Sunday, June 24, 2007

British girl takes school to High Court over 'purity ring' ban

A TEENAGE schoolgirl will appeal to the High Court today to overturn a ban on her wearing a "purity ring" at school to symbolise her decision to abstain from sex before marriage. Lydia Playfoot, 16, from West Sussex, says the silver ring is an expression of her faith and should be exempt from the school's rules on wearing jewellery. "It is really important to me because in the Bible it says we should do this," she told BBC radio. "Muslims are allowed to wear headscarves and other faiths can wear bangles and other types of jewellery. "It feels like Christians are being discriminated against."

Ms Playfoot's lawyers will argue that her right to express religious belief is upheld by the Human Rights Act. There have been a series of rows in schools in recent years over the right of pupils to wear religious symbols or clothing, such as crucifixes and veils. Last year, the Law Lords rejected Shabina Begum's appeal for permission to wear a Muslim gown at her school in Luton. That case echoed a debate in France over the banning of Muslim headscarves in state schools.

Ms Playfoot's parents help run the British arm of the American campaign group the Silver Ring Thing, which promotes abstinence among young people. Members wear a ring on the third finger of the left hand. It is inscribed with "Thess. 4:3-4", a reference to a Biblical passage from Thessalonians which reads: "God wants you to be holy, so you should keep clear of all sexual sin."

Lydia's father, Phil Playfoot, said his daughter's case was part of a wider cultural trend towards Christians being "silenced". "What I would describe as a secular fundamentalism is coming to the fore, which really wants to silence certain beliefs, and Christian views in particular," he said.

Leon Nettley, head teacher of Millais School in Horsham, denies discrimination, saying the ring contravenes the school's rules on wearing jewellery. "The school is not convinced pupils' rights have been interfered with by the application of the uniform policy," he told the Brighton-based Argus newspaper. "The school has a clearly published uniform policy and sets high standards."


Britain is now Absurdistan

Back in Britain for the past week I have had a welcome chance to take in once again the simple defining pleasures of this great country. The sun dappling Oxford's mellow stones on an early summer evening. A drenching downpour on the lumpy hills of Middle England. The sheer, consuming energy of modern London. And, of course, the wisdom of Andrew Marr.

Like millions of my fellow countrymen I found myself watching the final instalment this week on the BBC of A History of Andrew Marr by Modern Britain. I think I got that the right way around but I didn't pay a lot of attention to what the script said because the pictures were all about him.

There he was, in almost every frame, like some Zelig figure, replaying a crucial moment from our country's past. Up there, admiring the soaring architecture of the Scottish parliament; over yonder, traipsing through the fields near where the government scientist David Kelly took his own life; long shots of him poised, Winston Churchill-like, pondering the origins of his people's genius.

More striking for me, even than the immanent narcissism of the whole thing, was Marr's final, dewy-eyed observation to end the series. As I said, I can't now remember the actual words, but I think it was something to the effect that, for all our tribulations, it was still the greatest of privileges to be able to say you were born in Britain.

Well I don't disagree with that, but of course Marr's conclusion was a classic BBC man's paean to his country. It capped a lengthy peroration on the great success of multiculturalism. How we could still be proud of ourselves not because of some fuddy-duddy ideas about tradition or individual freedom, but because we're now a lovely big melting pot of a country.

I defer to the greater knowledge of modern Britain evidently garnered by standing in empty fields with camera crews, but I wonder if this is really the right conclusion. I love Britain as much as anyone, and I certainly believe it is our openness that makes it such an attractive place. But I can't share the optimism about our multiculture, and much more importantly, my own impression is not of the triumph of the British spirit but of its steady subversion by an ever-growing dependency culture.

In its funny little way the news this week that the Advertising Standards Authority had banned reruns of the 1950s egg advertisements that featured Tony Hancock was more compelling evidence on the state of modern Britain than even Marr's obiter dicta. "Go to Work on an Egg" was unacceptable, we were told, because it encouraged an unhealthy lifestyle. I had no idea that we had a government body that still operated on Stalinist principles but there it is. How long will it be before it is not just the free speech of advertising that is curtailed but the evil practice it promotes, and we ban egg consumption along with smoking? Goodbye England. Welcome to Absurdistan.

At root of this nonsense is, of course, the sheer scale of government. The reason you can't be allowed to eat an egg is that, because of the lack of real choice in healthcare provision, you're no longer responsible for the financial consequences of your own actions. If you get heart disease from too much cholesterol, the State, collectively known as the NHS, will have to treat you; and that costs the State more and more money so the State will have to stop you from doing it in the first place.

This is the self-perpetuating logic behind the unstoppable momentum of the expanding State. The bigger it grows, the more it intrudes into our lives, and the more it intrudes into our lives, the more dependent we become on it. Education is the same. Our great universities are struggling to compete in a global market because they are hamstrung by the State. They are dependent on central government for their funding; but that funding is insufficient to meet the needs of global competition. But because they need government money for what they do, they cannot break free.

Leviathan is now so large that, outside London, half the population is dependent - either through public sector jobs or benefits - on taxes. Its power is so large that it has bent us all into submission. It has produced a culture in which no one needs to take responsibility for anything because someone else is always there to back us up.

That in the end, was what was behind another sorry spectacle of Britain's decline this week - the Fulton inquiry into the capture of the Royal Marines and sailors in March by Iranians. It was of course, to outward appearances, magnificently Gilbertian - the first Sea Lord doing the honorable thing and shuffling off the blame on to anyone but himself. But its message was very modern. Mistakes were made but no one made them.

It's also this loss of any sense of personal responsibility and accountability that has created the conditions that have allowed Britain steadily to surrender meekly to the encroaching ambitions of European elites for the past 30 years.

This weekend, at the EU meeting, we will be treated to yet another of those fantastic pieces of kabuki in which we fulminate loudly about preserving our independence even as we humbly accept the loss of another chunk of our sovereignty. It's always the same: the rest of Europe comes up with some great new plan to give itself bold new power; the British government says it will never allow it to happen, girding itself with all the paraphernalia of red lines and threatened vetoes. Then, every time, clutching some fig leaf "concession", our prime minister comes back claiming a victory for British self-rule, while in Brussels they celebrate another step towards their rule.

The worst thing is, nobody in Britain really seems to care. We'll demand a referendum, of course, but will be rudely told it's none of our business; how dare we seek to shape the decisions of our rulers? And as the dutiful serfs we are, we will, in the end, simply apologise and humbly submit.


A summary of some of the lies that Australia's Leftist historians have told in order to condemn British settlement in Australia

From the inimitable Keith Windschuttle. I met Keith once many years ago -- when he still had hair

There are two central claims made by historians of Aboriginal Australia: first, the actions by the colonists amounted to genocide; second, the actions by the Aborigines were guerilla tactics that amounted to frontier warfare.

Lyndall Ryan claims that in Tasmania the Aborigines were subject to "a conscious policy of genocide". Rhys Jones in The Last Tasmanian labels it "a holocaust of European savagery". Ryan says the so-called "Black War" of Tasmania began in the winter of 1824 with the Big River tribe launching patriotic attacks on the invaders. However, the assaults on whites that winter were made by a small gang of detribalized blacks led by a man named Musquito, who was not defending his tribal lands. He was an Aborigine originally from Sydney who had worked in Hobart for ten years before becoming a bushranger. He had no Tasmanian tribal lands to defend. He was just as much a foreigner in Tasmania as the indigenous Hawaiians, Tahitians and Maoris who worked there as stockmen, sealers and whalers at the same time.

Musquito's successor as leader of the gang was Black Tom, a young man who, again, was not a tribal Aborigine. He had Tasmanian Aboriginal parents, but had been reared since infancy in the white middle class household of Thomas Birch, a Hobart merchant. Until his capture in 1827, he was Tasmania 's leading bushranger but, as with Musquito, his actions cannot be interpreted as patriotic defence of tribal Aboriginal territory.

Ryan's account of the alleged abduction of Aboriginal children by settlers is replete with so much misinformation it is impossible to excuse it as error. In 1810, she claims, Lieutenant-Governor David Collins warned settlers against kidnapping Aboriginal children. However, there is no evidence Collins ever gave such a warning. None of Collins' orders in 1810, or any other reference cited by Ryan about the abduction of children, support her claim. Ryan footnotes the newspaper, the Derwent Star of 29 January 1810, as one of the sources she consulted. However, according to the Mitchell Library, that edition of the newspaper is not held by any library in the world. It has been missing since the nineteenth century. Ryan claims that in 1819, Lieutenant-Governor William Sorell issued an order about the abducted children. She says: "Sorell ordered that all Aboriginal children living with settlers must be sent to the charge of the chaplain, Robert Knopwood, in Hobart and placed in the Orphan School." However, the proclamation Ryan cites does not say that. It merely ordered magistrates and constables to count the number of native children living with settlers. Moreover, there was no Orphan School in Hobart in 1819 or at any time during Sorell's administration. The first such institution in the colony, the King's Orphan School, was not opened until 1828 and Reverend Knopwood was never involved in running it.

Henry Reynolds claims Lieutenant-Governor Arthur recognized from his experience in the Spanish War against Napoleon that the Aborigines were using the tactic of guerilla warfare, in which small bands attacked the troops of their enemy. However, during his military career Arthur never served in Spain. If you read the full text of the statement Reynolds cites, you find Arthur was talking not about troops coming under attack by guerillas but of Aborigines robbing and assaulting unarmed shepherds on remote outstations. Reynolds edited out that part of the statement that disagreed with his thesis.

Reynolds claims that Arthur inaugurated the infamous "Black Line" in 1830 because "he feared `a general decline in the prosperity' and the `eventual extirpation of the colony'". Reynolds presents that last phrase as a verbatim quotation from Arthur. However, Arthur never said this. Reynolds actually changed the words of one of the most important documents in Tasmanian history but no university historian picked up what he had done. Historians commonly describe the "Black Line" as an attempt to capture or exterminate all the Aborigines. However, its true purpose was to remove from the settled districts only two of the nine tribes on the island to uninhabited country from where they could no longer assault white households. The lieutenant-governor specifically ordered that five of the other seven tribes be left alone.

Lyndall Ryan cites the Hobart Town Courier as a source for several stories about atrocities against Aborigines in 1826. However, that newspaper did not begin publication until October 1827 and the other two newspapers of the day made no mention of these alleged killings.

Ryan claims that frontier warfare in Tasmania's northern districts in 1827 included: a massacre of Port Dalrymple Aborigines by a vigilante group of stockmen at Norfolk Plains; the killing of a kangaroo hunter in reprisal for him shooting Aboriginal men; the burning of a settler's house because his stockmen had seized Aboriginal women; the spearing of three other stockmen and clubbing of one to death at Western Lagoon. But if you check her footnotes in the archives you find that not one of the five sources she cites mentions any of these events.

Between 1828 and 1830, according to Ryan, "roving parties" of police constables and convicts killed 60 Aborigines. Not one of the three references she cites mentions any Aborigines being killed, let alone 60. The governor at the time and most subsequent authors, including Henry Reynolds, regarded the roving parties as completely ineffectual.

Lloyd Robson claims the settler James Hobbs in 1815 witnessed Aborigines killing 300 sheep at Oyster Bay and the next day the 48th Regiment killed 22 Aborigines in retribution. However, it would have been difficult for Hobbs to have witnessed this in 1815 because at the time he was living in India. Moreover, the first sheep did not arrive at Oyster Bay until 1821 and it would have been very hard for the 48 th Regiment to have killed any Aborigines in Tasmania in 1815 because at the time they were on garrison duty in County Cork, Ireland.

The whole case is not just a fabrication, it is a romantic fantasy derived from academic admiration of the anti-colonial struggles in South-East Asia in the 1960s, when its authors were young and when they absorbed the left-wing political spirit of the day. The truth is that in Tasmania more than a century before, there was nothing on the Aborigines' side that resembled frontier warfare, patriotic struggle or systematic resistance of any kind.

The so-called "Black War" turns out to have been a minor crime wave by two Europeanised black bushrangers, followed by an outbreak of robbery, assault and murder by tribal Aborigines. All the evidence at the time, on both the white and black sides of the frontier, was that their principal objective was to acquire flour, sugar, tea and bedding, objects that to them were European luxury goods. We have statements to that effect from the Aborigines themselves.

Unlike Lyndall Ryan, Reynolds does not himself support the idea that the colonial authorities had a conscious policy of genocide against the Aborigines. Instead, Reynolds's thesis is that it was the settlers who wanted to exterminate them. He claims that throughout the 1820s, the free settlers spoke about and advocated extirpation or extermination. However, even on the evidence he provides himself, only a handful of settlers ever advocated anything like this.

In 1830, a government inquiry into Aboriginal affairs conducted a questionnaire survey of the leading settlers to determine their attitudes. It was possibly the first questionnaire survey ever conducted in Australia. Reynolds knows this survey existed because he has quoted selections from the settlers' answers in at least two of his books. However, he has never mentioned the survey's existence in anything he has written. Why not? Well, obviously, if his readers knew there had been a survey they would want to know the results, that is, all the results not just a handful of selected quotations. I examine the full results in my book. They show that in 1830, at the height of Aboriginal violence, very few of the settlers were calling for the extermination of the Aborigines. Some wanted to pursue a policy of conciliation towards the Aborigines. Othes were against violence but wanted to remove the Aborigines to a secure location, such as a peninsula or island. Only two of them seriously advocated exterminating the Aborigines. But theirs were the only words that Reynolds quoted.

The full historic record, not the selective version provided by Reynolds, shows the prospect of extermination divided the settlers deeply, was always rejected by government and was never acted upon.

In the entire period from 1803 when the colonists first arrived in Tasmania, to 1834 when all but one family of Aborigines had been removed to Flinders Island, my calculation is that the British were responsible for killing only 120 of the original inhabitants, mostly in self defence or in hot pursuit of Aborigines who had just assaulted white households. In these incidents, the Aborigines killed 187 colonists. In all of Europe's colonial encounters with the New Worlds of the Americas and the Pacific, the colony of Van Diemen's Land was probably the site where the least indigenous blood of all was deliberately shed.

Why, then, have the historians of Tasmania told this story about genocide, frontier warfare and widespread bloodshed. I suggest several of the reasons in my book: to make Australian history, which would otherwise be dull and uneventful, seem more dramatic than it really was; to assume the moral high ground and flatter their own vanity as defenders of the Aborigines; in some cases to pursue a traditional Marxist agenda or to indulge in interest group politics of gender, race and class. But the greatest influence on them has been not so much a commitment to any specific political program but the notion that emerged in the 1960s that history itself is `inescapably political'. This is a phrase Reynolds used in 1981 in the introduction to his book The Other Side of the Frontier. He also wrote in a journal article: "history should not only be relevant but politically utilitarian, . it should aim to right old injustices, to discriminate in favour of the oppressed, to actively rally to the cause of liberation."

I completely disagree. That position inevitably corrupts history. Without it in Aboriginal history, there might have been less licence taken with historical evidence and a greater sense of the historian's responsibility to respect the truth. The argument that all history is politicised, that it is impossible for the historian to shed his political interests and prejudices, has become the most corrupting influence of all. It has turned the traditional role of the historian, to stand outside his contemporary society in order to seek the truth about the past, on its head. It has allowed historians to write from an overtly partisan position. It has led them to make things up and to justify this to themselves on the grounds that it is all for a good cause. No cause is ever served by falsehood because eventually someone will come along and expose you. Truth always comes out in the end, and when it does it discredits those causes that were built on lies.

More here


I regret that your report (Feb 22) on Isaac Newton's beliefs failed to put them into any historical context. What is noteworthy about recent research is not that Newton was an "apocalyptic" thinker: all Protestant scholars in 17th-century Britain held such views. The apocalyptic consensus is not difficult to understand, given that any departure from the literal reading of the Book of Revelation was considered heresy. Edmond Halley, who was confronted with this accusation in 1691, presented papers to the Royal Society on "the necessity of the world's coming to an end", to prove "that I am not guilty of asserting the eternity of the world".

In Newton's days nearly everyone believed in heavenly retribution and the catastrophic end of the world. The Church worked hard to scare an insubordinate flock, while political radicals prophesied cometary disaster and social upheaval. Newton, in contrast, kept publicly quiet on the subject for most of his life. He endeavoured to discredit both camps by debunking their shared belief in impending doomsday.

In the unpublished manuscripts referred to, Newton did ponder the end of the world "in the year of the Lord 2060", but stressed: "I mention this period not to assert it, but only to show that there is little reason to expect it earlier, and thereby to put a stop to the rash conjectures of interpreters who are frequently assigning the time of the end, and thereby bringing the sacred prophecies into discredit as often as their conjectures do not come to pass. It is not for us to know the times and seasons which God hath put in his own breast."

By pushing back a tentative date for the apocalypse by more than 500 years (if not advocating an indefinite point in time), Newton assailed both an over-zealous orthodoxy and political radicals whose fanaticism had led to a century of mayhem and who threatened the stability of British society. Far from being a prophet of doom, Newton calculatingly established the foundations of the scientific age that turned terrifying comets into predictable objects and wild fear-mongering into dispassionate risk analysis.


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