I Didn’t Realize Pigs and Dogs Were Mortal Enemies.

Eating dinner with my mother often results in me catching Inside Edition, since she normally watches it after the CBS evening national news.  Sometimes the CBS news and their insistence on sticking with the “both sides are equally at fault” narrative of US politics sends me on an after dinner “anger dampening”walk with my Chow Chow.  If CBS happens to be unobjectionable that particular evening, it normally ends up being an eye-roll worthy story on Inside Edition that peels me off the couch.  As much as I try to focus, something about “in depth” reports on how to protect yourself from hotel peepers combined with fawning reports of Hugh Jackman rescuing children from Wolverine’s oldest foe, Riptide, tends to distract me from my reading, and any attempt at post-dinner conversation would result in an angry “shush!”  Sop instead, Princess gets her evening walk.

The other night, however, a story on Inside Edition caught my eye and doomed Princess to an extra 30 minutes of waiting before her nightly constitutional.  Here, have a watch.  It is safe for work, although probably not safe for humanity.

Stomach sufficiently turned?  Any explanations for the officers’ reactions?  I mean that one dog was already in a catch-pole.  It wasn’t a threat to that officer.  And yet he still felt the need to shoot the poor dog five times?  And how frightening is it that most of those cases began when the officer went to the wrong address to begin with?  How do you protect against that?

My dog, Princess Lyanna Sarella, is a Chow Chow mix.

Digital Image

Whatever you have heard about Chow behavior, toss it when dealing with Princess.  Well, she is incredibly stubborn, so there is that.  But while she is definitely my dog, she bonded almost as strongly with my mother.  On our morning walks we stop at bus stops so the kids can play with her most mornings.  She loves kids and other dogs.  She’s had a 5 year old pull her tail and jump on top of her (my exes kids.  Sigh.) and the most she would do is walk away.  As soon as we let someone in the house, she accepts them.  (She’ll still sit right by my mother or me until she gets used to them.  She’s protective, but not off-putting about it.)   The only way Princess is going to be a danger to anyone is if that person is attacking me or my mother.

But if the cops come into our yard or home aggressively, she is going to bark.  She wouldn’t attack the cops unless they were physically assaulting my mom or me, but this video, as well as countless (okay, about a hundred thousand) others you can find all over Youtube, tell me she has no better than a coin flips shot of surviving the incident.  Given the Chow Chow’s reputation, the truth is probably much worse than that.

Understand me here please.  I am not saying #doglivesmatter.  I am not suggesting this is in anyway the equal to the systematic racism that both consciously and unconsciously results in the violation of the rights of, and far too often the death of, non-white humans.    I am not saying we should be outraged over this instead of the way some cops seem to think African Americans exist for target practice.  But we can care about more than one thing at a time.

This also adds evidence to the idea that there is something wrong in the mindset of some officers for some reason that obviously goes beyond “a few bad eggs.”  I have always heard/read/thought that officers were taught to use force only when necessary, as a last resort.  Yet so many of the videos that launched #Blacklivesmatter, as well as these dog shooting videos, show police officers using force as the default solution.  Indeed, some seem eager to escalate to lethal force.   It is easy to see how itchy trigger fingers added to existing racial bias, once again, conscious and unconscious, results in dead black men.

It is not a “few bad apples.”  It is not a couple of racist officers dragging everyone’s reputations down.  Something is rotten in our criminal justice system, and I fear that until my fellow white people stop looking at the police through our white privilege colored glasses nothing is going to change.  In fact, with the nation’s recent swing towards authoritarianism, along with the now ever present fear of terrorism, things could get far worse before they get any better.  More illegal searches.  More illegal seizures. More stop and frisk.  More illegal surveillance.  More police militarization.  More SWAT raids for minor offenses.  More innocents dead from SWAT raids. More wrong houses.  More dead dogs.  More flashbanged babies. What 4th Amendment?  More black teens body slammed. And of course, many more dead black people.

Apathy is acceptance.  And I fear far too many of us accept the status quo.

It is our shame.

Wonderful, Rational, and Above All Else, Fair. Our Justice System.

Seeing how I come from the county that handed down a totally reasonable 104 1/2 to 216 year prison sentence (not a typo, and not the only insane sentence for drug distribution to come out of Blair County courts) for non-violent drug offenses while imposing an excessively harsh, borderline unconstitutional sentence of 3 to 23 months in jail, followed by 5 years of probation for the indecent assault of a five year old girl, I figured there was nothing the US justice system could do that would surprise me.  Wow, how wrong I was.

And so it was that in February, the two teenagers were arrested for sexually exploiting … themselves.

Wait, what now?

The strange story began last year when the Cumberland County Sheriff’s Office was investigating accusations of a statutory rape involving students at Douglas Byrd High School in Fayetteville, N.C., according to the Fayette Observer.

As part of a broad investigation, Sheriff’s deputies examined the cellphone of Cormega Copening, a star football player who was then 16 years old.

The deputies didn’t find any evidence relating to the alleged statutory rape. What they did find, however, were consensually taken nude photos of Copening and his girlfriend, Brianna Denson, also 16 at the time.

(The Post is using the teenagers’ names because they have been charged as adults. They did not return requests for comment.)

Just as a quick aside.  How “broad” was their investigation into this statutory rape to justify them seizing this kid’s cellphone?  And then they charge him with a crime over pictures they found on his phone unrelated to the case they were investigating?  That may be legal, but you will never convince me that it is ethical.  Moving on….

In almost any other state, such consensually taken photos would be completely legal or, at worst, a misdemeanor. But in North Carolina, Copening and Denson came up against a counterintuitive confluence of laws.

“In North Carolina you are considered an adult at 16 years old as far as being charged,” Swain said. “But to disseminate and receive sexually explicit texts, photos or videos, you must be over 18.”

And so it was that in February, the two teenagers were arrested for sexually exploiting … themselves.

North Carolina to the teens: “Sex?  Sexting?  Don’t you kids know you could ruin your lives doing this stuff?  Here, let us ruin your lives to show you.”

Charging documents listed Copening as both the culprit (as an adult) and the victim (as a minor), simply for snapping a nude photo of himself in the mirror and sending it to his girlfriend.

“Copening’s age traps him in a sort of sexting legal netherworld,” wrote North Carolina Lawyers Weekly. “He’s accused of exploiting a minor (himself), but because North Carolina is one of just two states that automatically tries 16-year-olds as adults, he’s being tried as an adult.”

So as we try to wrap our minds around the idea of sexually exploiting yourself, at least we can take solace in the knowledge that as ridiculous as these charges are, at least they aren’t serious.

All told, prosecutors charged Copening with five felony counts of sexually exploiting a minor: two for taking nude selfies, two more for sending them to his girlfriend, and one for possessing an explicit photo of Denson on his phone. Denson, meanwhile, was charged with two felony counts of sexual exploitation of a minor: one for taking a nude selfie and another for sending it to Copening.

The felony charges meant that Copening faced up to 10 years in prison, if convicted; Denson faced up to four. They also could have been labeled sex offenders for life.

Jesus fucking Christ on a pogo stick.  Hasn’t this prosecutors office ever heard of judgement calls?  Why the hell did they even file these charges?  Are they black or something?  (Yep.)

While the existence of the internet resulted in the accused couples prom(?) pictures to be plastered on newspapers across the world, it also made damn sure that this case wouldn’t be yet another example of prosecutorial misconduct heard of by no one except those involved.  Thankfully, in this case the outcry may be loud enough to change future applications of the law.

The case quickly drew intense criticism, both in Fayetteville community and around the globe.

“We’ve got too much big crime in this community to put this kind of effort into wrecking two kids’ lives,” wrote the Fayetteville Observer’s editorial board, recommending the statutes be amended. “This should never happen again to anyone.”

Legal scholars lined up to pick apart the prosecution’s case. Many focused on the sheer absurdity of the situation.

“It’s dysfunctional to be charged with possession of your own image,” Justin Patchin, a professor of criminal justice at the University of Wisconsin and cyberbullying expert, told the Guardian. “I don’t think it should be a criminal offense where there is no victim.”

“You’re talking about millions of kids being charged with child pornography” if the law were applied nationwide, psychologist Jeff Temple of the University of Texas Medical Branch told the Fayette Observer.

Others delivered even starker assessments.

“It’s ludicrous,” Fred Lane, a computer security and privacy expert, told the Guardian. “It’s crazy. It’s an overreach.” He explained that such laws stem from the 1983 Supreme Court decision upholding a ban on child porn, but that many state laws were woefully outdated in our current era of cellphones and texting.

Sgt. Sean Swain is not impressed with the outcry.  In what is sure to earn a nomination for “Most Ludicrous Comment by Law Enforcement Personnel, 2015,” Sgt. Swain insists that he is saving these poor, misguided kids by arresting them for multiple felonies.  Seriously.  (Bolding, as always, is mine.)

“This technology and this problem that we’re having with this case, we don’t know where it’s going to go in five years when they apply for college,” Swain said. “We don’t know where these pictures are going to go. We’re more or less saving the kids from themselves because they’re not seeing what’s going to come down the road.”

Oh, fuck off.  Or for a less vulgar response, here is U. of Miami law professor Mary Anne Franks:

“This [case] demonstrates an utter failure to understand the nature of sexual exploitation,” she wrote in an e-mail to The Post. “Consensual sexual activity among peers should not be a crime; we should not allow our social hysteria over teen sexual activity to justify prosecutions that will destroy teenagers’ lives ‘for their own good.’

….

“Sexual activity that does not even involve another person — such as taking a sexually explicit photo of yourself — should not ever be a crime. In fact, criminalizing such expression likely violates the First Amendment,” she said. “Child sexual exploitation laws were clearly designed to address the exploitation of children by adults, not teenagers exploring their sexuality on their own or with a willing peer.”

Officials would be better off focusing on numerous instances of people maliciously sharing explicit photos or videos against the wishes of those depicted, so called “revenge porn,” she said.

“Non-consensual sexual activity, on the other hand, including the creation or distribution of private sexual images, is wrong and should be a crime. This should be the focus of law enforcement, yet North Carolina does not yet even have a law prohibiting this conduct,” Franks said.

What makes me even more sick over this case?  Rather than risk their futures in a legal fight, they both signed plea deals.

….

both teens have taken plea agreements in order to avoid trial. In July, Denson pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of “disseminating harmful material to minors.” If she stays out of trouble for the next year, her record will be wiped clean and she will avoid the label of sex offender.

Copening followed suit earlier this month, pleading guilty on Sept. 4 to two similar misdemeanor counts in exchange for the same deal.

Now let’s watch the authorities responsible justify their actions.

“The legislature makes the law; I enforce it,” Cumberland County District Attorney Billy West told the Fayette Observer. “The legislature has obviously criminalized the conduct, arguably at a more serious level than we resolved the case at.”

Similarly, Sheriff Moose Butler told the newspaper that he didn’t necessarily agree with the felony charges but that it was his duty to enforce the law as it’s written.

While the actual author of the law just rolls his eyes.

But the man who wrote the law back in 1990 said he never intended for it to be used against kids in a consensual relationship.

“That would seem to me not the thing that most prosecutors are elected to do,” said North Carolina state Rep. Paul “Skip” Stam of West’s decision to prosecute the two teens.

Seriously, that justification from DA West is laughable.  He’s telling us that he has never made a judgement call while in office?  Bullshit.  By his logic, why does it even matter who the DA even is if all they do is mindlessly follow a set of guidelines handed down by the legislature?

 

Stop Gloating.

Let’s get one thing out of the way immediately:  I understand.

Believe me, oh how I understand.

First there were the years of seeing him, his innumerable younger siblings, and his parents on their hit television show, produced and aired on a channel that once was known for educational programing*. Train wreck watchers who tuned in for the creepily trashy Toddlers & Tiaras or its sad, exploitative, insulting-to-both-the-audience-and-the-subject spinoff Here Comes Honey Boo Boo could stay tuned and wash off some of the filth with the equally creepy but wholesomely presented Duggar family.  Yet as horrifying as the Quiverfull movement is to people not still living in the 1500’s, as outdated as the unquestioned patriarchal family structure seemed in the 21st century, as abusive as forcing your older children to play parent to their younger siblings may be, and as illegal as pretending that Michelle Duggar was providing all her children with a adequate education definitely was, they were still just a minor blip on the pop culture radar screen**.  Sometimes people would notice the family and ask an embarrassing question, such as “are the girls all0wed to go to college?”,  and the family would have to make some sacrifice such as allowing their older daughters to take classes online from a Christian university, but on the whole they were just a minor little freak show that most people viewed as wholesome and harmless.

And I really believe that most people thought it would stay at this level.  If it would have, perhaps we wouldn’t be where we are today.  We’ll never know where that untraveled path would lead, because for some reason the Duggar family wanted more of something other than children.  Was it fame?  Power?  Money?  Whatever it was, the Duggars were suddenly everywhere, with their faces confronting grocery shoppers all across the nation seemingly every week as arranged marriages of their daughters were hyped as media events similar to the stylings of one Kim K… I forget her last name.  Maybe you know who I’m talking about.

And while their daughters arranged marriages were used as publicity for their show, publicity that worked I will point out, with Jessa’s wedding drawing their largest amount of viewers ever, they also pulled a Duck Dynasty, attempting to roll their celebrity/fame/infamy into a politically influential position with the conservative base of the Republican party.  (Of course, knowing that Quiverfull families are birthing out endless babies to be warriors for Jesus against the forces of secularism, also known as the “out-breed the atheists” strategy for winning the culture wars, it really isn’t a surprise that they would turn to politics eventually.)  First we had Michelle Duggar recording a horrifically trans-phobic robocall in opposition to an anti-discrimination ordinance in Fayetteville, Arkansas that painted trans women as an evil on par with Catholic priests, fighting for the right to use the proper public restrooms and locker rooms only so they could spring out of the toilets and molest little girls.  Next, Jessa Duggar apparently looked at the controversy and publicity her mother was enjoying and decided that she too could say something horribly offensive and took to social media to compare the aborting of a potential life in a procedure that is almost always performed well before the point of viability to a collection of cells that not only lack thoughts and feelings, but also the ability to feel pain, to the systematic attempted extermination of an entire religion mistaken as race of people through methods that caused practically infinite suffering.  Yes, she compared abortion to the Holocaust.

And then there was Josh. (Information in this paragraph taken from Josh Duggar’s Wikipedia page.)  Perhaps inspired by his fathers two terms in the Arkansas House of Representatives, Josh quickly took to politics, first serving as a consultant, then working on Mike “The Huckster” Huckabee’s primary campaign in 2008, and then with Rick “My Sheets are Stained with” Santorum in 2012.  This experience earned him the role of the Executive Director of FRC Action in June of 2013, a high profile role with the Family Research Council, a job he used to rub elbows with buckets full of high profile Republicans, including a large percentage of those involved in the 2016 Goat Rodeo.
Yes, from eldest of 19 children, to used car salesman, to cock-gobbling*** with Rick Santorum, to full on roman orgies*** with the whole field of Republican presidential candidates, Josh Duggar seemed to most like a man with a rich future in the conservative movement and possibly national politics before him.  After all, he appealed to the base, and he had name recognition and minor celebrity.  Who better for the GOP to mold into a future candidate?  (Assuming they continue being, in the words of Gov. Bobby “Jesus, compare his speeches from 2012 to his current ones.  Is it even the same person?” Jindal, “the stupid party.”)

Oh, how low one can fall so quickly.

And when someone falls, especially someone as smug, smarmy, bigoted, hate-filled, and obnoxious as Josh Duggar, the first impulse is to point and laugh.  And mock.  And gloat.  And rub his whole families little noses in it.

But this is much too serious for that.

Josh Duggar is an admitted serial child abuser.  He sexually assaulted 5 female children, including some of his younger siblings.  For some reason, the State Trooper who dealt with the case let him off with a warning and the understanding that Josh would receive counseling.  Rather than counseling, his family shipped him off with a family friend for a month or three, then lied to the police about it.  The victims who were members of the Duggar clan almost certainly never got any form of counseling.  In fact, if you read the vomit inducing section on sexual abuse in the home schooling books they use, they probably blamed the victims for dressing like little sluts.

Josh was a teenager molester who should have received a ton of counseling, at the minimum.  His victims deserved to receive all the help they could be provided in order to deal with the abuse.  Instead, the Duggar’s worldview allowed them to brush this serious incident off, treat it like a joke by sending Josh off with a family friend while claiming he was at a counseling center, and sweep it under the rug until the whole shit show exploded in their faces.

This is not the time to gloat.  This is the time to feel bad for the victims of Josh’s abuse, and for that matter, for Josh himself, who never received the treatment a confused teenager who performed his horrific actions obviously needed.  It is the time to speak up about Quiverfull and the whole patriarch uber alles culture that provides so much cover for rape culture and sexual abuse of children.  And it is time to make sure Discovery Networks does more than just pull 19 Kids…. off the air until the media frenzy dies down.  TLC needs to cancel this train wreck immediately.

When a picture of Rick Santorum fisting Bobby Jindal while Mike Huckabee alternates gobbling each of their cocks shows up…..  Then we gloat.  Got it?

*Yeah, the letters in TLC stand for “The Learning Channel.  I may be mistaken, but I believe TLC was the first of the edutainment channel dominoes to fall for the sake of the almighty ratings point, a trend that resulted in travesties such as Finding Bigfoot, Ancient Aliens, Mermaids, and Chasing UFO’s, amongst other “evidence based” programing.

** I started to do a little research into how many people actually watch this trash, but quickly suffered an attack of ADHD.  In September 2014, the season premiere drew an audience of 3.29 million, but this was in the midst of a complete media saturation of everything Duggar as the girls get close to their weddings.  The summer finale that preceded this episode that aired in June 2014 only drew 3.18 million eyeballs, assuming everyone watching had both eyes and were using them both to watch the show.  Stupid humor aside, it drew 1.59 million viewers, or less than half the September premiere.  (Numbers taken from this Variety article.)  Going from the Wikipedia page, it seems that until the media push really started in earnest around season 8 in the spring of 2014, the show could claim anywhere between one million and one and a half million viewers, with some episodes bottoming out around .86 of a million, and the odd episode approaching 1.6 million.  As the wedding craze started, more eyes tuned in, with the show’s ratings ping ponging around with anywhere from 1.5 million viewers to 3 million, peaking at 3.53 million for Jessa’s wedding.  So people watch, and it is a huge deal for TLC, but it isn’t exactly a cultural juggernaut.

*** All cock-gobbling and roman orgies are assumed, based on well-known hypothesis’ as to the cause of extreme homophobia.  Excepting some very disturbing alt political slash fiction pages, there is no known accounts of any cock-gobbling occurring between Santorum and Duggar.

White Privilege

White privilege is being confident that if I get shot dead unjustly by an officer of the law, there is at least a chance, however small, that said officer may be held accountable.

White privilege is sitting safe inside, Fox News on the television, condemning people for their reactions to something you will never have to experience yourself.

White privilege is responding to the racial makeup of the Ferguson Police force by remarking, “if more blacks were qualified, I’m sure there would be more of them on the force.”

White privilege turns 150 feet away into 8 to 10 and coming right for ’em.

White privilege is my white ass, sitting safe and warm in front of my PC, urging restraint for the protesters, knowing as well as they do that all the peaceful protests in the world aren’t going to do a damn thing about institutionalized racism.

 

Plans for Saturday….

Well I know what I’ll be doing tomorrow: (From the Altoona Mirror, and it is behind a pay wall.  Sorry.)

Three groups will lead a demonstration Saturday in support of a Bedford County teenager who faces charges of desecration of a statue of Jesus.

The event, coordinated by Truth Wins Out: Center Against Religious Extremism, American Atheists and Pennsylvania Nonbelievers, will feature a slate of speakers who will discuss why some believe the 14-year-old’s rights to free speech were violated by the charges. The protest is set to begin at noon near the county courthouse, 200 S. Juliana St.

Some organizers wanted to make it clear that the law is a problem, whether or not you support the specific actions of the teen in question.

Evan Hurst, associate director of Truth Wins Out, said that although the organization doesn’t necessarily support the boy’s alleged actions, there are large implications for his prosecution.

“Regardless of whether the kid’s actions were polite – I think we can all agree that what he did was rude – there is a larger issue here, and it has to do with free speech,” Hurst said.

The teen was charged with desecration after he posted photos of himself on his Facebook page that show him standing over a statue of a kneeling Jesus and mimicking a sex act. A number of national groups have taken interest in the case, including the American Civil Liberties Union, and the story has gone viral online.

The press this story has received has me overjoyed.  For those not following along at home, I jumped all over the story on September 10th when my local paper first covered it, blogging about it first and then reaching out to the ACLU and The Friendly Atheist, amongst others.  Hermant Mehta then wrote about it at The Friendly Atheist, and the next thing I knew it had exploded.* ( For my readers who missed my coverage of the story,  you can find the original piece here, and the two update articles here and here. )  While I knew the ACLU had taken an interest in the case, seeing a coalition form around Truth Wins Out to organize a demonstration really brought a smile to my face.  (And yes, I am pretty much going to find a reason to quote the whole article since The Altoona Mirror made the decision to stick their entire fishwrap behind a pay wall.)

Hurst said Truth Wins Out reached out to Pennsylvania groups about putting together a rally for the boy and received positive response from the Pennsylvania Nonbelievers.

American Atheists asked to get involved shortly after, he said.

The leaders of all three groups – Truth Wins Out Executive Director Wayne Besen, American Atheists President David Silverman and Pennsylvania Nonbelievers President Brian Fields – will speak at the demonstration.

Hurst said that Truth Wins Out is not an atheist organization but works with religious groups to protect freedoms. According to its website, the organization “works to demolish the very foundation of anti-gay prejudice” by debunking myths about the LGBT community.

“If my right to speak out and criticize whatever I want to criticize is being infringed upon, then that is an issue for everybody, and that includes conservative Christians,” Hurst said. “The fact of the matter is that this 14-year-old kid is not a sticking point in the culture; he’s a kid who did something stupid. It really quickly just spiraled out of control.”

The District Attorney in Bedford County is Bill Higgins, a far right conservative Christian in an area that practically requires those religious beliefs in order to get elected.  He is openly antagonistic to anyone who holds a different opinion than him on the issue of church and state separation, and since he displays practically zero Constitutional literacy, that group includes just about everyone.  Remember this comment he posted on Facebook when the story was just beginning to catch fire?

“I guess I should take solace in the fact that the liberals are mad at me – again,” Higgins said Thursday on his Facebook page. “As for this case, this troubled young man offended the sensibilities and morals of OUR community. … His actions constitute a violation of the law, and he will be prosecuted accordingly. If that tends to upset the ‘anti-Christian, ban-school-prayer, war-on-Christmas, oppose-display-of-Ten-Commandments’ crowd, I make no apologies.”

I don’t know about you, but for me, the instant someone mentions “the war on Christmas” in a non-sarcastic way, I know I am dealing with a true winged nut.  Adding in support for school prayer is just a bonus.  Predictably, DA Higgins does not disappoint now that this story has hit the rally at the courthouse stage.

Bedford County District Attorney Bill Higgins said that concerns with the case are blown out proportion and were made worse by exaggerated media reports that suggested the teen would serve multiple years in jail or in juvenile detention.

Higgins said that by filing charges, the case can be handled in the appropriate way – through the courts.

“The place to dispute it is in a courtroom,” he said. “I don’t want to stand on a street corner and protest, though they’re welcome to do that.”

He said the teenager is going to likely do some community service for his actions but will not face jail time or juvenile placement.

“The kid did something stupid. He’s 14 years old,” Higgins said. “It’s obvious this kid needs some help, and we’re going to get him the help that he needs.”

Sigh.  He really doesn’t get it, does he?  Reading his Facebook comment about all the horrible anti-Christians he loves to upset unfortunately doesn’t really reveal much about his own personal beliefs or opinions.  He could truly believe each word in that post, believe me, I know people who do.  But at the same time, he could just be pandering to the local GOP base, knowing that by posting that knuckle-dragging screed he just earned a bunch of votes the next time he comes up for reelection.  His most recent comments, however, reek of just plain missing the point.  Sure, some articles covering this story have stressed the range of punishments this teen could face if convicted in court, and while two years in a juvenile facility is indeed the maximum punishment, he would almost certainly receive a less severe sentence.  The severity of the punishment is a red herring in this case.  I would be writing about it, as I believe others would be as well, if the maximum penalty was a 5 dollar fine.  The point is this: Taking a picture is not a crime.

The problem isn’t the punishment, it is the law itself.  Remember, the teen did no actual damage to the statue.  He took a picture so that it looked like the statue was performing oral sex on him.  That’s it.  The statue is still there, on its knees, wantonly luring those with immature, blasphemous senses of humor to violate it.  In fact, this could be the only time in history that the phrase “asking for it” could be used legitimately.  For this statue of Jesus is, without a doubt, asking for it.  This teen was arrested because someone saw his pictures on Facebook.   Period.  Full stop.  He didn’t slide a copy under every door in the community.  He didn’t send one to the statue’s owners with a note demanding the removal of the statue, or the next time he would give Jesus a facial.  He took a picture of questionable taste and posted it on Facebook.  Strangely enough, teenagers are known for having questionable taste.  They are fucking teenagers!  His pictures were not the first pictures taken of that statue, I will guarantee it.  We live in the age of smart phones.  Half of his school probably has pictures of themselves and the statue.  Some probably have their arms around it.  Some probably show acts much more perverse than oral sex with statue Jesus.

This is the second time I have seen DA Higgins make a comment that “it’s obvious this kid needs some help…”  Obvious?  To who?  Other than DA Higgins, I mean.  He’s a teen who took a picture.  He isn’t naked in the picture.  He isn’t shoving his bare junk in statue Jesus’ face.  He took a picture that I am willing to bet 50 people took before him.  But DA Higgins thinks it is obvious that he needs help, and that, not the possible punishments, is the real problem here.

You see, as much as many of my fellow central Pennsylvanians want it to be, not believing in Jesus is not a crime.  DA Higgins may indeed think that anyone who would pose for this picture “needs help,” but that thought requires a belief in Jesus, and the belief that posing for the picture constitutes blasphemy or desecration.  But for non-believers, including those who just believe in other faiths than Christianity, it is just a statue of a man on his knees.  Sure, most realize that it is a statue of Jesus, but Jesus, as much as it offends your delicate sensibilities, doesn’t mean anything to them.  This area may indeed be overwhelmingly Christian, but no matter how large of a percentage the Christians may be locally, you can not force non-Christians to hold your statue in reverence.  The United States, no matter how many David Barton’s the right vomits up, is decidedly not a Christian nation.  We are a product of the Enlightenment, with freedom to believe, or not to believe, enshrined in the First Amendment to our Constitution.  We have no religious test to hold national office.  Our founding documents avoid God and religion.  Our founding fathers left libraries full of documents and letters explaining the wall of separation.  Blasphemy is not illegal.

DA Higgins “said that by filing charges, the case can be handled in the appropriate way”.  The only “appropriate way” to handle this case is to dismiss all charges and then repeal the law.  Either the police and the DA are overreaching by charging this teen under the law, or the law is unconstitutional.  Period.  There is really no other way to look at it.  Charge him with trespassing if you really must extract your pound of flesh, although I am not aware of any “No Trespassing” signs in the vicinity of kneeling Jesus.  This law is going to cost Bedford County money; this teen and his parents may just want it all to go away, quietly pleading guilty and moving on, but now that the law is well known, someone will push the issue in order to get it into the courts.  Hell, I’ll snap the picture if I must.

I realize that some people may read this and wonder why people are so concerned about this issue.  Here is my answer to them:

A blogger found guilty of insulting the Prophet Mohammad in his postings on Facebook has been sentenced to death.

You should go and read that story, but that is the only part that I need to post here.  Don’t even try throwing any “slippery slope” fallacy claims at me either.  I realize the difference between Iran and the United States.  I also realize that there is a nice portion of Christians who are actively working towards turning the United States into a Christian theocracy.  American Christians routinely shame their country by working on things like Uganda’s “kill the gays” law, and praising things like Russia’s laws against homosexual tolerance and activism.

That blogger, Soheil Arabi, faces death for what he posted on Facebook.  This teen faces up to 2 years in a juvenile facility for what he posted to Facebook.  Yes, the two possible punishments are worlds apart, especially since the teen, if found guilty, will likely only suffer community service and a fine.  But as I said earlier in this post, the actual punishment does not matter.

Right now in Pennsylvania, part of the United States of America, they can arrest you for posting a picture on Facebook that offends their religious sensibilities.  Just like in Iran.

If this stands, how long until some town or county, also with a super majority of conservative Christians, decides they don’t need the picture, just a post on Facebook that offends their religious sensibilities?  How many of you practice no religion, or religions that are not the majority religion, and write about similar issues on the internet?  How long til you offend the majority?

Blasphemy laws are anti-freedom, anti-liberty,anti-Christian, and anti-American.  Make no mistake about it, this is, as currently being enforced in the Facebook photo case, a blasphemy law.  Those in the Christian majority would do well to remember the early days of Christianity, when it was a minority religion that dealt with real persecution.  There are areas of the world right now where Christians are persecuted over their religion, real persecution, not the false “persecution of the majority” Fox News and other outlets wants you to believe takes place in the United States.  How sad, how quickly the once persecuted flip the script once they find themselves in power.

While I am aware that prohibitions against representations of the prophet preclude this example, ignore that fact for argument’s sake.  The very Christians who support this law, this case in particular, and who will be making up the counter protest I totally expect to see tomorrow would be rioting in the streets if the teen in question would have been charged for taking the same picture with a statue of Muhammad.

Though I doubt it will do any good, I’ll urge supporters of this law and the arrest of this teen to do the same thing I ask of supporters of school prayer, prayer before council meetings, displays of the Ten Commandments, crosses on public land, or any similar dismantling of the wall of separation.  Imagine you are the minority.  Imagine your child is led in a prayer to Allah every morning before class.  Imagine having to swear to tell the truth on a Koran before testifying in court.  Imagine your tax dollars paying to erect and light a huge pentagram for Winter Solstice each year.  Imagine entering a courthouse, seeking justice on either side of a case, and first passing by a stone slab carved with the Purusharthas.  And imagine that it is you, or your child, being arrested because the police decided something you posted on Facebook insulted the Prophet.

You won’t, or if you do, you will quickly justify the law and your support with a quick “but we’re the majority, not those heathen Satanistic mooslembuddhishindiwiccatheists.”  Cause if logic and rational thought worked, we wouldn’t need the sections of our nation’s laws that are intended to protect the minority from oppression by the majority.  And I’m sure the GOP never even thought about the demographics of the nation changing enough that whites would be a minority when they were developing their inherently racist “Southern Strategy.”  Things can change.

Okay, I have signs to make.  Hope to see some of you tomorrow!

Fact Box

If you go

What: Protest in support of Bedford teen

When: Noon Saturday

Where: Downtown Bedford, near the courthouse

I’ll be back with pictures from the rally tomorrow.  I really hope that I can write a story of an inspiring, peaceful event.  Knowing the area as I do, I just worry that some of the more fringe “Christians” may get a bit drunk and drive into Bedford to go bash them some atheists.  I doubt it, but that doesn’t mean I’m not a bit worried about it.

*Once again, I am not claiming that Foster Disbelief is the reason the story got covered.   The story more than likely would have gotten picked up no matter what I did, and I have no idea if other sites were covering it before Foster Disbelief and The Friendly Atheist posted our articles.  No horn blowing here, just going over the timeline I’m aware of.

I’m Too Pissed to Come Up With a Witty Headline

There is so much wrong with this story that I don’t even know where to begin.  (Since the Altoona Mirror is now online for subscribers only, the link may not work, but I’ll be quoting much of the story below.)  Death threats, the “press” overstepping its bounds, the police trolling Facebook for “criminal” activity, and a stupid teenager.  Yep, this story has it all.  If it came out of a theocracy, it would be just one more thought crime out of many, but this took place in the United States, in Pennsylvania, in a town not far from my home.

An Everett teenager faces a misdemeanor charge for allegedly “desecrating” a statue of Jesus outside a religious center in his hometown, an act that drew violent threats online.

Now I know what is going through your minds right now.  “He desecrated a religious statue, why did Foster put “criminal” in quotes?  That is a real crime.”  Stay with me for a minute, let me describe the “desecration” for you.  Any guesses?  Do you think he painted a pentagram and “666” on the statue?  Toppled it over, perhaps?  Smeared it with feces?  Maybe he dressed up a statue of the Virgin Mary in Victoria’s Secret products?  Make sure you use a number 2 pencil for your answers, and…………..pencils down!

In a report issued Tuesday, state police said the 14-year-old boy posted photographs of the desecration on the Internet. Photos on his Facebook page dating to July appear to show the boy standing over a statue of a kneeling Jesus, simulating a sex act.

If someone has the ACLU on speed dial, give them a ring.  This kid needs a good lawyer.  Yeah, you read right.  He didn’t vandalize the statue in any way.  He did no physical harm to the statue at all.  He took a picture of himself in front of the statue so it looked like Jesus was giving him a hummer.  How the fuck is that criminal?  That isn’t desecration, or vandalism, he was arrested and charged with a misdemeanor for a thought crime.  He is being charged with blasphemy, disguised as “desecration.”  But wait, it gets oh so much worse, thanks to a vigilant organization known as the Bedford County Free Press.  See, while this teenager is being railroaded by the police for taking a picture that offended their invisible sky daddy, the police can not release his name because of his status as a juvenile.  The Bedford County Free Press however, with their pearls firmly clutched and their knickers mega twisted, were offended.  Those folks in Pittsburgh and Philadelphia may be Satan worshiping, feminist, Muslim, liberal, socialist, Nazi, Demon-crats bowing to the altar of secularism, but this is Pennsyl-tucky, the God fearing, Atheist hating, church going, Republican voting, women submitting, gun toting, bathed in the blood of the lamb, Jesus meek and mild, real American part of the state, and they are not going to stand for anyone making it look like their statue of Jesus on his knees is down there for any other reason than prayer, thank you very much!  So they published the 14 year old kids name.

While police released few details and didn’t mention the juvenile’s name, the Bedford County Free Press – an online news organization that shares police reports and gossip – first discussed the case last month, posting the photos and sharing the child’s name and hometown.

With predictable results from the Christian community.  You know, the community who believes in Jesus, the son of God who preached such tactics as “turning the other cheek.”

Hundreds of comments followed, many from outraged county residents. Several posted violent threats. A new post on the charges has drawn more threats.

“Break his arms and legs, teach him some respect,” one read.

Can you feel the Christian love?

The teenager’s juvenile court charge, formally titled “desecration, theft or sale of a venerated object,” is a second-degree misdemeanor in the Pennsylvania Code. The law defines desecration as “defacing, damaging, polluting or otherwise physically mistreating in a way that the actor knows will outrage the sensibilities” of people who learn of the action.

Did he deface it?  No.  Damage it?  No.  Pollute it?  No.  Physically mistreat it in any way?  NO.  THERE WAS NO CRIME COMMITTED!  (Apologies for the caps.)  He took a picture at a certain angle that made it look like Jesus would have supported marriage equality.

Charges under the 1972 law appear to be rare: The last case to make widespread news in Pennsylvania was in 2010, when a Wilkes-Barre college student urinated on a Christmas Nativity scene. The student in that case pleaded guilty and apologized publicly.

Do you see the major difference in the cases?  Perhaps how the student in the 2010 case actually did something?

Look, I never do this.  I post here for the few that stop by, and enjoy knowing that a small amount of people care enough about what I say to follow my blog.  But this is a local story in a small city, and I am afraid this is going to get passed over by the larger community.  I’m sending it on to other outlets, but please, share this post if you can.  This poor teen is getting a raw deal from an unconstitutional law.

I am a very vocal atheist with beliefs that are on the fringe in some cases.  I believe that teaching children that people who do not follow your exact religion are going to Hell is child abuse.  I’m also of a mind that home schooling your kids so you can teach them made up garbage in place of factual science and history should be illegal.  I think using a 6 year old as a prop at an anti-abortion protest is immoral.  I think the Quiverfull movement and America’s favorite freak show, the Duggars, are harmful to their children, no matter how many smiles they give the cameras or even what they say themselves.  Dissent is not a trait nurtured in families such as those; more like a weed to be pulled as soon as it sprouts.  Yet as harmful as I find much of religion, I do not advocate the vandalism of churches, or the desecration of their symbols.  We as an atheist community are supposed to be above things like that.  We claim we hold our ideas because of evidence and rational thought, and in an open society, our ideas will win.  Vandalism and desecration moves the conversation away from rationality.  Let them lash out and vandalize atheist plaques and displays out of fear.  We have no need to respond in kind.

But this is a kid.  Who took a photo.  That’s it.  The only damage he caused is in the minds of people who viewed the photo and lost their shit.  The statue is still there, longing for a dick to suck deep in prayer.  If he would have vandalized, or damaged in anyway, the statue, then I would back up the charges, though not the Bedford County Free Presses’ irresponsible act of publishing his name.  But he didn’t.  He took a picture.

That is not a crime.

 

 

Silly Black People, Don’t You Know Racism is Over?

For reals for real*.

Look, we elected a biracial man to the White House twice now.  Once could have been a fluke, but we’re talking twice now!  And not only a biracial man, but a biracial man from Kenya who practices Islam and is using the office to plan the destruction of our great nation as he joins the liberal elite in their ivory towers and the man hating feminazis to turn America into a socialist utopia, which doubly proves there is no racism anymore.  Also, look at Jay-Z and Beyonce!  They are rich, and black, therefore, no more racism!

Sure, I hear other white people at work make racist comments all the time, but I’m sure they are just being ironic.  People who insist on putting Obama’s head on the body of an ape or a monkey are doing so because of his ears, not the color of his skin.  Yeah, just as many, if not more, white people use drugs than blacks in this nation, but I am sure there is a rational reason the cops arrest blacks far more than whites for drug crimes that doesn’t involve racism.  Maybe black people just suck at doing drugs?  I’m sure George Zimmerman would still be walking the streets if Trayvon Martin was white**.

Don’t bring up slavery, please.  That was forever ago.  Seriously.  Same with segregation.  Ancient history.  It’s not like my mom remembers traveling to Virginia on her honeymoon and sitting down at a diner counter, only to have my father’s sister*** pull her out of the diner by her arm to tell her that was where the black people sat.  It’s not like my dad’s sister*** told my mom that, quote, “they like it that way.”

In the rush to crucify Darren Wilson, it is wrong to point out facts that have nothing to do with the matter at hand, like that he “entered the police force in 2009, joining a nearly all-white, 45-member task force that patrolled Jennings, Missouri, a small, impoverished city of 14,000 where the residents were 89 percent African-American. ”  I’m sure there was a perfectly good reason that the task force patrolling a 90% African-American community was practically all white.  Maybe all the local black people had felonies already, disqualifying them from working for the police?  Bet you never thought of that possibility, now did you?  And how is it relevant that his former unit was shut down with all members fired?  It isn’t like the person who took over the force after the mass firing, Lt. Jeff Fuesting, summed the problems of the previous force up like this or anything:

“There was a disconnect between the community and the police department. There were just too many instances of police tactics which put the credibility of the police department in jeopardy. Complaints against officers. There was a communication breakdown between the police and the community. There were allegations involving use of force that raised questions.”

 

“Allegations involving use of force?”  That isn’t specific enough to make a judgement.  Perhaps they weren’t using enough force, did you ever think about that?  My God, the way people are carrying on, you’d think Hercules had a Facebook account he used for racist statements and notpologies:

“Ferguson riots have very little to do with the shooting of the young man,” Sorbo wrote, because, of course, he knows. “It is an excuse to be the losers these animals truly are. It is a tipping point to frustration built up over years of not trying, but blaming everyone else, the Man, for their failures. It’s always someone else’s fault when you give up. Hopefully this is a reminder to the African Americans (I always thought we (sic) just Americans. Oh, well) that their President the (sic) voted in has only made things worse for them, not better.”

Jesus fuck people.  It’s not like Fox News spent 8 hours trying to scare white people with talk of a radical group of “New Black Panthers.”

Six Fox News shows have discussed the phony New Black Panthers scandal during a total of 95 segments since Megyn Kelly’s June 30 interview hyping the unsubstantiated allegations of right-wing activist J. Christian Adams. In all, these Fox shows have devoted more than eight hours of airtime to discussing the New Black Panthers.

Just more proof that we are living in a post-racial society****.

 

 

* No, not “for reals for real.”

**  This one is actually probably true, if only because George Zimmerman never would have accosted Trayvon Martin if he were white.

*** I refuse to call her my “aunt.”  As far as I am aware, I have never even met the woman.  I never met my dad’s parents either, but they had an excuse.  They are dead.  My father’s sister?  Apparently she is still alive, a fact I only know because she sends my mom a card every now and then.

**** To be honest, I’d settle for a “post-Fox News society” about now.