Different River

”You can never step in the same river twice.” –Heraclitus

December 26, 2005

Is this Religious Neutrality?

Filed under: — Different River @ 11:02 pm

Richard John Neuhaus’ column “While We’re At It” in the back pages of the journal First Things is basically a “printed blog” that pre-dated the online blogs. In the January 2006 issue (not online yet), he writes:

Student from Christian high schools are having a hard time getting accepted at the University of California, Riverside. The university deems some of the high school courses to be biased in favor of Christianity. The curricular review extends to religion classes. “Religion and ethics courses are acceptable,” says the university, “as long as they do not include among its [sic] primary goals the personal religious growth of the student.” If only we were makeing this up.

In 1968, Supreme Court Justice Abe Fortas wrote: “The First Amendment mandates governmental neutrality between religion and religion, and between religion and non-religion.”

The University of California, Riverside is a public — that is, government — university. And this does not look like “neutrality … between religion and non-religion” to me. Where is the ACLU when you need them?

More detail on the controversy — and the lawsuit — here and here. The issue is not limited to Riverside, but to all 10 branches of the University of California. From this article by Mark Earley:

Calvary[ Chapel Christian School]’s science classes are also not up to snuff, according to UC. A textbook by Prentice Hall, Conceptual Physics, is considered acceptable—which is why Calvary is using it. But the textbook they used to use, titled Physics for Christian Schools, contains exactly the same information. The difference? There’s a Bible verse and theological preface for every chapter. And according to UC chemistry professor Barbara Sawrey, the verses alone disqualify the textbook.

Talk about condemning yourself out of your own mouth! These comments make it clear that shutting down the Christian viewpoint is indeed what UC is up to.

They’re All Wrong!

Filed under: — Different River @ 10:30 pm

Back in October, the California Legislature passed, and Gov. Schwarzenegger signed, a law banning the sale or rental of “extremely violent video games” to children. The law ws supposed to take effect on January 1, 2006. Two video game industry groups sued, and U.S. District Judge Ronald Whyte issued a preliminary injunction against enforcement of the law, on freedom-of-speech grounds.

Not only can I not take sides on this, but I think all the sides have got it wrong.

1. The law’s proponents: I can’t side with the law’s proponents, because this law will have absolutely no effect on the problem they are trying to solve. I’m not saying kids should be playing “extremely violent video games” — but there is no reason to believe that this law will stop them. For one thing, those kids whose parents think they ought to have a game like this will just buy it for them, and those kids whose parents provide so little supervision that they can sneak the games in against their parents (weakly communicated) wishes will be able to obtain it anyway, perhaps by ordering it online. (No credit card? They can just buy a Visa, MC, or Amex “gift card” with cash.) Note that this is different from the case of laws prohibiting underage purchase of alcohol and tobacco — those products easily purchased and consumed away from home; video games have to be played somewhere where you can set up the equipment. That’s harder to hide. As for parents who don’t think their kids should have those games, and provide proper supervision — well, those kids already don’t have those games, so the law won’t affect them, either.

2. The judge: Sorry, but I can’t agree with the judge on this one, either. There is a right to “freedom of speech,” but no one who understands the English language (which may not, of course, include the federal courts) would conclude that a video game is “speech.” It may be a “form of expression,” but no one seriously believes that the First Amendment protects every “form of expression.” If you “express” your hatred of someone by strangling them, you will not be able to claim at your murder trial that this is allowed by the First Amdendment — no matter how much your desire to strangle that person was occassioned by your desire to disagree with what he was saying.

3. The video game industry: I can’t take the side of the video game industry, either. I haven’t seen any of the games in questions, but I have trouble endorsing the games if descriptions like this are accurate:

The ruling comes as the $25-billion global game industry faces sharp criticism for sex and violence in some of its titles. Much of the furor has focused on “Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas,” a game that allows players to shoot cops, run over pedestrians and have sex with prostitutes.

Now, putting on my economist hat, I have to ask two questions:

First, I wonder if they are really making that much money off this stuff. If they didn’t make “extremely violent” video games, but made more “other” video games (“a bit violent”?) would their total sales of all video games drop? Or is a substantial percentage of the market for video games made up of consumers who, would buy no video games if they couldn’t get “extremely violent” ones?

Second, are we sure what effect violent video games have on behavior? Apparently, some people think if you do it in a video game, you’re more likely to do it in real like. But isn’t it possible that if you take out your agressions on video, you won’t feel as much of a need to do it in real life? Sort of like the advice to “punch a pillow” when you get so angry you want to punch a person? Having not seen the games in question, or any empirical study of their effects, I can’t say for sure, but I think we might want to consider the possibility that these games reduce, rather than increase, players’ propensity to violence in real life.

Jack Kervorkian is Sick?

Filed under: — Different River @ 9:30 pm

Wesley J. Smith reports:

Jack Kevorkian’s lawyer is upset–and issued a press release to let the rest of us know–that the Michigan Parole Board refused to recommend clemency or pardon, based on Kevorkian’s supposed ill health. But why should it? Kevorkian is an utterly unrepentant murderer who would spend his time as a free man justifying his crime and his assisted suicide campaign. He is right where he belongs.

Now given what Jack Kevorkian is in jail for, wouldn’t it be more consistent with his principles for his “ill health” to result not in clemency, but in execution?

A Year of Different River

Filed under: — Different River @ 12:32 pm

Today marks one year since Different River opened for business with this post. Happy Blogiversary!

Thanks to everyone who’s visited over the past year! I had no idea a year ago that y’all would have visited here 49,114 times in a year! I’m very gratified and inspired by all those who come here, read what I have to say, and leave comments. Please keep reading, leave comments, and tell your friends!

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