The Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) handed down rulings this week concerning marriage equality in law for same sex couples at the federal and state levels. The Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), the law which prohibited the federal government from recognizing same sex marriages, was declared unconstitutional and the court refused to hear the appeal of Proposition 8 in California, the ballot measure that changed the California Constitution to add a new section 7.5 to Article I, which reads: “Only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California.” Proposition 8 was declared unconstitutional by a lower court, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, in 2012 and the government of California chose not to defend the law on its appeal to SCOTUS. Consequently, a majority of the Justices refused to hear the appeal on the grounds the appellants did not have the constitutional authority, or legal standing, to defend the law in higher courts after the state refused to appeal its loss at trial. These rulings are the latest in an interesting history of legal battles over the definition of marriage in the United States. Continue reading →
Jason trying out his new Beretta SV10 Perennia Field Grade III shotgun at the Stittsville Shooting Range. Not bad for a gun he picked up from the clearance bin at LeBaron Outdoor Products. An acquaintance of Jason’s from Canadian Gun Nutz, Matthew, joined us and offered some helpful pointers on skeet shooting.
In previous essays I discussed the topic of religion and state in the Western world, notably the role of Christianity, Catholic and Protestant, in the development of Western civilization. For centuries the Catholic Church had authority in temporal affairs and collected taxes in much of Europe. Following the Reformation in the 16th century there were instances where Protestant Churches had authority in temporal affairs. Geneva under the rule of John Calvin (1509-1564), the founder of Calvinism, was governed according to the Ecclesiastical Ordinances which were administered by the Consistory. The Enlightenment in the 18th century introduced new thinking in the natural rights of man and the place of religion in society. Enlightenment thinkers valued religious liberty, but also favoured a strict separation between religion and the state. By the end of the 18th century there were the American and French Revolutions which introduced constitutional law and separation of church and state. In the 19th century the last vestiges of church authority in temporal affairs were swept away with capture of Rome and the Papal States in the drive to unify Italy as a nation. Constitutional guarantees of religious liberty and separation of religion and state make religious pluralism an integral part of Western societies in the present, while Christianity remains the dominant faith, people are free to practice any religion they wish or none at all. How does the history and development of the Islamic world then compare to that of the Western world? Continue reading →
After seeing a pair of green herons on the pond next to the Rideau River where I photographed ducks, turtles, red-winged blackbirds over the past several weeks, one of the herons was good enough to pose for me at last on June 18, 2013.
Eastern kingbird viewed while out for a run with Hera, my friend Jason Quinn and his dog Nos, June 17, 2013. The eastern kingbird is a plucky species of flycatcher common in the area. I see a few mated pairs every spring nesting in shrubs along the Rideau River. They are usually successful at rearing their broods as they mount a spirited defense of their nest and young, driving away crows especially. The often perch on the wires in the background, watching for the insects on which they prey, snatching them out of the air.
Egg shells are all that remain of the clutch recently laid by a turtle in the soft earth next to a pond by the Rideau River that were dug up and eaten by a predator, likely a hungry raccoon. Life in the natural world is typically short and comes to a sudden and grisly end.
The papacy was in a very precarious position when Pope Pius IX convened the First Vatican Council on June 29, 1868. The drive for Italian unification was underway, with a revolution in 1848 that led to the exile of Pius IX in the castle of Gaeta in the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies from November 24, 1848, until his return to Rome in April 1850. The revolutionaries declared the Roman Republic comprised of the Papal States and in accordance with the ideals of the Enlightenment religious liberty and tolerance was enshrined in the new constitution by article 7 of the Principi fondamentali. Prior to this development only Christianity and Judaism were allowed by law to be practiced in the Papal States. The independence of the pope as head of the Catholic Church was guaranteed by article 8 of the Principi fondamentali. While providing constitutional guarantees of religious liberty and papal authority over the Catholic Church, the framers of the Constitution of the Italian Republic curtailed the temporal authority of the Pope which was referred to as an “historical lie, a political imposture, and a religious immorality” by a reform-minded priest, Abbé Arduini. (as cited in Wikipedia) However, by June 1849 the Roman Republic was overthrown by French military intervention and Pius IX restored in office, returning to Rome and reclaiming governance of the Papal States. Continue reading →