Purity rings and hats of meat: what’s God got to do with it?

The Silver Ring Thing case has been thrown out of court on the entirely reasonable grounds that wearing a purity ring is as much a part of mainstream Christianity as wearing a hat made of meat. The only downside is that my plans to send my own child to school dressed as either a ninja or a pirate to honour the Flying Spaghetti Monster have been ruined by the judgement.

As ever, online comments prove that people never let the article get in the way of their opinions. From the Daily Mail’s article on the case:

Last year, Muslim Shabina Begum, 15, fought to wear a jilbab – a long loose gown – in class, and earlier this year a 12-year-old who cannot be named battled a Buckinghamshire girls’ school for the right to wear a full-face veil. Both were granted legal aid, and both lost their cases.

Presumably that was too far down the article for the commenters to read. Here’s genius number one.

Would not dare ban the ring if it was any other relgion than christrianity. What a country that denies its own culture and promotes others.

Our own culture? The Silver Ring Thing is American, and was created by a youth minister in 1995. It arrived in the UK in 2004.

Come in number two!

Another case of religious freedom for anyone but Christians…

This is not a religious thing. It’s a business thing. Irrespective of its intentions, The Silver Ring Thing is a business that sells costume jewellery, clothing, DVDs and training courses – and the girl at the centre of this case is the daughter of two key figures in the UK franchise for that business. That SRT claims to be non-profit is irrelevant: it’s not a registered charity, and therefore its status is identical to any other limited company. It’s no different to a McDonalds.

Actually, that’s a thought – a marketing opportunity for your local burger bar. Jesus was a fisher of men, yeah? Well, that means preventing kids from eating Filet-O-Fish in class is a breach of their right to religious expression! Yeah!

Let’s backtrack. School has uniform policy, kid breaks uniform policy by wearing costume jewellery, kid gets away with it until she recruits a bunch of other kids to buy the same jewellery from her parents’ business, kid claims religious persecution and nearly costs the school £12,000 in legal fees. What a nice, heartwarming story. Maybe the Beeb should rewrite its intro:

A 16-year-old girl was not discriminated against when she was banned from modelling her parents’ jewellery range in class, the High Court has ruled.

Jon from London, you’re a breath of fresh air:

The school isn’t banning the universally accepted symbol of Christianity – pupils can wear a crucifix if they so choose. It is banning, under its existing rules, a piece of jewellery – the purpose of which was almost unknown in this country until all the free publicity generated by this court action. A court action started by Lydia’s parents (who also just happen to be the UK agents for the movement’s founders in the US – from whose webshop the ring can be exclusively purchased along with a range of other expensively priced ‘merchandise’).

Update, 18 July.

As Simon Pickstock points out over at the PC Answers blog, Ministry Of Truth uncovered key information that changes the story completely, and it’s appalling that MOT’s information hasn’t been reflected in any of the subsequent coverage:

It’s a shame that traditional news sources can’t be so thorough in their reporting, especially when it makes the front page of so many papers.

23 thoughts on “Purity rings and hats of meat: what’s God got to do with it?

  1. JD says:

    I didn’t realise SRT wasn’t even a registered charity – that in itself almost rubbishes their whole argument. I wonder how much bearing that fact had in the court case? Some internet research is called for…

  2. Tony Kiernan says:

    But, they did let them folks keep their TB-ridden cow. It’s a shame that TB’s so easily cured these days, otherwise that would be a Darwin Award waiting to happen.

    DISCLAIMER: Ok, it’s not really a shame that TB is easily cured. Actually, can you catch it from cows?

  3. Squander Two says:

    TB isn’t that easily cured; it’s easily prevented. The BCG jab you get at school lasts till your mid-thirties; after that, you can catch TB from other people (though I have no idea whether you can get it from cows). Most cases can be cured with antibiotics, but it takes months to recover, so the cure probably doesn’t qualify as “easy”. There are antibiotic-resistant strains, too. I don’t know what your chances are if you catch one of them. An increase in cases is occurring in the UK as a side-effect of mass immigration from places that don’t have BCG programs, such as Somalia. No-one knows whether another BCG jab in your thirties would have any beneficial effect, because the necessary research has never been done — it was never needed.

    Happy, happy, joy, joy.

  4. Alex says:

    I’ve tried to discuss this with my fundamentalist christian parents but they’re being hyper-defensive at the moment. I’ve started pointing out that their ‘faith’ is built on a book that has more than 100 major contradictions (good going for the supposed ‘inspired’ and ‘infallible’ word of god) and recently lent my dad ‘The God Delusion’…so they’re backing up ANY ‘christian’ if I express anything less than full admiration.

    I emailed my dad the original Ministry of Truth article and ALL he could come back with was ‘this is a very strange article, he’s saying people shouldn’t preach in the playground.’ Not only is that right (people SHOULDN’T be allowed to push their woolly headed nonsense on children) but the article didn’t even say that, stating instead that ORGANISED preaching shouldn’t be allowed (which it isn’t)

    I’m in an interesting situation with my parents at the moment, I’m having to stay in their home all the while knowing that they know I think their religion is a crock of shit and that I have barrel load of arguments and ‘proofs’ (from their own ‘holy’ book) to back this up.

    On the subject of the girl and her ring, I’m really very pleased that she lost.

  5. Squander Two says:

    I’m pleased she lost, but I don’t like some of the reasons given by the judge: all this crap about it not being an important part of Christianity and so on. He may be right, but it’s not for a judge to decide. And, while Shabina Begum lost her case, I can’t imagine any judge daring to tell her that the jilbab — invented in the 1970s by extremists and not considered a vital part of Islam for the preceeding 1300 years — wasn’t an important part of Islam. It’s not for the High Court to tell people what their religion involves.

    She should have lost her case because schools have the right to impose a dress code. Considering all this crap about whether a given piece of jewellery is properly religious concedes far too much ground.

    > their ‘faith’ is built on a book that has more than 100 major contradictions

    I used to think that was a criticism. Over time, I’ve come to see it as one of Christianity’s greatest strengths. It allows the religion to adapt and evolve rather effectively. Besides, mysticism isn’t supposed to be logicial — that’s kind of the point.

    > good going for the supposed ‘inspired’ and ‘infallible’ word of god

    The Bible is not supposed to be the word of God, though I think most of it is supposed to be inspired. The history of Christian theology makes it pretty clear that the Church has never regarded The Bible as infallible.

    The Koran, now… that’s the inspired and infallible word of God, and a whole heap of trouble that causes.

  6. Gary says:

    I’m pleased she lost, but I don’t like some of the reasons given by the judge: all this crap about it not being an important part of Christianity and so on. He may be right, but it’s not for a judge to decide.

    Given her lawyer’s insistence that the ring was a fundamental (no pun intended) part of Christianity, could have have taken any other approach? As far as I can tell the lawyer’s argument was that the uniform code didn’t apply because this was protected in the same way as a crucifix or turban is. Which, of course, it isn’t.

    On the subject of the girl and her ring, I’m really very pleased that she lost.

    I am too, although I think it’s a shame that this group has managed to turn a very simple (and IMO slightly creepy – Dads encouraging their daughters to wear purity rings – and rather pointless – it’s an all-girls school) thing into a permissive society versus religious thing, which again, it isn’t.

    Ronnie, best laugh I’ve had out of this case was on Fark where someone said that when they were a teenager, the nearby Catholic girl’s school was known colloquially as the Virgin Megastore.

  7. Gary says:

    the Church has never regarded The Bible as infallible.

    The Church and evangelist pastors often sing from different hymn sheets though.

  8. Alex says:

    >all this crap about it not being an important part of Christianity and so on. He may be right, but it’s not for a judge to decide.

    He is right, it ISN’T a part of Christianity at all. The Judge was bang on the money. And if it’s not for an upholder of the Law to decide who should? The Elders of the local church?

    >The Bible is not supposed to be the word of God, though I think most of it is supposed to be inspired.

    Fundamentalists believe that it is, they believe that every word of it is *literally* The Truth (which is what some of the literalist groups call belief in the Bible). I was brought up a ‘fundy’ and was told repeatedly that god had ‘inspired’ the writers, meaning that this is The ACTUAL, No Really, He Said ALL This Word Of ‘god’ (I refuse to capitalise his name btw on grounds of his nonexistence)

    >The Koran, now… that’s the inspired and infallible word of God….

    Cribbed, in large chunks from the Torah and the Bible. The muslims are just as deluded and plain wrong as everyone else who believes in the power of the supernatural. (watch a Fatwah be announced against Gary’s blog!!)

  9. Gary says:

    I’m far too snowed under to accept any fatwahs this month. August’s a bit better, so far.

  10. Squander Two says:

    > the lawyer’s argument was that the uniform code didn’t apply because this was protected in the same way as a crucifix or turban is.

    Yeah, I s’pose. I don’t think crucifixes or turbans should be protected, though. Let schools make whatever dress codes they like, and let people who don’t like the codes go to different schools. I reckon schools should be allowed to insist that all their pupils wear tutus round their necks. The reason these cases are wasting so much time in the courts is the foolish precedent of having given protection to some symbols in the first place.

    > The Judge was bang on the money. And if it’s not for an upholder of the Law to decide who should? The Elders of the local church?

    On an issue of religion? Yes, of course. That’s what the division of Church and State means. You want to go back to the days of having the legislature decide what worship is legitimate and what isn’t? Our ancestors won this battle, and I don’t want to see it reversed. It’s not long ago you could be jailed for preaching Catholicism. This period of religious freedom is a brief and unusual blip in our history, which the last Government had already started trying to end. Judges have no more place making religious decisions than bishops do passing sentence on criminals.

    > Cribbed, in large chunks from the Torah and the Bible. The muslims are just as deluded and plain wrong as everyone else who believes in the power of the supernatural.

    I agree. My point, however, was that it is standard Muslim doctrine that the Koran is the absolute word of God, dictated directly to Mohammed, whereas the people who believe that the Bible is the literal word of God are a minority and untraditional Christian sect, albeit quite popular in some areas.

    > I refuse to capitalise his name btw on grounds of his nonexistence

    Would you capitalise “Gandalf”?

  11. Gary says:

    Let schools make whatever dress codes they like, and let people who don’t like the codes go to different schools.

    I don’t really know what I think about that, to be honest. On the one hand I think schools should be able to set whatever rules they want, no matter how daft – eg skirts of a certain length, heels no higher than Xcm, etc, and of course girls are subject to similar rules. Ho ho ho – but then you’re up against the problem that those rules can be discriminatory – so for example if a religion says you must wear X and must never wear Y, and the school says you cannot wear X and you must wear Y, that’s a pretty efficient way of excluding people. I don’t think that’s appropriate for state-funded schools, and I’m not sure what I think about private ones.

    Certainly faith schools of any form make me uneasy. Although of course there’s absolutely no connection between Scotland having separate schooling for different kinds of Christianity and Scotland’s problem of sectarianism. Oh no.

    Religion in schools is a great big can o’worms, though. Personally I think its only place is in history, political classes and perhaps general religious awareness classes (as opposed to religious instruction, which is a different thing altogether), but then I’m sure I’m in a minority on that one.

  12. Squander Two says:

    > those rules can be discriminatory – so for example if a religion says you must wear X and must never wear Y, and the school says you cannot wear X and you must wear Y, that’s a pretty efficient way of excluding people. I don’t think that’s appropriate for state-funded schools

    The trouble with that is that new religious traditions keep popping up. Someone with a confrontational bent — such as Shabina Begum’s brother or Lydia Playfoot’s parents — can always manufacture more discrimination in order to try to establish the precedent that the state must bow to the will of their religion. Now, I’m not a statist, but that’s because I want the state’s authority diminished, not passed to a religion, which would be even worse.

    And state-funded schools should discriminate — towards the culture of the host nation. So, for example, if I went to school in Argentina, I’d expect to learn more about the history of Spanish Colonialism than the Tudors — that is discriminatory, of course, and it’s also entirely fair. One of the many aspects of British culture is that hiding your face behind a mask in public is antisocial, untrustworthy, suspicious, and usually the behaviour of criminals. Another aspect is that British schools traditionally have strict uniform codes and accept no excuses for breaches thereof. British schools should be teaching their pupils both those things.

  13. Alex says:

    >You want to go back to the days of having the legislature decide what worship is legitimate and what isn’t?

    Personally I want to see ALL religion wiped from the face of the Earth. It’s a poisonous non-thinking that has kept our species in a state of infantism for far too long. Teaching it in schools, or to children in any shape or form is tantamount to child abuse IMO. I suffered years of stress and unhappiness because of the way my parents insisted I go to their church and it has only been comparatively recently that I’ve been able to wake up on a Sunday morning without a feeling of dread in my gut.

    >Would you capitalise “Gandalf”

    Yes, because that’s the name of a fictional character in a book, not a supernatural being that million across the world believe in (and want to make me believe in) and die for. To capitalise ‘god’ is to give ‘him’ a level of respect, to put ‘him’ above all the other (non-existent) gods, that ‘he’ doesn’t deserve.

    >and let people who don’t like the codes go to different schools.

    As a parent with an 11 year old who recently got straight fives in his sats (putting him in the top 2 in his year) yet has still been turned down for his first 3 schools of choice I feel I should point out that ‘go[ing] to different schools’ isn’t usually an option.

  14. Squander Two says:

    > To capitalise ‘god’ is to give ‘him’ a level of respect, to put ‘him’ above all the other (non-existent) gods, that ‘he’ doesn’t deserve.

    To capitalise “God” is, in fact, to obey the rules of English grammar, because it’s a proper noun. I don’t believe in Zeus, Jupiter, or Odin, but all their names are capitalised, just like “Alex”, “Wednesday”, and “Mothercare”.

    I’d agree with you about capitalising “He” and “Him”, though.

    > Personally I want to see ALL religion wiped from the face of the Earth.

    Yeah, but by reasoned debate or by state fiat? We’ve seen what happens in states powerful enough to ban religion. It’s not good.

    > It’s a poisonous non-thinking that has kept our species in a state of infantism for far too long.

    Just off the top of my head, here are a few examples of things given to us by religious thinkers: the end of slavery; musical notation; the telegraph; Morse code; the sciences of geodesy and topology; the contraceptive pill (one third of the team behind it was a devout Catholic); clocks; that forgiveness is better than reprisal; the way to make pacifist resistance against a violent enemy actually work; freedom of speech; the separation of church and state; Special and General Relativity; algebra. It makes no more sense to deny the great good done by religions over the years than it does to brush all their evils under the carpet. I might add that the first eight of those examples weren’t even just brought about by clever or good men who happened to be religious, but were developed specifically for religious reasons.

    But you think Socrates was infantile.

    > I suffered years of stress and unhappiness because of the way my parents insisted I go to their church

    A lot of people (I’m not one of them) suffer years of stress and unhappiness until they join a religion that suits them. Their experiences matter every bit as much as yours or mine.

  15. Alex says:

    >Yeah, but by reasoned debate or by state fiat?

    I would hope by people realising for themselves what a world of shite religious belief is.

    >But you think Socrates was infantile.

    I didn’t say that anywhere. Anyway, anyone who believed in the immortality of the ‘soul’, that he was picked by the gods, and that being ‘morally upright’ was something bestowed by the ‘gods’ (thanks, The Internet!) seems pretty backwards to me.

    He may have been seen as one of the greatest thinkers *of his time* but a lot of his philosophies seem laughable to us now, living in a world that is far more enlightened than his.

    >here are a few examples of things given to us by religious thinkers: the end of slavery; musical notation; the telegraph; Morse code; the sciences of geodesy and topology; the contraceptive pill (one third of the team behind it was a devout Catholic); clocks; that forgiveness is better than reprisal; the way to make pacifist resistance against a violent enemy actually work; freedom of speech; the separation of church and state; Special and General Relativity; algebra

    What an absolute non-argument!! The development of these things were all entirely unrelated to the religious beliefs of the men and women behind them!

    Let’s have a look at some of those…..

    >the end of slavery

    A system endorsed by the Church for hundreds upon hundreds of years, even the ‘god’ of the Bible seemed to be pro-slavery!!

    >musical notation

    Some of which was banned, for being ‘demonic’. And do you know something about the beliefs of the writers of the earliest known representation of musical scores? Cos I’m not sure I do 4000 years later….

    >the sciences of geodesy and topology

    Let us not forget the Church preaching that the world was flat, that the Sun orbits us…..oh, and torturing and killing people who didn’t agree. And the Bible claims the Earth is only just over 6000 years old.

    >Special and General Relativity

    Einstein was probably an atheist, certainly an agnostic, NOT a believer.

    >the contraceptive pill

    ….which many churches preach is a mortal sin to use.

    >(one third of the team behind it was a devout Catholic)

    …who must have been not so devout if he was involved in something that was an abomination in the eyes of his ‘lord’

    Your argument is the kind of nonsense trotted out by religious apologists all around the world, conveniently ignoring both the masses of non-believers who have done far more for us, and the context of the times a lot of great thinkers have lived through (times where, in some cases, not expressing a faith was tantamount to suicide)

    >To capitalise “God” is, in fact, to obey the rules of English grammar, because it’s a proper noun. I don’t believe in Zeus, Jupiter, or Odin, but all their names are capitalised

    God the word used to describe a thing, it’s not ‘his’ name (look instead at Yahweh if that’s what you fancy doing). To capitalise ‘god’ makes no more sense to me than capitalising ‘chair’ or ‘man skirt’.

    Zeus, Jupiter and Odin were all ‘gods’, but they weren’t *named* ‘God’.

    >A lot of people (I’m not one of them) suffer years of stress and unhappiness until they join a religion that suits them. Their experiences matter every bit as much as yours or mine.

    Sadly they are seeking comfort in lies and childish mysticism.

    Again I say, the world would be a far better place without religion of any kind.

  16. mupwangle says:

    >>*waves the “this is getting off topic and heading for a fight” flag*

    *Not looking* My internet connection was down all day so I’ve only just read this. ;-)

    >>Einstein was probably an atheist, certainly an agnostic, NOT a believer.

    Einstein definately wasn’t an atheist or an agnostic. He didn’t believe in a big white-bearded man or such like and I don’t think he agreed with any particular religion, but he definitely believed in something. A quick google sums it up quite well:-

    “Common to all these types is the anthropomorphic character of their conception of God. In general, only individuals of exceptional endowments, and exceptionally high-minded communities, rise to any considerable extent above this level. But there is a third stage of religious experience which belongs to all of them, even though it is rarely found in a pure form: I shall call it cosmic religious feeling. It is very difficult to elucidate this feeling to anyone who is entirely without it, especially as there is no anthropomorphic conception of God corresponding to it.

    The individual feels the futility of human desires and aims and the sublimity of marvelous order which reveal themselves both in nature and in the world on thought. Individual existence impress him as a sort of prison and he wants to experience the universe as a single significant whole. The religious geniuses of all ages have been distinguished by this kind of religious feeling, which knows no dogma and no God conceived in man’s image; so that there can be no church.

    It is the most important function of art and science to awaken this feeling and keep it alive in those who are receptive to it.
    The cosmic religious feeling is the strongest and noblest reason for scientific research.”

    There are a number of scientists who are studying some of the really heavy physics stuff, like string theory and so on, who, instead of finding more evidence in the non-existence of some higher power, keep finding new evidence that the universe is more ordered than could be possible by chance.

    Atheism is just as much based on faith than any other religion. There is a whole load of evidence to disprove a god but there is an awful lot of evidence the other way.

    >>Again I say, the world would be a far better place without religion of any kind.

    I don’t know if that is true. The belief in a higher power and the morality that that brings has had an overall positive effect on the majority of people. However, I think that the world would be much better off if some of the people that claim to be religious didn’t try to twist it to their own ends. If some of the leaders of these religious groups (at all levels) started to act like their holy books tell them and preach peace and harmony. Christianity and Islam both preach forgiveness and humility for example.

    Going back to Gary’s fight flag waving – everyone should obviously now set an example and embrace the opposing views presented here and gracefully admit that there are many opinions all of equal validity.

    Going back on-topic for a sec, most people I’ve spoken to didn’t realise the SRT wasn’t a charity and that her folks ran the UK operation.

  17. Alex says:

    >there is an awful lot of evidence the other way

    There is absolutely none. That’s why they have to have ‘faith’

    >The belief in a higher power and the morality that that brings has had an overall positive effect on the majority of people.

    Atheists are just as (and in some cases, more) moral as others, and they aren’t doing because of the promise of some kind of reward at the end of their lives. Morals are innate and (IMO) are part of our evolutionary make-up, the social group that doesn’t lie, cheat, steal or murder tends to last longer – survival of the fittest.

    I’ll finish up with a nice quote from Albert himself –

    “It was, of course, a lie what you read about my religious convictions, a lie which is being systematically repeated. I do not believe in a personal God and I have never denied this but have expressed it clearly.”

  18. Squander Two says:

    > Atheism is just as much based on faith than any other religion.

    No, it really isn’t. The existence of things always requires more evidence than their non-existence. This can be seen in the way that you don’t keep ducking to avoid obstacles that aren’t there.

    Since Gary doesn’t want us fighting here, I’ve answered Alex at my blog.

  19. Gary says:

    S2, thanks for the redirect. It’s not that I’m averse to the debate or the content of it, it’s more…

    most people I’ve spoken to didn’t realise the SRT wasn’t a charity and that her folks ran the UK operation.

    …because I think the SRT story’s consistently drowned out by the religion thing, which IMO is exactly what the SRT thrives upon.

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