31 Oct 2008

Science and Religion News and Resources

News

The Vatican: Guidelines to Stem Sex Abuse by Priests

Illinois: Ex-Priest Guilty of Sex Abuse

Jesuit School Sheltered Molesters, Groups Say

Vatican-Israel Tensions Rise Over Pius. Interesting that even the Vatican should fear repercussions from jewish groups as arguments rage over the potential beautification of Pius XII.

Exploring Religion, Shaped by the Enlightenment


Resources

Bishop Accountability
. Documenting the abuse crisis in the Roman Catholic Church.

28 Oct 2008

CFI Issues Statement on Religious Discrimination Exemption

The Center for Inquiry expressed outrage at the public release of a memorandum from U.S. Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel that would allow participants in the Bush Administration’s Faith-Based Initiatives programs to engage in discriminatory hiring practices, in contravention of long-established federal civil rights laws. The memorandum exempts World Vision—a religious organization receiving federal grant monies under the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act—from the religious nondiscrimination provisions that help preserve the separation of church and state.

On Oct. 17, the New York Times reported that the newly disclosed legal memorandum claims that taxpayer money can be diverted directly to sectarian faith groups that actively discriminate on the basis of religion in their hiring practices, bypassing laws that distinctly forbid that very practice.

Section 3789 of U.S. Code Title 42 Chapter 46 states, (emphasis added):

No person in any State shall on the ground of race, color, religion, national origin, or sex be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under or denied employment in connection with any programs or activity funded in whole or in part with funds made available under this chapter.

But World Vision, claiming that hiring non-Christians would somehow impede its goal of helping youths escape gang culture, has received an exemption to the law. Citing the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993, the O.L.C. memorandum claims that requiring the exclusionary Christian group to adhere to the antidiscrimination law would “substantially burden” the free exercise of religion, and that “…exempt(ing) World Vision from the religious nondiscrimination requirement…” would be “…the least restrictive means of furthering (a) compelling governmental interest.”

Ronald A. Lindsay, CFI’s President and CEO, objected strongly to the memorandum’s contents.

“By distorting the concept of religious freedom, the Department of Justice has enabled the Administration to deny true religious freedom. As a result of its aggressive, flawed, and harmful reading of the law, individuals will be denied employment based on their religious beliefs. Nothing in the Religious Freedom Restoration Act negates the applicability of federal civil rights statutes. Every recipient of government funding must obey the law, including recipients that happen to be religious,” commented Lindsay. “Freedom of religion does not include the freedom to break the law.”

Derek C. Araujo, an attorney for CFI, lamented that this issue is yet another part of a larger pattern of the government giving special legal exemptions to religions, and that this a clear illustration of how the rule of law is getting sacrificed, yet again, in the name of piety.

“This provides one more example of how infusing politics with religion distorts our thinking about important public policy issues—in this case, protecting long-cherished civil rights,” Araujo said. “It is stunning that this Administration thinks that enforcing civil rights laws is not a ‘compelling interest.’”

In defense of the religion-based initiative movement, its architect, University of Missouri law professor Carl H. Esbeck, was quoted in the Times asking why World Vision should “be denied the opportunity that everyone else has to compete for funding simply because of their religion.” But the spin he gives this narrow interpretation of civil rights legality ignores the question of why other citizens who want to help dispel gang violence should be denied the opportunity to be hired simply because of their religious convictions, as well as the larger question of why religious recipients of government funds should be privileged by exemptions to federal antidiscrimination laws that apply to non-religious recipients.

The 58-year-old World Vision, which boasts action in more than 100 countries, also goes far beyond the basic spiritual alignments required of such religious exclusionists as the Boy Scouts of America—who simply ask for a vague affirmation of belief in God—and has very stringent rules regarding the specific mandated beliefs of employees.

From World Vision’s Web site, (emphasis original):

The status of World Vision U.S. as an equal opportunity employer does not prevent the organization from hiring staff based on their religious beliefs, so that all staff share the same religious commitment. Pursuant to the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Section 702 (42 U.S.C. 2000e 1(a) World Vision U.S. has the right to, and does, hire only candidates who agree with World Vision’s Statement of Faith and/or the Apostles’ Creed.

The Apostles’ Creed is the unbending backbone of Catholic dogma, and the cited Statement of Faith mirrors its tenets with the addition of passages maintaining that the Bible is the only infallible, authoritative word of God; that the “lost” will be inevitably resurrected and sent to eternal damnation; and insinuations that the “indwelling” of the Holy Spirit is necessary for a person to live a decent and respectable life.

On Oct. 19, the Washington Post reported that Richard E. Stearns, president of World Vision’s U.S. operations, brushed off complaints of special treatment for Christians—who dominate the U.S. political landscape—citing “that a waiver from the anti-discrimination provisions in grants could apply to Jewish, Hindu and Muslim groups, as well.”

15 Oct 2008

Christian Fundamentalists Pretending to be Ex Muslim Terrorists

How does one protect oneself from lie after lie? One standard black operations technique is to create false histories for people, then let them loose on a gullible and stupid public.

Wouldn't it be great if we could find muslim terrorists who repented for their crimes? Would be even better if they saw the errors of their ways and did the right thing, converting to Christianity! There is no need to wait for history to deliver the goods when they can be manufactured.

==

For some time now a trio of self-proclaimed ex-terrorists has been making the rounds of the lecture circuit, charging thousands of dollars for their fantastical tales of life as murderous Muslim extremists.
Reza Aslan

Walid Shoebat, Kamal Saleem – both US citizens – and Zacharia Anani, a Canadian national, all claim to have been members of the Palestine Liberation Organization.
Anani claims personal responsibility for the deaths of over two hundred people. Shoebat says he was part of a terrorist cell inside the United States.

Their most recent appearance was at the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, which hosted the three at its 50th Annual Academy Assembly on the topic, “Dismantling Terrorism: Developing Actionable Solutions for Today’s Plague of Violence.”

Shoebat, Saleem, and Anani were asked to speak about their personal experiences as Islamic terrorists, to provide the next generation of US soldiers with an inside account of radical terrorism.

The selection by the Air Force Academy of these speakers was criticized by both the Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF) and the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR). Why? Because it turns out these guys are not ex-terrorists at all but—wait for it—fundamentalist Christians posing as ex-terrorists. Their fervently anti-Islamic message, in which all Muslims are labeled as radicals, is a prelude to a testimony about how accepting Jesus into their hearts and becoming born again saved them from a life of terrorism.

Walid Shoebat is a favorite of the “Left Behind” crowd and has spoken at Tim LaHaye’s Pre-Trib (Pre-Tribulation) Research Center. Kamal Saleem, whose real name is Khodor Shami, worked for Pat Robertson’s Christian Broadcasting Network for sixteen years, and was hired by Focus on the Family in 2003. In 2006, he launched Koome Ministries, whose mission is to “expose the true agenda of [Muslims] who would deceive our nation and the free nations of the world… America must wake-up and set a continued Christian agenda of Liberty and Truth as a standard to follow throughout the free world.”

Since the three began their speaking careers, the authenticity of their claims has been repeatedly challenged by academics and terrorism experts, who have found many aspects of their stories don’t add up.

According to Tom Quiggin, Canada’s only court-qualified expert on global jihadism, and a former Royal Canadian Mounted Police intelligence and national security expert, “Mr. Anani’s not an individual who rates the slightest degree of credibility, based on the stories that he has told.”

Among other things, Quiggin points to Anani’s claim of killing hundreds of people after joining his first militant group in Lebanon at age 13. Anani, now forty-nine, would have been 13 in 1970. However, the fighting in Lebanon did not begin in earnest until 1975, and religious-based terrorism was practically unheard of there until after 1979. According to Anani, he left Lebanon for Egypt to attend Al-Azhar University at age 18, three years earlier.

Professor Douglas Howard teaches the history of the modern Middle East at Calvin College in Michigan, where Kamal Saleem spoke last November. He was shocked to hear Saleem claim that a member of his family was the “the Grand Wazir of Islam.”

“Wazir is a variation of vizier,” Professor Howard explained. “The Grand Vizier was a political role in the Ottoman empire. No Muslim would ever claim that in connection with the role of mufti, which is a scholar of Islamic texts. It’s like someone saying they were the governor of Christianity.”

Professor Howard described the talk at Calvin College as “a tent meeting revival sermon sponsored by academic organizations.”

“His personal story gives him credibility as an anti-Islamic preacher,” he said. “But it is not verifiable and without it he’s no different from other fundamentalist preachers and there’s plenty of those out there.”

Here’s a question: if the claims of these three are true, why aren’t they in Guantanamo?

Mikey Weinstein, head of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, which has worked tirelessly to uncover precisely the kinds of constitutional violations of church and state that occurred when these three spoke, or rather, witnessed, at the Air Force Academy, put it this way: “If their claims are true, these alleged ex-terrorists should be deported or prosecuted, unless our government now considers conversion to fundamentalist Christianity a reason to disregard prior terrorist activities. If their claims are fabricated, they have criminally defrauded every institution that has paid them to speak.”

Strangely, no arrests warrants have yet been issued.

==

The Military Religious Freedom Foundation is actually a very good website, and should scare anybody who has not swallowed the religious propaganda whole. The infiltration by fundamentalist right-wing belligerent intolerant deluded evangelising Christians into the armed forces of the USA is one very good reason to disbelieve anything that comes out of the US administration regarding the constructed war on terror. It is also another reason why the supposed allies of the USA, most notably the Europeans, are less than enthusiastic supporters of American adventurism, unless they have something concrete to gain. The slow eradication of personal freedoms is one area all governments can agree upon, but to add a crusading Christian mission seems unnecessary. The individual is deluded to support personal freedom against the state and yet also support religious enslavement in the same breath. The two march together so that you hear whichever drum makes you keep in step.

Europe shares many borders and a large part of its history with muslims. Europe may well have the first largely muslim nation join the EU. The expansion of the EU is a unique experiment in political expansion without wars. It is already larger than the USA in terms of human beings and economic size. Its weakness, and its strength, is its huge diversity. However, the European project is also in danger of becoming a Christian citadel - that will be its weakest point.

Compare the strength of the mighty oak with that of the bamboo.

14 Oct 2008

How Tall is God? Mormons Accuse Prosperity Gospel of Plagiarism

How Tall is God? by Andrew Brown

This looks like one of those unanswerable questions, but it turns out that the Mormons – and the leaders of the American "Prosperity Gospel" movement – believe they know the answer: God is about 6' 2" tall. (He doesn't use the metric system).

The justification for this is Isaiah 40:12, where God, it is said

"hath measured the waters in the hollow of his hand, and meted out heaven with the span, and comprehended the dust of the earth in a measure, and weighed the mountains in scales, and the hills in a balance?"

Kenneth Copeland, one of the leading preachers of the prosperity gospel, has claimed that God is :

"very much like you and me … having a body, complete with eyes, and eyelids, ears, nostrils, a mouth, hands and fingers, and feet."

Quite how you get from there to a measurement of nine inches has not been revealed to me, but an article by Professor Kirk MacGregor in the Journal of the American Academy of Religion, from which I got this story, goes on to quote Copeland as he works out the implications in a sermon:

"The Bible says [God] measured out the heavens with a nine-inch span. Well…my span is eight and three-quarter inches long. So God's span is a quarter of an inch longer than mine. So you see…God…stands somewhere around 6'2",6'3", weighs somewhere in the neighbourhood of a couple hundred pounds, little better."

Professor MacGregor's paper then adds the glorious detail that Mormon scholars have accused him of plagiarising their secret knowledge of God for this calculation:

The clear similarity between Copeland's theology proper and that of Mormonism has led LDS scholars to accuse Copeland of lifting his doctrine of God from their theological repertoire. Stephen E. Robinson, professor of ancient scripture at Brigham Young University, charges that "the Latter-day Saint doctrine of God is used…by Kenneth Copeland, of Texas," and Mormon exegete Daniel C. Peterson alleges that Copeland's exegetical remarks could have been drawn from the wellsprings of "only the Latter-day Saints, to whom a doctrine … of human beings and of their literal kinship with God has been revealed."

If I were them, I would shut up about it, but there we are.

Aakomment

It is difficult not to laugh out loudly. It is sometimes difficult to accept that evolution of the human mind is just so much slower than our power to meddle with technology. These minds are thoroughly medieval in outlook - with due apology to some of the more enlightened medieval philosophers.