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Freethought Today · November 2013

Published by the Freedom From Religion Foundation, Inc.

State/Church Bulletin

Bus driving pastor
fired for prayer 

George Nathaniel, 49, Richfield, Minn., was fired Oct. 30 as a bus driver for refusing to stop leading students in prayer. The private contractor fired him after getting repeated complaints from the Burnsville-Eagan-Savage School District.

Nathaniel is pastor at the Elite Church of the First Born and Grace Missionary Baptist Church, reported the Minneapolis Star-Tribune. Nathaniel said he drove school buses in Wisconsin and Georgia before coming to Minnesota and that he’s always prayed with students.

“We got to get Christians to be able to be Christians and not have to be closet Christians. You have something good, you are going to share it with somebody.”

He allegedly waited till the last child got on the bus before starting the daily prayers, which lasted about seven minutes.

 

Catholic ‘Red Mass’ draws high court

Five U.S. Supreme Court justices attended the annual Catholic “Red Mass” at the Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle in Washington on Oct. 6, as did several members of Congress and Denis McDonough, White House chief of staff. Attending were Chief Justice John Roberts Jr. and justices Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas, Stephen Breyer and Elena Kagan. (The first three are Catholic and the last two are Jewish.)

The Mass continued a 60-year-old tradition and is intended to bless the upcoming work of the Supreme Court and other judges and public officials, reported the Legal Times. The name refers to the bright red vestments worn by clergy and to the red flame symbolizing the Holy Ghost.

In Stars of David, a 2005 book by Abigail Pogrebin, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg said of the Red Mass, “I went one year and I will never go again, because this sermon was outrageously anti-abortion. Even the Scalias, although they’re very much of that persuasion, were embarrassed for me.”

 

16-year-old ordered
to have baby

The Nebraska Supreme Court, in a 5-2 decision Oct. 4, denied a 16-year-old girl’s request for an abortion, saying she had not shown that “she is sufficiently mature and well informed to decide on her own whether to have an abortion.”

The girl lives with foster parents because she was taken away from her biological parents due to physical abuse and neglect. At the parental rights hearing, she told the court she was pregnant and couldn’t support a child or be “the right mom that [she] would like to be right now.” She also told the court she feared losing her placement in foster care if her highly religious foster parents found out she was pregnant.

The district court judge, Peter Batallion, appears to have served in the 1980s on the Omaha committee for Metro Right to Life, according to the Houston Chronicle. Batallion allegedly told her “when you have the abortion, it’s going to kill the child inside of you” and asked if she would “rather do that than risk problems with the foster care people.”

 

Vets threaten
boycott over prayer

American Legion Post 311 in Hawley, Pa., said if its chaplain isn’t allowed to pray at the Veterans Day ceremony at Wallenpaupack Area High School, members will boycott the ceremony.

The post chaplain has never prayed at the annual ceremony, but when Commander William Kennett heard that graduation prayers were no longer allowed [following a complaint by FFRF last June], he asked if that applied to the Veterans Day event. Yes, it does, he was told, reported the Pocono Record.

In a letter to the editor, Pat Thompson, Legion executive board member, spread a widely believed myth: “There are no atheists in foxholes. Saying a prayer does not establish a religion.”

 

Tiller prosecutor
loses law license

Former Kansas Attorney General Phillip Kline lost his law license indefinitely Oct. 18 after the Kansas Supreme Court unanimously ruled he violated ethics rules in his prosecution of abortion providers, including the late Dr. George Tiller.

The court, in a 154-page decision, found that Kline, attorney general from 2003-07, demonstrated “overzealous advocacy” and failed to operate “within the bounds of the law,” reported the National Law Journal.

Kline, now an assistant professor at Christian-oriented Liberty University School of Law in Lynchburg, Va., can’t seek bar readmission for three years.

He was at the center of controversy in 2006 when a memo from Kline to his staff was leaked. In the memo, he told staff how to form a campaign committee for him at each church to “encourage people to contribute and volunteer.” 

 

God in Air Force
oath now optional

The U.S. Air Force Academy has made “so help me God” optional in its honor code after being pressured by the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, CNN reported Oct. 25. The oath reads “We will not lie, steal, or cheat, nor tolerate among us anyone who does, so help me God.”

Cadets had been required to recite the oath at the end of basic training. It’s also taken yearly by all cadets to reaffirm their commitment to the honor code, said academy spokesman Maj. Brus Vidal.

The academy respects “the ability of our cadets, Airmen and civilian Airmen to freely practice and exercise their religious preference — or not,” a statement said.

Mikey Weinstein, MRFF’s founder and president, said he intends to sue unless the offending phrase is removed, even if it’s optional. “If the words are still there and you don’t say [them], you turn yourself into a tarantula on a wedding cake.”

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