Fact-Checking the BillDo

Bill Donohue is in fine form this morning. As I read his apoplectic hissy fit over the fact that New York City will now mandate sex education, I can practically see the flecks of spittle flying out from the monitor and feel the floor shake as he stamps his feet:

We’ve had de facto sex-education in New York City for decades—that’s how long we’ve been shelling out condoms to students. And what has it gotten us? Moreover, under Mayor Michael Bloomberg, literally tens of millions of condoms have been promiscuously distributed all over the city to anyone who wants them. And yet the rate of sexually transmitted diseases continues to skyrocket.

There is a sex-education program that could work, and it is one that is similar to the approach being used to discuss smoking. We don’t tell kids not to smoke and then instruct them on the proper way to inhale. No, we show them horrifying pictures of a smoker’s lungs. We tell them of the physical pain they are likely to endure by smoking. We tell them how it will shorten their life expectancy.

So… sex is like smoking? He wants kids to grow up and ideally never have sex ever? I have a mental image of a chaste couple getting married, and when they are finally allowed by their church to have sex, on their wedding night, all they can think of is the pictures of diseased cocks and pussies they got shown in their BillDo-style sex ed class.

There was something else I meant to mention. What was it?… Oh, right! “the rate of sexually transmitted diseases continues to skyrocket“.

You know what’s cool about the Internet? You can look shit up. In the US, which is where New York is, we have an institution called the Centers for Disease Control, part of whose job it is to keep track of incidences of diseases, including STDs. Here’s a form that’ll show you data about STDs by disease, year, age, and other criteria. Here’s another that lists fewer criteria, but has data for more years.

So in the second one, if we look up New York, grouping by disease and by year, we get:

(Click to see the whole thing. All rates are per 100,000 people.)

The thing I get from that is that gonorrhea is at a 20-year low, syphilis is a quarter of what it was in 1990, and the only one that’s on the rise is chlamydia, about which the CDC writes in its 2009 trends report:

Continuing increases in chlamydia diagnoses likely reflect expanded screening efforts, and not necessarily a true increase in disease burden; this means that more people are protecting their health by getting tested and being linked to treatment. This is critical, since chlamydia is one of the most widespread STDs in the United States.

Now, unfortunately all of these stats are for New York State, not just New York City. But I think if STDs in NYC were “skyrocket”ing as BillDo says, we’d know about it.

No, I think a simpler and far more plausible explanation is that, as usual, Donohue is pulling stuff out of his — or someone’s — ass. But what can you expect from someone whose job it is to pontificate about offenses to a magic man and his fluffers?

Update, 12:26: Clarify what the numbers in the graph mean.

“Religious Liberty”

BillDo is upset over the upcoming vote on legalizing gay marriage in New York state:

The New York State legislature is one vote away from passing a gay marriage bill. What is holding it up is pressure from Catholics, Protestants, Jews and others: they want to insulate religious institutions from state encroachment. That they have to fight for their First Amendment rights shows how threatening gay-marriage legislation really is.

The threats to religious liberty are not hypothetical. …

Well, thanks for clarifying that opposition to marriage equality comes from religious quarters. This confirms what I and others have been saying for a while.

But wait, what’s this? Threats to first-amendment rights? And non-hypothetical ones? As a properly sensitive liberal guy, I’m certainly all for protecting everyone’s freedom, to the extent required by the first amendment and the Kumbaya Act of 1993. So do tell, Bill: what exactly are these real, non-hypothetical threats?

The threats to religious liberty are not hypothetical. A New Mexico photographer who refused to photograph a gay couple’s commitment ceremony was forced to pay the couple’s attorney’s fees; Christians in New Jersey who objected to allowing a gay union ceremony in their privately owned facility have had their tax-exempt status stripped; a psychologist from Georgia was fired after she declined to counsel a lesbian about her relationship. And so on.

In other words, there are real concerns that if gay marriage passes in New York, religious liberty will be jeopardized.

First of all, there’s nothing in there about marriage. All of the above can already happen; extending marriage rights to gay couples wouldn’t change anything.

For another, I fail to see words like “church”, “synagogue” or “mosque” in those examples, so it’s not clear which religious rights are being trampled.

But most importantly, what I see is three examples of people being bigots and getting slapped for it.

In other words, the “religious freedom” BillDo is crusading for is the right to hang a “no faggots” sign on the door of one’s business. Because hey, that’s what Jesus would want.

Here’s a hint, Billy-boy: if you’re beating someone over the head with a stick, and someone takes away your stick, your rights aren’t being trampled, and you don’t get to play the victim.

Let’s Ban Churches Next to Other Churches

It occurs to me that I haven’t weighed in on the hot topic du jour, the question of whether there should be mosque at Ground Zero.

The argument seems to be: it’s outrageous and offensive that members of a religion be allowed to erect a center of worship right next to where other members of their religion carried out a horrendous and religiously-motivated act of terrorism.

If this logic holds, then presumably it’s not okay to build a Catholic church near Centennial Olympic Park in Atlanta, since Eric Rudolph is Catholic.

Scott Roeder’s assassination of George Tiller was a religiously-inspired act of terrorism. So should there be an outcry every time someone tries to build a right-wing church next to a Lutheran one? Or next to a medical facility, given the history of religiously-motivated anti-abortion terrorism?

But wait. Why am I distinguishing between Catholics, Lutherans, etc.? As far as I can recall, I haven’t heard word one about whether the people who want to build the Ground Zero mosque Cordoba House Park 51 are Sunni, Shiite, or something else. As far as the outragees are concerned, they’re just Muslims. Or possibly just foreign.

So let’s forbid churches from building too close to other churches. Or libraries, for that matter, since Hypatia was killed by a Christian mob.

Wait, what’s that? It’s unfair to lump disparate people together, just because they all have the same holy book? Okay, then demonstrate that the people behind Park 51 are in some way connected to, or supporters or sympathizers of, the fanatics behind 9/11. And before you go digging up verses in the Koran where Allah commands war, reread Joshua, Judges, Samuel, etc. where the god of Abraham commands genocide.

I think we can recognize that how a religion is practiced is at least as important as what its book preaches. After all, most or all Christians manage to reinterpret, explain away, or just plain ignore the unsavory parts of the Bible to allow them to square it with 21st-century morality. And if Christians can do it, why not Muslims?

Assuming that the people who’d go to Park 51 are just ordinary, non-murderous New Yorkers with a bunch of silly customs, what’s the harm? Silly isn’t a bad thing: line dancing is silly; Renaissance Faires are silly; science fiction conventions are extremely silly; and coitus is positively ridiculous.

(Update, Sep. 1: typo)