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Ohio members protest Day of Prayer

Ohio FFRF members Nancy Dollard and Tom Reke, joined by freethinkers Charles Wright and Andreas Avente, protested the National Day of Prayer on Thursday, May 1 at the Summit County Courthouse in Akron. The Beacon Journal story said the event marked the end of a marathon reading of the bible that started the previous Sunday. Pastor Mike Radebaugh sang the national anthem and “What a Friend We Have in Jesus.”

The paper added, “Tom Reke from Akron was among local atheists to carry signs on the sidewalk below the courthouse steps. Reke’s two-line sign read: ‘Prayer Never Works/There’s no God.’ ”

Nancy notes that Tom’s god was lower-cased, unlike the newspaper’s. Freethought Today tried to purchase reprint rights to the photo but was told “we will not be able to grant permission to use one of our photos for your publication” by Kimberly Barth, director of photography and graphics. 

The Akron Day of Prayer had a “much lower turnout this year,” Nancy said. “Also, we got to talk to some young students who were part of the local Secular Student Alliance chapter.”

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Newsnotes

Humanists now Army ‘religious’ option 

Lt. Col. Sunset Belinsky, a U.S. Army spokeswoman, said April 22 that the “preference code for humanist” as a religious preference became effective April 12 for all members of the Army.

According to Religion News Service, that means fewer hurdles for seculars trying to organize. It could also lay the groundwork to add humanist chaplains.

Jason Torpy, president of the Military Association of Atheists and Freethinkers, has been pushing for greater recognition of humanists in the armed services; in February, the American Civil Liberties Union sent a letter to the Pentagon on Bradley’s behalf.

“This is a big victory,” said Jason Torpy, president of the Military Association of Atheists and Freethinkers.

Reserve Maj. Ray Bradley, Fort Bragg, N.C., who serves in the Medical Service Corps, said it took the Army two years to approve his request. On a section of MAAF’s website titled “Atheists in Foxholes, in Cockpits, and on Ships,” Bradley says this:
“It never bothers me to keep my head up in formation while others are praying. And I’ve noticed over the years that more soldiers do the same. I doubt there are that many more atheists today. Most likely, fewer feel afraid to reveal they are not Christian. And though religion is strong and apparent among many in the military, I believe it is the unbowed heads in the formation that remind the world that we are united by freedom above all else.” 

 

Arizona atheist tosses hat in ring

James Woods, an open atheist who is also blind, announced his candidacy April 27 to run as a Democrat against U.S. Rep. Matt Salmon, R-Ariz., in a heavily Republican district.

If elected, Woods, a member of the Humanist Society of Greater Phoenix, would be the only “out” atheist in Congress. He told Religion News Service, “I believe in human ingenuity. We can solve problems to improve our lives and the lives of people around us. You don’t need religion for that.”

He lost his sight seven years ago at age 26 to a life-threatening staph infection.

Islamist group abducts Nigerian schoolgirls

Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan on May 14 rejected a swap of jailed Muslim extremists for hundreds of schoolgirls a militant group kidnapped April 14. Boko Haram militants abducted 276 girls as they studied for final exams at a boarding school in Chibok. Some have escaped. It’s estimated about 200 girls are still being held captive.

According to Human Rights Watch, Boko Haram rewards recruits by offering them sex slaves. Western education is also seen as sinful.

More than 70 people were killed April 14 in explosions at a bus station in the capital Abuja. The BBC reported Boko Harma is suspected to be behind the attacks, which were similar to previous ones.

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They Said What?

So this Easter Week, of course we recognize that there’s a lot of pain and a lot of sin and a lot of tragedy in this world, but we’re also overwhelmed by the grace of an awesome God. We’re reminded how He loves us, so deeply, that He gave his only begotten Son so that we might live through Him.  

President Barack Obama, remarks, White House Easter prayer breakfast

whitehouse.gov, 4-14-14

 

Now I am here in America all these years, and I am terribly disappointed religion is being interfered with. If they want me to go to jail, I will go to jail.

Rabbi Avrohom Cohn, 85, American Board of Ritual Circumcision chairman, on his refusal to stop performing metzitzah b’peh (orally sucking blood from the circumcision wound) despite documented health risks to the boy

Haaretz, 3-30-14

 

These toys can have a negative effect on children. They can destroy their souls and lead them to the dark side.

Fr. Slawomir Kostrzewa, news story, “Lego is a tool of Satan, warns Polish priest”

The Telegraph, 4-1-14

 

Calling for atheist thought in any form, or calling into question the fundamentals of the Islamic religion on which this country is based.

Provision in a new Saudi Arabian law defining atheism as terrorism

Human Rights Watch, 4-2-14

 

Fascism, Minnesota style. HF826 is simply another attack on the bible and conservative Christians.

State Rep. Mary Franson, R–Alexandria, debating a bill to toughen bullying laws

WCCO, 4-8-14

 

[The church] has asserted and continues to assert that trademark law and other intellectual property laws prohibit Jonathan from using the word “Mormon” to promote, market, or otherwise advertise the dating website.

Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’ lawsuit against Jonathan Eller, who owns dateamormon.com

Courthouse News Service, 4-10-14

 

I ask myself how I can sit at dinner and laugh at my husband’s jokes, when, right at that very same moment, innocent babies are being aborted in droves? I read today that a 5-day-old baby was abducted from her home in Wisconsin, and now I can barely function. I want to remain on my knees permanently in supplication and beg the Lord to reunite her safely with her family.

Question to columnist Mark Shea on how to relax when someone else somewhere is suffering

National Catholic Register, 4-11-14

 

Activists like Mahatma Gandhi or Martin Luther King Jr. used nonviolent methods having nothing to do with guns. Jesus is calling us to take it up a notch to the spiritual world.

Rev. Kenneth V.F. Blanchard, nondenominational Christian pastor and creator of the “Black Man with a Gun” blog and podcast

Human Events, 4-13-14 

 

If my stupidity brings one person to the love of Jesus Christ, then I have served a greater purpose and the consequences are well worth it.

Luke Emory Oyler, 29, charged with defiant trespass for running shirtless around the infield after crashing the pierogi race at a Pittsburgh Pirates-Chicago Cubs baseball game

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 4-8-14

 

I don’t mean that they’re making up she’s pregnant. But what great timing! I mean purely accidental, purely an act of nature, purely just left up to God. And God answered Hillary Clinton’s prayers and she’s going to have the prop of being a new grandma while she runs for president. It just warms the heart, it brings a tear to my eye. It really does.

Newsmax host Steve Malzberg, speculating on Chelsea Clinton’s pregnancy

“The Steve Malzberg Show,” 4-17-14

 

Why do we freak out? We’re human. We forget about the miracles.

Richard “Stick” Williams, Duke Energy vice president, speaking at the YMCA Community Prayer Breakfast at the NASCAR Hall of Fame in Charlotte, N.C.

Charlotte Observer, 4-24-14

 

Well, if I were in charge, they would know that waterboarding is how we baptize terrorists.

Former vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin, speaking at the NRA convention in Indianapolis

CBS News, 4-27-14

 

As long as they have [a biblical] worldview, then they’ll be a good judge. If they have a secular worldview, where this is all we have here on Earth, then I’m going to be very concerned about how they judge.

Matt Whitaker, GOP U.S. Senate candidate, telling a Family Forum audience in Ankeny, Iowa, he would insist that judicial nominees “be people of faith”

rightwingwatch.org, 4-28-14

 

The Creator will not hold us guiltless if we turn a deaf ear to the cries of his innocent babies. So come and get me if you must, Mr. President. I will not bow before your wicked regulation.

Rev. James Dobson, calling Barack Obama “the abortion president” at a National Day of Prayer event in the Cannon House Office Building

World Net Daily, 5-1-14

 

America, as did Israel in its blessing, has been turning away from God, driving him out of its public squares, bringing in idols in his place and calling what is evil good and what is good evil.

Rabbi Jonathan Cahn, speaking at the National Day of Prayer event

World Net Daily, 5-2-14 

 

I believe there are certain qualities that may be worthy of rape. If a woman dresses proactively[sic], gets blackout drunk and is wearing really revealing clothing, then I would say that she is partially responsible for the rape.

Arizona evangelical preacher Dean Saxton, aka Brother Dean Samuel, shouting “Yoga pants are sin” and holding a sign saying “You deserve rape”

The Raw Story, 5-6-14

 Eleven friendly and thought-provoking billboards featuring members of the Freedom From Religion Foundation and its chapter, the Northern Ohio Freethought Society, went up in early May around Cleveland and Akron in a month-long campaign to introduce area atheists and agnostics to their communities.

The billboards feature their faces and personal freethought “testimonials.”

Mark Tiborsky, who is pictured with his wife, Marni Heubner-Tiborsky, chapter director, commented: “We just want to let other nonbelievers, or those on the fence about their religious belief, know they’re not alone and that the local nontheist community is both welcoming and growing.”

Roni and Elliot Berenson, who are octogenarians, describe themselves modestly as “Grandparents . . . Atheists.” Roni is well-known in the area and nationally as an activist for social justice, world peace and secular humanist causes. She became a freethinker at age 16 after escaping the Holocaust in her native Germany.

Students with the University of Akron Secular Student Alliance are featured on two billboards in Akron. 

FFRF, with more than 20,000 members, has about 550 members in Ohio. 

FFRF debuted the “Out of the Closet” campaign in Madison in 2010 and has taken the campaign to Columbus, Tulsa, Raleigh, Phoenix, Nashville, Portland, Spokane and Sacramento.

“Research shows that atheists and other nonbelievers are still at the bottom of the totem pole when it comes to social acceptance. One reason is that even though at least 20% of the population today is nonreligious in the United States, many Americans have never knowingly met an atheist,” said Annie Laurie Gaylor, FFRF co-president.

“Taking a cue from the gay pride movement, our campaign invites other nonbelievers to share their views and ‘Come out of the closet.’ ”

FFRF Co-President Dan Barker said, “The thoughtful, positive viewpoints expressed by Cleveland-area FFRF’ers — and their willingness to speak up so publicly — makes me so proud of FFRF members, the best advertisement there is for freethought.”

It’s easy and fun to make your own “virtual billboard,” useable for Facebook image, at ffrf.org/day/. Watch for launching soon of FFRF’s latest “speak up for freethought” video campaign.

Find locations for the billboards, in case you’re passing through the area, at: ffrf.org/news/news-releases/. Scroll to the to the May 8 release.

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State/Church Bulletin

Judge’s bible handout brings rebuke 

Osceola County Judge Hal Epperson Jr. will no longer be allowed to distribute Gideon bibles from a table in his courtroom in Kissimmee, Fla. After an attorney complained anonymously, Orange-Osceola Chief Judge Belvin Perry told the Orlando Sentinel on April 25 that he’d spoken to Epperson and the practice “is no longer in existence.”

“To, in open court, offer criminal defendants who, at his will, could serve years in jail any endorsement of any religion . . . erodes the trust of the justice system that those of differing faiths have,” the attorney’s comment said. 

Perry told the reporter, “As you know, we have a separation of church and state in this country.” Giving out non-court-related literature, “whether it’s the bible or Sports Illustrated, is something that we don’t do,” Perry added.

 

Mayor rejects reason but accepts prayer

Mayor Jim Fouts of Warren, Mich., rejected local atheist Douglas Marshall’s proposed Reason Station in the City Hall atrium to counter a Prayer Station because of his FFRF membership. The Reason Station was meant to promote separation of church and state and inform people about freethought and logic. FFRF has contested governmental religious entanglement several times in Warren.

In an April 15 letter to Marshall, Fouts claimed FFRF isn’t protected by the Establishment Clause because atheism is not a religion. “Also, I believe it is your group’s intention to disrupt those who participate in the Prayer Station which would also be a violation of the freedom of religion amendment.”

“I do view this as a violation of my free speech rights,” Marshall told the Detroit Free Press. “It seems to me that the mayor allows free speech in the atrium as long as he agrees with the speech.”

FFRF is monitoring the situation.

 

Church in school loses another appeal 

A panel of the 2nd Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals in New York City ruled 2-1 on April 3 against the Bronx Household of Faith, a congregation that has been battling since 1994 over its efforts to hold weekend services in a public school.

The decision said the First Amendment’s “free exercise clause does not entitle Bronx Household to a grant from the [school district] of a subsidized place to hold religious worship services.”

It’s the sixth opinion on the case by the 2nd Circuit, reported Education Week. In his dissent, Judge John Walker Jr. invited the Supreme Court to take the case, which it has twice declined to do, in 1998 and 2011.

 

Virginia gov’s veto
on prayer upheld 

Gov. Terry McAuliffe, D-Va., vetoed a bill April 4, saying it could lead to “coercive prayer” or “religious messaging” at school events.

High schools already let students organize religious clubs, discuss religious themes and participate in voluntary prayer or other “nondisruptive expressions of belief,” he said.

The Lynchburg News & Advance editorial board wrote, “There was not much new in this unnecessary legislation that could be only a step away from state-sanctioned prayer in the public schools. Lawmakers in the House and Senate should recognize that and uphold McAuliffe’s veto.”

The Senate refused to override the veto April 23.

 

Sponsor pulls bible
as state book bill

Rep. Thomas Carmody, R-Shreveport, withdrew his bill to make the bible Louisiana’s official state book before it could go to a full vote of the state House on April 21. The bill had become a distraction, he said.

Legislators had amended Carmody’s bill two weeks earlier to make any copy of the “Holy Bible” the official state book instead of just the “historic” one in the State Museum. That drew even more criticism from opponents, reported the Times-Picayune.

 

Gay discrimination
now legal in Mississippi

Mississippi Republican Gov. Phil Bryant signed a “turn away the gays” bill April 3 in a private ceremony joined by a few lawmakers, lobbyists for the Southern Baptist Convention and the president of the Family Research Council.

The Religious Freedom Restoration Act lets businesses and individuals refuse services to LGBT people on religious grounds. The House approved it 78-43. The Senate vote was 38-14.

The bill also adds “In God We Trust” to the state seal.

 

Secular group rates Congress; many fail

The Secular Coalition for America released its 2013 Congressional Report Cards for the U.S. House and Senate on March 31. A majority of House members earned an “F,” while a majority of senators earned a grade of “B” or above.

Representatives were graded based on their support for 14 bills related to church-state separation issues and discrimination against nontheistic and secular Americans. Senators were graded based on their support for five bills relating to similar issues, a coalition press release said.

HOUSE: 8% received an “A”, 7% received a “B”, 21% received a “C”, 2% received a “D” and 62% got F’s.

SENATE: 7% A’s, 45% B’s, 5% C’s, 43% F’s. 

Seven Democratic senators got perfect scores: Richard Blumenthal, Conn.; Mazie Hirono, Hawaii; Dick Durbin, Ill.; Elizabeth Warren, Mass.; Al Franken, Minn.; and Frank Lautenberg and Robert Menendez, N.J. Three Democratic representatives were perfect: Eleanor Holmes Norton, D.C.; Rush Holt, N.J.; and Louise Slaughter, N.Y. Three GOP senators received B’s: Lisa Murkowski, Alaska; Paul Kirk, Ill.; and Susan Collins, Maine.

Three GOP House members tied for the lowest score of 5%: Reps. Doug LaMalfa, Mich.; Tim Walberg, Mich.; and Walter B. Jones, N.C.

 

Georgia parents sue over school funding

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported that a lawsuit was filed April 2 by parents challenging Georgia’s student scholarship organization tax credit program which lets individuals and businesses deduct contributions to groups that give scholarships to private school students, most of whom attend parochial schools.

Steve Suitts, Southern Education Foundation vice president, said since the program started in 2008, more than $280 million has been “diverted” to an “unregulated system of support for private schools” with no oversight from the state Department of Education. More than 13,000 scholarships were given in 2012.

 

SCOTUS denies cert for N.M. wedding case

The Supreme Court declined April 7 to take the case of New Mexico wedding photographers who refused to work at a same-sex ceremony for religious reasons. 

The case featured Elaine Huguenin and her husband Jonathan, whose Albuquerque studio informed Vanessa Willock and Misti Collinsworth in 2006 that it only worked “traditional weddings,” reported USA Today.

“Of particular relevance here is the Huguenins’ sincere religious belief that marriage is the union of a man and a woman,” their Supreme Court petition said. “They believe that if they were to communicate a contrary message about marriage — by, for example, telling the story of a polygamous wedding ceremony — they would be disobeying God.”

 

Bill lets humanists be wedding officiants

Minnesota state Sen. John Marty, D-Roseville, introduced a bill April 4 to allow atheists and humanists to preside over wedding ceremonies. The bill would grant “solemnization authorization” to secular celebrants appointed by atheist or humanist groups.

Current law allows only “ministers of any religious denomination” to officiate.

A House version of the bill was introduced in late March and awaits a hearing by the Civil Law Committee. The Senate bill was referred to the Judiciary Committee.

 

Obama hosts Holy Week prayer breakfast

President Barack Obama kicked off Holy Week at the White House on April 14 with 150 Christian leaders at the fifth annual Easter Prayer Breakfast.

“The tradition was started by the Obama administration in 2010 to specifically celebrate the life and death of Christ,” the New York Daily News reported.

On April 11, Obama announced a presidential delegation to attend the Mass on April 27 at which Popes John XXIII and John Paul II were declared saints.

White House counselor John Podesta led the delegation. Members were Rep. Xavier Becerra, D-Calif., chairman of the House Democratic Caucus; and Katie Beirne Fallon, assistant to the president and director of legislative affairs.

 

Jersey atheist sues
over license plate

A federal lawsuit was filed April 17 by Americans United on behalf of Shannon Morgan, a Leesburg, N.J., atheist who applied in November for an “8THEIST” license plate in November on the New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission’s website. It was rejected as “considered objectionable.” She then entered “BAPTIST” as a proposed plate, which was accepted.

Attempts by Morgan to get approval for her plate were ignored, the suit alleges. The suit seeks a policy “that requires any restriction of expression on personalized license plates to be based on subjective, objective, viewpoint-neutral criteria.”   

Mt. Soledad cross
gets Obama backing

Obama administration lawyers have told the Supreme Court they will defend the 29-foot-tall cross atop Mount Soledad in San Diego as a war memorial and not unconstitutional government promotion of Christianity, the Los Angeles Times reported April 10.

The cross was erected in 1954, but it has been under legal attack since 1989. FFRF members and foxhole atheists Phil Paulson, now deceased, and Steve Trunk have led the legal challenges.

“The United States remains fully committed to preserving the Mount Soledad cross as an appropriate memorial to our nation’s veterans,” said U.S. Solicitor General Donald Verrilli Jr.

 

Board member sits
out Hindu prayer

Roanoke [Va.] County Board Supervisor Al Bedrosian stayed seated in protest May 13 because a non-Christian prayer was given to open the board meeting. Maharaj Sharma of the India Heritage Society chanted a blessing offering goodwill and peace as an invocation, the Roanoke Times reported. Three other board members stood.

Bedrosian recently has said that only Christians should give the opening prayer because he believes America is a Christian nation.

Judge’s bible handout brings rebuke 

Osceola County Judge Hal Epperson Jr. will no longer be allowed to distribute Gideon bibles from a table in his courtroom in Kissimmee, Fla. After an attorney complained anonymously, Orange-Osceola Chief Judge Belvin Perry told the Orlando Sentinel on April 25 that he’d spoken to Epperson and the practice “is no longer in existence.”

“To, in open court, offer criminal defendants who, at his will, could serve years in jail any endorsement of any religion . . . erodes the trust of the justice system that those of differing faiths have,” the attorney’s comment said. 

Perry told the reporter, “As you know, we have a separation of church and state in this country.” Giving out non-court-related literature, “whether it’s the bible or Sports Illustrated, is something that we don’t do,” Perry added.

 

Mayor rejects reason but accepts prayer

Mayor Jim Fouts of Warren, Mich., rejected local atheist Douglas Marshall’s proposed Reason Station in the City Hall atrium to counter a Prayer Station because of his FFRF membership. The Reason Station was meant to promote separation of church and state and inform people about freethought and logic. FFRF has contested governmental religious entanglement several times in Warren.

In an April 15 letter to Marshall, Fouts claimed FFRF isn’t protected by the Establishment Clause because atheism is not a religion. “Also, I believe it is your group’s intention to disrupt those who participate in the Prayer Station which would also be a violation of the freedom of religion amendment.”

“I do view this as a violation of my free speech rights,” Marshall told the Detroit Free Press. “It seems to me that the mayor allows free speech in the atrium as long as he agrees with the speech.”

FFRF is monitoring the situation.

 

Church in school loses another appeal 

A panel of the 2nd Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals in New York City ruled 2-1 on April 3 against the Bronx Household of Faith, a congregation that has been battling since 1994 over its efforts to hold weekend services in a public school.

The decision said the First Amendment’s “free exercise clause does not entitle Bronx Household to a grant from the [school district] of a subsidized place to hold religious worship services.”

It’s the sixth opinion on the case by the 2nd Circuit, reported Education Week. In his dissent, Judge John Walker Jr. invited the Supreme Court to take the case, which it has twice declined to do, in 1998 and 2011.

 

Virginia gov’s veto
on prayer upheld 

Gov. Terry McAuliffe, D-Va., vetoed a bill April 4, saying it could lead to “coercive prayer” or “religious messaging” at school events.

High schools already let students organize religious clubs, discuss religious themes and participate in voluntary prayer or other “nondisruptive expressions of belief,” he said.

The Lynchburg News & Advance editorial board wrote, “There was not much new in this unnecessary legislation that could be only a step away from state-sanctioned prayer in the public schools. Lawmakers in the House and Senate should recognize that and uphold McAuliffe’s veto.”

The Senate refused to override the veto April 23.

 

Sponsor pulls bible
as state book bill

Rep. Thomas Carmody, R-Shreveport, withdrew his bill to make the bible Louisiana’s official state book before it could go to a full vote of the state House on April 21. The bill had become a distraction, he said.

Legislators had amended Carmody’s bill two weeks earlier to make any copy of the “Holy Bible” the official state book instead of just the “historic” one in the State Museum. That drew even more criticism from opponents, reported the Times-Picayune.

 

Gay discrimination
now legal in Mississippi

Mississippi Republican Gov. Phil Bryant signed a “turn away the gays” bill April 3 in a private ceremony joined by a few lawmakers, lobbyists for the Southern Baptist Convention and the president of the Family Research Council.

The Religious Freedom Restoration Act lets businesses and individuals refuse services to LGBT people on religious grounds. The House approved it 78-43. The Senate vote was 38-14.

The bill also adds “In God We Trust” to the state seal.

 

Secular group rates Congress; many fail

The Secular Coalition for America released its 2013 Congressional Report Cards for the U.S. House and Senate on March 31. A majority of House members earned an “F,” while a majority of senators earned a grade of “B” or above.

Representatives were graded based on their support for 14 bills related to church-state separation issues and discrimination against nontheistic and secular Americans. Senators were graded based on their support for five bills relating to similar issues, a coalition press release said.

HOUSE: 8% received an “A”, 7% received a “B”, 21% received a “C”, 2% received a “D” and 62% got F’s.

SENATE: 7% A’s, 45% B’s, 5% C’s, 43% F’s. 

Seven Democratic senators got perfect scores: Richard Blumenthal, Conn.; Mazie Hirono, Hawaii; Dick Durbin, Ill.; Elizabeth Warren, Mass.; Al Franken, Minn.; and Frank Lautenberg and Robert Menendez, N.J. Three Democratic representatives were perfect: Eleanor Holmes Norton, D.C.; Rush Holt, N.J.; and Louise Slaughter, N.Y. Three GOP senators received B’s: Lisa Murkowski, Alaska; Paul Kirk, Ill.; and Susan Collins, Maine.

Three GOP House members tied for the lowest score of 5%: Reps. Doug LaMalfa, Mich.; Tim Walberg, Mich.; and Walter B. Jones, N.C.

 

Georgia parents sue over school funding

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported that a lawsuit was filed April 2 by parents challenging Georgia’s student scholarship organization tax credit program which lets individuals and businesses deduct contributions to groups that give scholarships to private school students, most of whom attend parochial schools.

Steve Suitts, Southern Education Foundation vice president, said since the program started in 2008, more than $280 million has been “diverted” to an “unregulated system of support for private schools” with no oversight from the state Department of Education. More than 13,000 scholarships were given in 2012.

 

SCOTUS denies cert for N.M. wedding case

The Supreme Court declined April 7 to take the case of New Mexico wedding photographers who refused to work at a same-sex ceremony for religious reasons. 

The case featured Elaine Huguenin and her husband Jonathan, whose Albuquerque studio informed Vanessa Willock and Misti Collinsworth in 2006 that it only worked “traditional weddings,” reported USA Today.

“Of particular relevance here is the Huguenins’ sincere religious belief that marriage is the union of a man and a woman,” their Supreme Court petition said. “They believe that if they were to communicate a contrary message about marriage — by, for example, telling the story of a polygamous wedding ceremony — they would be disobeying God.”

 

Bill lets humanists be wedding officiants

Minnesota state Sen. John Marty, D-Roseville, introduced a bill April 4 to allow atheists and humanists to preside over wedding ceremonies. The bill would grant “solemnization authorization” to secular celebrants appointed by atheist or humanist groups.

Current law allows only “ministers of any religious denomination” to officiate.

A House version of the bill was introduced in late March and awaits a hearing by the Civil Law Committee. The Senate bill was referred to the Judiciary Committee.

 

Obama hosts Holy Week prayer breakfast

President Barack Obama kicked off Holy Week at the White House on April 14 with 150 Christian leaders at the fifth annual Easter Prayer Breakfast.

“The tradition was started by the Obama administration in 2010 to specifically celebrate the life and death of Christ,” the New York Daily News reported.

On April 11, Obama announced a presidential delegation to attend the Mass on April 27 at which Popes John XXIII and John Paul II were declared saints.

White House counselor John Podesta led the delegation. Members were Rep. Xavier Becerra, D-Calif., chairman of the House Democratic Caucus; and Katie Beirne Fallon, assistant to the president and director of legislative affairs.

 

Jersey atheist sues
over license plate

A federal lawsuit was filed April 17 by Americans United on behalf of Shannon Morgan, a Leesburg, N.J., atheist who applied in November for an “8THEIST” license plate in November on the New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission’s website. It was rejected as “considered objectionable.” She then entered “BAPTIST” as a proposed plate, which was accepted.

Attempts by Morgan to get approval for her plate were ignored, the suit alleges. The suit seeks a policy “that requires any restriction of expression on personalized license plates to be based on subjective, objective, viewpoint-neutral criteria.”   

Mt. Soledad cross
gets Obama backing

Obama administration lawyers have told the Supreme Court they will defend the 29-foot-tall cross atop Mount Soledad in San Diego as a war memorial and not unconstitutional government promotion of Christianity, the Los Angeles Times reported April 10.

The cross was erected in 1954, but it has been under legal attack since 1989. FFRF members and foxhole atheists Phil Paulson, now deceased, and Steve Trunk have led the legal challenges.

“The United States remains fully committed to preserving the Mount Soledad cross as an appropriate memorial to our nation’s veterans,” said U.S. Solicitor General Donald Verrilli Jr.

 

Board member sits
out Hindu prayer

Roanoke [Va.] County Board Supervisor Al Bedrosian stayed seated in protest May 13 because a non-Christian prayer was given to open the board meeting. Maharaj Sharma of the India Heritage Society chanted a blessing offering goodwill and peace as an invocation, the Roanoke Times reported. Three other board members stood.

Bedrosian recently has said that only Christians should give the opening prayer because he believes America is a Christian nation.

Proselytizing coach ends up resigning

FFRF has halted a pious coach’s practice of proselytizing students in Spokane, Wash. According to the complainant, Rogers High School head football coach Matt Miethe and other coaches had not only been baptizing players at Pentecostal churches, but the assistant coach was leading the team in prayers during “chapel time” and before games. 

The coaches reportedly also pressured players to attend church. According to news reports, Miethe “offered players three opportunities to gather for church and encouraged them to attend.”

Staff Attorney Andrew Seidel sent a complaint letter to the school district Dec. 17: “Even if Miethe is simply suggesting [church] attendance, his position as head coach in charge of playing time impregnates any suggestion with force. Playing time leads to scholarships and college; it should be a question of merit only, not religion. No student should be deprived of the opportunity of playing football because they, as a matter of personal conscience, feel unable to participate in a religious ritual or attend church.” 

On March 17, the district responded: “Rogers High School principal Lori Wyborney spoke with the football coach and confirmed activities that she had not been aware of. 

“Ms. Wyborney took immediate action to ensure that the activities described ceased. She reminds her coaching and athletics staff as well as her administrative staff of the need to separate the role of school and religion. Additionally, and for unrelated reasons, Coach Matt Miethe resigned his position as head coach for Rogers High School.” 

 

Rampant religiosity out at Arizona elementary

Oakwood Elementary School in Peoria, Ariz., will no longer allow religious icons, bibles and proselytizing “gifts.” This is not the first violation from the Peoria School District that FFRF has acted on. 

FFRF was informed that a kindergarten teacher has been pressuring families to attend a specific church and had decorated her classroom with religious iconography, bible verses, crosses and Christ Church of the Valley propaganda such as “I love Jesus” clothing and mugs. She had also distributed inappropriate religious gifts to students, including bookmarks featuring the holy sites of Christianity. 

A parent alerted FFRF about another violation: a Thanksgiving program last year which included a call and response in which teachers sang questions and kindergartners responded. At the teacher’s prompting, the student “turkeys” would gobble, the Native Americans would say “big and brave” and the preachers would say “praise the Lord.” 

The student “preachers” wore school-owned costumes with Latin crosses on them. According to a complainant, this program has been performed for at least 15 years. 

Staff Attorney Andrew Seidel sent a Dec. 5 letter of complaint to the district, which acknowledged in an April reply that the complaint’s allegations were accurate. The district assured FFRF that the religious icons and bibles were removed and that religious conversations and activities have been eliminated from the classroom. “The Thanksgiving performance is being revisited for content, but rest assured that the crosses will be removed and the choral response will be reworded.”

 

Church graduations
will go secular

FFRF complaint letters led two Ohio school districts to drop churches as high school graduation venues.

Canton Local School District in Canton will no longer hold church graduations starting in 2015. Canton South High School plans to hold this year’s ceremony May 27 at Canton Baptist Temple.  

Senior Staff Attorney Rebecca Markert sent a letter to the district Feb. 17 to explain that it’s illegal to force graduates, families and friends to enter a church that might espouse an ideology or belief to which they might not adhere.

The superintendent responded April 8, “While it is not possible for the district to find an alternate location for graduation [this year], I have spoken to the board and they have agreed to find a secular site for the 2015 graduating class.” 

Northwest High School in Canal Fulton, part of Northwest Local Schools, made a similar response April 8 to a Feb. 17 letter from Markert about its graduation May 24 at Akron Baptist Temple. 

 

‘Religious value’ claim out of handbook 

Poplarville School District in Poplarville, Miss., will no longer use religious rhetoric in its student handbooks. FFRF received a complaint that the “Strategic Plan” section of the 2013-14 handbook states that one of the district’s beliefs is “[a] relationship with God is critical to a meaningful life.”

The statement of belief has reportedly appeared in the handbook for many years. 

Staff Attorney Elizabeth Cavell sent a letter to the superintendent Feb. 13: “The value statement in the student handbook sends the message that the district not only prefers religion over nonreligion, but the Christian god over all deities.”

The district responded May 6 that “the Board of Trustees voted to remove the above-referenced language from the strategic plan and handbook beginning with the upcoming school year.”

 

Praying Ohio coach ‘crossed the line’ 

A high school in Middletown, Ohio, will no longer let coaches lead athletes in prayers. According to a local complainant, the varsity football coach provided food for players after practice, then told them to bow their heads before leading them in prayer.

The coach also is alleged to have encouraged players to attend his church and be “saved,” invited them to church events during football practice and provided rides.

Senior Staff Attorney Rebecca Markert’s letter to the superintendent explained the multiple reasons why such proselytizing is illegal in a public school.

On April 25, the district responded: “[The principal and athletic director] expressly informed [the coach] that his actions had crossed the line and were impermissible. He was expressly informed that he was required to respect others’ religious beliefs, that his conduct could be viewed as a government’s endorsement of religion, and that he was not permitted to engage in any of the conduct listed in your letter (or similar conduct, for that matter).”

 

School: Teacher owes student an apology

Atlanta High School in Atlanta, Texas, will no longer allow episodes from the series “The Bible” to be played during class. A concerned student reported that an economics teacher aired Episode 6 of the series, which depicts the “virgin” birth of Jesus, his baptism by John the Baptist and the angel Gabriel telling Mary she’s pregnant with “the Son of God.” 

When the student told the teacher that it was inappropriate to show “The Bible” in economics class, the teacher called the show “factual.” After confronting the teacher a second time, the student was told he could go to another classroom during future showings. As a result, the student missed a week’s worth of economics classes. 

In FFRF’s letter to the superintendent, Staff Attorney Sam Grover strongly objected to such illegal and egregious behavior.

On April 22, Superintendent Roger Hailey responded that “[The teacher] has agreed to apologize to your complainant and has been instructed to align his instruction with the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills Standards established by the Texas Legislature for the subjects he teaches.” 

 

Wrestling team drops religious endorsements

The Parkersburg South High School wrestling team in Parkersburg, W. Va., will no longer display the motto “Philippians 4:13: I can do all things through Christ which strengthens me.” The motto was adopted at least 10 years ago and has appeared on the team’s website, on team T-shirts and in the high school gym. 

Staff Attorney Patrick Elliott sent a letter April 11 to Wood County Schools to explain the constitutional violations. He advised the school to end all endorsement of Christian messages.

In response to the complaint, the bible verse that was posted inside the gym was painted over and the motto was taken off the website.

 

Coach-led prayer
ended in Georgia

A coach at Thomas County Central High School in Thomasville, Ga., will no longer lead a football team in prayer before practice. The coach’s involvement was confirmed by a news story in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, which included a photo of the coach praying with the team with heads dutifully bowed. 

Staff Attorney Andrew Seidel sent the district a complaint letter Aug. 5.

On April 19, the school superintendent responded: “I have carefully considered your concern and have reviewed the team’s practices regarding prayer. I plan to address your concern by taking steps to end any coach-led prayer that may be occurring during football practices or games, while ensuring that religious students and staff may exercise their First Amendment rights to speak, associate and participate in religious activities.” 

Tragedy doesn’t excuse trampling Constitution

E.C. Reems School of Technology and Arts in Oakland, Calif., has concluded an investigation into a religious assembly and agrees with FFRF that it was “inappropriate.” 

A complainant contacted FFRF about the assembly, which included kindergartners as young as 4. It was intended to honor Jahi McMath, a 13-year-old schoolmate declared brain-dead after surgical complications in December 2013. She remains on a ventilator.

At the assembly, about 250 students were given purple T-shirts emblazoned with “#TeamJahi” and “Keep Calm and Pray On.”  

According to a local news report, “The academy’s chief operating officer Lisa Blair said she has tried to honor Jahi’s family’s wishes by telling students that their classmate may still be alive, even though doctors say she is legally and clinically dead.”

Blair is also on record as saying, “Most kids are Christian here, and they believe that if you continue praying there’s always a possibility. The students understand the debate. They’re just choosing spirituality over science.” 

In a letter to the school board, Staff Attorney Andrew Seidel said, “What happened to Jahi is a terrible tragedy and all hearts go out to her suffering relatives and friends. No child’s life should be cut short before it can truly begin. But such tragedies are not an excuse to violate the Constitution. Public school employees cannot tell students that, if only they pray hard enough to a particular god, their classmate will come back to life. Public school employees cannot force their personal religious beliefs on students.”

On March 14, the district responded that “the statements made by Ms. Blair were inappropriate and the decision by administration to distribute shirts to the school was inappropriate.” Administrators “will receive training regarding requirements for compliance regarding religion in public schools.” 

 

School scratches Mormon museum trip 

When Westvale Elementary School, West Jordan, Utah, sent permission slips home April 24 for a fourth-grade field trip to the Church History Museum, which is run by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, some parents parents were immediately wary. West Jordan is just south of Salt Lake City, headquarters for the LDS Church.

The slip told parents the trip would “supplement regular curriculum programs and [would] take place during the regular school day.” FFRF Staff Attorney Andrew Seidel, on behalf of several district parents, sent a letter May 1 to Superintendent Patrice Johnson.

Seidel pointed out that the museum “presents an unscholarly, uncritical, nonobjective view of the LDS Church” and noted that the New York Times has described the museum as “created by believers, for believers.” 

One section of the museum section called “Learn Truths” depicts the “stories of ancient prophets found in the Book of Mormon.” Another named “The Gospel Blesses My Life” displays artwork from children who share “how knowledge of the gospel of Jesus Christ blesses their lives.”

After taking a personal tour, Gregory Clark, a University of Utah associate professor of bioengineering, described how one museum docent “claimed that black skin was a curse from God.” Clark writes that the museum “is replete with religion, not history. It’s the Utahn equivalent of Ken Ham’s Creation Museum.” 

In response to mounting evidence that the museum was much less about Utah history and more about prophecy and church doctrine, Kayleen Whitelock, a member of the Jordan School District Board of Education, said on May 6 that “students will no longer be attending this field trip.”  

Seidel commented, “We hope that the Board of Education uses this opportunity to pick a more appropriate, educational location for a field trip. No one needs to play the martyr here.”

He added, “The Board of Education should have realized that this was an inappropriate location for a field trip from the beginning. If any Westvale fourth graders are disappointed, that’s on the board.”

 

Principal’s ‘witnessing’ to students banned

An administrator at Andalusia Middle School in Andalusia, Ala., will no longer be allowed to “witness” to students. 

FFRF received a complaint that the assistant principal regularly proselytized students in his office and used social networking to advertise the message that the school allows sectarian prayer before sporting events.

Staff Attorney Andrew Seidel sent a March 4 letter to Superintendent Ted Watson to detail the constitutional violations.

Watson responded on March 24: “[T]hank you for making us aware of this situation,” and added, “[Your letter] has facilitated a review of the law as it pertains to the Establishment Clause within our school system. We strive to teach our students to be law-abiding citizens and it starts with the example we as adults set.” 

City documents received by FFRF through an open records request show that Mayor Jim Schmitt and his staff have planned and coordinated a campaign on city time to bring the pope to Green Bay, Wis.

FFRF objected in March to Schmitt’s invitation in his official capacity as mayor sent on city letterhead to Pope Francis to “make a pilgrimage to the Shrine of Our Lady of Good Help.” Emails reveal the mayor and his chief of staff, Andy Rosendahl, coordinated the initiative and organized weekly “Pope to Green Bay Committee” meetings throughout the workday.

Emails by city staff show they planned and scheduled meetings (dubbed “the Pope Mobile Committee” by the mayor), reviewed wording on the popetogreenbay.com website and created meeting agendas.

City Policy Chapter 24.4 requires “a distinction between sharing personal and official City views” and disclaimers for personal views and opinions — that were not employed by the mayor or his staff.

“Just as paid staff time may not be used for campaign activity, it’s equally inappropriate and unseemly to promote Catholicism and this religious pilgrimage on city time,” said Annie Laurie Gaylor, FFRF co-president.

FFRF says the mayor and city staff must stop working on the papal visit during city time while using city property and follow its disclaimer policy.

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FFRF blasts Hobby Lobby bible curriculum

FFRF is strongly criticizing Hobby Lobby’s public school bible course approved April 14 by Mustang Public Schools in Mustang, Okla. 

FFRF has been eyeing the bible course since November, when Hobby Lobby’s billionaire owner Steve Green personally pitched it to the school board. The board voted 4-0 with one absention to approve the curriculum entitled “The Book, the Bible’s History, Narrative and Impact of the World’s Best-selling Book” as an elective course.

Board member Jeff Landrith abstained, saying “I think the public should be able to look at this before we vote on it.”

“I am amazed that any school district would think this is appropriate for public schools,” said FFRF Staff Attorney Andrew Seidel, who got a sneak preview of the proposed text in April. “This just confirms the suspicions we had about the class. Hobby Lobby and the Greens are trying to convert children to their particular brand of Christianity. There is nothing scholarly, fair or balanced about the curriculum.”

In its April 24 letter to the school district, FFRF noted that the “the draft materials MPS intends to use unequivocally fail to meet the legal standards required by our Constitution. The materials show a clear Christian bias, treat the bible as historically accurate and true in all respects and make theological claims.”

Alarming entries include asking and answering such questions as, “What is God like?” The Hobby Lobby text lists only positive attributes (“Faithful and good,” “gracious and compassionate,” “orderly and disciplined,” “full of love”) or theologically Christian attributions, such as “ever-present help in times of trouble” and “righteous judge.” 

The biblical deity’s negative aspects go unmentioned, such as the injunction in Exodus 20:5, “I the LORD thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation.” 

Ironically, the textbook criticizes the “historical half-truths” of Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code, a work of fiction, yet fails to apply that same critical lens to the bible. The text states: “[W]e can conclude that the Bible, especially when viewed alongside other historical information, is a reliable historical source.” The text makes the absurd, long-reputed claim that the writer of Genesis is “thought to be Moses.”

Hobby Lobby, a national chain store, is challenging the Affordable Care Act’s contraceptive mandate, with a Supreme Court decision imminent. Green opposes the idea of his women employees using the IUD and birth control pill, and says his corporation’s “religious freedom” is offended if workers have access to the contraception of their choice.

FFRF has combated Hobby Lobby’s annual July 4 advertising blitz, in which the chain runs hundreds of full-page “In God We Trust” newspaper ads promoting religion in government.

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Religion entrenched in Clemson football

The Freedom From Religion Foundation’s complaint to Clemson University over serious entanglements between its football program and religion created a national firestorm in April. FFRF’s administrative staff took abusive calls tying up the lines for a week and half after the complaint broke on wire stories, sports news sites and Fox TV.

“Christian worship seems interwoven into Clemson’s football program,” wrote Staff Attorney Patrick Elliott in his letter to the general counsel of Clemson University, a public university in Clemson, S.C. 

Elliott warned of a “a culture of religious coercion within the university’s football program,” after reviewing evidence gleaned from his open records request, showing:

• In 2011, coach William “Dabo” Swinney personally invited James Trapp to become “team chaplain” for the Tigers. This is in violation of the Constitution and even Clemson’s own “misguided and legally dubious ‘Guidelines For Athletic Team Chaplains.’ ”

• Trapp was regularly given access to the entire team to conduct bible study between drills. 

• The chaplain has an office at the Jervey Athletic Center, displays bible quotes on a whiteboard and has organized and led sessions on “being baptized” in the athletic building.

• Swinney confirmed that the entire team would attend a Fellowship of Christian Athletes breakfast Dec. 31, 2011, wherein three players would “testify.”

• Three privately funded buses (116-seat total capacity) were used to take the team and coaches to Valley Brook Baptist Church on Aug. 7, 2011, and on other occasions for worship on “Church Day.”

• Swinney schedules team devotionals. Records indicate that between March 2012 and April 2013, approximately 87 devotionals were organized by Trapp, approved by Swinney and led by coaching staff.

“Mr. Trapp, as a paid employee of a state university, may not proselytize or promote religion and may not use his university office to do so,” Elliott wrote. Trapp also serves as a Fellowship of Christian Athletes representative and as a football recruiting assistant. A website lists him as campus director of ministry/life coach, and he refers to himself as a minister.

“Mr. Trapp’s legal duties and obligations as a state employee prohibit him from using state resources (i.e., his office in the Jervey Athletic Center) and his official position as a recruiting assistant to proselytize.”

FFRF wants the school to direct Swinney and Trapp to immediately stop team prayers, sermons, bible studies and “church days” for players and train staff about their First Amendment obligations and monitor compliance.

In 2012, FFRF sent a letter to Appalachian State University, Boone, N.C., alerting officials to similar violations in its football program. The university agreed that the program’s religious entanglement was coercive and had no legitimate place in the athletic program.

A January 2014 Sports Illustrated story said Swinney had recently signed an eight-year contract for $27.15 million.

While denying wrongdoing, the university has responded that it is investigating the allegations.

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Overheard

The tendency to promote the majority faith is strong, and the court’s decision could be taken by some as an invitation to do only the minimum to respect other beliefs. And that’s too bad, because such practices honor neither the Constitution nor the Golden Rule.

USA Today editorial board, disagreeing with the Supreme Court’s 5-4 decision in Town of Greece v. Galloway that allows sectarian prayer

USA Today, 5-5-14

 

The East [High School] students I talked to couldn’t be distracted from homework any longer, and this “nontroversy” did not interest them. But one of my anonymous sources had this to offer: “It’s not about patriotism; it’s about religion.”

Reporter Catherine Capellaro on two students who allegedly substituted “peace” for “God” while saying the Pledge of Allegiance over the intercom in Madison, Wis.

Isthmus, 5-2-14

 

For many years the country had quieted down after the initial shock of the ruling . . . and people agreed [separation of church and state] was a good thing and went on with their lives. Somehow, with the rise of the Religious Right and evangelical Christians, the issue has bubbled back to the surface in a real way — a threatening way, in my opinion.

Ellery Schempp, plaintiff in Abington Township v. Schempp, in which the Supreme Court in 1963 banned prayers and bible reading in public schools

Rochester Democrat & Chronicle, 4-7-14

 

For a lot of people, religion is the little lie that people believe so they can believe the big lie of justice, mercy and fairness.

Chris Kluwe, agnostic and former Minnesota Vikings punter, who was basically forced out of pro football for supporting marriage equality

Salt Lake Tribune, 4-19-14

 

Rather than wrestling with ways to make the invocations meet the letter of the law, we strongly urge the council to discontinue the spoken invocations.

Newspaper editorial, “Dropping public prayer was right call,” on settlement of a lawsuit in FFRF’s favor against the city council in Pismo Beach, Calif.

San Luis Obispo Tribune, 4-18-14

 

Readers of The Blade come from many faiths and no faith. Atheism is one element in religious orientation, and it shouldn’t be ignored just because atheists say there is no God.

TK Barger, religion editor, defending a news feature on Camp Quest, “Readers criticize religion page story on atheist camp”

Toledo Blade, 3-30-14

 

Some of us feel some of these televangelists have taken advantage of the fact that churches have little regulation by government and few reporting requirements.

Paul Streckfus, tax attorney and editor of the Exempt Organization Tax Journal, “Can a Television Network Be a Church? The IRS Says Yes”

National Public Radio, 4-1-14

 

This is an attempt to reclaim a word [atheist] that has been turned negative.

Julia Bruce, president, Harvard College Humanists, Agnostics and Atheists, on “Atheist Coming Out Week”

Harvard Crimson, 4-2-14

 

The simple fact of the matter is that prayer belongs in churches and in homes. It does not belong in government meetings. Perhaps the Christians will show a little charity to those of us who don’t agree with their views and separate their beliefs from the government business at hand.

Roy Birk, Glen Burnie, Md., letter to the editor, “An atheist’s view of public prayer”

Baltimore Sun, 4-13-14

 

I just had to keep my mouth shut about being an atheist at those meetings. I felt dumped on when I mentioned it. Like I wasn’t really a member of their club.

George S., participant in one of two secular 12-step programs delisted by Alcoholics Anonymous for being God-free in Vancouver, B.C.

Vancouver Sun, 4-3-14

 

I know his beliefs. When he ran one of his commercials he said, “I need your prayers” and I asked, “When did you get religious?” He said, “When I needed votes.” He broke out the religious card, and he’s about the most nonreligious person I know.

Heath Peacock, on U.S. Rep. Vance McAllister, R-La., who was caught on tape passionately kissing Peacock’s wife, a staffer for McAllister, who is married with five children

CNN, 4-8-14

 

I want us to be a community that really gives back. I don’t want it to be just a big Sunday party, I also want it to be something outside of that.

Helen Stringer, atheist executive director of Kansas City Oasis, a freethought group that features live music and discussions every Sunday

Religion News Service, 4-11-14

 

The human wreckage he leaves behind him gets to file out of court. Where’s their rehabilitation program?

Australian Judge Frank Gucciardo, on the victims of serial predator priest Frank Klep who walked out of Klep’s presentencing after he was convicted of molesting 15 schoolboys from 1973-84

Sydney Morning Herald, 4-3-14

 

On the issue of religious symbols on public property, Gaylord Dean Smith of Wisconsin wrote: “I strongly believe that religious freedom should be protected under the First Amendment, but I don’t think that includes allowing religious symbols on government property. Violation of the separation of church and state is a slippery slope. The Mount Soledad cross has been a bone of contention for many years and constitutional litigation often takes many years. I hope that the cross is removed (not blown up) and moved to welcoming private property, where it belongs.” 

Reader comment on “Crosses Spark a Constitutional Fight”

Wall Street Journal, 4-15-14

 

When the song ends, the congregation sits. [Pastor Mike] Will prays, then begins his children’s sermon, even though not one of the dozen in church this particular Sunday is younger than 50. Will, 53, is almost always the youngest in the room. “That doesn’t mean that the children aren’t here,” he tells them. “They’re just not easy to see. We all have a child inside of us.”

News story, “Columbia pastor balances two Sturgeon churches with declining memberships”

Columbia Missourian, 4-18-14

 

What happens when a student asks, “Wait, how is salvation supposed to work? God came to Earth to sacrifice himself — to himself — to save humanity from being punished — by himself?” Pity the teachers stuck in this impossible spot. 

Scott Rhode, Alaska radio news anchor/reporter, “Teaching the Bible: Careful What You Pray For”

650keni.com, 4-24-14

 

In a historic match-up of papacies past and present, Pope Francis and emeritus Pope Benedict XVI will honor Popes John XXIII and John Paul II in the first-ever canonization of two popes.

Associated Press news story

Time.com, 4-26-14

 

A young man has been fatally crushed after a statue erected in honor of Pope John Paul II in northern Italy fell on top of him. Marco Gusmini, 21, died instantly and a second man was taken to hospital after the 100-foot sculpture fell on top of him.

News story, “Pope statue collapse called bad omen”

Irish Times, 4-25-14

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