Burning Widows and Other Things That Even "Multicultural" Americans Shouldn't Tolerate

Is Maine so multicultural now that it can't bring itself to criminalize female genital mutilation within its borders? If the line on cross-cultural tolerance shouldn't be drawn there, where should it be drawn?

|The Volokh Conspiracy |

Charles Napier, a 19th century official of the British Empire in India, well understood the limits of cross-cultural tolerance. When told by Hindu leaders that it would be inappropriate for him to interfere with the "national custom" of burning widows alive on their husband's funeral pyre, he responded:

Be it so. This burning of widows is your custom; prepare the funeral pile. But my nation has also a custom. When men burn women alive we hang them, and confiscate all their property. My carpenters shall therefore erect gibbets on which to hang all concerned when the widow is consumed. Let us all act according to national customs.

Napier, by the way, was no Anglo-chauvinist. To the contrary, he was considered an Indophile. But he knew where to draw the line.

Here in the United States, we have a longstanding custom concerning female genital mutilation: We abhor it. Indeed, it is a federal offense to perform it on minors. But when the Maine Legislature had the opportunity to criminalize such behavior under state law as well, the bill failed on essentially a party-line vote. Some of the arguments against it make me wonder if Maine Democrats haven't taken cross-cultural tolerance—if that's what it is—a step too far.

To set the stage, I should say that Maine has a significant Somali community and that female genital mutilation is widely practiced in Somalia as well as many (but by no means all) Muslim and non-Muslim areas in Africa. It is also practiced to a lesser extent in Muslim areas elsewhere and probably in some non-Muslim areas too. During the public debate over the bill, one commentator said the bill existed only to appease "the largest anti-Muslim hate group in the US." Another called the bill "incredibly racist," arguing that "there are many different cultures and each group of people has a different reason for doing this. Maine Democrats said they were worried about alienating the Somali community.

But does anyone really think that Maine Republicans would be fine and dandy with female genital mutilation if it had been adopted as a practice by local Methodists? I can't imagine that. The notion that the bill was intended as a gratuitous slap in the face to Somalis seems very odd to me. The intention seems to be to stop female genital mutilation.

Other arguments cited by Maine Democrats for opposing the bill seemed to be makeweight. For example, some claimed that because there is a federal statute already, there is no need for a Maine statute. But the Maine bill actually went beyond the federal statute by outlawing Maine residents from transporting girls over state lines for the purpose of female genital mutilation. Moreover, policing this kind of activity is much more the traditional province of state prosecutors. Federal prosecutors have enough on their hands.

Similarly, some argued that the Maine criminal code already covers the practice in outlawing "aggravated assault." Yet the Maine Prosecutors Association, which supported the bill, has pointed out that a successful prosecution for aggravated assault would be very difficult, since the parents ordinarily consent to female genital mutilation. That point makes a lot of sense. Note that piercing a child's ears without parental consent is ordinarily a criminal assault, but with that consent it is not. The law allows parents to make most decisions on behalf of their children, but a few of those decisions are over the line. The best way for Maine to decide when parents can consent on behalf of their minor children and when they cannot is to pass specific statutes that identify when parental consent is void. This is essentially what the bill did.

The ACLU of Maine opposed the bill as "nothing more than an attempt to single out behavior that is commonly attributed to certain religious and ethnic communities as different from other forms of abuse." But the prosecutors' point is that singling out behavior is a good thing in this context. Drawing the line on when a practice is so abhorrent (and permanent) that parents should not be able to consent to it on behalf of their minor children is a judgment better made by a legislature before the fact than by a judge or jury after the fact.

A third argument put forth by Maine Democrats was that there is no evidence that female genital mutilation is occurring in Maine. But there is. "People ask, 'Is this happening in Maine?"" Maine Governor Paul LePage said during a press conference on the bill. "The answer is simply, 'Yes.' Doctors and nurses in Maine have seen the brutal results either on the examining table or in the emergency room after it has gone horribly wrong." State Rep. Heather Sirocki also says that she has had conversations with Maine hospital personnel that are seeing the results. Evidently the State has had to pay the medical costs for some of the cases where things went wrong. All this is consistent with arrests being made in Minnesota and Michigan.

If there were better reasons to oppose the bill, I have not heard them articulated by the Maine legislators.

I am not saying that Americans should stamp out all cultural practices of recently-arrived immigrant groups with which they disagree. Our nation of immigrants can't function without a large measure of cross-cultural toleration. But there have to be limits. For Napier, it was burning widows (which, mercifully, was a rare practice in his time) and slavery (which, alas, was more common).

Maine Democrats claim to oppose female genital mutilation (and perhaps they do), but they lacked the intestinal fortitude to criminalize it. Instead, in an effort to save face, they put forth a pathetically watered down version of the bill, lacking any enforcement mechanism. If Maine isn't willing confidently to draw the line at female genital mutilation of young girls, when will it ever have enough confidence in its own principles to enforce them?

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  1. Why only female genital mutilation? Limiting the ban by sex does indeed seem to be “a gratuitous slap in the face to Somalis” when others are allowed similar activities, just so long as the victim is male and too young to resist.

    1. Male circumcision is almost always brought up by those opposing bans on female genital mutilation (FGM). The difference is that male circumcision does not interfere with sexual enjoyment or other life functions. (Otherwise, patriarchal societies would not tolerate it.)

      FGM might be tolerated when it is superficial, having no more adverse effects than male circumcision, supervised by competent professionals. But to the extent it is severe, impairing sexual enjoyment and function, or causing other physical problems, it should be punished with the full weight of laws against aggravated assault, maiming, and crippling, both against perpetrators and enablers. Spreading propaganda in favor of severe FGM should be grounds for expulsion from the USA and/or termination of parental rights.

      1. Those considering the male circumcision counter really should read the linked Wiki article on FGM.

        It spreads out the definition into 4 main types, several of which have a number of sub-types.

        Only type 1a (removal of just the clitoral hood) would conceivably be as innocuous as male circumcision. This particular variation on FGM is very rare.

        1. So it sounds like you and the parent agree. You both support banning the common and harmful forms of FGM.

          1. Yes.

            1. While the wiki article on FGM does distinguish between types of FGM, the anti-FGM bills (including this latest example from Maine) do not.

              The Maine bill reads “‘female genital mutilation’ means the circumcision, excision, mutilation or infibulation, in whole or in part, of the labia majora, labia minora or clitoris of a female individual.” That would clearly include even the removal of just the clitoral hood.

              1. “the anti-FGM bills (including this latest example from Maine) do not.”

                Again, the only innocuous for, the type 1a is so rare, I would consider the fact that the bills include it to be a non-issue.

    2. Are extended levels of male circumcision not illegal? If not I would fully support their criminalization for young males.

  2. “But does anyone really think that Maine Republicans would be fine and dandy with female genital mutilation if it had been adopted as a practice by local Methodists?”

    Probably not.

    But the democrats would condemn the local Methodists for cultural mis-appropriation.

  3. Female genital mutilation being a crime, when it is practiced by Muslims as part of their faith, leads to the obvious question of why circumcision is a crime when practiced by Jews and Christians. There may be some qualitative differences in the effects on the body in regards the genital bits that cut off (depending on the amount cut off, women can lose the ability to have an orgasm), but fundamentally the practice is the same.

    For the record, circumcision is not a required practice for Christians, see Paul’s letter to the Galatians, but still is for those of the Jewish faith.

    1. FGM is a regional phenomenon of northeast Africa, not a matter of Islamic faith. It is not done by Muslims in Turkey or Iran, but is common among Christians (as well as Muslims) in Ethiopia and Egypt.

      1. Exactly. Its being recast as Muslim because anything Muslim gets automatic approval in some quarters.

        Its like the headscarves and head to foot coverings.

        Some feminists and liberals are willing to cast aside their values when it is a real or alleged Muslim practice.

        1. https://pics.me.me/i-dont-believe-that-women-ha

          ve-any-rights-and-think-2475472.png

          Paste into browser as one word.

          1. Learn to do proper html links. They work just fine here.

            I don’t believe that women have any rights…

      2. Well, I learned something new today.

      3. “FGM is mandated in Islamic law: “Circumcision is obligatory (for every male and female) (by cutting off the piece of skin on the glans of the penis of the male, but circumcision of the female is by cutting out the bazr ‘clitoris’ [this is called khufaadh ‘female circumcision’]).” ? ‘Umdat al-Salik e4.3, translated by Mark Durie, The Third Choice, p. 64

        Why is it obligatory? Because Muhammad is held to have said so: “Abu al- Malih ibn Usama’s father relates that the Prophet said: ‘Circumcision is a law for men and a preservation of honour for women.'” ? Ahmad Ibn Hanbal 5:75

        “Narrated Umm Atiyyah al-Ansariyyah: A woman used to perform circumcision in Medina. The Prophet (peace be upon him) said to her: ‘Do not cut severely as that is better for a woman and more desirable for a husband.'” ? Abu Dawud 41:5251″

        https://www.jihadwatch.org scan FGM

        1. And people scoff at the idea that this reg was just hatemongering against Muslims.

          Dude, you don’t understand how Imams work, do you?

    2. “There may be some qualitative differences in the effects on the body in regards the genital bits that cut off (depending on the amount cut off, women can lose the ability to have an orgasm), but fundamentally the practice is the same.”

      It may be different but it’s really the same?

      Anyway, why not apply the RFRA test – is this the least restrictive means to achieve a compelling government interest? Apply the test to male circumcision and FGM and make an evidence based decision in each case.

      1. Genital cutting of boys and girls is the same in that it is needless, but is also culturally/religiously important to a minority of a minority.

        On the other hand, its different, in that most FGM involved removing of the entire clitoris, akin to taking off of the entire penis. That latter is how castration was done in the eastern slave trade, and for the same reason why the same people do it to women today.

        Circumcision still does not remove the ability to have an orgasm from males, but it diminishes pleasure, which is why it was, in part, advocated for by some in the Victorian Era during the 19th Century revival of the practice among non-Jews. There was, and is, limited data that it helped prevent the spread of infection, regardless, this not the only reason for the practice’s revival.

        Given the plain realities of both FGM and circumcision, circumcision is on it’s way to being banned in Iceland and is proposed in Finland.

  4. “During the public debate over the bill, one commentator said the bill existed only to appease “the largest anti-Muslim hate group in the US.” Another called the bill “incredibly racist,” ”

    All too often, progressives embrace anti-western values and anti-women’s rights simply because republicans support common sense values.

    1. Many liberals hate the West for some reason. The more left you go, the greater the hatred.

      Western values bad, non Western values good.

      1. They hate the West because they’re guilty that it’s an objectively better culture. It conflicts with their ideology that all cultures are the same.

  5. Many cultures support child brides. Should we now turn a blind eye to that in the name of multi-culturalism?

    How about honor killings? Polygamy? Where exactly is the line drawn that we get to assert, “These are OUR culture’s laws and norms.”

    1. “Where exactly is the line drawn that we get to assert…”

      Sorry, you don’t get to draw that line anywhere, ever.

      /sarc

  6. Totally unsurprising. All of it.

  7. For some reason I originally read the headline as “Burning Windows”.

    1. Bastiat would giggle.

  8. “But the Maine bill actually went beyond the federal statute by outlawing Maine residents from transporting girls over state lines for the purpose of female genital mutilation.”

    Can states actually do that, outlaw state residents from traveling to another state to do something that’s illegal in their own state, but (presumably) legal in the state they travel to? I thought state law ended at state borders.

    1. “Can states actually do that, outlaw state residents from traveling to another state to do something that’s illegal in their own state, but (presumably) legal in the state they travel to?”

      Presumably the people doing so are going to return to the state of origin where the law exists.

      Many states used to have laws against transporting a minor to another state for the purpose of obtaining an abortion.

      The legal age for marriage is not uniform across the 50 state. Several states with higher age requirements have laws against transporting a minor to another state to get married.

      US Federal law prohibits traveling to a foreign country for purposes of having sex with a minor. The legality of the act in the destination country is not relevant to the US law.

      The US has other federal laws that apply to US citizens outside actual US territory.

      1. Yes, but you’re not a citizen of your state in quite the same way you’re a citizen of your county; Typically you can just walk out of one state, into another, and as soon as you’ve established a residence, you’re a citizen of the new state.

        Doesn’t work that way for countries.

        I’m sure some states have laws that presume to reach conduct engaged in outside the state. How enforceable are they?

        1. “Typically you can just walk out of one state, into another, and as soon as you’ve established a residence, you’re a citizen of the new state.”

          True, but if you go to another state for a week for some specific purpose with every intent to return to your home state, you legal residence does not change during that week.

          “I’m sure some states have laws that presume to reach conduct engaged in outside the state. How enforceable are they?”

          It’s hard to find on-line cites to such cases on the fly, but I recall reading about successful prosecutions on state laws regarding transporting a minor across state lines for various illegal purposes.

          1. “True, but if you go to another state for a week for some specific purpose with every intent to return to your home state, you legal residence does not change during that week”

            Yeah, like if I go to Nevada for the specific purpose of gambling and consorting with prostitutes, I’m still a South Carolinian. Do I get arrested on returning to South Carolina? No.

            1. You also don’t get to take an underage girl to Nevada, or bring your hookers back to South Carolina just because you hired them in Nevada.

            2. “Yeah, like if I go to Nevada for the specific purpose of gambling and consorting with prostitutes, I’m still a South Carolinian. Do I get arrested on returning to South Carolina?”

              Does South Carolina have an explicitly extra-territorial anti-gambling law?

              If so, you could.

              In any case, if you use a credit card for either of those purposes, your credit card issuer could be screwed. Several states (I don’t know about South Carolina specifically) have laws prohibiting the collecting of gambling debts, and these laws have been upheld against banks attempting to collect on credit card debt resulting from on-line or out of state gambling.

              Most of the existing extra-territorial state laws, concern transporting minors for illegal purposes. I think the federal courts are going to give the states a little more leeway on that.

    2. I doubt it. Congress certainly has that authority, but I don’t think the states do.

  9. When right-wingers make their push for school choice, they like to claim that state constitutional “Blaine” amendments, that forbid government support for religious schools, were really meant to enforce anti-Catholic bias and should therefore be abolished. This is the same situation. Preventing genital mutilation is good, but right-wingers are manifestly untrustworthy stewards for such a law. That fact that this Conspirator is now pounding the table about how Democrats failed to pass the law is itself evidence of that.

    1. I thought you only pounded the table when you had no facts?

      1. Yes?

        It’s unfortunate that Heriot is going to be on the Conspirator B-team of people who have nothing interesting to say, just trot out the same rot over and over as the day’s news demands. (The B-Team roster that I can think of at the moment is Baker: trading liberty for security is great, Bernstein: Israel is great, and Kopel: guns are great.)

    2. “right-wingers are manifestly untrustworthy stewards for such a law”

      Normally, if you don’t want your political opponents (who of course are evil and against anything good and decent) to take credit for a good law, what you do is cosponsor the law and push it through so that the other side can’t claim all the credit.

      But some Maine Democrats seem to be opposing a good law because the sponsors are bad people.

      If a Republican helped an old lady across the street, the Democrats would say that Republicans are so evil they have no moral standing to help anyone.

    3. I heartily endorse the negation of all legislation where those crafting it have ulterior motives, regardless of the surface rationality or constitutionality of it.

      Who’s with me, fellas???

      1. Yes! 98% of gun laws would fall.

      2. I bet that the law declaring Mother’s Day could be invalidated based on bad motives – how many of those who voted for it were just seeking votes?

        For that matter, how about the civil rights laws – were they perhaps passed out of the usual combination of principle and political expediency?

        If we thought that legislators never had to be pressured to do the right thing by the application of cynical politics, then we could just get a panel of philosopher kings who refused to talk to the public – “quiet, you rabble, we’re working on laws for the good of the country.”

    4. Because there’s absolutely no difference between carving bits off of people and not sending them for government indoctrination.

      Just another example of “Libertarians” loving them some government compulsion when it’s aimed against the icky Christians.

      1. Just another example of someone not knowing what libertarian means.

  10. Well, this is some red meat. Folks are loving the narrative of multiculturalism to the point of ridiculousness.

    Somehow, I don’t buy that you can’t convict people of FGM in Maine currently. Has there been any cases of failed prosecutions, or is this a solution in search of a problem?

    You and the commenters might be pretty enthusiastic to read this as Democrats turning a blind eye to a rising tide is Muslim savagery, but to me it looks more like the purpose of this law is to monger up some fear/hate of Muslims by needlessly making this abhorrent practice associated with them double-illegal.

    But does anyone really think that Maine Republicans would be fine and dandy with female genital mutilation if it had been adopted as a practice by local Methodists?
    Counterfactual proof is a sign of outcome-oriented reasoning.
    I’m not sure how credible they are, but there have been some pretty horrific anecdotes about gay conversion therapy and exorcisms that the state has not been very enthusiastic to look into. Not quite the same, but in the neighborhood.

    1. “associated with them”

      Who did that? The people who practice it. Its really just ab African tribal practice, done by Christians and animists too in certain countries.

      “My Muslim religion is being oppressed by bigots!” is more likely to get defenders, like you for instance.

      1. Do you read this website? Because I’ve heard a number of times FGM cited along with honor killing to show that Muslims cannot be civilized and must be sent away.

        1. See below for at least one comment associating FGM with Islam generally.

  11. “Can states actually do that, outlaw state residents from traveling to another state to do something that’s illegal in their own state, but (presumably) legal in the state they travel to?”

    Presumably the people doing so are going to return to the state of origin where the law exists.

    Many states used to have laws against transporting a minor to another state for the purpose of obtaining an abortion.

    The legal age for marriage is not uniform across the 50 state. Several states with higher age requirements have laws against transporting a minor to another state to get married.

    US Federal law prohibits traveling to a foreign country for purposes of having sex with a minor. The legality of the act in the destination country is not relevant to the US law.

    The US has other federal laws that apply to US citizens outside actual US territory.

  12. “For example, some claimed that because there is a federal statute already, there is no need for a Maine statute. But the Maine bill actually went beyond the federal statute by outlawing Maine residents from transporting girls over state lines for the purpose of female genital mutilation. Moreover, policing this kind of activity is much more the traditional province of state prosecutors. Federal prosecutors have enough on their hands.”

    OK, so help me out: Why *is* there a federal statute on this subject, and what is the constitutional basis for it?

  13. Oh what a tangled web we weave. This is exactly why we are not, and never have been, a “nation of immigrants.” We were a society of mostly Christians who came from a common culture and shared common values. That isn’t the case for Hispanics (who are mostly pagans) and Muslims.

    1. This is the first I’ve ever read that Hispanics are pagans. What leads you to that conclusion? If you answer in your head the Catholics are Christians, don’t bother with a response.

      1. Most Hispanics follow a brand of “Catholicism” that is heavily influenced by Mayan and Aztec rituals.

        1. Source?

          1. He’s probably referring to something like Santa Muerte, which isn’t much different from any other number of folk saints in regional Catholic churches.

            However, it’s not “heavily” influenced outside of folk saints and the Mexican Catholic Church itself denounces the practice.

            1. Just realized, this also really only applies to Mexico and some of Central America. The rest of Central America, South America, and Hispanic parts of the Caribbean aren’t influenced much, if at all, by Mayan or Aztec beliefs.

              1. Never heard of Santa Muerte, until I read this urban fantasy book series last year, which I recommend, called the Eric Carter Series by Stephen Blackmoore. They guy is a necromancer, and encounters her (no spoilers).

                1. Santa Muerte is an interesting phenomenon. With her pre-Columbian connections she was popular with more indigenous populations and her association with death made her popular with narcos. With a little bit of time, she’s now a patron of LGBT people and social outcasts.

                  There’s a news story about homeless kids and how they developed a weird mythology around her. It’s one scoop of interesting and two of creepy.

    2. Whites are less Christian than Hispanics and there are probably more pagan whites than pagan Hispanics.

      And we did not come from a common culture with common values; otherwise we wouldn’t have had a civil war over slavery. I guess we’re just deciding to forget about blacks and their culture and values.

      1. A common *dominant* culture, yes there was, in that we all came from England and its culture, language, habits, and morals. England had slavery too, ya know, they just had a political system that allowed them to override the interests of the slave-holding minority and could compromise rather than go to war.

        But the colonies could be roughly divided into three subcultures: the Moralistic NE colonies coming from the Puritan ethic, the Individualistic middle colonies, and the Traditionalistic (hierarchical) and slave-holding southern colonies.

        1. But even that’s not the case. While most settlers came directly from England the Pilgrims were English living in the Netherlands and most of them came directly from the Netherlands. They were living there for a shared value of religious tolerance, a tolerance that did not exist for Puritans in England. Different colonies reflected different amounts of tolerance, whether for natives, religion, or slavery. There was no real dominant culture until well into the colonial era.

          In addition, I would be stunned if even a few dozen blacks came from England. They certainly did not participate in English culture, language, and morals before a few generations of chattel slavery. Even then their culture was largely separate until the 20th century. Clarence Thomas didn’t speak English natively but rather Gullah, as one modern example.

          1. Blacks in America were a subculture in 1776. Red herring. There was a dominant culture, and that is the point I am making. The colonies were united in language and background in that they were English, and they considered themselves Englishmen. They all shared Christianity, even if they were different denominations, and even the deists like Jefferson read the bible. They were all products of Western civilization. They all had an elite that studied classical history in Latin and Greek. Need I go on, or do we keep slicing the bread loaf until you get to the conclusions you want that the 13 colonies, despite differences in economy and geography were really different people?

            I mention England, because you say that slavery was a cultural difference, and I’m pointing out that England practiced slavery at the time of the founding of the United States. That is NOT a cultural difference. Perhaps in 1861 it was, but not in 1776.

            1. ARWP means everybody by “we were” and you know it. He means it to be some weird racial nationalist unity crap. Blacks were not a subculture as they did not share in the general culture; they were a minority culture. It is not a red-herring to point out that 10% of the US did not have many ancestors who shared in the common culture, even if at the time there weren’t very many of them. In the South at least a third of the population was black.

              So “we” to you just means the small group of people descended mostly from white Americans in the Revolutionary Era? Sure, in 1776 we had a common culture, if you consider split over British allegiance non-cultural. However, the features that you list as defining this common culture does not substantially differentiate them from Frenchmen or the other forerunners of the European world except in nationality. Every nation glorified Christianity and the Antiquities and Ireland spoke English but I wouldn’t consider them to share the culture of the Revolutionary USA.

              Even if slavery was practiced throughout the US in 1776 (though not in 1777, thanks to Vermont banning adult slavery) it would be wrong to say that there weren’t cultural differences between populations over slavery. Just consider the slaves themselves.

              1. Nationhood is one of those aspects that define a culture. The French and Germans are right next to each other, yet they do not have a common culture other than shared western heritage. The separate language plays a big part in that, which is why you’re wrong about you’re point about Frenchmen, and borders play an even bigger role, which is why you’re wrong in your point about Ireland.

                Re-read your original reply saying that America at founding did not have a common culture in light of how this thread has one. They certainly did have one, and they were united enough to sign compacts and declarations and fight a war together. How much proof do you need? Further, in my initial reply, I specifically noted that the colonies could be broken up roughly into three separate subcultures, and blacks fell into the traditionalist/hierarchical subculture that practiced slavery. Again, a red herring.

                You’re slicing the loaf of bread into enough slices that you get to say that you’re right, but when you look closely, you’re making distinctions that shouldn’t be made to make your cuts.

                1. I suspect we’re arguing with differing definitions of culture.

                  It seems that you’re talking more about the practices of groups of people. In your sense, yes, blacks shared in that culture as they participated in the practices.

                  I’m talking about the beliefs and practices of people in groups. In my sense, no, blacks did not share in that culture. They did not have the same beliefs or practices.

                  1. Culture is particularly tricky to define, and is often in the eyes of the beholder. For what it’s worth, my assertion about the three different subcultures comes from the work of Daniel Elazar, who developed the preeminent examination of political culture of the United States. He defined political culture as “the particular pattern of orientation to political action in which each political system is embedded.”

                    1. I do believe you and realize now that you are talking about political culture. You are correct in what you were saying. I was approaching it more from an anthropological point of view.

                    2. Different disciplines are like separate tables in the same lunchroom. More people need to go sit with different groups than the one that they are used to. Thanks for your patience.

            2. England practiced slavery at the time of the founding of the United States.

              Its colonies, yes, but not England itself. Somersett’s Case was decided in 1772.

          2. They were living there for a shared value of religious tolerance, a tolerance that did not exist for Puritans in England.

            What? No they weren’t. The Pilgrims simply wanted to practice their own religion without interference (and the Crown was happy to charter the colony just to get them out of the country); they didn’t give a tinker’s damn for other religions. They considered the Quakers, for instance, to be heretics and treated them as such.

        2. we all came from England and its culture

          We did?

          1. Read the back and forth between gormadoc, since you insist on taking a line out of context.

            1. I didn’t take anything out of context. I quoted something ARWP wrote before your exchange with gormadoc, and I don’t agree with it.

              ARWP never said when in the past “we were” this culture. If it’s a reference to the colonial era then he could have said so. But we certainly do not come from a common culture today, and haven’t for over a century.

  14. (I would suggest that Commissioner Heriot not cite governor LePage as an authority on controversial issues, not because he’s Republican, but because he’s kind of weird)

    1. LePage generated national headlines by stating at a January 6, 2016, town hall meeting in Bridgton that drug dealers

      “‘are guys with the name D-Money, Smoothie, Shifty; these types of guys, they come from Connecticut and New York, they come up here, they sell their heroin, they go back home. Incidentally, half the time they impregnate a young, white girl before they leave, which is a real sad thing because then we have another issue we have to deal with down the road.'”

      1. Just think of a real-life version of a Maine politician as conceived by Stephen King.

        1. Some times you can’t believe this is real life, and not some bad unsubtle satire.

      2. It used to be that the Maine papers – especially the Bangor Daily News – would print the mug shots of recent arrestees along with the article detailing what they’d been arrested for. Then LePage made the remark above and they stopped printing the mug shots. Then the papers took up a crusade of showing LePage wrong.
        Thing was, some of the most egregious drug-dealing cases that had been written up involved minority males coming to Maine with dope from Connecticut, Mass. and NY, particularly NYC, with funny street names, and a lot of times the women arrested with (or in connection with) those males were white women from Maine.
        When the numbers – showing a lot of the people arrested for dealing dope were white and local – didn’t bear out LePage’s statement, the papers had a fun time of beating up on him for being stupid or racist or whatever. But the fact of the matter was that the papers’ own coverage had played down the local connection in favor of the more newsworthy (as the editors had deemed it) stories of out-of-staters bringing dope to Maine. The local media just had not covered the white guys’ arrests as much as they did the minorities’. And then they used the information imbalance caused by the gaps in their coverage to beat on a politician they had no love for (except as their whipping boy).

        1. It doesn’t surprise me that the media is as untrustworthy as the powers they’re supposedly speaking truth to.

        2. It’s too bad the governor doesn’t have any sources of information or statistics about arrests and crime outside of local newspapers.

  15. Too bad the Maine Legislature does not channel Napier:

    Based on your culture you have the right to mutilate infant girls. Based on our culture we then have the right to throw you in a deep pit filled with manure. (Or whatever they do in Maine.)

  16. Not sure this is a huge problem or why it’s addressed in the VC.

    “No Maine hospital would confirm they’ve seen patients needing treatment for FGM procedures, but Sirocki pointed us to MaineCare records, showing eight women in Maine have been treated for complications related to FGM, although it’s unclear where the initial procedure was done.” (from the article referenced in the story)

    1. State legislatures are permitted to address problems regardless of how large you perceive them to be, and bloggers here tend to write about whatever they feel like.

      Hope that helps.

  17. To digress a bit, bringing up colonial practices as a great example of rule of law does not have the best connotations.

    Not that I care for widow burning, but waltzing in to civilizing the natives (while also helping yourself to their resources) didn’t end up being an area of moral superiority for England in the end.

    1. Sure it did. Fortunately, better men once believed in the white man’s burden. If they thought the way you currently think, most of the developing world would be completely undeveloped.

    2. I think Napier’s modern Indian counterpart, even in the Hindu party, would say something similar.

      1. I should hope so! But that’s not the same thing as some invading force saying it.

        1. Well, *someone* should say it, anyway.

  18. If this were about 1960, and the Illinois legislature was considering becoming the first state in the country to legalize consensual sodomy, we would be hearing very similar arguments comparing sodomy to burning widows (both were similarly capital felonies at common law), and similarly arguing that if Western Civilization lacks the courage to enforce its most basic and core values, then civilization itself and the very ability of Western democracies to govern themselves in the face of the horrific decadent libertine threat facing them would be overrun by the decadent libertine hordes.

    So let’s step back a minute. Circumcision, which Europeans are increasingly starting to characterize as male genital mutilation, has been widely accepted in this country and generally regarded as constitutionally protected. What exactly makes this any different? What makes it different from the increasingly widespread practice of labia and clitoral piercing for jewelry purposes?

    It seems to me that, if we look at the milder type performed by doctors under controlled conditions, objectively very little. The key differences strike me as primarily being differences in the social status and identity politics of Jews (and clit-piercing hipsters) vis-a-vis Somali moslems than any objective difference between the practices or their consequences, especially if claims that circumsicion provides medical benefits are discounted (and no-one claims this of genital piercing for cosmetic reasons).

    1. As I said, analyze it on the RFRA standards – particularly regarding the deprivation of sexual function – also, are the “hipsters” underage?

  19. This post is simply dishonest. The reason no legislation passed is that there was disagreement over whether the parents should be punished or only the individual performing the mutilation. It was not a matter of multiculturalism or any of that.

    Nor, contra Ms. Sirocki’s claims, does the practice seem to be widespread.

    “We all in this chamber agrenital mutilation should never ever happen,” said Rep. Charlotte Warren (D-Hallowell) in opposition to the bill. “Every one of us. The good news is this is not happening in Maine. All of the data is clear. We have spoken with doctors in Lewiston, we have spoken with doctors in Portland. We have spoken with health practitioners from all across the state for more than a year. This is not happening in Maine.

    Apparently “The Hub of Conservative Thought” that Heriot cites is not completely honest. Who would have thought?

    Further information is available here and here.

    And while we are discussing banning repulsive practices note in the first link that, unlike Maine Democrats and FGM, Maine Republicans really do oppose a ban on “gay conversion therapy,” another quite harmful practice supported by certain cultures.

    1. The Snopes link said the Maine legislature did not vote to specifically legalize FGM. I don’t think this refutes Heriot’s claims.

      1. Did you read the Bangor article Snopes links to, or the other one I linked to? They both, especially the latter, very clearly say that the fight was over who was to be criminally liable.

        Heriot’s claim that the Democrats’ opposition is somehow based on some sort of silly multiculturism is just untrue, though the same cannot be said about the GOP opposition to banning the conversion therapy. So much for her comment on Methodists. My observation is that conservatives are quite eager to accommodate Christian fundamentalist practices no matter what.

        You might also ask yourself why Snopes found it worthwhile to refute the legalization claim.

        1. I don’t see how speech can be considered equivalent to action, even if the speech involves teaching potentially harmful doctrines to children – e.g., that they can become straight through prayer, or that the whole country is racist and out to get them, or that people get wealthy exclusively as a result of “luck” – all harmful ideas, but harmful ideas should have more 1st Amendment protection since they’re not only covered by freedom of religion but by freedom of speech, and the right of parents to educate their children (an unenumerated right, to be sure, but we have a 9th Amendment and a P&I clause).

          1. If the speech is done with intent to “cure” someone it seems equivalent. A psychotherapist’s speech to a patient in a therapy session looks a lot like “action” to me.

            Note that the bill in question referred specifically to “therapy” offered by professionals such as psychologists to patients under the age of 18. From my link:

            Following a heated debate last week, the Maine House voted on party lines to pass LD 912, which would prohibit certain licensed professionals ? such as physicians, psychologists and social workers ? from practicing gay or gender identity “conversion therapy” on minors under the age of 18. The Maine Senate voted 18-17 Tuesday to allow conversion therapy as long as it doesn’t include physical abuse or the use of pornography.

            1. I apologize, I got the wrong impression from your reference to “banning the conversion therapy.” I didn’t know the bill would have left the practice legal so long as it didn’t involve licensed professionals.

              Did I get it right this time?

              1. And above, you referred to “a ban on “gay conversion therapy,” another quite harmful practice supported by certain cultures.”

                1. Fair enough. I was certainly unclear, at best.

                  It’s true that the 1A would protect the non-professional versions, but I wonder if there is liability when some of these idiots do clear harm. It strikes me that the advocates of this stuff want to have things both ways. They want to do what they consider mental health therapy, but not meet any requirements.

    2. “The reason no legislation passed is that there was disagreement over whether the parents should be punished or only the individual performing the mutilation. It was not a matter of multiculturalism or any of that.”

      Interesting. What is the argument that parents shouldn’t be punished for mutilating their children’s genitals?

      1. Good question, TIP.

        The bill would have made it a Class B felony, punishable by up to 10 years in jail, to consent to someone else’s FGM. I think there are a couple of reasons you might not want to do that. First, if the victim needs medical help she might not be eager to seek it if it means sending her parents to prison. Remember, the law applies to those under 18. Second, some might think the punishment too harsh. There is, after all, a difference between condoning a practice and opposing a broad criminalization.

        Then there is a more nuanced reason. This bill is being pushed by some serious anti-Muslim bigots. That doesn’t necessarily make it unwise, but too broad a brush, too much of a big deal, sure makes it sound like the practice is widespread in Maine, and stirs up some unattractive sentiments that have nothing to do with FGM. There is no evidence of it being common at all – just some vague claims.

      2. It would have actus reus problems.

    3. This post is simply dishonest.

      So is switching your party registration to pretend you’re something you are not as part of a scheme to game the system, but the Volokh Conspiracy is cool with it, so let’s just call it “alternative facts” and get on with the partisanship.

  20. If it means one single additional vote, Democrats would oppose a bill banning widows being thrown on a funeral pyre. Cowards simply can’t be expected to do courageous things. Leftists, who encompass a vast majority of Democrats, are cowards.

    1. Leftists are cowards.

      Right-wingers are authoritarian bigots with a zeal for backwardness.

      Where is the hope for America, Diggs?

    2. If it means one single additional vote, Democrats would oppose a bill banning widows being thrown on a funeral pyre.

      Yes, I’m sure you want to believe that. Check this thread for many alternate possible motives that don’t require nearly as much contempt for your fellow countrymen.

  21. (Cont.)

    As Justice Scalia once put it, courts are supposed to look at physics, not philosophy, in evaluating constitutional claims. People who engage in practices, however strange and unfamiliar seeming, that are objectively similar to what established, familiar religions do deserve the same constitutional freedom of religion protections as the known, established religions have enjoyed. Whether or not what is done constitutes “mutilation” needs to be judged by objective standards that look at physical similarity to accepted practices, not perceived moral or status similarity.

    I have vigorously defended the right of states to enact morals laws if they want. But they have every right not to, and the truth is civilization hasn’t always collapsed as predicted when they don’t. Freedom of religion also deserves vigorous defense.

    And I think the religion argument trumps here. The complete lack of objection to clit-piercing for cosmetic purposes, circumcision, etc. tends to suggest that, as in Lukumi Bablo Aye, it is really the objection to the religious use, not the objective physical practice itself, that is the source of all the emotion surrounding discussion of this issue.

    1. Is it legal to do these non-religious operations on minors?

    2. FGM has a resemblance to more advanced male circumcision, which is also practiced by African and Australian tribes, but not to the normal widespread practice. I also believe that those advanced circumcisions should be illegal when the patient is a young boy.

      Are you suggesting that people would not object to cosmetic clit-piercings for young girls? Because I think you’re wrong.

      FGM isn’t related to religious beliefs but rather to tribal identity. It’s more a rite of passage, like our driver’s license or a quinceanera, except with dangerous mutilation of a young girl’s genitalia.

      1. There’s a fairly broad position wherein a person can be vigorously opposed to genital mutilation, but supportive of people’s autonomy to decide for themselves. This is true whether people are deciding on basis of group identification, religion, cosmetics, or whatever.

        If you decide that you’d be happier if your genitals looked or functioned differently, and follow through on this belief, it harms me… how?

        Now, people deciding FOR OTHER PEOPLE whether or not someone should have such a procedure… that’s easy to oppose, unconditionally.

        1. That’s why I’m specifying young girls and boys; adults can decide freely to make bad decisions. These young children aren’t in the same position.

          1. It’s already a federal crime to alter a minor. So, failing to make it a violation of Maine law means that… it’s still illegal for everyone in Maine.

            1. It’s a Federal crime for a person prohibited under 18 USC 922 (g) to possess a firearm or ammunition. How many Federal prosecutions under this statute do you see?

  22. If it’s already a crime to alter a minor, and we let adults decide for themselves what happens to their bodies, why would we need such a law?

  23. ” by outlawing Maine residents from transporting girls over state lines for the purpose of female genital mutilation” – wait, a state is adding an interstate hook? How weird.

  24. I oppose genital mutilation with respect to all children but not with respect to responsible adults. I blame my libertarianism and preference for reason.

    Some people seem to object stridently to female genital mutilation but to tolerate (if not embrace) male genital mutilation. I blame selective intolerance and general gullibility.

  25. I oppose genital mutilation with respect to all children but not with respect to responsible adults. I blame my libertarianism and preference for reason.

    Some people seem to object stridently to female genital mutilation but to tolerate (if not embrace) male genital mutilation. I blame selective intolerance and general gullibility.

    1. deja vu

      1. I sometimes figure this website likes my libertarian contributions so much it publishes them twice.

  26. If genital mutilation is already illegal under Federal law (and probably under other Maine laws) what OTHER motivation is there for a state law to do the same? Why NOT vote against a purely symbolic “slap in the face” of an ethnic minority if doing so will not lead to more genital mutilation?

  27. So I thought I’d check back in to see how long it took someone to figure out that this post, again, was full of it. Gold ring to Bernard, by the way,

    Adding Gail Heriot, to date, has been a total embarrassment to the VC. Don’t get me wrong- there is a controversy on Maine, and a partisan one at that, involving the truthfulness of Gov. Page, the motives behind the GOP bill, the best way for the state to criminalize FGM (and who to make liable for it) given the corresponding federal law, and so on. To the extent that Prof. Heriot wants to explain the issues going on in Maine, it would be pleasant if she did (perhaps even citing to non-partisan Maine sources).

    But most long-term readers of the VC tend to come here for a legal analysis of the issues; not the same partisan red meat that we can get at, say, Free Republic.

    1. The eagerness with which people jump on the idea that Democrats are cartoonish villains willing to condone death and torture in the name of votes or multiculturalism continues to surprise me even after all these years.

      So eager to see the other side not as stupid but as evil and lying about it…

  28. If this law were passed, it would make “gender confirmation surgery” illegal for minors. Of course the Dems had to oppose it.

    1. Yeah, because that’s the same thing under the law.

  29. Okay, I think I got the hang of this:

    Religionists wanting not to perform ceremonies in violation of their creed is not okay, so long as they are Christian. Religionists wanting to sell chicken is not okay, so long as they are Christian.

    But Muslims wanting to slice off the labias of children?

    That’s perfectly okay and you are racist if you disagree.

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