Archive for September, 2011


Signs That America Is Moving Away from Religion

If you look closely there are promising signs that American
attitudes are changing in a way that may blunt the impact of religion on
politics and culture.

September 28, 2011
In between bragging about the number of
people they’ve killed and vilifying gay soldiers, the GOP presidential
candidates have spent the primaries demonstrating how little they respect the
separation of church and state. Michele Bachmann seems to think God is
personally invested
in her political career. Both she and Rick Perry have
ties to
Christian Dominionism,
a theocratic philosophy that publicly calls for
Christian takeover of America’s political and civil institutions. (Even Ron
Paul, glorified by civil libertarians for his only two good policy stances —
opposition to the Iraq and Afghanistan wars and drug prohibition — sputtered
about churches when asked during a debate where he’d send a gravely ill man without
health insurance.)

GOP pandering to the Religious Right is just
one of those facts of American public life, like climate change denial and
Creationism in schools, that leave secular Americans lamenting the decline of
the country, and of reason and logic. Organized religion’s grasp on the politics
and culture of much of Europe has been waning
for decades
— why can’t we do that here?

But there are signs that American attitudes
are changing in ways that may tame religion’s power over political life in the
future.

Annie Laurie Gaylor, founder of the Freedom from Religion Foundation, tells AlterNet
that she thinks what happened in Europe is (slowly) happening here.

Read more here:- http://www.alternet.org/story/152558/5_signs_that_america_is_moving_away_from_religion

 


US couple found guilty in faith-healing over dying boy
From correspondents in Oregon City
  • From: AP
  • September 30, 2011
    11:50AM

A US couple who prayed and rubbed olive oil on their sick infant rather than seek
medical care for the dying boy have been convicted of manslaughter, becoming the
latest members of an Oregon faith-healing church to be blamed in their child’s
death.

Dale and Shannon Hickman, both 26, are members of the Followers of Christ
Church, which has a history of rejecting medical care for congregants’ children
and relying instead on techniques such as prayer and anointing the sick with
oils.

Five other church members have been convicted in Clackamas County for crimes
related to the rejection of medical care for their children, said Greg Horner,
chief deputy district attorney.

The Hickmans’ conviction on second-degree manslaughter charges typically
requires a mandatory minimum sentence of six years in prison. But because of a
religious exemption in state law at time of the crime, the couple likely will
face no more than 18 months in prison and a $US250,000 ($256,581) fine, The
Oregonian
reported.

Clackamas County Circuit Court Judge Robert Herndon allowed the couple to
remain free until they are sentenced October 31.

Prosecutors claimed Shannon Hickman never sought pre-natal care when she was
pregnant with David, who was born two months premature at his grandmother’s home
and died less than nine hours later when he had trouble breathing. He was born
with a bacterial infection and underdeveloped lungs.

Medical experts for the prosecution testified that the baby had a 99 per cent
chance of survival if his parents had sought medical care. But prosecutors
claimed the couple never considered taking the baby to the hospital.

Defence lawyer Mark Cogan said his clients were the victims of religious
persecution. He argued that the baby died quickly and said there was no evidence
that medical care would have saved him.

Dale Hickman testified that he didn’t call an ambulance once he realised his
infant son was ailing “because I was praying”. Shannon Hickman said that as a
woman in the church, she must defer to her husband.

“That’s not my decision anyway,” she testified. “I think it’s God’s will
whatever happens.”

Two other parents from the Followers of Christ church were convicted earlier
this year for failing to seek medical care for their infant daughter, who had a
growth that could have left her blind in one eye. They were sentenced to 90 days
in jail.

Read more: http://www.news.com.au/breaking-news/us-couple-found-guilty-in-faith-healing-over-dying-boy/story-e6frfku0-1226153773107#ixzz1ZOsfxgLR


Boykin: The Church Is Called To Occupy
      Submitted by Brian Tashman

Jerry Boykin last week sat down with Paul Crouch Jr. of the Trinity Broadcasting Network’s show First To Know to discuss a new movie based on his autobiography “Never Surrender.” Boykin, who earlier this month demanded that mosques be banned in America, told Crouch that the Church needs to become more politically active because of threats to religious freedom from groups like the American Civil Liberties Union and MoveOn. He called on viewers to work “so that the Church emerges as the dominant influence in America,” adding, “I refuse to believe that we can’t, because God told us to occupy.”

Watch:

Boykin: The Church had the dominant influence in America. Today we have ceded that to other organizations like the ACLU and MoveOn.org and Code Pink and ACORN. It is time for the Church, for Bible-believing Christians regardless of denomination, to unify and understand that we truly serve the same God, Jesus Christ, and we need to come before Him and ask for His forgiveness for where this nation has gone and how we’ve turned our backs on God, and ask God to lead us to do our part, individually, to do our part to make a difference in America so that the Church emerges as the dominant influence in America in what we were called to be, again, the salt and light for this nation.

Crouch: And that in your opinion, that is possible? We can take this nation back, in your opinion?

Boykin: We absolutely can take this nation back and I refuse to believe that we can’t, because God told us to occupy.


Date ‘rape’ is an insult to Christians

THE Austrialian government and the BBC have been identified as “enemies of Christianity” following their decisions to replace the terms BC (Before Christ) and AD (Anno Domini) with “politically correct” BCE (Before Common Era) and CE (Common Era).

The Australian move, according to this report, relates to changes to the national curriculum, and was described by Peter Jensen, the Archbishop of Sydney, as:

An intellectually absurd attempt to write Christ out of human history.

And Christopher Pyne, education spokesman in the opposition Liberal National Party grizzled:

Kowtowing to political correctness by the embarrassing removal of AD and BC in our national curriculum is of a piece with the fundamental flaw of trying to deny who we are as a people. Australia is what it is today because of the foundations of our nation in the Judeo-Christian heritage that we inherited from Western civilisation.

The Rev Fred Nile, the foolish fundie who became an MP in the New South Wales parliament, described the changes as the “final insult” to Australian Christians. Either the man’s words were badly reported, or he has a special talent for screwing up English:

The direction of the national curriculum is towards almost a Christian cleansing to remove from our history any references to the role Christianity had in the formation of Australia.

But the Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority said the new terms were the increasingly common standard for representing dates.

While BC and AD are designations used to number years in the Christian era, the terms BCE and CE are widely applied as their secular counterparts.

The report says that a similar change was made to the British curriculum nine years ago, provoking claims by Christians that the authorities were “imposing political correctness in schools to ensure children are cut off from the past”.

Meanwhile, The Wail on Sunday, commenting on the BBC’s adoption of CE and BCE, asked:

BBC 3’s AD BC is available to download at the link provided at the end of this report

How long will it be before the figures of Jesus and of Moses, which now adorn the Law Courts in London to remind us of the origin of our civilisation, are removed because they are deemed ‘offensive’ …

The Wail reports here that the BBC’s Religious and Ethics department states:

As the BBC is committed to impartiality it is appropriate that we use terms that do not offend or alienate non-Christians. In line with modern practice, BCE/CE (Before Common Era/Common Era) are used as a religiously neutral alternative to BC/AD.

Dr Michael Nazir-Ali, the former Bishop of Rochester, reacted angrily:

I think this amounts to the dumbing down of the Christian basis of our culture, language and history. These changes are unnecessary and they don’t achieve what the BBC wants them to achieve. Whether you use Common Era or Anno Domini, the date is actually still the same and the reference point is still the birth of Christ.

And former Tory Minister, the ghastly Catholic Ann Widdecombe, spluttered:

I think what the BBC is doing is offensive to Christians. They are discarding terms that have been around for centuries and are well understood by everyone. What are they going to do next? Get rid of the entire calendar on the basis that it has its roots in Christianity?

But Rabbi Jonathan Romain, from Maidenhead Synagogue, said he could see the logic behind the change.

‘In the year of Our Lord’ is a religious view that is not shared by many across the world, or even the UK. The change to BCE and CE is simply more inclusive.

The BBC said last night:

The BBC has not issued editorial guidance on the date systems. Both AD and BC, and CE and BCE are widely accepted date systems and the decision on which term to use lies with individual production and editorial teams.

Trivia fact: In 2004 – as part of its Christmas programming, the BBC screened a mock rock opera “with a comic twist” called AD BC. It is described as:

An all-singing, all-dancing, star-spangled musical leap around the biblical story of the Nativity, set in 1972 – and has continued to attract a growing number of avid cult comedy fans every since.

Hat tip: Pete H and BarrieJohn


Girl accused of blasphemy for a spelling error
Published: September 25, 2011

Eighth-grader expelled from school; mother forced to move from city.

ABBOTTABAD: It may have been a mere misplaced dot that led to accusations of blasphemy against a Christian eighth-grader, whose miniscule error led to her expulsion from school and uproar amongst local religious leaders.

Faryal Bhatti, a student at the Sir Syed Girls High School in Pakistan Ordnance Factories (POF) colony Havelian, erroneously misspelt a word in an Urdu exam while answering a question on a poem written in praise of the Holy Prophet (PBUH). The word in question was ‘laanat’ instead of ‘naat’ – an easy error for a child to make, as the written versions of the words are similar.

According to the school administration and religious leaders who took great exception to the hapless student’s mistake, the error is ‘serious’ enough to fall within the realm of blasphemy, Saturday.

Spelling out her punishment

On Thursday, Faryal’s Urdu teacher was collecting the answer sheets from her students when she noticed the apparently offensive word on her pupil’s sheet. The teacher, Fareeda Bibi, reportedly summoned the Christian girl, scolded her and beat her. Her punishment, however, did not end here. When Faryal’s class fellows learnt of the alleged blasphemy, the teacher brought the principal’s notice to the matter, who further informed the school management.

In the meanwhile, the news spread throughout the colony. The next day, male students of the POF colony school as well as certain religious elements took out a rally, demanding the registration of a criminal case against the eighth-grader and her expulsion from the area.

Prayer leaders within the community also condemned the incident in their Friday sermons, asking the colony’s administration to not only take action against Faryal but her entire family. In the wake of the increasing tensions, Managing Director POF Colony Havelian Asif Siddiki called a meeting of colony-based ulemas and school teachers to discuss the situation. The girl and her mother were asked to appear before the meeting, where they explained that it was a mere error, caused by a resemblance between the two words. The two immediately apologised, adding that Faryal had no malicious intentions.

In a move that was apparently meant to pacify the religious elements clamouring for action against the teenage ‘blasphemer’, the POF administration expelled her from the school on Saturday. Faryal was not the only one who got in trouble for her spelling error, however, as her mother, Sarafeen Bhatti, who was a staff nurse at the POF Hospital Havelian for several years, was immediately transferred to POF Wah Cantonment Hospital.

Decision applauded

While talking to The Express Tribune, Maulana Alla Dita Khateeb of Gol Masjid praised the decision of the POF colony administration, claiming that he had personally seen the answer sheet in question. He further went on to say that he had met the girl himself, who had apologised for the word used in error.  Asked whether the incident still fell within the realm of blasphemy and whether Faryal deserved expulsion when she had misspelt the word unintentionally, Khateeb said that although he was unclear about the intentions of the girl, the word she had used was sacrilegious.

The managing director of POF Colony was not available for comment.

Published in The Express Tribune, September 25th, 2011.


Clergy Should Be Wary Of Religious Right Attempts To Politicize Churches, Says Americans United
   September 28, 2011

‘Pulpit Freedom Sunday’ Is Stunt To Lure Churches Into Illegal Electioneering, Watchdog Group Says

Americans United for Separation of Church and State today called on the nation’s clergy to reject Religious Right attempts to turn houses of worship into centers for partisan politicking.

This Sunday (Oct. 2) the Alliance Defense Fund (ADF) is sponsoring “Pulpit Freedom Sunday,” an event in which evangelical pastors are urged to break the law by endorsing or opposing candidates as they conduct religious services.

“This is an appalling attempt by the Religious Right to turn houses of worship into houses of partisan politics,” said the Rev. Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United. “Americans attend church for spiritual guidance, not to get a list of candidates to vote for on Election Day.

“I know the Religious Right would like to forge fundamentalist churches into a partisan political machine,” Lynn continued, “but the law doesn’t allow it, and the American people don’t want it.”

The ADF, a legal group founded by TV preachers, insists that pastors should have the right to endorse candidates from the pulpit. But Americans United points out that all non-profit groups in the 501(c)(3) category — whether religious or secular — are barred under federal tax law from using non-profit personnel or resources to intervene in elections.

AU’s Lynn noted that the American people do not support church electioneering. A recent study found that 73 percent of Americans agree that religious leaders should not intervene in elections.

Americans United sponsors Project Fair Play, a project that educates clergy and congregants about the requirements of federal tax law. Through Project Fair Play (www.projectfairplay.org), Americans United makes a variety of educational materials available that explain what houses of worship can and can’t do in the political arena.

In cases of flagrant violations of the law, Americans United reports offending religious institutions to the IRS.

“Church electioneering is illegal, and the people don’t support it,” Lynn remarked. “It’s time for the Religious Right to stop trying to drag churches into backroom politics.”

The Internal Revenue Service is charged with enforcing this tax law provision. Religious groups that have been either sanctioned or investigated include:

Christian Broadcasting Network, Virginia Beach, Va.: TV preacher Pat Robertson’s Christian Broadcasting Network was stripped of its tax-exempt status retroactively for the years 1986 and 1987 for supporting Robertson’s presidential bid. CBN was required to make a “significant payment” to the IRS, pledge to avoid partisan campaign activities in the future, place more outside directors on its board and implement other organizational and operational changes to ensure tax law compliance.

Old Time Gospel Hour, Lynchburg, Va.: The late Jerry Falwell’s TV ministry lost its tax-exempt status retroactively for the years 1986 and 1987 after a four-year IRS audit determined that the ministry had diverted money to a political action committee. The ministry agreed to pay the IRS $50,000 for those years and to change its organizational structure so that no future political campaign intervention activities would occur.

Church at Pierce Creek, Binghamton, N.Y.: This church lost its tax-exempt status after running newspaper ads in 1992 urging people not to vote for Bill Clinton. Assisted by attorneys with TV preacher Pat Robertson’s American Center for Law and Justice, the church sued to get its exemption back but lost in federal court.

Second Baptist Church, Houston, Texas: This prominent Texas church endured a three-year IRS audit after the church was reported to the federal tax agency for alleged involvement with a special project in 1996 designed to encourage members to attend a GOP precinct convention with the aim of electing certain individuals to local committees.

Allen African Methodist Episcopal Church, New York, N.Y.: This church was visited by IRS agents and its pastor, the Rev. Floyd Flake, was asked to sign documents stating that he would not intervene in election campaigns after he endorsed presidential candidate Al Gore from the pulpit in 2000.

Bill Keller Ministries/Live Prayer, St. Petersburg, Fla.: The founder of this ministry was contacted by the IRS, which sent him a list of detailed questions to answer about his political activity, after he issued a “devotional” on the ministry’s website in 2007 asserting that voting for Mitt Romney is the same as voting for Satan.

In addition, in 2006 the IRS issued a report stating that it examined 132 non-profits during the 2004 election cycle. The tax agency noted that “fewer than half” of the entities examined were churches and concluded that in many of the cases, significant violations of the law had occurred. Written warnings were issued in 55 cases.

In 2008, the IRS took the step of sending letters to officials in the national political parties, reminding them that houses of worship and other tax-exempt entities cannot endorse candidates.

Americans United is a religious liberty watchdog group based in Washington, D.C. Founded in 1947, the organization educates Americans about the importance of church-state separation in safeguarding religious freedom.

Source:- http://www.au.org/media/press-releases/archives/2011/09/clergy-should-be-wary-of.html


Priests giving the Hitler salute at a Catholic youth rally in the Berlin-Neukölln stadium in August 1933.

Catholic priests giving the Hitler salute

Catholic Power vs. American Freedom
by George La Piana & John W. Swomley. edited by Herbert F. Vetter. Published by: Prometheus Books.

The role of Catholicism in American society has long been a matter of some debate. Catholicism developed in a Europe controlled by monarchial, aristocratic, and even dictatorial political systems, and the Roman Catholic Church adopted many of the principles underlying those systems. America, on the other hand, was conceived as a new political experiment where republican and democratic principles would hold sway. How readily can the two vasty different conceptions of power and organization interact?

Sadly, Catholics have experienced a great deal of bigotry in America in connection with the arguable conflict of interest Catholics have been thought to experience – allegiance to the essentially dictatorial power of the pope in Rome vs. allegiance to the democratic system in America. Much of that bigotry was actually fueled by fears of immigration, especially that of Irish and Italian minorities. However, even if the prejudice against Catholicism simply used concerns about the power of the Vatican over Catholic citizens as an excuse for other fears and hatred, those concerns do raise interesting and relevant issues which have been debated by Catholics and non-Catholics alike for many decades.

One of those engaged in these discussions was George La Piana (1878-1971), at one time the John H. Morison Professor of Church History at Harvard Divinity School. Dr. La Piana served as a consultant to Paul Blanshard, authored numerous books on the relations between church and state, and consluted with U.S. Supreme Court Justice Felix Frankfurter on church-state issues.

In 1949, Dr. La Piana delivered a series of four lectures titled “A Totalitarian Church in a Democratic Society,” designed to address the question: To what extent is Roman Catholic authoritarianism a threat to democracy in the United States? Those four lectures, along with nine new chapters by John Swomley (professor emeritus of Christian social ethics at the St. Paul School of Theology) on more recent developments, are collected together in the book “Catholic Power vs. American Freedom,” edited by Herbert F. Vetter.

This book is not an attack on theism, on religion, on Christianity, or even on Catholicismper se (and certainly not on individual Catholics). Rather, it is a historical and cultural commentary on the ways in which certain aspects of the power structure and dogmas of the Roman Catholic Church have difficulty being compatible with the power structure and ideals of American republican democracy. This doesn’t mean that Catholics cannot be good Americans or that they cannot support democracy. Rather, it means that there is a necessary tension between the two which each person must find ways to resolve in order to remain as true to both as possible.

This shouldn’t really be surprising to anyone. The Roman Catholic Church is not a democratic institution nor does it pretend to be. The Church does not readily accept dissent and disagreement on a wide variety of important issues – fundamental questions of morals and dogma simply are not open to debate. The ideals of American democracy, however, value exactly those principles. Perhaps they are not always honored in reality as well as they should be, but no one gets very far if they try to argue that they should be abandoned.

Unfortunately, the conflict between these antagonistic positions extends beyond the hearts and minds of individual believers. The traditional position of of the Roman Catholic Church, as articulated by Pope Leo XIII before the Second Vatican Council, has been that governments should not only have care for religion, but should also “recognize the true religion professed by the Catholic Church.” What this means, in practice, is that legitimate government must specifically endorse Catholicism and must put Catholic principles and morals into practice through the laws.

Many Catholics accept this call to action and work to have American laws reflect Catholic morals on a wide variety of issues: abortion, euthanasia, homosexuality, and more. Quite a few non-Catholics have had their healthcare decisions restricted by Catholic doctrines because they had the misfortune to be treated in a Catholic-run hospital, even though it was supported extensively by public money and even when the treatment itself has been paid by the government. Such actions threaten to undermine the principles of a secular, democratic government.

Fortunately, not all Catholics feel this way – as John Swomley writes:

[M]any members… want it to be a servant church rather than a power church seeking control not only over its own members but also nonmembers by seeking control of the government in nations where they reside.

Individual Catholics, particularly those in America, are finding themselves forced to choose between authoritarian Church doctrines and the principles of democracy, choice, and self-rule. They are resisting the imposition of Catholic doctrines by the state. and over time, they may succeed in having democratic ideas further incorporated into Church dogmas. Only time will tell.

Ref: – http://atheism.about.com/library/books/full/aafprCatholicPower.htm