The Flying Nun:
Daniel Solove is blogging about a nun who had trouble flying because her name was on a TSA list of persons marked for special screening at airports. While Dan is focused on the implications for database control, I can't help thinking that Sally Field would never have such problems.
i don't mean this to sound like a trolling comment, it surely isn't intended that way.

are we supposed to be *more* outraged because the person being detained is a nun? why? it seems to me that the people who pose the biggest security risk are religious zealots. nuns are more zealotous than regular individuals.

i don't think that this article would raise any eyebrows if it wsa instead titled "why mullahs can't fly."

is there a fundamental difference between religious figures of christian and islam religions? sure, there are other differing factors, such as age and gender, but the fact remains that zealots of any stripe should be more suspect than others.
9.27.2005 2:13pm
JKH, I think we are just supposed to be amused by the "Flying Nun" reference. Click on the Sally Field link for more, and before you complain about zealots, make sure that you are not the one too serious to get the joke.
9.27.2005 2:30pm
DK, I'm well aware of "the flying nun" and the humor wasn't lost on me. I am not even talking about Orin's headline.

click on the other links to see the headlines

"When Nuns Can't Fly" (referenced in my post)
and "Nun Terrorized by Terror Watch," featured on Wired.

(To restate what I've already said), my point is that if either of these headlines instead referenced a religious leader from another religion, wouldn't most people's reaction to the headline be different? I'm exploring a double standard, or a hypocrisy - the same people that say "islam is a religion of peace" are the same people that would be less outraged if the headline was about clerics instead of nuns.
9.27.2005 2:41pm
Well, JKH, in Solove's post, it is clear that his concern is about the fact that the nun had to contact Karl Rove. I don't think you can possibly interpret Solove to be outraged about nuns being searched rather than outraged about people who lack the Catholic Church's connections to Karl Rove not having any recourse. And if you read Wired, you'll find that they get outraged about pretty much any search or governmental invasion of privacy, for anyone.

If your concern is about "most people's reaction to the headline," rather than about what anyone has written here, well, then, until you present some evidence about "most people," there is nothing to discuss, and you are the definition of a troll, trying to start a hot-button argument without any evidence but assertion.
9.27.2005 2:58pm
Artful Dodger (mail):
The TSA likes me, they really like me!!!
9.27.2005 2:59pm
DK, you're rigth, the fact that they chose to put the word "nun" in the headline instead of "woman" is clearly completely irrelevant. i'm sure that they would have similarly used "lawyer Terrorized by Terror Watch," "Accountant terrorized by Terror Watch," or, in some cases, "Arrogant law professor terrorized by Terror Watch."

never mind. i'll find less hostile places to comment.
9.27.2005 3:04pm
Syd (mail):
Did Sister Bertrille ever file a flight plan? Was she ever shot down?
9.27.2005 3:29pm
Shelby (mail):
Not to pile on, but heck...

the people who pose the biggest security risk are religious zealots

Seems to me the biggest security risk in the US is Islamist zealots. I take "nun" to equal Christian. How many Christian zealots are running around hijacking planes or blowing things up? Maybe abortion clinics -- though I don't remember any members of religious orders doing so.

IIRC, there was at some point a nun or a woman dressed as one caught smuggling weapons in Ireland. But all that's over now ... right?
9.27.2005 4:20pm
i think you are missing a key distinction, jkh. nuns practice their "zealotry" by loving their neighbor. islamists practice their zealotry by killing their neighbor. i find it amusing that you are bemoaning the hostility of replies when you are trying to disguise fallacious relativism as a rational thought.
9.27.2005 4:37pm
When I see a nun boarding a plane on which I am flying, I pray to Allah that there is also a Federal Air Marshall on board, or, at the very least, Jody Foster.
9.27.2005 5:05pm
I don't think nuns are a particular risk, but people dressing like nuns would become a particular risk if they were exempt from the normal rules.

But obviously that has nothing to do with this story, which is indeed about how ineffective and unresponsive the government can be unless you have a personal connection.
9.27.2005 5:33pm
people dressing like nuns would become a particular risk if they were exempt from the normal rules

You're right; the TSA shouldn't support bad habits.
9.27.2005 5:41pm

"nuns practice their "zealotry" by loving their neighbor."

9.27.2005 5:45pm
Jerry Roberts (mail):
The headline reflects a bias. It's saying "Christian Holy Woman Under Scrutiny While Flying, And You, Reader, Should be Outraged!" Why else would the headline read "Nun?" So much blatant hatred is evident in these comments, which state that Christianity is a good religion while Islam is a bad religion.
9.27.2005 6:05pm
Catholic boy:
The funnier thing is that the median age for nuns in the USA is now over 80, I think. Sure, an 85-year-old COULD bomb a plane, but I think people are generally less suspicious of the 80+ set. Even the dangerous 85-year old mullahs usually stick to plotting or urging, not getting out there and doing the deeds.

And for those who seriously raised the issue of dangerous zealotry by nuns -- esp. with any implication that these would be the "religious right" types -- I ask you to provide ANY evidence (outside of the IRA example that someone already mentioned). I am fairly well-read, but I am unaware of anything like that, even on the abortion front. If anything, I think there might have some trespassing and property damage from some left-wing nuns re the nuclear freeze, Central America, or whatever. For the most part, in the USA, nuns, esp. those under 80, tend to be some of the leftmost in the Church.

Ah, what fun to take the trivial and comic and actually make it a serious debate. Beats working.
9.27.2005 6:22pm
The headline reflects a bias. It's saying "Christian Holy Woman Under Scrutiny While Flying, And You, Reader, Should be Outraged!" Why else would the headline read "Nun?" So much blatant hatred is evident in these comments, which state that Christianity is a good religion while Islam is a bad religion.


i'd say the headline reflects sensationalism, especially since the main point of the article is about how bad the TSA is and not about how good and wholesome Glenn Anne McPhee is.

Why else would the headline read "Nun?" i'll answer that question with a question: what one word best characterizes Glenn Anne McPhee and imparts information to the reader?

i don't recall anyone saying christianity is good and islam is bad. i personally was writing about nuns vs. islamists, which is not the same thing. i will be more specific, since you have every intention of misunderstanding and misrepresenting what i write. nuns in america, who, as a general rule (almost a universal rule, probably), are benign and peace loving, are more likely than not to practice their "zealotry" by loving their neighbor. By loving their neighbor, i mean not killing people. ever. a minority subset of islamists, which are themselves a minority subset of practicioners of islam, find it morally unproblematic to kill and/or enslave non-muslims or those who do not live under a muslim state, and, thus, they practice their zealotry by "killing" their neighbor, in a purely figurative sense. by "killing" their neighbor, i really mean espousing an ideology that advocates hate and in some extremes murder.

goodness. some people have no sense of rhetorical hyperbole and what a sensible interpretation of it might be. or am i the one who is off-base?
9.27.2005 11:02pm
Now, We'll have Nun of that :)

Wasn't there a running joke in Highlander or perhaps on Monty Python about Nuns having no sense of humor? Either way, I'm probably ticketed for Hades based upon the thoughts I had about Ms Field in my much younger daze...
9.28.2005 1:12am
Tom R (mail):
> "I don't think nuns are a particular risk, but people dressing like nuns would become a particular risk if they were exempt from the normal rules."

Bingo. Michelle Cottle in The New Republic made the same point a few years ago about airport checks on young blonde Western women (her own category). If they were exempted, terrorists could plant bombs on them. Given how often young Australian women caught with drugs in Indonesia or Malaysia claim "they were planted!", the risk seems non-negligible.

Also, not every nun is harmless and lovable (only 99% are). I believe that in Rwanda, the tribunal has investigated and even indicted some nuns for helping to incite the 1994 genocide. Of course, this sister's chance to do that on a plane would be limited.
9.28.2005 2:37am
There's also the non-trivial point of the perception factor.

For most of us (and the broad majority of society), while Catholic priests have slid down the scale over recent years into a...less-than-positive point reputationally, we don't have that about nuns.

Nuns still lead us to think of, say, teachers at Catholic schools (maybe a bit quick with the ruler, but the memories are generally fond) or (in my case) the nun that was assigned to pray for me the last two years of high school when I was at an alternative school (*waves in that general direction*). Generally benign people.

Thus, this article gets a lot of attention. First, the subject of the searches seems so unreasonable - It's a nun, for chrissakes! Second, there's the extreme lack of response from TSA to what seems a patently obvious mistake.

Most religious of most other faiths do not have that sort of perception advantage. Call it a brilliant PR campaign, call it mass brainwashing, call it whatever, that's not the case for Catholic religious.
9.28.2005 10:37am
Stephen Quist (mail):
A couple of thing ought to be pointed out.

First, most nuns and sisters dress in conservative secular clothes, not in the old habits. Some orders and some nuns do use habits, but most orders leave it up to the individual to decide what to wear. A person on Sister McPhee's position almost certainly would dress secularly.

That, in my mind, effectively removes the religious component from the discussion because there would be no obvious way of identifying her as a nun in a TSA queue. What's left is a tale of bureaucratic inertia and insensitivity. That, surely, is nothing new.
9.28.2005 1:11pm
markm (mail):
The real issue isn't about her being a nun - it's that this woman is being stopped because some Afghanistani man once used the name McPhee. Why don't they include and use descriptions of the suspected terrorists? Surely even a low level TSA agent is capable of telling the difference between an (apparently Irish-descended) woman and an Afghanistani man.
9.29.2005 6:53pm