Archive for the ‘Religion’ Category

medical symbol220px-AK-47_type_II_Part_DM-ST-89-01131Two American doctors — a father and a son — were killed by an Afghan security guard at a Kabul hospital this week as well as a third doctor. The guard also wounded two others, including an American nurse. The Taliban and extreme Muslim clerics have called for attacks on foreigners, including those who are in the country to feed and heal Afghan citizens. What is most striking about this story is that, after gunning down innocent doctors and nurses, the life of the guard was then saved in surgery at the very same hospital by doctors that he did not shoot.

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Submitted by Darren Smith, Weekend Contributor

LunchBox Laboratory AdRestaurant chain Lunchbox Laboratory caused a bit of a stir when it presented its annual 4/20 sale offering a thirteen dollar Burger of the Gods in a “Buy one get one free” special. 4/20 is celebrated in the cannabis subculture as a national holiday of sorts and the numbers refer to California Senate Bill 420 which authorized medical marijuana in that state. Events during this day are celebrated in many areas of the United States.

For the year 2014, April 20th coincides with Easter. In a melding of the two holidays Lunchbox Laboratory sought a new way to generate business.

The restaurant e-Mailed the advertisement to 13,000 subscribers with the add featuring a burger toting, joint toking Jesus who laments: “When I Get Back, All I Want is the Burger of the Gods.”
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220px-Confederate_Rebel_Flag.svgTwo high school students at St. Anthony’s High School in Long Island have been suspended indefinitely after they walked into an after-hours sporting event wearing a Confederate flag draped over their shoulders. We recently discussed another suspension of a student involving a Confederate flag. I have the same free speech concerns in this case. The question is whether other flags would also be confiscated and the student suspended in my view. While I can certainly understand how this flag represents racism for many, others view the flag as a symbol of Southern heritage and heroism. I often see them in Virginia and recoil a bit due to the association with slavery. However, my concern is where the school is drawing the line on speech.

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Happy Passover!

Happy Passover to all of our Jewish bloggers and readers! We had our Seder on the third night with friends and it was an amazing meal. There has been a long suspicion that I married a Jewish girl because of a notorious addiction to Matzo ball soup. Leslie just happens to be a world class cook. She spent days preparing for this meal and is and her home-made broth and Matzo balls were the best that I ever had. (I was allowed to baste the brisket through the day, but that is the closest that she would let me get to the preparation of the meal).
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1369987959_USAIDOur government has long seemed to be descending into a type of Orwellian universe of double speak. The Libyan War was not a war but a “time-limited, scope-limited military action” under Obama. Torture of detainees was not torture but “enhanced interrogation” under Bush. Now it appears open bribery of foreign officials is not bribery but “incentives” to implement policies favorable to their own people. Congressional members are moving to address what is being called a “slush fund” with the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) where millions are paid to political figures in foreign countries. We have previously discussed such payments by the CIA to the openly corrupt Afghanistan government, including suitcases of cash to President Helmit Karzai. What is most interesting is that an act that is a federal crime for citizens doing business abroad can be not only legal but an official program by government officials. It appears that in the handshake shown on the USAID seal, there is often a sawbuck or two in the palm.

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Islam for Journalistspintakl Lawrence Pintak, dean of the Washington State University’s Edward R. Murrow College of Communication, has written a controversial guide for journalists on how to cover stories without insulting Muslims. “Islam for Journalists” is an effort to educate reporters on the sensitivities of Muslims to avoid triggering protests or violence. Pintak writes that “Across the Muslim world extremists are wielding their swords with grisly effect, but the pen . . . can be just as lethal.” That line captures the controversy because it seems to suggest that reporters are a cause of violence when they fail to adhere to the demand of religious values or orthodoxy in their publications.

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220px-Rembrandt_-_Moses_with_the_Ten_Commandments_-_Google_Art_Projectrep6Usually the selection of a state bird or state song is not particularly divisive or even notable. The same goes for a state book (though it seems a bit odd to select a single book for a state unless it is written by a native son or daughter). Louisiana however could find itself in court as it moves to make the Bible the state book. Rep. Thomas Carmody, R-Shreveport, proposed the official adoption but insisted that it should not be viewed as any type of state endorsement. It is simply the selection of one faith’s religious book as the official book for the entire state. Who could possibly view that as a state endorsement?

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Submitted by Elaine Magliaro, Weekend Contributor

Kevin Swanson, a pastor and host of Religious Right, voiced his criticisms of Disney’s blockbuster movie Frozen on his radio program last month. Swanson claimed that the animated movie pushes an agenda “to indoctrinate homosexuality and bestiality in children.” He told his co-host Steve Vaughn that Satan was using the movie “to indoctrinate my 5-year-old to be a lesbian.” Both men posited some theories about the film’s “progressive” agenda even though neither had actually seen the film.

Disney’s Frozen Official Trailer

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By Mark Esposito, Weekend Contributor

 

Well, will miracles never cease? In a church known for compelling confession from its followers, a remarkable one from its chief advocate came across the wires on Friday. That’s right, after decades of lying, obfuscating, blocking, destroying evidence and covering up in the most un-Christian way, Pope Francis has done what many Catholics hoped his predecessors would have done years ago — apologize AND beg forgiveness. Oh, lots of Popes apologize but it’s always with a condition … a term … a little euphemism about one bad apple not spoiling the great work of the barrel, or that the church’s pedophile problem isn’t really any worse than anybody else’s. (Really, every church has a decades old issue of unmarried priests molesting little boys and girls on an institutional level?) Or that it’s just American culture fueling the problem. (Damn justice seekers reading those beatitudes so literally!)

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200px-NolimetangerecorregioIf you recall, there was a bit of a dust up 18 months ago when Harvard Professor Karen L. King released the “Gospel of Jesus’s Wife” that detailed the contents of the text of an ancient Egyptian papyrus referring to Jesus being married. A Vatican newspaper and other experts denounced it as a forgery but a new article in the respected Harvard Theological Review says that there is no evidence of a forgery after the application of various tests. King believes it was part of a debate over the role of women among early Christians.

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article-2599165-1CEA7EA000000578-754_306x423220px-Vance_McAllister,_Official_Portrait,_113th_CongressThis week, U.S. Rep. Vance McAllister was faced with the scandalous release of a security video to his kissing his married aide, Melissa Anne Hixon Peacock, at his office in Louisiana. That would normally be the stuff of scandal, but it is even worse when you are married and ran as a religious conservative. McAllister went public with an apology to everyone (except personally to Peacock’s husband who is now divorcing his wife). He asked forgiveness but is now demanding an investigation to potentially jail whoever revealed his conduct: a curious path for a self-proclaimed redemptive sinner.

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150px-Bare_Faced_Messiah_UK_paperback_coverThere is an interesting story about this month that shows the success of the Church of Scientology in pursuing its signature litigation abuse by hitting critics with lawsuits and injunction motions. One of the chief targets of Scientology lawyers has been “Bare-Faced Messiah: The True Story of L. Ron Hubbard,” a British book that has been hounded by the Church in an alleged attempt to keep it out of the United States. If that was the motivation, it worked for 27 years. However, that book has now been published in print this month in the United States and joins “Going Clear” by Lawrence Wright as a “new” account of the life and controversies surrounding Hubbard’s life and creation of his own religion.

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250px-46_Dick_Cheney_3x4A secret recording has surfaced of Vice President Dick Cheney speaking to the Republican Jewish Coalition where he held forth on various subjects — assuming that the session was closed to the public and press. Cheney appears to be intent on, again, revising history to get people to embrace a security state. You may recall how Cheney (who is often cited as a potential defendant in a torture prosecution) publicly assuring the nation that the Bush torture program produced valuable intelligence. That assertion has been previously dismissed by experts and insiders. However, as we discussed recently, the forthcoming Senate Report goes into great deal to show that not only is that assertion untrue but that the CIA actively sought to hide the fact that the torture program produced insignificant intelligence (and that detainees were tortured despite their cooperation in conventional interrogations). Cheney is now fighting to defend the massive surveillance of citizens — again dismissing even the concessions of intelligence officials about abuses and violations under the program. Cheney told a rapturous crowd that all such accounts were “hogwash.” He further pumped the crowd with support for an attack on Iran to add yet another war to our current international conflicts.

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200px-Jonathan_Pollard660px-flag_of_israelsvgThe Obama Administration is reportedly close to an extraordinary deal to get Israel back to the negotiations table: it is going to release Israeli spy, Jonathan Pollard. One could question why Israel needs any inducement to negotiate with the Palestinians for its own peace and more importantly why the U.S. is willing to free spies to get two other governments to negotiate. Notably, for years, Israel denied that Pollard was their spy — considered by many as compounding the dishonesty of spying on your closest ally. It was not until 1999 – over ten years later — that Israel admitted to the U.S. that he was their spy and that, while the U.S. was giving (and continued to give) billions in aid to Israel, it was maintaining spies in our government. Pollard’s release is rumored to be part of a release of prisoners from Israeli prisons to jump start a new round of negotiations.

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200px-Coat_of_arms_of_Saudi_Arabia.svgWhile the Obama Administration struggles to restore good relations with Saudi Arabia, the Kingdom continues to lead the effort among Arab nations to deny most rights of free exercise, free expression, and free association. Saudi Arabia has fought for the creation of an international blasphemy standard (with the support of the Obama Administration) and has continued to deny basic rights of worship to religious minorities. Now, the the Kingdom has introduced new criminal provisions that makes atheism not only blasphemy but terrorism.

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By Mike Appleton, Weekend Contributor

“First, we hold as a matter of statutory interpretation that Congress did not exclude for-profit corporations from RFRA’s protection. Such corporations can be ‘persons’ exercising religion for purposes of the statute. Second, as a matter of constitutional law, Free Exercise rights may extend to some for-profit organizations.”

 -Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc. v. Sebelius, 723 F.3d 1114, 1129 (10th Cir. 2013)

“Our conclusion that a for-profit, secular corporation cannot assert a claim under the Free Exercise Clause necessitates the conclusion that a for-profit, secular corporation cannot engage in the exercise of religion. Since Conestoga cannot exercise religion, it cannot assert a RFRA claim. We thus need not decide whether such a corporation is a ‘person’ under RFRA.”

-Conestoga Wood Specialties Corporation v. Sebelius, 724 F.3d 377, 388 (3d Cir. 2013)

David and Barbara Green and their family own and operate Hobby Lobby stores, an arts and crafts chain employing some 13,000 people at over 500 locations. As committed Southern Baptists, Mr. and Mrs. Green believe that the contraception mandate under the Affordable Care Act requires their company to provide its employees health insurance coverage for abortafacients, a violation of the Greens’ religious beliefs. Conestoga Wood Specialties manufactures wood cabinets and has 950 employees. It is wholly owned by the Hahn family, all of whom are members of the Mennonite religion. They share the Greens’ opposition to the ACA mandate for the same reasons.

The Greens and the Hahns now await a decision by the Supreme Court on their claims that corporations for profit, at least those that are closely held, should be regarded as persons entitled to the protections of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. The Tenth Circuit supports their argument; the Third Circuit does not. The Supreme Court has never addressed the question. In my view, however, it is the wrong question.

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Respectfully submitted by Lawrence E. Rafferty (rafflaw)-Weekend Contributor

Unless you have been in a coma the last few weeks, you have probably heard of or read about the Hobby Lobby case recently argued in front of the United States Supreme Court.  Hobby Lobby is challenging a section of the Affordable Care Act that requires companies to provide medical insurance for their employees or pay a fine.  The mandate also requires the insurance to include coverage for contraception services.  Services that its owners claim violates their religious beliefs.

“…. the battle for its Christian identity was revived this week when lawyers for the company argued before the Supreme Court that the company should not have to comply with the Affordable Care Act’s contraception mandate. The issue, says Hobby Lobby co-founder Barbara Green, isn’t that the company wants to meddle with women’s rights to take contraceptive drugs. “We’re not trying to control that,” she said. “We’re just trying to control our participation in it.” ‘ Reader Supported News

Mrs. Green claims they are not trying to control their female employees use of contraceptives, but the network of causes that they are involved with seem to indicate that the Greens want to mix their religious views into everyone else’s business. (more…)

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Submitted by Elaine Magliaro, Weekend Contributor

On the YouTube page that includes the following video, political cartoonist Mark Fiore said that it has been “amusing (and maddening) to watch various religious right characters scurry for cover.” He said that when no one was watching what they were doing, “the holier-than-thou set have been visiting Uganda preaching their extreme anti-gay views.” He added that since many people have become aware of and are “appalled” by Uganda’s new anti-gay law—which could mean life imprisonment for homosexuals—“the ‘evangelical’ right-wing preachers are laying low or rewriting history.”

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Submitted by Elaine Magliaro, Weekend Contributor

Scott Lively, the head of Abiding Truth Ministries, is a resident of Springfield, Massachusetts. Lively is a controversial evangelical pastor known for having a homophobic agenda. He “specializes in stirring up anti-gay feeling around the globe.” When he was a young man, Lively said he had a “live and let live” attitude toward gays. Once a liberal, he admits that he was an alcoholic and a drug addict until he “got saved” in 1986. He says that since then his “focus has been to restore a biblical focus with regards to marriage and sexuality.”

Jack Rodolico (Latitude News) says that after coming to Christ, Lively began to view social issues “from God’s perspective”—and his “faith began to fuel the fire of his activism.” According to a report in the National Journal, “Lively became a lawyer, author, and advocate in pursuit of the cause.” In 1992, Lively got involved in Oregon’s Ballot Measure 9. That measure “would have amended the Oregon Constitution to summarily recognize ‘homosexuality, pedophilia, sadism and masochism as abnormal, wrong, unnatural and perverse.’” Rodico reported that Oregon voters denied Lively and his anti-gay colleagues a victory—but only after “an ugly political battle ensued.” Rodico said that the defeat left a lasting impression on Lively.

BALLOT MEASURE 9

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609px-Coat_of_arms_of_Kenya.svgKenya’s parliament has passed a law intended to codify the existing customary law allowing for multiple spouses. However, the legislators went further and removed a provision that would give the existing spouse or spouses the right to veto a marriage. After female legislators stormed out of the session in protest, MP Junet Mohammed explained “When you marry an African woman, she must know the second one is on the way, and a third wife… this is Africa.”

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NeildeGrasseTyson - CopySubmitted by Elaine Magliaro, Weekend Contributor

Last week, I wrote a post titled “Cosmos” Host Neil deGrasse Tyson Speaks Out about the News Media, Flat Earthers, Science Deniers, Climate Change Skeptics, Religion, and Dogma. Tysonan astrophysicist, director of the Natural History Museum’s Hayden Planetarium in New York City, and the host of Fox Networks’ new science series Cosmos: A Spacetime Odysseyappeared on a multi-part series on Moyers and Company in January. Tyson and Bill Moyers explored a variety of topicsincluding the nature of an expanding, accelerating universe (and how it might end), the difference between “dark energy” and “dark matter,” the concept of God in cosmology and why science matters.

In the final episode of the series—which I’ve posted below the fold—the two men discuss science literacy and why it’s so critical to the future of our democracy, our economy, and our country’s standing in the world. Their discussion lasts about twenty minutes.

 

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220px-DancingFlamesWe have yet another atrocity by religious protesters responding to a rumor that a Hindu had desecrated the Koran. These Muslim protesters than had no qualms over burning down a sacred Hindu temple in protesting a possible act of blasphemy. Last December, we saw a similar riot following a rumor involving a Koran.

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Submitted by Charlton “Chuck” Stanley, Weekend Contributor

180px-westboro_baptist_church_in_new_york_by_david_shankboneFred Phelps son, Nathan Phelps, has reported on his Facebook page that his father, Fred Phelps, Sr. is near death in a Topeka KS hospital.  Nathan himself has been estranged from his father and family for some time, and was “excommunicated” from the Westboro Baptist Church.  What few people knew, apparently, was that Fred Phelps himself was excommunicated from the “church” he founded in August of last year.

The immediate family, in their usual mean-spirited style, will not let Nathan and other former members of their “church” have a last visit with the old man. Of course, all or almost all, current church members are immediate family themselves, so they are keeping his son and other descendants from seeing him before he passes.

Nathan reported the news last night on his Facebook page.

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Carl_Sagan_Planetary_Society - CopySubmitted by Elaine Magliaro, Weekend Contributor

I thought this Carl Sagan interview would be a good follow-up to “Cosmos” Host Neil deGrasse Tyson Speaks Out about the News Media, Flat Earthers, Science Deniers, Climate Change Skeptics, Religion, and Dogma–which I posted earlier today.

Charlie Rose talked with Carl Sagan on the Charlie Rose Show back in May of 1996. At that time, Sagan warned about the dangers of people being ignorant about science while living in a society that is based on science and technology. Sagan talked about the “combustible mix” of ignorance and power in our society that would—at some point—blow up in our faces. He questioned who’d run science and technology in a democracy if the people didn’t know anything about it. Sagan also noted that science is more than a body of knowledge. He said it was a way of thinking.

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NeildeGrasseTyson - CopySubmitted by Elaine Magliaro, Weekend Contributor

Neil deGrasse Tyson is an astrophysicist and director of the Natural History Museum’s Hayden Planetarium in New York City. He is also the host of Fox Networks’ new science series Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey. Last Sunday, Tyson appeared on CNN’s Reliable Sources program and spoke with Brian Stelter. During the program, Tyson talked about “the hypocrisy of people dismissing scientific theory while simultaneously embracing the fruits of scientific discovery ‘that we so take for granted today.’”

Tyson said that our civilization “is built on the innovation of scientists and technologists and engineers who have shaped everything that we so take for granted today. So some of the science deniers or science haters, these are people who are telling that to you while they are on their mobile phone. They are saying, ‘I don’t like science. Oh, GPS just told us to go left. So it’s time for people to sit back and reassess what role science has actually played in our lives. And learn how to embrace that going forward, because without it, we will just regress back into the caves.”

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220px-Chinese_buffet2It is a good thing that it is not April 1st because this would an obvious April Fool’s joke. Then again most of the fatwas coming out of Saudi Arabia seem like jokes to most people living in the 21st Century. Saudi cleric Saleh al-Fawzan has issued fatwa against all-you-can-eat buffets in Saudi Arabia — declaring that the popular lunch establishments will now be viewed as unlawful under Sharia law. You might want to get Sharia defense counsel before going to that Smörgåsbord in Jetta.

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Submitted by Elaine Magliaro, Weekend Contributor

Mark Fiore said he was thankful that Governor Jan Brewer vetoed Arizona’s “religious freedom” bill last week. If the bill became law, Fiore said, it “would’ve given people carte blanche to discriminate against gay people (and others, for that matter).” Fiore also said what he found most baffling about the whole thing was the existence of a state legislature that would pass such a bill.

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220px-Noah2014PosterCensor boards in Qatar, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates have sunk Darren Aronofsky’s new Biblical epic, Noah. The Paramount movie is now banned because it allegedly contradicts Islam by portraying a prophet and no one in these countries can see an alternative account of religion other than Islam.

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417px-Vaccination-polio-indiaIslamic fundamentalists in Pakistan are again expressing their moral outrage over the effort of the international community to vaccinate their children against polio. In the latest case, at least 12 security officials were killed and nine others injured in an ambush on a clearly marked medical convoy in the Jamrud area of the Khyber tribal region. It appears that both murder and denying children polio vaccines are viewed by these men as a pure expression of faith and morality.

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tweet The Syrian rebels have continued their crusade to bring Islamic law to rural areas of that country. In the latest atrocity, a Syrian spokesman narrated an amputation of a hand by a man that the rebels said asked to punished for theft “in order to cleanse his sins.” In the twisted mind of these extremists, the video was supposed to show the purity and righteousness of Islam as a sword is used to sever the hand of the man.

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Submitted by Elaine Magliaro, Weekend Contributor

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300px-SnakehandlingThe death of Pastor Jamie Coots, a third-generation snake handler and religious leader of the, w Full Gospel Tabernacle in Jesus Name church in Middlesboro, Ky., has renewed concerns over the practice and the need to criminalize such conduct. However, criminalization triggers a serious question of free exercise so long as the animals are not being abused or children allowed to handle poisonous snakes.

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225px-Instagram_logo125px-Flag_of_Bahrain.svgThe crackdown on free speech continues among our Arab allies. This week, Dubai arrested four people for posting insults about companions of Prophet Mohammed on Instagram. Since the companions of Prophet Mohammed are revered by Sunni Muslims, the insults are particularly sensitive in the country with tensions between a majority of Shiites and a Sunni monarchy.

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maxresdefaultkozinskiA divided three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ruled today that Google must remove a low-budget YouTube film that prompted riots and killings in the Muslim world as insulting to Mohammad. The highly offensive film portrays Mohammad as a sexual deviate who invented a religion to serve his own desires. Google has been under pressure from President Obama and others to take down the film. While President Obama publicly insisted that the United States stood by the first amendment, his Administration repeatedly tried to privately force Google to yield to the demands. It correctly refused. However, the same result was achieved today by Cindy Lee Garcia, an actress in the film who was received considerable criticism and hate mail for appearing in the film. She insisted that she was tricked into the role and claimed a copyright violation. The decision in Garcia v. Google, Inc. was written by Chief Judge Alex Kozinski (right).

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by Charlton “Chuck” Stanley, Weekend Contributor

Since February is Black History Month, it seemed to me that a local story was worth discussing. I first became aware of the story when it appeared in the Johnson City (Tennessee) Press last Tuesday . A little further digging revealed the story originated when a member of the church sent a copy of one of “Brother” Donny Reagan’s sermons to The American Jesus blog. The American Jesus blog is run by the Rev. Zach Hunt, who is currently working on a graduate degree at Yale Divinity School. Zach published a brief story and posted the seventeen minute long sermon on The American Jesus blog last week.

“Brother” Danny Reagan is pastor of the Happy Valley Church of Jesus Christ, located between Johnson City and Elizabethton, TN.  He records and archives all his sermons on the church website. Or at least he did until a couple of days ago. Now look what you get when you click the link.

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By Mike Appleton, Weekend Contributor

“This bill is not about allowing discrimination. This bill is about preventing discrimination against people who are clearly living out their faith.”

-Arizona State Sen. Steve Yarbrough (R), on SB 1062.

Assaults on the civil rights of homosexuals and the acceptance of gay marriage have been the focus of a number of state legislatures. The most recent lunacy is a bill in Arizona that now awaits action by Gov. Brewer. The bill amends sections of the Arizona Revised Statutes by incorporating provisions that effectively insulate many forms of grossly discriminatory conduct from legal consequence if done under the cloak of religion. This is accomplished in three steps. First, the bill defines “exercise of religion” to include “the ability to act or refusal to act in a manner substantially motivated by a religious belief, whether or not the exercise is compulsory or central to a larger system of religious belief.” Second, the bill expands the definition of “person” to include “any individual, association, partnership, corporation, church, religious assembly or institution, estate, trust, foundation or other legal entity.” I refer to this as the “Hobby Lobby” amendment. Finally, the bill prohibits, with a strict scrutiny exception, any “state action” that substantially burdens the free exercise of religion even if that state action is a law of general application.

I anticipate that the governor will veto this atrocity, not as a matter of constitutional principle, but out of concern that enactment of the law would further harm Arizona’s reputation and economic interests. But it is nonetheless disturbing that legislators would willingly employ a fundamental freedom as a weapon against a disfavored group of citizens. (more…)

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220px-Ginoseastdeepdish220px-Antonin_Scalia,_SCOTUS_photo_portraitBelow is my column today in The Chicago Tribune (including the original last paragraph and a couple lines that were cut in editing). I commented on this controversy yesterday but had to run something back home in Chicago. As someone who believes in pluralism in society and pizza, I am willing to accept both thin and deep pizza as equally worthy members of the pizza family. In this sense, pizza is part of a living culinary kitchen that changes in its scope and meaning. On closer examination, Scalia’s definitional approach is as thin as the crust of his New York style pizza.

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posnerMatthewKairisI previously blogged on an oral argument before Judge Richard Posner where I felt he had shown a surprising antagonism toward privacy and a civil liberties lawyer. Given my respect for Posner as a brilliant academic, I was surprised to read of his open dismissal of arguments that later prevailed in the court. Now, Posner is again the news with a heated exchange with a lawyer, Matthew Kairis, who he said was talking over his questions and refusing to direct questions with direct answers. The case is Univ. of Notre Dame v. Kathleen Sebelius. The oral argument tape below presents an interesting example of how lawyers respond to aggressive questioning from the bench in such arguments.

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220px-ModernEgypt,_Opening_of_Luxor-Aswan_rail_line,_Album-2-BAL-00000606-0039Denmark’s Agriculture and Food Minister Dan Jørgensen has signed a new regulation that bans religious slaughter of animals. The move has outraged Jewish and Muslim leaders but Mr Jørgensen publicly declared that “animal rights come before religion.” The new law bars slaughterhouses from allowing Muslim and Jewish leaders from killing animals without first stunning them. Muslims and Jewish religions believe that God only allows for the consumption of Halal or Kosher meat that involves the slitting of the throat of animals. Animal rights advocates insist that these religious rituals are cruel to animals.

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By Mark Esposito, Weekend Contributor

feature-faith%20crisis_520It’s Sunday and I made a rare visit to church today here in Richmond to test the waters after Judge Arenda Wright Allen’s historic ruling overturning  Virginia’s constitutional ban on same-sex marriage.  I was curious because the two Roman Catholic Bishops in Virginia had taken a keen interest in gay marriage ever since newly elected Attorney General Mark Herring had declined to defend the state’s ban on the practice in Bostic v. Rainey and after Governor Terry McAuliffe had refused to appoint a special counsel to take over the defense of the ban. The two presiding bishops in Virginia, Arlington Bishop Paul Loverde and Richmond Bishop Francis DiLorenzo, had issued a joint statement vowing to soldier on against the right of gays to marry. The good bishops instructed that:

 “No politician should be able to reverse the people’s decision … We call on the attorney general to do the job he was elected to perform, which is to defend the state laws he agrees with, as well as those state laws with which he personally disagrees.”

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By Mark Esposito, Weekend Contributor

Mildred_Richard_Loving_1967Somewhere out there Mildred Loving must be smiling and wondering how things could change so much since 1967.  You might recall Ms. Loving as the African-American and Virginia resident who had the audacity to marry a white man and then procreate in the Virginia of the 1960s. Charged with violating Virginia’s  Racial Integrity Act of 1924, an anti-miscegenation law which criminalized marriages between members of different races, the case was heard in Hanover Courthouse, where liberty’s most eloquent spokesman, Patrick Henry, once argued the famous Parson’s Case.  Circuit Court Judge Leon Bazile, whose portrait still hangs in the hallway of the new courthouse, sentenced the couple to one year in prison suspended upon the condition they would leave their home state. In doing so, he announced to the world that Virginia would not step so quickly away from its historical racism:

Almighty God created the races white, black, yellow, malay and red, and he placed them on separate continents. And but for the interference with his arrangement there would be no cause for such marriages. The fact that he separated the races shows that he did not intend for the races to mix.

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RickBrattinSubmitted by Elaine Magliaro, Weekend Contributor

(NOTE: Correction and Update Below)

A Missouri lawmaker has proposed legislation that would make learning about evolution in public schools “optional.” State Rep. Rick Brattin (R), the main sponsor of House Bill 291—also known as the “Missouri Standard Science Act”—introduced the bill in January. Brattin told KCTV, a local station, that teaching only evolution in school was “indoctrination.” He continued, “Our schools basically mandate that we teach one side. It is an indoctrination because it is not objective approach.”

The Kansas City Star reported that Brattin said, “…forcing students to study the natural selection theories developed by Charles Darwin a century and a half ago can violate their religious faith. It’s an absolute infringement on people’s beliefs.” Critics of Brattin’s bill say his legislation “would allow religious faith in biblical explanations to crowd out sound science.”

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Submitted by Darren Smith, Weekend Contributor

Humanist EmblemWhile many, primarily Islamic, countries have received much press regarding flagrant abuses of religious and non-religious persons or views, seven of which have death penalty offenses for crimes such as apostasy, the true impact for most of the worlds citizens are not as stark but can be often a suffer a form of punishment, repression and imprisonment of some kind for their beliefs.

The international Humanist and Ethical Union published a broad and comprehensive study of world governments listing laws, social constraints, and customs of government for nearly each nation. The study provides a deep insight into how even subtle restrictions on atheists and subscribers to differing religions or non-religions can have a chilling effect on the expressions of their citizens and it is often this subtlety that can become a form of suppression of dissent in surprising areas.
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praying_hands[1]hurst_sIt appears that Alabama legislators want to trigger yet another legal challenge to the ban on prayer in public schools. A new piece of legislation introduced by Rep. Steve Hurst, R-Munford would require teachers to read a prayer every day. However, this bill has an interesting twist: it would have the teachers pick a prayer given in Congress. The point is obvious that if such prayers are permissible in one government setting, it must be permissible in this public setting. That assumption is misplaced and the timing for the bill may be as ill-conceived as its constitutional interpretation. There is a pending case dealing with legislative prayer before the Court and this controversy will only remind justices that the legislative prayer cases may collide with school prayer cases unless it draws a clear line in the constitutional sand. This however is an improvement for Hurst who has moved on to prayer from his prior interest in castration.

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121112_an_plate2_640The United States for the Fourth Circuit has ruled that North Carolina’s “Choose Life” license plates are unconstitutional since the state has rejected the alternative pro-choice plates from citizens like “Respect Choice.” It is an important and clearly well-founded decision by Judge Wynn in Aclu of N.C. v. Tata, 2014 U.S. App. LEXIS 2573. The case was an appeal from the United States District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina and the earlier decision of Senior Judge James C. Fox, who ruled in favor of the Plaintiff.

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By Mike Appleton, Weekend Contributor

“In this case, a young woman in a crisis situation was put at risk because religious directives were allowed to interfere with her medical care. Patients should not be forced to suffer because of a hospital’s religious affiliation.”

-Kary Moss, executive director, ACLU of Michigan (quoted in the Detroit Free Press, December 2, 2013)

“The Church holds that all human life, both before and after birth, has inherent dignity, and that health care providers have the corresponding duty to respect the dignity of all their patients. This lawsuit argues that it is legally ‘negligent’ for the Catholic bishops to proclaim this core teaching of our faith. Thus, the suit urges the government to punish that proclamation with civil liability, a clear violation of the First Amendment.”

-Archbishop Joseph Kurtz, president, U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (quoted in the National Catholic Register, December 7, 2013)

Tamesha Means was only 18 weeks pregnant when her water broke. A friend rushed her to the emergency room at Mercy Health Partners in Muskegon, Michigan. She was examined and sent home with instructions to follow up with her regular doctor at her next scheduled appointment. The following morning she returned to the hospital, bleeding and having painful contractions. She was given pain medication and again sent home. That very night she returned for the third time, in great pain and with an elevated temperature, suggestive of an infection. As the hospital was preparing paperwork to send her home yet again, Ms. Means went into labor and delivered a baby who survived fewer than three hours. She was then informed that she would need to make funeral arrangements.

Those are a few of the allegations contained in a new lawsuit that has outraged conservatives and the Catholic hierarchy by advancing traditional negligence principles as a basis for imposing liability against a surprising group of defendants.  (more…)

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By Mark Esposito, Weekend Contributor

Noahs ark 5

Replica Of Noah’s Ark in Netherlands
http://www.miamisburg.org/stuff_noahs_ark.htm

In America, almost every child is taught the story of Noah who, in response to a message from on-high, crafted a wooded ark and gathered the planet’s fauna to save them from destruction for sins known and unknown. We don’t teach kids that most ancient civilizations recount the same story of the Great Flood that swamped the planet but with their own cultural take on the topic. Now a recent archeological find from Mesopotamia (modern Iraq) is creating a buzz that might change  that. Found on a cuneiform tablet, the story of the Mesopotamian Noah differs only slightly from the Hebrew version of the legend. The Christian Bible tells the tale of Noah who gathers his family to build an ark shaped much like our modern-day boats, with one long keel and sides tapering at each end. The Bible details the blueprint straight from that chief engineer in the sky:

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220px-EylcamelFirst there was Bill Nye the Science Guy. Then those pesky fossilized apes. Now we have the faithless, blaspheming camels. Archaeologists from Tel Aviv University have used radiocarbon dating to conclude that the Bible’s description of conditions in 2000 to 1500 BC could not possibly be true — at least when it comes to the genus Camelus. Scientists say that the only problem with descriptions of camels in the Old Testament is that they could not possibly have been present as domesticated animals — something that did not occur until 900 BC.

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220px-DieudoWe have been following the prosecution of French comedian Dieudonne M’Bala M’Bala, 46, for hateful speech in France, particularly his alleged anti-Semitism. While I do not consider Dieudonne funny in the slightest and rather offensive, the prosecution reaffirms the growing divide between the United States and its closest allies over free speech. Now, England has magnified those concerns by barring Dieudonne from entering the country. This sounds strikingly like the equally controversial move against Michael Savage.

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200px-Coat_of_arms_of_Saudi_Arabia.svgSaudi Arabia has long been criticized as a feeder nation for terrorists, including some of those who attacked this country on September 11th. Well, the country is finally cracking down with its own counterterrorism law but it turns out that the law may have more to do with political dissidents than religious fanatics. Civil libertarians are denouncing the law that would allow the arrest of any reformer or government critic as a terrorist.

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