Tuesday, July 10, 2012

566 'We don't need a law against insults': UK Director of Public Prosecutions backs free speech, says it's OK to offend people

'We don't need a law against insults': UK Director of Public
Prosecutions backs free speech, says it's OK to offend people

(1) 'We don't need a law against insults': UK Director of Public
Prosecutions backs free speech, says it's OK to offend people
(2) Lord Dear: Let's uphold Free Speech, undo ban on “threatening,
abusive or insulting” words
(3) Rowan Atkinson: we must be allowed to insult each other; campaigns
against ban on "insulting words and behaviour"
(4) Man who fed a sausage roll to a police horse faces court for
“threatening or abusive" behavior
(5) Hate Crimes: Punish acts, not thoughts - Wendy Kaminer
(6) Atheists post anti-Christmas billboard in Times Square, featuring
Jesus being Crucified: ‘Dump the Myth!’
(7) Navy Cancels Nativity over Atheist Complaint
(8) Critical reviews of Hawking book: God replaced by the Laws of
Nature, outside Time

Some of these reports are from http://pcwatch.blogspot.com.au/

(1) 'We don't need a law against insults': UK Director of Public
Prosecutions backs free speech, says it's OK to offend people


http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2245990/Keir-Starmer-QC-Backs-free-speech-saying-OK-offend-people.html

'We don't need a law against insults': Keir Starmer backs free speech as
he says it's OK to offend people

Daily Mail, 10 December 2012; updated 11 December 2012

There is no need for a law that makes it a crime to insult someone, the
Director of Public Prosecutions has said.

In a boost to free-speech campaigners, Keir Starmer QC said it was safe
to reform the controversial law that says it is a criminal offence to
use ‘insulting words or behaviour’.

The clause of the 26-year-old Public Order Act has spurred a campaign
which has united gay and secular activists, celebrities and conservative
Christian evangelicals in favour of a robust right for people to insult
each other.

In October, comedian Rowan Atkinson said the law was having a ‘chilling
effect on free expression and free protest’.

He warned: ‘The clear problem of the outlawing of insult is that too
many things can be interpreted as such. Criticism, ridicule, sarcasm,
merely stating an alternative point of view to the orthodoxy, can be
interpreted as insult.’

The Crown Prosecution Service, which Mr Starmer heads, has in the past
been against any move to strike the word ‘insulting’ from the statute
book. But the DPP has now changed his mind, the CPS said.

He wrote in a letter to former West Midlands chief constable Lord Dear:
‘Having now considered the case law in greater depth, we are unable to
identify a case in which the alleged behaviour leading to conviction
could not properly be characterised as “abusive” as well as “insulting”.

‘I therefore agree the word “insulting” could safely be removed without
the risk of undermining the ability of the CPS to bring prosecutions.’

However, Mr Starmer added: ‘I also appreciate there are other policy
considerations involved.’

The indication from the CPS that the law against insult does nothing to
protect the public came as a major boost for the campaign to amend the
1986 Public Order Act.

The law was notoriously used in 2005 when an Oxford University student
was arrested for saying to a police officer: ‘Excuse me, do you realise
your horse is gay?’ It has also been used to arrest a Christian preacher
in Workington who told a passer-by that he thought homosexuality was sinful.

And teenager Kyle Little was fined £50 in 2007 for ‘causing distress’ to
a pair of labradors by saying ‘woof woof’ at them within earshot of the
police. The case was later quashed on appeal.

Simon Calvert of the Christian Institute think-tank said: ‘We hope Home
Secretary Theresa May will listen to the country’s top prosecutor and
agree to reform this overboard and unwanted legislation.’

Gay rights campaigner Peter Tatchell said: ‘This legislation has been on
the statue books for 26 years, initially to control football hooligans,
major demonstrations and protests such as the miners’ dispute.

‘But the legislation is now being used to criminalise huge numbers of
people for trivial comments.

‘In 2009 the police used this law 18,000 times, including against people
who were expressing their views or beliefs in a reasonable manner.’

Let’s do away with British insult to free speech

A law that can be used to arrest a man who said 'woof’ to a dog has no
place in Britain

By Geoffrey Dear (Lord Dear is a Crossbench member of the House of
Lords. Previously he was chief constable of West Midlands, and HM
Inspector of Constabulary )

(2) Lord Dear: Let's uphold Free Speech, undo ban on “threatening,
abusive or insulting” words


http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/law-and-order/9734919/Lets-do-away-with-this-insult-to-free-speech.html

Let’s do away with this insult to free speech

A law that can be used to arrest a man who said 'woof’ to a dog has no
place in our country

{photo} Bean of contention: Rowan Atkinson believes “merely stating an
alternative point of view” can be interpreted as an insult Photo: Rex
Features {end}

By Geoffrey Dear

8:44PM GMT 10 Dec 2012

As a former police officer and chief constable, and as a member of the
House of Lords, I fully understand the importance of free speech. It
helps to preserve the unique set of beliefs and values that underpin our
society.

But I strongly believe that Section 5 of the Public Order Act 1986,
which makes it illegal to use “threatening, abusive or insulting” words
or behaviour if they are likely to cause “harassment, alarm or
distress”, can be used to undermine free speech because of the way it is
framed.

That is why the House of Lords will vote tomorrow on my proposed
amendment to this Act. If approved, it will see the removal of the term
“insulting”.

The wording of Section 5 has been a concern since the passage of the
1986 Act itself. Although similar wording had appeared in earlier
legislation, in 1986 the threshold was lowered to include anything
“within the hearing or sight of a person likely to be caused harassment,
alarm or distress thereby”. No one need actually be alarmed – such alarm
need only be “likely” in the view of police or prosecutors.

At the time, Professor A T H Smith, now Cambridge Professor of Criminal
and Public Laws, said: “Because of the potential breadth of the language
in which the section is drafted, it affords scope for injudicious
policing.”

Threats and abuse are always wrong and outlawing them is clearly
justified. The term “insulting”, however, is subjective and vague.
Increasingly the police and other law-enforcement agencies are
misinterpreting the legislation to such an extent that it is impinging
on the right to free speech.

In 2009 the Joint Committee on Human Rights (JCHR) observed: “Whilst
arresting a protester for using 'threatening or abusive’ speech may,
depending on the circumstances, be a proportionate response, we do not
think that language or behaviour which is merely 'insulting’ should ever
be criminalised in this way.”

The late Lord Monson, a champion of personal liberties, agreed. Speaking
in the House of Lords in the same year, he observed that “the word
'abusive’ can be judged objectively, but 'insulting’ is totally
subjective. What one person finds offensive, the next person may be
indifferent to… It did not matter very much at first, because I think
that the public 20-odd years ago were less thin-skinned than they are
now… People are positively encouraged to be touchy, both by the media –
whether deliberately or not – and pressure groups.”

The comedian and a fellow campaigner for reform, Rowan Atkinson,
recently summed up the difficulties posed by the inclusion of the term
“insulting” in the Act. He warned that, under Section 5, criticism,
unfavourable comparison or “merely stating an alternative point of view”
can be interpreted as an insult and lead to arrest.

The law, in its current form, has been used to arrest gay activists,
Christian preachers and a student who called a police horse “gay”. A
critic of Scientology was summoned under Section 5. And a young man who
said “woof” to a dog was actually convicted, although a court later
cleared him. There must be something wrong with a law that can be used
by police, prosecutors and the courts in such an excessively broad way.

Opponents of reform argue, incorrectly, that by removing the term
“insulting” from the Act, individuals will be at liberty to verbally
abuse vulnerable people.

This ignores the existence of other pieces of legislation, better suited
to tackling these offences. Laws such as public nuisance, breach of the
peace, harassment and incitement to hatred ensure there are more than
sufficient powers to bring perpetrators of such crimes to justice.
Furthermore, as case law demonstrates, Section 5 in its amended form
would still be sufficient to prosecute individuals who are being
abusive. This includes foul-mouthed rants targeted at individuals –
including the police – which are capable of being deemed as either
abusive or threatening.

In a last-minute development, the Crown Prosecution Service now supports
this view. In a letter to me, dated December 6, the Director of Public
Prosecutions, Keir Starmer QC, explained that: “Having now considered
the case law in greater depth, we are unable to identify a case in which
the alleged behaviour leading to conviction could not be characterised
as 'abusive’ as well as 'insulting’. I therefore agree that the word
'insulting’ could be safely removed without the risk of undermining the
ability of the CPS to bring prosecutions.”

Behaviour that is merely “insulting” should not be criminal in a
democracy. The vote tomorrow is an important opportunity to enhance free
speech. I hope the House of Lords will approve my amendment.

Lord Dear is a Crossbench member of the House of Lords. Previously he
was chief constable of West Midlands, and HM Inspector of Constabulary

As a former police officer and chief constable, and as a member of the
House of Lords, I fully understand the importance of free speech. It
helps to preserve the unique set of beliefs and values that underpin our
society.

But I strongly believe that Section 5 of the Public Order Act 1986,
which makes it illegal to use “threatening, abusive or insulting” words
or behaviour if they are likely to cause “harassment, alarm or
distress”, can be used to undermine free speech because of the way it is
framed.

That is why the House of Lords will vote tomorrow on my proposed
amendment to this Act. If approved, it will see the removal of the term
“insulting”.

The wording of Section 5 has been a concern since the passage of the
1986 Act itself. Although similar wording had appeared in earlier
legislation, in 1986 the threshold was lowered to include anything
“within the hearing or sight of a person likely to be caused harassment,
alarm or distress thereby”. No one need actually be alarmed – such alarm
need only be “likely” in the view of police or prosecutors.

At the time, Professor A T H Smith, now Cambridge Professor of Criminal
and Public Laws, said: “Because of the potential breadth of the language
in which the section is drafted, it affords scope for injudicious
policing.”

Threats and abuse are always wrong and outlawing them is clearly
justified. The term “insulting”, however, is subjective and vague.
Increasingly the police and other law-enforcement agencies are
misinterpreting the legislation to such an extent that it is impinging
on the right to free speech.

In 2009 the Joint Committee on Human Rights (JCHR) observed: “Whilst
arresting a protester for using 'threatening or abusive’ speech may,
depending on the circumstances, be a proportionate response, we do not
think that language or behaviour which is merely 'insulting’ should ever
be criminalised in this way.”

The late Lord Monson, a champion of personal liberties, agreed. Speaking
in the House of Lords in the same year, he observed that “the word
'abusive’ can be judged objectively, but 'insulting’ is totally
subjective. What one person finds offensive, the next person may be
indifferent to… It did not matter very much at first, because I think
that the public 20-odd years ago were less thin-skinned than they are
now… People are positively encouraged to be touchy, both by the media –
whether deliberately or not – and pressure groups.”

The comedian and a fellow campaigner for reform, Rowan Atkinson,
recently summed up the difficulties posed by the inclusion of the term
“insulting” in the Act. He warned that, under Section 5, criticism,
unfavourable comparison or “merely stating an alternative point of view”
can be interpreted as an insult and lead to arrest.

The law, in its current form, has been used to arrest gay activists,
Christian preachers and a student who called a police horse “gay”. A
critic of Scientology was summoned under Section 5. And a young man who
said “woof” to a dog was actually convicted, although a court later
cleared him. There must be something wrong with a law that can be used
by police, prosecutors and the courts in such an excessively broad way.

Opponents of reform argue, incorrectly, that by removing the term
“insulting” from the Act, individuals will be at liberty to verbally
abuse vulnerable people.

This ignores the existence of other pieces of legislation, better suited
to tackling these offences. Laws such as public nuisance, breach of the
peace, harassment and incitement to hatred ensure there are more than
sufficient powers to bring perpetrators of such crimes to justice.
Furthermore, as case law demonstrates, Section 5 in its amended form
would still be sufficient to prosecute individuals who are being
abusive. This includes foul-mouthed rants targeted at individuals –
including the police – which are capable of being deemed as either
abusive or threatening.

In a last-minute development, the Crown Prosecution Service now supports
this view. In a letter to me, dated December 6, the Director of Public
Prosecutions, Keir Starmer QC, explained that: “Having now considered
the case law in greater depth, we are unable to identify a case in which
the alleged behaviour leading to conviction could not be characterised
as 'abusive’ as well as 'insulting’. I therefore agree that the word
'insulting’ could be safely removed without the risk of undermining the
ability of the CPS to bring prosecutions.”

Behaviour that is merely “insulting” should not be criminal in a
democracy. The vote tomorrow is an important opportunity to enhance free
speech. I hope the House of Lords will approve my amendment.

(3) Rowan Atkinson: we must be allowed to insult each other; campaigns
against ban on "insulting words and behaviour"


http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/law-and-order/9616750/Rowan-Atkinson-we-must-be-allowed-to-insult-each-other.html

Rowan Atkinson: we must be allowed to insult each other

Rowan Atkinson has launched a campaign for a change in the law that bans
"insulting words and behaviour".

7:53AM BST 18 Oct 2012

The Blackadder and Mr Bean star attacked the "creeping culture of
censoriousness" which has resulted in the arrest of a Christian
preacher, a critic of Scientology and even a student making a joke, it
was reported.

He criticised the "new intolerance" as he called for part of it the
Public Order Act to be repealed, saying it was having a "chilling effect
on free expression and free protest".

Mr Atkinson said: "The clear problem of the outlawing of insult is that
too many things can be interpreted as such. Criticism, ridicule,
sarcasm, merely stating an alternative point of view to the orthodoxy,
can be interpreted as insult."

Police and prosecutors are accused of being over-zealous in their
interpretation of Section 5 of the Act, which outlaws threatening,
abusive and insulting words or behaviour, the Daily Mail reported.

What constitutes "insulting" is not clear. It has resulted in a string
of controversial arrests.

They include a 16-year-old boy being held for peacefully holding a
placard reading "Scientology is a dangerous cult", and gay rights
campaigners from the group Outrage! detained when they protested against
Islamic fundamentalist group Hizb ut-Tahrir over its stance on gays,
Jews and women.

Mr Atkinson said he hoped the repeal of Section 5 would pave the way for
a move to "rewind the culture of censoriousness" and take on the
"outrage industry - self-appointed arbiters of the public good
encouraging outrage to which the police feel under terrible pressure to
react".

Speaking at the Westminster launch of the campaign, he added: "The law
should not be aiding and abetting the new intolerance."

He was joined by Lord Dear, former chief constable of West Midlands
Police, and former shadow home secretary David Davis.

Mr Davis said: "The simple truth is that in a free society, there is no
right not to be offended. For centuries, freedom of speech has been a
vital part of British life, and repealing this law will reinstate that
right."

The campaign has united an unlikely coalition of support including The
Christian Institute and The National Secular Society as well as Big Brother

(4) Man who fed a sausage roll to a police horse faces court for
“threatening or abusive" behavior


http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/crime/9681648/Facing-court-man-who-fed-a-sausage-roll-to-police-horse.html

Facing court, man who fed a sausage roll to police horse

A man who fed a sausage roll to a police horse has been accused of
behaving in a “threatening or abusive manner”.

By Andrew Hough, and Auslan Cramb

10:00PM GMT 15 Nov 2012

In a rare case, Francis Kelly was charged with causing a breach of the
peace in Glasgow earlier this year.

Authorities say the 41-year-old broke the law when he ignored police
warnings and gave the pastry to the animal.

But friends of Mr Kelly said tonight that he had done nothing wrong. He
gave it a sausage roll because he thought the animal “looked hungry”,
they said.

Critics said the case was a waste of money and questioned why it was
being brought before the courts next year.

Prosecutors will allege that on September 28 Mr Kelly behaved in a
“threatening or abusive manner” by attempting to feed meat to the horse.

The court will also be told that he “adopted an aggressive stance”
towards officers when told to put the food away.

It was, however, unclear why the police horses were in the area or when
he initially came into contact with the animals.

Mr Kelly, from the Govanhall district of Glasgow, was unavailable for
comment.

He is said to deny the charge. A source close to the case insisted that
he would be fighting the accusation.

“His view is simply that he thought the horses looked hungry — daft as
that sounds,” a friend said

Critics took to social networking internet sites claim the prosecution
amounted to a “waste of money”.

“Seriously, is a man to stand trial for feeling a police horse a sausage
roll … the world has gone mad,” Michelle McLaughlin said on the Twitter
microblogging website.

Another user called “Lorraine M”, said: “Meanwhile in Glasgow.. Man
stands trial for trying to feed sausage roll to a Police Horse. Yes you
read right.”

Jack Harvey added: “Apparently the officer who charged the man said he
heard the horse clearly say 'neigh' when offered the sausage roll.
#SausageRollGate.”

Some online forums were also dominated by people joking about whether
horses liked sausage rolls.

In 2006, an Oxford University student asked a mounted police officer if
he realised his horse was “gay” during a night out with friends after
his final exams.

Sam Brown, 21, was arrested for making homophobic remarks after he
refused to pay an £80 fine. He spent a night in a police cell before
charges were dropped. Police defended their decision to pursue the case.

Mr Kelly will return to Glasgow’s Justice of the Peace court next
February for trial.

Spokesmen for Strathcylde Police or the Procurator Fiscal’s Office were
unavailable for comment tonight.

(5) Hate Crimes: Punish acts, not thoughts - Wendy Kaminer

http://www.spiked-online.com/site/article/13160/

Tuesday 11 December 2012

Why we must tolerate hate

Wendy Kaminer

In America, if you decorate your house with anti-Semitic slogans or your
clothing with swastikas, you are engaging in protected speech. But paper
your neighbour’s car with anti-Semitic bumper stickers and you are
guilty of vandalism. Hate speech is constitutionally protected (as the
Supreme Court confirmed most recently in Snyder v Phelps). Destruction
or defacement of someone else’s property is legally prohibited.

Advocates of censoring ‘hate speech’ might say that we value property
more than the elimination of bigotry. I’d say that we value speech, as
well as property, more than inoffensiveness. Besides, protections of
presumptively hateful speech are not absolute: a prohibited act, like
assault or vandalism, accompanied by vicious expressions of bigotry, may
constitute a hate crime under law.

Consider this recent incident at Wheaton College in Norton,
Massachusetts: anti-Semitic graffiti was scrawled across the back door
of the Jewish Life House, where four students reside. The student who
discovered it, Molly Tobin, described herself as ‘shocked, angry, and
terrified’, according to the Boston Globe. But students and faculty
members have ‘come together’ in support of diversity, with a potluck and
a Facebook campaign. Campus police are investigating the incident, and
the school is offering a $1,000 reward for information about it.

Could the vandals in this case be prosecuted for a hate crime? Perhaps.
Massachusetts law provides that assaulting someone or damaging her
property with ‘intent to intimidate’ on the basis of race, colour or
religion, among other characteristics, is punishable by a $5,000 fine
and/or a maximum two-and-a-half-year prison sentence. Whether or not the
graffiti on the door of the Jewish Life House was intentionally
intimidating is a question of fact; but you can guess how it might be
resolved.

Should the vandals in this case be prosecuted for a hate crime? Fierce
free-speech advocates, like my friend and colleague Harvey Silverglate,
condemn hate-crime laws for practically creating thought crimes. ‘It is
foolish and dangerous for the legal system to punish a malefactor on the
basis of whatever ideological or personal views or hatreds might, or
might not, motivate crimes against person or property’, Silverglate
says. ‘The slope from punishing acts to punishing thoughts is very
slippery indeed.’

I tend to agree. Hate-crime laws are generally sentence-enhancement
laws, imposing harsher sentences on crimes motivated by bias. They
ensure that assaulting someone you hate because of his personality
quirks is a lesser crime than assaulting someone you hate because he
belongs to a particular, protected demographic group. In other words,
when you’re prosecuted for a bias crime, you’re prosecuted for your bad
thought and beliefs as well as your conduct.

Once convicted of a hate crime, you may even be subject to mandatory
thought-reform: in Massachusetts, you’re required to complete a
state-sponsored and designed ‘diversity awareness programme’ before
being released from prison or completing probation. Deface someone’s
property for the wrong reasons - bigotry or a bad attitude towards a
protected group - and your thoughts become the business of the state.

This seems quintessentially un-American, if freedom of speech and belief
are quintessential American values. But individual freedom is sometimes
valued less, especially on campus, than diversity and the psychic as
well as physical security of presumptively disadvantaged groups. Greg
Lukianoff, president of the Foundation for Individual Rights in
Education (FIRE), reports on the lamentable consequences of this values
shift in his important new book, Unlearning Liberty. ‘On college
campuses today, students are punished for everything from mild satire,
to writing politically incorrect short stories, to having the wrong
opinion on virtually every hot button issue’, he reports, in disturbing
detail.

When ‘mild satire’ and arguably offensive jokes are deemed too dangerous
or disruptive to tolerate, it’s not surprising that anti-Semitic
graffiti is ‘terrifying’ and virtually incomprehensible. At Wheaton,
Molly Tobin says she remains afraid to walk around the campus at night
and describes her reaction to finding the graffiti on her door as ‘an
out-of-body experience’. While appreciative of the strong support
offered by Wheaton faculty and students, she considers it ‘pretty tragic
that something on this level has to happen for the campus to respond
like this’.

Death, disease, war and genocide are tragic; famine is tragic; climate
change is potentially tragic. An isolated incident of anti-Semitic
graffiti is unsettling and lamentable, but it is hardly a tragedy. It is
human nature. Few of us will go through life without being insulted or
disliked on account of race, religion, sex, sexual orientation, or other
immutable characteristics. People can be mean and stupid. People harbour
biases; they always have and always will, and their right to believe in
the inferiority or sinfulness of particular groups is the same as your
right to believe in equality.

I’m not suggesting that we should resign ourselves to bigotry. I’m
arguing that we should tolerate expressions of it. This doesn’t mean
tolerating bigoted acts. Vandalism is not a form of protected speech,
regardless of the ideas it expresses. Penal laws should punish assaults
on people or property that are and aren’t motivated by bigotry.
Anti-discrimination laws can and do single out bias-motivated acts in
employment and education with virtually no opposition from free-speech
advocates, except in some cases that involve verbal harassment.

Advocates of censoring hateful or offensive speech draw on civil rights
laws to assert a right not to be offended or intimidated on account of
membership of a protected group. But in the interests of equality, the
state can regulate some educational policies (especially in public
schools) as well as hiring, firing and promotion in secular businesses
without significantly infringing on the First Amendment. The state can’t
regulate hate or offensiveness without eviscerating fundamental First
Amendment freedoms.

Is this an excuse for vigilantism? When is it necessary, appropriate or
ethical to publicly shame people for their bigoted speech? The website
Jezebel sparked a minor fracas about journalistic ethics by calling out
and ratting out to school administrators teenagers who spewed crude,
racist tweets in the wake of Barack Obama’s re-election: ‘We contacted
their school’s administrators with the hope that, if their educators
were made aware of their students’ ignorance, perhaps they could teach
them about racial sensitivity. Or they could let them know that while
the First Amendment protects their freedom of speech, it doesn’t protect
them from the consequences that might result from expressing their
opinions.’

In fact, because the First Amendment protects the students’ freedom of
speech it should also protect them from some of the consequences ‘that
might result’ from their speech, especially consequences imposed by
public school officials. It’s true that student speech rights have been
significantly limited in recent years, but the girls at Jezebel might
want to consider whether that’s cause for celebration.

In any case, they obviously enjoy their own First Amendment rights to
shame teenagers or adults whose speech offends them. They enjoy the
right to encourage public school officials to punish students for their
racist tweets. But they should perhaps exercise this right with a sense
of irony. Instead, the Jezebel site is infused with the
self-righteousness of people who have little compunction of speaking up
in the interests of shutting up their ideological opponents and shutting
down speech they find offensive. Freedom of speech respects
self-certainty, but requires at least a little self-doubt.

Wendy Kaminer is a lawyer, writer and free speech activist. Her most
recent book is Worst Instincts: Cowardice, Conformity, and the ACLU.
(Buy this book from Amazon (UK).) A version of this article was first
published at theatlantic.com on 28 November.

(6) Atheists post anti-Christmas billboard in Times Square, featuring
Jesus being Crucified: ‘Dump the Myth!’


http://www.theblaze.com/stories/atheists-post-anti-christmas-billboard-in-times-square-featuring-jesus-being-crucified-drop-the-myth/

Posted on December 11, 2012 at 8:30pm by Billy Hallowell

{visit the link to see photos of the billboard}

It’s Christmas time, again, which means that American Atheists (AA), an
activist non-profit, is back with yet another overtly-offensive holiday
billboard. In 2010, the group posted a message in New Jersey calling the
Christmas story “a myth” (The Catholic League erected a response). And
in 2011, AA followed that up with another campaign, featuring Jesus,
Satan and Santa.

Now, there’s yet another billboard alleging that Christ’s story is a
fable — and this time, it’s proudly displayed in New York City’s Time
Square.

The new message, which reads, “Keep the Merry! Dump the Myth!,” elevates
the controversy that AA typically seeks to ignite by providing an image
of Santa with a photo of Jesus suffering on the cross. The “merry”
corresponds to the traditional Christmas mascot, with “myth” (in caps)
is presented beneath the Christian savior’s picture, clearly in
reference to Jesus’ death.

As is typically the case, representatives from AA have come forward to
comment about the billboard, while explaining the organization’s
motivations for posting it. Teresa MacBain, who serves as AA’s
communications director, said that the holiday season is about “family,
friends, and love” and that its beauty has “nothing to do with the gods
of yesteryear.”

“Indeed, the season is far more enjoyable without the religious baggage
of guilt and judgmentalism,” she added. “Dump the myth and have a happy
holiday season.”

David Silverman, president of AA, added his own views on the matter,
claiming that a large proportion of Christians are non-believers who are
“trapped in their family’s religion.”

“If you know God is a myth, you do not have to lie and call yourself
Christian in order to have a festive holiday season,” Silverman said.
“You can be merry without the myth, and indeed, you should.”

While AA would argue that the billboard is intended to inspire atheists
to “come out,” others will likely see it as offensive. The message will
run through Jan. 10.

What do you think? Let us know in the comments section, below.

(H/T: Huffington Post)

(7) Navy Cancels Nativity over Atheist Complaint

http://radio.foxnews.com/toddstarnes/top-stories/navy-cancels-nativity-over-atheist-complaint.html

Dec 11, 2012

By Todd Starnes

The Navy directed service members serving in Bahrain to cancel and
dismantle a “Live Nativity” after receiving a complaint from a military
atheist group who said the manger scene endangered Americans serving in
a Muslim country and violated the U .S. Constitution.

FOLLOW TODD ON FACEBOOK FOR CULTURE WAR NEWS. CLICK HERE TO JOIN!

The chaplain at Naval Support Activity (NSA) Bahrain confirmed to Fox
News the nativity scene was cancelled – but referred any further
comments to the NSA’s public information officer.

The “Live Nativity” was a long-standing tradition at NSA Bahrain that
featured the children of military personnel dressed as shepherds, wise
men, along with Mary and Joseph. It was part of a larger festival that
included a tree lighting, Christmas music and photographs with Santa
Claus and a camel.

But the Military Association of Atheists and Freethinkers objected to
the Nativity and filed a complaint with the Navy’s Inspector General.
They argued the Nativity promoted “Christianity as the official religion
of the base.”

The atheist group also worried that the Nativity put service members in
danger.

“Also of concern is the likelihood that the predominantly Muslim local
population will see the U.S. military as a Christian force rather than a
secular military support U.S. – but not necessarily Christian values in
their Muslim country,” the MAAF wrote in their complaint. “This even
threatens U.S. security and violates the Constitution as well as command
policy.”

“It’s unconstitutional, it’s bad for the military and in a Muslim
country it’s dangerous,” MAAF spokesman Jason Torpy told Fox News.

“Upon further review, the CRP (Command Religious Program) will be
removing the Living Nativity Program from the general base secular
holiday festivities and co-locating it more appropriately with some of
our other private religious and faith-based observances at the chapel at
a separate time,” read a statement the Navy reportedly sent the NAAF.

Some service members in Bahrain told Fox News called the cancellation
heartbreaking and children who were supposed to act in the Nativity were
devastated.

“It was horrible,” said one officer who asked not to be identified. “It
was devastating. Here we are serving in the Middle East, defending our
country and other people’s religions and we couldn’t understand why we
can’t enjoy our own religious freedoms.”

Crews had already started building the Nativity structure, but orders
were given to have it dismantled.

“You can go outside the gate and hear Christmas music, but on the base
you can’t have a Nativity,” said another officer. “The sense of
hypocrisy is overwhelming.”

Torpy said the idea that the Nativity has been a long-cherished
tradition at NSA Bahrain doesn’t make it right. He compared it to slavery.

“We’re talking about the United States promoting Christianity to
defenseless little kids in bathrobes,” he told Fox News. “We’re talking
about the United States government saying, ‘Hey – we’re going to have a
bunch of kids out here and we’re going to promote Christianity in a
Muslim country to service members.’”

The website Christian Fighter Pilot first exposed the controversy – and
noted sarcastically that service members in Bahrain “have now
experienced the friendly influence of atheism on their holiday.”

Pastors and religious liberty advocates are expressing shock and outrage
over the yuletide controversy.

“It is unthinkable that our own military would violate the
constitutional guarantee of freedom of religious expression–a freedom
that our forefathers sacrificed their lives to provide for us,” said
Robert Jeffress, pastor of the First Baptist Church in Dallas.
“Taxpayers give the military hundreds of billions of dollars every year
to protect our constitutional freedoms, not to trample upon them.”

Ron Crews, of Chaplains Alliance for Religious Liberty, told Fox News he
was disappointed the Navy “has caved in and not stood their ground to
allow military personnel to express their religious beliefs.”

“It appears we have some leaders who have become overly sensitive to any
threat of a lawsuit,” Crews said. “This is another example of this
group’s effort to promote freedom from religion rather than freedom of
religion.”

Crews said it’s nothing less than a “war on Christmas.”

Hiram Sasser, of the Liberty Institute, said the law is clearly on the
side of the service members.

“Once again the Grinches prove their hearts are two sizes too small,”
Sasser told Fox News. “The Supreme Court already saved nativity
Christmas displays in 1984 and the Navy of all organizations shouldn’t
back down against Grinches when law and history are on its side.”

Torpy said he is pleased with how the Navy handled the matter.

“We want to make sure that everybody has the opportunity to exercise
their religion freely and we want to make sure people on the base have
fun and exciting activities available for them without feeling like the
base itself is establishing Christianity as the preferred belief
system,” he told Fox News.

(8) Critical reviews of Hawking book: God replaced by the Laws of
Nature, outside Time


http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Grand_Design_(book)

The Grand Design is a popular-science book written by physicists Stephen
Hawking and Leonard Mlodinow and published by Bantam Books in 2010. It
argues that invoking God is not necessary to explain the origins of the
universe, and that the Big Bang is a consequence of the laws of physics
alone.[1] ...

The central claim of the book is that the theory of quantum mechanics
and the theory of relativity together help us understand how universes
could have formed out of nothing.[11] ...

The authors explain, in a manner consistent with M-theory, that as the
Earth is only one of several planets in our solar system, and as our
Milky Way galaxy is only one of many galaxies, the same may apply to our
universe itself: that is, our universe may be one of a huge number of
universes.[11] ...

Reactions

[edit]Positive reactions

Evolutionary biologist and advocate for atheism, Richard Dawkins,
welcomed Hawking's position and said that "Darwinism kicked God out of
biology but physics remained more uncertain. Hawking is now
administering the coup de grace."[13] ...

Critical reactions

Roger Penrose in the FT doubts that adequate understandings can come
from this approach, and points out that "unlike quantum mechanics,
M-Theory enjoys no observational support whatsoever".[21] Joe Silk in
Science suggests that "Some humbleness would be welcome here...A century
or two hence...I expect that M theory will seem as naïve to cosmologists
of the future as we now find Pythagoras's cosmology of the harmony of
the spheres".[22]

Gerald Schroeder in "The Big Bang Creation: God or the Laws of
Nature"[23] explains that "The Grand Design breaks the news, bitter to
some, that … to create a universe from absolute nothing God is not
necessary. All that is needed are the laws of nature. … [That is,] there
can have been a big bang creation without the help of God, provided the
laws of nature pre-date the universe. Our concept of time begins with
the creation of the universe. Therefore if the laws of nature created
the universe, these laws must have existed prior to time; that is the
laws of nature would be outside of time. What we have then is totally
non-physical laws, outside of time, creating a universe. Now that
description might sound somewhat familiar. Very much like the biblical
concept of God: not physical, outside of time, able to create a
universe." ...

Dwight Garner in The New York Times was critical of the book, saying:
"The real news about The Grand Design is how disappointingly tinny and
inelegant it is. The spare and earnest voice that Mr. Hawking employed
with such appeal in A Brief History of Time has been replaced here by
one that is alternately condescending, as if he were Mr. Rogers
explaining rain clouds to toddlers, and impenetrable."[8]

Craig Callender, in the New Scientist, was not convinced by the theory
promoted in the book: "M-theory ... is far from complete. But that
doesn't stop the authors from asserting that it explains the mysteries
of existence ... In the absence of theory, though, this is nothing more
than a hunch doomed – until we start watching universes come into being
– to remain untested. The lesson isn't that we face a dilemma between
God and the multiverse, but that we shouldn't go off the rails at the
first sign of coincidences.[26]

Paul Davies, in The Guardian, wrote: "The multiverse comes with a lot of
baggage, such as an overarching space and time to host all those bangs,
a universe-generating mechanism to trigger them, physical fields to
populate the universes with material stuff, and a selection of forces to
make things happen. Cosmologists embrace these features by envisaging
sweeping "meta-laws" that pervade the multiverse and spawn specific
bylaws on a universe-by-universe basis. The meta-laws themselves remain
unexplained – eternal, immutable transcendent entities that just happen
to exist and must simply be accepted as given. In that respect the
meta-laws have a similar status to an unexplained transcendent god."
Davies concludes "there is no compelling need for a supernatural being
or prime mover to start the universe off. But when it comes to the laws
that explain the big bang, we are in murkier waters."[27]

Dr. Marcelo Gleiser, in his article 'Hawking And God: An Intimate
Relationship', stated that "contemplating a final theory is inconsistent
with the very essence of physics, an empirical science based on the
gradual collection of data. Because we don’t have instruments capable of
measuring all of Nature, we cannot ever be certain that we have a final
theory. There’ll always be room for surprises, as the history of physics
has shown again and again. In fact, I find it quite pretentious to
imagine that we humans can achieve such a thing. ... Maybe Hawking
should leave God alone."[28]

Physicist Peter Woit, of Columbia University, has criticized the book:
"One thing that is sure to generate sales for a book of this kind is to
somehow drag in religion. The book's rather conventional claim that "God
is unnecessary" for explaining physics and early universe cosmology has
provided a lot of publicity for the book. I'm in favor of naturalism and
leaving God out of physics as much as the next person, but if you're the
sort who wants to go to battle in the science/religion wars, why you
would choose to take up such a dubious weapon as M-theory mystifies me."[29]

In Scientific American, John Horgan is not sympathetic to the book:
"M-theory, theorists now realize, comes in an almost infinite number of
versions, which "predict" an almost infinite number of possible
universes. Critics call this the "Alice's Restaurant problem," a
reference to the refrain of the old Arlo Guthrie folk song: "You can get
anything you want at Alice's Restaurant." Of course, a theory that
predicts everything really doesn't predict anything... The anthropic
principle has always struck me as so dumb that I can't understand why
anyone takes it seriously. It's cosmology's version of creationism. ...
The physicist Tony Rothman, with whom I worked at Scientific American in
the 1990s, liked to say that the anthropic principle in any form is
completely ridiculous and hence should be called CRAP. ... Hawking is
telling us that unconfirmable M-theory plus the anthropic tautology
represents the end of that quest. If we believe him, the joke’s on us."[30]

The Economist is also critical of the book: Hawking and Mlodinow "...say
that these surprising ideas have passed every experimental test to which
they have been put, but that is misleading in a way that is
unfortunately typical of the authors. It is the bare bones of quantum
mechanics that have proved to be consistent with what is presently known
of the subatomic world. The authors' interpretations and extrapolations
of it have not been subjected to any decisive tests, and it is not clear
that they ever could be. Once upon a time it was the province of
philosophy to propose ambitious and outlandish theories in advance of
any concrete evidence for them. Perhaps science, as Professor Hawking
and Mr Mlodinow practice it in their airier moments, has indeed changed
places with philosophy, though probably not quite in the way that they
think."[31]

British scientist Baroness Greenfield also criticized the book in an
interview with BBC Radio: "Of course they can make whatever comments
they like, but when they assume, rather in a Taliban-like way, that they
have all the answers, then I do feel uncomfortable." She later claimed
her Taliban remarks were "not intended to be personal", saying she
"admired Stephen Hawking greatly" and "had no wish to compare him in
particular to the Taliban".[32] ...

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