Freethought Today · October 2012

Published by the Freedom From Religion Foundation, Inc.

In the News

Pew: 1 in 5 ‘nonreligious’

The U.S. for the first time ever does not have an adult Protestant majority, according to a new study by the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life. The percentage of Protestants has fallen to 48%.

Contributing to the decline, The Associated Press reported Oct. 9, is the fact that about 20% of adult Americans say they have no religious affiliation. That’s up 5% from five years ago.

According to Pew, the category includes people who say they pray or consider themselves spiritual but not religious. “Still, Pew found overall that most of the unaffiliated aren’t actively seeking another religious home, indicating that their ties with organized religion are permanently broken, AP reported.

In 2007, 60% of people who said they seldom or never attended religious services still identified themselves as part of a particular religious tradition. In 2012, that statistic fell to 50%, according to the Pew report.

Pew predicts more growth in “nones,” saying that one-third of adults under age 30 have no religious affiliation, compared to 9% of those 65 and older.

Man kills rather than spoil his child

Benjamin Edetanlen, sentenced to 18 years in prison Oct. 11 in DeKalb County, Ga., for killing his 5-month-old son and beating his two other children in 2004, blamed the bible.

Assistant District Attorney Dalia Racine told the court that “The defendant stated that he disciplined the children according to the Book of Proverbs in the bible.”

Edetanlen told authorities that Proverbs 13 taught him “Spare the rod, spoil the child.”

Italian churches losing tax exemption

The Catholic Church in Italy will be forced to pay taxes starting in 2013 after the European Union pressured the government to pass a law stripping the church of its property tax exemption, La Repubblica daily newspaper reported Oct. 12.

Historically, all church property, even if used commercially, (for a bed and breakfast with a chapel in it, for example) has been tax-exempt.

The move will net estimated annual revenues of 500 million to 2 billion euros.

Einstein ‘God’ letter sells for $3 million

A handwritten letter in which Albert Einstein questioned the existence of God sold for $3,000,000,100 to an anonymous bidder on eBay. The minimum acceptable bid was $3 million for the online auction held Oct. 8-18. Only two bids were received.

Einstein wrote the so-called “God letter” in German on Princeton University stationery, a year before he died in 1955. It said, in part, “The word God is for me nothing more than the expression and product of human weaknesses, the Bible a collection of honorable, but still primitive legends which are nevertheless pretty childish. No interpretation, no matter how subtle, can (for me) change this.”

The letter and envelope last sold in 2008 for $404,000.


Ahlquist not buffaloed by family institute 

Rhode Island freethought activist Jessica Ahlquist, 17, spoke Sept. 18 at York High School in Elmhurst and at two other Illinois high schools despite pressure from the Illinois Family Institute to get schools to cancel her speeches during Constitution Week events.

FFRF sent an Action Alert to members Sept. 17 urging their support of Ahlquist’s efforts to bolster the First Amendment.

The Elmhurst Patch reported students were eager to ask her questions. “Why did it bother you so much? Couldn’t you just look away?” one student asked.

“Because it’s illegal,” Ahlquist said. “Because it’s my right and I feel strongly about my rights and I feel other people should too.”

Charles Ovando, social sciences division chairman, said the discussion was more about Ahlquist being threatened, which was a good message for students to hear.

“When you talk about exercising your constitutional rights, that sometimes comes at a cost. It’s not just a joy ride to speak up.”

Former Tiller clinic reopening in Kansas

The Wichita, Kan., clinic formerly operated by the murdered Dr. George Tiller has been bought by an abortion-rights group and will reopen as a family and women’s health center that will offer abortions and other services.

Julie Burkhart, executive director of Trust Women Foundation Inc., said the nonprofit bought the clinic in August. An attorney for Tiller’s widow, Jeanne, confirmed the sale Sept. 26 to The Associated Press.

The state has been without abortion services except for the Kansas City area since religious zealot Scott Roeder fatally shot Tiller in church, where he was ushering, in 2009. Tiller was wearing body armor because of death threats but was shot in the head.

Property tax records online listed the property’s appraised value at $734,100. Burkhart said she was unsure when the clinic would open. “Thousands of women right now have to travel three hours-plus for medical services. It’s a burden on women. It’s a burden on women’s families.”



Scouts forced to open ‘perversion files’

About 14,500 pages of Boy Scouts of America detailing sex-abuse allegations from the mid-1960s to the mid-1980s were made public Oct. 18 by an Oregon court, including internal reports of alleged child molestations by more than 1,200 U.S. scoutmasters and other adult volunteers. The records, formally called the Ineligible Volunteer Files but commonly known as “the perversion files,” were submitted as evidence in a 2010 lawsuit.

Kelly Clark, a Portland attorney who won the landmark 2010 suit, told The Associated Press that the documents show that even though the Scouts have been collecting the files nearly since the Boy Scouts’ founding in 1910, the organization failed to use them to protect boys from pedophiles.

The decades-long cover-up is being compared to the failure of churches, the Catholic Church in particular, to report sex abuse allegations to police. In fact, many Scouting troops were sponsored by and met in churches. Pastors were leaders in some instances.


Religious Right groups’ coffers overflow

The top 10 Religious Right groups have total revenues of $1.177 billion, according to a new study from Americans United for Separation of Church and State. [FFRF’s annual budget is less than $2 million.] 

The revenues, in parentheses, come from official IRS filings and other reliable sources.

 . Jerry Falwell Ministries/ Liberty University/Liberty Counsel ($522,784,095)

 . Pat Robertson Empire ($434,971,231)

 . Focus on the Family ($104,463,950)

 . Alliance Defending Freedom ($35,145,644)

 . U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (Lobbying expenditures: $26,662,111)

 . American Family Association ($17,955,438)

 . Family Research Council ($14,840,036)

 . Concerned Women for America (Tim and Beverly LaHaye: $10,352,628)

 . Faith & Freedom Coalition ($5,494,640)

10. Council for National Policy (founded by Tim LaHaye: $1,976,747)


Taliban targeting Pakistani girls

A British hospital in Birmingham is treating Malala Yousufzai, a 15-year-old Pakistani girl shot in the head on a school bus Oct. 9 by the Taliban in Mingora in retaliation for championing education for girls. She was alert after surgery and is expected to live but the extent of her recovery is uncertain. Another girl was slightly injured in the attack.

A Taliban spokesman, Ehsanullah Ehsan, said the girl’s activism needed to be stopped: “This was a new chapter of obscenity, and we have to finish this chapter.”

Malala received Pakistan’s first National Peace Award in 2009 for publicizing violence by hardline Islamists against education, The Guardian reported.

Another girl, 17-year-old Hina Khan, has received Taliban death threats and has had a red cross painted on her family’s home twice because of her views on female education.


Scandal topples D’Souza at Christian school

Dinesh D’Souza’s conservative Christian “family values” reputation took a big hit in past weeks amid rumors the married 51-year-old was having an affair with a woman in her late 20s. The shoe dropped Oct. 18, when he resigned as president of King’s College, a small Christian university in Manhattan, reported The New York Times.

The school announced the resignation two days after a Christian magazine reported he had checked into a South Carolina motel with a woman he introduced as his fiancée. The magazine reported he filed for divorce the same day its reporter contacted him. D’Souza and his wife Dixie, 44, live in southern California and have one daughter.

He’s also the director and co-producer of the conservative documentary currently in theaters, “2016: Obama’s America.”

His fiancée, Denise Odie Joseph II, 29, is also married and has written extensively about the importance of so-called family values.


Mothers ‘maimed and forgotten’ in Ireland

“The imperative to bear as many children as possible crippled hundreds of Irishwomen,” Marie O’Connor writes in a column titled “The maimed and forgotten mothers” in The Irish Times. Catholic hospitals encouraged doctors to treat difficult childbirths with a symphysiotomy, a procedure that severs the pelvic joint, instead of doing a caesarean section.

According to O’Connor, the church preferred the symphysiotomy because it could widen the pelvis, “enabling an unlimited number of vaginal deliveries.

“But when it went wrong, which was often, the women suffered chronic pain and incontinence, and many could barely walk. . . . Doctors in every other Western country shunned the operation, but in Ireland it was performed on some 1,500 women between 1944 and 2005. About 200 victims survive today, most of them disabled. Yet they can’t seek redress in the courts, because it only recently became public that these operations were unnecessary, long after the statute of limitations expired.”

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