Vol. 21 No. 10 - Published by the Freedom From Religion Foundation, Inc. -
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Faith Healing and Fraud Update
Developments in a controversy over a bogus prayer and fertility study published in The Journal of Reproductive Medicine in 2001--which claimed women being prayed for by Christian groups doubled their chances of becoming pregnant through in vitro fertilization--include:
Columbia University had no comment on its investigation of Lobo, which it says is concluded. Both Lobo and Dr. Kwang Cha, a Korean fertility specialist, are still standing by the study.
"The amazing results of the absurd study, designed by a con man who is now in federal prison--a study that was perhaps never conducted at all--will remain posted on the Journal of Reproductive Medicine internet site to be cited by others as strong scientific evidence for the supernatural power of distant prayer. This is a scientific atrocity," commented Bruce L. Flamm, M.D., a Foundation Life Member whose tenacious work is responsible for exposing the "study." Flamm is featured in recent articles in The Chronicle of Higher Education and The New York Times.
"The public is learning that faith healing and fraud go hand in hand," Flamm told Freethought Today. (See his article, "The Columbia University 'Miracle' Study: A Sign from God?" Freethought Today, Nov 04)
Abstinence Programs Promote Myths
A Congressional staff analysis by U.S. Rep. Henry A. Waxman (D-Calif.) released in early December has found "false, misleading, or distorted information" in federally-funded abstinence-only programs.
Over the past three years, such programs have told students that abortion can lead to sterility and suicide, that half the gay male teens in the United States test positive for AIDS, and that merely touching a person's genitals "can result in pregnancy."
Waxman's staff, in reviewing the most common curricula, found that 11 out of 13 programs, used by 69 organizations in 25 states, lie or cite unproven claims or subjective conclusions. Inaccuracies include assertions that HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, can be spread by sweat and tears. Students are not taught about contraceptives or safe sex, complying with demands by religious lobbies.
Congress agreed to increase abstinence funding to $131 million in its $388 billion spending bill passed on Nov. 20.
Associated Press reported that 10 state evaluations show the programs have been ineffective.
Abstinence Program Rechallenged
A taxpayer-funded program promoting premarital abstinence in Louisiana, which resulted in an ACLU lawsuit and 2002 court settlement, is being rescrutinized.
The ACLU has charged that the program's website, AbstinenceEdu.com, promotes religion, including such articles as "LifeWay, Biblical Solutions for Life."
In July 2002, U.S. District Judge Thomas Porteous Jr found that some grants from the Governor's Program on Abstinence were being used to push religion, such as the purchase of bibles. Porteous issued an order that the state stop giving money to groups or persons conveying religious messages.
Florida Voucher Law Illegal
The 1st District Court of Appeals ruled on Nov. 12 that Florida's original school voucher law is unconstitutional since it permits tax dollars to be spent on religious schools.
This is the third such ruling against the 1999 law, which allows students in schools earning "failing grades" two years out of four to apply for private school vouchers at public expense.
A three-judge panel of the district court ruled in August against the voucher program. The state appealed to the full panel of the court to review the decision. The panel voted 8-5-1 against the voucher program.
Mission Funding Litigated
The California Missions Preservation Act--to provide $10 million in tax funds to restore 21 Roman Catholic churches, 19 of which are in active use as churches--has been challenged in a federal lawsuit filed by Americans United for Separation of Church and State.
Bushed signed the Act on Nov. 30.
"Houses of worship must be maintained by their congregations, not the federal government. If this type of assistance is upheld, every house of worship in America that is deemed 'historic' could demand upkeep and repair courtesy of the taxpayer," said Rev. Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United.
The Washington Post(Dec. 3, 2004) reported that under Bush's "faith-based initiative," the Department of Interior since 2003 has given $317,000 to Boston's Old North Church; $215,000 to Mission Concepcion in San Antonio, and $375,000 to Rhode Island's Touro Synagogue, the oldest Jewish house of worship in America.
New rules approved by the Department of Housing and Urban Development now permit federal money to pay for construction or repair of buildings used for both worship and social services. The Post reported: "HUD declined to say how many dual-use grants have been awarded."
"What the bill utterly omits is that locked within the missions is a terrible truth--that they were little more than concentration camps where California's Indians were beaten, whipped, maimed, burned, tortured and virtually exterminated by the friars," wrote Elias Castillo, in his op-ed, "The Dark, Terrible Secret of California's Missions" (San Francisco Chronicle, Nov. 8, 2004)
Philly Schools Push Religion?
A taskforce of religious leaders to help forge closer ties between "faith-based groups" and the school district was announced this fall by Philadelphia officials.
District CEO Paul Vallas invited churches to start gospel choirs and prayer groups last spring, and sponsored a back-to-school meeting featuring speeches and prayer by clergy, according to Associated Press.
Write: Paul Vallas, School District of Philadelphia, 21st St. & the Parkway, Philadelphia PA 19103-1099. (215)299-7850
Catholics, Protestants Coalesce
The hierarchy of the Roman Catholic Church announced it will join a broad coalition of Christian churches, "Christian Churches Together in the U.S.A."
The church organizations include Eastern Orthodox, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, evangelical churches, ethnic churches, the Salvation Army and World Vision.
Although the group's purpose is to "build bridges," taking action has not been ruled out.
Million Christians Want Religious EU
More than a million people from all over Europe are expected to deliver a petition to leaders of the European Union calling for changes in the EU constitution recognizing Europe's "Christian heritage," according to a Nov. 25 report in the [London] Telegraph.
The move to insert religion into the EU constitution is largely promoted by Pope John Paul II.
Academy officials are cracking down on violations, which included staff members affixing biblical verses at the bottom of government emails.
Tommy Craft had read an old poem circulating on the Internet referring to prayer not being allowed in school, even though students can "dress like freaks, and pierce our noses, tongues and cheeks. . . . But the Ten Commandments are not allowed, no word of God must reach this crowd."
December 2004 Excerpts