Freethought Today · Vol. 26 No. 7 September 2009

Published by the Freedom From Religion Foundation, Inc.

In the News - Sept. 09

Focus on the Family of Colorado Springs, Colo., is apparently strapped for cash.

“Because you’re family, I believe you’ll want to know about the serious budget shortfall that threatens our ability to reach the people who need us most,” noted a letter sent out by James Daly, Focus on the Family president. The letter directs readers to a “SummerSlump” video on the Focus Web site.

The letter continues: “Income is down nearly $6 million from what we expected and planned for . . . Your prayers and financial support will be critical this summer.”

Last November the organization announced its fiscal 2009 budget was $138 million, compared to $160 million in fiscal 2008, according to a story in the Colorado Springs Gazette.

How Might Jesus Collect Bad Debts?

A Minnesota couple has dropped its lawsuit against a collection agency for using “WWJD” as a motto.

After Mark and Sara Neill of Becker got a collection notice from the Bullseye Collection Agency of Monticello, Minn., that bore the letters WWJD (commonly understood as “What Would Jesus Do?”), they sued Bullseye, claiming the use of WWJD amounted to “abusive, deceptive, and unfair collection practices.” The suit was filed in federal court last November.

After Bullseye learned that Mark Neill was president of a rival collection agency, Bullseye countersued, claiming the Neills abused the legal process. Both sides agreed in late July to dismiss the suit “with prejudice,” meaning it can’t be reopened. Bullseye was represented by a group called Liberty Counsel, which has under its Web site logo the phrase “Restoring the Culture One Case at a Time by Advancing Religious Freedom, the Sanctity of Human Life and the Traditional Family.”

From Bullseye’s site:

“As the president of Bullseye Collection Agency Inc. I get the opportunity to manage the collection activities and supervise the manner in which we collect. Frequently someone will come into my office and explain a situation on an account and ask me what to do. They will say to each other WWJD—What would John do? The answer is always the same. Solve the problem instead of creating a new one. . . Thank you for this opportunity, John.”

(John is company president John Twardy.)

Harry Mihet, a Liberty Counsel lawyer, told the right-wing World Net Daily that “Bullseye employs only a small staff of mothers and grandmothers, some working only part-time,” and that as a result of legal fees it had to cut pay.

Coach Blames Firing On Christian Ties

A Michigan man is suing Dearborn Public Schools and the principal of Dearborn Fordson High School, claiming he lost his job as wrestling coach because of his Christian beliefs.

In his suit, Gerald Marszalek, 64, said Principal Imad Fadlallah  “promotes Muslim religious activity and expression while prohibiting Christian religious activity and expression.” Fadlallah is described in the suit as a devout Muslim.

The suit alleges Fadlallah “publicly disseminated false and defamatory impressions” at a school board meeting about Marszalek, who coached at Fordson for 35 years.

Marszalek and Dearborn Public Schools declined to comment to The Associated Press, but John Artis, who was superintendent until last summer, said religion had no role in the dismissal. “There were a number of things tied into that . . . A tough decision had to be made,” Artis said.

The Thomas More Law Center of Ann Arbor is part of the plaintiff’s legal team.

Tasmanian “Devils” Will Get Bus Signs

The Atheist Foundation of Australia and Metro Tasmania have reach agreement “in conciliation” before the office of the Anti-Discrimination Commissioner that “Atheism—Celebrate Reason!” may be seen on Metro buses in Tasmania in 2010.

The negotiations and terms of the agreement were confidential.

“This is a great day for freedom of expression in Tasmania. It is a ‘sign’ of the times,” said David Nicholls, AFA president.
Rebel Episcopals’ Role Reduced?

The Anglican Communion has a second-class role in mind for Episco­palians who back gay bishops and same-sex unions.
Rowan Williams, who heads 77 million Anglicans as archbishop of Canterbury, said “very serious anxieties have already been expressed” about pro-gay resolutions approved by the Episcopal Church (2.1 million members) at its general convention in July in Anaheim, Calif.

Williams said the Episcopal Church and others may have to take a back seat in ecumenical and interfaith dialogue because most of the Anglican Communion’s 38 provinces disagree with acceptance of homosexuality.

However, Williams stressed to Episcopalians, “There is no threat of being cast into outer darkness.”

Baptist School Cancels Pitino’s Appearance

Samford University, Birmingham, Ala., has canceled an upcoming event featuring Rick Pitino, the University of Louisville basketball coach in the news for a scandal involving alleged adultery and abortion.

Pitino, 57, a married father of five, had been booked to speak at a leadership luncheon Sept. 10 at the Baptist College’s law school.

Pitino, a Roman Catholic, has admitted to police he had consensual sex six years ago with Karen Sypher and paid her $3,000. His lawyer claims that Pitino thought the money was for health insurance and not an abortion. Sypher has pleaded not guilty to extortion and making false statements to the FBI.

She claims Pitino raped her. Prosecutors said she demanded cars, a house and $10 million from Pitino to keep quiet.

Seriously, Dylan’s Doing Christmas

Bob Dylan is set to release an album of Christmas songs, including “Must Be Santa,” “Here Comes Santa Claus,” “I’ll Be Home For Christmas” and “O Little Town of Bethlehem,” according to Billboard magazine and several Web sites.

Recording reportedly started in May in Jackson Browne’s studio in Santa Monica, Calif. David Hidalgo of Los Lobos called it “a personal project of Dylan himself rather than an idea put forward by his record company.”

Scott Marshall, author of God and Bob Dylan: A Spiritual Life, told that at first blush the concept might sound bizarre, “but I don’t think Dylan cares much about what his detractors might make of it. He’s both never renounced being Jewish or renounced his experience with Jesus some three decades ago.” Dylan turned 68 on May 24.

Britain’s Uncut magazine had some satirical fun by suggesting titles like “A Hard Reindeer’s A-Gonna Fall,” “Sleigh Lady Sleigh” and “Girl From The North Pole Country.”

Sect Removes Teeth For Gold, Silver

The Islamist group al Shabaab forcibly removed gold and silver teeth from residents in southern Somalia because the group claims the teeth are merely for fashion, which religious law forbids.

Residents said people were taken to a man wearing a mask who ripped the teeth out using a pincer or his gloved hand.

“I never thought al Shabaab would see my denture as a sin,” a man named Bashir said.

Italy OKs RU-486 To Vatican’s Chagrin

In defiance of the Vatican, the Italian Pharmaceuticals Agency has authorized the abortion pill RU-486.

“There will be excommunication for the doctor, the woman and anyone who encourages its use,” said Msgr. Elio Sgreccia, president emeritus of the Pontifical Academy of Life.

The agency stipulated that the pill must be dispensed in a hospital.

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