ACLU Seeks To End Censorship Of Religious Material

It has become common for the many on the right to attack the American Civil Liberties Union and to mistake liberal support for freedom of religion as somehow being anti-religion. Here is a case which contradicts the conservative meme as the ACLU has protested censorship of biblical passages. From their press release:

The American Civil Liberties Union and the ACLU of Virginia today demanded that officials at the Rappahannock Regional Jail immediately end their illegal practice of censoring religious material sent to detainees.

In a letter sent today to the jail’s superintendent, Joseph Higgs, Jr., the ACLU asks for jail officials to guarantee in writing that the jail will no longer censor biblical passages from letters written to detainees and to revise the jail’s written inmate mail policy to state that letters will not be censored simply because they contain religious material.

“It is nothing short of stunning that a jail would think it okay to censor the Bible and other religious material for no reason other than its religious nature,” said David Shapiro, staff attorney with the ACLU National Prison Project. “Such censorship violates both the rights of detainees to practice religion freely and the free speech rights of those wanting to communicate with detainees.”

The letter was prompted by a complaint brought to the ACLU by Anna Williams, a devout Christian whose son was detained at Rappahannock beginning in June of 2008 until his transfer earlier this year. Williams wanted to send her son religious material, including passages from the Bible, to support him spiritually during his confinement. But rather than deliver Williams’ letters to her son in full, jail officials removed any and all religious material, destroying the religious messages Williams sought to convey to her son. For example, after jail officials excised biblical passages, a three-page letter sent by Williams to her son was reduced to nothing more than the salutation, the first paragraph of the letter and the closing, “Love, Mom.”

Jail officials banned additional material from other letters Williams attempted to send her son, including passages from the Book of Proverbs, the Book of James, the Book of Matthew and an article that contained Christian perspectives on confronting isolation while in jail. Jail officials have variously cited prohibitions on “Internet pages” and “religious material sent from home” as reasons for the censorship.

“It is essential that jail officials abide by the law and the requirements of the U.S. Constitution,” said Daniel Mach, Director of Litigation for the ACLU Program on Freedom of Religion and Belief. “People do not lose their right to religious worship simply because they are incarcerated.”

The ACLU’s letter also asks jail officials to revise the jail’s inmate mail policy to state that letters will not be censored merely because they contain material printed from the Internet or copied from the Internet and inserted into a letter using a word processor’s “cut and paste” feature.

“Arbitrarily banning religious material is in direct odds with our nation’s constitutional values,” said Rebecca Glenberg, Legal Director for the ACLU of Virginia. “Americans are free to practice the religion of their choice, or no religion at all, without interference from any government official.”

Other signatories to the ACLU’s letter are the Virginia Interfaith Center for Public Policy, the Rutherford Institute, Prison Fellowship, the Friends Committee on National Legislation and the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty.

A copy of the ACLU’s letter is available online at:

Additional information about the ACLU National Prison Project is available online at:

Additional information about the ACLU Program on Freedom of Religion and Belief at:

Medical Inflation and Comparative Effectiveness

Back in the 1970’s Gerald Ford tried to fight inflation by having people wear WIN badges, standing for Whip Inflation Now. David Brooks (or possibly an editor at The New York Times) has applied the slogan to a column on  health care costs without even giving Ford credit. Brooks is generally correct that little that is being proposed will significantly lower health care costs, but there is one point where I disagree with his evaluation:

There are several ideas floating around that could reduce inflation, but they are neutered in the current bills. For example, many people believe that comparative effectiveness research would bend the cost curve. The current bills would pay for that research but negate the effects by allowing everybody to ignore the findings.

I know this sounds a bit strange, but paying for research on comparative effectiveness but leaving the ultimate judgement as to treatment up to the physician is exactly the right way to handle this. There are many areas where we have very poor data as to which treatments work best, such as with prostate cancer, despite tremendous differences in cost between various methods. If we had good data (which does not come from the pharmaceutical companies with a stake in the decision) such results would not be ignored. Doctors would be more likely to recommend the best treatment given the evidence. If doctors did not, plenty of patients would come in with data from the internet.

Such findings should not be mandatory. Practice guidelines which are relevant to most patients with a single disorder might not apply to patients with multiple disorders. Even studies which show that one treatment is generally best might find some exceptions. The preferences of the patient also need to be considered. In situations where there is a choice between long term medications and surgery, some patients might be reluctant to take time off from work, or be terrified by surgery. Other patients might be poorly compliant with medications, or have problems taking the medications, making a quick surgical intervention a better choice for them. Comparative effectiveness studies would be considered in making medical decisions, but they cannot provide the final answer.

Conservatives Against Palin

While there is no doubt that Sarah Palin has many fans on the far right, many more serious Republicans are happy to see her go. The Hill reports that “Republicans facing tough elections in 2010 don’t want Sarah Palin campaigning with them.” Peggy Noonan sums up her problems:

She was hungry, loved politics, had charm and energy, loved walking onto the stage, waving and doing the stump speech. All good. But she was not thoughtful. She was a gifted retail politician who displayed the disadvantages of being born into a point of view (in her case a form of conservatism; elsewhere and in other circumstances, it could have been a form of liberalism) and swallowing it whole: She never learned how the other sides think, or why.

In television interviews she was out of her depth in a shallow pool. She was limited in her ability to explain and defend her positions, and sometimes in knowing them. She couldn’t say what she read because she didn’t read anything. She was utterly unconcerned by all this and seemed in fact rather proud of it: It was evidence of her authenticity. She experienced criticism as both partisan and cruel because she could see no truth in any of it. She wasn’t thoughtful enough to know she wasn’t thoughtful enough. Her presentation up to the end has been scattered, illogical, manipulative and self-referential to the point of self-reverence. “I’m not wired that way,” “I’m not a quitter,” “I’m standing up for our values.” I’m, I’m, I’m.

In another age it might not have been terrible, but here and now it was actually rather horrifying.

Then there’s another view from the far right in an article by Olivia St. John at WorldNetDaily. She warns that “Palin is an avowed feminist”  and urges conservatives not to fall for appearances that she is one of them:

Palin’s history over the past 17 years tells another story. Three years after the birth of the first of her five children, she entered the rough-and-tumble world of Alaska (and eventually national) politics and has never looked back.

Has America become so emasculated that our only hope of getting another Ronald Reagan into the Oval Office is to idolize Palin as a political Madonna? Hardly.

Do we have no men who can match her intelligence, charisma and leadership skills? To the contrary, we have better.

Have conservatives become so desperate for a passionate leader that they forsake their most basic values of home and hearth? Yes, but it’s more than that.

Sarah Palin represents the empirical self of millions of women working outside the home. They live vicariously through her supposed success. Seeing such a woman extolled gives credibility to their frantic lifestyle juggling job, children, husband, church, and housework.

It has been said that part of Palin’s appeal is that her family is like so many other families. She is today’s American woman, who works outside the home and does it all. Whose daughters get pregnant out-of-wedlock. Whose husbands wear the aprons.

Have we gone insane? Is this something to celebrate?

The message is clear that she believes a woman’s place is in the home. If there is any doubt that this is her message, she again makes it clear in the conclusion:

As conservatives continue chanting Sarah Palin for president, are they disenfranchising the men capable of stepping up to the plate in 2012? There are many strong conservative men better qualified to lead the greatest nation in the world.

I pray these men rise to the fore and that Sarah Palin begins to turn her heart toward her home.

I pray America wakes up to realize once again that the hand that rocks the cradle truly rules the world. That is a mother’s highest calling. That is Sarah Palin’s calling.

Ann Althouse Returns To Warped Commentary On Female Body Parts

Obama Sarkozy

Several blogs have posted the above picture. Ann Althouse gives  her impressions. Ever since her bizarre comments on a female blogger’s breasts in a photo with Bill Clinton I have known to be wary of her views related to female body parts. Checking out the video of the event provides a totally different interpretation than the one given by Althouse (or the initial assumptions of others who have glanced at the above picture):


After viewing the video, Obama looks innocent but I’m not so sure about Sarkozy.