Wednesday, 8/12/15

  1. Deneen on the Religion Clause of 1st Amendment
  2. Microaggressions & Trigger Warnings
  3. Colbert’s nightly prayer
  4. Answering the right question


Patrick Deneen for some reason decided to tutor the Twittersphere on religious freedom Tuesday:

Yes, that last one is true. The Bill of Rights forbade national established religion but protected state establishments, some of which lingered until the 1830s (when relatively conservative Christians killed them since the established churches had mostly become unitarian/deist).


Elsewhere in the first amendment, speech is, or was once, protected. Here I must blame the Obama administration, which I fault not only on religious freedom, but on free speech. Regulations have pressured Universities to become thought police:

Because there is a broad ban in academic circles on “blaming the victim,” it is generally considered unacceptable to question the reasonableness (let alone the sincerity) of someone’s emotional state, particularly if those emotions are linked to one’s group identity. The thin argument “I’m offended” becomes an unbeatable trump card. This leads to what Jonathan Rauch, a contributing editor at this magazine, calls the “offendedness sweepstakes,” in which opposing parties use claims of offense as cudgels. In the process, the bar for what we consider unacceptable speech is lowered further and further.

Since 2013, new pressure from the federal government has reinforced this trend. Federal antidiscrimination statutes regulate on-campus harassment and unequal treatment based on sex, race, religion, and national origin. Until recently, the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights acknowledged that speech must be “objectively offensive” before it could be deemed actionable as sexual harassment—it would have to pass the “reasonable person” test. To be prohibited, the office wrote in 2003, allegedly harassing speech would have to go “beyond the mere expression of views, words, symbols or thoughts that some person finds offensive.”But in 2013, the Departments of Justice and Education greatly broadened the definition of sexual harassment to include verbal conduct that is simply “unwelcome.” Out of fear of federal investigations, universities are now applying that standard—defining unwelcome speech as harassment—not just to sex, but to race, religion, and veteran status as well. Everyone is supposed to rely upon his or her own subjective feelings to decide whether a comment by a professor or a fellow student is unwelcome, and therefore grounds for a harassment claim. Emotional reasoning is now accepted as evidence.

(Greg Lukianoff and Jonathan Haidt, The Coddling of the American Mind, in the Atlantic, H/T Rod Dreher) This trend ought to have every friend of liberty, liberal or conservative, up in arms. It amounts to a heckler’s veto – or a precious snowflake veto. The Departments of Justice and Education, for cryin’ out loud, should immediately rescind their unjust and stultifying 2013 idiocy.


Every night before I go to bed, I light a candle and pray that [Donald Trump] stays in the race and I also pray that no one puts that candle anywhere near his hair.

(Steven Colbert, itching for his return to television)


“This tissue is extremely useful” is a good answer to the question, “how useful is this tissue?” It’s not a good answer — or any answer at all, really — to the question, “is it moral to collect and to use this tissue?”

Charles C. W. Cooke, who concludes “Moral debates are just that: moral. Dr. Mengele made some significant strides, too.” (I refuse the facile dictum that the reductio ad Hitlerum per se marks a losing argument.)

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“In learning as in traveling and, of course, in lovemaking, all the charm lies in not coming too quickly to the point, but in meandering around for a while.” (Eva Brann)

Some succinct standing advice on recurring themes.