Sunday, August 28, 2016

Education Week Class Notes: Religious Freedom and Defending Marriage with Data

--> We have an interesting mix of classes here. 
First, I have notes from Elder Holland’s devotional that he gave during the week at the Marriott Center. Its theme was religious freedom.
Then, I have about three classes on religious freedom issues—defending it, talking about it, defining it, etc.

Lastly, notes from a class about defending marriage with statistical data. There’s some technical stuff there, but also some surprising insights to extract. Enjoy!

Devotional – Elder Holland (August 20116)
(Impression: All the people are at BYU and the presence of BYU is because of the testimony of Jesus and the restoration. Praise to the Lord for his great works in moving all those people and creating all those things.)
“I guess we can fire in any direction” (said as he looks at all the people 360 degrees around him )

One of his professors of BYU wrote a hymn text to “Our Savior’s Love”
The Spirit’s voice whispers a better choice to us than evil. We are bound to God by loving ties.
Loving ties >> religion.
Our English word religion comes form Latin releger “to tie” or “re-tie” 
A word like “ligature” which is used to sew us up if we have a wound.
 Religion unites what was separated or torn apart. We need this with our trials of life.

The great conflict is being intensified in our time and affect a wider segment of our culture.  The outcome truly matters in eternity and life as well.
There’s no significant example of any society retaining moral life without aid from religion.
Then we should be bothered by the assertion that secularism is the greatest thing.
Elder Maxwell was prophetic in 1978 when he said “we shall see in our time a maximum effort to establish irreligion as the state religion”. They use our freedoms to shrink freedoms, while shrinking Judeo-Christian values.
When religious convictions are heavily discounted, they will disallow opinions because they are out of religious convictions.
This is being fulfilled every day somewhere in minimization and hostility toward practice, expression, and the idea of religious belief itself.

Some consider themselves still spiritual, but that doesn’t offer collective moral influence in society.  But the past walked and talked in an environment of spirituality.
We don’t live in isolation, we live in society and family, . That calls for ties that binds us to the good. 
Not all faith groups are all true or equally valuable.  They are not an infallible solution to society challenges.
But faith is the highest impulse, so living one’s religion is a compliment.  Living to a higher level of morality, trying to hold the social-political fabric of community together.  That fabric wears thin from time to time.

Elder Hafen says democracy’s core of religion is under siege by criminals who seem to have religious motives. Transmittal is being polluted. Advocates today are imposing their views by coercion and intimidation.

Many forces today that contribute to the irreligion.
Part of the shift away is part has come from a shift toward pro-occupation with existential circumstances of this world and not the life of the next world. Existentialism on steroids.    It can’t answer the questions of the soul, or sustain in times of crisis.
Secularists forget the people who seek meaning, and modern institutions don’t provide it.   
Modern tech gives us personal freedom and unlimited knowledge and communication, but it can’t give us moral guidance on how to use that freedom, what the best purpose of it.   
Religion can provide that meaning.
If we lose the divine elements, we lose much in life.
Society is stuck in an iron cage of disbelief. Society gives away its priceless spiritual roots. Polar night of icy darkness lies ahead. (1904)

Not everyone agrees religion should weigh so heavily. Dawkins is a militant atheist. May have surface profundity, but deep down superficiality.
They still have to whistle past the graveyard.
Atheism have vacuous arguments, is contemptible.

No one can say we aren’t seeing glaciers on the move (a la polar night of icy darkness referred to before).  Faith seems like only one possibility among others. It’s no longer axiomatic. It’s an embattled option.
Faith has always been an embattled option, won and kept with a price. Some find the price higher than they can pay. But consequences are worse. This is like the man who took down his fence and found his neighbor had vicious Rottweiler’s.

Rich social fabric doesn’t say anything about the condition of the soul after death or the traditional marriage.   
Religion is the principle influence keeping western life moral.  Religion has no monopoly on moral action, but religious institutions shape our notions of right and wrong. It’s the vehicle most folks use to learn and practice morality.

If we’re not careful, we may see religion on the margins rather than the center, when good works aren’t encouraged publically, but tolerated privately.
This is a warning.

We’re certain how this turns out.  Promises given to the faithful. Our beliefs are strong and resilient. The evidence is around us. 
1) Religious-influenced non-LDS literature—need freedom for artists and writers to express religious issues.  KJV bible. The greatest single influence on literature in the last 400 years.  John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress.  Poems like Dante’s Divine Comedy and Milton’s Paradise Lost. Moby Dick, Scarlet Letter, Huck Finn. Each is a religious text, meaningful.  Dostoevsky, Tolstoy, Blake, Browning, O’Conner, Auden, Yeats,   Lots of religious questions in every page. 
(Impression:  Read and discuss with others)
2) Visual arts and musicians:  Sistine chapel.   (arts and music presentation)
Where would we be without the sights and sounds of religion?
Religious faith has proven itself the most powerful and enduring force in human history.  It remains deep, widespread, and persistent, to others’ surprise. It is underestimated.
It is an influence for good in the world.
That’s why religion matters. It deepens our conversation, strengthens our collective aspiration.  It’s impossible to calculate the impact prophets have had on us.  We are who we are because some people chose to be martyred in order to keep religion alive in the world.
3) The core landscape of history is sketched by those who invoke the divine in our lives.
Steeples point upward and ignore despair.  They challenge doubt and invite to consolation.

Apostolic witness of truths of religion’s gift. True religion the gospel gives us much more. Peace in this world, and eternal life in the world to come. Brings understanding of and loyalty to God, it engenders faith in Christ and hope in resurrection, encourages love and forbearance.  Mercy of Christ. Holland prays for the continuing privilege to speak of all of this.  Cherish and live the principles we want to preserve. Only in living it will the preservation have true meaning. Seek the good of our fellows. 

Trends affecting Religious Freedom (A class we walked entered in the middle)
--increasing secularization
--apathy toward the importance of religious freedom
--growing relativism
--rise of competing human rights
--burgeoning state (including authoritarian) regimes
--growing Islamic pressures
--massive flow of immigrants and refugees  (brings in a more diverse group that create tensions that can cause government to take certain actions)
--Greater security concerns  (Face of Europe has changed forever. 1.5 million refugees going into Germany, mostly Islamic.) Germany has mostly helped them. Other countries have security concerns.  Tendency to close borders and restrict movement and restrict expression.
--Rise of Privacy rights. (also seen in the US)

UK case study: Out-of-school Education and Counter-terrorism Initiative
--proposed concept for future legislation
--requires registration and inspection of organizations providing intensive out-of-school education of youth (has implications for: seminary, church, mutual)
--Defines “intensive” as 6-8 hours or more per week
--illegal to teach contrary to “shared” or “British” values (British values are undefined and might change)
(Who is proposing this? Why? And what’s the agenda?)
--A Teacher found in violation may be issued “extremist disruption order” (EDO), labeling teacher on public records as an extremist
--Breach by teacher of EDO may result in criminal conviction and up to 5 years imprisonment.
Church is meeting with other churches to express reservations about these proposals and their adverse effects.
Home schooling supposedly wouldn’t be affected. This mostly focuses on institutions.  But home schoolers may be part of an institution for resource.

EU Case Study: Equal Treatment Directive (ETD)
--Prohibits discrimination on grounds of disability, age, religion, and sexual identity in the supply of goods or services.
--If passed, ETD will require all 28 member states to legislate to implement (Has passed in other countries, but Germany is standing in the way)
--A violation occurs if a complainant feels subjectively “offended” or “harassed” (has no standard for what it is)
--There is no defense for defendant acting from conscience or religious belief
--The burden of proof is reversed; defendant must prove innocence (not innocent until proven guilty) (must show that they didn’t do it) (It’s hard to prove a negative)
--A violation is criminal and quasi-criminal sanctions
--State-funded authorities will seek out cases and assist complainants
--Complainant need not be the person “offended” or “harassed”  (others may be offended in proxy)
The church is monitoring this and is engaging with other organizations about the mischief-making aspects of the document.
(Most destructive legislation is cloaked in the guise of something good.)
What force does the directive have? None right now. If Germany agreed, the other hold-outs would fall into line.
The church’s basic concern about it is: What about church members trying to individually live their religion?

What can I do?
--Educate yourself, pay attention to the news. Subscribe to International Center for Religious Studies
--Engage in your profession and community (be examples of religious freedom)
--watch for developments
--stand up for religious freedom in your individual capacity (Engage with civility, clarity, and kindness.  Don’t be shrill.)
--Support organizations that promote religious freedom
--Be an example of the believers.

Modern Challenges to Religious Freedom: At Work, at School, in Our Communities: Religious Freedom in Your Home Town (by Matthew K. Richards)
One question: “What can I do in my community to help religious freedom?”
The brethren have left it up to us to find ideas on this.

HOW to become involved?
“The assault on moral principles and religious freedom has never been stronger. We must preserve light and protect our families and communities from this assault.”  (Elder Cook)  This has been repeated by other apostles.
Religious freedom is belief, worship, and acting on our beliefs. Living our lives in faith. Right to manifest faith.  Government can limit this if it impacts health and safety.
We want to extend that right to others as well.
www.freedom-of-religion.org

A sketch of the threats:
Free expression – Will religious viewpoints be suppressed?
Will parents be able to keep religious values from being undermined in the schoolroom?

Will employees be able to be accommodated when work and religion conflict?
A woman was denied employment at Abercrombie and Fitch because she wore a headscarf.
Will individuals be denied credentials for expressing religious views?
Will family and religiously oriented business be able to maintain their values in the face of anti-discrimination laws?
Will schools be able to maintain values while retaining accredititation and ability to participate in federal education and research programs?
Canada would not admit graduates of a religious law school to the bar because of their honor code.

Will campus student groups be able to select their own leaders or express a religious message?  Many universities have all-comers policies that prevent LDS SSA policies?
Freedom from retaliation --Will those who voice beliefs be free from retaliation?
Will churches that affirm marriage lose their tax-exempt status? Will donors tithing be tax-deductible?
Will churches be able to employ people who affirm their beliefs?
Will churches be able to build and maintain facilities?
Will religious organization get to participate in activities in equal measure with other organizations?

We still have MANY freedoms, according to the Pew Forum.  75% of the world lives in countries with restricted religious freedom.  But restrictions are increasing.

Be watchful and try to preserve freedom.

HOW do we do this?
Run to receive the blessings of agency by following the Holy Ghost and exercise our freedom of religion.
--become informed
--join with others
--work side-by-side to protect religious freedom
--be examples

Active involvement
--Let fairness be your guide in treatment of others
--Disagree without being disagreeable
--Respect the ability of others to make choices and ask for that consideration
--Stand up for fairness
--Engage in dialogue , find solutions for how to best extend fairness to everyone, including people of faith.
--Don’t shy away from the dialogue.

With courage, conviction, and civility, each one of us can make a profound difference.
Things may get worse before they get better, but this is our moment. We can make a profound difference.
 --Religious voices are vitally important to our country
--It is time to get involved and take a stand for religious freedom
Every viewpoint is welcome and should be considered in the marketplace of ideas.

We know what it means to suffer, because we minister to those who suffer.

--Study the principles of the American founding and teach families about it.
--Teach children to respect the faith of all people, even those we disagree with.
--Speak up. Don’t be intimidated and silenced. We have a right to be heard.
--Speak out with courage and civility.
--Get involved. Lift where you stand. It is a cultural crisis as well as a legal one.
--Be active in PTA and in the school board. It will depend on what our children are taught.
--Be involved as business people, in political party, write to representatives.
--Be an example of the believers, in charity, faith, purity, etc.  Live so others will see our good works . 
Americans tend to protect what they see as good, so let them see the good.
When they see our good, they will believe us when we say freedom is being abridged, even if they don’t understand the issue fully.

The church isn’t going to organize people to do this, they want us to be individually involved and not political. 
Use our ingenuity and follow the Holy Ghost.

Study
--Learn why religious freedom matters and is threatened today
--Stay abreast of what is happening in your community
--Study principles of the American founding and teach them
--Learn the perspectives of others to enable respectful civil dialogue.
--Teach families religious freedom means tolerating beliefs, speech, and practices are respected.

Get involved
--Vote
--Write your representatives
--Join cultural or civic organizations—PTA, professional associations, business networks, political parties
--Lift where you stand.
--Put yourself in a position so that when you say something on an important matter others will listen.

Speak up:
--Speak out with courage and civility
--Join or donate to organizations that promote religious freedom
--Never imply that you represent a specific organization like the Church
--Don’t let yourself be silenced

Be an example:
--Show respect, serve, be authentic, be an example

Take Heart:
--don’t’ be intimidated, be optimistic, determined, be excited
You can make a difference if you’re involved.

Stories of friends who were involved and made a difference:
  • Ben Houston:  Inaugurated Mormonism 101 discussions in the community. Donates time to religious liberty causes and organizations.  Collected resources for stake leaders to teach Sunday lessons.
  • Liz Bountiful:  Volunteers on Community councils and PTA, running for school board. She’s learned the power of listening.
  • Nolan in SLC: Regularly councils with his family about current events and religious freedom. Writes letters to adult children.
  • Ron in NYC:  Natural ways to talk about religious freedom issues to members and co-workers. He brings colleagues to events at which the importance of religious freedom is discussed.
  • Jeff:  Attended a religious freedom rally in Iowa State capital and spoke
  • Shirene:  Started an interfaith network for Ivy League college students so students could connect
  • Sharon: Started a nonprofit. Learned how to promote family and religious freedom in important UN documents.
  • Michael in Provo: Blogs on social media, writes newspaper editorials even though he has cerebral palsy
  • Benton: Spearheaded a local conference on religious freedom for ministers of several local faiths. This started with talking to a client and they collaborated together on it.
  • Ali in Chandler: Joined an interfaith women’s organization promoting motherhood. Meets with policy makers, active in social media, holds gatherings in her home.
  • Michael in Kansas City: Started Religious Freedom in 30 Seconds contest. [I actually entered this contest last year and won a special mention for a slogan.] Writes op eds.
  • Greg: Saw how religious freedom could help business, mentioned it to a friend, helped him start a major international organization promoting religious freedom in business as a form of corporate social responsibility to help them compete in a global environment.   Connected with the UN. “Religious Freedom is Good for Business”
  • Belinda: serves on community boards, Library Foundation, which gives her a voice in local policy. She asked, “Help us to know what you don’t like about building a church in your community and help us to what your problem is”  to the local community leaders.  “We need to have [list of needs for our church] so what can we do?”  They eventually decided it was okay. 

Practicing what we preach is important.
Fight for laws, circumstances, and conditions that let us have religious freedom.
Captain Moroni prayed that the freedom of the land might be favored. And the people came running together
Mormon Newsrroom, topic “religiousfreedom” has a film on candid responses about religious freedom.
Idea: Religious freedom T-shirts

We don’t comprehend how significant we are and what we can collectively accomplish.
The elders of Israel will protect and sustain civil and religious liberty and every constitutional right and spread these rights abroad for the salvation of all nations. (Brigham Young)
There is a battle over the meaning of religious freedom. The contest is of eternal importance. Our generation must understand these issues and make the efforts to prevail. (Elder Oaks)

What Can I Do to Promote Religious Freedom: How to Discuss Why Religion and Religious Freedom Are Important (by Michael D. Frandsen)  (Michael Frandsen is in the church public affairs department. He isn’t a lawyer.)
How do we engage with others who disagree with us? 
There used to be broad support for religious freedom with the 1993 Religious Freedom act.
People throw around accusations of bigotry and hate too easily.
“Prelude to another Kristallnacht”  Opponents of the bill “hate America” >>Two different opinions on the same legislation-- Indiana Religious Freedom Restoration Act 2015
We may have cultural differences, but we should not have culture wars.

Americans have selective support for Religious Freedom based on how suspicious they are of a particular religious group.
The same principle that would trample on one group’s rights would trample on all others who are too weak to defend themselves.

We have to teach and defend the truths of the gospel while surrounded with those who disagree with ourselves.
We have to be witnesses of God, not be ashamed, but avoid contention and not stir up hearts with anger.
Tolerance doesn’t require us to abandon our principles.  Tolerance is one side, truth is on the other side of the coin.
An example : Samantha in class. (film)

Seeking fairness for all. 
--Agree with the adversary, see things from their point of view
--Humble yourself
--Listen to see why they feel that way.
--Pray for understanding
--It is helpful to engage one-on-one instead of with an audience.
--Understanding takes some time

We want people to acknowledge our views are decent and reasonable.
We must make the case why religious freedom is important. Why is religious freedom important to you?
77% of people live in societies where religious freedom is restricted
--Religion is core to who we are.
--Good dialogue causes the truth to rise to the top.
Alexander Dushku says “We try to say it is vital by talking about it as a constitutional right, but it isn’t convincing.  Rights talk is too impersonal.  Start with the personal.” 

MAKE IT PERSONAL.  WHY IS IT CORE TO WHO YOU ARE?

Why is religious freedom important to society?
--Many things secularists want to do, religious people are already doing.  Watch the Mormons and study what they’re doing. (Ross Douthat)
--Religious freedom has unique protections for those acting according to religious beliefs.
--Religion helps people internalize the norms of moral behavior without external force.  Our government assumes people are going to do the right thing, and we need to be able to teach that in order to continue it.
--Religion builds social capital. Donate to charity, volunteer for causes.
--Highly religious people are engaged in families, communities, and happier with their lives.

Why is religious freedom important to everyone?
--It protects the space we all need to act according to our beliefs.
--Civil society is not motivated by politics or profit. People voluntarily act to solve problems without the power of government or the orthodoxy of dominant culture..   
--Defined by the rights of the first amendment—speech, press, association, assembly, petition.  This space helps us be calm in changing governments.
--Reciprocity – Assume you won’t always like those in power or they won’t always like you. So protect space to act on what’s important to you. Tables are always eventually turned.  You will need that space yourself someday.
--Rights are not rights unless they apply equally to all.
--Fairness for everyone, including people of faith.
Question: Teacher told child he’s not allowed to write about prayer in a personal school journal.  How to teach the child about their rights? 
Religious Freedom Center – website with info about specific things schools can or can’t do + other helpful resources [http://www.religiousfreedomcenter.org/]
Mormon newsroom has videos about religious freedom
Audience member experience shared: A junior high English teacher brought in literary moral statements for the students to journal about. Some examples were “To thine own self be true..then though canst not be false to any man.” “Oh what a tangled web we weave when we practice to deceive.” Some students didn’t know what “deceive” meant.  The students loved the exercises and felt they were getting something their parents and other teachers had never given them.

Defending Marriage With Data: Understanding the Social Science Research on Same-Sex Marriage  (by Joseph P. Price IV)  (For more on this man, Google Joseph Price, BYU economics)
Starts with introduction to statistical terms. --Need to know the technical details of the studies.
We experience one study saying one thing and another study says another.
John Adams says facts are stubborn things, and our wishes don’t alter the state of facts.
Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not to his own facts.
Background: material in this class is from the church research department, Michigan SSM case, annual conference of the Virginia bar association

About studies, ask:
 “Who did they compare in the study?” 
“How big was the sample size?” 
“Where did they get their sample?” 
“What factors did they control for?” 
This should tell us when a study is good or bad.

Questions “Do children raised by same-sex marriages have worse outcomes than father-mother-raised children?”
“How many children are being raised by same-sex couples?”
[Lots of tables were included, none of which I can reproduce for my notes]

“Why might it be helpful for everyone to have some familiarity with statistical analysis?” There’s a debate about whether this should be in education.

Statistical inference = “Process of drawing conclusions from data that are subject to random variation such as observational error or sampling variation”
A few important principles: confidence interval, representative sample, replication.
Confidence – cone of truth
Representative sample – do people surveyed represent the desired population
Replication – data collected is similar data from other people

No difference hypothesis: “People want to say there is no difference in child outcomes”
Examples: “There is no difference in child outcomes, stability rates for children of same-sex couples”
It is harder to say groups are not different than different
--They may be different, or sample size might be set up wrong, or there might be errors in data.  Errors might be too noisy.
Give a margin of error a confidence interval and specify values for which we are 95% sure what the true difference is.
Some groups are so small that nationally representative datasets won’t contain enough of that group to do meaningful research.
Less than 5% children are raised by same-sex couples.

Two approaches:
Rosenfield (2010) study. Use an even larger sample to begin with  (not much same-sex marriage couples with children)
Regnerus (2012) oversample certain types of people
The studies can be very expensive. Regnerus tried to include people in the sample.

Replication.
Expanding the boundaries of science is hard if we aren’t able to replicate past results and build on that research done by others.
Regnerus posted data immediately so others could try it too and look at the data.
On the other hand, most of the 59 studies cited by American Psychological Association (APA) use data can’t be used by other scholars. 
When data is private, trust should go down. 
People don’t think BYU has academic freedom, but being at BYU means he is the only one who does.

Michigan case.   “Do outcomes differ between children with father-mother versus SSM?”
59 cases had tons of problems in their study, but they had perceived strength in numbers.
Same-sex couples major issues and critiques:
--convenience sampling: not many randomly drawn samples of children. They used word-of-mouth to find people, which isn’t random
--small sample sizes: too small to allow for statistically powerful tests
--excluding gay fathers: only 7 of 45 studies included gay fathers
Rosenfeld uses decennial census data to solve these problems. But he couldn’t pick the questions.
Comparing heterosexual couples married, with lesbian-cohabiting, gay male, cohabiting (gay could be also brothers or sisters or non-related couples, who not gay)
Found 1.71% hetero couple kids held back, 2.4—gay couple kids held back.
Used same data and controls,
Recreated data from scratch
Compared with data Rosenfeld shared
Worst outcomes from non-married parents. (This has been known for a long time)
15% more odds of doing well in a school as kid of heterosexual couple

Rosenfeld had two restrictions – biological related to household head, child living in the same address with same parents for at least five years.
Consequence of these restrictions – eliminated over half of the available sample, remove two channels that show structure affects children (relatedness and stability) (This takes main reasons marriage is good out of the study!!)
Removing either of the two sample restrictions results in the differences being very significant (25% different)
Primary motivation for stability restriction is to insure that family structure reflects the structure before being held back.
“delayed progress through school is a widely used proxy for prior grade retention) There is no way to tell what grade a kid has been in.  Should look at 11, 15 year olds.
Rosenfeld contribution is important, it used a sample larger than past research and shaped future research.

Doing good social science is hard and requires attention to detail. (We all have blind spots)
Media doesn’t care about the details and just want sound bites.
Rosenfeld’s data is accessible, allowing his research to be replicated.

Regnerus (2012)
Children of lesbian mothers
--are more likely to be currently cohabiting
--are almost 4 times more likely to be currently on public assistance
--are more than 3 times more likely to be unemployed
--are nearly 4 times more likely to identify as something other than entirely heterosexual
--are 3 times as likely to have an affair while married or cohabiting
--are 11 times more likely to have been touched sexually by a parent or other adult caregiver in childhood (but not by necessarily by homosexual parent)
His study was a well-constructed study.

How many children are being raised by a same-sex parent?
How many children are raised by gay/lesbian couple?
Past estimates are anything from 14 million to 1-9 million.  Numbers get created and then cited over and over.
Actual study estimated 1-2 million.
.23% children raised by two women

Ask the question “how big is the B (bisexual) group in the LGBT?”
B raises a lot of questions.
In the past, LG advocates included B numbers because they wanted their numbers to seem bigger, but now they want those numbers to go away because it raises other questions.
What does Bisexual mean? 
It means at some point they had a sexual relationship with same sex, but they aren’t currently and may be married to opposite sex.
Bisexuals look more like hetero.  Thus, LGBT  numbers are probably 6-7 times bigger than they should be.  We have no data about how these things evolve over time and it has implications for protected class stuff.  (i.e. “How far does the “born like this” argument really go?”)
There are implications about how we agree about how we treat kids in custody cases.