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The Lawyer, the Cross & the Supremes

September 30th, 2009 by Celeste Fremon


The Los Angeles Daily Journal-
–the publication that lawyers and judges read—has an interesting article about attorney Peter Eliasberg and the unlikely case about a cross on an out of the way piece of public land, that will heard before the Supreme Court in October. (Chapeau tip to the always excellent How Appealing)

Here is the opening:

When Los Angeles-based American Civil Liberties Union lawyer Peter J. Eliasberg first heard about a controversial cross erected on federal land, it didn’t seem like a case that would end up at the U.S. Supreme Court.

They never do.

But 10 years later, Eliasberg is frantically preparing for his first argument
before the high court in an Establishment Clause case that is one of the highlights of the term that begins Oct. 5.


The case that will bring him to the Supreme Court on Oct. 7 grew out of a long-running religious dispute over a cross in the Mojave Desert that was erected to commemorate war veterans but has instead sparked years of debate about the proper roles of church and state.

At issue is whether the 9th Circuit was correct to bar the federal government from transferring to the Veterans of Foreign Wars a parcel of land in the Mojave National Preserve on which the cross sits in exchange for another parcel of equal value.

Further details of the case-–Salazar v. Buono—may be found here.

This case has roughly a zillion implications, so will be worth watching.

Posted in Free Speech, Religion, Supreme Court | 26 Comments »

THIS JUST IN: God is a Lesbian!

June 21st, 2008 by


    And here’s her gay son, Mr. Christ!!

Come Judgment Day, many denominations surveyed about gay marriage by the Pew Forum on Religion and Tall Tales, or something like that, will be in a heap of trouble. My theological advice to them: Repent, renounce your damnable, intolerant, anti-human positions or surrender your tax-exempt status.

The survey is here.

Posted in families, Religion, unions | 3 Comments »

Sigmund Freud….. Meet Jeremiah Wright – UPDATED X 2

April 29th, 2008 by Celeste Fremon


UPDATE 2: Barack Obama held a press conference this morning and came out forcefully and appropriately on the Wright issue. Link to coverage and video is here and NPR has the entire press conference here. It’s long and it’s very, very interesting.

This is such a strange and sad drama
that it almost defies political analysis and frankly begs for a literary interpretation.


Unlike others, I haven’t been all that bothered
by Reverend Jeremiah Wright’s more inflammatory remarks that have been played repeatedly on YouTube.

And then came the 48-hour Jeremiah Wright-a-thon

His Moyers appearance and his NAACP speech were fine.

But in some kind of horrifyingly cringe-making reverse Oedipal thing,
Wright was so entirely full of himself and so creepily competitive with Obama yesterday when he spoke to the National Press Club, it was hard to understand what he was thinking.

Yes, of course he has the right to defend himself against out-of-context clips and scurrilous attacks, but timing is everything, buddy. If Barack’s the guy Wright wants in the White House, this was the moment to shut up and take one for the team.

But he didn’t. Instead we got the smirky narcissism-on-parade he displayed at the press club.

On the other hand, why the press had to do All Wright
All the Time last night—complete with the worst kind of talking-head screamers—is another issue altogether. (See yesterday’s post.)

All this and the Supremes decide that voter ID
requirements are just fine and dandy.


UPDATED: Commenter Woody provided this link to an interesting story by New York Daily News columnist Errol Louis who suggests that maybe there was more to Reverend Wright’s sad and destructive appearance at the National Press Club than meets the eye.

also has a good post on the subject.

Posted in Elections '08, Presidential race, Religion | 15 Comments »

Been Taking the Weekend Off….

October 7th, 2007 by Celeste Fremon

(NOTE: Above graphic shamelessly heisted from Ross Blog at

I’ve been in a non-blogging state of mind
….working on another deadline, and generally enjoying the lovely fall weather. But will be back in full force tomorrow morning.

In the meantime, aside from the various news stories
on Blackwater, gang “rent” payments, and DWP rate hikes, out of Sunday’s papers, I recommend the following:


The Facebook Revolution – No this isn’t a social justice issue, but it’s an interesting read anyway, unless you’re planning to live like Christopher McCandless, the Into the Wild guy. (And things didn’t turn out that well for him anyway.)

Militant Atheists are Wrong – an anti-anti God essay that has some interesting and discussion-provoking points to make. “Their assault on religious faith amounts to an attack on the human imagination,” writes author Lee Siegel.


On Torture and American Values - “Truly banning the use of torture would not jeopardize American lives,” writes the NY Times, “experts in these matters generally agree that torture produces false confessions. Restoring the rule of law to Guantánamo Bay would not set terrorists free; the truly guilty could be tried for their crimes in a way that does not mock American values.” Expert opinions on this matter are pretty close to unanimous. So why does American policy dictate otherwise?

Race Gap: Crime vs. Punishment - An interesting and nuanced essay that asks the questions: IF criminal legal proceedings seem to turn out differently for people of different races, when does a constitutional problem exist?


The WaPo has its own torture-memo-related editorial, but the big Must Read from today’s Post is this story: An Exit Toward Soul-Searching: As Bush Staffers Leave, Questions About Legacy Abound.

AND ABOUT CERTAIN SPORTS DEVELOPMENTS having do with (cough) damned Stanford (cough), I have no freaking comment.

Posted in criminal justice, Government, Guantanamo, Life in general, National politics, prison policy, race, Religion | 6 Comments »

Uneven Justice

June 16th, 2007 by

Durham County D.A. Mike Nifong and Cardinal Roger Mahony

Oh God, why is it so much easier to defrock a sinful lawyer than a man of the cloth, dirtied by decades of deceit and immoral conduct? We beseech you to grant Steve Cooley the strength and wisdom to do something about it. Amen.

Posted in Courts, crime and punishment, Government, Religion | 4 Comments »

America, a Nation of Religious Illiterates?

April 16th, 2007 by Celeste Fremon



The LA Times reported yesterday that Texas is considering passing a bill that would require the state’s school districts to offer classes in “the history and literature of the Old and New Testaments eras.”

The bill’s proponents swear that such classes will teach the Bible in “an objective and nondevotional manner.”


Historically this has rarely been the case. For instance, the Times points to a recent study that “found that of Texas’ 25 public school districts with a Bible course, 22 of the districts’ classes had a Christian slant.” In other words, even if the course is purported to be taught from a neutral perspective, instructors find it hard to draw the line between teaching and preaching.

It doesn’t boost our confidence that the proposed Texas bill was written by state Representative Warren Chisum, an anti-evolution Sunday school teacher, best known for his habit of trying to pass laws that do end runs around such pesky issues as church/state separation.

On the other hand, perhaps we shouldn’t throw the baby out with the bathwater, as my mother would say. How about offering a real course in religious literacy? By that, I mean one that educates kids in all the great religions of the world. That’s precisely what Boston University religion department chair, Stephan Prothero, argues for in his new book Religious Literacy.

“In spite of the fact that more than 90 percent of Americans say they believe in God,” writes Prothero, “only a tiny portion of them knows a thing about religion” Being a nation of religious illiterates, says Prothero, is a not such a great idea. Given our place in the world, can we really afford to be ignorant about Islam, Buddhism, Confucianism and Hinduism?

(For instance, if people who now hold positions of power in our government—I’m not going to mention names—but if they had possessed a bit more knowledge of, say, the difference between Sunni and Shia, might they have avoided certain ugly messes in which we now find ourselves?)

Oh, by the way, most Americans hardly know the first thing Christianity or Judaism either, says Prothero, even if they practice those religions. Given the influence of the two faiths on our history and on much of our literature, he says, it’s both wise and practical for us—whether we are personally religious or not—to know a bit about them.

So, Texas, what d’you think? You can make a move away from religious tolerance and the Constitution—or lead the way toward religious literacy.

Your call.


It turns out that Andy Rotherham and Donna Freitas wrote a terrific article on this subject for Education Week three years ago. (Andy is the co-founder of the education think tank, Education Sector, and the guy behind, absolutely the best and coolest education blog. Donna Freitas is a professor of religious studies at St. Michaels College.)

Education Week requires a sign-up process so I’ve pasted some of the salient ‘graphs below:

…..Religion is an essential factor affecting—in both positive and tragic ways—the course of history, culture, politics, science, and world events. Yet we are raising an entire generation of young people who have discussed neither their own religions nor those of others in an academic setting. Our students have been willed a world fraught with religious strife, yet we are leaving them uneducated about what that means or how to deal with it.

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Education, Religion, State government | 8 Comments »