Vol. 21 No. 5 - Published by the Freedom From Religion Foundation, Inc. -
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Prayer Researcher Convicted
Attorney Daniel Wirth, 45, who has written more than a dozen papers promoting prayer in medicine and the paranormal, pleaded guilty to federal felony charges of conspiracy on May 17.
Wirth's most widely publicized study claimed that intercessory, long-distance prayer doubled the success rate of infertility treatments. The paper was published to much acclaim by the Journal of Reproductive Medicine, Sept. 2001, and was co-written by Rogerio Lobo, chair of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Columbia University.
U.S. Tax $$$ Builds Mosque
The Mosque of the Believers in Camp Cooke, Taji, Iraq was unveiled on June 18, with the U.S. Army spending about $50,000 to help rebuild it, according to the Middle East bureau of the Toronto Star (June 27, 2004).
The Bush campaign is actively lobbying thousands of churches nationwide to distribute campaign information and register voters, according to The New York Times (June 3, 2004).
An email message by a Pennsylvania coordinator was intercepted in early June, which revealed: "The Bush-Cheney '04 national headquarters in Virginia has asked us to identify 1,600 'Friendly Congregations' in Pennsylvania where voters friendly to President Bush might gather on a regular basis."Churches are expressly forbidden to engage in partisan politicking as part of their tax-exemption.
Bishops Target Pro-Choice Pols
One hundred eighty-three Roman Catholic bishops meeting outside Denver in June issued a statement that politicians who support legal abortion are "cooperating in evil" and should not be given "awards, honors or platforms which would suggest support for their actions." The bishops left it to each bishop whether to refuse communion to pro-choice politicians.
On his recent trip to Rome, Bush urged the Vatican to encourage U.S. bishops to speak out even more on political issues.
Catholic Voter Drive
Colorado Springs Bishop Michael Sheridan wrote a 1,900-word public letter on May 1 calling the November elections "critical," and urging Catholics to "take their consciences with them" to the voting booth.
"We cannot allow the progress that has been made [to stop abortion rights] be reversed by a pro-abortion president, Senate or House of Representatives. . . . Our votes have the power to stop these abominations."
Sheridan announced that Catholic politicians and laity who support abortion and similar rights must recant before they can receive communion.
At the end of May, the Catholic Church in Colorado reported it is launching its first voter registration drive, compounding concern about church politicking.
Catholics Lobby Massachusetts
The Catholic Church of Massachusetts in mid-June warned voters to reject any candidate who does not support amending the state constitution to ban same-sex marriage. More than two-thirds of its state lawmakers are Roman Catholic.
The Catholic Conference, the political arm of the church, sent a letter to every Massachusetts parish. Massachusetts, as the result of a decision by its state supreme court, in May became the first U.S. state to permit gay marriages.
Political Pastor Gets Windfall
A Philadelphia church whose pastor endorsed George W. Bush for president in the 2000 election has received a "faith-based" federal windfall of $1 million.
Bush recently spoke at the Greater Exodus Baptist Church, where Rev. Herbert H. Lusk II is pastor. Associated Press reported that "People for People," operated by the church, has received nearly $1 million. Lusk told Associated Press he hoped Bush's "faith-based" agenda would attract more black voters.
Bush Woos Southern Baptists
Addressing the Southern Baptist Convention of 8,000 meeting in Indianapolis in mid-June via a live telecast from the White House, Pres. Bush vowed to defend "the sanctity of marriage against activist courts and local officials who want to redefine marriage forever." Bush condemned abortion and cloning: "Life is a creation of God, not a commodity to be exploited by man."
Circulating at the conference on Bush's behalf was Ralph Reed, former head of the Christian Coalition and now an official with the Bush campaign.
The Nation (July 12, 2004) reported that Reed's name has surfaced in connection with a federal investigation into lobbying abuses. Enron was one of Reed's first clients after he left the Christian Coalition in 1997, in a deal arranged by Karl Rove.
Secular Judge Targeted
County officials have filed a complaint with the North Carolina Judicial Standards Commission over a judge's order to strike religious references from his courtroom oaths and announcements.
Judge James. M. Honeycutt rewrote the oath to remove the phrase "so help you God" and stopped asking people to swear on a bible. Honeycutt told bailiffs to drop the opening line, "God save the state and this honorable court."
Act Threatens Liberties
The Workplace Religious Freedom Act, sponsored by U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum, is pending in the U.S. Senate, to amend Title VII of the Civil Rights Act in ways that would not protect employees from religious harassment or discrimination based on martial status, sexual orientation or religious beliefs.
Court: Remove Cross
The 9th U.S. Court of Appeals ruled in early June that an 8-foot cross erected in Mojave National preserve in 1934, between Las Vegas and Barstow, unconstitutionally endorses religion.
The park service defended the cross, and is transferring the land on which it rests to a local Veterans of Foreign Wars. The appeals court ruled that the transfer will take years to effect, and therefore the cross is still on public land.
EU Constitution Godless
The European Union meeting in Brussels on June 15 definitively rejected requests by seven nations, including Italy, Poland and the Czech Republic, plus the Vatican, to refer to Christianity and a god in the constitution.
Cross Removed from Seal
The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors voted 3-2 in early June to remove a cross from its seal, after a complaint by the ACLU.
Boykin Tied to Torture?
Lt. Gen. William Boykin, a devout Christian under investigation for saying his god was superior to the Muslim god, has been linked by U.S. officials to the Iraqi prisoner abuse scandal, according to a Reuters report on May 11. The Pentagon refused to fire Boykin after an October expos of his remarks made headlines.
During the height of the controversy, Boykin was at Guantanamo, meeting with Maj. Gen. Geoffrey Miller to oversee his new assignment to Iraq's Abu Ghraib, according to Sidney Blumenthal of Salon.
Voucher Thieves Arrested
Seven Floridians operating Faith Christian Academy in Bartow, which receives public voucher money, were arrested in late June on charges ranging from grand theft to racketeering.
Colorado Nixes Vouchers
The Colorado Supreme Court, in a 4-3 ruling on June 28, decreed that the new school voucher law violates the state constitutional requirement that local school boards maintain control over funding of district schools.
Archdiocese Demands More Vouchers
The Archdiocese of Washington, D.C., has been pressuring Congress for extra public support in the new federally funded school voucher program, to cover educational expenses beyond tuition, fees and transportation.
Following three months of negotiations this spring, a direct grant to Catholic schools was ruled out, the Washington Post reported in May. The first federally funded voucher program, signed into law in January by Pres. Bush, creates a 5-year program funding $13 million a year for at least 1,700 low-income D.C. students. They are given as much as $7,500 each to attend non-public schools.
Ironically, the Washington Post reported on June 11 that due to lack of applicants seeking to transfer from public schools to private, not all the slots were filled. Some 200 of the 1,200 applicants were already enrolled in private (mostly religious) schools.
Of the 50 private schools participating, 44% are part of the Archdiocese of Washington, 26% are other sectarian schools and only 30% are nonsectarian.
Florida Opens Faith-based Female Prison
The first "faith-based" prison for women opened on April 14 in Riverview, Fla., modeled after the male religious prison opened by Gov. Jeb Bush at the end of the year. Up to 300 women will take part in a "faith-and character-based" program, including religious services and instruction.
California Funds Christian Ministry
The state of California Department of Corrections, which is the nation's largest, has added a Christian substance abuse treatment program. The Celebrate Recovery program is run by Saddleback Community Church in Lake Forest, Calif. and combines 12-step with Christian teachings.
In July, the Los Angeles Times reported, the program will open a 200-bed building at a medium-security prison in Jamestown.
Moon Coroneted In Congress
Rev. Sun Myung Moon, the wealthy convicted felon and owner of The Washington Times, was "coroneted" in the Dirksen Senate Office Building on March 23, where he declared himself the Messiah in the presence of several legislators.
Moon said that evening, "Hitler and Stalin have found strength in my teachings, mended their ways and been born as new persons." Rep. Davis was videotaped placing a jeweled crown on Moon's head. Moon is the founder of the Unification Church in Korea. He was convicted of tax fraud and conspiracy to obstruct justice in 1982.
Safe from "Safe Harbor"
A proposal to exempt clergy from IRS regulations forbidding tax-exempt groups to engage in partisan politics, known as "Safe Harbor for Churches," was killed by the House Ways and Means Committee on June 16, after criticism by a variety of liberal and conservative religious groups. The amendment was intended to permit clergy to be able to endorse political candidates from the pulpit.
June/July 2004 Excerpts