American Taliban Pushes For Mandatory Prayer In Public Schools


State Sen. Dennis Kruse Pushes For Mandatory Recitation Of Lord’s Prayer In Indiana Public Schools

Dennis Kruse School Prayer

Indiana state Sen. Dennis Kruse proposed legislation that would require public school students to recite the Lord’s Prayer. (Image via Facebook)

A Republican state senator wants Indiana’s public school students to begin each day by reciting the Lord’s Prayer.

Dennis Kruse, chair of the state Senate’s education committee, has introduced Senate Bill 23, which would allow Indiana’s school districts to require recitation of the prayer, “In order that each student recognize the importance of spiritual development in establishing character and becoming a good citizen.”

The proposal does offer exemptions, including a provision allowing students and parents to opt out of a school’s mandatory prayer. Still, experts and the Indiana Senate legal committee believe the bill to be unconstitutional, the Indianapolis Star reports.

A similar law exists in Florida, but no schools there adopted the measure for fear of hefty legal fees associated with likely litigation, Andrew Seidel, a staff attorney for the Freedom From Religion Foundation, told the Star. A lawsuit against a prayer banner in a Rhode Island school last year, for example, cost the school more than $173,000 in attorney’s fees.

Seidel told the Star he worried requiring prayer in schools would lead to bullying of students who chose not to participate. Still, the Indiana proposal comes as more atheist clubs spring up in high schools across the country, even in more religious states like North Carolina, Alabama, Louisiana and Texas.

Kruse’s history in Indiana education has been filled with controversy. He sponsored a bill last year to allow schools to teach creationism that failed in the state House. He tried again in December by announcing plans to introduce new legislation for what he called “truth in education,” an effort that would allow teachers to question scientific principles, such as evolution.

American Conservatism | Ushering In The Age of Absurdity


Quote of the Day: Modern Conservatism

Via:- Mario Piperni

No More Mister Nice Blog:

…the unreported story of our times is that birtherism isn’t an isolated example of paranoid lunacy taking hold of a disturbingly large segment of the population — in fact, modern conservatism is driven by multiple lunatic theories that are precisely as delusional as birtherism.

True…but the mulitple lunacies have been reported time and time again. The problem is that the people who should be paying attention aren’t listening to anyone whose first name isn’t Rush, Glenn or Sean.

The theories:

  • Birtherism
  • Obama is a Muslim
  • Obama is a Communist
  • Obama is the anti-Christ
  • Obama eats little white babies on Tuesdays (made that one up…but not by much)
  • Tax cuts for the rich creates jobs
  • Homosexuality is a perversion and can be cured with prayer
  • The Tea Party is a grassroots movement
  • Corporations are people
  • Bush, Palin and Bachmann have functioning brains
  • Abstinence education prevents teenage pregnancies
  • Climate change is a hoax
  • The GOP in its current state is a serious political party
  • FOX News is fair and balanced
  • The Affordable Care Act creates death panels
  • Creationism is science
  • Evolution is a flawed theory

And on it goes…the delusional theories of a self-destructing political party.

Related articles

Secularism vs. Theocracy | The Good Guys vs. Superstitious Ignorance


Secularism vs. Theocracy
Freedom vs. Theocracy
Freedom vs. theocracy is appropriate for this image because today’s Democratic Party is anything but secular. Instead of standing up for our secular democracy, many have adopted a path of pandering to the religious. For us, regardless of our political leanings, it is about secularism vs. theocracy.
Here’s how Adam Lee (Daylight Atheism) recently put it:

It’s secularism against theocracy, the free intellect against dogmatism, conscience against barbarity, the future against the past. Like it or not, it’s one of the defining struggles of our time. And there are many decent, well-intentioned people who don’t want to confront the full scope of the problem, who turn their gazes from it or try to paper it over with soothing platitudes. (Or worse, they claim that we, the people who are pointing out the problem, are the ones who started it all, and everything would be fine if we’d just be quieter and more respectful.)

I encourage you to read Lee’s entire post. It is one of those rare gems I plan to bookmark and re-read whenever I feel like giving up.

Jerry Taliban Boykin: Churches To Occupy


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.

Religious Right Exploits Churches as Politcal Fronts


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

Religious Rights Republican Crusaders


The Christian right‘s “dominionist” strategy

Reuters/Richard Carson
Rick Perry

An article in the Texas Observer last month about Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s relationship with followers of a little-known neo-Pentecostal movement sparked a frenzied reaction from many commentators: Dominionism! Spiritual warfare! Strange prophecies!

All the attention came in the weeks before and after “The Response,” Perry’s highly publicized prayer rally modeled on what organizers believe is the “solemn assembly” described in Joel 2, in which “end-times warriors” prepare the nation for God’s judgment and, ultimately, Christ’s return. This “new” movement, the New Apostolic Reformation, is one strand of neo-Pentecostalism that draws on the ideas of dominionism and spiritual warfare. Its adherents display gifts of the spirit, the religious expression of Pentecostal and charismatic believers that includes speaking in tongues, prophecy, healing and a belief in signs, wonders and miracles. These evangelists also preach the “Seven Mountains” theory of dominionism: that Christians need to take control of different sectors of public life, such as government, the media and the law.

The NAR is not new, but rather derivative of charismatic movements that came before it. Its founder, C. Peter Wagner, set out in the 1990s to create more churches, and more believers. Wagner’s movement involves new jargon, notably demanding that believers take control of the “Seven Mountains” of society (government, law, media and so forth), but that’s no different from other iterations of dominionism that call on Christians to enter these fields so that they are controlled by Christians.

After Perry’s prayer rally, Rachel Maddow featured a segment on her MSNBC show in which she warned,

“The main idea of the New Apostolic Reformation theology is that they are modern day prophets and apostles. They believe they have a direct line to God … the way that they’re going to clear the way for it [the end of the world] is by infiltrating and taking over politics and government.”

Maddow’s ahistorical treatment of the NAR, however, overlooked several important realities. For anyone who has followed the growth of neo-Pentecostal movements, and in particular the coalition-building between the political operatives of the religious right and these lesser-known but still influential religious leaders, the NAR is just another development in the competitive, controversial, outrageous, authoritarian and often corrupt tapestry of the world of charismatic evangelists.

Before the NAR came along, plenty of charismatic leaders believed themselves to be prophets and apostles with a direct line to God. They wrote books about spiritual warfare, undergirded by conspiracy theories about liberals and Satan and homosexuality and feminism and more (my own bookshelves are filled with them). They preached this on television. They preached it at conferences. They made money from it. They all learned from each other.

Before the NAR, Christian right figures promoted dominionism, too, and the GOP courted these religious leaders for the votes of their followers. Despite a recent argument by the Daily Beast’s Michelle Goldberg that “we have not seen this sort of thing at the highest levels of the Republican Party before,” it’s been there since at least 1980. Michele Bachmann is a product of it; so was Mike Huckabee. Ronald Reagan pandered to it; so did both Bushes; so does Perry.

In 2007, I saw Cindy Jacobs and other “apostles” lay hands on Shirley Forbes, wife of Rep. Randy Forbes, the founder of the Congressional Prayer Caucus, which boasts some Democrats as members and many of the GOP’s leading lights. “You are going to be the mother of an army,” they told Forbes, prophesying that she would “speak the power of the word into politics and government. Hallelujah!”

The idea that Christians have a sacred duty to get involved in politics, the law and media, and otherwise bring their influence to bear in different public spheres is the animating principle behind the religious right. If you attend a Values Voters Summit, the annual Washington confab hosted by the Family Research Council, you’ll hear speakers urging young people to go into media, or view Hollywood as a “mission field.” That’s because they insist these institutions have been taken over by secularists who are causing the downfall of America with their anti-Christian beliefs.

A few days ago, the Washington Post’s religion columnist, Lisa Miller, took Goldberg and Maddow to task for overhyping dominionism as a plot to take over the world. Miller, though, misses the boat, too, by neglecting to acknowledge and describe the infrastructure the religious right has built, driven by the idea of dominionism.

Oral Roberts University Law School, where Bachmann earned her law degree, was founded with this very notion in mind: to create an explicitly Christian law school. Herb Titus, the lawyer converted by Christian Reconstructionism who was instrumental in its launch, describes his mission in developing a Christian law school as a fulfillment of a “dominion mandate.” After ORU was absorbed into Regent University in the 1980s, Titus was the mentor to Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell, who last week was elevated to chair of the Republican Governors Association and is widely speculated to be a possible vice-presidential pick.

Christian Reconstructionists, and their acolytes of the Constitution Party, believe America should be governed by biblical law. In her 1995 book, “Roads to Dominion: Right Wing Movements and Political Power in the United States,” Sara Diamond describes the most significant impact of Reconstructionism on dominionism:

“the diffuse influence of the ideas that America was ordained a Christian nation and that Christians, exclusively, were to rule and reign.” While most Christian right activists were “not well-versed in the arcane teachings” of Christian Reconstructionism, she wrote, “there was a wider following for softer forms of dominionism.”

For the Christian right, it’s more a political strategy than a secret “plot” to “overthrow” the government, even as some evangelists describe it in terms of “overthrowing” the powers of darkness (i.e., Satan), and even some more radical, militia-minded groups do suggest such a revolution. In general, though, the Christian right has been very open about its strategy and has spent a lot of money on it: in the law, as just one example, there are now two ABA-accredited Christian law schools, at Regent (which absorbed the ORU law school) and Jerry Falwell’s Liberty University. There are a number of Christian law firms, like the Alliance Defense Fund, formed as a Christian counterweight to the ACLU. Yet outsiders don’t notice that this is all an expression of dominionism, until someone from that world, like Bachmann, hits the national stage.

John Turner, University of South Alabama historian and author of “Bill Bright and the Campus Crusade for Christ: The Renewal of Evangelicalism in Postwar America,” said that the NAR’s “Seven Mountains” dominionism is “just a catchy phrase that encapsulates what Bright and many other evangelical leaders were already doing — trying to increase Christian influence (they would probably use more militant phrases like ‘capture’) in the spheres of education, business and government.”

Bright, like Perry’s prayer cohorts, believed America was in trouble (because of the secularists) and needed to repent. One of the most well-known evangelicals in the country, Bright had agreed to let Virginia Beach preacher John Gimenez, a charismatic, organize the rally, despite evangelical discomfort with charismatic religious expression. In his book, Turner describes the Washington for Jesus rally of 1980:

From the platform, Bright offered his interpretation of the source of the country’s problems, asserting that “[w]e’ve turned from God and God is chastening us.” “You go back to 1962 and [196]3 [when the Supreme Court banned school-sponsored prayer and Bible-reading],” Bright argued, “and you’ll discovered a series of plagues that came upon America.” Bright cited the Vietnam War, increased drug use, racial conflict, Watergate, and a rise in divorce, teenage pregnancy, and alcoholism as the result of those decisions. “God is saying to us,” he concluded, “‘Wake up! Wake up! Wake up!'” … “Unless we repent and turn from our sin,” warned Bright, “we can expect to be destroyed.”

Unlike Perry’s rally, Ronald Reagan the candidate wasn’t present at the Washington for Jesus rally. At a 2007 gathering at his church, Gimenez recounted how he and Bright later met with President Reagan, and Bright told him, “You were elected on April 29, 1980, when the church prayed that God’s will would be done.”

In August 1980, though, after Reagan had clinched the nomination, he did appear at a “National Affairs Briefing” in Texas, where televangelist James Robison (also instrumental in organizing Perry’s event) declared, “The stage is set. We’ll either have a Hitler-type takeover, or Soviet domination, or God is going to take over this country.” After Robison spoke, Reagan took the stage and declared to the 15,000 activists assembled by Moral Majority co-founder Ed McAteer, “You can’t endorse me, but I endorse you.”

That was also a big moment for Huckabee, who worked as Robison’s advance man. It was even imitated by then-candidate Barack Obama, who met with a group of evangelicals and charismatics in Chicago and repeated Reagan’s infamous line. Obama’s group included publisher Stephen Strang (an early endorser of Huckabee’s 2008 presidential bid) and his son Cameron, whose magazines Charisma and Relevant help promote the careers of the self-declared modern-day prophets and apostles. Huckabee appeared with Lou Engle at his 2008 The Call rally on the National Mall (like Perry’s, billed as a “solemn assembly”) in which Engle exhorted his prayer warriors to battle satanic forces to defeat “Antichrist legislation.”

When I interviewed former Bush family adviser Doug Wead for my 2008 book, “God’s Profits: Faith, Fraud, and the Republican Crusade for Values Voters,” he gave me a lengthy memo he compiled for George H.W. Bush in 1985, to prepare him for his 1988 presidential run. In the memo, he identified a thousand “targets,” religious leaders across the country whose followers, Wead believed, could be mobilized to the voting booth.

In my book, I examined the theology and politics of the Word of Faith movement (also known as the prosperity gospel) and how Republicans cultivated the leading lights of the movement. Primarily because of television, but also because of the robust (and profitable) speaking circuit these evangelists maintain, they have huge audiences. All that was in spite of — just as the scrutiny of NAR figures now is revealing — outlandish, strange and even heretical theology. What’s more, Word of Faith figures have endlessly been embroiled in disputes not just with their theological critics, but with watchdogs and former parishioners who charge they took their money for personal enrichment, promising that God would bring them great health and wealth if they would only “sow a seed.”

At Gimenez’s 2007 event, Engle and the other “apostles” were not the stars; rather, the biggest draw was Word of Faith televangelist Kenneth Copeland. In 1998, writing to Karl Rove, Wead called Copeland “arguably one of the most important religious leaders in the nation.” At Gimenez’s church, Copeland, who has boasted that his ministry has brought in more the $1 billion over his career, preached for two hours. The sanctuary was packed, with the audience hanging on every word. Gimenez introduced him as “God’s prophet,” and Copeland urged them to “get rid of the evening news and the newspaper,” study “the uncompromised word of the Holy Ghost,” and take “control over principalities.”

The commenters who have jumped on the NAR frequently overstate the size of its following. Engle’s events, for example, are often smaller than advertised, including a poorly attended revival at Liberty University in April 2010, where one would expect a ready-made audience. When I’ve covered these sorts of events, including smaller conferences by local groups inspired by figures they see on television, it’s often hard to see how the often meandering preachers are going to take over anything, even while it’s clear they cultivate an authoritarian hold on their followers. I meet a lot of sincere, frequently well-intentioned people who believe they must be “obedient” to God’s word as imparted by the “prophets.”

Most chilling, though, is the willingness to engage in what’s known in the Word of Faith world as “revelation knowledge,” or believing, as Copeland exhorted his audience to do, that you learn nothing from journalism or academia, but rather just from the Bible and its modern “prophets.” It is in this way that the self-styled prophets have had their greatest impact on our political culture: by producing a political class, and its foot soldiers, who believe that God has imparted them with divine knowledge that supersedes what all the evil secularists would have you believe.

Last week CNN’s Jack Cafferty asked, “How much does it worry you if both Michele Bachmann and Rick Perry have ties to dominionism?” That worry crops up every election cycle. If people really understood dominionism, they’d worry about it between election cycles.

Forced Indoctrination At Gunpoint Wishes Mike Huckabee!


Mike Huckabee Says He Wants Americans To Be Indoctrinated At Gunpoint

David Barton is the leading promoter of a brand of falsified American history altered to support the claim that America was founded as a Christian, rather than a secular, nation. As Chris Rodda, who has authored an entire book debunking Barton’s brand of pseudo-history, writes,

I was quite surprised… to come across a video clip from this conference on the People for the American Way (PFAW) Right Wing Watch blog with the headline “Huckabee: Americans Should Be Forced, At Gunpoint, To Learn From David Barton.” I had watched Huckabee’s speech. How on earth could I have missed a statement like that? Well, I didn’t. It had been edited out of the webcast that I had watched.

Kyle Mantyla over at PFAW’s Right Wing Watch had recorded Huckabee’s speech when it was streamed live on Thursday, and posted the ‘forced at gunpoint’ clip on Friday. By Saturday, when I watched the webcast on the United in Purpose website, that part of Huckabee’s speech had been edited out.

The webcast that I saw showed Barton leaving the stage as he ended his presentation, then the screen going black for a moment, and then what appeared to be the beginning of Huckabee’s speech. What was edited out was Barton returning to the stage to introduce Huckabee, and the first two minutes and forty-five seconds of Huckabee’s speech, during which Huckabee made his ‘gunpoint’ comment and praised David Lane, the man behind all of the American “Renewal” and “Restoration” projects that have popped up across the country during the past few elections.

[below: the unedited footage from Huckabee’s speech, with the “joke” about indoctrinating Americans at gunpoint to be found at at 1:06. Footage courtesy of Kyle Mantyla of Rightwing Watch, who might have almost single-handedly consigned Huckabee’s presidential hopes to the dustbin of history.]

I should also note that what Chris Rodda has to say about this has especial weight given that she’s arguably been the most indefatigable author to challenge David Barton’s sprawling falsified American history oeuvre, as a Talk To Action site search on Rodda’s extensive posts debunking Barton would suggest. Chris Rodda is author of the book Liars For Jesus: The Religious Right’s Alternate Version of American History which prominently features David Barton, head of Wallbuilders and arguably king of the “liars for Jesus”. Rodda is also Head Researcher for the Military Religious Freedom Foundation.

Blasphemer Assassinated for Opposing the Islamic Religious Right


Shot down for opposing the religious right
Few Pakistani politicians have had the courage to oppose blasphemy laws so openly and brazenly as Punjab Governor Salman Taseer, who was assassinated this week by a member of his own security detail for his political stance.
 
By Irfan Yusuf, January 7, 2011
 
Last man standing?
 Sydney, Australia 
 
 
The death of Salman Taseer, the governor of Punjab, has brought Pakistan to the forefront of world affairs in a way that 20 million displaced Pakistani flood victims could not. In August, Taseer told the BBC of the need for urgent international aid to reach flood victims in his state after some $2 billion to $3 billion worth of crops were destroyed, including 260,000 hectares of cotton and rice, maize and other cash crops. Taseer warned that the floods had hit some of the most poverty stricken areas of rural Punjab, which he described as “a breeding ground for potential recruitment” by religious extremists. International aid was important, he said, because ”this is the kind of nest which can grow the vipers”.

Ironically, this extremism was Taseer’s undoing. He was shot by a member of his own security detail. The assassin reportedly told investigators that he killed Taseer due to the politician’s opposition to Pakistan’s blasphemy laws.

Taseer was a complex political figure. His political mentor was the father of Benazir Bhutto, who was executed after a show trial conducted by a US-backed military dictator. Years later, Taseer served as a minister in a caretaker government appointed by another US-backed military dictator. General Pervez Musharraf, who many Pakistanis not-so-affectionately label as “Busharraf”, appointed Taseer as governor of Punjab in 2008.

Many Western observers describe Taseer as “a liberal politician”. In a sense, he was more liberal than other members of Pakistan’s wealthy elite. He belonged to the ruling Pakistan People’s Party of the late Benazir Bhutto. He opposed various religiously inspired provisions of the Pakistan Criminal Code that entered the statute books during Bhutto’s reign and which she did not oppose to gain support from religious parties.

These provisions included laws that made it an offence to engage in acts deemed blasphemous. The laws typically were used against members of Pakistan’s religious minorities. Among the most vulnerable minorities are the Sikhs. Before Pakistan was carved out of colonial India in 1947, Punjab was a land where followers of many faiths flourished. Guru Nanak, the founder of the Sikh faith, emerged from this area. Punjab is the final resting place to numerous Sufi Muslim saints, and was also where any number of less orthodox Muslim sects were born.

The partition of India saw a splitting of Punjabi society. Millions of Sikhs and Hindus rushed in one direction to the Indian side of the border, while millions of Muslims rushed in the other direction. A million people of all faiths lost their lives. One Sikh who managed to escape was Amarjit Singh who was to become a brigadier in the Indian army. Amarjit’s daughter Tavleen Singh became a respected Indian journalist. In 1980, she had an affair with Taseer and they had a son named Aatish, who was reared in his mother’s Sikh household in Delhi.

In his 2009 book Stranger to History: A Son’s Journey Through Islamic Lands, Aatish Taseer writes that his father’s version of Islam was less about religious observance and more a kind of pan-Muslim nationalism. Certainly, Salman Taseer preferred to keep his relationship with an Indian Sikh journalist and his illegitimate child secret given the effects such a scandal would have on his political career.

At the same time, he championed the rights of Christian and other minorities and openly took on the powerful religious parties that backed blasphemy laws. Over the years, these laws have been used to harass and victimise Pakistani Christians. Among them is Aasia Bibi, a 45-year-old Christian mother of five from rural Punjab, who is in custody for alleged blasphemy against the prophet Muhammad. Her supporters claim that the allegations arose from personal disputes with other women in her village.

Taseer and his daughters visited Aasia Bibi after she had been in custody for some 18 months. He described Aasia Bibi’s punishment as “harsh and oppressive” and appealed to the Pakistani President for a pardon. Taseer also described the prosecution of poor members of religious minorities as a mockery of Pakistan’s Islamic heritage.

Few Pakistani politicians have had the courage to oppose such laws so openly and brazenly. Religious law has become a tool of state-sanctioned oppression of the most vulnerable of all faiths. Congregations of attention-seeking imams join forces with corrupt police to arrest and even kill alleged blasphemers on the flimsiest of evidence. Personal scores and commercial disputes are dealt with in this irrational manner.

Pakistan’s religious right, along with their supporters in the small business sector, had called for Taseer to be sacked. Pakistan’s The News International reported that 100 activists from the Tehrik Tahaffuz-e-Khatm-e-Nabuwat (Movement for the Preservation of the Doctrine of Finality of Prophethood) rallied and cheered after Taseer’s slaying. They carried placards and handed out sweets.

On New Year’s Eve, Taseer sent this message into Twitterspace: “I was under huge pressure sure 2 cow down b4 rightest pressure on blasphemy. Refused. Even if I’m the last man standing”. It remains to be seen whether any other politician will be brave enough to stand in the way of Pakistan’s religious right.

Irfan Yusuf is an associate editor of altmuslim.com, an attorney, and the author of Once Were Radicals: My Years As A Teenage Islamo-fascist.

Ireland’s atheists test blasphemy law


Ireland’s atheists test blasphemy law

Henry McDonald, Dublin

January 3, 2010

SECULAR campaigners in the Republic of Ireland defied a strict new blasphemy law that came into force on New Year’s Day by publishing a series of anti-religious quotations online and promising to fight the legislation in court.

The law, which was passed in July, means blasphemy in Ireland is now a crime punishable with a fine of up to 25,000 euros.

It defines blasphemy as ”publishing or uttering matter that is grossly abusive or insulting in relation to matters sacred by any religion, thereby intentionally causing outrage among a substantial number of adherents of that religion, with some defences permitted”.

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Justice Minister Dermot Ahern has said the law was necessary because while immigration had brought a growing diversity of religious faiths, the 1936 constitution only extended the protection of belief to Christians.

But Atheist Ireland, a group that claims to represent the rights of atheists, responded to the legislation by publishing 25 anti-religious quotations on its website, from figures including Richard Dawkins, Bjork and Frank Zappa.

Michael Nugent, the group’s chairman, said it would challenge the law through the courts if it was charged with blasphemy.

Mr Nugent said: ”This new law is both silly and dangerous. It is silly because medieval religious laws have no place in a modern secular republic, where the criminal law should protect people and not ideas. And it is dangerous because it incentives religious outrage, and because Islamic states led by Pakistan are already using the wording of this Irish law to promote new blasphemy laws at UN level.

”We believe in the golden rule: that we have a right to be treated justly, and that we have a responsibility to treat other people justly. Blasphemy laws are unjust: they silence people in order to protect ideas. In a civilised society, people have a right to express and to hear ideas about religion even if other people find those ideas to be outrageous.”

Mr Nugent said the group’s campaign to repeal the law was part of a wider battle to create a more secular republic. ”You would think that after all the scandals the Catholic Church endured in 2009, the introduction of a blasphemy law would be the last thing that the Irish state would be considering in terms of defending religion and its place in society.”

GUARDIAN