Quick Roundup 458

Monday, August 17, 2009

Controls Breed Sharia?

The city of Portland, Maine, is being sued by the Maine Civil Liberties Union for violating the religious "rights" of a group of Moslems who wish to use an existing building as a mosque.

The lawsuit filed Thursday says Portland denied the use of the building as a "church or other place of worship" under zoning ordinances.

The former TV repair shop property is zoned commercial. The Portland Press Herald reports conditional uses for religious purposes are permitted, but rules require such properties be at least an acre. The site is one-third of that.

The MCLU argued laws protecting religious rights supersede local zoning. Plaintiffs are the Portland Masjid and Islamic Center, the building's owner, Sadri Shir, and her husband, Nawad Shir. [bold added]
Zoning is wrong because it violates individual rights, the only rights men have. Clearly, the plaintiffs should be allowed to build their mosque on that basis, and on that basis alone. That said, to argue, wrongly, as they do, that a religious motivation should supersede the law is completely wrong, and their winning this suit would set a very bad precedent.

I hope they lose this lawsuit: If the law is to be superseded by religious "rights," what legitimate laws will the Moslems drag someone into court over in the next round? What crimes will they seek to have excused on the same grounds?

I oppose zoning, but the enemy of my enemy is not necessarily my friend. This lawsuit can bring no victory for property rights because its rationale undercuts the only legitimate basis for the law: the premise that the government exists to protect the individual rights that all men in a society inherently possess.

This case also illustrates how government controls, like mosquitoes in a swamp of cultural confusion, breed more controls. Most people erroneously accept the notion that the government ought to regulate land use through zoning laws, but also (properly) accept the idea that other people should be free to practice whatever religion they wish -- so long as they do not violate the rights of others. Thus, this lawsuit is not only possible in the first place, but a victory by the plaintiffs may raise little alarm, even as its success would, in the long run, endanger the very freedom it relies on now to proceed.

Zombie Research

I was amused to see, via Instapundit, that some mathematicians have modeled horror movie-style zombie attacks. (Their Matlab code occurs at the end of their paper so you can run the model yourself, if you really want to.)

Amusingly, the introduction of the paper is itself "infected" with (and propagating) a popular scientific urban legend: that tetrodotoxin from puffer fish has been used to create "real" "zombies."

I remember hearing this back in grad school, but it turns out, like the story of Phineas Gage, not to be completely accurate, despite its surface plausibility and its having, frankly, a certain level of appeal. (I also recall wondering at the time whether the reggae song, "Mr. Brown" might be about a zombie.)

I would suspect that there are some commonalities between zombie attacks and the spread of such ... memes (for lack of a better term). I'd be interested in seeing that modeled some time!

Exploding at a Safe Distance

If you breezed past this video the first time, like I did, watch it now. It's a real humdinger! (HT: Paul and Diana Hsieh)

Tactical Retreat

I see that Matt Drudge links to an AP story about Team Obama "retreating" on the "public option." Don't be fooled. If this is any kind of retreat, it is tactical

Does it not stand to reason that, if the government controls all the money your medical care depends upon, it doesn't even need to have "death panels?" This retreat is, in my estimation, being made specifically to make Obama's opponents look, to many voters and perhaps to themselves, like they have won.

For people who cannot think in terms of principles, this will seem to be the case. For those who can, it will not. I wonder whether Obama is hoping that enough of this will tire the public out enough that demands for him to "do something" will carry the day. How effective this move is will depend on how dumbed down our socialized education system has made the country on the whole.

-- CAV


Rational Education said...

I salute your statement "that a religious motivation should supersede the law is completely wrong".

In my current personal battle I am finding out, my reasoned convictions of what I hold as important and of immense value and willing to fight for will have little standing in a court of law, my lawyer says, because my adversary brings in the sacred cow of "religious traditions" and no judge apparently will dare to question that line of defense! The upside down morality and gross injustice is possible only because courts have chosen to bar reason when it comes to mystic religion brought in as defense in the legal process -just say it is "pertaining to religious faith" and anything goes.

RE said...

Agreed that something is afoot with this whole "no public option" thing. Drudge doesn't whiff very often, but he might have found a red herring this time.

I imagine it is some tactical retreat like you suggest, and perhaps they'll move in a direction similar to France and Germany (you pay out of pocket and get reimbursed) and watch the Democratic voter base howl... and hope enough low-income independents and Republicans see it as a nonviable option that they can reverse the public into clamoring for a single-payer option.

This is possible because the tenor of the current debate on health care is picking between colors of wallpaper for a house yet unbought; the purchase of the house has become an assumed done deal. The critical argument that isn't being made (except in O'ist circles mainly) is that it wouldn't matter if socialized medicine costed a fraction of the current cost and provided brilliant, top-end care to all -- and even its proponents are not claiming it will be that cheap or effective -- it's still a violation of individual rights to expropriate money from the productive to pay for even so much as one aspirin for the unproductive.

Gus Van Horn said...


Thanks, and I like the wallpaper anmalogy. It's quite apt for the state of the debate.