The Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a lower court’s order that an eight-foot cross be removed from the Mojave National Preserve. The ruling dismissed as a sham the National Park Service’s transfer to a private organization of the land beneath the cross.—TF
On October 10, Ontario’s conservative Tory Party, led by the coincidentally named John Tory, was clobbered at the polls by the Canadian province’s Liberal Party. The defining issue was Tory Tory’s proposal to extend public funding ($400 million per year) to faith-based schools other than Catholic schools. (Background: Since the British North America Act of 1867 made Canada an independent nation, majority-Protestant Ontario has provided public funding to Catholic as well as public schools, while majority-Catholic Quebec supported French Catholic schools and English Protestant schools until Quebec replaced its system with religiously neutral French- and English-language schools.)
Polls have shown that Ontario voters would end public funding for Catholic schools if they could. Of Ontario’s 1.3 million students, only about 53,000 attend sectarian Jewish, Muslim, or Protestant schools. The Tory Party’s defeat also ousted party leader John Tory in his own riding (district).
Toronto Star columnist Jeffery Ewener wrote that Ontario’s Tories developed a “forbidden lust, hovering just beyond their trembling, grasping fingers” for Karl Rove’s success in harnessing the religious Right to George W. Bush’s wagon. The Tories’ fatal miscalculation lay in ignoring the fact that, though Canada lacks a First Amendment, Canadians favor a secular society more strongly than their American neighbors.
If American politicians who favor school vouchers won’t learn from our own referenda and opinion polls, they are not likely to learn from our friends to the north. Maybe the growth of Islamic education here and abroad will wake them up.—ED
The Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals let stand a California death sentence, though the jury foreman had improperly shown fellow jurors items from his personal research including pro-death penalty quotations from the Bible.—TF
Al Gore and Overpopulation
As a delegate to an International Humanist and Ethical Union board meeting in Oslo in June 2001, I had occasion to make some remarks. “Some of you will have noticed,” I began, “that I am wearing a small Canadian flag on my jacket lapel. That’s to avoid the embarrassment of being recognized as a citizen of the country that’s just had a judicial coup d’etat.” Well, though Al Gore was robbed of his election victory in 2000, he has now been rewarded with the Nobel Peace Prize—unless the ideologues on our Supreme Court can find a way to transfer it to George W. Bush.
Gore certainly deserves his share of the Nobel for his many years calling attention to our global warming, climate change, and environmental crises. (The reader might also want to check out my review of Gore’s latest book, The Assault on Reason, Free Inquiry, October/November 2007). But far too little of that attention has been paid to the effects of overpopulation on global warming, environmental degradation, shrinking biodiversity, peace, and democracy. Gore makes the point in An Inconvenient Truth (in the book, on pp. 216–217), but the issue is scarcely visible in the media—possibly out of fear of the pro-natalist fanaticism of fundamentalist evangelicals, Catholics, Muslims, and neocons.
Yet the scope of our population crisis has been spelled out for decades, especially in the report ordered by President Nixon and finished under and endorsed by, President Ford in late 1974, the National Security Study Memorandum (NSSM) 200 report. This comprehensive report, completed when world population was only two-thirds its present size, called not only for universal access to family planning information and material but also for the universal legalization and availability of abortion. NSSM 200 was classified, then buried for nearly twenty years, apparently known only to Vatican apparatchiks. It was finally declassified and made public by population scientist Stephen D. Mumford shortly before the 1994 Cairo U.N. population conference (see his “Overcoming Overpopulation: The Rise and Fall of American Political Will,” Free Inquiry, Spring 1994). Mumford’s exposé, The Life and Death of NSSM 200, is available from the Center for Research on Population and Security (www.population-security.org).
Armed with his Nobel, perhaps Al Gore will be able to lead the way in dealing with the population explosion, global warming, and all their attendant problems.—ED
The Eighth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a prohibition on a southern Missouri school district’s allowing Gideons International to distribute Bibles in fifth-grade classrooms.—TF