Freethought Today · Vol. 28 No. 5 June July 2011

Published by the Freedom From Religion Foundation, Inc.

In The News June July 2011

Gay marriage legal in New York

The New York Senate passed a bill June 24 legalizing same-sex marriage, making the state the largest in the U.S. to do so.

Senate approval, by a 33-29 vote, was the final hurdle for the bill, which Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed into law less than an hour after passage.

Gay couples can begin marrying in New York by late July.

Gov. Jack Markell signed Delaware’s civil unions bill into law May 12. Effective Jan. 1, the law will provide legal protections and benefits for same-sex couples.

Poll: Half won’t vote for atheist president

In a Gallup Poll conducted June 9-12, fewer than half of respondents (49%) said they would vote to elect as president an otherwise well-qualified candidate who happened to be atheist. That’s an improvement since 1958, the first year the question was asked, when just 18 percent would have supported an atheist.

The June poll showed that 22% would not vote for a presidential candidate who is Mormon, and 32% said they wouldn’t vote for a gay or lesbian candidate.

Twins guard assails women for kissing

A Minnesota Twins baseball security guard was reprimanded for allegedly scolding a lesbian couple for kissing at Target Field on May 27.

Kelsi Culpepper said she gave Taylor Campion a quick kiss as one of them was going in the restroom. Culpepper told WCCO the guard, who wasn’t named, came up and said, “I saw you kissing that girl, you can’t do that. . . . [W]e don’t play graba** here.”

After the women objected, the guard allegedly said, “Well here in the stadium, we adhere to the Ten Commandments.”

The women have filed a complaint with the state Department of Human Rights.

“That security guard has received both a verbal and written reprimand that will be put in his personnel file, and he understands that that is not an acceptable behavior,” Twins spokesman Kevin Smith said.

Bible thumper ejects two gay swimmers

The city of Hazard, Ky., suspended an employee for ejecting two gay men from a public recreational facility. Kim Haynes, a man in his 60s, cited the bible as his reason.

The unidentifed gay men had been swimming June 10 at the Hazard Pavilion with a group from Mending Hearts, which provides care to people with developmental disabilities.

Haynes said he objected to the men’s alleged excessive display of affection and admitted telling them “We don’t tolerate that kind of activity around here.” He also told Laura Quillen of Mending Hearts that “You need to go home and read your bible.”

Charlotte Pearlman, pavilion manager, was reprimanded by the city for unbecoming conduct for using “inappropriate and obscene language” when declining comment to Anderson Cooper’s CNN television crew.

Camping’s stroke not one of insight

Rev. Harold Camping, 89, Oakland, Calif., who predicted Armageddon would begin with the return of Jesus on May 21, suffered a mild stroke June 9 and is recovering in a nursing home.

When his rapturous prophecy failed, Camping said Judgment Day had indeed occurred, but only in a “spiritual” sense, not physically. He set a new date — Oct. 21, 2011 — for Jesus’ actual return.

Camping’s speech was affected by the stroke, and he is no longer broadcasting on Family Radio.

In a related story, Saduki Mwambene, a 39-year-old Malawian bicycle repairman, was given a six-month suspended sentence for “circulating false documents that threatened the peace and security of citizens.”

Mwambene was arrested for handing out documents that proclaimed Judgment Day would come on May 21, a court official told AFP.

The leaflets were printed and distributed by Family Radio.

Judge sanctioned for pledge demand

The Mississippi Supreme Court on June 9 affirmed the state Commission on Judicial Performance’s recommendation that Chancery Judge Talmadge Littlejohn of New Albany should be publicly reprimanded and fined $100 for jailing a lawyer who stood up for but refused to recite the Pledge of Allegiance in Littlejohn’s courtroom.

The commission found Littlejohn abused his contempt powers by jailing Oxford attorney Danny Lampley for five hours Oct. 6. The Clarion Ledger reported that Littlejohn “promises to respect and protect the First Amendment rights of anyone who refrains from reciting the pledge in his courtroom.”

Lampley said as a child he saw fellow students banished from class for refusing to say the pledge due to religious objections. “I didn’t care for it then, as a fourth-grader. You’re made to feel different. I don’t like the element of coercion about it.”

Oregon faith-healing couple sentenced

Rebecca and Timothy Wyland, Oregon City, Ore., were sentenced to 90 days in jail after being convicted June 7 of first-degree criminal mistreatment of their infant daughter Alayna. Rebecca Wayland’s jail term begins the day after her husband is released.

The Wylands belong to Followers of Christ Church, which rejects medical care. Authorities said the couple failed to provide medical care for Alayna’s hemangioma, a mass of blood vessels that engulfed her left eye and nearly blinded her. The Wylands instead prayed over Alayna and anointed her with oil.

In June 2010, state child protection workers took custody of Alayna, now 18 months old, who is improving under court-ordered medical care.

Catholic charity has its limits

Following up on its threat, Catholic Charities of Rockford ended adoption and foster care services rather than comply with Illinois’ new civil unions law that took effect in June. In doing so, CCR ended $7.5 million in state contracts, fired 58 workers and displaced about 350 foster children.

Diocese of Rockford spokeswoman Penny Wiegert blamed the state for not protecting charities’ ability to discriminate against same-sex couples.

South Korean man found crucified

The body of a 58-year-old man was found May 1 nailed to a wooden cross in an abandoned stone quarry near Mungyong, South Korea. Next to the body was a mirror, thought to be placed so the man, a taxi driver with the last name Kim, could see himself suffer.

He was wearing a loincloth and crown of thorns. His hands and feet were nailed to the cross, and he had a stab wound in his side, similar to the biblical story of Jesus’ death. Police found a hammer, electric drill and “how-to” guide for building crosses at the scene. The drill was used to make holes in his palms. Kim’s SUV was parked near the pit.

Acquaintances said Kim had extreme religious views. After days of investigation, police said they believe the man committed suicide without any assistance. Officials simulated some elements of the crucifixion and concluded that he could perform the act on his own.

Police said they found the man’s notes planning the crucifixion. Before his apparent suicide, Kim closed his bank account and canceled his mobile phone contract.

Liberty U. flush with federal money

Students at Liberty University in Lynchburg, Va., got about $445 million in federal financial aid money last fiscal year, according to U.S. Department of Education data. That makes Liberty, founded by Rev. Jerry Falwell, the top recipient in Virginia. It has 52,000 online students and 12,000 in residential programs.

Liberty had a 56% percent hike in federal student aid, from $284 million in 2008-09 to $445 million in 2009-10, according to a Lynchburg News & Advance analysis. The $445 million included $385.9 million in student loans. The rest is grants and aid for students in programs such as work study.

Last year, Liberty got $55 million in Pell Grant money, ranking 28th in the nation and no. 1 in Virginia. In some financial aid programs, Liberty was a top 10 recipient nationwide.

Liberty’s financial aid office has expanded from 51 to 138 employees over the past four years. By comparison, Lynchburg College employs four people in its financial aid office, while Randolph College and Sweet Briar employ three and two, respectively.
The school operates a 50-person call center to field financial aid questions around the clock.

Dawkins, Pinker among New College profs

The New College of the Humanities in London will offer degrees in English, philosophy, history, economics and law starting in 2012, The Independent reported June 6. The private college was founded by 14 professors. Richard Dawkins, author of The God Delusion, will teach evolutionary biology and a required course on science literacy.

Other academics include historians Sir David Cannadine and Niall Ferguson, former Oxford professor of poetry Sir Christopher Ricks and psychologist Steven Pinker. Dawkins and Pinker are FFRF Honorary Directors. AC Grayling will serve as the college’s first master. He is the author of The Good Book: The Humanist Bible, a manifesto for secular humanists that was published in March 2011.

Students will take core courses in three areas: science literacy, logic and critical thinking, and applied ethics. Annual tuition is almost $30,000. It’s estimated enrollment will be 375 initially.

Arkansas atheists sue over bus ads

Reuters reported June 9 that the Central Arkansas Coalition of Reason alleged in a lawsuit that the Central Arkansas Transit Authority and its advertising agency are discriminating against the group because they’re being required to pay tens of thousands of dollars to put $5,000 worth of ads on 18 buses in Little Rock. The ads would read: “Are you good without God? Millions are.”

Other groups, including churches, have not been required to pay the fee, which amounts to $36,000 in insurance in case of an attack on the buses by angry Christians, according to the suit.

The insurance was requested by the transit agency’s advertising firm, On The Move Advertising. Because a handful of similar ads had been vandalized in other states, the ad agency required the payment for insurance reasons.

CoR spokesman LeeWood Thomas quoted an email from the ad agency: “Arkansas is the buckle of the Bible Belt and I can easily envision zealots or upstanding citizens with a strong faith acting out.”

Thomas said his group is being singled out. “The insurance money needed from us basically says CATA and On The Move trust the atheists in this community more so than the religious, otherwise the churches that advertise would have that extra insurance premium added to their total cost.”

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