Freethought Today · Vol. 26 No. 10 December 2009

Published by the Freedom From Religion Foundation, Inc.

In The News

Religious Ties to Mass Murder Probed

U.S. Army Maj. Nidal Hasan is charged with murdering 13 people and wounding 29 others Nov. 5 at Fort Hood, Texas. An Army psychiatrist, Hasan was shot while being apprehended and, according to his lawyer, may never walk again.

After reports surfaced that the FBI knew Hasan had been in contact with a radical Islamic imam in Yemen and that he may have attempted to convert U.S. soldiers to Islam, President Obama ordered a review of all intelligence related to Hasan.

ABC News reported that Hasan’s private business card listed the acronyms SoA/SWT under his name. SoA is used on jihadist Web sites for Soldier of Allah, and SWT is translated as Glory to God.

People who knew Hasan at Walter Reed Medical Center, in Washington, D.C.,  told reporters he “was belligent with classmates in his strong religious views.”

Faith-Healing Exemption Removed

A provision in the health care reform bill that required private medical insurers to reimburse for “religious or spiritual health care” was not included in the merged bill that Sens. Harry Reid, Max Baucus and Chris Dodd sent to the Senate floor. The provision had earlier been removed from the bill that passed the House.

Insurers would have had to pay Christian Scientist practitioners for prayer treatments. Rita Swan, director of Iowa-based Children’s Health Care Is a Legal Duty, said the amendment “could have pre-empted the child neglect laws in this country and made it impossible to require parents to obtain real medical care for their children.”

However, Swan said, the Christian Science church has stated its intentions to have floor amendments introduced in the Senate and also to try to add their religious health care mandate in the House-Senate conference.

C Street House Partially Taxed

The notorious property that housed several conservative Christian politicians, including Rep. Bart Stupak, D-Mich.; S.C. Gov. Mark Stanford and Sen. John Ensign, R-Nev., is no longer tax exempt.

The property “went 66% taxable Aug. 1,” a city official told The Washington Post. The full taxable (100%) bill for 2010 will be $10,234. The property, affiliated with a group variously called The Fellowship or The Family, had gotten a 100% religious exemption since 1989.

Hamilton OK’ed for Appeals Court

U.S. District Judge David Hamilton of Indiana was confirmed by the U.S. Senate on Nov. 19 on a vote of 59-39, with all Republicans except Sen. Richard Lugar of Indiana opposing Hamilton. The Seventh Circuit hears appeals arising from federal district courts in Illinois, Indiana and Wis­consin.

Hamilton was strongly opposed by the antiabortion movement because he prevented implementation for seven years of Indiana’s informed-consent provision for women seeking an abortion. He also once served on the board of the American Civil Liberties Union.
Hamilton ruled against Christian prayers in the Indiana Statehouse. Opponents held up confirmation for eight months.

Lawsuit Filed Over 77-Foot-High Cross

Plans by The Coming King Foundation (TCKF) to erect a cross that’s 77 feet tall are being fought by residents of Kerrville, Texas.
A trial is set for early 2010 on the suit to stop TCKF from putting the cross on a subdivision lot it owns. Its press release said the cross is part of a 23-acre “Sculpture Prayer Garden” that “by the providence of God, is located halfway between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans on Interstate 10, at the same latitude as Israel. It also looks like the Holy Land, with its rolling hills, vegetation, vistas and thousands of genuine, 2.25 ton limestone blocks. . . . The red/brown color of the Cor-tin steel represents the shed blood of Jesus.”

TCKF wants to resolve the dispute “in a Christlike manner,” said Max Greiner Jr., adding that he believes the hilltop lot was chosen by divine providence.

Faith-Healing Couple Face Manslaughter

The parents of a 2-year-old Philadelphia boy who died at home Jan. 24 of bacterial pneumonia face charges of involuntary manslaughter, conspiracy to commit involuntary manslaughter and endangering the welfare of a child.

Prosecutor Joanne Pescatore said that Herbert and Catherine Schaible sought no medical treatment for their son Kent during the 10 days he was seriously ill. Herbert, 41, and Catherine, 40, belong to First Century Gospel Church, which teaches medical healing comes only from prayer.

“We prayed to God for victory. . . . We were praying that he would be raised up,” Detective Stephen Buckley said, reading from Herbert Schaible’s statement to police two days after Kent died.

In her statement, the boy’s mother said Kent showed small signs of improvement at times but generally his symptoms got worse. “He was moody and demanding; you couldn’t please him,” Buckley said, quoting from Catherine Schaible’s statement.

Court Denies Appeal By Conn. Diocese

The U.S. Supreme Court refused Nov. 2 to hear an appeal from the Catholic Diocese of Bridgeport, Conn., that would have stopped the release to the public of more than 12,000 pages from 23 sexual abuse lawsuits against six priests. The documents include depositions, affidavits and motions that have been sealed since the diocese settle the cases in 2001.

On Monday the Court turned away a last-ditch appeal to stop the release of documents from sexual abuse lawsuits against priests in a Roman Catholic diocese in Connecticut.

The New York Times, Boston Globe, Washington Post and Hartford Courant have asked to see the documents, which the newspapers think could show how Cardinal Edward M. Egan of New York handled the allegations when he was the bishop of Bridgeport.

‘Full Monty’ for Catholics, Anglicans?

The headline in the Oct. 20 New York Times said “Vatican Bidding to Get Anglicans to Join Its Fold.”

Some observers think Pope Benedict savvily knows when to hold them and when to fold them. The new canonical entity will let Anglicans “enter full communion with the Catholic Church while preserving elements of the distinctive Anglican spiritual and liturgical patrimony,” said Cardinal William Levada of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. The move is seen as appealing to conservative Anglicans uncomfortable with the Church of England’s acceptance of female priests and openly gay bishops.

The Anglican Communion is the third-largest group of churches in the world, behind Catholics and Orthodox Christians. The American branch of the Communion is the Episcopal Church. Married Anglican priests can stay married after they convert to Catholicism.

In a statement from London, Rowan Williams, the archbishop of Canterbury and head of the Anglican Church, said that the new structure “brings to an end a period of uncertainty for such groups who have nurtured hopes of new ways of embracing unity with the Catholic Church.”

[Usage note: One U.S. equivalent for “full Monty” is “the whole ball of wax.”]

Nobel Winner Bashes Bible

Clerics in Portugal brushed off comments by Nobel Prize-winning author Jose Saramago, who denounced the bible as a “handbook of bad morals.” Speaking at the October launch of his new book, Cain, Saramago said that, “Without the bible, we would be different, and probably better people,” and added that Catholics won’t be offended because they don’t read the bible.

Saramago, 86, won the Nobel for literature in 1998. Cain is a critical, satirical look at Adam and Eve’s son. In The Gospel According to Jesus Christ, a 1992 book, Saramago had Jesus living with Mary Magdalene and trying to back out of his crucifixion.

Passengers Prayed To Get Off Bus

LeRoy Matthews, a driver for metro Atlanta’s transit system, was suspended for five days for insisting riders hold hands and pray before getting off the bus.

Passenger Christopher James said he and three others prayed with Matthews for close to five minutes before he let them off. Thembi Cresser, James’ cousin, said she was waiting at the bus stop and wondered why the people were standing by the door so long. “I was like, ‘Why were y’all praying on the bus? He said the man would not let them off the bus,’ “ Cresser told a reporter.

Bible Adds to Flight Turbulence

There’s the inerrant bible, and there’s the in-air-rant bible.

Authorities decided not to press charges Oct. 22 after arresting a man the previous week for disrupting a Delta Airlines flight by reciting bible verses, kicking and flailing and refusing to let another passenger use the bathroom.

Paul Marchuk III, 22, Canton, Ga., was charged with disorderly conduct and resisting arrest due to his behavior on a Seattle to Atlanta flight. “The suspect would not allow the person sitting next to him to leave her seat to use the restroom,” the arrest warrant said. “The suspect kept telling her that his blood would be on her and he was not going to let her leave no matter what happened. Several passengers restrain­ed the suspect and the suspect attemp­ted to bite one of the passengers in the leg.”

Marchuk’s stepmother in Alaska told ABC News that his family found him naked in a church a week earlier in Delta Junction, Alaska, where he was born.

Center Announces Best in Blasphemy

The Center for Inquiry has named five winners in its slogan contest as part of International Blasphemy Day on Sept. 30. The winners:
1. Faith is no reason (Ken Peters, California)
2. There’s no religion like no religion. (Daniel Boles, Thailand)
3. I wouldn’t even follow your god on Twitter. (Michael Hein, South Carolina)
4. The reason religious beliefs need protection from ridicule is that they are ridiculous. (Michael Nugent, Ireland)
5. I survived the God virus. (Perry Bulwer, British Columbia)

Good Samaritan Or Filthy Rich?

Rev. Franklin Graham decided he’ll work for free for a while after news reports showed him getting two sal­aries, two retirement packages and other payments totaling $1.2 million in 2008.

The total made him the highest-paid executive at a Christian ministry listed in a Chronicle of Philanthropy survey, and one of the highest paid nonprofit executives of any kind. The total included $669,000 from the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, where 55 employees were laid off in February, with the rest from Samaritan’s Purse, which the younger Graham, now 57, founded.

After the Charlotte (N.C.) Observer broke the story, Graham sent a memo to BGEA employees to announce he’d asked the board “to consider that I work for no compensation. I feel that God has called me to this ministry and that calling was never based on compensation.”

Graham’s wife, Jane, got $31,306 from Samaritan’s Purse in 2008, the Observer story said.

Anti-Choicers Hold Health Care Hostage

Abortion anti-choice amendments by socially conservative Democrats and Republicans to U.S. House and Senate health care reform bills have received strong backing from religious forces, particularly the Catholic Church.

The Stupak Amendment was included at the last minute in the bill that barely passed in the House. Rep. Bart Stupak, D-Mich., has lived for several years in the controversial house on C Street in Washington, D.C. It’s owned by a shadowy evangelical group called

The Fellowship or The Family.

Stupak’s amendment bars private and public insurance plans that receive federal subsidies from covering abortion services, even though such a restriction, the Hyde Amendment, has been in place since 1976. Sen. Ben Nelson, D-Neb., is the chief Democratic proponent of a similar provision in the Senate. At press time, he and co-sponsor Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, hadn’t yet introduced it.

The so-called Blue Dog Democrats, who are more conservative, hold the key to passage of any bill in the Senate.

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops is a formidable force in lobbying for more abortion restrictions. Cardinal Sean O’Malley of Boston appealed to President Barack Obama about it in church at Sen. Ted Kennedy’s funeral.

The bishops’ group distributed fliers to every parish in the nation asking people to pray for abortion restrictions and to call their congressmen and senators asking them to "fix these bills with pro-life amendments."

Eleanor Smeal of the Feminist Majority told The Associated Press that "it’s blatant interference between church and state. . . . The women’s movement and the pro-choice forces feel like they were had."

Rep. Lynn Woolsey, D-Calif., told The AP that the Internal Revenue Service should investigate the conference’s tax-exempt status, given its intense lobbying on the health measure.

Christian Peeps Way Before Easter

Joseph David Ramon Moreaux, 28, Lancaster, Calif., a clerk at the Family Christian Book Store in Simi Valley, was arrested on charges of peeping with a recording device.

A female patron told police she suspected there was a camera hidden in the store’s unisex bathroom. The recorder showed Moreaux hiding the device in the bathroom, police said.

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