Saturday, October 31, 2009

Local politics

The vote on a new ordinance here in my town is coming up on Tuesday. This ordinance would add "sexual orientation and gender identity" to the town's non-discrimination statutes. Translation: Inter alia, you have to hire a guy who insists on wearing a dress and being called "Diane," even if your business is selling ice cream to little kids and your customers will understandably be disgusted and go to your lucky competitor who hasn't had a cross dresser apply.

There's a lot more to it, of course. It's interesting to see how even though this ordinance is partly about punishing people (businesses, in particular) who refuse to get on-board with the homosexual agenda, in reality the homosexual activist agenda is "so last year." Transgender rights are the latest thing.

And by the way, I would like here to say, "Shame on you" to our local Family Christian Stores store, which has shown not the slightest support for the Vote No campaign. Worse: Back in the summer, we were collecting signatures to send this to the ballot rather than having it rammed through merely on the vote of our very liberal city commission. The protest signatures put a temporary stay on the ordinance and gave us the chance to fight another day, with the voters as a whole. I went to the local Family Christian Store to ask if I could simply find out if their employees live in the city limits and get their signatures if they wanted to sign. It would have taken a big five minutes. You should have seen the smirk on the manageress's face as she told me I would have to "call corporate" in Grand Rapids for permission to make this simple canvassing of the employees. Corporate could not even be bothered to call me back. It was not good. I think frankly that it's a sign of the extent to which leftism is infiltrating evangelicalism in America, especially of the Christian Reformed variety most common in my part of the world.

Please pray for the defeat of the ordinance. I have a few more GOTV calls to make this afternoon. I'll let you know how it ends.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Links and sample letters on Rifqa

There follow a few useful links concerning Rifqa Bary at Atlas Shrugged. I apologize for the format, etc., at Atlas. I find that the page takes a long time to load, and Pamela Geller is not always, shall we say, sensitive in her use of pictures. She also doesn't seem to know how to use the "click here for more" function for posts, and she tends to run too much information together in one post, which makes it hard to sort out visually and makes it look hysterical and less credible than it actually is. But she is in actuality the go-to source on Rifqa's case, the one person who is following the case scrupulously and collecting information all the way along, often doing on-the-ground interviewing and original, exclusive, investigation (such as finding Rifqa's father's immigration documents), and if Rifqa's lawyer and guardian ad litem in Florida had paid attention to Pamela's information and advice more, Rifqa might still be safe(er) in Florida. They really dropped the ball.

So, first, here is an early report of Rifqa's being cut off from phone and Internet. Here is an explanation from Rifqa's friend Jamal Jivanjee of the phony deal Rifqa's parents cut. He also discusses the draconian limits on her communication. How he knows about the deal, I don't know and don't ask, but it at least explains some things. And here is a post containing interesting letters from a family law lawyer from Oregon to the Executive Director of FCCS. Unfortunately, the lawyer is capital-letter-challenged, but he writes good letters other than that--has the legalese down well and knows how similar systems work. (I have some comments in the thread on this 0ne you might want to search for on the page using my name as a search term.)

The e-mail address for Eric Fenner, Executive Director of FCCS, is

edfenner@fccs.co.franklin.oh.us

There is also some sort of civil rights ombudsman who is supposed to have special charge over the rights of "clients"--in other words, the minors in the care of the FCCS. Here is his contact info:

Kenneth Cohen
Client Rights Officer
Franklin Co. Children Services
855 Mound St.
Columbus, Ohio 43223
Phone No. 614-275-2621
E-mail address: cro@fccs.co.franklin.oh.us

Direct e-mail:

kcohen@fccs.co.franklin.oh.us

Here is the letter I wrote to Mr. Fenner (the first guy):

Dear Mr. Fenner:

I am writing to you concerning Rifqa Bary, who is presently in the custody of Franklin County Children’s Services. A news report from the Columbus Dispatch states that you have said you see no reason to believe that Rifqa would not be safe with her parents. This seems an extraordinarily hasty statement and does not seem to reflect an intention to do due diligence on the facts of the case but rather to prejudge it before an investigation has been fully carried out. Your casual comments to the press about this case are consistent with the extraordinarily fast setting of a date for trial on the merits, when Rifqa’s lawyers have just been assigned and are new to the case, and when the case is admittedly complex and difficult. It does not seem that Franklin County is giving this case the careful consideration and prudence that it deserves.

I am writing to urge that Rifqa not be returned to the custody of her parents. In repeated interviews, including interviews with Florida Law Enforcement, Rifqa has described physical and psychological abuse at the hands of her father dating back to her middle school days. She also indicates that her father threatened her in connection with her conversion to Christianity, leading to her decision to run away out of fear of him and the surrounding Muslim community who, she says, were urging him to "deal with" her conversion. She is very frightened of being returned to her parents’ custody, and it is clearly not in her best interests for her to be returned.

A serious problem in connection with Rifqa’s case is the danger that her parents will take her, as a minor, and leave the United States for their native Sri Lanka if she is returned to them. In Sri Lanka, she would not, even when she turns eighteen in nine months, have the rights and freedoms that she would have here in the United States. According to her testimony, her parents expressly threatened to take her back to Sri Lanka to be "dealt with" concerning her apostasy from Islam with methods possibly including institutionalization. This must not be allowed to happen. However, it appears that her parents (and hence Rifqa herself) are now in the United States illegally. This makes it all the more plausible that they would return to Sri Lanka, taking her against her will, if she were returned to them.

Rifqa’s father has stated in an interview with Florida Law Enforcement that he would require her to practice Islam until she turned eighteen. If Rifqa is returned to her father’s custody, she will be under religious coercion as well as being in danger.

Of particular concern is the fact that Ohio Juvenile Magistrate Mary Goodrich, at the request of Atty. Jim Zorn, has restricted Rifqa’s ability to communicate via telephone and Internet, thus causing her to be held incommunicado. This decision seems especially dangerous and outrageous. This is a child in need of protection, and it is impossible to see how her best interests can be served and her safety insured if she is unable to communicate with the outside world. In the United States, one of the ways in which we protect the vulnerable is by making sure that they are not cared for in secret, without the ability to communicate what is happening to them. Moreover, this restriction on Rifqa’s communication has more than a whiff of religious discrimination about it, as it appears that she is particularly being restricted so that she cannot obtain support in her Christian beliefs by being in touch with her Christian friends. I urge that Rifqa’s ability to communicate with others outside her foster situation be restored immediately.

Please be aware that the eyes of the world are watching Rifqa’s treatment at the hands of the Franklin County Children’s Services. It is precisely at your level--at the level of juvenile court magistrates and children’s services workers--that prudence, due diligence, and concern for the best interests of the child enter the equation, so that children are not treated in some mechanical way according to laws insensitive to the specifics of the case. Your department and the judges with whom you work have the authority and hence the responsibility to protect Rifqa, and you will be held responsible for doing so. If she is returned to her parents and deprived of religious freedom, physically harmed, psychologically terrorized, or dragged back to Sri Lanka against her will, the responsibility will belong to the local authorities of Franklin County. Please consider well what you do, and above all, err on the side of protecting this minor child from harm.

Yours sincerely,

*************************************************************************

Here is the only partially overlapping letter I wrote to Mr. Cohen:

Dear Mr. Cohen,

I am writing to you with regard to the case of Rifqa Bary, a 17-year-old minor now in the custody of Franklin County Children’s Services. Although my greatest concern is that Rifqa not be returned to her parents’ custody, given her plausible allegations of past abuse and threats from her parents and the danger of her being taken out of the United States to Sri Lanka against her will, I have already written to Mr. Eric Fenner about the case more generally and intend here to focus on some matters relating directly to civil rights, as I understand that you are the Client Rights Officer in the civil rights area for FCCS.

One issue of great concern is the fact that Juvenile Magistrate Mary Goodrich, at the request of Atty. Jim Zorn, has restricted Rifqa’s ability to communicate via telephone and Internet. The express intent of this restriction, articulated by Atty. Zorn, is to cut Rifqa off from “other people” in the situation--by which he expressly means friends that Rifqa was communicating with via Facebook and via telephone. I ask you to consider the undeniable disparate impact this will have in the area of religion. Rifqa alleges that her parents threatened her because of her conversion to Christianity, and the friends she wishes to communicate outside her foster care situation will undoubtedly be disproportionately Christian friends, offering her spiritual encouragement and comfort. Her parents desired what Atty. Zorn has asked for, because they believe Christians have been a bad influence on Rifqa. By cooperating in the attempt to isolate Rifqa from friends of a particular religion, the State of Ohio raises the possibility that it is engaging in religious discrimination and depriving Rifqa of her rights to free exercise of religion.

It is, moreover, a serious problem to isolate a child in this fashion, particularly a vulnerable child. In the United States, we generally consider that part of the protection for the vulnerable is that they are able to communicate with others and to tell others if they are being mistreated. Parents who isolated their child, particularly a young woman of seventeen, this thoroughly for an indefinite period of time, would be suspected of having something to hide, and worries would be understandably raised that the child might be mistreated and be unable to obtain help. The outside world will find it very difficult to find out if Rifqa is being pressured or treated in any inappropriate way while in foster care if she is held thus virtually incommunicado. This is not in her best interests, and all the less so as she has now been apparently deprived of the right she enjoyed in Florida to select her own lawyer.

I strongly urge that Rifqa’s ability to communicate with friends, including Christian friends, outside her foster care situation be restored immediately in the name of her civil rights.

Next, I want to ask whether Rifqa is being permitted to see regularly a religious adviser of her choice. Even convicted criminals in jail are permitted visits with their clergymen, who are given prison visitation rights. Rifqa--an honors student who has been convicted of no crime and is in a highly stressful situation-- should have at least the minimal religious exercise rights accorded to a convict.

Also in relation to rights of religious free exercise, I wish to point out that Mr. Bary, Rifqa's father, while denying various statements she has made as to past abuse, actually stated to Florida's Department of Law Enforcement that "because she is still under age and living in his home he believed she should continue to study and practice Islam." This makes it clear that if Rifqa is returned to her parents she will be compelled to practice Islam even while here in the United States, unless she should turn eighteen while still here in the United States. She will not turn eighteen for another nine months.

I also want to raise some due process issues. Mr. Eric Fenner has most inappropriately already commented to the Columbus Dispatch that he cannot see any reason why it would not be safe for Rifqa to be returned to her parents. He should not be prejudging this case in this way, when Rifqa has only just now been transferred into FCCS custody. He should do due diligence first, having in mind always the best interests of the child.

Due process is particularly a matter of concern given what I understand to be the quasi-criminal nature of the proceedings, since Rifqa’s parents are attempting to have her declared an “incorrigible child.” A trial on the merits of the case has been scheduled very rapidly, for Nov. 16, despite the fact that Rifqa has just been assigned new lawyers. It seems that her due process rights may well be violated if her lawyers do not have more time to research and prepare their case in this very complicated matter, involving multiple lines of evidence in multiple areas.

I urge you to do everything in your power for the best interests and safety of Rifqa Bary. If, through negligence and failure of due diligence and due process on the part of FCCS and the Ohio courts, she is returned to her parents and dragged out of the country to Sri Lanka, where she will have no civil rights at all, FCCS and the judge(s) involved will be responsible. It is at the level of Children’s Services that the particulars of the case need to be examined and taken carefully into account. I urge you, like everyone involved at FCCS, to err on the side of caution in safeguarding this young woman.

Best wishes,

***************************************************************************

If any of my readers would like supporting information on any of the points in the letters or these two posts--more supporting links, for example--feel free to ask.

If you should feel moved to write your own letter to either of these guys, go for it, and feel free to use the info. I've given here.

Above all, pray for her and especially for the trial on November 16.

Please pray for Rifqa

Dear friends,

I've often put up updates about Rifqa Bary at W4, usually with closed comments, because I refuse to deal with Muslim commentators on this issue. This time, W4 seems to be rolling along fine, and I've decided to update here, because I'm reluctant to cover up a new post by a fellow contributor with a comments-closed post of my own. I may yet change my mind on that, though.

Rifqa is in a very serious situation. She has been returned to Ohio, and the Ohio judge has already indicated a tendency to side with her Muslim parents. The judge has summarily ordered, without any investigation of the case (immediately upon Rifqa's return) that she is to be held in foster care without any Internet or cell phone use. This apparently means she is cut off from (literal, physical) contact with the Body of Christ, unless her foster family is Christian, which we have no reason to believe. Her Christian lawyer, whom she chose herself, has evidently been removed from the case, and new lawyers unfamiliar with the case selected arbitrarily for her by the state of Ohio. I have been unable to find out if she is being allowed any visits by a Christian pastor or being allowed to go to church. I would guess not. Even convicted murderers are allowed clergy visits in prison and some degree of free exercise of religion, but this girl has been convicted of nothing and has done nothing but run away from her parents in fear.

Her trial--yes, it is her trial, because the proceedings are quasi-criminal, her parents having filed a case to have her declared an "incorrigible child" and returned to them--has been scheduled quite soon, for Nov. 16, which is scarcely time for her new lawyers to get up to speed, even supposing that they truly want to represent her best interests.

There is great danger that she will be summarily returned to her parents and that they will immediately take her out of the country. In Sri Lanka, they can do what they want to her to pressure her to return to Islam, and turning eighteen next summer will help her not one whit. The Florida judge allowed all this to happen, dropping a requirement he had previously stated that her parents produce their immigration documents. They stonewalled him. Word from a friend of Rifqa has it that her Florida guardian ad litem (who at least really did care for her) was bamboozled along with the judge by a phony "deal" whereby the immigration issue would be dropped and Rifqa returned to Ohio if her parents would promise to leave her alone in foster care in Ohio until she turns eighteen in nine months and is no longer under their control. This deal, however, was completely unenforceable and depended on the parents' good faith, which of course is nonexistent. They reneged on it immediately when the Florida judge (who seemed in general rather sensible and concerned for Rifqa's well-being) surrendered his jurisdiction and ordered her returned to Ohio.

This is all quite terrible. There is something horrible about watching the slow squeeze of legal proceedings against an innocent girl happening before one's very eyes, telling oneself, "This can't happen in America," and then finding that perhaps it can. Of course, I cannot help being reminded of the murder of Terri Schiavo.

Right now, I do not have time to post links here to back up all my points. I will try to do so later so that you can get information in case you want to write to Franklin County Children's Services in support of Rifqa. I may also post the text of the letters I have written thus far.

Meanwhile, please pray for Rifqa.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Grace acronyms

Courtesy of an e-mail from Keith Pavlischek, and courtesy of First Things's Evangel blogger, we have a bunch of exceedingly clever acronyms for the word GRACE. In fairness to First Things blog, I won't just copy the whole thing here. You should go read the whole list over there. But if you're familiar with God's Riches at Christ's Expense, this is a set for every kind of Christian (and/or groups claiming to be Christian, including Barthians and Emergentists) you can imagine. A sense of humor is required to appreciate these, and some knowledge of various Christian denominations and sub-denominations, too. Here are a few of my favorites:

For Open Theists:
God Reconsiders, And Cooperates Exquisitely

For evidentialist apologists:
General Revelation And Convincing Explanations

For presuppositional apologists:
Gospel Repentance Accomplished, Circularity Ensues

For theonomists:
Gospel Requires Absolutely Crushing Enemies

For the emergents:
Generational Resentment Against Conservative Evangelicals

It's hard to choose one best one, but given my present church membership, I shouldn't leave this one unmentioned:

For Anglo-Catholics:
Getting Ritualistic After Cranmer’s Execution

Heh.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

To clamor never waken

This morning our post-Communion hymn had words from the ancient Syriac liturgy of Malabar (translated, of course). Here are the first two verses:

Strengthen for service, Lord, the hands
That holy things have taken;
Let ears that now have heard thy songs
To clamor never waken.

Lord, may the tongues which ‘Holy’ sang
Keep free from all deceiving;
The eyes which saw Thy love be bright
Thy bless├Ęd hope perceiving.

Unfortunately, the tune for this is just dull as dull can be, which is why I don't provide a link. Any readers familiar with the Anglican hymnal will know what I'm talking about. I wish that someone would re-translate the words and set them to better music.

I was especially struck by the idea here that there is something lost when those who have once been committed to Christ wander away from Him. In contemporary terms, we can think of this in connection with children raised by Christian parents who go off the rails. If you know a child who loves Jesus Christ right now, there is something inside you that cries out, "Oh, Lord, keep them by your side! Don't let those little eyes be defiled, those hands, that body, those ears."

This song applies this idea to all of us. If we have been in the Lord's house and have praised Him, if our hands have taken holy things in Communion, we should pray that God would keep us ever near him and not let us do anything contrary, as the Prayer Book says, to our profession.

The mention of "clamor" particularly struck me, because it can be so hard to find peace and quiet when one leaves one's house nowadays. I admit to leading a sheltered life, and I'm grateful for it. I was in a waiting room this last week for quite a while. Walked in to be confronted in my face by a large TV up high on the wall with flickering images of an ostensibly naked man and woman rolling about in bed together. I never found out what that was all about (not that I wanted to know), because the image switched quickly to some sort of commercial involving someone's breaking an egg. Such is the world of television. I asked at the desk if we had to have the TV on. They said we could turn it off if no one in the room minded. As all the other people were reading (sensible folk) and said they didn't mind, we turned it off.

Fifty minutes of peace ensued. Then one of the girls behind the desk said, "It is too quiet in here!" and turned it back on. By this time, the only people in the waiting room other than me were an older couple, and the woman was apparently trying to doze with her head on her husband's shoulder. So I spoke up: "What's wrong with quiet?" I said in piercing tones. "Quiet is good!" The older woman seconded me, and we got the receptionist to turn off the sound. She justified herself in an ad hoc fashion by saying, "We have to have it on in case someone comes in who wants it." Really? Then why didn't they have it off before I walked in, in case someone came in who didn't want it? But of course, the default position is that it must be on. You vill vatch television, if we have to cram it down your throat. I take a lot of satisfaction out of having at least gotten the clamor silenced by speaking up.

That, I suppose, is a digression from the Syriac liturgy of Malabar. I pray for my readers this week that they would have some peace and some silence, and for all of us that the lips that sang "holy" will be kept free from all that would grieve Our Lord.

Have a good week.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Violent criminals for gun control

Okay, this is a great video.



Heh.

Actually, I'm told that in the book Will, by G. Gordon Liddy (which I have not read and don't particularly want to read), there is a conversation with a career criminal in which he says several of these very things.

HT Rich Gelina

Friday, October 09, 2009

New post at W4 on organ procurement

Here is the post at W4 that I have been working on. It highlights one problem apiece with each of the only two methods for procuring usable vital organs. In each case there are very real concerns as to whether the dead-donor rule is being followed or indeed whether it can be followed.

There is a danger in pointing this out: Because almost no one is ready to conclude that organ transplant should be abandoned, and because most non-Christian ethicists and scientists hold implicitly or explicitly to some sort of personhood theory that makes them dislike the dead-donor rule anyway, this may be used as an excuse for ditching the dead-donor rule and harvesting anyone who is severely cognitively disabled rather than ditching organ transplant. In fact, that's exactly what's happening, as I pointed out here.

But the truth will out anyway. Actually, it's the very ghouls who are pushing for ditching the dead-donor rule who are in some cases telling us these unpleasant facts, so there's no point in our hiding them from ourselves and from the public lest worse befall. Better for pro-lifers to know all the facts and guide their own actions and ideas accordingly.

Monday, October 05, 2009

Change in posting protocols

Dear friends,

I'm trying a change to registered user only comments. I think that this does not require you to have a blogger ID. It says "including OpenID." What I am attempting to cut out is anonymous commentators. If you are a friend, a regular reader, or indeed anyone but a troll, feel free to make contact with me (you will know how to find my e-mail address or will already have it) if you have trouble commenting under the registration protocol, and we will work something out. I'm making this change because of the anonymous troll--whom I believe I have identified--who stopped by on the previous thread.