News crumbs

A round up of interesting news stories.  What ho!

Britain’s libel laws threaten Free Speech.  The article begins with some interesting background on chiropractors and how my nation’s laws are being used to silence science writers who criticise crackpot pseudoscience. Oh the shame.

Research reveals how super-sleeper frogs survive Oh I sometimes wish I could sleep for so long.

Outsourcing Faith Apparently the faithful want to be able to talk about faith rather than do their jobs.  Fine, but it should be unpaid work right?  Like the Jehovah’s Witnesses who always come round when I’m in the middle of a strenuous workout (ahem) on a Sunday morning.  They don’t get paid.



Filed under Atheist, Debate

18 responses to “News crumbs

  1. There are some interesting things happening in France at the moment. Sarkozy’s statement that the Burqa is not welcome caused me wonder aloud if the Nun’s habit is equally unwelcome. But I see France grappling with the problem of religion and state; at least your countrymen are making a go of it. Our politicians give the impression they neither know nor care about such matters.

  2. “the faithful want to be able to talk about faith rather than do their jobs”??

    i think your bias is showing a little – you are claiming to be a reasonable and rational human being – are you not?

    RATHER than doing their jobs?? I think you will find that the Doctor in question is quite convinced it is more a case of her wanting to be able to PROPERLY do her job ( ie. the welfare of the individual as a whole human being – which includes their mental and spiritual welfare – not just as a soulless lump of animated muscle.)

    The Doctor has a real fear of being penalised for doing her job the best way SHE knows how over this case… this woman was prevented from doing her job for over 2 months, for what reason exactly i am not able to grasp??

    Mrs Caroline Petrie, who carries out home visits in North Somerset, said she had asked the patient if she would like a prayer said for her after she had put dressings on the woman’s legs.

    The patient, believed to be in her 70s, refused and Mrs Petrie insists that she left the matter alone.

    The sick woman contacted the trust about the incident and Mrs Petrie was challenged by her superiors.

    Mrs Petrie said: “The woman mentioned it to the sister who did her dressing the following day. She said that she wasn’t offended but was concerned that someone else might be.

    “I was spoken to by my manager. She said ‘I’ve got a letter in one hand and an incident form in the other. You won’t be able to work until we’ve investigated this incident’.”

    She was suspended, without pay, on 17 December and will find out the outcome of her disciplinary meeting next week.

    “We are always keen to be respectful of our patients’ views and sensitivity as well as those of our staff”

    North Somerset Primary Care Trust ( courtesy of BBC News Website 1 Feb 2009)

    (Note that the ‘complainant’ was NOT offended at the OFFER of prayer!)

    i am assuming that every time anyone discusses the weekend football or lotto results, or their current diet, or how awful/wonderful Brittany Spears is or what a bunch of loonies Michael Jackson’s fans are, during working hours you feel they should be denied payment for the duration? Or would you insist upon following North Somerset Primary Care Trust’s decision and suspend them for two months without pay also??

    Or again – is it only ok to pick on the Faithful in a ‘civilised’ and rational society?

    Apparently it can be a suspendable offence to ask a coffee-drinker if they would like a cup of tea poured out for them in a UK Hospital now? – even if the coffee-drinker did not take personal offence at the offer but was concerned in case another one did????

    How pathetic can you get?


  3. P.S while the word ‘you’ can often imply the personal pronoun, i did not intend the use of ‘you’ in my previous comment’s last line to mean you personally, Cap’n! 😉

    Just to make that ferpectly clear 😉


  4. I want to come back to this because I think that you are wrong but I want to give you the justice of a reasonable answer rather than the quick answer that I have time for now. Patience is apparently a virtue so I’m sure you’ll be fine with that. 😉

  5. i’m quite fine with that (not with that you think i am ‘wrong’)

    but i have never claimed patience to be one of MY ‘virtues’ 😉

    i Am working on that.

    Up fpr a challenge? see if you can actually come up with reasons why i might be ‘right’ and not only ones why you think i might be ‘wrong”?


  6. I can see the reasons to support your argument, I just disagree with them. Can you see the reasons why people shouldn’t be paid for talking about their religion during work time?

  7. only insofar as it applies to any other non-work related topic of conversation and definitely not when it comes to ensuring a person is completely (in all areas of their life – which are inseparable, one from another) Healthy, as a health care Professional is required to do.

    We’re not talking forced conversions here Hov. Merely ensuring justice and the right to freely engage in discourse of a spiritual nature where such does not cause offence.

    if i talked about how well the Aussies are thrashing the Poms in the Ashes with an English workmate who took ‘offence’ should i lose two months paid work??

    if i had the same conversation with someone who did not take offence but later ‘reported’ the incident to someone because they thought someone else ‘might’ take offence should i be prevented from doing my job for two months while a board determined my ‘suitability’ to work with other people?

    and as for ‘religion’ – just as in your country – ‘football’ (ours is played with an oval not round ball) is THE religion amongst blue collar workers and next to no actual work is done in many workplaces on a Monday morning until the various ‘must see’ games are thoroughly dissected and many people ‘take offence’ when their team loses and someone brags that their team thrashed someone else’s… so why aren’t we docking their pay and do you post about those cases??

    why all the double standards??


  8. Ed

    “A doctor is to ask the BMA this week to confirm that health professionals have the right to discuss spiritual matters with patients, writes Melanie McDonagh.”

    “But since Caroline Petrie, a community nurse in Somerset, was recently suspended after offering to pray with a patient – she was later reinstated – it has been a problem issue.”

    I don’t believe a doctor, or nurse, has the right to “discuss” spiritual matters with a patient. If the patient ask the nurse to pray with them I don’t have a problem with that. It should be the patient initiating the request, otherwise the heathcare professional could be seen to be making prayer a part of the treatment.

    I don’t believe prayer should be included as part of the treatment program of a government healthcare agency. That is the job of religious organizations.

  9. “This is a government health care facility – please leave all items and tenets of faith at the door!”

    This is a church – please leave all worldly thoughts outside while you are on Holy Ground”

    I see a problem with the so-called ‘separation’ of church and state.

    Taken to it’s ‘logical’ conclusion, of course. 🙂

    Ed – as i said Doctors should be treating a human being as a Whole being, not as something with separable components. Or do you seriously believe that only Christian Doctors should/can treat only Christian patients, Only Muslim Doctors can/should treat only Muslim patients and only ‘secular’ doctors can/should treat only secular patients?

    Or are you seriously afraid that Doctors and nurses who possess religious faith will use their profession to convert the weak and the sick into their religion and so make you a minority?

    Why should that be the exclusive right of the faithless?

    Whatever happened to freedom of expression ( including the right to say ‘No’ if asked a question) and the right to follow a religion of your choice (for both patient AND doctor)?

    In considering your answer please also consider if the Hotbabe was paid to discuss fashion with patients or fellow employees? 😉


  10. Ed

    As with church a person is free to chose whichever doctor they want. A patient is free to chose a doctor who is Muslim, Christian, Hindu, Atheist, etc

    A doctor, whose fee is going to paid by the government, does not have the right to try to convert, or seen to be trying to convert, the sick to their beliefs. Also in that case prayer should not used as part of the healing process. Once the doctor has completed their medical treatment, the patient can request a prayer session with anyone they want. I don’t believe that “faith healers” should have their fee reimbursed by the government.

    If it’s the patient who is paying, or a free clinic, they get to chose whatever treatment they want, prayers, healing crystals, or a sound shaman, like Norma Gentile 🙂 :

    “A recording artist of four solo musical CDs, 10 Meditation and Teaching CDs, an energy healer and channeler. I receive information for individuals in healing sessions, and written transmissions from Archangel Michael, Mary and Thoth which I share in my newslettters and articles. As a singer of healing music I work with the Hathors and Hildegard.”

    You think the government should pay for her services? 🙂

    “Or are you seriously afraid that Doctors and nurses who possess religious faith will use their profession to convert the weak and the sick into their religion and so make you a minority?”

    I think this is exactly what does sometimes happen. As an atheist I am already part of a minority.

    Separation between church and state may be the most important principal that prevents people of religious faith from imposing their beliefs on me, such as a requirement to take an oath on a bible, or pledge allegiance to a God I don’t believe in.

    I would not chose to live in a country where church and state were the same. Hopefully natural selection will result in these forms of government becoming extinct.

  11. It is also worth adding that a patient, by definition someone who is in a vulnerable position, should be put in a position of having to refuse prayer.

    Also love, if you don’t want the state and religion separated then I assume that you are happy for religious services to be dictated by the state? Should you be told by a civil servant who you should pray for, who you should pray to, what times you must pray and in what fashion? Separation works both ways.

  12. Hov – what i was saying concerning ‘separation’ was not that it ‘should’/’should not’ occur… i am stating as fact that it is IMPOSSIBLE to ever completely separate the one from the other where both involve human beings, taken as a society, or as ‘whole’ human beings.

    My belief (just as is yours) is a part of me that i am unable to separate at will from all other parts. (Currently! ) 😉

    The point i was hoping to make but which religious paranoia common to most atheists seems to have made redundant is that in the very specific case of Caroline Petrie (who established the British precedent) a worker was financially penalised, not for forcing a ‘conversion’ – not for actually praying on government time, not for even offending someone by doing either or for offering to say a prayer for the patient in order to meet her ( Caroline’s) Personal feeling of doing her job to the best of HER ability – but because it was determined that she POSSIBLY MIGHT have offended a future patient by offering to say a prayer for their recovery!!!

    Once the precedent has been established it is then up to all employees of the medical service – from Senior Surgeons down to hospital catering and cleaning staff to get something in writing from their employers that even the mention of their religious beliefs (some atheists might refer to this as ‘conversation’ amongst their own kind) will not result in a multiple month suspension of duties, and the resultant income loss, before continuing in their jobs.

    Something i am positive no Atheist football lover would tolerate if mentioning football ever offended – or possibly may in the future offend – someone in a paid working environment.

    Put the shoe on the other foot and consider if an Atheist was suspended from a job in a religious charity shop for the crime of mentioning during working hours that they did not believe in God or declaring that evolution proves Creationism is a load of rubbish.

    ‘should be put in a position of having to refuse prayer.’ ???

    we’re not talking someone refusing to have an amputation of a limb to save their life here, Hov. The patient involved in the Petrie case was not put in any such position she was simply asked a question – she was offered a choice. Are you saying medical staff are not to ask anyone any non-medical issue related questions of any patient in case the patient might take offense – or only those questions of a religious nature, while any questions concerning things you personally hold as life-affirming is fair game?

    Should a nurse who asks a patient if she thinks Fulham are going to do well in the next FA Cup match be suspended for two months without work?

    Why is religious belief so vilified in ‘secular’ society? Is it too hard for any of us to simply say – “no thanks” and leave it at that if the topic is ever raised?

    If our previously stated wishes are being abused then there MAY be a case for action. This was NOT the case with Caroline.


  13. Ed – coming from the US and it’s appalling health system that sends many into bankruptcy for the ‘crime’ of being unhealthy and not super-rich i appreciate that you may have somewhat of a skewed view on the particular issue here.

    In the UK and many civilised democracies with a nationalised health system, a large proportion of society has NO ‘choice’ of Doctor/Nurse/Service provider – they cannot afford to be so fussy and get whatever the national system provides them with. This is the case of Caroline Petrie – a worker with a nationalised health system who also happened to have Faith in God who went to a person’s home to provide outpatient care to a lady with an leg injury.

    Before leaving the person, after completing her medical duties the worker asked the patient if she would like the nurse to say a prayer for her healing (Thus giving the patient the choice of receiving spiritual aid as well as physical aid in the ‘secular’ form, rather than say just ‘assuming’ the person wanted such spiritual assistance to be healed. It was not being ‘imposed’ upon her against her will, but permission was sought – and politely refused)

    On a subsequent visit to the patient by another nurse the offer of prayer was mentioned and it was queried ‘in case it may offend someone’. The lady concerned says she was not personally offended (ie there is NO ‘complaint’ per se).

    Caroline’s boss then rang her saying the issue was serious enough to warrant instant suspension of further nursing duties until a board met to consider what action should be taken against the nurse (even though NO complaint has been made!) The board did not meet for two months.

    Call me biased but i don’t hear of any cases of people being suspended without pay for two months for asking a patient what they think of Gordon Brown (the UK PM) or Barack Obama yet as many people as may be offended at the topic of politics as the topic of religion so i ask: why the double standard here?

    In answer to your question, while i would not be very likely to take up any of that person’s services – if they are able to meet the Government’s criteria for health care professionals in the supply of a health service then most definitely ‘yes – the government should pay them the same as they pay any other health service provider. i believe you would call it freedom of choice?

    I do not agree with many of my government’s decisions but living in a democracy containing people with many different beliefs i am forced to accept those decisions or leave the country (or break government laws or live in some personal discomfort). or raise awareness so as to get the public to change mistakes made by those in government – as in this case. 😉


  14. Based on what I read of the Caroline Petrie case I don’t think she should suspended, at least not until the Board did meet. As far as I can tell it does not sound like she was trying to impose her religious beliefs on the patient.

    I think the government should have taken the opportunity to clarify what a government paid health care provider can include in their treatment. It is using prayer as part of the treatment process that violates the principle of separation of church and state. A patient can contact their local church if they want their soul treated.

    I think part of the training of a government health-care provider should include being careful to not be seen as influencing a patients religion or politics. Telling a patient they should vote for X is as wrong as saying the patient should join the X church. It is far to easy for a weak, dying, patient to be influenced to give their money to a religious or political party, or to leave money to the doctor, nurse, etc.

    As far a US health-care, my friend who is not super rich, or even ordinary rich, had both his knees replaced. Between gov’t Medicare, and his companies insurance program (a retirement benefit I have as well) he paid nothing.

    The major issue is the rising cost of private, and corporate, health insurance programs. A worker retiring today pays 4 or 5 times more than I do ($80 vs $400+). Some, but not all, states do require that a hospital can’t turn away anyone, including an illegal alien. However many states now have huge budget gaps so health care benefits are likely to be severely reduced.

    Everyone wants cheap medical care provided by the government. No one wants the pay the taxes to finance this.

  15. Ed, there is no priniciple of separation of church and state enshrined in English law. I do agree with you as to the principle though. Your comparision between political opinion and religious opinion is spot on.

  16. ED – i’m glad we agree on what SHOULD have happened to Ms Petrie – we also agree on what the health department employees should be instructed in so that employees do not either break any regulations nor have excuse for not knowing them.

    Sadly in this case is was the government and it’s related health system that seriously failed – not the ‘religious’ nurse. Yet is was the nurse who suffered by far the most and way beyond any act she committed required.

    Would you or i compensate her? most assuredly if we were ‘responsible. will the UK government without a long legal battle – what do you think??

    i don’t consider that particular ‘secular’ sytem to be in any way a fair and just one. Religious persecution of an intollerable kind – yet i am positive it will not be addressed seriously by any of the ‘fair-minded’, reasonable people of science and humanity.

    i had forgotten about the form of ‘medical insurance’ your country offers some and that many workers and not super rich have contributed to, if not directly in a tax as in the places i mentioned.

    As the workers of GM are finding though – when it comes closer to the time when they actually (K)need, pardon the pun, it it may no longer exist.

    More and more it seems these days that even governments may become bankrupt and leave it’s ‘workers’, who have come to depend upon the ‘freely’ provided or pre-paid medical costs for their survival, without any hope of a decent medical treatment or cure for an illness in their retirement, just like the global companies are proving to be susceptible to.

    i am NOT in favour of people being coerced through whatever mechanism into following another person’s opinion of which church or political party to vote for – what i find particularly objectionable though is, in the UK in the 21’st century, a woman is ‘crucified’ for offering (not actually saying) to a patient a prayer of healing while if she had simply told the patient she should vote for ‘X’ nothing would have happened to her whatsoever?

    How can one be ‘right’ and one be ‘wrong’?

    Freedom? Double standards?

    It’s only unfair when it does not agree with my beliefs! 😉


  17. Ed

    Love, I would like to clarify a point. Do you believe that a government health-care professional should have the option of including prayer in their treatment of a patient?

    If yes, then do you agree that the nurse/doctor should make it clear to their governing board that they will use prayer in treating their patients?

    In the UK, and Australia, does a patient have any chose whatever in who will treat them? Can they reject the one provided by the government, and request another doctor/nurse? If they can’t, what protection is/should be in place to ensure, as much as possible, that weak, dying, patients won’t be taken advantage of?

  18. Ed – me personally? then ‘yes’, i do. 🙂

    However i am NOT in charge of government health care in the UK or anywhere else but i do have a strong interest in justice and fairness and equitable practices of our authorities in a democracy.

    since ‘yes’ – i agree, but ONLY if that is made perfectly clear to EVERYONE in the democracy to whom health care applies – be they patients or doctors or nurses but most especially to the VOTERS.

    Then people like Caroline are able to determine in advance if they can work under such conditions and not have her life ripped out from under her by over-authoritative, politically ‘correct’ officious little b@stards like her boss in the N Somerset Primary Care Trust.

    Here in Aus there are two complimentary but competing health care systems – a nationalised one and the private one, comprising of many private companies.

    Alll Australians who pay tax pay 1.5% of taxable income to support the former ( it still runs at a ‘loss’) and any who wish to, or who fear it necessary to, can join the latter for various rates of fees depending on what services you ‘need’ or may think you could need in the future.

    Anyone is ‘free’ to choose another doctor or service provider if they have an issue with the one the Government provides them initially or their private service offers at any time – with some ‘buts’….

    That is – assuming the person is conscious at the time and not involved in a serious situation like an accident or chronic illness and also that you have the cash to choose a doctor of your choice and said doctor ( or his replacement) is actually not booked up for 18 months from the time you need them (Somehow sports stars seem to receive immediate attention regardless of any waiting lists for doctor’s services?)

    In the recent Ashes test match a visiting (to the UK) Aussie bowler dislocated his finger during the match. He was seen by a hospital, treated and was back at the ground before the two hour session of play he received the injury in was finished!

    If i dislocate MY finger – even WITH private health cover i’d be lucky to receive treatment inside of a week here.( Without private cover i recently had bad stomach pains intermittently over a three week period it took me a week to get an appointment to see a GP who i needed to referred me to a specialist who was not available for a consult for seven weeks – and that was just to explain a procedure that i would need to wait another 6 months for potentially! Three weeks after making the consult appointment i passed a kidney stone (the cause of the pains) and then cancelled the ‘helpful’ medical attention booking)

    i feel your final question may have been somewhat superceded by recent financial circumstances.

    Dr Charlie Teo – an infamous (because he takes on cases other neuro-surgeons have deemed ‘impossible’) Australian Neurosurgeon last night was quoted as saying that in the UK all patients (except i assume for the MOST wealthy) who goes to a hospital for treatment of a terminal brain cancer is sent home without any kind of care because the Hospital cannot justify the expense ( staf time and medical costs) they incur in ‘saving’ the life of someone they know will just die ‘soon’ anyway.

    I think the ‘fear’ of people being taken advantage of by ‘preying’ religious staff has moved on a bit – would you say?

    i would add though that i believe there are ethical boards in place in most, if not all, of my country’s medical institutions whose job it is to determine when, if ever, someone is being ‘preyed upon’ versus being ‘prayed over’.

    From what i see today such patients have more reason to fear their own relatives doing the taking advantage of than a nurse with a penchant for praying for healing.

    Conmen and women deserve to be dealt with as far as, or more than, the law will allow – in my personal opinion

    Did i cover it? 😉


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