Freethought Today · Vol. 28 No. 8 October 2011

Published by the Freedom From Religion Foundation, Inc.

In the News October 11

First U.S. bishop ever held liable

Bishop Robert Finn and the Catholic Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph pleaded not guilty Oct. 14 to one count of failure to report child abuse. A grand jury indicted Finn and the diocese. Prosecutors in Jackson County, Mo., alleged Finn knew in December 2010 about hundreds of photos of children on Rev. Shawn Ratigan’s laptop but did not notify authorities for five months. In May 2010, a school principal warned the diocese about Ratigan’s behavior with children.

The New York Times reported that it’s the first time in U.S. history that a bishop has been held criminally liable for the behavior of a priest he supervised. The diocese has hired a former federal prosecutor to investigate its actions in the Ratigan case. His report concluded that diocese leaders “failed to follow their own policies and procedures.”

Ratigan is charged with taking sexually explicit photographs of at least five young girls, ages 2 to 12, between 2005-11. He’s also being sued by several plaintiffs and attempted to commit suicide.

Prosecutor Jean Peters Baker said the case is not religiously motivated. “This is about protecting children,” she said.

Man at Mass heard voices, gouges eyeballs

Parishioners at Mass in Viareggio, Italy, watched in horror Oct. 2 as Aldo Bianchini, 46, stood up during the sermon and gouged both his eyeballs out.

The Daily Mail reported Binchinia told doctors he “heard voices” telling him to do it. He will be blind for life.

The Gospel of St. Matthew, Jesus tells his disciples, “If your right eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell.”

Oregon faith-healing couple are guilty

A jury in Oregon City, Ore., found Dale and Shannon Hickman guilty Sept. 29 of second-degree manslaughter for refusing to get medical care for their newborn son. The Hickmans belong to the Followers of Christ, who believe in healing by religious faith only.

The baby, who lived nine hours, was two months premature and weighed 3 pounds, 7 ounces. A pediatric expert who testified at the 10-day trial said he had a 99.9% chance of surviving if he had been taken to a hospital.

Lavona Keith, church midwife and the baby’s great-aunt, testified that “It wasn’t God’s will for David to live.”

Asked by a prosecutor why he didn’t call 9-1-1, Dale Hickman answered, “Because I was praying.” About 10 minutes after he anointed David with olive oil, he died.

Polish secularists challenge church

A new political party in Poland called the Movement of Support, or Palikot Movement, got 10% of the vote Oct. 9 in the nationwide election after campaigning for liberalized abortion, voluntary religious education and legalization of gay marriage and “soft” drugs.

Millionaire businessman Janusz Palikot accused the Catholic Church of “taking sides in politics,” and said religious symbols have been “used disgracefully for political struggles,” according to Catholic News Service. Poland needs “defending against Catholicism, not Catholicism against Poland,” Palikot said. He will try to get a cross removed from the Sejm, the lower legislative chamber.

Quran contest winners get AK-47s, cash

A radio station run by Somalia’s al-Shabab Islamist group awarded weapons to children who won a Quran-reciting and general knowledge contest, the BBC reported Sept. 20. First prize in the Ramadan competition was an AK-47 rifle and the equivalent of $700. Second prize was AK-47 and $500. Third prize was two hand grenades and $400.

Winners were also given religious books. It’s the third year for the contest.The BBC’s Mohamed Moalimu in Mogadishu says this is the third year the contest has been held.

Ohio creationist teacher’s firing upheld

Knox County Common Pleas Judge Otho Eyster ruled Oct. 5 in Columbus, Ohio, that the Mount Vernon School Board was within its rights to fire science teacher John Drinkwater for religious proselytizing and advancing creationist views.

Freshwater was also accused of using a tool to burn students’ arms with the image of a cross, but that allegation was not a factor in his firing.

Freshwater told The Associated Press he’s “reviewing all of my options and speaking with [The] Rutherford Institute and my personal attorneys.”

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