Patterico's Pontifications


So Does This Mean That Funding PBS and NPR Violates the Establishment Clause?

Filed under: General — Aaron Worthing @ 6:45 am

[Guest post by Aaron Worthing; if you have tips, please send them here.  Or by Twitter @AaronWorthing.]

Now first, you guys should take all of this reporting with a grain of salt if only because reporting on legal issues is so typically poor in relation to American courts, and I have no reason to believe that it gets better when Britain is involved.  Of course, I also don’t know how to do independent legal research in regard to English law, so I am not going to be able to fact check this.  Still if this story is accurate, the law is going positively batty in Britain:

Rules to prevent religious discrimination can now also be used to protect a belief in the BBC’s ethos of public service broadcasting, a tribunal has ruled.

Its extraordinary decision elevates the BBC’s core principle to a place in the law equivalent to Christianity.

And the move leaves the way clear for long-serving employee Devan Maistry to sue the Corporation for wrongful dismissal.

South African-born Mr Maistry, who worked for the BBC Asian Network, says he suffered discrimination for six years until he was dismissed last year.

He has filed a claim for ‘religious or belief discrimination’, which allegedly took place against his philosophical view that ‘public service broadcasting has the higher purpose of promoting cultural interchange and social cohesion’.

So, is this a crazy ruling by a crazy judge?  Well, it’s certainly within the realm of possibility, but the statement that it was a cause of action “for ‘religious or belief discrimination’” (emphasis added) suggests that there might even be a statutory basis for this.  In other words, the crazy ones might be in the legislative chamber.  Or it might merely be referring to a prior precedent, because it turns out that this craziness has been going on for a while.  From a November, 2009, article:

When Rupert Dickinson, the chief executive of one of Britain’s biggest property firms, left his BlackBerry behind in London while on a business trip to Ireland, he simply ordered one of his staff to get on a plane and deliver the device to him.

For Dickinson’s then head of sustainability, Tim Nicholson, the errand was much more than an executive indulgence: it embodied the contempt with which his boss treated his deep philosophical beliefs about climate change.

In a significant decision today, a judge found Nicholson’s views on the environment were so deeply held that they were entitled to the same protection as religious convictions, and ruled that an employment tribunal should hear his claim that he was sacked because of his beliefs.

The judgment could open the door for people to take their employers to tribunals over their stance on a range of issues, from animal rights to feminism.

Which is plainly ridiculous.  I mean belief in Global Cooling Global Warming is nothing like a religion.  For instance, generally religious faith requires a person to believe things for which there is no evidence, or very little evidence, indeed often in the face of evidence that it is proven falseGlobal Warming Climate Change followers don’t do that.  Religions often include stories of how the world will end.

(This is soooo different from Ragnarok.)

Embarrassingly, often they claim a sign of that apocalypse will come on a date certain, and when that date comes and goes without the promised sign, they simply push back the date without batting an eyelash.  And they often center around messianic figures…

…who often don’t actually practice what they preach but are nonetheless worshipped

Oh crap, they’re right.  It is a religion.

Of course you might think I am being facetious, but if this article is correct then yes, they did find that a belief in Climate Change Human-Induced Global Kinetic Climatological Action is a religion, or at least a belief entitled to as much respect as religion in part because it is a belief without evidence.  After all, according to the article, in deciding whether Nicholson’s belief in Human-Induced Global Kinetic Action the Wrath of Gaia counted as faith, it had to pass this multi-factor test:

• The belief must be genuinely held.

• It must be a belief and not an opinion or view based on the present state of information available.

• It must be a belief as to a weighty and substantial aspect of human life.

• It must attain a certain level of cogency, seriousness, cohesion and importance.

• It must be worthy of respect in a democratic society, not incompatible with human dignity and not conflict with the fundamental rights of others.

(emphasis added.)  (By the way, because of that last factor a family in Britain was found to have no cause of action when denied the right to be foster parents because their Christian faith leads them to believe that homosexuality is a sin.)  Now Mark Steyn has some harsh words about all of this, and I do recommend that you read them.  But with respect, Mr. Steyn has it all wrong when he writes that this will make PBS pledge drives even more insufferable.  If this principle is adopted in America, it makes government funding unconstitutional.*  And in that case, it will make PBS pledge drives more desperate, maybe even to hilarious results.


* Recognizing that case law also says that if the taxpayer money goes to the religious institution wholly because of private choice, it is kosher under the first amendment.  But that wrinkle in the case law is not relevant, here.

[Posted and authored by Aaron Worthing.]

26 Responses to “So Does This Mean That Funding PBS and NPR Violates the Establishment Clause?”

  1. religious faith requires a person to believe things for which there is no evidence, or very little evidence, indeed often in the face of evidence that it is proven false.

    Not to be too nitpicky, but I think you have to qualify this. In order to make your case, “evidence” has to be defined as “objective evidence,” i.e. evidence that is publicly available, a.k.a. scientific evidence (where “scientific” is understood in the broadest sense). But many religious doctrines are claimed to be known via subjective evidence. Someone experiences God as Triune or whatever. This experience is evidence to that person even though it is not objective or scientific in nature. For that person to give up her belief, she would have to disregard her experiences, her evidences, of its veracity. I don’t think it’s a mark against religions to not meet a standard they weren’t necessarily trying to meet.

    And yes, I realize I’ve missed the whole point of your post.

    Jim S. (5cc1f2)

  2. Jim

    i am totally glossing over that issue and you are right.

    for instance imagine you are john the baptist. well, how many miracles did you see jesus perform? and yet christians don’t say he lacks faith in jesus.

    Aaron Worthing (e7d72e)

  3. six years is “long-serving” for reals?

    happyfeet (3c92a1)

  4. I wonder what the actual case was about. How could someone be fired from the BBC for believing in public service broadcasting? That would be like being fired from McDonald’s for believing in eating hamburgers.

    (I’m not asserting that the BBC is “public service” broadcasting per se, but surely the managers there think that it is.)

    Joshua (9ede0e)

  5. Atheism is a religion.

    daleyrocks (bf33e9)

  6. daley

    certainly is in relation to religious to religious discrimination law.

    Aaron Worthing (e7d72e)

  7. “certainly is in relation to religious to religious discrimination law.”

    A.W. – Does it not meet your tests?

    daleyrocks (bf33e9)

  8. Atheism is a religion like not collecting stamps is a hobby. :)

    carlitos (c2a84d)

  9. Atheism is the religion of denying others the ability to observe the religions of their choice.

    daleyrocks (bf33e9)

  10. Daley

    well, let me be clear. i believe that unbelief should be treated equally with belief. We shouldn’t discriminate against it, or favor it either. Government should stay the hell out of religious issues, on either side.

    But i think carlitos is making a valid linguistic point. Its hard to call a lack of faith a faith, a lack of religion a religion, if you know what i mean…

    But when going to the language of the constitution, the fact that so many of the founders were religious skeptics of different kinds leads to the inference that they wanted to follow that principle of neutrality between faith and atheism, and indeed among all faiths.

    Aaron Worthing (e7d72e)

  11. “Its hard to call a lack of faith a faith, a lack of religion a religion”

    A.W. – Bulldookey. Not if you accept my #9. What were atheists doing protesting completely voluntary National Day of Prayer celebrations last week if not denying others the opportunity to observe the religion or lack thereof of their choice? The Constitution promises freedom of religion, not freedom from religion, the latter being the interpretation of atheists.

    daleyrocks (bf33e9)

  12. A handful of atheists protesting in a couple of cities is denying the opportunity to observe religion? You just close your eyes and pray; what the heck does a “protest” have to do with it?

    carlitos (c2a84d)

  13. carlitos’s posts violate the establishment clause.

    DohBiden (15aa57)

  14. Carlitos – Why do atheists want to add atheist chaplains to the military? Doesn’t the military already have psychologists?

    daleyrocks (bf33e9)

  15. “A handful of atheists protesting in a couple of cities is denying the opportunity to observe religion?”

    carlitos – Dude, yeah they were looking for the Slut Walk to protest and found the wrong event to try to shut down.

    daleyrocks (bf33e9)

  16. gimme gas for my ford keep me trucking for the lord gimme gas for my ford I pray

    happyfeet (3c92a1)

  17. gimme gas for my car so I can hear my NPR gimme gas for my car I pray

    happyfeet (3c92a1)

  18. Why do atheists want to add atheist chaplains to the military?

    To put them into foxholes as a social experiment? :)

    carlitos (c2a84d)

  19. When they made it illegal to defend yourself in your own home from an armed intruder, I knew that Britain had lost it. This merely reinforces that view.

    Rorschach (c5574d)

  20. mmm, atheist chaplans have to be the most ridiculous concept.

    i have long said that there are really two kinds of atheists.

    the first is the kind that just doesn’t believe.

    the second is the kind that in reality does believe in God and is really mad at Him.

    The first kind gives us most of the nice atheists who are pretty live and let live about it all. James Taranto is a good example.

    the second kind gives us most of the jerk atheists in the world.


    Aaron Worthing (e7d72e)

  21. Aaron, I didn’t mean to hijack the comments with my pedantery. Apologies. Now to continue said pedantery:

    Your first comment is right, but it opens another can of worms. The miracles that Jesus (allegedly) performed were publicly observable phenomena. By this I mean that even if only one person saw it, a hypothetical observer could have seen it as well. Your point is right on target though: the 12 apostles, the 500 mentioned in 1 Cor. 15, etc., saw Jesus alive, then dead, then alive again. They had proof of the resurrection. They also had faith in it. So obviously proof and faith are not mutually exclusive.

    By referring to subjective (or private) evidence, I was referring to theophanies, or the experience of God. These are experiences that are only available to the individual. Nevertheless, they constitute evidence: if someone told me that my brain wave patterns indicate that I was thinking of a carrot when I was actually thinking of an elephant, my subjective (private) evidence supersedes their objective (public) evidence.

    As for atheism and belief: Atheism is a claim to know something, just as much as theism is. The atheist claims to know that God does not exist, thus they believe that God does not exist. As such, the atheist has to shoulder her share of the burden of proof, just as the theist does. You can’t avoid this with bumper sticker slogans.

    Jim S. (ea4397)

  22. Jim

    as far as i am concerned, feel free to go wildly off topic.

    i don’t think the topic itself inspires alot of controversy. its idiotic to call the belief in PBS a religious one.

    Aaron Worthing (e7d72e)

  23. “as far as i am concerned, feel free to go wildly off topic.”

    A.W. – Sorry I already did, but I figured if you were going to call global warming a religion, I might as well throw atheism under the bus as well.

    daleyrocks (bf33e9)

  24. What the hell is the EPA doing opposing junk mail?

    DohBiden (15aa57)

  25. EPA opposes junk mail?
    Does that mean that all government propoganda via the USPS will now cease?
    I mean, 99.99 & 44/100ths% of it is junk, isn’t it?

    AD-RtR/OS! (bb0766)

  26. Atheism is a religion like zero is a number.

    Oh, wait…

    ras (508e4d)

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