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Published: Thu, 22 Mar 2018 00:00:00 -0400

Last Build Date: Thu, 22 Mar 2018 03:03:15 -0400


No Freedom From the Church of America

Sun, 04 Feb 2018 08:00:00 -0500

One myth that Americans live by is the separation of church and state. Some like the idea; others hate it; but the irony is that church and state were not separated at the founding of the United States and are not separate now. In fact, they were united in the sense that the state is a church—the Church of America—and you can't separate a thing from itself. The religion this church administers is not Catholicism, Protestantism, Judaism, Islam, or anything else that comes to mind when most people think the word religion. It's Americanism, a species of nationalism. Nationalism and religion are cut from the same cloth. As William Cavanaugh writes in his not-to-be-missed book, The Myth of Religious Violence: Secular Ideology and the Roots of Modern Conflict: If it is true … that nationalism exhibits many of the characteristics of religion—including, most important for our purposes, the ability to organize killing energies—then what we have is not a separation of religion from politics but rather the substitution of the religion of the state for the religion of the church. As I commented before: "Perhaps we should read the First Amendment's Establishment Clause—'Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion'—not as a mandated separation of religion and state but as a non-compete clause." We could rewrite it to say: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of any other religion..." To put it another way, other religions may exist, but they may not become rivals of the official religion, Americanism (nationalism). We see this, as Cavanaugh relates, in a 1940 Supreme Court case, Minersville School District v. Gobitis, in which Jehovah's Witnesses were, in Cavanaugh's words, "denied the right to dissent from patriotic rituals" by having their children abstain from pledging allegiance to the flag in school. In his 8-1 majority opinion, Justice Felix Frankfurter seemed to pay homage to freedom of religion as a means to avoid "bitter religious struggles." But he did not extend this freedom to the Jehovah's Witnesses. Why not? Because doing so would undermine the "promotion of national cohesion," Frankfurter wrote. "We are dealing with an interest inferior to none in the hierarchy of legal values. National unity is the basis of national security." He added, "We live by symbols—the most crucial of which is the flag," and claimed, "what the school authorities are really asserting is the right to awaken in the child's mind considerations as to the significance of the flag contrary to those implanted by the parent." As Cavanaugh summed it up, "The Supreme Court upheld the right to inculcate patriotism over the right to the free exercise of religion." In 1943 the Court overturned the case (West Virginia State Board of Education v. Barnette), but, Cavanaugh writes, "Frankfurter had succeeded in introducing the idea that First Amendment decisions could be made against a backdrop of some unspecified history of 'bitter religious struggles,' the antidote to which is the enforcement of national unity…. The threat of religious violence would become a recurring trope in subsequent Supreme Court cases involving religion." Today you cannot be compelled to pledge allegiance to the flag in school, but if you fail to stand for the national anthem or kneel during it at a football game, the president of the United States might demand your firing and many people will enthusiastically second the motion. In later Court cases, justices who declared prayer in government schools unconstitutional nevertheless found no problem with some government-sponsored religious invocations. For example, as Cavanaugh reports, Justice Potter Stewart, dissenting in Engel v. Vitale (1962), which declared official prayers in government schools unconstitutional, pointed out that the government has long permitted religious invocations at official proceedings. The Supreme Court itself begins sessions with "God save this honorable Court." So, Stewart wondered, why not prayer in school? Justices Arthur Goldberg and John Marsh[...]

Split the Baby. Drink the Poison. Carry the Hot Iron. Swear on the Bible

Sat, 20 Jan 2018 06:00:00 -0500

You probably remember the story of King Solomon and the baby. Two women come before the monarch claiming to be a child's mother. Neither has evidence to show. So Solomon proposes the following: He'll cut the baby in half. Each woman will receive an equal share. This will be equitable, if a bit messy. On the face of it, the king was either a baby-hating madman or an idiot. Killing an infant and divvying up its corpse hardly seems like a reasonable response to a maternity dispute. But if you know the story, you know what Solomon had in mind: The baby's true mother would rather sacrifice her child's custody than her child's life. She would turn down the king's proposal, and then he would award the baby, in its entirety, to her. We can learn a couple of things from Solomon. First, judicial procedures that seem downright stupid may in fact be very wise. Second, when "ordinary" evidence is lacking, judicial officials may still be able to get to the bottom of things by creating clever rules—even ones that are based on a lie ("when maternity is in doubt, cut the child in half "). Such clever rules can manipulate people's incentives, leading them to reveal information only they have access to through the choices they make. Burn, Baby, Burn "Ordeals" were medieval European judicial officials' version of splitting the baby. From the ninth through the 13th centuries, two types flourished: hot and cold. In a hot water ordeal, a priest boiled a cauldron of water into which he threw a stone or ring. The task of the "proband"—the ordeal taker—was, as Bishop Eberhard of Bamberg's 12th century breviary instructed, to "plunge his hand into the boiling water" and pluck it out. Afterwards his hand should "be immediately sealed up." If he's innocent, he'll "bring forth his hand safe and unharmed from this water. But if he be guilty and presume to plunge in his hand," it will show burn injuries on inspection three days later. The hot iron ordeal was similar, except the proband carried a piece of burning iron nine paces instead. The formula for deciding guilt was the same: If it burns you, you did it. The cold water ordeal dispensed with the hot stuff in favor of a tepid pool. The ninth century theologian Hincmar of Rheims described it this way: "He who is to be examined by this judgment is cast into the water bound, and is drawn forth again bound." If he's guilty and "seeks to hide the truth by a lie," he "cannot be submerged." In other words, guilty people float. Innocent people sink. Medieval law reserved ordeals for certain kinds of cases, typically those involving accusations of serious crimes, such as homicide, robbery, or arson. Punishments for failing them ranged from fines to mutilation to death. The law also reserved ordeals for cases that judges couldn't confidently decide without them. "The ordeal of hot iron is not to be permitted except where the naked truth cannot otherwise be explored," 12th century English law decreed. Or as 13th century German law put it, "It is not right to use the ordeal in any case, unless the truth may be known in no other way." If a defendant confessed or reliable witnesses testified against him, judges would convict him straightaway, without an ordeal. If enough acceptable "oath helpers" swore his innocence, he would be acquitted. But when such "ordinary" evidence was silent, judges unwilling to convict or exonerate accused criminals indiscriminately needed another way to determine how to rule. That way was ordeals. These were justified on the grounds that they were iudicia Dei—judgments of God. Where man couldn't correctly assign criminal status, he recruited the Lord. "The judges may decide that which they clearly know," a Carolingian capitulary directed, "but that which they cannot know shall be reserved for Divine judgment." According to medieval Christian belief, if priests performed the appropriate rituals, God would reveal individuals' guilt by letting the boiling water or burning iron harm them or by making the holy water reject their guilty bodies; He would re[...]

Brickbat: That's Crap

Fri, 19 Jan 2018 04:00:00 -0500

(image) A Pennsylvania court has ordered an Old Order Amish family to connect to the local sewer system. The Yoder family says the move will force them to violate their religious beliefs since it would require them to install an electric pump to move waste from their home to the sewer system. The Amish do not believe in using electricity in their homes.

Atheist Arrested in Bangladesh -- Atheism Might Be Banned in Egypt

Thu, 28 Dec 2017 15:36:00 -0500

Agence France Press reports:

Bangladesh police arrested a 25-year-old social media activist [Asaduzzaman Noor, known as Asad Noor] as he tried to leave the country on charges that he defamed Islam and the Prophet Mohammed, authorities said Tuesday....

'The charge against him is that he hurt religious feeling by mocking Prophet Mohammed and made bad comments against Islam, the prophet and the Koran on Facebook and YouTube,' [Inspector Mohammad Shahidullah] said.

Noor apparently faces up to 14 years in prison from the government, and perhaps worse from others: Atheist bloggers in Bangladesh have recently been murdered by mobs.

Also, according to (Brian Whitaker) and The Daily Independent (Nigeria), Egypt is set to make it a crime to be atheist in Egypt (not just to express atheist views in public, which is already punishable). If any of our readers can read Arabic, and can check the sources linked to by Al-Bab (here and here), I'd love to hear back about that.

UPDATE: The Star (Malaysia) (Loshana K Shagar) reported in November,

Atheism should not be allowed in Malaysia for any citizen as it contradicts both the Federal Constitution and the Rukunegara, said Deputy Minister in the Prime Minister's Department Datuk Dr Asyraf Wajdi Dusuk....

"... [A]nyone who tries to spread ideologies and doctrines that promote atheism and similar beliefs, which tarnish the sanctity of other religions, can be charged under the Sedition Act," he said.

Thanks to reader Careless for the pointer.

Family Court Must Not Discriminate Against Religious Schooling

Wed, 27 Dec 2017 10:02:00 -0500

From Arcella v. Arcella, decided yesterday by the Nevada Supreme Court: Melissa and Matthew Arcella divorced in 2009. They agreed to and were awarded joint legal and physical custody of their two children, four-year-old R.A. and two-year-old W.A. Regarding their children's education, the divorce decree provided: "Subject to both parties mutually agreeing to send their children or child to private school, [t]he parties agree to equally split the cost of private school tuition and costs for the minor children." In 2016, the parents agreed that R.A. should move to a larger middle school, but they disagreed about which one: Matthew moved the district court for an order directing that R.A. attend a religious private school, Faith Lutheran. He argued that it was in R.A.'s best interest to attend Faith Lutheran because she was used to private schooling, she wanted to enroll there, and Faith Lutheran had a high college placement rate. Melissa objected to her child receiving a religious education at Faith Lutheran. She argued that R.A. should attend the local public school, Bob Miller Middle School, which was highly ranked for academics and closer to R.A's primary residence. The distrct court concluded that both schools were good, and didn't make any findings that one was better, but chose the public school "because it was 'taking into consideration [Melissa's] religious objection.'" And the mother, on the appeal, argued that her religious objection should categorically trump: "It is not only that the court must not interfere; even more so, the state and federal government may not seek to indoctrinate the child with their religious views, particularly over the objection of either parent." See Newdow v. U.S. Congress (9th Cir. 2002) (emphasis in original). [EV adds: The Ninth Circuit decision was later reversed on procedural grounds by the U.S. Supreme Court.] In Newdow, the mother had sole legal custody of the child. Dad objected to religious indoctrination by a school, of which Mom approved. The Newdow court held that even if a parent has sole legal custody of a child, that parent has no power to insist that the child be subjected to unconstitutional state action indoctrinating religion on the child. [Footnote; The parties have joint legal custody of the children. As such, Mom, as the objecting parent, has a stronger position to object to the religious indoctrination than the father did in Newdow, as he had no legal custody rights.] The 9th Circuit holding goes well beyond the facts of this case. The 9th Circuit ruling provides that courts may not mandate a child to say "under God" once a day during the 1954 version of the Pledge of Allegiance. A fortiori, it would be wholly impermissible for a court to order a child to attend a religious private school where "The salvation of each student is our school's first priority" and where students are required to take a Theology course each year they attend Faith Lutheran. It is worth noting that education is not the FL's first priority for its students. The 9th Circuit case clearly provides that the courts cannot order religious indoctrination upon a child in any form if even one parent objects. Here, Mom is objecting. Mom has a well-based, clearly-stated objection to the children attending a religious school. Mom reasserts her First Amendment rights (as well as Equal Protection) under the United States Constitution (applicable via the 14th Amendment) and under the Nevada Constitution. The parties have joint legal custody of the children. As such, Mom, as the objecting parent, has a stronger position to object to the religious indoctrination than the father did in Newdow, as he had no legal custody rights. So, even if the Court entertains Dad's arguments on rehearing (which is not permissible as the Court has no jurisdiction over the rehearing), federal law from the 9th Circuit simply does not permit religious indoctrination of a child of a parental objection. It is worth[...]

Brickbat: Too Late

Tue, 26 Dec 2017 04:00:00 -0500

(image) An independent investigation has found the Church of England rushed to judgment two years ago when it concluded that the late Bishop of Chichester George Bell sexually abused a young girl in the 1950s. The report, by legal expert Lord Carlile, said the church had "wrongly and unnecessarily damaged" Bell's reputation. Carlile said that church officials did not speak to witnesses and failed to uncover evidence that he had easily found. While he declined to say whether he believed Bell was guilty or innocent of the claims made against him, Carlile said he could not prove any of those claims in court.

Brickbat: You Going to Eat That?

Fri, 22 Dec 2017 04:00:00 -0500

(image) An Egyptian court has sentenced singer Shaimaa Ahmed to two years in prison for inciting debauchery and publishing an indecent film. Ahmed appeared in a music video in her underwear and suggestively eating a banana.

Report All Inappropriate Christmas Decorations to the Proper Authorities

Wed, 20 Dec 2017 15:00:00 -0500

(image) The University of Minnesota has distributed guidelines on how to celebrate the holidays in the most inclusive, bias-free way possible. They've gone a bit overboard in the process, unless you think there's something innately Christian about bells or the color red.

The guidelines—composed by the College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences' Diversity and Inclusion Office—ask that students and faculty respect "the diversity of the University community" by hosting "neutral-themed parties such as a 'winter celebration.'" Lest there be any confusion over which decorations are sufficiently generic, the document includes a list of items and images that are "not appropriate" because they represent "specific religious iconography."

That includes the obvious candidates, such nativity scenes, menorahs, and angels. It includes semi-secular symbols, such as Santa Claus. And it includes some items whose religious content is hard to discern at all: red and green decorations ("representative of the Christian tradition"), blue and silver decorations (too Jewish), bows, bells, or wrapped gifts.

If you encounter one of these examples of "religious iconography," you are encouraged to reach out to the University of Minnesota's Bias Incident Website or contact its office of Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action.

Karl Lorenz, director of diversity programs at the College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences, stresses to Reason that the guidelines are strictly voluntary.

"The bullet points are offered for consideration," says Lorenz. "They are not mandates."

Because of that voluntary nature, most of the guidelines do not raise constitutional issues, according Ari Cohn of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education. The university, he says, can "argue convincingly that parties put on by their units are university speech and it has the right to control the message." He does find troubling the guidelines' instructions that individuals restrict "expressions of their religious faith" to their own personal space, a measure he says is overly broad.

But while Cohn thinks the guidelines are largely legal, they also strike him as "rather ham-fisted and overly cautious."

Indeed, while I have no doubt that the university is sincere about wanting to encourage diversity and inclusion, this push for bland and generic events could have the opposite effect. The university is encouraging faculty and students not to celebrate campus diversity but to suppress any sign of it.

For more analysis of "winter celebrations," watch Kennedy's show on Fox Business tonight at 8:00 p.m., when Reason's Robby Soave will discuss the story in depth.

D.C. Allowed to Exclude Religious Ads from Buses

Wed, 20 Dec 2017 14:13:00 -0500

[1.] When the government opens up its own property to certain kinds of private speech or speakers, the law treats this program as a so-called "limited public forum," or sometimes a "nonpublic forum." One classic example is when a university provides funds to a wide range of student newspapers, see Rosenberger v. Rector (1995). Another is when a city sells advertising on city buses, see Lehman v. City of Shaker Heights (1974). In either a limited public forum or a nonpublic forum, the government may restrict the content of speech (something it generally can't do when it doesn't have this property-owner role), but the restrictions must be reasonable and viewpoint-neutral. Defining viewpoint-neutrality has proved difficult. In Lehman, for instance (and in later cases that fit Lehman into the modern forum framework), the Court viewed a rule that only commercial advertising was accepted as constitutional. But in Rosenberger, the Court held unconstitutional an exclusion of student speech that primarily promotes or manifests a particular belie[f] in or about a deity or an ultimate reality. The majority acknowledged that the ban extended to rival religions, as well as to atheistic speech as well as religious speech (since opposition to religious beliefs is itself a belief about a deity or an ultimate reality). But it concluded that the rule was nonetheless unconstitutionally viewpoint-based, because it excluded religious views on subjects for which secular views were permitted: If the topic of debate is, for example, racism, then exclusion of several views on that problem is just as offensive to the First Amendment as exclusion of only one. It is as objectionable to exclude both a theistic and an atheistic perspective on the debate as it is to exclude one, the other, or yet another political, economic, or social viewpoint. The four-Justice dissent disagreed, arguing that the exclusion was a permissible subject-matter exclusion rather than forbidden viewpoint discrimination. But the majority view carried the day. [2.] Yet a D.C. district court has upheld a Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority exclusion that was nearly identical to the one struck down in Rosenberger. And just today, the D.C. Circuit (in Archdiocese of Washington v. WMATA, not to be confused with Christmas v. WMATA) refused to issue an injunction pending appeal blocking the decision, seemingly because it agreed with the decision. I find this hard to reconcile with the Supreme Court's ruling in Rosenberger. The WMATA rule forbids advertisements that promote or oppose any religion, religious practice or belief. This is virtually identical to the Rosenberger exclusion; as I noted, the Rosenberger court correctly treated the university rule as applying to speech that opposes religious beliefs. It would thus be just as viewpoint-based as the rule struck down in Rosenberger. The D.C. Circuit panel rejected the analogy, arguing, Appellant identifies no basis for concluding that the defendant WMATA applied any [test allowing ads that deal with the "secular half" of Christmas but not the "religious half" of Christmas] in denying Appellant's proposed advertisement, or that WMATA has actually made Christmas or the holiday season a permissible subject of advertising. Cf. Grossbaum v. Indianapolis-Marion County Building Auth., 63 F.3d 581, 588 (7th Cir. 1995) (where City had "recogniz[ed] the 'holiday season' as a topic of discussion" in a forum, religious perspectives on that allowed topic could not be excluded). With respect to Appellant's facial challenge to WMATA's decision to exclude religion as an advertising subject, the Supreme Court has acknowledged that the government may impose reasonable limitations on the subjects for discussion in a limited public forum, so no substantial likelihood of success in demonstrating WMATA's unreasonablene[...]

The Original Rock 'n' Roll Guitar God Was Actually a Goddess

Fri, 15 Dec 2017 13:50:00 -0500

Rock 'n' roll was born and baptized in a smoky nightclub somewhere, but the baby was conceived in a church. Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Little Richard were all raised Pentecostal, and their sounds were shaped by the raucous gospel music they grew up with. And Chuck Berry cribbed his duckwalk from a gospel singer called Sister Rosetta Tharpe, whose guitar style helped lay the groundwork for rock.

Tharpe was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame this week, alongside such worthies as Nina Simone and the Cars. If you find yourself doubting that this honor should be bestowed on a woman who was already in her forties when "Jailhouse Rock" hit the charts, watch this old clip from the NBC show TV Gospel Time, originally broadcast in 1962. For about a minute and 20 seconds, it may seem like an ordinary gospel performance. And then Sister Tharpe starts soloing:

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A century ago, the early Pentecostals' multiracial revivals and ecstatic forms of worship sparked a moral panic. In the 1950s, rock 'n' roll provoked a similar reaction. Watching Tharpe play, you may start to see the outlines of more than one hidden continuity.

Just about all the founding fathers of rock 'n' roll—Elvis, Little Richard, Chuck Berry, Carl Perkins, Johnny Cash—were Rosetta Tharpe fans. Gayle Wald's Tharpe bio Shout, Sister, Shout! quotes Jerry Lee Lewis falling over with praise for the woman: "I mean, she's singing religious music, but she is singing rock 'n' roll. She's...shakin', man....She jumps it. She's hitting that guitar, playing that guitar and she is singing. I said, 'Whoooo.' Sister Rosetta Tharpe." They say the Devil has all the best tunes, but he had to learn them somewhere.

(For past editions of the Friday A/V Club, go here.)

Tis The Season for Christmas Lawsuits

Wed, 13 Dec 2017 10:25:00 -0500

Christmas is supposed to be a time of peace on earth and good will to men people, but in the U.S. it's also a time of legal battles. And if those fights often stem from ginned-up outrages, they still sometimes involve important constitutional principles. Here are some current and recent examples: 1. A Catholic archdiocese sues to advertise on DC buses. The Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) refuses to post the Archdiocese of Washington's advertisement for a Christmas website. The ad features three shepherds and a couple of sheep under a cluster of stars; the agency ruled that this violates a 2015 policy against "issue-oriented advertising, including political, religious and advocacy advertising." So the archdiocese is suing. According to the lawsuit, the third-party vendor that handles WMATA's advertising space said the ad, which it was seeking to place on the sides of buses, wouldn't pass muster unless it could sell some good or service, something the archdiocese said it obviously couldn't do. The 2015 policy was put in place after anti-Islam activist Pam Geller tried to place an ad with a cartoon of the Muslim prophet Mohammed. The lawsuit is the second over the policy this year. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) filed suit on behalf of itself, the abortion provider Carafem, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, and the right-wing provocateur Milo Yiannopoulos, all of whom had ads rejected by the WMATA. The ACLU ad featured the First Amendment. 2. A Texas governor removes a "mock" nativity. Two years ago, the Freedom from Religion Foundation (FFRF) placed a holiday display in the basement of the Texas state capitol. It featured a nativity scene with the religious figures replaced by the Statue of Liberty, three founding fathers, and the Constitution in place of the baby Jesus. Republican Gov. Greg Abbott had the display removed, calling it a "juvenile display" and insisting the Constitution didn't require Texas "to allow displays in its Capitol that violate general standards of decency and intentionally disrespect the beliefs and values of many of our fellow Texans." Abbott's juvenile display, which a judge ruled in October violated the FFRF's first amendment rights and constituted "viewpoint discrimination in a limited public forum," illustrates what a poor steward of free speech government can be, and why its role in policing, approving, or authorizing speech ought to be limited. The organization, which advocates for the separation of church and state, said it would prefer no displays. "We'd rather keep divisive religious—and irreligious—views out of state capitols," the group's co-president said after the ruling. "But if the government creates public forums, and permits Christian nativities in them, there must be room at the inn for the rest of us." 3. A town harasses the creator of a zombie nativity scene. Jasen Dixon's zombie nativity scene went up in front of his home in Sycamore, Ohio, last week for its fourth and final year. Dixon tells the Cincinnati Enquirer he wasn't going to do it this year, but he changed his mind after he got a lot of inquiries about it. He says he wants to sell it or put it in storage. The town initially fought Dixon over the display on his private property. Last year he faced 27 misdemeanor charges and $13,500 in fines after the town claimed the nativity's roof violated zoning ordinances. The charges were eventually dropped. This year the town's zoning administrator says that fighting the display isn't worth the cost. But Dixon has an attorney ready if officials change their minds. "A lot of people have looked at this case as a humorous story, but there is a fundamental principle at stake," Dixon's lawyer, Rob Linneman, said after the charges against his client were dropped. "Th[...]

Brickbat: Acting Like Adults

Wed, 13 Dec 2017 04:00:00 -0500

(image) India's supreme court has overturned a lower court ruling that confined a woman named Hadiya, 25, to her parents' home, allowing her to return to homeopathy college. But it refused to overturn the lower court's annulment of her marriage and placed her under the guardianship of her college dean who has said he will not allow her to see her husband. Hadiya was raised Hindu but converted to Islam two years ago and married a Muslim man last year against the wishes of her parents, who say she was brainwashed.

Brickbat: Banned in China

Fri, 10 Nov 2017 04:00:00 -0500

(image) Officials in three Chinese provinces have expelled about a thousand South Korean missionaries and pastors and closed down their churches. They gave no reason for the crackdown but new tougher regulation of religious activities is scheduled to take effect next year.

Sherlock Holmes and the Case of the Early LSD Guru

Fri, 27 Oct 2017 12:23:00 -0400

(image) One of the odder episodes in the Truman/Eisenhower days of the libertarian movement involves Gerald Heard, a mystic whose ideas took hold in the higher echelons of the Foundation for Economic Education and a now-mostly-forgotten free-market group called Spiritual Mobilization. Heard's syncretic spiritual path eventually led him to mescaline and LSD, which some of his market-loving students then tried under his guidance. In the meantime, Heard's articles graced the pages of The Freeman and Faith and Freedom, journals that were generally associated with the right wing of libertarianism but were apparently open nonetheless to a little proto–New Age thought.

Heard was also a novelist, and his corpus includes three books about "Mr. Mycroft," a retired Sherlock Holmes living incognito under his brother's name. And the first of those books, 1941's A Taste of Honey, was adapted in an ABC anthology series called The Elgin Hour, with Boris Karloff as Mr. Mycroft. I haven't read the novel, but as told here the story is a lightly comic, lightly horrific tale about a man who murders his victims with specially engineered killer bees. The plot is a bit on the thin side, but it's fun to watch Karloff, who plays up his character's eccentricities so much that at times he feels less like Sherlock Holmes than a lost incarnation of Doctor Who.

The show originally aired on February 22, 1955, but I think it makes better viewing in the week before Halloween:

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The novel was adapted again in 1966 as a movie called The Deadly Bees, this time without the Mr. Mycroft character. To see the Mystery Science Theater 3000 version of that one, go here. For past Halloween installments of the Friday A/V Club, you can watch haunted-house comedies here, vintage Halloween safety films here, and a punk show at a mental hospital here. Yet more Friday A/V Club posts are here. And Gerald Heard's articles for The Freeman are here. I find them almost unreadable but your mileage may very.

North America's First 'Burqa Ban' Passed by Quebec Liberals in Name of 'Religious Neutrality'

Thu, 19 Oct 2017 12:13:00 -0400

This week, Quebec banned people working in public service or using public services from wearing veils or any sort of facial covering, the first such ban in North America, one echoing "burqa ban" policies passed across Europe. Ushered in by Quebec's Liberal Party as a way to "foster social cohesion" and "religious neutrality," and to combat Islamophobia, the law largely takes aim at Muslim women who veil their faces in public. The Canadian Broadcasting Corp. explains that under the new "religious neutrality legislation" women can apply for exemptions—essentially a special license to wear a burqa or niqab that they would have to display to public officials. Critics, like Shaheen Ashraf of the Canadian Council of Muslim Women, question the religious neutrality narrative. "I define neutrality as being able to do what I choose and you are able to do what you choose and everyone else is able to do what they choose and that's neutral. Accepting each other as we are," Ashraf told CTV Montreal. Ihsaan Gardee, executive director of the National Council of Canadian Muslims, called it "an unnecessary law with a made-up solution to an invented problem. We don't have hordes of women in niqabs trying to access or work in public services." Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre and others have questioned how the law would actually work in practice. "So what does it mean now? Niqab police as bus drivers?" Coderre told CTV. "What are we going to do in libraries? And refuse to provide them with services? If [a woman is] freezing with children, say no? You have to pull that out. I don't think the doability is there." "Bus drivers are now being empowered to decide who gets a ride based on their understanding of the nuances of Muslim head scarves," pointed out Allison Hanes in the Montreal Gazette. "Are they going to get training on the difference between a hijab and a niqab? This law could not be worse for civil rights or social cohesion." "Telling a woman how to dress—whether she's wearing a bikini or a burqa—is the opposite of feminism," continued Hanes. "And using the full weight of the state to marginalize one particular group, no matter how much thou doth protest that a law applies to everyone equally, is reprehensible." Although Quebec politicians pushed the new policy as a feminist one, Canadian feminists commenting on it are largely unimpressed. "A bill that legislates clothing ends up linking emancipation of women to how little or how much they wear," wrote Shree Paradkar in The Star. "In doing so, it works against choice" and "should have been rejected."[...]