Freethought Today · March 2014

Published by the Freedom From Religion Foundation, Inc.

In the News

Faith-healing parents get prison terms

Herbert  Schaible, 45, and Catherine Schaible, 44, a faith-healing husband and wife from Philadelphia, were sentenced Feb. 19 to 3½ to seven years in prison for the 2013 death of their son, the second child they have lost to pneumonia. Brandon Schaible, 8 months, died of of treatable pneumonia but was never taken to a doctor.

Instead, the couple, who pleaded no contest to 3rd-degree murder, and other members of First Century Gospel Church, prayed for God to heal him.

In doing so, they defied a court order to get medical care for their children after their son Kent, 2, died of bacterial pneumonia in 2009. They were convicted of involuntary manslaughter and sentenced to 10 years’ probation.

“April of 2013 wasn’t Brandon’s time to die,” said Judge Benjamin Lerner said. “You’ve killed two of your children. . . . Not God. Not your church. Not religious devotion. You.”

Their pastor, Nelson Clark, blamed Kent’s death on a “spiritual lack” in the parents’ lives, reported The Associated Press. The eldest of their seven surviving children is 18.


Ulster council reverses bible play ban

The Newtownabbey Borough Council in Northern Ireland reversed a controversial decision made Jan. 22 to ban the comedy play “The Bible: The Complete Word Of God (Abridged)” by the Reduced Shakespeare Company as blasphemous. The board backed off on the ban five days later.

Mayor Fraser Agnew supported the ban “because they are poking fun at the bible, they are poking fun at Christ.”

The ban was the “worse type of censorship,” said Councillor Gerry O’Reilly. “This is clearly an example of certain councillors forcing their religious views onto everyone else in the constituency. What the councillors are basically saying is that they can dictate what type of dramas people can view.”

Given the worldwide publicity the ban garnered, several dates on the U.K. tour are sold out, the Belfast Telegraph reported Jan. 29.


‘Messiah’ judge loses Tennessee job

Child Support Magistrate Lu Ann Ballew of Newport, Tenn., has been fired in the wake of her court order last August to change a toddler’s name over the parents’ objection. Ballew threw out the child’s birth name of Messiah and ordered his first name to be Martin, which is his mother’s surname. Another judge overruled Ballew’s order as unconstitutional.

“The word ‘messiah’ is a title, and it’s a title that has only been earned by one person, and that one person is Jesus Christ,” Ballew told a TV reporter in August.

O. Duane Slone, Fourth Judicial Circuit presiding judge, terminated Ballew’s appointment Jan. 31 without giving a reason, Reuters reported. Ballew was cited earlier by the state Board of Judicial Conduct for inappropriate religious bias. A hearing is set March 3 on that.

FFRF filed a formal complaint with the board Aug. 14.


Orlando church goal: Overcharge city? 

A Florida judge ruled Jan. 31 that the Orlando City Council can use eminent domain to acquire the property of Faith Deliverance Temple if negotiations with the church fail. The church is the last parcel needed to build an $84 million Major League Soccer stadium, the Orlando Sentinel reported.

City officials tried to negotiate the purchase without going to court and offered $1.5 million, more than twice the appraised value. When the family that owns the church countered by asking for $35 million, the council voted to file eminent domain.


U.N. clergy abuse report stings Vatican

In a Feb. 5 report, the U.N. Committee on the Rights of the Child accused the Vatican of “systematically” adopting policies and a “code of silence” that let clergy molest tens of thousands of children over decades.

The Associated Press reported that the panel also severely criticized the Holy See for its attitudes on homosexuality, contraception and abortion. It recommended changes in canon law to ensure children’s rights and access to health care. The Vatican promptly objected.

Austen Ivereigh, coordinator of Catholic Voices, said the report was a “shocking display of ignorance and high-handedness.”


‘Science guy’ meets
‘pie in the sky’

About 900 audience members watched Bill the “Science Guy” Nye debate Creation Musem founder Ken Ham on Feb. 4 at the museum in Petersburg, Ky

Misty Brewer of Tulsa, Okla., told USA Today she has “traveled my journey to atheism” and drove 12 hours to bring her son to the event. “I think the believers will stay believers,” Brewer said. “No one’s going to walk out of here saying, ‘I changed my mind.’ ”

“The bible says God created man. It doesn’t say evolved,” said Diana Yokum, Akron, Ohio. “I really believe those who believe in evolution will have their eyes opened tonight.”

“Your assertion that there is some difference between the natural laws that I observe today and the natural laws of 4,000 years ago is extraordinary and unsettling,” Nye told Ham, noting kangaroos don’t live in the Middle East, where Noah’s Ark supposedly ran aground.

Ham focused on “observational science” [how do you know if you weren’t there?]. “The battle is really about authority. It’s about who is the authority, man or God,” said Ham, who wants to build a $60 million Noah’s Ark theme park in Grant County, Ky.


Religious freedom bill falters in Virginia 

A Virgina House subcommittee in Richmond tabled a student religious freedom bill Feb. 5 that had passed the Senate 20-18, the Lynchburg News & Advance reported. No subcommittee member favored advancing the bill to the full House.

The bill “[c]odifies the right of students to (i) voluntarily pray or engage in religious activities or religious expression before, during, and after the school day in the same manner and to the same extent that students may engage in nonreligious activities or expression; (ii) organize prayer groups, religious clubs, ‘see you at the pole’ gatherings, or other religious gatherings before, during, and after school to the same extent that students are permitted to organize other activities and groups; and (iii) wear clothing, accessories, or jewelry that display religious messages or religious symbols in the same manner and to the same extent that other types of clothing, accessories, and jewelry are permitted.”

The bill would have required every school division to let students express religious views at any school event in which students are allowed to publicly speak, said the Roanoke Times.

Sen. John Edwards, D-Roanoke, said the bill would create “a patchwork quilt” of local policies. “If this bill is passed, it almost guarantees litigation. Do we really need to spend time and money and effort litigating different school districts’ policies that are established under this bill?”


Missouri bill allows evolution opt out 

Missouri Rep. Rick Brattin, R-Harrisonville, has introduced a General Assembly bill to make schools notify parents about the “basic content” of any instruction students are getting about evolution. It would also let students opt out, with parental consent, of “any part” of that instruction.

Brattin told KCTV that public schools teach Darwinian theory as fact and that students who question it are ridiculed.

“I definitely think parents should be notified if evolution is taught because I believe in creation,” said Tina Decavale of Drexel.

Brandon Eastwood, of Harrisonville, went further. “Evolution is not taught in the bible so it shouldn’t be taught in the class. Even if I had to spend some time in jail, I wouldn’t subject my kids to that nonsense.”

The Daily Beast online publication said Oklahoma, South Dakota and Virginia have similar bills circulating, from “teaching the controversy” to including so-called “intelligent design’ theory in biology courses.

On “The Daily Show,” host Jon Stewart referred to the Missouri bill and called state legislatures “the meth labs of democracy” for even considering such legislation.


Gay discrimination
bill dies in Senate

The Kansas House approved a bill 72-49 on Feb. 5 that would let individuals, groups and businesses discriminate against same-sex marriage or civil union couples by refusing to provide services. Anti-discrimination lawsuits also would be barred.

The bill, introduced by Rep. Charles Macheers, R-Shawnee, responds to the possibility that a federal court ruling could invalidate the state constitution’s ban on same-sex marriages, the Wichita Eagle reported. Government agencies would still be required to provide services, but individual clerks could refuse to participate based on their religious beliefs.

Then on Feb. 18, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Jeff King, R-Independence, said the bill won’t advance in the Senate. “We’re not working House Bill 2453,” King told The Associated Press. He said he will still have hearings on whether Kansas needs to enact other “religious liberty” protections.


[Fr. Benjamin Kneib] had called me the day of the rosary and said he wouldn’t be able to give us communion because of our same-sex relationship.

Carol Parker, Chillicothe, Mo., on a Catholic priest’s phone call the day before her mother’s funeral

The Raw Story, 2-7-14


Ariz. gov vetoes bill singling out gays

In a room packed with media Feb. 26, Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer vetoed Senate Bill 1062 in the wake of national outcries, including some from Republicans and business interests, over a bill that would allow discrimination against gays for religious reasons.

The Legislature gave final approval Feb. 20 to a bill that lets businesses and individuals refuse to provide goods and services to gays. Similar “religious protection” legislation has been introduced in Ohio, Mississippi, Idaho, South Dakota, Tennessee and Oklahoma, but Arizona’s plan is the only one that has passed, The Associated Press reported. Similar efforts are stalled in Idaho, Ohio and Kansas.

The law “could divide Arizona in ways we cannot even imagine and no one would ever want,” Brewer told a room packed with media.

Tony Perkins, head of the Family Research Council, a Religious Right group, said that “by vetoing this bill, Governor Brewer is saying she supports government discrimination against people’s religious freedoms.”

Brewer denied such claims. “As governor, I have protected religious freedoms when there is a specific and present concern that exists in our state. Senate Bill 1062 does not address a specific and present concern related to religious liberty in Arizona. I have not heard of one example in Arizona where a business owner’s religious liberty has been violated.”

Before the 33-27 vote in the House, Democrats called the bill “state-sanctioned discrimination.” Democratic House Minority Leader Chad Campbell said the law would be “horrible for our economy.” Opponents predicted the law would also bring boycotts of the 2015 Super Bowl in Glendale.

Republican Rep. Steve Montenegro defended the bill, commenting, “Please, I will accept you because you are a child of God, I love you because you are a child of God. But please don’t ask me to go against my religious beliefs.”

According to the Arizona Republic, enough lawmakers oppose the bill now that it’s certain there will be no veto override.


Rattler bite fatal for Pentecostal pastor

The ninth time was not the charm for Jamie Coots, pastor of Full Gospel Tabernacle in Jesus’ Name in Middlesboro, Ky., who died at home Feb. 15 from a rattlesnake bite that night at church.

Coots refused to be taken to the hospital or get treatment at home. His son Cody said he’d been bitten eight times before. “We’re going to go home, he’s going to lay on the couch, he’s going to hurt, he’s going to pray for a while and he’s going to get better. That’s what happened every other time, except this time was just so quick and it was crazy, it was really crazy,” Cody Coots told WBIR-TV.

Coots was profiled on the National Geographic show “Snake Salvation.”

Cody Winn, Full Gospel co-pastor, and Andrew Hamblin, another “Snake Salvation” participant, saw the rattler bite Coots on the hand. “Andrew said he looked at him and said ‘sweet Jesus’ and it was over,” Winn said. “He didn’t die right then, but he just went out and never woke back up.” Church members took him home.

Uganda anti-gay bill signed into law

On Feb. 25, a day after Uganda passed even harsher anti-gay laws, the Red Pepper tabloid newspaper printed a list of 200 people it called the country’s “top homos,” according to CNN.

President Yoweri Museveni signed the bill, telling CNN, “They’re disgusting. What sort of people are they?” 

Homosexuality is illegal in 38 African nations, CNN reported.

NPR reported statements that the bill was composed with the help of American evangelicals with close ties to its Ugandan sponsors. “There are these factions of the evangelical community in the U.S. that believe they’ve more or less lost the fight against ‘the homosexual agenda,’ ” said Malika Zouhali Worrall, co-director of the documentary “Call Me Kuchu.” (Kuchu is a word for “queer” in Uganda.) “Therefore, they’re trying to preempt it in other countries.”


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