Power over life and death – a matter of conscience


As we write there are thousands of Irish children, already existing but awaiting birth, who do not have any votes in Ireland’s general election which takes place on 26 February. But the Irish Constitution does recognize their right to life. The outcome of this election will determine whether children like them in the future will continue to be guaranteed this right to life.

As readers of Garvan Hill will be aware, it is, among other things, a blog which defends the right to life of all human beings.

This has nothing to do with party politics as such, it has to do with a proposal which should not be on the agenda of any political party – the removal from the Irish Constitution of the provision protecting the life of human beings, children in their mothers’ wombs awaiting their birth.

What the link below provides is the result of the Irish Pro Life Campaign’s research as to which candidates in the coming general election are explicitly committed to maintaining this protection. As you will see, many have not given information one way or the other.

For  each elector with a proper understanding of where and when human life begins – and modern science, not to mention the evidence of our own eyes, should leave us in no doubt about that – there must surely be a moral obligation to confront candidates personally with the question about where they stand on this issue. Until there is an assurance that they will not remove the guarantee of this right for unborn children, how could one in conscience  vote them into a position of power?

Above you will see a beautiful video from Ireland’s Pro Life Campaign and a comprehensive guide to the position – or non-position – of candidates in Irish electors’ respective constituencies on this vital issue.

Your Vote Matters – Use it to protect human life https://youtu.be/xCZIwx18QP0 via @YouTube

On this day in 1858


From today’s online briefing courtesy of the New York Times – rare and reverent:

About six million pilgrims, many of them seeking to be healed of disease and pain, visit Lourdes, the site of the most popular Roman Catholic shrine in France, each year.

It’s where the 14-year-old Marie-Bernarde Soubirous, later canonized as St. Bernadette, said she saw the Virgin Mary appear in a grotto on this day in 1858.

Today is the Feast of Our Lady of Lourdes (a reference to the Virgin Mary) and the World Day of the Sick, a moment to focus on health care and human dignity.

Pope John Paul II came up with the idea of a day for the ailing after learning that he had Parkinson’s disease. He traveled to Lourdes on his final foreign trip, in 2004, less than a year before he died.

Pope Benedict XVI, acknowledging his own frailty, used this day to announce his retirement in 2013.

The church has recognized 69 miracles and thousands of cures at Lourdes, a small city in the foothills of the Pyrenees. The faithful say that the waters of its grotto have healing powers.

NYT Morning Briefing is published weekdays.

What would you like to see here? Contact us at briefing@nytimes.com


A watershed election looming in Ireland?



As Ireland slides somewhat apathetically towards a potentially crucial general election in the centenary of the 1916 Irish rebellion against the British Empire, there are signs – and hopes among some – that this might be a watershed year in Irish politics.

The old party political structures which have persisted for nearly 100 years are tired and have gone far beyond their sell-by date. Worse, they are corrupted and for many they reek of some of the worst vices that relativism and it progeny, unprincipled pragmatism, can bring to any political culture.

In 1961the social and political philosopher, Hannah Arendt, was sent by The New Yorker magazine to Jerusalem to write about the trial of Adolf Eichmann. She was appalled by what she saw and heard. The spectacle which she saw unfold before her was of a man – indeed of many men and women – who set conscience aside to carry out the orders received from a government to which he had committed allegiance.

This appalled her at least as much as the catalogue of atrocities which the trial revisited. These she had anticipated and indeed lived through as a victim. In some senses was prepared for the repeated blows to her sensibilities which rained down on her. The former was something she was not prepared for and until her death in 1975 it haunted her. Well it might, and well it might haunt us all. The abnegation of conscience and its inevitable consequence, the abnegation of humanity, still stalks our public square today.

We may like to think that it does not manifest itself today in the horrendous proportions which it did in the case of Adolf Eichmann – and his co-criminals – but in essence it does. It does so in the same banal guise as it did in the case of that monstrous “ordinary” bureaucrat. It is at our peril that we think that it does not.

The coalition government of Enda Kenny, a politician more reviled by a sizeable proportion of the Irish electorate than any in living memory, is seeking to be returned to power along with his liberal coalition partners, the Irish Labour Party. He may well succeed. It is now widely expected, however, that there will be a strong representation in the new parliament for those who have been crying, “a plague on all your houses.” Kenny’s party may be the largest one in the Dáil after the election but its majority will be greatly reduced.

A poll at the start of the election campaign indicates that over 60 per cent of the electorate want rid of the present coalition. However, party fragmentation and independent deputies of all colours may result in them just getting more of the same. If Kenny can form a government he will have to do so with the help of all the colours of the rainbow, always a volatile and often a short-term mix.

There are multiple reasons for the disaffection of the Irish electorate. Ireland is not immune to this virus now found in many Western democracies. But in Ireland one in particular stands out. Enda Kenny is the leader of a party which in 2013 cut a number of its members adrift because they would not and could not, in conscience, support his government’s abortion legislation.

The members in question opposed the legislation on two grounds. The first was the ground of their moral conscience which told them that the termination of the lives of innocent unborn human beings in their mothers’ wombs was evil. The second, although not a matter of life and death like the first, was no less moral. They believed that promises made, undertakings given by politicians going into an election, should be honoured. Kenny’s party explicitly undertook not to legislate for abortion if it got the votes to enable it to form a government. Once in power, under pressure from their coalition partners and the media, they turned around and did just that.

But revulsion at Kenny goes even deeper than that. Not only did he unjustly punish those he could not bring with him. He corrupted the consciences of those too weak to stand their ground against him, those who in their hearts knew that what he was doing was both morally wrong and a betrayal of the trust of the electorate. These people, under pressure from him and his bullying acolytes caved in and voted for his legislation.

For many, sadly, this is just the stuff of political life. For others it is much more than that. Those who opposed Kenny did not see this as a matter involving the extermination of a race. For them it was about a law which was going to open the door to a regime of abortion through which their country would join a community of nations which have callously organised the extermination of millions of unborn babies over the past five decades. In secret meetings abortion advocates in Kenny’s coalition told their supporters that although limited in scope, the legislation he was introducing would open the door to abortion on demand in Ireland. That was no surprise to anyone.

Lucinda Creighton was a minister in Kenny’s government and was forced to resign when she was unable to support the legislation – legislation to which she was opposed in principle and which she had promised her electorate that the party would not introduce or pass into law. Media outlets in Ireland are overwhelmingly pro-abortion and Creighton is now their number one target. She is seeking re-election and is the head of a new party with a radical and comprehensive platform of policies. It is campaigning, among other things, to rid Irish party-politics of the paralysing and freedom-denying version of the parliamentary whip system it has be operating under.


Creighton’s new party is taking a much more liberal line on the application of the party whip because everyone sees that the system as used at present is simply turning the elected representatives in moronic “yes-men” – and women.

In their hue and cry pursuit of her Irish media show themselves, no less that the majority of the politicians in the traditional parties do, totally insensitive to the ethical quagmire which Hannah Arendt discerned in heart of Adolf Eichmann at his fateful trial in Jerusalem.

One journalist typified this a few weeks ago when she attacked Creighton for her conscientious stand. “I think she was wrong. She was wrong to leave over abortion and she was wrong to leave at all,” she said. Creighton should have understood, the journalist argued, why the party whip had to be imposed. According to her the TDs – an acronym derived from the Irish term for a parliamentary representative – and senators needed the “protection” of the whip. She denied that it was a method of ensuring group think and mind control. Read another way that means they needed the “protection” of the whip to shield them from their own consciences and to absolve them of personal responsibility for the consequences of their actions.

Creighton’s spirited and inspiring defence of her stand in 2013 obviously meant nothing to this journalist. It did, however, to many, right around the world where it was read, listened to and admired.

I never bought into the line about matters of conscience…., the journalist went on. If you can’t stand being told what to do, how do you intend to take part in Cabinet decisions, which are constitutionally collective and confidential? So in the end, you can dress it up in principles all day, but ultimately, Lucinda is just another splitter.

She concluded, the following applies, not just to Lucinda, but the rest of them: Compromise can be framed as the means by which ideals are undone, one vote at a time. You can sacrifice your soul on the altar of loyalty, but nothing changes the fact that politics is a collective business.

So yes, there’s a game to be played. But it’s a long game.

There are chilling echoes of Eichmann’s defence in those words. In the light of what she observed in Jerusalem, Hannah Arendt raised the question of whether evil is radical or simply a function of thoughtlessness, a tendency of ordinary people to obey orders and conform to mass opinion without a critical evaluation of the consequences of their actions and inaction.

All this is symptomatic of what many see as a cancer at the heart of not just Irish political life, but of Western democracy generally. Politicians today are fond of telling us that their thinking and their principles are “evolving”. That, in most cases, is just a euphemism which describes political thinking devoid of principles.

For the next three weeks some Irish men and women are living in the hope that, 100 years after men went in good conscience to their deaths for an ideal, they might again have representatives in their parliament for whom conscience and ideals, as opposed to power, mean something.

A God-send for homeschooling?


The Diocese of Burlington, Vermont, USA,  this autumn, hopes to open a digital high school, where lectures, class discussions and homework largely take place in an online environment instead of a traditional bricks-and-mortar classroom.

Although online courses have long been available to Catholic home-school students, including some that go back to the 1990s, the idea of an accredited and diocesan-supported online Catholic school is quite new. The National Catholic Education Association (NCEA) said it is aware of the existence of just one other: the Archdiocese of Miami Virtual Catholic School.

It opened in 2013. It claims to be the only diocesan-supported school of its kind. At least one other archdiocese, Chicago, also launched a digital academy in the same year. But it is intended to offer supplementary courses taken by students already enrolled in a physical school.

Read more about this here.

This could be the answer to the continued encroachment of secularist state agencies seeking to undermine that faith environment of christian schools in many counties.

One such example from an officially Catholic school in Ireland was reported on Irish radio last week:

A Catholic primary school offering an alternative non-Catholic ethics and religious beliefs programme to pupils has said schools interested in the idea should “go for it”.

Dochtuir Uí Shúilleabháin school in Skibbereen introduced the programme two years ago. The school says it has been a resounding success, with 37 of its 59 pupils opting for non-Catholic classes.

The school’s patron, An Foras Patrúnachta, said while Gaelscoil Dr Uí Shúilleabháin is adhering to its Catholic ethos, it also recognises that there are parents who do not want a Catholic formation for their children, and the school is facilitating that.

Intolerance, centuries apart

Bakers are in the news again. It is interesting that nearly 500 years ago an Irish baker was executed for practicing his faith.

This week, as the London Daily Telegraph reminds us today, another baker is in the courts of law defending his faith and his conscience. In its editorial the Telegraph tells us and reflects on the strange and important case:

The Court of Appeal in Northern Ireland will this week begin hearing the great “gay cake” case. This may sound like a joke, but is a deadly serious matter concerning freedom of expression and the right of a person to hold an opinion or object to someone else’s.The appellants are Ashers, a bakery run by two devout Christians, Karen and Colin McArthur. Last May, they were fined for refusing to bake a cake for a gay couple. The law states that people cannot be discriminated against in the provision of services on the ground of race, religion, gender or sexual orientation. However, they declined the order not because their customers were homosexual but because they were asked to ice the slogan “Support Gay Marriage” on the cake.

The judge in the district court ruled that although the bakers were committed Christians and opposed to same-sex marriage, they were not entitled to refuse to provide the service. However, they were not unwilling to bake the cake, rather they didn’t want to endorse a view to which they did not subscribe. More than that, the legislation allowing gay marriage in the rest of the United Kingdom has not been introduced in Northern Ireland. The McArthurs objected to promoting a change in the law with which they did not agree.

We are in the realms of thought crime here and even Peter Tatchell, the veteran gay rights campaigner who initially welcomed the prosecution, has changed his mind about it. He said the law against discrimination was meant to protect people with differing views, not to force upon others opinions to which they conscientiously object. Indeed so. The conviction must be overturned.

Colin and Karen will unlikely have to face the fate of Mathew Lambert, their 16th century predecessor. But they are suffering and are being made to suffer by the judicial shenanigans driven by the same force which brought Lambert and his companions to their death – intolerance of conscience.

Pursued by English troops after the collapse of the Second Desmond Rebellion against Queen Elizabeth I, James Eustace and his chaplain, Father Robert Rochford, eventually found refuge with Matthew Lambert, a Wexford baker. Lambert fed them and arranged with five sailor acquaintances for safe passage by ship for them. Lambert was betrayed, along with sailors Patrick Cavanagh, Edward Cheevers, Robert Myler, and two others. They were arrested, imprisoned, and tortured.

The authorities heard of the plan beforehand and Matthew was arrested together with his five sailor friends. Thrown into prison, they were questioned about politics and religion. Lambert’s reply was: “I am not a learned man. I am unable to debate with you, but I can tell you this, I am a Catholic and I believe whatever our Holy Mother the Catholic Church believes.” They were found guilty of treason and hanged, drawn, and quartered in Wexford on 5 July 1581.

The evil that men do…


The evil that men do lives after them; the good is oft interred with their bones. But in too many cases there is not even a modicum of good to accompany those bones. So, it seems, it was with Mao Zedong, the “father” of modern China.

Just last week we were again reminded of the evil influence of this man and how that evil still lives among us when, heroically, Katy Morgan-Davies, enslaved since birth in Britain by her Maoist-inspired cult leader father, said she forgave him after a judge condemned him to die in jail for his decades of abuse in which he had robbed her of “family, childhood, friends and love”.

Aravindan Balakrishnan was found guilty of horrific assaults against two female followers and false imprisonment and child cruelty against his daughter.

At Southwark Crown Court, Judge Deborah Taylor said: “You were ruthless in your exploitation of them. You engendered a climate of fear, jealousy and competition for your approval. The judge said Balakrishnan had treated his daughter like “a project”.

A project? Therein lies the pernicious influence of Mao Zedong, the man whose dedication to a utopian project was pursued at the cost of the lives of more than 45 million of his countrymen.

Yet this man, of whose ideology Balakrishnan is a micro representation, inspired some of Western Europe’s most famous intellectuals for some of the seminal decades of the last century, the 1960s and 1970s. In fact recent studies reveal that in its essence Mao’s legacy was as brutal and his personal life was as vicious as that of the man who was last week condemned to spend the rest of his life behind bars.

Mao was not only the man who set China on her ruthless totalitarian path. He was also the man whose ideology has inspired his successors to continue to pursue social and population control policies which seem set to plunge China into a demographic catastrophe. Furthermore, in his personal life he was a voracious and utterly abusive predator of the women in his life – and there were multitudes of them. He would put Caligula to shame.

A review in the Times Literary Supplement of a recent biography of a Belgian writer who died in 2014 reminds us that:

 In the 1960s and 70s, a nation that saw itself as the most sophisticated on earth fell under the spell of the greatest mass murderer in history. Mao Zedong had admirers in many places, but only in France did his appeal stretch beyond small bands of revolutionaries. The cream of the progressive intelligentsia – from Jean-Paul Sartre to Michel Foucault, Roland Barthes and Jean-Luc Godard – as well as pillars of the conservative establishment enthused about him. André Malraux was Mao’s most fulsome eulogist. Alain Peyrefitte, another Gaullist grandee, published a bestseller in 1973 arguing that under Mao’s stewardship China was destined for greatness. President Valéry Giscard d’Estaing called Mao a “beacon” for humanity.

Pierre Boncenne, the author of the biography of this Belgian, Simon Leys, tells us that he should be remembered as one of the earliest voices to be raised against the adulation of this tyrant. He tells us of the moment when Leys was first alerted to the atrocities perpetrated by Mao. He was pursuing his day job, the study of Chinese art and literature in Hong Kong when a car bomb exploded outside his apartment and killed a famous critic of Mao. This was 1967 and this was just one atrocity of the many that made up Mao’s Cultural Revolution.

Within a year of that explosion students were on the streets in Paris, London, Dublin and other cities around the world, accompanied by some of the aforementioned intellectuals, acclaiming Mao Zedong as a hero for our times. It was too much for Leys. He wanted to put the record straight and began the first of the three books he published between 1971 and 1976 – Chairman Mao’s New Clothes. Then he followed with, Chinese Shadows and Broken Images. In these books he told the story of the atrocities of the Cultural Revolution as he saw them unfold, exposing the naivety of Mao’s Western acolytes.

Boncennes’ biography, Le Parapluie de Simon Leys , tells us that while some acclaimed the books, they made little impact on the Western cult of Mao. The TLS review summarises the moment when the penny finally dropped:

Their public shaming did not come until Leys’s first television appearance in May 1983. Other guests on France’s prestigious cultural show Apostrophes that evening included Maria-Antonietta Macciocchi, who was promoting her unrepentant autobiography of a Mao fan. Leys took the opportunity to tell the Red Guards of the Left Bank to their faces what he had been thinking of them for so long. “I think idiots utter idiocies just as plum trees produce plums – it’s a normal, natural process. The problem is that some readers take them seriously”, he said. “The most charitable thing you can say about [Macciocchi’s book] On China is that it is utterly stupid; because if you did not accuse her of being stupid, you would have to say she’s a fraud.”

Sales of Macciocchi’s book plummeted after the show – which ironically she appeared on to promote.

The reviewer tells us that Leys’ writing on the subject still repays reading because of his power to tell simple truths. Forty years on, researchers have shed light on key episodes and updated the death toll – as high as 45 million for the Great Leap Forward of 1958–61 alone – but few, he says, have painted the overall picture with such limpidity and depth. “Leys brings not just factual but moral clarity to the story of Maoism. His notes on a hellish utopia and the fascination it can exert make him a significant figure of anti-totalitarian literature.”

True religion, G. K. Chesterton wrote, was a way of stopping the mind from spinning out of control and of anchoring it in reality. This appealed to Leys, who was a devotee of G.K. and also a devout Catholic. In his view the political monstrosities of the twentieth century were rooted in a failure to acknowledge reality and this was particularly true of Maoism, which stated the absolute supremacy of the leader’s will: if you followed Mao’s teachings, – and remember how many students in the 60s and 70s were intrigued by his “Little Red Book” – anything was possible. Imagine and design your project and pursue it to the death, the deaths of millions if necessary. For Leys the sophisticates of the West who refused to pay attention to real events, lost in their abstract thoughts, idiotically surrendered themselves to one of the greatest evils the world has ever seen.

On worthy rants


Garvan Hill has in the recent past been accused of going on a rant about something – I can’t remember exactly what it was but you may well find more than one rant in past posts.

The TLS (Times Literary Supplement) in a review back in 2004 took up the theme of rants in the context of a book which the reviewer described as an example of the genre.

Literature has a blood sport, he wrote, it is the rant. The genre is simple enough: take a well-worn topic, define it vaguely, and stuff it full of straw. And then let fly. Like some Garvan Hill rants, it seemed a worthy one.

The rant in question is a book called Death Sentence. This had nothing to do with capital punishment but it had to do with another kind of punishment – the punishment inflicted by the kind of thing which now passes for “the language of public life: the language of political and business leaders and civil servants”.

This has decayed so much, Don Watson (the book’s author) believes, that “rarely in history have sensible human beings found it so hard to say simple things”. Instead of telling their customers that they can now use electronic transactions, banks inform us: “As part of the electronic delivery strategy the vision (is) to enable customers to transact low face value commoditised financial markets instruments electronically and seamlessly”.

Now if that is not a sentence murdering a simple idea, what is?

Watson ‘s villain is the corporate world. This monster is among us and is spreading a debased managerial language around the globe. It began in the business world, he believes, but is now bludgeoning its way into public organizations which are swallowing this half-baked language whole. Welfare agencies, for example, are now trying to keep up to date by writing about “outcomes” for their customers. Museums are “preferred providers of educational experience”, hospitals develop “best-practice scenarios”, and even universities – which should be among the foremest guardians of the mission of language to help us make sense of our lives – are proclaiming that they “enhance capability gaps to empower continuous….blah, blah, blah”. That was 2004. Nothing much has improved in 2016.

The TLS review is here and the book is Death Sentence: The Decay of Public Language by Don Watson

“A political hit job – or what is this?”

Of course, since what follows comes to us via Fox News, a segment of Garvan Hill readers may say, “They would say that, wouldn’t they?” Does that mean it shouldn’t be listened to? No. A true liberal will rejoice in the very existence of Fox News – even though they may disagree with everything they hear and see on it. What a dire totalitarian media world America would have without it. If you want to know what it is like to live in that kind of world, come to Ireland.

Courtesy of the pro-life website LifeSite News’ feature, The Pulse, we have this report:

January 28, 2016 (NewsBusters) — Reacting to the news that the filmmakers related to the Center for Medical Progress (CMP) would be indicted on criminal charges in the Planned Parenthood baby parts scandal, Monday’s Kelly File concluded with host Megyn Kelly and senior judicial analyst Judge Andrew Napolitano excoriating the liberal Harris County, TX prosecutor for enacting “a political hit job” on the pro-life figures that exposed the massive scandal.

Megyn Kelly

Kelly began with a summary of what transpired late Monday and Napolitano first commented that what people should take away from the development was simply “that a political prosecutor has injected herself in a very serious issue about whether or not Planned Parenthood was profiting from the abortion of babies by selling body parts.”

After explaining how the investigation was originally called for by pro-life Republican Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick, the Harris County prosecutor was supposed “to investigate whether or not these tapes were real” and “[w]as Planned Parenthood really offering to sell body parts and did they, in fact, reference parts they sold the body parts?”

While he maintained that those who watch any of the CMP videos are free to make their own conclusions: 

I submit that if you watch them, you will conclude that they did sell parts and were willing to sell them in the future. So the prosecutor investigates this and she decides to present a case to a grand jury. We haven’t see the grand jury transcript yet but we will. Not charging Planned Parenthood with selling body parts but charging the journalists who were testing Planned Parenthood with participating in an actual conspiracy to sell body parts. 

The FNC analyst added that the indictment made little sense to him since the charges brought are “crimes of intent” and “[y]ou have to intend to commit this crime.”

Kelly wondered if it “sound[ed] like a political hit job” and Napolitano shot back: 

Absolutely this is a political hit job. You used to practice law. I used to be on the bench. We both know a skilled prosecutor can get a grand jury to indict anything. The favorite phrase is you can get a grand jury to indict a ham sandwich if you want. There’s no judge. There’s nobody there on the other side. We won’t know what this prosecutor told the grand jury unless and until there’s an actual criminal trial. 

The transcript of the segment from FNC’s The Kelly File on January 25 can be found below.

FNC’s The Kelly File
January 25, 2016
9:53 p.m. Eastern

MEYGN KELLY: Developing tonight, a Texas grand jury bringing criminal charges recommending them against the filmmaker who shot a series of hidden camera videos targeting Planned Parenthood. David Daleiden — that’s a name I can never pronounce that — the founder of the Ceeter for Medical Progress was indicted on charges of tampering with a government record and purchase and sale of human organs, he was the undercover guy making the videos. Another colleague of his was also charged, Planned Parenthood was not charged. Joining me now, Fox News senior judicial analyst, Judge Andrew Napolitano. Judge, what does this mean? 

JUDGE ANDREW NAPOLITANO: This means that a political prosecutor has injected herself in very serious issue about whether or not Planned Parenthood was profiting from the abortion of babies by selling body parts. Here’s the back story. The lieutenant governor, the new lieutenant governor of Texas, Dan Patrick is a very, very serious pro-life advocate, was before he was lieutenant governor, is now. He asked this prosecutor to investigate whether or not these tapes were real. Was Planned Parenthood really offering to sell body parts and did they, in fact, reference parts they sold the body parts?

KELLY: Which they deny. 

NAPOLITANO: Which they deny and anybody that watches the tapes can come to their own conclusion. I submit that if you watch them, you will conclude that they did sell parts and were willing to sell them in the future. So the prosecutor investigates this and she decides to present a case to a grand jury. We haven’t see the grand jury transcript yet but we will. Not charging Planned Parenthood with selling body parts but charging the journalists who were testing Planned Parenthood with participating in an actual conspiracy to sell body parts. 

KELLY: Meanwhile, they didn’t actually want to buy any body parts at all. It was a sting.

NAPOLITANO: No, of course not and these are what we call crimes of intent. You have to intend to commit this crime. You can’t just utter the words, so if a journalist says to Planned Parenthood, are interested in selling body parts? That journalist now has to worry about being indicted for suggesting a crime. 

KELLY: So, does this sound like a political hit job or what is this. 

NAPOLITANO: Absolutely this is a political hit job. You used to practice law. I used to be on the bench. We both know a skilled prosecutor can get a grand jury to indict anything. The favorite phrase is you can get a grand jury to indict a ham sandwich if you want. There’s no judge. There’s nobody there on the other side. We won’t know what this prosecutor told the grand jury unless and until there’s an actual criminal trial. 

KELLY: This is fascinating. Looking forward to getting a look at this complaint. Judge, great to see you.

Reprinted with permission from News Busters.


Small pharma takes on the state


Can a state force pharmacists to prescribe abortion-inducing drugs at the expense of their religious beliefs? This is the central issue in a case the US Supreme Court may agree to hear in its next term.

In 2007, the State of Washington passed a law requiring all pharmacies to deliver “all lawfully prescribed drugs or devices” in a timely manner to all customers. This “Delivery Rule” contains several exemptions such as business or convenience reasons for not stocking certain drugs, but there is no exemption for religious objections.

A small family-run grocery store and pharmacy in the state was investigated by the  Pharmacy Quality Assurance Commission for refusing to stock any form of abortifacient, such as Plan B. The Stormans family, which owns the store, cites religious beliefs as its justification for refusing to stock abortifacient drugs. The Stormans believe that by dispensing these drugs, they would be aiding in the destruction of human life, directly contradicting their Christian faith.

Although the Stormans’ store does not carry Plan B, if a customer requests it, employees provide a list of local pharmacies and drug stores that carry the drug, even going so far as to call other pharmacies to confirm that the drug is in stock.

Abortion activists were not happy with this and began sending test shoppers to the store. They then filed complaints with the Pharmacy Quality Assurance Commission after they received a referral rather than a filled prescription. This led to an investigation, and the store was threatened with losing its pharmacy license.

How long will it be before the newly emboldened and militant pro-abortion activists in Ireland begin targeting Irish pharmacists to deprive them of their right to exercise their religious beliefs? Probably not until they see the outcome from their battle to deny the unborn their right to life enshrined in the Republic’s constitution and in a more limited way in the statute law of Northern Ireland.

In the US case, the Stormans defended their rights by filing suit against the State of Washington, arguing that the Delivery Rule violates the First Amendment’s Free Exercise Clause, among other claims. The federal district court vindicated their right and ruled in favour of the Stormans. However, the pro-abortion activists wanted their pound of flesh and pushed for an appeal. On appeal, a three-judge court panel reversed the district court decision. Now the Stormans have petitioned the Supreme Court to review their case, which the Court should consider sometime in March.

More detail on this story here.

On a lighter note…

Horace Walpole

Courtesy of the New York Times daily ‘Briefing’, Garvan Hill would like to share this serendipitously discovered piece of cultural information.

It’s easy to create new words by adding the suffix “-gate” or “-iness” to it. (See Stephen Colbert’s truthiness.)
What Horace Walpole, a British member of Parliament, did in a letter written on this day in 1754 was a bit more creative.
He wrote to a friend of a word he conceived to describe what happened to three princes he read about in a fairy tale. The brothers were constantly discovering things by accident.
The fairy tale’s name? “The Three Princes of Serendip.” The word he came up with, of course, was serendipity.
“Three Princes” was a Persian tale and “Serendip” was an old name for Sri Lanka, the island nation off India’s coast that served as the royals’ home.
In Walpole’s letter, he described as an aha moment while browsing a book: “This discovery, indeed, is almost of that kind which I call Serendipity, a very expressive word.”
Slinkys and chocolate chip cookies — both of which we’ve written about in recent Back Stories — are just two inventions that were discovered serendipitously.