These tax breaks don’t favor one religion over another, and that’s a plus. But [FFRF’s parsonage exemption lawsuit] shows that the subsidies inevitably draw the government into making judgments about spiritual practices, about what counts as religion and what does not. That is not the government’s role. A better plan would be to subsidize nonprofits based on their work, not on any spiritual litmus test.
Editorial: “A broken wall between church and state”
Newark [N.J.] Star-Ledger, 8-28-13
Churches may have a First Amendment right to endorse candidates, but there is no constitutional right to a tax exemption. Congress is free to condition such exemptions, which can be worth millions of dollars, on an agreement by churches and charities to refrain from partisan political activity. And it’s the IRS’ responsibility to enforce compliance.
Editorial board comment on 501(c)(3) status for churches engaged in politicking from the pulpit
Los Angeles Times, 9-8-13
Barker’s opening move was a good one. Not only did he instantly reduce God from an all-powerful entity to a punchline, but he cleverly narrowed the debate from the universal concept of gods (lowercase G) to the God (uppercase G) of the Bible. And the Bible is a buffet for any skeptic hoping to feast on paradoxes and inconsistencies.
Mark Hohmeister, newspaper editor and Presbyterian elder who moderated a debate between FFRF Co-President Dan Barker and Bryan O’Neal of the Moody Bible Institute
Tallahassee Democrat, 9-17-13
We’re not doing anything for those people. After several months I was embarrassed to have Operation Blessing on the airplane’s tail.
Robert Hinkle, chief pilot for Rev. Pat Robertson’s Operation Blessing in Zaire in 1994, quoted in the new documentary film “Mission Congo,” which details how donations meant for starving refugees were allegedly diverted to Robertson’s diamond mining company
The Guardian, 9-8-13
There were files of confidential material relating to child sexual abuse kept in the fireproof strong room of the Chancery office during my tenure as archdiocesan secretary.
Affidavit by Fr. Brian Lucas, general secretary of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference, who admitted he didn’t report allegedly abusive priests to the police
The Australian, 8-29-13
Florida has executed a man diagnosed as schizophrenic after the Supreme Court denied a last-minute bid to stay his execution. Lawyers for John Ferguson say his death violated the Eighth Amendment, which requires a person to understand the reason for his execution and the impact the death penalty will have. They said Ferguson believed he would rise again after his execution to fight alongside Jesus Christ and save the country from a communist plot. Ferguson was sentenced to death in 1978 for his role in two sets of killings. He died by lethal injection at 6 p.m. Eastern time on Monday. His final words were, “I just want everyone to know, I am the Prince of God and I will rise again.”
Miami Herald, 8-15-13
There’s no war on anybody. It’s a law that allows people to have justice against people who molested them. How simple can you get?
California state Sen. Jim Beall, D-San Jose, answering Catholic critics of a bill that gives sexual abuse victims a 1-year window to sue, regardless of when the molestation happened
KXTV Sacramento, 9-3-13
It’s to let other people of nonreligious beliefs know that there are other people in the community like them.
Luis Fayad, on four “You are not alone” billboards sponsored by the Agnostic and Atheist Student Group of Texas A&M, the Brazos Valley Atheist Vuvuzela Marching Band, the Bryan-College Station Atheists and Freethinkers and the Secular Humanist Network of Texas A&M
The Eagle, 9-11-13
You ask me if the God of the Christians forgives those who don’t believe and who don’t seek the faith. I start by saying, and this is the fundamental thing, that God’s mercy has no limits if you go to him with a sincere and contrite heart. The issue for those who do not believe in God is to obey their conscience.
Pope Francis, responding to a question from Eugenio Scalfari, founder of La Repubblica newspaper
The Independent, 9-11-13
A few of those friends are atheists and tend to post things on their Facebook pages about atheism in the U.S. These posts revealed to me quite how badly atheists are treated in the U.S., as well as how many untruths, misrepresentations and straight-out lies about atheism and atheists were being circulated. I found this both disturbing and upsetting, and quite frankly, it made me angry. I knew I wanted to help and change these ridiculous notions, but it was my husband who said to me: “Want to make a difference? You’re a filmmaker! Make a documentary about the subject.” And so I did.
Sylvia Broeckx, 35, a native of Belgium living in England and director of “Hug an Atheist,” which debuted Sept. 14 at the San Francisco Atheist Film Festival
A few months after retiring, former Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) announced his nonbeliever status, a declaration he made more than 25 years after coming out as the first openly gay member of Congress. That Frank felt more comfortable going public with his sexuality in 1987 than he did with his secular beliefs at any point during his House career says a lot about the stigma surrounding atheism in electoral politics.
Article, “Here Are All the Atheists in Congress,” which lists a total of zero
Huffington Post, 9-19-13
[Atheists are] out there, they’re thinking it, they’re just afraid to say it. But that’s changing. It’ll be the new gay marriage.
Atheist entertainer Bill Maher, interview
The Wrap News Inc., 9-23-13
Tests indicated 86% of the holy water, commonly used in baptism ceremonies and to wet congregants’ lips, was infected with common bacteria found in fecal matter such as E. coli, enterococci and Campylobacter, which can lead to diarrhea, cramping, abdominal pain and fever.
News story on testing of 39 “holy water” sources in Austria
ABC’s “Good Morning America,” 9-14-13
Even without paying the ministers, using ministers as a formal part of the police department — as an outreach ministry — I think violates the Establishment Clause. The government cannot take actions that appear to endorse religion. Using ministers in this way does exactly that.
Erwin Chemerinsky, dean of the School of Law at the University of California-Irvine, on Operation Good Shepherd, a publicly funded program started by the Montgomery, Ala., Police Department to put Christian pastors on crime scenes to pray with victims and witnesses
The Atlantic, 9-27-13
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