Protecting the constitutional principle of the separation of state and church
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Freethought Today

Vol. 21 No. 8 - Published by the Freedom From Religion Foundation, Inc. -
October 2004

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State/Church Bulletin

Labor Department Funds More Faith

U.S. Secretary of Labor Elaine L. Chao announced in late August she was making $5,808,813 in grants to Workforce Investment Boards to partnership with local "faith-based and community organizations."

The press release from the U.S. Department of Labor said: "The grants will enable local faith-based and community organizations to cultivate long-term partnerships with the public workforce system to help disadvantaged individuals--including limited English-speaking workers--to enter, succeed and thrive in the workplace."

Labor assistant secretary Emily Stover DeRocco said: "Connecting faith-based and community organizations with the public workforce system will increase our ability to help people who might not otherwise be served."

Chao and her faith-based director are among the defendants named by the Freedom From Religion Foundation's lawsuit challenging the creation of the federal-level and White House offices of faith-based initiatives, and religious funding. The Foundation lawsuit was filed in federal court in late June.

Faith-based Governor

Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Blanco announced in September she plans to create an Office of Faith-based Initiatives to help churches, ministries and similar organizations collect federal money.

She made the announcement before the National Baptist Convention USA, whose 35,000 black delegates were meeting in New Orleans.

GOP Invokes "Bible Ban"

The Republican Party in late September admitted it sent mass mailings to residents in Arkansas and West Virginia warning that if President Bush isn't re-elected, "liberals" will ban the bible and allow men to marry men.

The promo (right) shows a bible with the word "banned" across it, contrasted with a photo of a man kneeling as he places a ring on the hand of another man, emblazoned with the word "allowed."

The mailing warns that the bible could be banned if Bush is not re-elected.

"This will be Arkansas if you don't vote," the mailing to that state claims.

Spokeswoman Christine Iverson of the Republican National Committee, in acknowledging the party sent the mailings, told the New York Times:

"When the Massachusetts Supreme Court sanctioned same-sex marriage and people in other states realized they could be compelled to recognize those laws, same-sex marriage became an issue. These same activist judges also want to remove the words 'under God' from the Pledge of Allegiance."

Radio ads are also running with similar messages.

Towey Vows a Fight

Jim Towey, director of the White House Office of Faith-based Initiatives, vowed at a meeting with Catholic Charities of Maine in August to fight local governments which impede federal funding of religious groups:

"Sometimes you see local governments that bully faith-based organizations and basically tell them that they have to compromise their religious beliefs and tenets if they want to partner with government."

Catholic Charities of Maine brought suit last year against the city of Portland over its domestic partnership ordinance, barring groups from receiving certain federal funds from the city unless they provide benefits to same-sex or unmarried partners of employees.

Portland City councilor James Cloutier, who was mayor when the lawsuit was filed, told Associated Press:

"We don't have to be concerned about the fairness with which we treat religious and religiously sponsored organizations. That's because we have one rule that applies to everybody. You can't practice discrimination."

Faith-based Vote Buying?

A profile in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel (Sept. 11, 2004) featured Pentecostal bishop Sedgwick Daniels, who voted twice for Bill Clinton, but was one of the comparatively rare black delegates at the September GOP national convention.

Daniels' church, the Holy Redeemer Institutional Church of God in Christ, has received almost $1.5 million in federal dollars over the last two years under the "faith-based" initiative. The church also acts as an intermediary in funneling "sub-awards" of $5,000-$7,000 to social service groups. The church is asking for nearly $825,000 more for the fiscal year beginning on Oct. 1.

President Bush visited Holy Redeemer in 2002, as did some Democratic contenders.

"Win This Culture War"

A closed, invitation-only Bush campaign called "The Family, Faith and Freedom Rally" was held for Christian conservatives at the Republican national convention on Aug. 31.

Sen. Sam Brownback of Kansas told the crowd: "We must win this culture war."

Former Christian Coalition director Ralph Reed, now a Bush senior campaign adviser and liaison to Christians, also spoke.

The New York Times, which wrote up the event on Sept. 1, was criticized by the campaign's communications director for covering an event that "was closed to the press," even though the Times reporter was invited to accompany participants.

Brownback denounced same-sex marriage, condemned 40 years of decisions on the separation of church and state, and abortion.

Catholics Funded to Preach Abstinence

President Bush has granted $2.4 million to a program by the Catholic Diocese of Orlando--which has had trouble with its own unabstemious priests--to preach abstinence to area teens. "ThinkSmart" will receive funding over the next three years from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

The program sends lecturers to local schools who promote only abstinence before marriage, without offering information about contraception and condoms. Last year the program went into 16 elementary and middle schools, mostly public, where students received an hour to 90 minutes a day of "instruction" for five days. The grant boosts the program's annual budget nearly eightfold, so it will serve about 2,600 students a year. The grant money will be used to start after-school clubs, dubbed Students Today Aren't Ready for Sex ("STARS Club").

"I'm just so excited," Diane Brown, the project director, told the Orlando Sentinel when the grant was announced in mid-September, by a personal visit from Wade Horn, the arch-religious assistant secretary for children and families.

The Bush administration announced it plans to spend $260 million in tax dollars in 2005 for "sex education" classes solely focusing on abstinence. The Sentinel pointed out federal funds are pouring into such programs, "despite recent studies showing that abstinence programs don't work without being coupled with information about contraception and the use of condoms."

Missions to Be Funded?

A Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources in mid-September approved a bill earmarking $10 million in federal funds for mission churches in California. The California Missions Preservation Act (HR 1446) provides for federal funds to repair and maintain 21 Roman Catholic missions, their artwork and artifacts, even though 19 of the missions are still owned by the Catholic Church.

Bible Plaintiff Threatened

"We have your address. It should be an easy shot," was a message accompanying a map of her neighborhood sent to state/church separatist plaintiff Kay Staley of Houston.

Staley, an attorney who has won round one of her lawsuit against the display of a bible at the Harris County Courthouse, told John MacCormack of the (San Antonio) Express-News that "I look very carefully when I leave the house."

A King James Bible, encased in glass and lit by red and white lights, is in a 4-foot structure erected with county permission in 1956 to honor a mission worker. The bible had gradually been forgotten until 1995, when a former judge revived the display.

In August, U.S. District Judge Sim Lake ordered the county to remove the bible by midnight on August 24. When the county appealed, the order was stayed by the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans.

Staley's attorney, Randall Kallinen, told the Express-News: "The bible is a flashpoint for a group of fundamentalist Christians who wish to take over the country. They want to get rid of the Constitution as we know it and create a Christian church-ruled society. Harris County is the most ethnically and religiously diverse place in Texas. We have Hindu and Buddhist temples. This bible is a symbol of religious intolerance. The message is: This is a Christian city."

Rev. Aubrey Vaughan told the Express-News: "Secular democracy is mob rule. Christians ought to run the government. The Christian faith would dominate the belief systems of the wicked."

"Faith-based" Bill Pushed Again

U.S. Senate Conference Chair Rick Santorum (R-PA) and House Majority Whip Roy Blunt (R-MO) in late September were trying to tack a bill promoting Bush's "faith-based initiatives" onto a corporate tax-cut bill. The faith-based bill is being blocked by Democrats, who warn that the most controversial provisions, which are not in the current bill, could be added back during GOP-led negotiations between the House and Senate.

Church Politicking Bill Revived

More than 130 U.S. Representatives pressed House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert (R-IL) to bring up a scheme to permit church leaders to endorse political candidates from the pulpit, during a conference on the tax code before the upcoming recess in October.

The lawmakers complained the House "lost an ideal opportunity" to change the IRS policy against electioneering by tax-exempt churches when it failed to include the change in the corporate tax reform bill passed on June 17.

Republican National Committee Chair Ed Gillespie has sought to change the 50-year-old tax policy, which can revoke tax-exemption of churches if they engage in partisan politicking. The measure to exempt (only) churches from the electioneering ban was sponsored by Rep. Walter Jones (R-NC), and was heavily lobbied for by the Christian Coalition, the Traditional Values Coalition, and Concerned Women for America.

Unconscionable "Conscience Clause"

The House of Representatives passed a provision in September to prohibit local, state or federal authorities from requiring any institution or healthcare professional to provide or pay for abortions, or make abortion-related referrals, even in cases of rape or medical emergency. The bill was scheduled to go to a House-Senate conference committee.

Antiabortion pharmacists and groups are engaged in a national campaign to permit healthcare workers and facilities to deny virtually any service they object to on moral or religious grounds, such as filling birth control prescriptions. Mississippi passed such a law this summer. South Dakota and Arkansas already give pharmacists and doctors the right to withhold services and referrals on religious grounds.

Christian Coalition Politicks On

The annual DC gathering of Pat Robertson's Christian Coalition in late September included a workshop held in the auditorium of the U.S. Senate, arranged by U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY), the majority whip. At the gathering, Rev. Jerry Falwell bragged that evangelical Christians control the Republican Party and Pres. Bush's fate was "by far the largest constituent."

"You cannot be a sincere, committed born-again believer who takes the bible seriously and vote for a prochoice, antifamily candidate, " he said of Sen. John Kerry, a Catholic who is prochoice.

According to coverage by Scott Shepard, Cox News Service, Rep. Walter Jones (R-NC), urged preachers to speak out against antiabortion office-holders and warned that liberals are trying to "eliminate the Judeo-Christian principles upon which this country was founded."

Abortion Ship Leaves Portugal

The Dutch Women on Waves ship, providing medical abortions and birth control services to women denied such care in religious countries, was barred from entering Portuguese territorial waters in September.

Women on Waves had appealed the government's decision to a court in Portugal, alleging the action violated human rights guaranteed by the European Union. The court rejected the motion on Sept. 13.

An antiabortion group filed a criminal complaint against a Women on Waves staff member after she appeared on Portuguese television, calling it a "public incitement to crime."

State AG: Cover Contraception

Wisconsin State Attorney General Peg Lautenschlager issued a legal opinion in August that all employers who provide prescription drug insurance must cover contraceptives, including the morning-after pill.

The Milwaukee Catholic Archdiocese announced no immediate plans to change its insurance coverage of 2,500 employees. Public employees had filed civil rights complaints against Marathon County, Wis., and Green Bay, Wis.

3rd Circuit Nixes Pledge Law

A federal appeals court on Aug. 19 threw out a new Pennsylvania law requiring schoolchildren to either recite the Pledge of Allegiance or sing the national anthem daily. It permitted schools to opt out of the requirement for religious but not secular reasons. If students opted out of the pledge for religious or personal reasons, the district was required to inform students' parents.

The law was enjoined the day before it was to take effect. In July 2002, U.S. District Judge Robert F. Kelly ruled the law unconstitutional.

The appeals court agreed.

". . . the rights embodied in the Constitution, particularly the First Amendment, protect the minority--those persons who march to their own drummers.

"It is they who need the protection afforded by the Constitution and it is the responsibility of federal judges to ensure that protection," wrote Judge Dolores K. Sloviter for the court.

"There's a great irony in violating people's freedom of speech in order to instill in them an appreciation of freedom of speech," said Jim Rietmulder, a plaintiff.

According to the Education Committee of the States, more than half the states require the pledge to be recited during the school day.

Good News on "Good News" Clubs

Montgomery County's Board of Education in Maryland voted in late summer to adopt a new policy: all nonprofit community groups, including religious, will be barred from distributing flyers in public schools. The Child Evangelism Fellowship's 4,000 "Good News Clubs" have targeted public schools to "evangelize boys and girls with the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. . ."

The Good News Club won a recent Supreme Court decision permitting them to rent classrooms from public schools for this purpose immediately after school is out.

The Montgomery County schools, which refused to distribute the flyers for the club, lost a legal challenge before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit on June 30. The appeals court held that the schools could not refuse to distribute the Good News Club recruitment flyers if they continued to hand out flyers for other nonprofit groups engaged in the arts, drama, sports, etc.

The school board will continue distributing flyers for its own school events, PTAs, government agencies and in-school daycare centers.

Darwin "Alive" In Serbia

After major protests by teachers and scientists over a ban on teaching Charles Darwin's theory of evolution in Serbia, Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica hastily arranged a reversal in September.

Biologist Nikola Tucic told BBC News when the ban passed: "We are slowly turning into a theocratic state and in the 21st century we are going back to the book of Revelations."

Serbia's education minister, Ljiljana Colic, who had inaugurated the ban, resigned in mid-September.

Doomsday School Gets Funding

The Sydney Morning Herald revealed in August that a doomsday cult led by a banned "prophet" has been granted $332,000 in government funding since 1996 to run a private school. The grants, which are now $3,527 per student, will go up an extra $1,107 per student by 2008.

William ("Little Pebble") Kamm preaches that his converts from the Order of St. Charbel will survive the apocalypse once he is appointed the last pope. He has asked female converts to bear his children, since he possesses "holy seed" to breed a new race. Child protection authorities announced they would review the school in Cambewarra.

French Headscarf Ban in Effect

The ban on wearing Islamic headscarves or other religious symbols, including crosses, in French public schools, went into effect peacefully on Sept. 2, with most Muslim schoolgirls arriving at school bareheaded, and others removing scarves upon request, according to the New York Times.

As of press-time, two French journalists kidnapped in Iraq, whose release had been tied to demands that the law be rescinded, were expected to be released before October. The kidnapping appeared to unite France-- even French Muslims joined the French government in demanding the journalists' release.

Headscarves have been banned in Turkey for many decades, in an attempt to assure educational equality for Muslim girls.

Bush Touts Catholic Healthcare to Feds

The Bush administration in late September announced plans to offer federal employees a "faith-based," Catholic health plan specifically excluding coverage for contraception, abortion, sterilization and artificial insemination.

The New York Times (Sept. 25) reported the coverage is being promoted "as a centerpiece of President Bush's health care policy."

In November, the federal government will begin enrolling federal workers in 31 Illinois counties in a health policy offered by the Sisters of the Third Order of St. Francis, which runs St. Francis Medical Center in Peoria, Illinois, and five Roman Catholic hospitals in Illinois and Michigan.

Since 1984, abortion has specifically been prohibited in federal coverage but a 1999 law requires health plans to offer contraceptive coverage. Insurance plans affiliated with Catholic groups are specifically exempted.

The Office of Personnel Management, which manages the Federal Employee Health Benefits Plan, the nation's largest purchaser of health insurance, touted the scheme for tailoring benefits to conform to Catholic tenets. Kay Coles James, the director of the Office of Personnel Management, is a former spokesperson for the National Right to Life [sic] Committee.

The nation's four million federal workers will have 249 choices for health care in 2005, according to the Times, including Catholic health systems in five states: Missouri, South Dakota, Texas, Wisconsin, and Illinois. While workers do not need to select the religion-based plan, only the religious plan will offer a health savings account plan.

Enrollees will receive a premium deposited into savings accounts from the government that is larger than those paid to federal workers choosing the traditional preferred provider plan.

U.S. Rep. Pete Stark, D-CA, on the health subcommittee of the House Ways and Means Committee, told the Times: "Medical care is a science. Getting medical care and religion mixed together is just as bad as getting church and state mixed together."

Ten Commandments Plaintiff Outed?

A federal judge in Lincoln, Neb., refused on Sept. 21 to prohibit the Omaha World-Herald from publishing the name of a plaintiff challenging a Ten Commandments monument on public property in Plattsmouth, Neb.

The man, permitted by the court to sue as a "John Doe," has won the lawsuit at two rounds, including before the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. However, the Christian legal group helping the city of Plattsmouth defend the religious entanglement was granted an en banc review before the appeals court, which has not been issued yet.

"I take seriously the threats that have been made. If I am identified, I will have no choice but to consider moving my family from Plattsmouth," John Doe told the World-Herald, which has previously editorialized against his case.

Larry King, executive editor of the World-Herald, was quoted in his newspaper minimizing the anonymous threats received by John Doe. King added: "This is not a case in which an individual, through no fault or action of his own, found himself in the middle of a dispute. This man is trying to force a city to make a controversial change it doesn't want to make."

As of press-time, the World-Herald had not revealed the plaintiff's name.

Catholic Politicking

Archbishop John Donoghue published a letter "On Conscientious Voting" on his archdiocese website and in the diocesan newspaper in mid-September telling parishioners that Catholics must follow church teachings and vote against pro-choice politicians.

The issue of abortion must outweigh every other consideration for Roman Catholic voters, Donoghue said. Catholics may debate issues such as capital punishment, "but there's no debate about abortion. It is intrinsically evil. It is way above other issues as far as evil is concerned."

The archbishop's letter follows the line adopted by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, head of the Vatican's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, who issued a similar memo this summer.

Donoghue previously announced he would deny communion to officials and political candidates who support abortion rights.

* * *

The Roman Catholic Church in California sponsored its first statewide meeting of California Catholic parishes promoting registration of Catholic voters in Sacramento on Aug. 28.

U.S. bishops called for Catholics to participate more in the political process.

There are 19,000 Catholic parishes in the United Stats, with Catholic representing about 25% of the population. The church administers the largest private health and educational systems in the country.

* * *

The Roman Catholic Church and evangelical Christian Howard Ahmanson Jr became the largest financial backers seeking to defeat a November ballot measure in California to fund stem cell research and cloning projects. Each contributed $50,000 in early September to different campaign groups fighting Proposition 71 on the Nov. 2 ballot. The referendum would permit the state to borrow $3 billion for research not funded by the feds.

October 2004 Excerpts