Tuesday, July 1, 2014

The Iona Institute Declares Its Support For (Some) Marriage Equality

Yesterday the otherwise affable Oriental Cutlery tweeted a link to the Iona Institute's latest video. I encourage fans of unmuddled thinking to avoid watching at an hour where exasperation or a breeched balderdash threshold could cause insomnia or gritted teeth.

Today I experienced both surprise and chagrin when I realised that fully one fifth of their broadcast was an impassioned plea for marriage equality for same sex couples.

Not all same sex couples, mind you, but it's encouraging to see them take these faltering, progressive steps.

I reproduce the segment for your convenience:
We believe that children should be raised by their own mother and father in a loving marriage whenever possible. Of course, circumstance can often mean this isn't possible. But we believe children should not be deprived of a mother or father's love as a matter of deliberate design. - Iona Institute, Marriage Equality Supporters
www.marriagequality.ie. The banner on their page says "civil marriage for gay and lesbian people"
Some think marriage equality is the struggle for civil marriage for gay and lesbian people. To hold this view is of course to think bisexuals can never fall in love with someone of the same gender. This is not the injustice the Iona Institute seek to right. Instead I feel they speak to the inordinate challenges married transgender parents face.

A man assigned the sex female at birth can marry a cis male, give birth, and then later decide to come out. He may then begin the process of changing his gender presentation to better match his internal sense of gender.

Some marriages are strained by this. Some come through it. For those who choose to seek legal recognition of their correct gender they may face a stark choice: the State will only grant them recognition if they divorce. I can only imagine the sense of betrayal that must accompany one's government forcing a citizen to choose between recognition of their marriage or their gender.

The Iona Institute are convinced that the biological component provided by each parent is paramount in parenting. They hold marriage dear as the ideal institution in which children should be raised. They oppose any legal step that would, by deliberate design, weaken this arrangement. It follows with certainty, therefore, that they support marriage rights for transgender citizens of this state, regardless of gender.

Sunday, June 8, 2014


I've often welcomed guest posts from those of differing opinions to me, and have had the pleasure of hosting several from those of people of faith. Today's post from a Catholic friend differs from these in that it has my full agreement.

Fiona Hanley writes from the perspective of an ordinary Irish Catholic. She's not speaking for an institute or a hierarchy, so it's a voice you may not have heard before.

Today is June 8. It’s Pentecost, marking the end of the Easter period and birthday of the Church. According to the Gospel, apostles have locked themselves in a room terrified. They get a visit from Jesus saying ‘Receive the Holy Spirit. For those whose sins you forgive, they are forgiven; for those whose sins you retain, they are retained.’ Well indeed. Harsh but fair.

The Catholic Church has never said sorry properly for abuse meted out and covered up. Sure, there have been mealy-mouthed lawyer-approved expressions of regret for actions of individuals on the other side of the alter rail. All the words of apology jumbled up to mean nothing at all. Co-operation with enquiries proceeded like a snail under a brick. It’s difficult to understand why there was no full, unconditional apology and expression of responsibility. A professional Catholic of all people should know that without atonement there will be no forgiveness. There are only seven sacraments and that’s one of them.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

An Evening With Faith Healers

On Wednesday I'll be recording my fourth appearance on Premier Christian Radio's 'Unbelievable' show. If you like Christian and non Christian debate I recommend you check out their archive. The host, Justin Brierley, makes an excellent moderator and always ensures both sides get fair hearing.

My last two shows were on miracles. After they aired a faith healer called David contacted the host and offered to take me on an evening of healing on the streets of Dublin. I was reticent - David is based in the Middle East and if nothing else I did not want him to incur the financial expense of such a journey. I think we left it as something along the lines of 'only if you happen to be here'.

Time passed and David contacted me with dates of his planned visit to Ireland. By happy coincidence we later discovered that one of his Irish cohorts knows my brother in law. We agreed to meet, spent an evening in Dublin city centre, and got on rather well.

That was perhaps seven months ago. At the time Justin asked me if I'd like to go back on his show to discuss the experience and if I'm honest I ducked the request. I liked, indeed admired David, and his ministry didn't raise any flags normally associated with faith healers. He does not accept remuneration, does not seek fame or recognition, avoids those with obvious serious ailments lest he causes offence, and seems to genuinely brighten the days of those he encounters. I felt my choice was between arguing with a likeable fellow with heartfelt intentions or taking a very soft approach and inadvertently endorsing faith healers who have a negative impact on society.

Recently Justin asked again. David seemed game, I had a day off around the time and I thought why not. This post is as much my effort to collect my thoughts and give David fair warning of points I'll raise as anything else. Given the gap in time I'm sure our recollections will differ in places, any lapses on my part are unintentional. Given how long and unwieldy this post has become I'll only discuss the first few encounters.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Preserving Ethos Argument - Does It Hold Up?

"...it is not discrimination for a religious employer to act against a member of staff who is undermining their ethos." - David Quinn, March 9th, 2013 

A castle I rented. Seriously. It was cool. Irish Landmark Trust. Check it out.
Surrounding forest reclaiming a woodland walk. It was like location scouting for a Tomb Raider movie.
Mrs Shorts and I spent an enjoyable St Patrick's week in Cork. We rented a small castle, found a semi abandoned 18th century walled garden, toured ruins and visited Fota Island. We had lunch in Ballymaloe. We toured the Jameson distillery. When I returned to work I told colleagues about the time I spent with the woman I love, showed holiday pictures, and recommended castle rental.

I can do this in Ireland because I do not have a religious employer and my sexuality is not considered a threat to anyone's sincerely held beliefs. If Mrs Shorts was a Mr and I had chosen education as a career path I would likely have required a cover story. I could have avoided any discussions with colleagues, I suppose, or pretended I had travelled alone. But renting a romantic castle for solo use is a little suspicious so I may have had to pretend I spent the week at home. Photos, naturally, would have to be kept from social media. Perhaps I could invent a partner of approved gender and spin tales to fit. It would be awkward to explain why said partner could never attend work social events, but that is a price considered appropriate to protect the delicate sincerely held beliefs of some.

Monday, March 24, 2014

GAPS In Thinking - Irish Times Promoting Medically Negligent Pseudoscience

Some six days ago the Irish Times allowed themselves the spectacular abandonment of judgement required to print a fluff piece supporting Dr Natasha Campbell McBride's GAPS diet, a supposed cure for autism, ADHD/ADD, dyslexia, diabetes, dyspraxia, depression and schizophrenia. Twelve hundred words of grovelling propaganda did not allow a single note of criticism or a voice of medical reason - her bizarre claims given credence through an absence of balanced reporting, fact checking and critical thought.

McBride is indeed a medical doctor. To find details of this degree we must travel to 1984 USSR, fully five years before David Hasselhoff sang to the destruction of the Berlin wall. The Soviet Union's coffers drained into both an Afghanistan conflict and an unpluggable trade gap, the V.I. Lenin Nuclear Power Station in Chernobyl supplied 10% of the Ukraine's electricity needs and General Secretary Yuri Andropov battled endemic corruption throughout the union. Her certification comes from this time, from the Bashkir Medical University, in a country that no longer exists.

Does this necessarily make graduates bad doctors? Of course not. I merely voice caution that we cannot give such degrees automatic respect. I am not alone in this view. The qualification does not allow Campbell McBride to practice medicine in the UK or the United States, for example. It seems unwise to grant it more credence than Dr Nick Riviera's Hollywood Upstairs Medical degree.

What's The Harm?

The Financial Cost Of GAPS

I would even go further, depending on your commitment and certain circumstances, you have a good chance of bringing your child as close as possible to normality! -Dr Natasha McBride, heaping guilt on the parents of autistic children before passing them the check.

Like any good sales focused organisation, the GAPS company does not make it easy for prospective customers to gauge the full cost of its products and services. No price tags appear on http://www.shop.gapsdiet.com. You only get the bill at checkout.

For a rough estimate of cost I added one of every item they sell to a cart for a total cost of $3,404.89. (Where a product is available in multiple sizes, flavours or delivery mechanisms I added only one.) The obvious counter is that not everyone will require every product, but do bear in mind that many of these will be recurring costs, from specialised fluoride free toothpaste (a snip at $7.95), fermented vegetables (at $77 an expensive way of getting one's five a day), blended butter and cod liver oil tablets ($46.95, sounds delicious), powdered ox bile ($19.95, what kitchen would be without?), a 'biotic powder' ($63.95) and my personal favourite, an "anti-tumor, anti-parasitic, anti-viral and antiseptic" essential oil that can "destroy all tested bacteria and viruses, which simultaneously restoring balance to the body." (See fifth question on the manufacturer's site. They also claim it is "effective in the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease, Lou Gehrig’s disease, Parkinson’s disease and multiple sclerosis.". It is not.)

I am not sure how to categorise this home enema kit. It comes with a free half pound of coffee, but at $74.95 I presume this would not represent an economical method of getting one's evening brew.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Iona Institute, Putin, the Definition of Homophobia

Many of you are doubtless aware of accusations of homophobia against members of the Iona Institute and John Waters. You no doubt share my confusion and befuddlement at such a complex area, and are as relieved as I am to see that the matter has now been passed to the appropriate legal teams.

Our brains perhaps not being large enough to correctly interpret the term homophobia, perhaps we can instead contrast views of the Iona Institute with those of Vladimir Putin. First, I present their views on children having access to positive LGBTQ role models.

Won't Somebody Think Of The Children!
"“We do not have a ban on non-traditional sexual relationships... [w]e have a ban on the propaganda of homosexuality... I want to underline this. Propaganda among children. These are absolutely different things – a ban on something or a ban on the propaganda of that thing." -Vladimir Putin

We can contrast this with the Iona Institute's campaigning in favour of Section 37, which permits religious organisations to discriminate against visible members of the LGBTQ community in matters of employment.

"Section 37 of the Employment Equality Act is frequently the target of criticism on the grounds that it permits religious employers to ‘discriminate’ against certain categories of persons, for example, those who are openly gay or lesbian.... We further believe that any withdrawal of this protection is both unconstitutional and an attack on the right of free profession and practice of religion.
In effect, this [granting LGBTQ citizens equal employment rights] would discriminate against the beliefs of parents and the ethos of the relevant religious organisation." - Iona Institute
 While obviously not making a decision on whether either are homophobic, we can say with some certainty that they have a strong preference for restricting openly LGBTQ folks from working with children.

Same Sex Parents

#TeamPanti - some images made from Twitter followers

Some images based on @PantiBliss's Twitter followers.

First I took all her Twitter followers, pulled their Twitter biographies, and ran them through www.wordle.net to make a word cloud. The more commonly a word was used, the larger it appears:

Secondly I downloaded all her profile pictures and rearranged some of them to form a mosaic image. 1,699 images were used. Want to find yourself? search for your username, you'll find one or more grid references to the right. The top left hand corner is 0,0, the bottom right hand corner is 70,70. Click if you'd like to see a larger image.