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Published: Fri, 15 Dec 2017 00:00:00 -0500

Last Build Date: Fri, 15 Dec 2017 18:53:13 -0500


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. "The real importance of the First Amendment is that it protects unconventional and unpopular viewpoints from persecution." 4. A man gets fired for...posing as Santa Claus while holding a gun? A Michigan man is suing his former employer, the state De[...]

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."[...]

Are Free Minds and Free Markets Compatible With Christianity?

Sat, 14 Oct 2017 14:50:00 -0400

Is libertarian political philosophy intractably at odds with the Christian faith, as some folks seem to think? Over the last year, I've spoken with countless practicing Christians who also fall into what might be called the small-l libertarian camp. A few prefer "classical liberal" while others identify as full-on anarcho-capitalists. Many work in the so-called liberty movement, but there were also business owners and writers, musicians and scientists, scholars and priests. Virtually all see markets, largely or entirely unfettered by the state, as the best mechanism we have for empowering humans to grow and thrive. I asked them to explain, in their own words, how they manage to reconcile two worldviews that many would have us believe are hopelessly in conflict. Below is a sampling of what I heard. "In my mind, capitalism is what happens when you have the absence of initiated force, and that's perfectly compatible—beautifully compatible—with Christianity. Capitalism simply means the freedom of individuals to make contracts and to engage others in a peaceful and voluntary way. That's precisely what Christ taught." —Lawrence W. Reed, president of the Foundation for Economic Education and author of Rendering Unto Caesar: Was Jesus A Socialist? "If someone says to you 'be my friend' and points a gun to you, that is not a good start of a relationship. God offers us his friendship. We have a choice to respond or not. But if it's to make any sense, it has to be free. You have to be able to say yes and you have to be able to say no. And here is the really interesting thing: God will respect your decision even when he knows it's not a good idea. "So here's the point: If God, who from our perspective is the creator of the universe—he has literally made us, and in that sense, if anybody owns anything, God owns the universe—and indeed, from our theology, having died on the cross for us, he owns us again. So God, who owns us twice over, and who in a 'my house, my rules' way has the right, if anyone has the right, to tell us what we may and may not do and indeed to force us not to do it—if he's not willing to do that, how can anyone have the right to do it?" —Gerard Casey, philosophy professor emeritus at University College Dublin and associated scholar at the Mises Institute "Who nailed Jesus to the cross? The state! ... The devil went up on a mountaintop with Jesus and he said, 'All this is mine.' He was talking about all the kingdoms. I would argue that earthly government is the last thing I should be supporting as a Christian." —Eric July, frontman of the libertarian rock/rap group BackWordz, asked how he reconciles his faith with anarcho-capitalism "The modern welfare state in the United States has demonstrated one thing very clearly: that it doesn't transition people permanently out of poverty. And that needs to be the goal. I think Christians and non-Christians alike can agree: We should help people who are marginalized. But the question is, OK, how do you do that? If you look at the church and nonprofit organizations, combined with a really thriving economy, you have the best antidote to long-term poverty that we've ever known." —Anne Rathbone Bradley, vice president of economic initiatives at the Institute for Faith, Work & Economics "Historically speaking, virtually all the great advocates of liberty were Christian: Aquinas, Montesquieu, Locke, Tocqueville. It really was only in the modern world, with the Enlightenment, when you developed a naturalist group that broke off from the natural law tradition and were advocating liberty based on utilitarian arguments." —David Theroux, founder and president of the Independent Institute in California and publisher of the new book Pope Francis and the Caring Society "The arrogant assumption [on the Christian left] is that if you're not advocating for government to be the normative way in which the poor [...]

Christian Cake Bakers and Gay Coffee Shop Owners: Why Freedom of Association Is for Everybody

Tue, 10 Oct 2017 12:50:00 -0400

A gay coffee shop owner in Seattle is getting viral attention for loudly ejecting a group of aggressive anti-abortion Christian activists from his business. Members of Abolish Human Abortion had been handing out rather vivid posters outside the shop that seem to link gay acceptance to the prevalence of abortion. They then came inside Bedlam Coffee and received service—until shop owner Ben Borgman angrily threw them out, declaring their views and their posters offensive. Watch his profanity-laced tirade below: src="" allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen" width="560" height="340" frameborder="0"> It's very easy to watch Borgman's rant and decide that, no, his shop shouldn't have to play host to a group of people who were just outside handing out fliers that he found offensive and that he felt attacked him personally. It's also easy to watch it and immediately think about the upcoming Supreme Court case about whether the government can force a baker to prepare wedding cakes for gay couples. And some, like the legal scholar Jonathan Turley, are doing exactly that. If a coffee shop owner doesn't want to serve a group whose positions he finds disagreeable and offensive, is that subtantially different from a baker refusing to do work for a same-sex marriage he finds offensive? Washington State's public accommodation laws prohibit discrimination on the basis of "creed," so Borgman cannot simply boot people out of his coffee shop for having Christian religious beliefs. But over at The Stranger, a Seattle alt-weekly, Katie Herzog argues that this case isn't religious discrimination but a disagreement about political positions: Not believing that woman should have autonomy over their own bodies is not actually a protected class in America, much like...gays. Looks like these folks have more in common than they thought. She's saying that Borgman isn't kicking them out because they're Christians, which would violate the state's laws; he's kicking them out because he finds their extreme anti-abortion positions offensive. The fact that these positions are informed by their religious beliefs is not relevant. What's fascinating about that argument is how it so closely tracks the response from bakers and florists who don't want to offer their services for gay weddings. They say that they're not discriminating against gay people: Gay people are more than welcome to come into their shops and buy cakes and flowers. Rather, they object to the concept of gay marriage and to the position that it should be treated similarly to heterosexual marriage, and they do not want to be forced to produce goods that suggest that they support it. By trying to come up with a justification as to why Borgman should allowed to boot these guys from his coffee shop without running afoul of state antidiscrimination laws, Herzog is essentially making the same argument: that this isn't discrimination against people for their identities, but discrimination against certain views. That's the sort of weird semantic contortions that come when you try to police the circumstances in which people can decline to do business with someone else. People want to preserve their own right to refuse to associate with others while limiting the others' ability to shun them. Using government authority to do this gives people an incentive to look for ways to punish people with whom you have disagreements. But it's more responsible, ethical, and most of all mature to suggest that both the coffee shop owner and the baker should be able to decide for themselves when they'll extend their hospitality. With neither the coffee shop nor the baker does a refusal to do business with these customers cause real, recognizable harms that justify government intervention.[...]

Do Abortion Rules Violate Satanists' Religious Freedom? Missouri Supreme Court to Decide

Tue, 10 Oct 2017 10:35:00 -0400

The Supreme Court of Missouri has agreed to hear an interesting religious and reproductive liberty case. Brought by "Mary Doe," a member of the Satanic Temple, the case challenges an "informed consent" law requiring a 72-hour waiting period, an ultrasound, and support for statements like "life...begins at conception" before a woman can get an abortion. "The case would be the first of its kind to be heard by either the Missouri Supreme Court or U.S. Supreme Court," notes the Kansas City Star. Doe claims the requirements violate her right to religious freedom, as Satanists do not believe that life begins at conception. The first court to hear the case rejected Doe's constitutional claims, but an appeals court last week decided Doe's claims might have merit. It presents "a contested matter of right that involves fair doubt and reasonable room for disagreement," the Western District Court of Appeals ruled unanimously, ordering the case be transferred to the jurisdiction of the Missouri Supreme Court. Missouri regulations require that any woman seeking an abortion must first view an active ultrasound, wait 72 hours after an initial doctor's visit, and sign papers declaring that they have read and understand state-mandated statements that personhood begins at conception and that abortion at any stage terminates "the life of a separate, unique, living human being." "The sole purpose of the law is to indoctrinate pregnant women into the belief held by some, but not all, Christians that a separate and unique human being begins at conception," wrote the appeals court. "Because the law does not recognize or include other beliefs, [Doe] contends that it establishes an official religion and makes clear that the state disapproves of her beliefs." Despite its provocative name, the Satanic Temple doesn't actually worship Satan. There's no ritual sacrifice or other trappings of Satanic lore. It's more of a mischievous and high-concept anti-religion, opposed to the tenets of organized Christianity and their infiltration of American laws. Its description of its mission actually sounds mighty libertarian, as well as steeped in traditional morality: to "encourage benevolence and empathy among all people, reject tyrannical authority, advocate practical common sense and justice, and be directed by the human conscience to undertake noble pursuits guided by the individual will." "The first conception was in response to George W. Bush's creation of the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives," one of the Satanic Temple's founders told The New York Times in 2015: "I thought, 'There should be some kind of counter.'" He hit on the idea of starting a faith-based organization that met all the Bush administration's criteria for receiving funds, but was repugnant to them. "Imagine if a Satanic organization applied for funds," he remembered thinking. "It would sink the whole program." Both founders consider themselves "atheistic Satanists," with no more literal belief in Satan than they do in a literal God. To them, Satanism represents "the solidarity of outsiders, those judged and excluded by the mainstream," explains the Times. In addition to challenging religiously motivated abortion regulations, the Satanic Temple has also been active in fighting things like prayer in public schools, prayer at City Council meetings, a biblical statute on Oklahoma statehouse grounds, courthouse Nativity Scenes, and public schools distributing the Bible to their students.[...]

Sessions Releases Guidance on Protecting Religious Freedom; LGBT Groups Fear ‘Permission to Discriminate’

Fri, 06 Oct 2017 16:45:00 -0400

Today, as President Donald Trump's administration is announcing that employers with religious concerns will have an easier time getting exemptions from the birth control mandate, Attorney General Jeff Sessions has released a lengthy memo describing the Justice Department's approach to religious freedom. The timing is most likely not a coincidence. Sessions' 25-page memo discusses concerns about when the federal government may or may not impose mandates that violate the religious beliefs of businesses, and one of his points is bluntly titled "Americans do not give up their freedom of religion by participating in the marketplace, partaking of the public square, or interacting with government." It references the Hobby Lobby Supreme Court case rejecting contraception mandates. The memo itself does not specifically reference gay or transgender people, but given that its instructions are about how Department of Justice agencies should take religious freedom issues in mind when enforcing laws, contracting, and distributing grants, there was an immediate concern from LGBT activist groups and allies that this was the "permission to discriminate" they've suspected the administration had been planning all along, but had not yet come. Chad Griffin, president of the Human Rights Campaign, certainly didn't hold back in blasting the potential impact on gay and transgender people: "This blatant attempt to further Donald Trump's cynical and hateful agenda will enable systematic, government-wide discrimination that will have a devastating impact on LGBTQ people and their families. Donald Trump and Mike Pence have proven they will stop at nothing to target the LGBTQ community and drag our nation backwards. We will fight them every step of the way." It's actually not terribly clear, though, that this memo makes much of a difference in how the current Justice Department will tackle LGBT discrimination issues because of how it is already tackling LGBT issues. Understand, the Justice Department under Sessions is already reversing many of the positions it held under President Barack Obama. The Justice Department is now taking the position that federal civil rights laws do not include gay and transgender discrimination under the aegis of sex-based discrimination. The Trump administration has already retracted the guidance from the Obama administration mandating that schools accommodate transgender students in use of public restrooms and locker rooms. And the Justice Department in an upcoming Supreme Court case has taken the side of a baker in Colorado who declined to make a wedding cake for a same-sex couple (Disclosure: so has the Reason Foundation). The Human Rights Campaign worries about some additional outcomes, though: That government officials themselves will be able to refuse to do their jobs when it comes to dealing with gay or transgender people (see: Kim Davis); and that federal contractors and faith-based organizations like hospitals would be able to discriminate against LGBT people and be able to refuse to provide services even in a crisis. So forget the wedding cakes: They're concerned about people getting turned away from hospitals or homeless shelters. I don't want to dismiss the possibility of that happening, but it's important to note that religious freedom laws like the Religious Freedom Restoration Act do not just give blanket permission for people to violate the law by wrapping themselves in some holy scripture. Sessions knows that, and part of his memo explains what government officials have to show if they're going to try to overcome a person's religious objections: So if the government can make a case that it has a compelling interest (like protecting public safety) and that it's taking the least restrictive means to do so it can require people to obey a law that hospitals not tur[...]

The Times Thinks Deregulation Is Meddling If It Helps Religious People or Gun Owners

Mon, 11 Sep 2017 13:40:00 -0400

A New York Times story about Donald Trump's unlikely alliance with social conservatives bizarrely claims that loosening rules to which they object contradicts his deregulatory stance. Under the headline "Where Trump's Hands-Off Approach to Governing Does Not Apply," Ben Protess, Danielle Ivory, and Steve Eder report that the president is pursuing an "aggressive regulatory agenda" on behalf of socially conservative causes that "runs counter to the Trump administration's less-is-more credo about government meddling." Yet almost none of the examples they cite fit that description. When the administration sides with religious groups that object to Obamacare's contraceptive mandate, it is supporting regulatory relief, not additional government meddling. Likewise when it rejects an interpretation of the Civil Rights Act that would bar employers from discriminating against workers based on sexual orientation. Whether or not you agree with those positions, they are perfectly consistent with deregulation. Protess et al. also argue that reducing restrictions on firearms (which they debatably deem socially conservative) amounts to government meddling. The Trump administration has rejected a broad definition of the "fugitives from justice" who are forbidden to buy guns under federal law and abandoned a policy that prohibited guns on land managed by the Army Corps of Engineers, making the rules similar to those that apply in national parks. Again, you may or may not approve of those shifts, but they clearly resulted in more freedom, not less. Cutting U.S. aid to foreign organizations that promote abortion is a kind of restriction, but it's a condition attached to the use of taxpayer money, as opposed to a direct mandate or prohibition. A "less-is-more credo" regarding the proper scope of government surely does not require using taxpayer money to promote abortion in other countries. Nor does it demand that guidelines for federal grants aimed at helping "victims of commercial sexual exploitation" specifically mention LGBTQ youth, which they no longer do under Trump. The clearest example of new restrictions on freedom mentioned by the Times is Trump's crackdown on immigration, which is not unambiguously a favor to the religious right. Protess et al. note that some religious conservatives "disagreed with his move to end the program that blocks young undocumented immigrants from being deported." Opponents of ending Deferred Action on Childhood Arrivals reportedly included Jared Kushner, "Mr. Trump's Orthodox Jewish son-in-law," whom the Times mentions as a liaison between the administration and religious conservatives but whose personal politics are, like his wife's, socially liberal. The Times perceives "a fundamental repurposing of the federal bureaucracy to promote conservative social priorities." It may be surprising that a serial adulterer, proud womanizer, notorious liar, and incorrigible braggart with no firm ideology or theology has emerged as a champion of social conservatives. But it is hardly surprising that after adopting that role, Trump would use his powers as president to shift policy in a conservative direction, just as Barack Obama used his to shift policy in a progressive direction. There is nothing scandalous about that, except to those who take it for granted that the former agenda is altogether appalling while the latter is entirely enlightened.[...]

Young Louis Farrakhan Sings a Calypso Song About Transgender Surgery

Fri, 08 Sep 2017 10:59:00 -0400

(image) Before Louis Farrakhan joined the Nation of Islam, he was a calypso singer billed as The Charmer. And in 1954, inspired by Christine Jorgensen's sex reassignment surgery, the future recipient of the Al-Gaddafi International Prize for Human Rights wrote and sang "Is She Is, Or Is She Ain't," a topical tune about "this modern surgery/it change him from he to she":

He tried to live the life of a man
But that was not in accord with nature's plan
So he underwent this operation
And came back home to shock the nation
But behind that lapstick, rouge, and paint
I got to know: Is she is, or is she ain't?

More recently, Farrakhan has described such transitions as "sci­ence that is so wicked," so I think it's fair to say he was a bit more progressive on the subject 63 years ago. To hear the whole song, click below:

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(Hat tip: Brad Rogers. The B-side is about zombies; you can hear that here. For another religious leader's views on trans issues, go here. For past editions of the Friday A/V Club, go here.)

Brickbat: Religious War

Tue, 05 Sep 2017 04:00:00 -0400

(image) The Utah Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control Commission has fined St. John the Baptist Catholic Church some $600 for violating state alcohol laws. Some of the volunteer servers at a church fundraiser apparently imbibed some of the alcohol they were serving while "on duty."

Brickbat: There Will Be None of That Now

Tue, 29 Aug 2017 04:00:00 -0400

(image) In Indiana, Mount Vernon schools superintendent Shane Robbins says an elementary school teacher was wrong to send a note home to parents telling them their children should not talk about God at school. Officials say students can discuss religion or other personal beliefs as long as they do not interrupt class.

Brickbat: The Terrorists Have Won

Wed, 09 Aug 2017 04:00:00 -0400

(image) In Australia, a court has upheld a decision by a local government to bar the construction of a synagogue near Bondi Beach. Officials say the synagogue could become a target for terrorists, endangering the neighborhood as well as beach-goers