This year: An Idaho Air Force base removes a painting called “Blessed Are the Peacemakers” because it references a Bible verse. The Air Force yanks off You-Tube a video tribute to first sergeants because its statement, “God created a first sergeant,” is “highly suggestive of the Book of Genesis in the Bible and has Christian overtones.” ...Last year: A superior tells an Air Force major to remove from his desk the Bible he had kept there for 23 years. An Army lieutenant colonel instructs his subordinates to recognize the “religious right in America” as a domestic hate group like the KKK and Neo-Nazis.
My father, a Navy chaplain after the war, would have a fit. What is the world coming to? Is this America? I'm convinced he would consider such actions a sign the world is coming to an end.
An Air Force statement this spring said service members could “express their personal religious beliefs as long as it does not make others uncomfortable.”
Sound familiar? That word -- "uncomfortable" was Margaret's favorite word at deposition and on the witness stand. Both Margaret and Carmen equated my somehow making them "uncomfortable" with "harassment."
Pitts rightly asks the follow-up question:
Many chaplains wondered who would be deciding what is uncomfortable—and would this definition change over time?
Chaplains today are in the same pickle I was in at JPL. There's no way they can know who is going to be uncomfortable. The "uncomfortable" standard is an uncomfortable standard. Unlike harassment, which was clearly defined in the JPL policy as something so persistent that it was "likely to interfere significantly" with someone's work, "uncomfortableness" is entirely subjective. What you had for lunch could make you uncomfortable. The style of clothes a coworker is wearing could make you uncomfortable. Someone's voice pitch could make you uncomfortable. Only the target knows; the "perpetrator" of discomfort cannot know in advance what will make someone uncomfortable.
The "comfort" criterion amounts to prior restraint on speech. As I explained previously, Margaret and Carmen, despite their protestations that it was my "manner" not the "content" of my material that made them uncomfortable, admitted in testimony that what they were really uncomfortable about was that I would bring up subjects like ID and Prop 8 that they felt were "inappropriate" in the workplace.
Watch out for that word "uncomfortable." I believe it is going to be the next word leftists will use to persecute conservatives and Christians. As we all know, the standard is unequally applied. Nobody cared whether I was uncomfortable with the constant Darwin promotion at JPL. Nobody cared if I was uncomfortable with the false allegations made against me. All the pampering went to my accusers who used this vague word uncomfortable to deprive me of my rights.
But where, in the Constitution or in common sense, does anyone have the right to be comfortable all the time? The pursuit of happiness is not the pursuit of comfort. It's the pursuit of eudaimonia, the good life. The good life involves meeting challenges and engaging with people. Much as we would like to be comfortable, we live in a society and culture that requires rubbing shoulders with those who disagree with us. A good life involves progress in engaging with people on the important issues of society. I'm sorry, Margaret and Carmen, if the thought of intelligent design made you uncomfortable. I'm sorry for you. Ignorance may be comfortable, but it is not desirable. I wanted to increase your eudaimonia with some knowledge about a subject of great interest and importance to everyone. I expected that knowledge would increase your comfort in the long run.
This is the way liberals can shut down speech without having to think. By claiming that some topics made them "uncomfortable," Margaret and Carmen were able to close down discussion of intelligent design. They could have evaluated the evidence objectively and fairly, and told me they disagree. They could have even said they prefer not to discuss it. Instead, they charged me with making them uncomfortable, making me out to be a bad person for even bringing it up. Wouldn't that be a convenient ploy in any conversation where the other person seems to have a better position than yours; smile and tell him thank you, then go tell his boss he made you uncomfortable. Result: "This topic is not for further discussion" (my boss's words).
Another word that can be used as a hammer against certain viewpoints (i.e., conservative and Christian viewpoints) is "civility." While leftists can breathe fire and cause vandalism in support of their attacks against Prop 8, just the offer of information in favor of it is considered by leftists to be uncivil. One of my favorite political cartoons shows how leftist moral standards are applied.
See also these articles addressing problems with the "uncomfortable" standard in the military chaplaincy on Family Research Council and Townhall.com.
This week I had 5 doctor visits and an MRI. My surgeons, pleased (and amazed) with my progress, discussed plans for the future. While sticking with the "standard of care" (the octreotide injections every 4 weeks), we know it will not prevent the metastatic tumors in my liver from coming back. Since they are slow-growing, though, and since I do not have symptoms of carcinoid syndrome right now, there is not a rush to try the more aggressive targeted therapies yet. Good news: one of the primary blood markers for tumor activity has been dropping since surgery and is now in the normal range. In addition, I've regained most of my weight since February. I'm walking 2-4 miles a day and eating healthy food. This should help my immune system fight the tumors. On Friday I had an MRI to try to get a better glimpse at how many tumors remain.
City of Hope continues to be a world leader in cancer research. A friend from Sunday School contracted another kind of cancer and is getting good treatment there. Another friend showed me an article from CBS Los Angeles that sounds too good to be true: a discovery at City of Hope that might not only cure cancer, but obesity as well! (Obesity is not my problem.) Another report from The Independent described another miracle cure being considered. In addition, a Phase III trial at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center is testing the efficacy of Lutetium-177 radioisotope therapy on neuroendocrine tumors like mine; this treatment has been shown effective in Europe. Often hopeful treatments that work on mice turn out to have serious side effects when tried on humans, but one of my surgeons said we know much more now than we did 10-20 years ago and fewer mistakes are being made. The question for me is whether one of these targeted therapies will become available in time for me. Only my primary care Physician (the Lord Jesus Christ) knows for sure.
Scary thought: one of my surgeons said that on the day of surgery I was probably as little as a day away from complete bowel obstruction from the primary tumor pressing on my small intestine. The Lord brought me to the right doctors at the right time; otherwise I could have died in February. Praise God; I am so thankful to be given this extension of time, and need your prayers that I will use it wisely.
I visited face-to-face with four JPL Christian friends near the lab on Monday (July 15) and was so encouraged by their faithfulness in prayer for me. The one who was familiar with my work in Cassini said there was no question about my reputation for technical competence. In addition, I received a very encouraging email from a coworker, now at another job; I didn't know was a Christian. He described me as "hard working" and "competent". In his opinion, it was my stance on Prop 8 that caused me the most trouble. He himself was aware of strong animus against Prop 8 around the lab.
One anecdote he shared that I didn't know about is pretty revealing about the retaliation going on behind the scenes after the lawsuit was filed:
Several months before you were fired you helped me with the FSW computers. The second time you came into my office to help me, I was brought into a conference room by Nancy (I think that was her name, I can’t quite recall her name, she sat across the hall from Donna, the secretary). All the doors were shut and I was told not to work with you because people there had issues with you. I asked her what those issues were but she declined to mention her rationale. Instead she told me that a lot of people are upset by you and she said that people had refused to work with you and that I should not work with you because you were causing “serious” problems for the team. The conversation was extremely uncomfortable for me. It was all so vague to me but she was adamant that I not work with you. She told me to ask the other SA’s for help if I needed help.
This goes to show that the managers were scheming to turn people away from me in those final months. Not surprising, since JPL's lawyers were meeting with the Cassini managers and my line managers specifically about my lawsuit from March to December of 2010. We found that out in depositions, but because of attorney-client privilege, we could not determine the content of those meetings, only the general subject matter and the participants. One can only imagine how they plotted to get rid of me while covering their tracks to prevent charges of retaliation. It worked; they got away with it at trial. The judge would not allow us to speculate about what they plotted.
"So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our heart unto wisdom" (Psalm 90:12).
"The effective fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much" (James 5:16b).
God bless you on the trail,