightened for their time. These men knew the danger of divine right and royal decree. They understood what the elements of tyranny were. We, the American people put off the shackles of kings and queens more than 234 years ago. We fought a terrible civil war for the freedom of black Americas because we knew this not to be right. Yet here we are in the 21st century, willingly giving a man like Olmsted and his cohort in Rome the unquestionable power of a king. Anyone that dares questions his authority is handed a spiritual death sentence of excommunication.

One has to ask himself, is this really what God intended, an organization that has time and time again caused so much pain and suffering through out its history? Is this the love and compassion that is taught by Jesus?

I think the bishop needs to read his bible again. I think he may have missed a key concept or two in Jesus’ teaching when he used his power to excommunicate the faithful around him in such a lackadaisical manner. These are more the tactics of a tyrant than those of a compassionate man of Christ.

The bishop is so out of step with Jesus’ wisdom it is shocking. Jesus railed against the Jewish religious leadership because they always came down on individuals for not following Jewish law to the letter. Jesus on the other hand taught it is better to follow the spirit of Jewish law rather than the letter of the law. All things being looked at on as a case per case basis rather than a one size fits all approach. The bishop is more of a 1st century rabbi than a 21st century priest.

This entire affair further demonstrates how religion has become such a dangerous concept with terrible consequence if the wrong people are put in places of power like Olmsted. I wonder if he would be willing to die for his beliefs in the same senseless way he demands that young woman to die for hers. His flock looks to him for guidance and if this is an indication of how he leads then woe to his followers.

Video of St. Joseph’s Hospital Controversy

December 21, 2010

Festivus May Become a Real Religion

By Francis Nye and Lilly Winters

An attorney for an inmate Malcolm Alarmo King at the county jail convinced a Superior Court Judge, Derek G. Johnson that Festivus is a legitimate religion which allowed King to receive a 'kosher diet' of double portions without salami.

For those who may not know, Festivus was created by the writing staff of the Seinfeld television program for a show about an alternative to celebrating Christmas.

According to defense attorney Fred Thiagarajah, when King was prosecuted for a felony controlled substance charge, he said eating salami was against his religion. Judge Johnson pulled King’s lawyer and the prosecutor aside and said he needed a religion to put down on the order to make it stick, explained Thiagarajah.

“I said Festivus,” said Thiagarajah. The order was granted – three non-salami meals a day.
It all sounds crazy but maybe someday we will see Festivus churches soon. Like all religions past and present all that is needed is a prophet to write the Book on Festivus and then his disciples to add more dogma after his death and voilĂ  you have a real honest to goodness religion.

Orange County Festivus’ Story:

December 14, 2010

There is a Time and Place for Everything

By Francis Nye & Lilly Winters

The 5th Circuit Court of Appeals refused to dismiss a lawsuit accusing two elementary school principals in Texas of violating the Constitution by barring students from swapping religious gifts, including Christian-themed candy-cane pens.

The federal appeals court in New Orleans rejected a bid by principals Lynn Swanson and Jackie Bomchill to have the religious discrimination claims against them dismissed on the basis of qualified immunity.

Swanson and Bomchill argued that the First Amendment does not apply to elementary school students, but the 5th Circuit found otherwise.

The families of four students in the Plano Independent School District sued after their children were barred from distributing religious-themed items as part of a goodie bag exchange during winter break parties.

Some of the banned goods included pens shaped like candy canes that came with a card explaining the "Legend of the Candy Cane." Some Christians believe the "J" shape of a candy cane stands for "Jesus" or the staff of the "good shepherd," and the three stripes symbolize Jesus' blood or the Trinity. Another student was blocked from handing out pencils with the inscription, "Jesus is the reason for the season."

I agree that there maybe a 1st amendment free speech issue here. I also agree that they may have a right to express their points of view at school. But the real question is, should they? Is this really a good thing to do? One must remember that this is a double edged sword and it can cut both ways. Would it be ok for Jews to hand out symbols and literature? How about Muslims? Wicca? Atheists?

The real topic here the way I see it is etiquette. Just because a person can do something doesn’t mean that they should. Sometimes it is just offensive or uncivilized to do so.

I think some places should be off limits like an elementary school. We don’t need the court or a law to spell this out. What we need is just common courtesy and respect for others. I know I don’t want my children exposed to Christianity. If I did I would take them to Sunday school and we would attend church services on a regular basis. I would also read them the bible and enroll them in a Christian school. But since I don’t want them exposed to what I perceive as a cult I do not do these things. I want my children to be safe from this nonsense and so do many other parents.

I learned along time ago that there is a proper time and place for everything. Pubic schools are not the time or place for religious teachings or indoctrination. How would Christians feel if their children were constantly bombarded with Wicca teachings and practices at the public school they have their child enrolled in? I tell you how. Most would be outraged. Just as I am outraged that Christianity is constantly and consistently forced feed to my children in all places at all times.

Christians tend to forget that they are not the only game in town. And just as they don’t want their children exposed to the teachings of a foreign religion, so other parents do not want Christianity exposed to their children. It is just rude and in poor taste to act otherwise. We all need to be respectful of everyone around us. It is time that Christians stop being so incentive to everyone around them.

So I propose that in the spirit of good will toward all men this holiday season shouldn’t this group of Christians dismiss their law suit and start acting like civilized people by respecting others? After all the school is just asking them to value others and keep their point of view to themselves when attending their institution. I think that is a very reasonable position. They are not asking them to stop believing in their brand of faith or even forcing them to set aside their faith in lieu of another. They are just asking them to stop and think about how off-putting their message may be. That there is a proper place and time for all things and school is not the correct forum for this type of content. After all they spent all that money on a church, they should use it for that purpose. I know that Jesus said go out and spread the word but really, he didn’t say do to the point of ad-nauseum. Tell me what you think.

A video on just how offensive some Christians can be:

December 7, 2010

Military Chaplins: Don't Ask. Don't Tell

By Francis Nye

Sixty-five retired military chaplains wrote to the President earlier this year urging him to maintain the military’s ban on service by openly gay men and women. These chaplains alleged that allowing gay men and women to serve openly would compel them to violate their religious principles, such as forcing them to perform same-sex marriages. They claim that if they would not officiate at such marriages, the military would discipline, demote, and perhaps even dismiss them from military service. Repealing the ban, commonly known as “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” will force them to either “obey God or to obey man.”

Nothing could be further from the truth. A chaplain exists to serve the military in two capacities. First, chaplains serve as clergy to members of their own faith. A priest will minister to Catholics, a rabbi to Jews, and an imam to Muslims. Second, chaplains must serve the military as a whole by supporting the diverse population of men and women in the armed forces, by providing for the U.S. Constitution’s “free exercise rights” of every military member.

The military has maintained a chaplains’ freedom to serve their congregations according to the principles of their faith for nearly two and a half centuries. There is no reason why this would change if gays and lesbians served openly in the military. Military chaplains are not required to perform services that violate their religious beliefs—a rabbi, for example, is not required to administer a Catholic’s last rite. So the claim that repealing “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” will compel chaplains to violate their religious faith is blatantly false.