Quote of the week

Although judicial proceedings will generally be bound by the requirements of natural justice to a greater degree than will hearings before administrative tribunals, judicial decision-makers, by virtue of their positions, have nonetheless been granted considerable deference by appellate courts inquiring into the apprehension of bias. This is because judges ‘are assumed to be [people] of conscience and intellectual discipline, capable of judging a particular controversy fairly on the basis of its own circumstances’: The presumption of impartiality carries considerable weight, for as Blackstone opined at p. 361 in Commentaries on the Laws of England III . . . ‘[t]he law will not suppose possibility of bias in a judge, who is already sworn to administer impartial justice, and whose authority greatly depends upon that presumption and idea’. Thus, reviewing courts have been hesitant to make a finding of bias or to perceive a reasonable apprehension of bias on the part of a judge, in the absence of convincing evidence to that effect.

L'Heureux-Dube and McLachlin JJ
Livesey v The New South Wales Bar Association [1983] HCA 17; (1983) 151 CLR 288
19 May 2007

How to insult a man of the cloth

Christopher Hitchens, the man who has just published the book God is Not Great, and who has been slagging off the now dead Jerry Falwell, seems to be a very brave man. He is obviously prepared to take on even the most pious men of the cloth in the most extreme but entertaining manner.

He is after all the guy who wrote a book aimed at exposing the hypocrisy of Mother Theresa which he called The Missionary Position, but whose original title, Holy Cow, was thought to be too offensive by his publishers. As The New Republic Blog reports, Hitchens appeared on a US radio programme last week, and really let rip.

At one point Hitchens was joined on-air by Stephan Munsey, an evangelical pastor from Indiana. After making some pretty weak arguments on behalf of his faith, Munsey got to the crux of things. He explained how his 11-year-old daughter developed a grave case of Hodgkins’ Disease a few years ago. “She’s dying in front of me,” the minister recalled. “I kneel down, and I put my hand on her hand, and I ask God, ‘Would you heal my baby?'” The girl recovered. “You’ve come too late to me, Christopher Hitchens, to tell me that that was not an act of a real God,” Munsey declared.

Here I thought even Hitchens would put on kid gloves and grant the man his beliefs. “Are you going to call this father, Christopher Hitchens, a charlatan, a fool?” asked the host, Tom Ashbrook. Of course, that’s precisely what Hitch proceeded to do:

Well, it’s flat-out unbelievable testimony. And it’s been the basis of religious charlatanry all along… I’m very sorry if I sound callous, but I do know of a lot of children who have died horribly despite being prayed over with exreme fervency. And I think it’s disgusting to suppose that those prayers were infererior to other people’s…. There are such things as unexpected recoveries… [T]o claim that you have a personal line to God and that he’ll intervene for your convenience is a disgracefeul thing to say, mind you. And an insult to those whose children continue to suffer despite agonies of prayer on their behalf. This is a conscious attempt to defraud people. It’s the basis of a great deal of religious hucksterism. And besides being immoral, it’s highly unattractive.

You can listen to the whole program here.

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