Mormons

I’m proud to be an American. I’m ashamed to be an American. And I’m not sure what it means to be an American.

As you know, I’ve been living in London for the past two years. I’m beginning to feel like a local, but I’m still occasionally jolted by my American roots.

When have I felt proud to be an American in London? The first videotaped beheading of an American journalist by a jihadist with a British accent drew some attention over here. But I was dumbstruck to read this sentence in one of the local newspapers: “Scotland Yard warned the public that viewing, downloading or disseminating the video within the UK might constitute a criminal offence under terrorism legislation.”

Viewing the video might be a criminal offense??? Toto, I’m not in Kansas anymore.

In my mind’s eye, I see scores of college kids at Oxford and Cambridge, six drinks into the evening, saying: “Whoa! That dude got his head cut off?! We gotta Google that!”

And now they’ve committed criminal offenses?

Maybe that’s true over here in England, but I’m pretty sure we’d never stand for that in the United States. It makes me proud to be an American.

(I must say that the news of the second beheading of an American journalist dramatically changed the picture in my mind’s eye. Those college kids have now sobered up, and they’re heading off to enlist.)

So much for pride in being an American. Then that nine-year-old girl blew away her shooting instructor with an Uzi. . . .

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Nothing illustrates the way religion can warp the normal function of rational thought quite like the National Jurist’s “most devout law schools” rankings. If you are a person of faith, that’s fine. Mazel tov. And if you want to find new and exciting ways to mingle your religious beliefs with our secular laws, that’s fine too. I mean, I’ll do what I can to oppose you, but in America we must be comfortable with difference.

But picking a law school based on its piety seems pretty dumb. For one thing, law schools should be teaching, you know, laws and stuff. What you do with that knowledge is your own choice, but it seems to me that people should want the best education they can get, and then apply that education to the causes and issues that move them. Why go to Regent Law if you can go to Vanderbilt Law and then advocate for your theocracy from a position of greater strength?

The second problem is that picking a law school because it has some kind of “mission” beyond helping you become a good and employed lawyer seems like a path to pain. But that will become obvious as we actually look at the National Jurist’s list.

In any event, onward Christian lawyers…

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I had packed up my things and was about to turn off the light. That’s when the phone rang here at the Circumcision Law Desk. The shrill tone of the ring sounded more urgent than usual. I put down my box of Pulitzers and picked up the receiver.

“Hell-” “You’ve gotta write quick, Mister! Gawker ran a story on circumcision and it’s crazy!” I replied that I was too old for this game. Tracking down every circumcision tip had left me a hollow shell of a man. But the kid was insistent. “What about the babies???” Now you listen here, you sniveling punk, I said. I was never in it for the babies. Heck, I never could figure out just what I thought about circumcision. Mutilation, health, hygiene, aesthetics. The whole racket made my head spin. And that’s when the young punk said something that set me on my present course.

“There might be a lawsuit. Some Jews are crazy-mad about a new regulation passed by the City of New York and they’re threatening all kinds of holy hell over it. It’s not that New York is outlawing circumcision. It’s not about that. It’s that… well, it’s that some of these Jewish folks do something.” Out with it! “I can’t… I don’t wanna say… It’s that these Jewish fellas, some of them… Well…”

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Luckily for all the non-Mormons in Idaho, the state doesn't find references to grand tetons offensive to anybody.

It’d be one thing if the state of Idaho banned all alcohol because the state sports a large Mormon population and Mormons don’t drink. That might raise a Con Law question or two, but before we could even litigate it out, the state’s many non-Mormons would rebel against the religious theocracy preventing them from drinking. (They wouldn’t call it a “theocracy” because some Grover Norquist-type would convince them that “redistributive taxes” had empowered a “Communist regime,” and the good people of Idaho would blame the black guy, but I digress.)

Banning all alcohol would be too obvious of an imposition of religious dogma upon a secular concern.

Instead, Idaho is trying to get away with a smaller encroachment of religion upon the public sphere. The state of Idaho has effectively banned the sale of one particular kind of vodka because the state believes the company’s marketing campaign is offensive to Mormons.

And no, the marketing campaign is not “drink some of this vodka and then go make fun of Mormons,” or anything the state could reasonably fear might affect the public safety of the citizens of Idaho….

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