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TAG | Bobby Jindal

Dec/12

28

Liberty, Not So Much

birth-control-pillWe’ve heard a lot from the Roman Catholic church of late about how its “religious liberty” is supposedly infringed by the Obamacare “contraception mandate”. It’s a dodgy and unconvincing argument for any number of reasons (and hypocritical too, given the church’s earlier support for universal healthcare), to which one can now add this (via the National Catholic Register):

BATON ROUGE, La. — Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal has voiced his support for over-the-counter access to birth control, a position that Church representatives say goes against Catholic teaching on contraception.

“The Archdiocese of New Orleans disagrees with Governor Jindal’s stance on this issue, as the use of birth control and contraceptives are against Catholic Church teaching,” Sarah Comiskey McDonald, communications director for the Archdiocese of New Orleans, told EWTN News Dec. 14. Robert Tasman, associate director of the Louisiana Conference of Catholic Bishops, also echoed the archdiocese’s statement.

Making the pill available OTC is a generally excellent idea, but Jindal is approaching it from the perspective of a (very) devout Roman Catholic. His cannily pragmatic argument is based on the idea that making the pill available OTC will remove much (all?) of the rationale for including it under the HHS rules, but even this still is not, apparently, good enough for the Archdiocese. Note that these clerics’ objection to Gov. Jindal’s proposal is based on religious, not medical grounds. That their opposition to contraception is not shared by many of their coreligionists, let alone by most Americans of other faiths—and none—is, apparently, an irrelevance. Their ideology must be imposed on everyone, and that’s it.

Remind me again why should we pay attention when this church starts talking about “religious liberty”. I must be missing something.

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Dec/12

1

Testing the Flagship

Cross-posted on the Corner:

Kyle Plotkin (Gov Jindal’s communications director) responds to my earlier post on the Guardian’s report on Louisiana’s voucher schools as follows (I am publishing this with his permission):

This is a complete red herring attack from defenders of the status quo who oppose giving parents the opportunity to make choices about their children’s education. They will probably not like the fact that the largest provider of opportunities for scholarship students has tended to be parochial schools. These schools are known to teach all sorts of scandalous things, for example concerning God raising a man from the dead and an important birthday coming up in a few weeks.

We’re competing in a global economy and that’s why we want our students to be exposed to the best science and the best critical thinking skills. We not only need to compete with students in Texas, but we need to compete with students in Japan.

In order to make sure our kids are able to compete with students around the country and the world in math and science, students in the scholarship program are taking the exact same tests as the students in public schools. Starting in 2014 with Louisiana’s move to the Common Core State Standards, those will be nationally standardized assessments. That means that a parent can choose the school with the curriculum and environment that’s right for their child, while still ensuring that they are receiving the baseline content they need to compete.

Furthermore, these results are going to be summarized and publicly available so parents and taxpayers can make comparisons. Schools whose scholarship students do not do well on the exams will not be allowed to continue participating in the program.

Parents are the ultimate accountability in education. Unlike traditional public systems where students are assigned to their school based on zip code, school choice gives parents the power to vote with their feet. That can be public school choice or it can be private school choice; we’ve done both in Louisiana. The parent knows the child better than a bureaucrat in Baton Rouge or Washington, D.C. Across the country, millions of parents don’t have this option and their child is stuck in a failing school unless they can move to another district.

If you look at the results of the students who started in the pilot program in New Orleans, they are outperforming their peers in Math and Science. For instance, the percentage of third graders in the Scholarship Program in New Orleans demonstrating proficiency in Math has increased by 23 points since 2008, compared to a 2 percentage point increase for all Louisiana third graders. Further, the percentage of third graders in the Scholarship Program demonstrating proficiency in Science has increased by 4 points since 2008, compared to a 1 percentage point increase for all Louisiana third graders. This mirrors national results, where no less than 10 gold standard research studies have found that when children choose their school–improving the child’s “match” with their school environment–they are more likely to graduate from high school and go to college.

That’s an encouraging response. It’s also good to read how well the pilot program appears to be working out. That makes it all the more important to ensure that the wider program delivers the sort of academic return the taxpayers who have been drafted into funding it have every right to expect. Success in this respect will be the program’s best defense against future political attack. Testing the schools that take part in this program (including, I note, of math and science) will obviously be a key part in this process, but so will a serious insistence on speedily removing accreditation from those schools that fail to make the grade. .

As to what is taught in these schools, that’ll be a topic to which I’ll revert (I wanted to post Mr. Plotkin’s reply as quickly as possible), I’ll leave the constitutional questions to the experts, but, as a matter of general principle it doesn’t worry me in the slightest that the education available under this program might include a religious element. The question, I suppose, is just how large that element should be, and what it might amount to. The thought that such questions might even be asked will be offensive to some, but taxpayer money never comes without strings, and rightly so. Democratic accountability matters.

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Nov/12

30

Time to Fix the Flagship

Cross-posted on the Corner:

If there’s a policy that deserves to be a winner for the GOP (as well as being a thoroughly good thing in its own right), it is school choice and Bobby Jindal has done well to push it in Louisiana.

But having launched a flagship it’s important to ensure that it does not sink.

The Guardian reports:

[A] court case beginning Wednesday is set to shine light on a controversial policy in [Jindal’s] state which sees government funding given to schools that teach creationism….The case has been brought by a Louisiana teachers’ union and is aimed at a voucher scheme whereby some parents can take their children out of poor state schools and get vouchers to use at private schools.

One of the most controversial aspects of the programme is that some of the schools included on it are conservative Christian organisations that teach creationism in their science classes. When parents use the vouchers at such establishments they are effectively giving state money to teach children lessons that can include alternatives to the theory of evolution or questioning the widely accepted age of the Earth…

“This whole voucher plan was to give parents choices. But it is ignoring the quality of those choices,” said Mary-Patricia Wray, legislative and political director of the Louisiana Federation of Teachers.

Now, there’s quite a bit of humbug running through those two sentences (Louisiana’s education scores have historically not been the most impressive), but Jindal has handed his opponents a useful weapon. He needs to take it back.

Stick with the voucher program—expand it wherever possible—but be careful to make sure that the standards of the schools that benefit from it are higher on every measure than those of the traditional public schools they may be replacing. I’m not convinced that taxpayer funding of schools that teach that the Earth is six thousand years old really does the trick, even if such schools are the rare exception rather than the rule.

The governor must plug the hole in his flagship. It’s too important to be allowed to sink.

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Nov/10

13

Neither Hobgoblin nor Foul Fiend

Here via the Daily Telegraph, a little reminder of what lies beneath:

Polish exorcists are gathering in Warsaw for their national congress confident in the knowledge that their numbers are increasing as more and more Poles struggle with Satanic possession. Since 1999 the number of Polish exorcists has surged from 30 to over a 100, despite the influence of the Catholic Church waning in an increasingly secular Poland. Exorcists attribute the increase in their numbers to growing scepticism in psychology in the wider Polish population, and people looking for spiritual reasons for mental disorders.

In recognition of modern science, however, exorcists now work in tandem with psychologists in order to distinguish between psychiatric problems and the work of the devil. But while some cases of Satanic work are difficult to diagnose others manifest themselves in shocking circumstances explained exorcist Father Andrzej Grefkowicz.

“An indication of possession is that a person is unable to go into a church, or, if they do, they can feel faint or breathless,” he said.

“Sometimes if they enter a church they are screaming, shouting and throwing themselves on the ground.”

The national congress comes as part of a policy by Poland’s Catholic Church to lift the veil on what was once a secretive practice. Frustrated by the Hollywood image of cross-wielding exorcists engaged in dramatic conflicts with demons the Church intends to show the complicated and often more mundane world of exorcism.

Father Grefkowicz stressed that the most of the time exorcism required quiet prayer.

Amazing. Of course, nobody should overlook the calming power of a tranquil, reassuring chat (and that’s what that “quiet prayer” could, at its best, amount to), but it is impossible to avoid the suspicion that much of the exorcism process tends to feed hysteria rather than cure it.

Perhaps we should ask Governor Jindal, the Linda Blair of Louisiana, for advice on this question. No, thinking about it, we probably shouldn’t.

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Mar/10

11

How’s That Whole Enlightenment Thing Going?

Here (via the Daily Telegraph) is some remarkable news:

The Devil is lurking in the very heart of the Roman Catholic Church, the Vatican’s chief exorcist claimed on Wednesday. Father Gabriele Amorth said people who are possessed by Satan vomit shards of glass and pieces of iron. He added that the assault on Pope Benedict XVI on Christmas Eve by a mentally unstable woman and the sex abuse scandals which have engulfed the Church in the US, Ireland, Germany and other countries, were proof that the Anti-Christ was waging a war against the Holy See.

“The Devil resides in the Vatican and you can see the consequences,” said Father Amorth, 85, who has been the Holy See’s chief exorcist for 25 years. “He can remain hidden, or speak in different languages, or even appear to be sympathetic. At times he makes fun of me. But I’m a man who is happy in his work.” While there was “resistance and mistrust” towards the concept of exorcism among some Catholics, Pope Benedict XVI has no such doubts, Father Amorth said. “His Holiness believes wholeheartedly in the practice of exorcism. He has encouraged and praised our work,” he added.

The Pope is not alone in sharing Amorth’s beliefs. I should imagine that the exorcist now serving as governor of Louisiana, Bobby Jindal, is also an enthusiast for esoterica of this type. Amorth meanwhile has more details of what to expect when Old Nick is around:

In a rare insight into the world of exorcism, the Italian priest told La Repubblica newspaper that the 1973 film The Exorcist gave a “substantially exact” impression of what it was like to be possessed by the Devil. People possessed by evil sometimes had to be physically restrained by half a dozen people while they were exorcised. They would scream, utter blasphemies and spit out sharp objects, he said.

“From their mouths, anything can come out – pieces of iron as long as a finger, but also rose petals,” said Father Amorth, who claims to have performed 70,000 exorcisms. “When the possessed dribble and slobber, and need cleaning up, I do that too. Seeing people vomit doesn’t bother me. The exorcist has one principal duty – to free human beings from the fear of the Devil.”

You couldn’t make this stuff up. Well, maybe you could…Read the whole thing.

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