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June 06, 2007



I see that the nuns are Franciscans. So they are almost certainly concerned with the war and the torture too. When I lived in Chicago, I had a huge crush on a Franciscan nun who was involved in the same peace & social justice group as I was. I don't think she had anything to do with Beefalo though.


Ths Sisters of St. Francis are one of the most progressive organizations on the planet. They are at the forefront of just about every social justice movement you can name. And there were there before most of the lefty groups you belong to existed.

I realize it's fashionable on the secular left to make fun of religious types. That's wrong, for three reasons.

1. It's not fair. The First Amendment isn't just about speech. It is also explicitly about freedom of religion and association. Would the NLG, for instance, be required to accept a self-described fascist as a member? Of course not. Neither should a religoous order be required to accept people who don't subscribe to their beliefs. In this case, specifically with reference to the Franciscans, they are not uptight about sexual morality. I'd ask one question: How the hell can even a progressive religious order accept people who flagrantly flout prevailing (secular) workplace morality? Most secular employers would fire someone who did what these people did. The Sisters were very tolerant of these people, more tolerant than most employers would have been.

2. It's stupid. If the left abandons religious people, they'll never get anywhere in a country as religious as ours. I, for instance, was pleased to see the Democratic candidates appearing at a forum sponsored by Sojourners, a progressive religious organization. If you write off religious people, you'll never win another election. And, yeah, neither would you have, for instance, Martin Luther King, Jr.

3. It's bigoted. Anti-Catholic prejudice is, unfortunatley, as American as apple pie, and the oldest religious prejudice known to our nation. We are a former British colony, and our post-colonial pathology (which also includes things like imperialism) carries on the British tradition of anti-Catholic prejudice. The ADL likes to brag that they are "the oldest civil rights organization in America." Not true -- that distinction belongs to the Ancient Order of Hibernians, founded in Ireland in the 17th century to guard religious services from British patrols, but re-founded here to combat anti-Catholic pogroms. The Wasp elite in this country (including those on the Left) still subscribe to the bigoted notion that every Catholic takes an oath of loyalty to every bit of nonsense uttered by the Pope. We are presumed to be anti-abortion, for instance. But U.S. Catholics are more likely to support reproductive choice than your average American.

Think about it. Would you run a post like this about, say, Orthodox Jews, making fun of their moral beliefs. Orthodox Judaism is much more uptight than anything the Franciscans do. For Christ's sake, the Franciscan Sisters are wonderful people by any progressive standard. Why make fun of them? They're allies.


Yikes. Re-reading that, it comes off as really harsh.

Sorry. Our gracious webmaster aint no bigot. Not by a long shot.

My vicious screed was inspired by prior experience with intolerant lefties. Stein just innocently touched one of my raw nerves.

Stein is blameless, sterling, and much appreciated.


Yikes. Re-reading that, it comes off as really harsh.

Sorry. Our gracious webmaster aint no bigot. Not by a long shot.

My vicious screed was inspired by prior experience with intolerant lefties. Stein just innocently touched one of my raw nerves.

Stein is blameless, sterling, and much appreciated.


Oh, TallSkinny, I know you like to fight & I can take it. Then to get compliments as well as apologies is just like peaches & cream.


ha ha! I love the graphics in this! I recently saw a long online movie of "The Century of the Self" (BBC) and there was a part talking about EST & it got into those West Coast radical lesbian nuns....
I just blogged this music vid:


I think TallSkinny is right on the mark that the left should not (for both pragmatic and principled reasons) write off those whose commitment to social justice is rooted or expressed in terms of their religious belief, and specifically that Catholic bashing (as opposed to criticism of specific Catholic Church positions or actions) should be as anathema to leftists as any other form of bigotry. (I say this as someone who is devoutly anti-theist and has little personal tolerance for "faith talk", but also as someone who has great admiration and respect for religious groups like the Franciscans and the Jesuits. Reject the faith, not the faithful, I say.)

Putting on my lawyer/law professor hat, I do have something to say about the 1st Amendment issue. TallSkinny's general point about the right of association is perfectly correct. A religious group should no more be required to accept a member who does not adhere to the group's beliefs than should the NLG or any other private association.

But that wasn't really the issue in the case Stein wrote about. First, Mr. Griffin wasn't a member of the Order, but their hired worker. There is no general "religious exemption" to anti-discrimination laws, nor does the 1st Amendment require such an exemption. Religious employers may discriminate on grounds of religion where an employee's work is integral to the religious mission, like a Sunday School teacher. But it's doubtful that Mr. Griffin's work as a farm manager would fall within within that exception -- however much the Sisters' farming may be rooted in their religious beliefs.

In any event, the court in this case didn't base its decision on the 1st Amendment, but rather on a statutory interpretation that would apply equally to an ordinary secular employer. Essentially, the court narrowly interpreted the term "pregnancy discrimination" so that someone in Mr. Griffin's position would be unprotected no matter who he worked for. The religious status of the employer in this case was really incidental to the outcome, and to Stein's criticism.


I think that both Tallskinny and Moverplay it by calling Stein's post "catholic bashing" and by comparing the ridicule of Catholics' anxiety about sex a form of "bigotry" akin to any other. The Catholic church is hardly an oppressed minority, regardless of how progressive this particular group of Franciscan sisters might be. Yes, America's national identity began with a lot of anti-Catholicism, but those on the contemporary right make friends with the Catholic right - Ronald Reagan appointed Antonin Scalia.
Second, I think the religious identity of the people being sued was not irrelevant to the court's decision; even if the Franciscan sisters are progressive, the courts are not, and the "freedom" of religious people to discriminate, particularly on all things sexual, is currently a hot-button right-wing issue. And, as Stein says, this was more than just this one guy getting fired. According to the post, the nuns fired all the female interns as well as the couple on the tractor. How, why, and what role did that play in the suit? i couldn't get to to the first link.

That should be the link to the opinion, redbecca. Getting rid of the female interns was a factual matter that didn't go the the PDA claim, and, I think, the judges just put it in there to make plaintiffs look bad, just like lap-dances on the tractor.
Re-reading the comments, including TallSkinny's sweet retraction of his first comment, I don't think anyone accused me of Catholic-bashing. (Anyway, I certainly wasn't: I was just having a giggle fit about lap-dances on the tractor. That there were nuns and beefalo to boot just put it over the top.) Also, Eric hits it on the head at the end of his "now I'm wearing my law prof hat" comment. This case was not decided on Constitutional issues, but on a (I think) hair-splitting interpretation of the PDA that puts pregnancy discrimination in a box labeled "Sex Discrimination." If the pregnancy discrimination occurs outside that box, you're not protected.

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