Category: Religion

Court rules Notre Dame can’t cut off students’ birth control

A federal appeals court held that the Supreme Court’s decision limiting access to birth control in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby does not permit the University of Notre Dame to shut down their health plans that help the school’s students pay for contraceptive coverage — or, at least, the court held that Notre Dame cannot obtain a court order permitting them to do so right now. This is the latest of Notre Dame’s multiple trips to the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit. Though the court held in 2014 that Notre Dame must comply with an extraordinarily modest obligation under federal law, the Supreme Court asked the Seventh Circuit to reconsider the case in light of Hobby Lobby. For now, the Seventh Circuit concluded, Hobby Lobby does not entitle Notre Dame to the relief that it seeks…

What a can of worms the corrupt wing of SCOTUS has opened. The original victory legalizing birth control over the objections of religious ideologues stood stable and strong for decades until this batch of conservative liars joined the court.

…Justice Sonia Sotomayor…nearly accused her conservative colleagues of lying in Hobby Lobby when they permitted another religious school, Wheaton College, to temporarily opt out of the fill-out-the-form option as well. “Those who are bound by our decisions usually believe they can take us at our word,” Sotomayor wrote. “Not so today.”

Notre Dame, however, seeks relief that is even more arcane than the issue in Wheaton College. Wheaton College concerns whether the law grants religious objectors such a sweeping right to refuse to follow the law that they can even refuse to fill out a form that the government provides in order to exempt religious objectors from having to follow the law. Notre Dame, by contrast, has already filled out the form, a fact that led the Seventh Circuit to express “puzzlement about what exactly the university wanted us to enjoin.”…

Notre Dame, in other words, wants the right to force private companies to stop conducting business with its students, presumably by telling those companies that it will refuse to continue to do business with them itself unless those companies agree to stop helping Notre Dame students pay for contraception. Notre Dame is quite literally seeking to impose its religious beliefs on other parties who do not share them…

As the Wheaton College order suggests, a majority of the Supreme Court is open to the argument that permitting a religious objector to fill out a form that exempts them from the law can still be an impermissible burden on that objector’s faith. If the justices go this far, it is unclear that it will even be possible to prevent organizations like Notre Dame from cutting off their workers’ and students’ access to contraceptive health plans.

Dragging us back to the time when religious ideology was allowed to supersede the civil law of the land. Absurd, criminal, about as backwards a decision as one might expect from the minds of those who would not have supported our revolutionary separation from state religion in the first place.

Colorado Republican says government is cooperating with demonic spirits

Republican nutball

Republican Colorado state Rep. Gordon James Klingenschmitt accused the U.S. government of cooperating with demonic spirits this week after the Supreme Court refused to overturn a ban on so-called “cures” for homosexuality…

On his Monday Pray in Jesus Name broadcast, Klingenschmitt argued that Christian psychotherapists had been stripped of their “free speech rights” because they could no longer use reparative therapy…to heal the homosexual of the sinful addiction,” Klingenschmitt explained. “And yet, there is a demonic spirit inside of the addict that is controlling their voluntary choices or, at least, has contracted with them and is manifesting through them in this sinful addiction.”

“What the lower court judges are doing is they are cooperating with the demonic spirit inside of the homosexual addict, and those judges are now reinforcing the sin,” he insisted. “That’s what these bad judges have done.”

Reflect for a moment on the number of Looney Tunes-voters who showed up to elect a nutball like this. Even in the sort of low turnout elections today’s make-believe Republicans plan for and plot to control – no different from Boss Tweed or Mayor Daley in their own corrupt histories..

Kiwi school rousted for intolerant pamphlet — guess where it came from?

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A secondary school in New Zealand has defended using a conservative Christian sex education pamphlet during a health class.

The pamphlet, titled Safe Sex, describes women who have pre-marital sex as “cheap prostitutes” and says unwed couples who live together are “habitual and irresponsible fornicators”…Published by the US-based Bible Baptist Publications, the material also claims “death and hell” await anyone having gay sex…

It was handed out to 15-year-olds during a health studies class at Papanui High School in Christchurch. A mother who complained about the pamphlet says there wasn’t enough context provided in the lesson, something the school has apparently put down to a substitute teacher taking the class.

Headteacher Jeff Smith says the material was used in order to show students an extreme perspective and in no way reflects the school’s own views. “This is a perspective that is out there and they need to be aware of this, so they can then make informed decisions themselves,” Mr Smith is quoted as saying…

So, next week, is he distributing pamphlets endorsing self-flagellation?

The Ministry of Education says it hasn’t received any complaints, but the debate continues to rage online. Some social media users point out that the material may upset gay students or those from single-parent families, and many think it has no place in a classroom setting. “There is zero excuse for exposing children to this hate-filled nonsense,” one user writes on the Stuff.co.nz website. But others support the school’s argument. The pamphlet was used “in the same way one might discuss perspectives of terrorism” or the views of Adolf Hitler, one man writes. “It is an educated mind that considers a point of view without necessarily accepting it.”

From my perspective, once again, Americans are embarrassed by the crap distributed around the world by the sad leftovers of what simply used to be fundamentalist religion. Now led and populated by fools wholly consumed with fear and hatred.

Fox News Station blurred out the nipples of $179 million Picasso

fox version of picasso

When a Fox news station reported on the record-breaking $179 million sale of Picasso’s Women of Algiers (Version O) at a Christie’s auction, it outdid itself by blurring out the abstract breasts in the painting.

After Fox5NY ran the story on Wednesday, several people took to Twitter to express their derision at Fox’s decision to censor a masterpiece firmly established of the Western canon of art.

New York magazine senior art critic Jerry Saltz even weighed in, calling Fox News “sexually sick.”

Not only did the censorship reveal a perversion in how Fox views the human body, but blurring out the nipples inherently sexualizes and objectifies the female form, even in an abstract piece of art like this.

In response, some evoked the #FreeTheNipple campaign, an initiative to desexualize women’s breasts and allow women to reclaim ownership over their bodies. The movement was inspired by a film of the same name, which explored the legal double-standard in New York of men being allowed to expose their nipples while women can’t. It has transformed into an international campaign and is particularly popular in Iceland, a country known for its feminism, in the fight to make the treatment of men’s and women’s bodies equal…

Given how marginalized and objectified women are on Fox, it’s unfortunately not that surprising they decided to blur out the breasts on Picasso’s masterpiece. If you have kids, just make sure not to take them to any museums before they’re 18. By the Fox logic, it could really mess them up.

If you are required to redefine all life, lifestyle and politics, into terms acceptable to that small American minority whose ideology is stuck into the 14th Century this sort of result is predictable. And consistent.

Key findings about the changing U.S. religious landscape

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Pew Research Center’s new Religious Landscape Study, the first since our 2007 study, draws on a massive sample size of more than 35,000 Americans to offer a detailed look at the current religious composition of U.S. adults. The size of the sample enables us to explore relatively small religious groups (including specific Christian denominations) as well as state- and metropolitan area-level data.

In addition to the full report, the findings of the study can be explored at a new interactive website. Here are a few of the key findings:

Christians are declining, both as a share of the U.S. population and in total number. In 2007, 78.4% of U.S. adults identified with Christian groups, such as Protestants, Catholics, Mormons and others; seven years later, that percentage has fallen to 70.6%. Accounting for overall population growth in that period, that means there are roughly 173 million Christian adults in the U.S. today, down from about 178 million in 2007.

Within Christianity, the biggest declines have been in the mainline Protestant tradition and among Catholics

The decline of Christians in the U.S. has corresponded with the continued rise in the share of Americans with no religious affiliation…People who self-identify as atheists or agnostics (about 7% of all U.S. adults), as well as those who say their religion is “nothing in particular,” now account for a combined 22.8% of U.S. adults – up from 16.1% in 2007…

There are clear differences between certain demographic groups when it comes to religious affiliation

The share of Americans who identify with non-Christian faiths, such as Islam and Hinduism, has grown modestly

You’ll find the whole report online over here. An interesting read especially if you find philosophy, personal and sociological, of interest. As I do.

Yes, we’re still about a half-century or more behind the rest of the industrial West when it comes to re-examining the beliefs we inherit from our less-educated forebears. Not much we can do about it except continue to encourage education. Folks can come to progressive conclusions on their own; but, it does help to have an extended opportunity to see what the whole world is learning and talking about. Ain’t many folks getting that from cable TV or this year’s hot social media.

Sabotage conviction overturned against nun and her fellow activists


Click to read our post at the time of their original arrest

An 85-year-old nun and two fellow Catholic peace activists who splashed blood on the walls of a bunker holding weapons-grade uranium — exposing vulnerabilities in the nation’s nuclear security — were wrongly convicted of sabotage, an appeals court has ruled.

At issue was whether Sister Megan Rice, 66-year-old Michael Walli and 59-year-old Greg Boertje-Obed injured national security when they cut through several fences to break into the Y-12 National Security Complex in Oak Ridge in July 2012. A panel of the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in a 2-1 decision that they did not.

Once there, the trio had hung banners, prayed and hammered on the outside wall of the bunker to symbolize a Bible passage that refers to the end of war: “They will beat their swords into ploughshares.”

“If a defendant blew up a building used to manufacture components for nuclear weapons … the government surely could demonstrate an adverse effect on the nation’s ability to attack or defend,” the opinion says.

“But vague platitudes about a facility’s ‘crucial role in the national defense’ are not enough to convict a defendant of sabotage.”

The court upheld a less serious conviction for injuring government property. An attorney for the three, Bill Quigley, said he hopes they will be re-sentenced to time served and released from prison, where they have been since being convicted in May 2013. Rice was sentenced to nearly three years; Walli and Boertje-Obed are each serving sentences of just over five years…

The three spent two hours inside Y-12, including in the most secure part of the plant. In the aftermath of the security breach, federal officials implemented sweeping changes, including a new management team and a new defense security chief to oversee all of the National Nuclear Security Administration’s sites.

So, for all his “God bless the United States of America” – our commander-in-chief has failed to convict three Christians for behaving like really old-time Christians.

For all the bible-thumping, preaching the gospel of hate, fear of the dignity of women, self-titled fundamentalists in and out of Congress have a chance to stand in awe of three simple religious folk who act like the savior they believe in – instead of kneeling before the altar of nuclear war.

The kind of Christians I wouldn’t mind sharing a jail cell with. And often did back in the day when more of them marched for peace and justice – instead of obedience, theocracy and imperial war.

Colorado reduces teen pregnancies and abortions, saves money — so, of course, Republicans stop the program!

republican family values

Over the past seven years, Colorado has run an experiment to see if it could lower the rate of unintended pregnancies, cut abortions – and save the state government some money, too.

The Colorado Family Planning Initiative offered low-income women and teenagers access to low or no-cost contraceptive devices, including IUDs and implants, and trained providers in insertion and counselling techniques. Last year, researchers reported significant drops in the birth rate among teens and young adult women in participating counties. The abortion rate among women between 15 and 19 years old dropped by more than a third; high-risk pregnancies by a fourth.

In July the governor’s office issued a glowing press release, crediting the program with a 40% statewide drop in teen birth rates between 2009 and 2013 – and a 35% drop in abortions.

…Last Wednesday Colorado’s Republican-controlled senate killed a bill that would sustain and expand CFPI services…

RTFA for details, other states ready to adopt the program because of its success. I’m too pissed off to waste any space on the crap reasons offered by Republicans and the bible-thumping family values dolts who oppose every aspect of women’s reproductive freedom up to and including contraception.

We sorted all this out in more reasonable times and places decades ago. Only Republican opportunists, rightwing populism and and sophistry topped off with simple-minded stupidity brings all this 19th-Century ideology back into play.

Know-Nothings will hate the Pope even more – Climate Change encyclical coming

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Since his first homily in 2013, Pope Francis has preached about the need to protect the earth and all of creation as part of a broad message on the environment. It has caused little controversy so far.

But now, as Francis prepares to deliver what is likely to be a highly influential encyclical this summer on environmental degradation and the effects of human-caused climate change on the poor, he is alarming some conservatives in the United States who are loath to see the Catholic Church reposition itself as a mighty voice in a cause they do not believe in.

As part of the effort for the encyclical, top Vatican officials will hold a summit meeting…to build momentum for a campaign by Francis to urge world leaders to enact a sweeping United Nations climate change accord in Paris in December. The accord would for the first time commit every nation to enact tough new laws to cut the emissions that cause global warming.

The Vatican summit meeting will focus on the links between poverty, economic development and climate change, with speeches and panel discussions by climate scientists and religious leaders, and economists like Jeffrey Sachs of Columbia. The United Nations secretary general, Ban Ki-moon, who is leading efforts to forge the Paris accord, will deliver the opening address…

In the United States, the encyclical will be accompanied by a 12-week campaign, now being prepared with the participation of some Catholic bishops, to raise the issue of climate change and environmental stewardship in sermons, homilies, news media interviews and letters to newspaper editors, said Dan Misleh, executive director of the Catholic Climate Covenant in Washington.

But the effort is already angering a number of American conservatives, among them members of the Heartland Institute, a [purportedly] libertarian group partly funded by the Charles G. Koch Foundation, run by the billionaire industrialist Koch brothers, who oppose climate policy…

But climate policy advocates see a scheduled address by the pope to Congress in September as a potent moment — about 30 percent of members of Congress are Catholics, more than belong to any other religion, according to a study published this year by the Pew Research Center…

“I think Boehner was out of his mind to invite the pope to speak to Congress,” said the Rev. Thomas Reese, an analyst at the National Catholic Reporter. “Can you imagine what the Republicans will do when he says, ‘You’ve got to do something about global warming’?… ”

Francis chose the name of St. Francis of Assisi, the patron saint of animals and the environment. He talks the talk- and walks the walk. Unlike the patent leather princes American Catholics have been accustomed to Francis actually says the ethics and morality preached in the communal wing of his church are standards that have to be lived up to if you are to be a good Catholic.

I wonder how that will go over with creeps like John Boehner or Rick Santorum, phonies like Jeb Bush, Rubio, Jindal and Christie, et al?

Indiana communities want LGBT civil rights after state supports bigotry

Indiana passed a revised Religious Freedom Restoration Act last week, but some are saying the “fix” is not enough.

Several communities plan to pass their own anti-discrimination ordinances, while others are calling for a RFRA repeal. Lawmakers rushed the changes through after a statewide and national backlash after Gov. Mike Pence signed the original bill. The bill that the governor signed last Thursday that clarified that the Religious Freedom Restoration Act does not allow businesses to withhold services from LGBT people. However, that only extends to communities that have an anti-discrimination ordinance in place.

On Monday, Rep. Ed DeLaney (R-Indianapolis) said in a statement, “In the wake of the statements from both proponents of the bill and the Governor himself, it is clear what the intent of the bill was. It was intended to be used to discriminate. When asked several times on Thursday, Speaker Bosma would not agree to hold a hearing to add sexual orientation and gender identity to a ‘protected class’ in Indiana.

Throughout this whole debate, the Republicans have stated either with their words or actions that members of the LGBT community are second-class citizens who do not deserve legal protection under the law. I see only one remedy that needs to be taken. First, we need to repeal the current law-then we must reform our civil rights law to add sexual orientation and gender identity. Finally, we need to rewrite the Religious Freedom Restoration Act to actually mirror that of the Federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act. Only then will we be able to send a message to those living in the state and those watching that Indiana is open to all.”

The City Council in New Albany will consider a resolution Monday calling for the law to be repealed. The mayor has called for more changes to the RFRA. He says elected officials have a duty to create a welcoming environment for everyone.

In Lafayette, the Family Equality Council is partnering with “Citizens for Civil Rights” and “Indiana Equality Action” to host a town hall meeting. They hope to discuss the impact of the RFRA on gay, lesbian and transgender families. The meeting starts at 6 pm at the Columbia ballroom in Lafayette.

In Muncie, the City Council is expected to vote Monday night on a new human rights ordinance. Mayor Dennis Tyler says the resolution will make the city’s stance against the RFRA very clear and that the city does not want to discourage anyone from living or working in Muncie.

Look at the history of gerrymandering in the United States and once you get past racial bigotry, religious cultural bigotry stands next in line in opposition to democratic progress. The same motivation makes its unfortunate presence known in distorted laws like Indiana’s RFRA.