April 18, 2009

Faith schools useless

Englandshire: To no-one's surprise, a new report shows that faith schools have completely failed to improve educational standards and have instead led to social fragmentation:

Academics at the London School of Economics and the Institute of Education, both part of the University of London, found no proof that providing parents with the choice of a religious secondary school either raised results or helped drive up standards in other local schools.

The research suggests that government policies to promote a market in education - by promising parents a choice of school in the belief that the competition for children will improve standards - only create a more socially fragmented system.

The paper concludes that there is "significant evidence that religious schools are associated with higher levels of pupil sorting across schools, but no evidence that competition from faith schools raises area-wide pupil attainment".

Despite this, the government still seems to think it's a good idea, yet do not ask themselves why they thought a law against incitement to religious hatred was necessary.

Faith schools 'failing to improve standards'The Guardian, 18th April 2009.

July 3, 2008

A list of schools to avoid

United Kingdom: University admissions tutors might be interested in a survey conducted by More4 News, which found that at least 40 British schools are teaching ancient mythology instead of science. The programme also noted that not all of the schools concerned were in the private sector. Andrew Copson, the British Humanist Association's Director of Education and Public Affairs commented:

It is appalling that there are thousands of children in Britain who are being taught that evolution is a myth and creationism a fact. It is even worse that almost 1,000 of those children attend schools funded by taxpayers, which teach creationism despite national guidance that it has no place in the science classroom. We are glad that the government is currently producing new guidance on how to deal with creationism in schools but it is crucial that school inspectors are also trained to check faith schools rigorously for the teaching of creationism or intelligent design.

Humanists “appalled� that creationism taught in 40 UK schools British Humanist Association press release, 2nd July 2008.

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January 21, 2008

Christians criticise appointment of anti-gay campaigner to equality body

United Kingdom: The Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement has published a 10 page document criticizing the government's decision to appoint homophobic Christian activist Joel Edwards as an Equality Commissioner. Edwards has campaigned against equalities legistlation in the past, and the LGCM report uses his own words to demonstrate why Joel Edwards should not have been appointed to the Equality Commission and should resign. The report summarises the case against Edwards on page 1:

  • Joel Edwards aggressively lobbies against law reforms introducing gay equality
  • Joel Edwards promotes groups seeking to cure gay people
  • Joel Edward’s organisation seeks exemptions from the very laws Equality Commissioners are charged with upholding

They note that the organisation he leads, the Evangelical Alliance, explicitly opposes any kind of fair treatment for lesbians and gay men.

a homosexual lifestyle is a choice and is not to be classified in terms akin to race or gender. [p.3]

Of course, Edwards regards such criticism as religious discrimination and whines I therefore find it a shame that the LGCM considers my belief system less equal than others and a barrier to my serving the British public. Of course, as a religious lifestyle is a choice, surely it's not deserving of any kind of protection anyway, at least not according to Edwards' reasoning.

Joel Edwards and The Evangelical Alliance: Opponents of human rights for lesbian and gay people [Word document]—Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement, 21st January 2008; Gay Christian group criticises new equality commissionerThe Guardian, 21st January 2008.

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January 14, 2008

More shorts

  • Hello Kitty Jesus tattoo. Yes, you read that right. Hello Kitty Jesus Tattoo = ScaryTokyomango, January 2008.
  • England: Another "Christian" claims it is discriminatory to expect her to do the job she's paid to do. Registrar threatens legal action against council over civil partnershipsEkklesia, 13th January 2008.
  • Australia: Politician behaves differently before and after election: The shadowy Exclusive Brethren religious sect has been guaranteed another $10 million in taxpayer funding for its school campuses, despite being branded an "extremist cult" which "breaks up families" by Prime Minister Kevin Rudd before the election. EXCLUSIVE: Labor backflip on BrethrenLiveNews, 14th January 2008.
  • Australia: A man who believed he had supernatural sexual powers killed his partner's best friend after encouraging her to sleep with him to exorcise her demons. Killer said sex would 'exorcise demons'Sydney Morning Herald, 14th January 2008 (via Red Wolf).
  • Cthulhu BalloonNeatorama, January 2008.
  • Wales: Naughty vicar story! A Church-in-Wales vicar has been questioned by Dyfed-Powys Police for offences relating to indecent images of children. Vicar arrest over indecent imagesBBC News, 14th January 2008.

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January 11, 2008


A few headlines for you:

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December 5, 2007

New word of the day

England: A debate will take place in the House of Commons today on Christianophobia. The word has been coined by Conservative MP Mark Pritchard, who seems to believe that his imaginary friend is essential to British life.

Mark Pritchard said Christianophobia of the politically correct brigade also ran the risk of Christianity being hijacked by extremist parties.

The Tory MP said he did not want to criticise people of other faiths, but wanted to recognise and protect the Christian tradition of this nation.

He intends to do this by shoving Christianity down the throats of people of other faiths, and the majority who have none. He's particularly upset that few schools bother with the explicitly religious Nativity play any more, and tend to go for something that reflects the secular nature of most festive traditions. He also boasts about the Christian tradition going back to the first century and its contribution to arts, culture and science.

I wasn't aware of Christianity in the British Isles until the 4th century, but since it arrived, we've had the Dark Ages, the little incident at Clifford's Tower in York, the execution of people for imaginary crimes, the execution of people for holding different beliefs about the worship of the same imaginary friend, the Gunpowder Plot, the censorship of literature, the imprisonment of those who do not have imaginary friends, more literary censorship, The Troubles, attempts to teach religion in the place of science, and, of course, more censorship (failed), this time of drama.

With a record like that, is it surprising that people might be a little phobic about Christians? And that's without mentioning the compulsory Christian religious education and worship in schools, and the privileged position of the Church of England.

Jesus is not God, nyah nyah na nya nyaaaaah!

England: A court has ruled that Jerry Springer: the Opera is not blasphemous, a move that has hopefully cost Stephen "Dogshit" Green a small fortune.

Springer opera court fight failsBBC News, 5th December 2007.

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November 2, 2007

Science education improved; fundies of many stripes upset

South Africa: It seems that, up till now, evolution has not been taught in South Africa's schools. But it is to be included in the national school curriculum from next year, leading to allegations that it is teaching Satanism!

Godly Governance Network provincial secretary Sipho Mengezeleli said the introduction of evolution was a revolution against God and Christianity.

Mengezeleli, who has started canvassing other religious organisations in an effort to mount a united front against the department, said: This course is aimed at eroding God from people's mind. It's satanic by its very nature because it's against creation and against God.

And it's not just insecure Christians getting into the act. Some Hindus's beliefs are so shallow and fragile that they cannot tolerate their children even knowing of the existence of other viewpoints:

Hindu Society chairperson Gino Vassan said the concept of evolution goes directly against Hinduism and should not even be an option. We don't believe in evolution --we believe in reincarnation, said Vassan. We would not want something that goes against our belief to be taught to our children.

Fury rumbles over 'satanic' school courseDaily Dispatch, 31st October 2007.

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October 31, 2007

Tony Abbott and the Not So Terribly Good Week

Australia: The Australian Prime Minister, John Howard, has once again been asked to explain the cosy relations he and his minions have with religious extremists.

This time it's the foaming loon Danny Nalliah, the head of Melbourne-based Catch the Fire Ministries, who was charged in a test case of Victoria's religious vilification laws for comments he made about Muslims in 2002. It seems Nalliah fronted up to the far right-wing League of Rights, despite being warned that they were anti-Jewish.

Pastor Nalliah has been given top-level access in recent months to the Howard Government, which he has endorsed enthusiastically.

The revelation of his speech in 2005 has prompted Labor to call on the Government to cease contact with Pastor Nalliah.

The case ran for five years, during which Mr Costello supported the pastor. The Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal initially found he had vilified Islam, but the verdict was quashed on appeal. It was eventually resolved at mediation.
Continue reading "Tony Abbott and the Not So Terribly Good Week"

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Government body listens to scientists shocker!

United Kingdom: A committee considering scientific evidence and making recommendations for change based on scientific evidence has issued its report. Religious groups, who had tried to nobble the enquiry, will not be pleased with the results. No change in the upper limit is suggested, and liberalisation in other areas is proposed. What's more, the committee said that superstitious doctors who object to the procedure should alert their patients well in advance. Ben Goldacre has the press release, which quotes committee member Dr Evan Harris, a Liberal Democrat MP, extensively:

This thorough report - after a rigorous enquiry into a set of very narrow scientific issues - sets out clear conclusions on what the scientific evidence can tell us about abortion law reform.

The medical evidence is stark about how the threshold of viability has not reduced below 24 weeks, and that is why our conclusions are so firm...

The Committee had no alternative - given the medical and scientific facts - but to argue for the end of the 40 year requirement for two doctors signatures, the old-fashioned ban on nurses performing abortions, and the unnecessary restriction of choice for women about where they have early medical abortion.

I am pleased the Committee argues for the GMC to make clear that doctors who conscientiously object must alert their patients in advance and ensure another doctor takes the consultation if abortion is a possibility.

Dr. Harris also left us a tempting tidbit:

The so called minority report is a amusing mish-mash of paranoid conspiracy theories, pseudo-scientific clap-trap and anti-abortion zealotry. The few recognisably scientific arguments it makes are completely dealt with in the Committee's report and rebutted by the totality of the scientific literature.

I think we can all guess which report the Prattle would like to see.

Sense prevailsBad Science, 31st October 2007. See also SCIENTIFIC DEVELOPMENTS RELATING TO THE ABORTION ACT 1967, an account of the committee's remit on the UK Parliamentary website.

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October 15, 2007

Fundies caught trying to pervert abortion review before it even begins

United Kingdom: A inquiry reviewing abortion law has warned scientists presenting evidence that they must disclose links to faith groups after it was found that religious organisations were trying to influence the result surreptitiously.

At least eight submissions of written evidence have come from medical professionals who have not disclosed their membership of Christian groups opposed to abortion on faith grounds. Six of the doctors are members or activists with the Christian Medical Fellowship, an organisation that has given its own evidence to the inquiry.

Suspicion that contributors had not been transparent about their affiliations has led the clerk of the committee to take the unusual step of writing to all those who gave evidence asking them to disclose their links to any relevant organisations...

Some on the committee are worried that unless witnesses are transparent about their affiliation to anti-abortion groups the inquiry will not be able to properly assess their evidence.

Evan Harris MP, the Liberal Democrats' science spokesperson, said: This inquiry is specifically about the scientific evidence not moral or religious arguments and our witnesses need to be evidence-led not ideologically or theologically driven. The CMF risk undermining the inquiry by getting people called as expert scientific witnesses when they are not.

Two witnesses who will give evidence today, Chris Richards, a paediatrician and honorary clinical lecturer at Newcastle University, and John Wyatt, a neonatal paediatrician at University College London, are members of CMF, but did not disclose that on their original submission.

Abortion inquiry asks scientists to disclose links to faith groupsThe Guardian, 15th October 2007.

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September 26, 2007

Scientists, theologians agree: Intelligent Design is dishonest bollocks

United Kingdom: The British government has issued the promised guidelines for teaching creationism in school, and they make it perfectly clear that the only place it has is in the science curriculum is to explain why it's not science.

After explaining the place of science and religious education in the British national curriculum, the guidance document unequivocally states: Creationism and intelligent design are sometimes claimed to be scientific theories. This is not the case as they have no underpinning scientific principles, or explanations, and are not accepted by the science community as a whole. Creationism and intelligent design therefore do not form part of the science National Curriculum programmes of study.

Apparently with Truth in Science's materials in mind, it recommends, Any resource should be checked carefully before it is used in the classroom. If resources which mention creationism or intelligent design are used, it must be made clear that neither constitutes a scientific theory.

The guidance document explains that although it is inappropriate to teach creationism, it is not necessarily inappropriate to teach about creationism as an ideological movement and philosophy.

It says: Any questions about creationism and intelligent design which arise in science lessons, for example as a result of media coverage, could provide the opportunity to explain or explore why they are not considered to be scientific theories and, in the right context, why evolution is considered to be a scientific theory. ... Science teachers can respond positively and educationally to questions and comments about creationism or intelligent design by questioning, using prompts such as 'What makes a theory scientific?', and by promoting knowledge and understanding of the scientific consensus around the theories of evolution and the Big Bang.

The guidance suggests that the proper place for religious ideas about the origins of life is in the Religious Education curriculum, but some Christians disagree—they think it's a load of bollocks in theological terms too:

[Simon Barrow, co-director of the UK Christian think-tank Ekklesia] commented: Creationism and Intelligent Design are not legitimate scientific theories. They are constructs based on discredited ideas about biblical texts, a misunderstanding of the idea of creation (which is an understanding of the world process as gift, not a theory of origins in competition with evolution) and a god-of-the-gaps approach rejected by serious theologians....

Pupils seeking to acquire an understanding of religious and other life stances need to understand how and why fundamentalist world views emerge, said Barrow. But they also need to know why they are rejected by mainstream theologians and scientists. Likewise, as the government rightly says, creationism and ID have no place in school science classrooms.

Government issues guidelines to teachers on creationism and IDEkklesia, 26th September 2007; Creationism teaching guidance—Teachernet.

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June 9, 2007

Church annoyed at game makers

England: The Church of England is upset because a video game features one of their buildings. In Resistance: Fall of Man, a shoot-out takes place inside Manchester Cathedral, a rather nondescript, mostly 19th century church, with Victorian Gothic Revival elements and a couple of 15th century bits, but otherwise nothing special.

The Church is threatening legal action, though they do not indicate on what basis, if the game is not removed from the shops.

Church attacks Sony over video gameThe Guardian, 9th June 2007.

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June 1, 2007

CofE education boss: teach myths in science class

England: The normally moderate Church of England has appointed a complete lunatic as their new head of education. Rev. Jan Ainsworth has said that the myth of Creation should be taught in science classes in Church of England schools (which are state funded), rather than in religion. To her credit, she does suggest that it be part of the history of science.

Her bosses have already started to distance themselves from her statements.

Intelligent design has place in science lessons, says CofEThe Guardian, 1st June 2007.

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May 21, 2007

Politicians Lend Support to Cult

Australia: Danny Nalliah is the nasty little man behind Catch the Fire Ministries, a cult with a history of attacking the opposition. They've managed to wangle free PR out of politicians once again.

Prime Minister John Howard and Labor leader Kevin Rudd have sent goodwill messages to an event organised by a controversial Christian group accused of vilifying Muslims.

Howard is dumb enough to forget the outcry his last encounter with Nalliah caused, but I would have expected Rudd to have more sense. You think they'd both know by now that shit sticks.

PM, Rudd lend support to controversial Christian groupABC News Online, 21st May 2007.

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March 26, 2007

Grumpy old man

Vatican City: A religious leader in an undemocratic city state has declared that the EU is headed for oblivion, because it doesn't give lip service to his imaginary friend.

Angry that a Berlin Declaration unveiled yesterday listing the EU's achievements and challenges on its 50th birthday contained no reference to the continent's Christian roots, Pope Benedict said that Europe could not be built by ignoring its people's identities.

So no doubt he'll be setting an example to us all by respecting the identities of LGBT Europeans, and those who chose an alternative imaginary friend, or none at all?

No, thought not, but for a change, he's decided to blame women for Europe's woes, not pooves:

In his remarks to bishops gathered for ceremonies in Rome to mark the signing of the treaty that founded the EU in 1957, the Pope declared that the reluctance of women in Europe to have babies and Europe's failure to regenerate itself was putting the continent on the path to oblivion. From a demographic standpoint ... Europe seems set on a path that could lead it to take leave of history, he warned. Europe was losing faith in its own future.

Strangely, it's the countries that most respect him—Poland, Italy and Spain—that currently have their lowest birthrates in history.

As the EU turns 50, Pope says it's on path to oblivionThe Guardian, 26th March 2007.

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March 23, 2007

Can we mention the war now?

Germany: A judge has been replaced after she used the Qur'an to deny an abused woman a quickie divorce.

The judge, Christa Datz-Winter, said the German woman of Moroccan descent would not be granted a divorce because she and her husband came from a Moroccan cultural environment in which it is not uncommon for a man to exert a right of corporal punishment over his wife, according to a statement she wrote that was issued by a Frankfurt court. That's what the claimant had to reckon with when she married the defendant.

The 26-year-old mother of two had been repeatedly beaten and threatened with death by her husband.

When the woman protested against the judge's decision, Ms Datz-Winter invoked the Qur'an to support her argument. In the court she read from verse 34 of Sura four of the Qur'an, An-Nisa (Women), in which men are told to hit their wives as a final stage in dealing with disobedience. The verse reads: ... as to those on whose part you fear desertion, admonish them and leave them alone in the sleeping places and beat them.

The woman's lawyer, Barbara Becker-Rojczyk, protested, saying: When Christians are arguing for a divorce they don't use the Bible.

The decision outraged womens organisations, but also Germany's Central Council of Muslims which quickly issued a statement pointing out Violence and abuse of people are of course naturally reasons to warrant a divorce in Islam as well.

German judge invokes Qur'an to deny abused wife a divorceThe Guardian, 23rd March 2007.

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March 22, 2007

Wiccan brings unfair dismissal case

England: A Brighton teaching assistant has told an Employment Tribunal that she was sacked because of her neopagan religious beliefs. Sommer De La Rosa, a Wiccan, claims her employers feared she would brainwash schoolchildren, that other teachers shunned her because of her religion and told her not to wear a pentagram necklace.

Her former employers disagree and say she was sacked because of poor attendance record and inappropriate disclosures to schoolchildren.

Employee claims she was unfairly dismissed for being a witchWorkplace Law, 22nd March 2007.

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Posted by Feòrag in Church and State at 13:25 | View blog reactions

March 20, 2007

Kids think critically; teacher sacked

United States: A teacher has been fired after just eight days in the job for pushing creationist nonsense instead of teaching.

During his eight days as a part-time high school biology teacher, Kris Helphinstine included Biblical references in material he provided to students and gave a PowerPoint presentation that made links between evolution, Nazi Germany and Planned Parenthood.

In his defence, Helphinestine claimed that he only wanted to get the students thinking critically about biased information. The school board did not believe him, and he doesn't seem to have made it clear to his students that that was his intention.

Parent John Rahm told the newspaper that he became concerned when his freshman daughter said she was confused by the supplemental material provided by Helphinstine.

He took passages that had all kinds of Biblical references, Rahm said. It prevented her from learning what she needed to learn.

Ore. Teacher Fired Over Bible ReferencesThe Guardian, 20th March 2007.

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February 20, 2007

British politician opposes veil

United Kingdom: Britain's first Muslim peer has come out against wearing the veil. Lord Ahmed of Rotherham said that they were a mark of separation and defiance against mainstream British culture, and that he felt the way they are used today is contrary to the original intention.

Lord Ahmed, who became the first Muslim peer in 1988, told the Yorkshire Post: The veil is now a mark of separation, segregation and defiance against mainstream British culture.

“But there's nothing in the Koran to say that the wearing of a niqab is desirable, let alone compulsory. It's purely cultural. It's an identity thing which has been misinterpreted.

“They were supposed to be worn so that women wouldn't be harassed.

Some of us would suggest that in these circumstances, it's the men who are at fault and should be kept indoors to stop them causing trouble, but this is a digression.

But my argument is that women, and communities as a whole, are now being harassed because they are wearing them.

He said that the veil was a physical barrier to integration.

He pointed out that Westerners in Muslim countries were expected to dress according to local norms, and felt British Muslims ought to return the courtesy:

The peer said that Muslims in Britain had to become more sensitive to their surroundings, in the same way as westerners walking around Riyadh, the capital of Saudi Arabia, would have to wear a head covering and long clothing before they could expect to engage with local people.

He said that he did not want to see a ban on veils, but added: Muslims need to have a debate among ourselves about whether we need them.

Veil should not be worn, says Muslim peerThe Guardian, 20th February 2007.

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February 6, 2007

Eating your own dogfood

United States: No, not Gillian McKeith again. This time it's the Washington Defense of Marriage Initiative, which proposes some innovative legislation, insisting that marriage really is for the sake of the children, and for no other purpose.

If passed by Washington voters, the Defense of Marriage Initiative would:
  • add the phrase, who are capable of having children with one another to the legal definition of marriage;
  • require that couples married in Washington file proof of procreation within three years of the date of marriage or have their marriage automatically annulled;
  • require that couples married out of state file proof of procreation within three years of the date of marriage or have their marriage classed as unrecognized
  • establish a process for filing proof of procreation; and
  • make it a criminal act for people in an unrecognized marriage to receive marriage benefits.

So which bunch of fundies is behind this initiative? The answer is that it isn't—it's the work of some Americans with a sense of irony.

The Washington Defense of Marriage Alliance seeks to defend equal marriage in this state by challenging the Washington Supreme Court's ruling on Andersen v. King County. This decision, given in July 2006, declared that a legitimate state interest allows the Legislature to limit marriage to those couples able to have and raise children together. Because of this legitimate state interest, it is permissible to bar same-sex couples from legal marriage.

The way we are challenging Andersen is unusual: using the initiative, we are working to put the Court's ruling into law. We will do this through three initiatives. The first would make procreation a requirement for legal marriage. The second would prohibit divorce or legal separation when there are children. The third would make the act of having a child together the legal equivalent of a marriage ceremony.

Absurd? Very. But there is a rational basis for this absurdity. By floating the initiatives, we hope to prompt discussion about the many misguided assumptions which make up the Andersen ruling. By getting the initiatives passed, we hope the Supreme Court will strike them down as unconstit[u]ional and thus weaken Andersen itself. And at the very least, it should be good fun to see the social conservatives who have long screamed that marriage exists for the sole purpose of procreation be forced to choke on their own rhetoric.

The chief executive of Allies for Marriage and Children, a fundie organisation which supports special rights for heterosexuals, spectacularly failed to get the joke. (Thanks Supergee).

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February 4, 2007

Sunday miscelleny

A handful of stories from the last few days which I was too lazy to write about at the time:

  • Teachers get advice on how to spot signs of ritual abuseThe Guardian, 2nd February 2007. Note the word being repurposed to mean the abuse of children by Christians who believe the child to be possessed or a witch. Many of the signs are a bit crap, and others would apply to more mundane forms of child abuse too.

  • Brought to book: the poo lady's PhDThe Guardian, 3rd February 2007. Ben Goldacre find Gillian McKeith's PhD thesis:
    There are lots of grand statements about research, with nice superscript numbers relating to references in the back. But when you chase to the back of the book to see what these academic documents are, they include such august periodicals as Delicious, Creative Living, Healthy Eating, and my favourite: Spiritual Nutrition and the Rainbow Diet.

    Some of it is plainly absurd. As we get older, she explains, the levels of RNA/DNA decrease. Okay. If you do not have enough RNA/DNA, she goes on, you may ultimately age prematurely. Stress can deplete your DNA, but algae will increase it. And that's not all. Chlorophyll within the algae is a powerful oxygen generator for human beings. Back to GCSE Biology: it'll only make oxygen if there's light inside me, Gillian ...
    I found You are What you Eat frustrating and full of errors—it cited the safe drinking levels which were revised upwards in the early 1990s, for example. There are some good recipes in there, but often they are made needlessly complicated, and use exotic ingredients which would put it out of the price range of mere mortals.

  • New Conspiracy: Israeli Genocide Against Lebanese — With Poison BalloonsThe MEMRI Blog, 1st February 2007. This sort of panic is well recorded, and has a long history. There are examples of similar panics during the First World War, but this one seems to have the added legs of organisations willing to exploit it for political reasons.

  • An indictment that the liberal left is oblivious toThe Guardian, 3rd February 2007, isn't on the web site, presumably due to intense embarrassment about the ungrammatical title. Oliver Kamm alleges that a mysteriously monolithic liberal left puts the rights of religious organisations over that of the individuals they oppress:
    In the past century, material betterment and the steady diminuation of discrimination advanced progressive goals. Much of the left have [grr...—F.] yet to come to terms with this achievement. At the extreme, some who were once on the left have adopted the language and outlook of the right. They argue for what by any objective standards are reactionary positions. These include promotion of religious obscurantism in place of secularism; segregation of the sexes at public events; abridgement of free speech in deference to the sensibilities of those who claim themselves victims of Islamophobia; and, most pernicious, the resurrection in political debate of some highly traditional motifs of anti-semitic conspiracy theory.
    If you can get yourself to the library, it's on page 31.

  • Tolerating intolerance is still this country's besetting sinThe Guardian (Comment Is Free), 4th February 2007. More comment on a related matter to the above.

  • Muslims are now getting the same treatment Jews had a century agoThe Guardian (Comment Is Free), 2nd February 2007. One major difference, which is mentioned, but not dwelled upon, is that 19th century radicals-who-happened-to-be-Jewish were not fighting to impose Judaism on the populace as a whole, nor were they the ones wearing traditional Jewish dress as they had pretty much rejected religion. The tiny minority of violent Islamist fundamentalists claim to be fighting for their faith.

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January 29, 2007

Blair to religious bigots: get used to it.

United Kindgom: The Prime Minister has said that churches who want and exception from anti-discrimination laws for faith-based adoption agencies has said they will not get it. Instead, they'll get a 21 month transition period, in which they won't have to consider same-sex couples, but will be obliged to refer them to other, less superstitious, agencies. After that, they will be bound by the law like everyone else. He also reminded us of whose money it is the churches want to use for discriminatory purposes (emphasis mine):

There is no place in our society for discrimination. That's why I support the right of gay couples to apply to adopt like any other couple.

And that way there can be no exemptions for faith-based adoption agencies offering public funded services from regulations that prevent discrimination.

This is likely to be subject to a free vote in parliament, so it's still worth signing the Prattle's petition!

No exemption from gay rights lawBBC News, 29th January 2007.

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More on religious discrimination against pooves and dykes

United Kingdom: A correspondent writes to the Prattle:

I think you missed the best part of the story. As per the BBC: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/6293115.stm... the little bully-mob of Archbishops claims that:

rights of conscience cannot be made subject to legislation, however well-meaning

In other words, they are claiming that if they want to do something (or perhaps that their Invisible Friend wants them to do something) then the government should not be allowed to tell them otherwise.


They are, in fact, demanding the right to be above the law in all cases, should they choose to exercise that right.


Hmm indeed. Our attention is also drawn to a petition on the government website, supporting the law. The end date has been extended, so we are asked to ignore the 17th January bit.

But here at Prattle Towers (Northern Hemisphere) we have our own modest proposal, and have our very own petition: We the undersigned petition the Prime Minister to allow religious organisations to discriminate against lesbians and gay men, on condition that they accept discrimination against themselves. You know it makes sense!

Another interesting petition request the extension of the law to cover trans-people: to prohibit discrimination in the provision of goods, services and facilities, includng health care,on the grounds of transsexual or transgender status

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January 26, 2007

WWJD?: Lies and Blackmail!

United Kingdom: It came as no surprise that, while the Prattle was down, a number of interesting news stories would come to light, and that others would run and run. In particular, some religious organisations continue to be upset that same-sex couples have the right to be considered as adoptive parents, and will soon have to receive equal treatment in the provision of goods and services.

One church, in particular, is desperate for the right to be bigoted, even though their own members, and people perceived to be descended from members of that church, have been, and still are, on the receiving end of discrimination. Needless to say, the church which pretends to be so concerned about children is the same one that has a long-standing problem with pædophile clergy, and a history of covering up the child abuse committed by their priests (Prattles passim, ad nauseam).

So, what honourable tactics are being used by the men of God?

Continue reading "WWJD?: Lies and Blackmail!"

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January 9, 2007

“Christians” ignoring Jesus (yet again)

United Kingdom: Jesus had quite a lot to say about the way his followers should deal with the people around them. Matthew 5:43-47, for example, is the bit where Jesus insists that you should love your enemies, and do good things for people, even if they hate you. Then there's Luke 10: 29-37, otherwise known as the parable of the Good Samaritan. And what does the Bible record of Jesus' words on homosexuality?


Which is why Christian organisations are at the forefront of protests against new anti-discrimination legislation in England and Wales, which insists that sexuality not be an issue when it comes to the provision of goods and services. And to prove their point, the alleged Christians have chosen to further ignore the words of their deity when he emphasised the importance of the Ten Commandments in Matthew 19:18, Mark 10:19 and Luke 18:20. Three out of the four gospels say that Jesus had a downer on telling porkies, so guess what the fundies have chosen to do? Let Polly Toynbee explain:

They claim the law will force all schools to actively promote homosexual civil partnerships to children (from primary-school age) to the same degree that they teach the importance of marriage. No it won't: the curriculum does not actively promote homosexuality, nor even make sex education compulsory. They claim the law will force a printing shop run by a Christian to print fliers promoting gay sex. No it won't, unless the same printers promote heterosexual porn too. Or how about this one? Force a family-run B&B to let out a double room to a transsexual couple, even if the family think it in the best interests of their children to refuse to allow such a situation in their home. Oh no it won't: it doesn't even cover transsexuals - and what a daft scenario anyway. The National Secular Society has complained to the Advertising Standards Authority. But on and on go the prurient situations the religious homophobes dream up.

It's not just barking mad fundies who want the right to ignore Jesus. The more mainstream churches have got in on the act and demonstrated the degree to which they are devoid of compassion and driven by hatred:

Lord Ferrers in the last debate said hospitals should be allowed to discriminate if they had a Christian ethos. Does that mean they do now? Are they turning away gay Aids patients? He said a pro-life Catholic hospital should be allowed to turn away a lesbian for fertility treatment. (Though any non-Catholic turning to Catholics for fertility treatment needs their head examined.) The Catholic adoption society said it will shut up shop if it has to allow gay couples to apply. Churches say they will never let out a hall to a gay organisation. Christians running soup kitchens say they want to refuse gays shelter and soup. (Soup!) The Catholic Archbishop of Liverpool threatens to withdraw all cooperation over schools and charity programmes if the law goes through. The Bishop of Rochester says it will damage church work in inner cities. (Only if his church shuts down services.) The C of E pretends that the law would force it to bless civil unions (it won't).

Still, if this means that priests have access to fewer vulnerable children, this can only be a good thing.

As Toynbee notes, many of the services provided by churches are funded by the taxpayer (and recent legislation means they can get access to more of our money). Yet they want the right to use government money to discriminate and promote hatred.

Homophobia, not injustice, is what really fires the faithsThe Guardian, 9th January 2007.

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January 2, 2007

ID put in its place

England and Wales: At first the headline Creationism gains foothold in schools might seem a little disturbing, and "Truth" in Science seem strangely happy about what is proposed. They clearly are not able to read English, for the government is, indeed, examining how intelligent design can be discussed in schools, but only as part of the Religious Education syllabus.

The response from the Church of England is most interesting:

Opponents in the Church of England dismiss it as fantasy. Colin Slee, the Dean of Southwark, said: Everything needs to be explored, so that children can ask sensible questions. Though I see no huge difficulty with exploring intelligent design or creationism or flat Earth, they happen to be misguided, foolish and flying in the face of all evidence. I see no problem with Darwinian theory and Christian faith going hand in hand.

Canon Jeremy Davies, Precentor of Salisbury cathedral, said: I don't see why religious education should be a dumping ground for fantasies.

Because, my dear Canon, it fits in perfectly with all the other fantasies that fill the RE curriculum. Now, if someone could just teach the Times subs the difference between theories, hypotheses and religious fantasy...

Creationism gains foothold in schoolsThe Times, 31st December 2006 (thanks to Pastor Best OPI).

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December 23, 2006

British public: religion is dangerous

United Kingdom: Religion is a force for harm, not good, and non-believers make up the majority of the population according to a poll published in today's Guardian.

The poll also reveals that non-believers outnumber believers in Britain by almost two to one. It paints a picture of a sceptical nation with massive doubts about the effect religion has on society: 82% of those questioned say they see religion as a cause of division and tension between people. Only 16% disagree. The findings are at odds with attempts by some religious leaders to define the country as one made up of many faith communities.

Most people have no personal faith, the poll shows, with only 33% of those questioned describing themselves as a religious person. A clear majority, 63%, say that they are not religious - including more than half of those who describe themselves as Christian.

The response from the Church of England has been to stick its fingers in its ears and cry Nyaah! Nyaah! Can't hear you!.

But a spokesman for the Church of England denied yesterday that mainstream religion was the source of tension. He also insisted that the impression of secularism in this country is overrated.

He went on to claim that 1 million people (1.6% of the population) attend CofE services each week. As Charles Stross points out, this is far fewer than watch SF and fantasy on TV:

Yeah, right. You speak for an organization that has an audience draw 40% that of a Terry Pratchett mini-series on Sky TV. Doctor Who has a 4:1 lead over the C of E in regular audience terms. Maybe we should give Russell T. Davis four seats in the House of Lords?

Religion does more harm than good - pollThe Guardian, 23rd December 2006.

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December 9, 2006

Onion gravy is traditional, but cranberry sauce is nice

United States: Some schools have a system whereby non-profit organisations may give flyers to schoolchildren. A recent court ruling affirmed that, to avoid church and state issues, the system had to be made available to all non-profits, or none at all. The case was brought by an organisation run by preacher Jerry Falwell.

The dispute started last summer when Gabriel and Joshua Rakoski, twins who attend Hollymead Elementary School, sought permission to distribute fliers about their church's Vacation Bible School to their peers via backpack mail. Many public schools use special folders placed in student backpacks to distribute notices about schools events and sometimes extra-curricular activities to parents.

School officials originally denied the request from the twins' father, Ray Rakoski, citing a school policy barring distribution of literature that is for partisan, sectarian, religious or political purposes.

A Charlottesville weekly newspaper, The Hook, reports that Rakoski sicced the Liberty Counsel on the county, and the policy was soon revised to allow religious groups to use the backpack mail system. Liberty Counsel is a Religious Right legal group founded by Mathew Staver and now affiliated with Falwell.

So, when a Unitarian Universalist congregation used the system to advertise an event about the pagan origins of Christmas, followed by a Yule celebration, who got all upset about it? Yep, Christians.

Suddenly not everyone was pleased by the open forum. Jeff Riddle, pastor of Jefferson Park Baptist Church in Charlottesville, wrote on his personal blog, If the school allows the Baptist or Methodist church to send home a note to its students about Vacation Bible School, it also has to allow the Unitarian Church to send home a note about its 'Pagan ritual to celebrate Yule'....This kind of note adds weight to the argument that it is high time for Christians to leave public schools for reasonable alternatives (homeschooling and private Christian schools).

Another conservative Christian blogger in the county complained about finding the flier in her child's folder. Apparently unaware of Falwell's role in bringing it about, the blogger who goes by the name Cathy, noted disclaimer language at the bottom of the flier noting that the event is not connected to the school and wrote, They [the school officials] aren't endorsing or sponsoring this? Then it shouldn't have been included in the Friday folders. The Friday folders have never been used for any thing other than school work and school board and/or County sanctioned/sponsored programs.

And the stushie soon came to the notice of the fundies at World Net Daily:

Amazing — government schools ban orthodox Christianity, but allow an openly pagan organization to proselytize six-year-olds! one observer who asked for anonymity told WND...

The banner also displays three symbols: a cross, a Star of David and a pentagram — a star enclosed in a circle — often associated with paganism, witches groups such as Wicca, and even Satanism.

At least the World Nut Daily can tell the difference between a pentacle and a pentagram, unlike most Neopagans these days.

Andrew Ian Dodge also pointed me towards a forum discussion of the issue, where one or two people were a little upset about it.

I'm shocked that people think this would hold up. What about local control? Aren't local standards used to define what is obscene?

I thank God for Christian schools!

Obviously, the obscenity in question must be the gruesome method of execution depicted on the flyer.

Falwell’s Flub: Jerry-Rigged Policy Opens Door For Pagan Proselytizing In Virginia Public SchoolThe Wall of Separation, 5th December 2006;Pagan Christmas ritual pressed on young kidsWorld Net Daily, 8th December 2006.

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December 8, 2006

Grauniad miscelleny

The Guardian has published a number of stories of interest recently.

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November 11, 2006

Archbishop calls for compulsory Anglicanism

Englandshire: The Archbishop of York is upset that public bodies are not deferring to his particular superstition ahead of all the others, and blames a conspirecy of illiberal atheists for undermining Britain's religious heritage. Naturally, he's upset that most people now realise that Christmas has nothing to do with Jesus, and everything to do with the fact that the earth rotates on an axis of 23.5°.

He criticised government officials for sending Christmas cards marked season's greetings and Torbay council's decision to remove a cross from a crematorium.

It was, of course, the Church of England that opposed the introduction of cremation in the first place.

It seems that the CofE is launching a bit of campaign to force their religion down the throats of the rest of us:

Earlier this week Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams and Catholic leader Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor launched a joint attack on what they called intolerant public atheism.

In their foreword to Doing God: A Future for Faith in the Public Square, a report by new religious think tank Theos, they argued against limiting religion to the private sphere.

Campaigners against religion in public life had an intolerant faith position, they said.

A tolerant faith position presumably being one that forces a particular religion upon those of other faiths and none.

Archbishop attacks public atheismBBC News, 11th November 2006.

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September 4, 2006

Violent porn miscelleny

United Kingdom: About the only good thing about the British government's proposal to ban violent pornography is that it has provoked quite a bit of discussion.

Val Dobson felt the need to rant at an article in the Grauniad, in which old urban myths about snuff films were repeated as if such a movie had ever been found:

Nothing happened because the film was a fake - as were all the other snuff movies that followed. In three decades of police porn seizures world-wide, no genuine snuff movie has ever come to light; the panic over women being brutally slain for the cameras was a typical urban legend.

It would be interesting to know just who were the film experts who verified that the film used no special effects. (As it happens, I used to have a copy of the Radical Feminist Network newsletter that carried a report of the film viewing that Bindel refers to. Having chucked out most of my magazine archives in a house move since, I no longer have the newsletter, but I clearly remember there was no mention of film experts then - only a reported claim by an unnamed police surgeon that the dismemberment scenes were real.)

OK, so Bindel is an ignorant person - does it matter? Yes it does. She presents herself not as an ordinary person with no special knowledge, but as a feminist campaigner, expert in anything concerning pornography and violence against women. That was why the Guardian asked her for a contribution to the debate - and snuff movies certainly fall within the remit of ‘pornography and violence against women’. Yet she has clearly never done any research at all into the subject.

Of course, if such a film did exist, it would be evidence for the prosecution in the ensuing murder case. The fact that murder, and being an accessory to murder, is already illegal, and punished much more seriously than possessing violent porn will be seems lost on Bindel. If the films existed, despite the possibility of life imprisonment, then the lesser penalty wouldn't exactly be a deterrent to the producers, would it?

What annoyed me about the article was that only one viewpoint, porn is evil, is presented as being feminist. Val, may I introduce you to Avedon Carol (there's no point trying to link to any individual post at her blog The Sideshow) and Feminists Against Censorship? FAC links to a petition against the proposed legislation[1].

Backlash is a campaign set up to oppose the proposed legislation. They have produced a pretty comprehensive website.

Frank Fisher at the Guardian argues against the law, and censorship in general, urging the government to stay out of the bedroom - and the dungeon.

News that the UK government is set to legislate against the possession of violent pornography, with simple possession punishable by a three year jail term, indicates that not only are we in the dying hours of the Silly Season, but also that we're in the dying hours of reason in this increasingly irrational nation.

Of all the arrogant, idiotic, kneejerk, populist measures this ignorant and increasingly inept government has proposed, this has to be the worst. Ill-conceived, illiberal, impractical and totally unenforceable - so why propose it?

And Avedon is there again, observing that the proposals will actually endanger women:

Only it won't do anything for women and in fact will probably end up endangering more of us because the less information you can get about BDSM, the more likely you are to have accidents that result in injury or death.

Charlie Stross notes that This government has created an average of one new criminal offense for every day it has spent in power — and it's been in power for nearly a decade. I am getting more than a little sick of these control freaks ...

Violent PornTurn Left at the Bridge, 2nd September 2006; British government decides to encourage rapeCharlie's Diary, 31st August 2006.

Note: Naturally, being a contrary old sod, I have an issue with the words We ... have no objection to laws which make ... dangerous acts illegal. After all, if people choose to do stupid dangerous things then, as long as they don't involve any unwilling parties, I say let Father Darwin sort them out!

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August 28, 2006

Want parole? Become a fundie.

United States: Fundies are unhappy that federal judges have declared that an Iowa programme which gave early release to prisoners if they converted to evangelical Christianity is illegal.

The June 2 decision in Americans United for Separation of Church and State v. Prison Fellowship Ministries was a staggering loss not just for Earley's group but perhaps for key elements of President George W. Bush's faith-based initiative as well.

U.S. District Judge Robert W. Pratt didn't mince words. Officials at Iowa's Newton Correctional Facility had become, he wrote, far too entangled with religion by establishing a special wing for Prison Fellowship's InnerChange program. InnerChange, Pratt declared, is suffused with religion.

The religion classes are not objective inquiries into the religious life, comparable to an adult study or college course, offered for the sake of discussing and learning universal secular, civic values or truths, Pratt wrote. They are, instead, overwhelmingly devotional in nature and intended to indoctrinate InnerChange inmates into the Evangelical Christian belief system.

You have to wonder what the programme was meant to acheive. The most recent figures available are for 1997, but show that the most grossly underrepresented group in the US prison population is the athiest, making up between 8 and 16% of the population but only 0.209% of prisoners.

Evangelical Conversion-for-Parole Program ThwartedAlterNet, 28th August 2006.

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June 17, 2006

Thou shalt not commit stupidity

United States of America: Georgia Representative Lynn Westmoreland co-sponsored a bill which would mandate the display of the Ten Commandments in the US House of Representatives and Senate. Steve Colbert interviewed him about this and asked him to recite those Commandments. Interestingly, he knows fewer of them than I do! Stephen Colbert and Congressman (YouTube link - Flash video) (via The Woolamaloo Gazette).

May 21, 2006

Lordi! Lordi! Lordi!

Greece/Finland: A heavy metal band has demonstrated that the best way to win the Eurovision Song Contest is to upset religious authorities:

Their fearsome appearance and religious references led to some protests in Finland and host country Greece before this year's contest.

Father Mitro Repo, an Orthodox Christian clergyman in Helsinki, described the band's use of the name Lordi"as "sacrilege.

And a group of Greek protesters known as the Hellenes called on the Finnish government to intervene.

We ask the Finnish Commission of the Eurovision Song Contest to cancel the procedure and choose another song, they said. This evil and satanic Finnish band is not welcome in Greece.

But they still won. The last time a performer offended supersitious sentiment, transexual Dana International took the crown for Israel.

The UK gave Lordi the full 12 points, helped by the votes of those attending the Eurovision party at Prattle Towers.

Update (21st May, 15:48): For the benefit of those outside Greater Europe who don't know what we're going on about, here's Lordi's winning performance. And for the record, here's Dana International, plus an article about reaction to her from certain quarters.

How horror rock conquered EuropeBBC News, 20th May 2006.

May 6, 2006

Established church terrified of miniscule competition

Greece: Approximately 2000 Hellenic Pagans are now legally allowed to exist in Greece, but all is still not hunky dory, and followers of the old gods are now seeking the right to worship at their sacred sites:

The followers, who say they defend the genuine traditions, religion and ethos of the ancients by adhering to a pre-Christian polytheistic culture, are poised to take their battle to the temples of Greece.

What we want, now, is for the government to fully recognise our religion, Vasillis Tsantilas told the Guardian. We will petition the Greek parliament, and the EU if that fails, for access to worship in places like the Acropolis, for permission to have our own cemeteries and, where necessary, to re-bury the [ancient] bones of the dead.

Greece only allows Orthodox Christianity, Judaism and Islam, having apparently not read the European Convention on Human Rights when it became a signatory to it, and especially not Article 9:

Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief, in worship, teaching, practice and observance.

Needless to say, the established church is unhappy at the idea that a tiny number of Greeks might have a different set of imaginary friends:

Father Eustathios Kollas, who presides over the community of Greek priests, said: They are a handful of miserable resuscitators of a degenerate dead religion who wish to return to the monstrous dark delusions of the past.

Greek gods prepare for comebackThe Guardian, 5th May 2006.

March 25, 2006

Work of literature not banned by US school board

United States: In a surprising decision, given recent events, a school board in San Antonio, Texas, has decided not to ban Margaret Atwood's 1985 classic The Handmaid's Tale. Superintendent Ed Lyman had banned the book from the advanced English curriculum, but the school board overturned the decision.

If we do ban The Handmaid's Tale because of sexual content, then why not ban Huckleberry Finn for racism? Why not ban The Crucible for witchcraft? Why not ban The Things They Carried for violence, and why not ban the Bible and argue separation of church and state? Judson senior Craig Gagne told trustees.

As well as complaining that the book was sexually explicit, Lyman insisted it was offensice to Christians. Well, I suppose if you are a barking mad fundie, I suppose it would be offensive to read a fictional reminder of what a society run according your interpretation of The Big Book of Fairy Tales would be like.

School board reverses ban on Handmaid's TaleHouseton Chronicle, 24th March 2006.

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March 21, 2006

Another one bites the dust

United States: Life is hard right now for teachers who want to teach the classics. Yesterday, we mentioned the case of Tresa Waggoner. Today it's the turn of drama teacher Wendy DeVore, formerly of Fulton High School, Columbia, Missouri, who has resigned from her job, complaing that [i]t became too much to not be able to speak my mind or defend my students without fear or retribution. Fear of whom? Barking mad fundies of course!

The trouble started when she and her students put on a performance of the musical Grease. Admittedly the 1972 musical is a lot more hard-hitting than the film, and concerns the trials and tribulations of a group of teenagers, including the various ways in which they get into trouble. Members of Callaway Christian Church complained about scenes showing teens smoking, drinking and kissing and DeVore was ordered to stick to more family-friendly material in future.

So, she turned to that old staple, Shakespeare. Parents often complain that the Bard isn't taught enough in schools these days, so surely there should be nothing wrong with A Midsummer Night's Dream?

Apparently, the literary classic, a staple on English Literature exams throughout the English-speaking world, is right out. Apparently there's too much dicey subject matter, including suicide, rape and losing one's virginity, none of which can be found in the Bible, of course.

And the spring production, the cancellation of which led to DeVore's resignation? The Crucible.

Teacher decides to leaveColumbia Daily Tribune, 18th March 2006. See also Prat of the Year 2006, first nominees: George Sauter and the BabisPagan Prattle, 20th March 2006.

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Archbishop: teach science, not religion, in science classes

England: The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr. Rowan Williams, has strong words to say about teaching creationism in schools.

I think creationism is ... a kind of category mistake, as if the Bible were a theory like other theories ... if creationism is presented as a stark alternative theory alongside other theories I think there's just been a jarring of categories ... My worry is creationism can end up reducing the doctrine of creation rather than enhancing it, he said.

In the interview at Lambeth Palace, Dr. Willams also criticised Nigerian Archbishop Peter Akinola, accused of inciting violence against Muslims.

Archbishop: stop teaching creationismThe Guardian, 21st March 2006.

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March 18, 2006

A Signature From God

United States: Paul Sewell, a self-employed bond enforcement agent, has had a run-in with the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation. It seems they take a dim view of his long-held habit of signing his name as God on official documents, including his drivers licence and voter registration form.

...he signs official documents as God because fugitives always preface their comments with Oh, God, when he captures them. He said his co-workers thought that was funny and took to calling him God.

In his appeal to the court, he said I do not know why they are cancelling my driver's licence that I have had at age 16. Now I am 40.

He signed his appeal, God.

Cross with 'God' driver [BugMeNot] - Sydney Morning Herald, 6th February 2006.

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March 13, 2006


England and Wales: Regular commenter G. Tingey managed to contact the Prattle Towers Temporary Irish Encampment with news from home. The message consisted of the word Arrrrggghhh! and a link to this story: Creationism to be taught on GCSE science syllabusThe Times, 10th March 2006.

March 3, 2006

The lunatics have taken over the asylum

United Kingdom: Prime Minister Tony Blair has admitted that he asked his imaginary friend before sending British troops to Iraq. The voices in his head apparently told him it was okay.

Prime Minister Tony Blair says he prayed to God when deciding whether or not to send UK troops to Iraq.

Mr Blair answered yes when asked on ITV1 chat show Parkinson if he had sought holy intervention on the issue....

In the end, there is a judgement that, I think if you have faith about these things, you realise that judgement is made by other people... and if you believe in God, it's made by God as well, Mr Blair said...

The only way you can take a decision like that is to do the right thing according to your conscience.

Blair 'prayed to God' over IraqBBC News, 3rd March 2006.

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December 2, 2005

God asked to overturn election

Norway: Jan Hanvold doesn't like democracy, especially if the pesky electorate doesn't vote the way he wants them to. So, what is a fundie preacher to do? Ask his imaginary friend to bring down the government, of course.

The Labor Party and the Center Party we can swallow, but the Socialist Left stands for a de-Christianizing stance that we just cannot support, Hanvold said on his live program on Thursday evening, the Christian newspaper Magazinet reports.

Several Christians have asked to pray for the government, but I pray for a Cabinet crisis, Hanvold said. The recent Socialist Left party call to boycott Israel was the final straw.

Praying for Cabinet crisisAftenposten, 2nd December 2005.

November 20, 2005

Robertson Threatens Pennsylvanian Town With Disaster

United States: The good citizens of Dover, Pennsylvania know stupidity when they see it. After all, these are the people who booted out their moronic school board when the idiots went all swoony over creationism. But while the rest of the world is applauding the town's good sense, I suspect that no one is surprised to hear that Pat Robertson is calling down a hail of toads and spanners. Or whatever it is that loony fundie psychopaths threaten the intelligent with when they throw a hissy fit.

I'd like to say to the good citizens of Dover: if there is a disaster in your area, don't turn to God, you just rejected Him from your city, Robertson said on his daily television show broadcast from Virginia, The 700 Club.

And don't wonder why He hasn't helped you when problems begin, if they begin. I'm not saying they will, but if they do, just remember, you just voted God out of your city. And if that's the case, don't ask for His help because he might not be there, he said.

And people wonder why church attendances are falling.

Robertson warns Pennsylvania voters of God's wrath - Reuters, 10th November 2005 (via Warren Ellis).

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October 7, 2005

Prat of the Year, second nominee: Duncan Maclean

Scotland: An independent councillor, Duncan Maclean, put forward a motion to West Lothian council which would have banned same sex civil unions from taking place in registry offices. Fortunately, no other councillor was willing to second the motion, so it got precisely nowhere. Maclean is unhappy.

He said fellow West Lothian councillors should hang their heads in shame after giving the green light to gay marriage ceremonies.

Cllr Maclean said today: It's political correctness gone mad. As the Bible teaches, 'wrong-doers will not inherit the kingdom of God', and this includes lesbians and gays. If these people want to enter into a formal commitment, why don't they go to a lawyer and get them to sign a formal legal document? Why do these queers have to parade about in public?

He insists that his words could not possibly be offensive: I don't think I am offending any of my constituents as I know for a fact that none of my voters are gay.

Of course, there is only one way he can know this for sure...

Anger at 'parading queers' jibe in row over gay marriageEdinburgh Evening News, 5th October 2005.

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October 5, 2005

Prat of the Year, first nominee: Guy Bowling

United States: Ricky Shepard is your typical sixteen year old, engaging in the sort of petty rebellion common to that age group. His preferred method of yanking the crank of his elders is to be Wiccan, something that causes much distress to his school's headmaster:

Shepard confronted Principal Guy Bowling after he confiscated two seventh-graders' pentacles, the Wiccan equivalent to a Protestant's cross or a Jew's star of David...

...Shepard didn't persuade his principal to let the students wear the symbol. Instead, Bowling told Shepard to take off his pentacle chain before going to class.

By his own admission, the principal knows very little about Wicca, but having been advised by Shepard and his parents, it seems that they know very little about it too.

Bowling said he knew little about Wicca, and had mistaken the necklace's symbol for a pentagram, an upside-down version that symbolizes Satanism.

Which is, of course, complete and utter bollocks, the pentagram being the proper name for the symbol (a pentacle is something that goes on an altar), and the upside-down version being the symbol of the second degree is most Wiccan traditions. Despite his claim to have been Wiccan for many years, Shepard appears not to have progressed far enough to be aware of this.

But all is not yet hunky dory - the school is still prohibiting a Wiccan club, and seems willing to ignore the law to do so.

The Equal Rights Act requires secondary schools to permit clubs of all religions, including groups that deal with atheism, Satanism or Wicca. School districts can opt out of the act by not allowing any non-curriculum clubs. Priceville does have clubs, including Fellowship of Christian Athletes.

We are not going to have a Wiccan club. I don't think we need any more clubs at this time, Bowling, a Southern Baptist, said.

The Teenaged WitchThe Decateur Daily, 4th October 2005. (Update: Page has gone now, but there is a mirror at archive.org.

Bampot tag: .

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October 2, 2005

Sex and politics

Canada: A new political party aims to bring sex into politcs with its platform of sex-positive policies. And they clearly see religion as part of the problem:

[Sex Party Leader John] Ince said politicians at all levels of government are terrified to touch any issue that involves sex because there's a strong, organized religious and moral conservative lobby. The result, he claims, is a Criminal Code filled with archaic laws that criminalize normal, healthy behaviour.

So, how do they plan to redress the balance?

The party would campaign on a platform of overhauling current sex laws, including a repeal of the Criminal Code's prohibition on immoral, indecent performance, entertainment or representation.

Candidates would also press for a national policy on comprehensive sex education in Canadian schools, more liberal laws on recreational nudity in public areas and less censorship.

The party also wants to change Victoria Day to Eros Day and would proclaim Valentine's Day as an official holiday.

A plea for sex role in politicsToronto Sun, 2nd October 2005.

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September 16, 2005

Agreement reached in case of Druids stopped by fundie officer

United States: Agreement has been reached in the case of a Druid couple who were stopped by a reserve officer (equivalent to a special constable) to preach at them. The couple were charged with several violations, even though the stop had been illegal.

Neil Caesar says the most serious traffic charge against his clients will be dismissed. Three remaining charges will be reduced to minimum levels.

Greer officials have written letters of apology and has shut down its reserve officer program.

This last part presumably means that the officer in question no longer has his witnessing opportunity.

Druid couple reaches agreement with city after traffic stopWIStv, 16th September 2005. See also It's a fundie thingPagan Prattle, 27th June 2005.

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September 15, 2005

Mayor apologises for listening to fundies

United States: The mayor of a town near Colorado Springs has apologised to a local Neopagan group after she attempted to ban a fundraiser they'd organised. The attempted ban followed a complaint froma local fundie preacher, and the apology after the mayor received a dressing down from a colleague.

The Secret Garden Coven booked the American Legion Hall in Ramah for a Hallowe'en themed fundraiser for St. Jude's Children's Research Hospital on October 29th. Rev. Tim Tucker, of Ramah Baptist Fellowship, asked the town board to block the event, and a meeting was convened last August specifically to discuss the event. At last Tuesday's meeting, board member Nicole Allen, told the mayor exactly what she tought of the council getting involved, and the Mayor issued her apology.

Herrara's apology followed a scolding Tuesday from fellow trustee Nicole Allen, who said she was embarrassed by the board's behavior at the work session, saying it was an attempt to violate the group's civil liberties.

All I can say is we do as a board apologize, Herrara told members of the Secret Garden Coven at Tuesday's meeting. This has never come up before and never will again...

...I believe in the separation of church and state, [Allen] said. I do not believe the town of Ramah had a legal interest and should not have been involved.

I find it sad council members were willing to protest and condemn what they did not understand. This is the first time I've been embarrassed and ashamed of the actions of my fellow board members.

The fundies have vowed to continue their persecution by trying to persuade the American Legion to discriminate against Pagans specifically.

Ramah mayor apologizes to pagans - The Gazette, 15th September 2005.

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Posted by Feòrag in Church and State and Hallowe'en at 17:48 | View blog reactions

August 23, 2005

Public reject religious schools

United Kingdom: Two-thirds of respondents in a Guardian/ICM poll oppose the government's plans to allow more religious schools into the state system.

The survey reveals that following last month's terror attacks, the majority of the public are uneasy about the proposals, with 64% agreeing that the government should not be funding faith schools of any kind.

The main concern was that such schools have a negative impact on social cohesion.

Yesterday Barry Sheerman, chairman of the Commons education select committee, warned that religious schools posed a threat to the cohesion of multicultural communities.

Do we want a ghettoised education system? asked Mr Sheerman. Schools play a crucial role in integrating different communities and the growth of faith schools poses a real threat to this. These things need to be thought through very carefully before they are implemented.

Two thirds oppose state aided faith schools, The Guardian, 23rd August 2005.

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August 13, 2005

Demented Australian Politician Backs Teaching of Creationism

Australia: Looks like I'm slacking off in the spotting of local loons. This article on another spokestwit for Intelligent Design was sent in by eagle-eyed Prattle reader, Terry Frost.

As Terry states: This guy is the Federal Education Minister, not just the one for a state. It's not quite Bush shooting his mouth off the other day, but from down here in Melbourne, it's scary.

The Education Minister throws open debate on a thorny theory in schools.

The controversial theory of intelligent design has won the qualified backing of Education Minister Brendan Nelson, who says it should be taught in schools alongside evolution if that is the wish of parents.

Intelligent design, which is damned by critics as a front for biblical Creationism, argues that life on Earth is too complex to have evolved purely through Darwin's theory of natural selection. Dr Nelson said yesterday he had met Campus Crusade for Christ, the Australian advocates of intelligent design, or ID, and watched their DVD presentation, called Unlocking the Mystery of Life.

He told the National Press Club in Canberra yesterday that he would oppose replacing evolution with ID in Australia's science classes but said parents should be able to choose that their children learn about it.
Continue reading "Demented Australian Politician Backs Teaching of Creationism"

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July 25, 2005

Lazy Christian fired.

United Kingdom: A Christian has been told that his being sacked for refusing to work Sundays was fair and did not constitute religious discrimination.

Mr Copsey, 33, of King's Lynn, Norfolk, worked for the quarry firm in his home town for 14 years until 2002. He was claiming £65,000 damages.

An industrial tribunal and appeal tribunal ruled that Mr Copsey was sacked because he refused to work a seven-day shift pattern and not because he held particular religious beliefs.

The judge found that the company had compelling economic reasons to switch to a seven-day shift pattern, which applied to all workers equally, and that alternatives to dismissal had been explored, but none found.

The alternatives to dismissal were fully explored with Mr Copsey. No sensible alternative to dismissal could be found. The tribunal found that Devon Clays had done everything they could to accommodate Mr Copsey's wish not to work on Sundays.

Christian loses Sunday working appeal - The Guardian, 25th July 2005.

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Posted by Feòrag in Church and State at 17:26 | View blog reactions

July 22, 2005

Time to separate church and state

United Kingdom: Polly Toynbee is inspired mood in today's Guardian, looking at this government's history of appeasing religion, which includes the extremist bampots. And she reminds us that it isn't just Islam that suffers from this problem:

All religions are prone to it, given the right circumstances. How could those who preach the absolute revealed truth of every word of a primitive book not be prone to insanity? There have been sects of killer Christians and indeed the whole of Christendom has been at times bent on wiping out heathens. Jewish zealots in their settlements crazily claim legal rights to land from the Old Testament. Some African Pentecostal churches harbour sects of torturing exorcism and child abuse. Muslims have a very long tradition of jihadist slaughter. Sikhs rose up to stop a play that exposed deformities of abuse within their temples. Buddhism too has its sinister wing. See how far-right evangelicals have kidnapped US politics and warped its secular, liberal founding traditions. Intense belief, incantations, secrecy and all-male rituals breed perversions and danger, abusing women and children and infecting young men with frenzy, no matter what the name of the faith.

Enlightenment values are in peril not because these mad beliefs are really growing but because too many rational people seek to appease and understand unreason. Extreme superstition breeds extreme action. Those who believe they alone know the only way, truth and life will always feel justified in doing anything in its name. You would, wouldn't you, if you alone had the magic answer to everything? If religions teach that life after death is better then it is hardly surprising that some crazed followers will actually believe it.

In the name of God - The Guardian, 22nd July 2005.

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Posted by Feòrag in Church and State at 09:31 | View blog reactions

July 20, 2005

You'll get hairy palms, too.

United States: A bizarre coalition of religious organisations and psychologists have teamed up to raise funds to 'prove' that porn causes brain damage. Dr Judith Reisman wants to test her hypothesis that pornography affects the physical structure of your brain turning you into a porno-zombie.

Porn, she says, is an erototoxin, producing an addictive drug cocktail of testosterone, oxytocin, dopamine and serotonin with a measurable organic effect on the brain.

Some of us might consider this a good thing. Not Reisman: erototoxins aren't about pleasure, they're a fear-sex-shame-and-anger stimulant. Reisman's paper on the subject The Psychopharmacology of Pictorial Pornography Restructuring Brain, Mind & Memory & Subverting Freedom of Speech has helped make her the darling of the anti-pornography crusade, and in November last year she presented her erototoxin theory to the US senate.

The plan is to conduct MRI scans on victims under the influence of porn, hopefully providing evidence to both sue the producers of erotic material in the same way as the tobacco industry, and to get the evil stuff banned - obviously someone under the influence of porn cannot be covered by the First Amendment, for their own good. But Mark Pilkington spots a problemette, which might explain Reisman's rather odd thinking:

But there's a catch. Much of Reisman's research in developing her theory has necessitated examining hundreds, perhaps thousands, of pornographic magazines and films. By her own reasoning her brain ought, by now, to be a seething mass of toxic smutmulch ...

Sex on the brain - The Guardian, 14th July 2005 (via El Coyote Gordo).

July 11, 2005

Catholics Heading into Dark Ages

United States: Just when you thought the Catholics couldn't manage to step any further back into the dark ages, along comes a wingnut to disabuse you of that notion.

An influential cardinal in the Roman Catholic Church, which has long been regarded as an ally of the theory of evolution, is now suggesting that belief in evolution as accepted by science today may be incompatible with Catholic faith.

The cardinal, Christoph Schönborn, archbishop of Vienna, a theologian who is close to Pope Benedict XVI, staked out his position in an Op-Ed article in The New York Times on Thursday, writing, Evolution in the sense of common ancestry might be true, but evolution in the neo-Darwinian sense — an unguided, unplanned process of random variation and natural selection — is not.

It will come as a surprise to no one that the deranged man in the frock is in bed with a loony fundie whose mission in life is spreading complete bollocks to impressionable children.

One of the strongest advocates of teaching alternatives to evolution is the Discovery Institute in Seattle, which promotes the idea, termed intelligent design, that the variety and complexity of life on earth cannot be explained except through the intervention of a designer of some sort.

Mark Ryland, a vice president of the institute, said in an interview that he had urged the cardinal to write the essay. Both Mr Ryland and Cardinal Schönborn said that an essay in May in The Times about the compatibility of religion and evolutionary theory by Lawrence M Krauss, a physicist at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, suggested to them that it was time to clarify the church's position on evolution.

Leading Cardinal Redefines Church's View on Evolution - New York Times, 9th July 2005.

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June 27, 2005

It's a fundie thing

United States: A South Carolina Druid couple have filed a complaint against a police officer who used a traffic stop as an excuse to try and convert them to Christianity.

Accompanying Cpl. Gilbert Lozada in his vehicle was reserve officer Tony Stewart, an unpaid volunteer, according to police spokesman Lt. Cris Varner.

Debra Gainey said during the traffic stop, Stewart began talking with her about his religion and told her she should come to Bible class.

In her letter complaining of a civil rights violation to Reynolds dated Wednesday, she said, Officer Stewart overstepped his bounds in witnessing during a traffic stop.

She also wrote in her complaint that he followed up by sending a letter to their home, which further violated our rights and invaded our privacy.

The officer drew attention to a bumper sticker on the couple's car which read It's a druid thing, and investigators are trying to determine whether the presence of that sticker caused the officer to stop the car, rather than any suspicion that an offence had taken place. According to Debra Gainey, one of the couple:

The interesting part of this incident happened at the back of our car. Officer Stewart asked us if we had put the bumper stickers on or if the car had come that way. I of course told the truth and said I had put them on. The officer wanted to know what they meant so I explained that I was an ordained minister of the Emerald Sanctuary Druidic Church. The conversation continued and then Officer Stewart asked me if my church supported me? I asked him to explain what he meant by support and he clarified it as meaning ‘spiritually fulfilling’. He then begins witnessing to me and my husband... At the police station he continued to witness to me...

...Officer Stewart never mentions a reason for being pulled over, such as weaving, speeding, wrong plates or anything like that. He does mention the bumper stickers.

A full account of the incident is given on the Emerald Sanctuary Druidic Church web site, including the fill text of Officer Stewart's letter, where he admits he is only works for the Police because of the witnessing opportunities it provides.

Two claim reserve officer violated their rights - The Greenville News, 23rd June 2005; How a Greer, SC Police Officer witnessed for the Baptists - Emerald Sanctuary Druidic Church web site, not dated.

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June 24, 2005

Get the T-shirt

United States: Bobby Henderson felt moved to write an Open Letter to Kansas School Board after he learned of a hearing to determine whether creationism intelligent design should be taught in the state's schools. His worry? that students will only hear one theory of Intelligent Design:

Let us remember that there are multiple theories of Intelligent Design. I and many others around the world are of the strong belief that the universe was created by a Flying Spaghetti Monster. It was He who created all that we see and all that we feel. We feel strongly that the overwhelming scientific evidence pointing towards evolutionary processes is nothing but a coincidence, put in place by Him.

After presenting a more thorough exposition of this startling hypothesis, and an explanation of the importance of piratical regalia, he offers something that Biblical creationists can't: hard data.

You may be interested to know that global warming, earthquakes, hurricanes, and other natural disasters are a direct effect of the shrinking numbers of Pirates since the 1800s. For your interest, I have included a graph of the approximate number of pirates versus the average global temperature over the last 200 years. As you can see, there is a statistically significant inverse relationship between pirates and global temperature.

(via The Magician).

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June 11, 2005

Old myth, even older clothes

England: Josie Appleton has written an interesting article about the reaction to the conviction of three people for abusing a child they believed to be witch. In particular she questions the racist assumptions made by the media, social services and the police about the case. It quickly begins to sound as if something very familar indeed is going on.

The case quickly became a careering bandwagon, on to which police, social services and the media leapt. This was understood not as the criminal actions of one woman, but as a sign of the barbarity of Africans in general. Articles speculated about the dozens, even hundreds, of African children being subjected to mystical abuse behind the closed doors of north-east London. The Metropolitan Police has set up a special six-person team, 'Project Violet', to tackle ritualised child abuse in London's African communities.

MP Diane Abbott quickly established a claim to take over the ecological niche left by the late Geoffrey Dickens:

Because the defendants attended an evangelical church in Hackney, their crime apparently implicated the whole African spiritual infrastructure. 'Ban these witchcraft churches', called Diane Abbott in the London Evening Standard on 7 June. According to the Abbott, MP for Hackney North, churches should be registered, opened up for monitoring, and shut down 'the minute any child connected to their congregation is abused'.

Yet there is little hard evidence to justify these wild claims. It seems to be the accusers who are possessed with ideas of mass, ritualised child abuse—not London's immigrant communities.

Appleton then reports on some more familiar-sounding hyperbole:

Continue reading "Old myth, even older clothes"

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June 10, 2005

Read all about it, while it's still legal!

United Kingdom: The Daily Telegraph has inadvertantly demonstrated one of the few good points about the proposed law on incitrement to religious hatred, by printing exactly the sort of inflammatory article which would send the editor to jail.

Extremist religious groups that advocate child abuse will be given protection under a Bill published by the Government yesterday...
The article then notes the protection which would be given to extreme fundies who beat 'demons' out of children, and then observes, suddenly, with no added context:
Satanists, pagans and atheists would be protected.

Having good reason for making insulting comments that could provoke hatred of a particular religious doctrine would be no defence, nor would the fact that they were true.

The paper then quotes an interesting point made by shadow attorney general Dominic Grieve:

Dominic Grieve, the shadow attorney general, said: We are likely to see religious groups trying to get other religious groups prosecuted, which will inflame community tensions rather than make them better.

He said members of groups such as the British National Party could set up religious sects to articulate white supremacist theologies, then demand the prosecution of those expressing outrage at their views.

Such theologies are seen among white supremacists in the US and, unless we want the government deciding what is, or is not, a religion presumably deserve the same level or respect as other belief systems such as Christianity, Islam or belief in the Tooth Fairy.

Now you face jail for being nasty to Satanists - Daily Telegraph, 10th June 2005.

Posted by Feòrag in Church and State at 17:32 | View blog reactions

Thou shalt not bear false witness, for it is the law.

United Kingdom: New laws against incitement to religious hatred have received strong criticism, some of it hypocritical. The Racial and Religious Hated Bill would create make incitement to religious hatred an offence, but the definition includes words and behaviour which is likely to stir up religious hatred too.

Liberal Democrat MP Evan Harris is concerned that the plans will stifle freedom of expression, and that it is too broad a measure for dealing with what is essentially race hatred. He has put forward an amendment to the Bill with narrows its remit to specifically to outlaw reference to a religion or religious belief or to a person's membership or presumed membership of a religious group as a pretext for stirring up racial hatred against a racial group. The amendment as written makes no provision for dealing with sectarianism - which is analogous to racism as it is really hatred of somone on the basis of the perceived religious beliefs of their parents.

The Conservatives are expected to support this amendment, although their reasons for opposing the legislation are different - it would prevent fundies from lying about minority faiths! Conservative shadow Home Secretary David Davis started off well enough when he pointed out that law would seriously undermine freedom of speech and be massively counter-productive. But he then noted:

Whilst this new law would technically prevent what many people may regard as reasonable criticism of devil worshippers and religious cults.

And presumably prevent reasonable criticism of barking mad fundies who use their religion as an excuse to spread hatred about minority faiths, pooves etc.

Continue reading "Thou shalt not bear false witness, for it is the law."

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May 26, 2005

Annoy fundies: give them what they want

United States: Religious organisation have made many attempts to undermine science education in some states, by insisting that intelligent design (re-badged creationism) be taught as an alternative explanation to evolution by natural selection. They even had limited success in some states, but David Morris at AlterNet has an idea: let them have their way -- Science teachers can teach intelligent design as an alternative to evolution -- and teach meddling school board members a lesson at the same time.

So, how to go about it? It seems that Christian creationism isn't actually specified in any legislation or proposed legislation, because that would be unconstitional. Instead, the requirement is that teachers offer a critique of evolution and suggest alternative theories about the origins of life. So, he suggests teachers start by talking about sex. That should, at least, get the pupils' attention.

Continue reading "Annoy fundies: give them what they want"

April 21, 2005

As if you needed any more excuses to buy a Mac

United States: Microsoft has withdrawn support for a Washington State bill which would protect gays and lesbians from discrimination in employment, housing, banking, insurance, and other matters by adding sexual orientation to a state law which already bars discrimination on the basis of race, religion, national origin, gender, marital status, and mental or physical handicap after a single loony fundie threatened the company. Microsoft has previously supported equal rights legislation. As John Aravosis of AMERICAblog notes:

The radical right activist reportedly told Microsoft it had better pull its support for the gays or anti-gay bigots would launch a nationwide boycott of Microsoft, and guess what - Microsoft caved. A single anti-gay jerk, and Microsoft chose to reverse over ten years of policy and bash gays.

This is outrageous. It's also incredibly dangerous. For over a decade Microsoft, along with hundreds of other corporate leaders, has endorsed gay rights legislation in the states and nationally. And now, suddenly, because ONE ANTI-GAY ACTIVIST COMPLAINED, they've suddenly changed their minds ON A CIVIL RIGHTS ISSUE. A rather big oops after ten years of being in favor of civil rights, don't you think?

Microsoft clearly isn't proud of caving into threats from lunatics, and seems to have tried to keep it a secret.

Meanwhile, it has been drawn to my attention that the reason many Prattle commenters are unable to tell the difference between copy written by Prattle contributors and quoted material from elsewhere is because Microsoft Internet Explorer does not support current web standards. There is no evidence that this lack of functionality will ever be fixed, and affected readers are advised to get a proper standards-compliant browser (preferably running on a computer and OS which not only works, but comes from a company with a much better record on equality).

TAKE ACTION: Microsoft abandons gays - AMERICAblog, 20th April 2005.

Update: 22nd April 2005: The original article referred to in AMERICAblog is MICROSOFT CAVES ON GAY RIGHTS - Sandeep Kaushik in The Stranger, 21st - 27th April 2005.

Posted by Feòrag in Church and State at 14:43 | View blog reactions

April 11, 2005

Teachers told to lie to children

England: New guidelines for religious education in Norfolk schools urge teachers to avoid telling the truth about religious belief and practice, or using the terms those religions use.

The education authority thinks that the traditional phrase 'Holy Ghost' implies a trivial and spooky concept of the third person in the Trinity. Instead it urges teachers to refer to the 'Holy Spirit'. The guidelines also say that the first 39 books of the Bible should not be called 'the Old Testament' because it makes them sound old-fashioned or out of date.

Dismissing centuries of Catholic belief, the guidelines go on to state that Communion bread and wine should not be referred to as 'the body of Jesus' or 'the blood of Jesus' because it suggests a cannibalistic consumption of human flesh.

As Cheryl Morgan said in e-mail earlier today, I rather liked the bit about them rejecting transubstantiation because it was cannibalistic. Finally, after 2000 years, someone has noticed? But what of non-Christian faiths? It seems teachers have to pretend that there is no such thing as a religious extremists, regardless of what children see on the news most days. Or that religion is anything other than fluffy-bunny sweetness and light.

The list of dos and don'ts in the Norfolk agreed syllabus for religious education urges teachers to avoid equating Islam with terrorism and violence by showing children photographs of Muslims holding swords or kalashnikovs.

They should not refer to Jerusalem's Wailing Wall in lessons because it implies that Jewish prayer is negative and moaning. Care is also being urged in the use of photographs of Hindu holy men who may be emaciated and caked in mud in case it gives the impression that Hinduism is for weirdos or masochists.

And Pagans don't dance around in their bare scuddies, either. Presumably the real reason for not telling children the truth about religion is that they'd quickly realise how stupid it is.

Norfolk schools told Holy Ghost 'too spooky' - The Guardian, 11th April 2005.

Posted by Feòrag in Church and State at 15:17 | View blog reactions

April 7, 2005

Temperance is a Pagan thing

United States: A photograph of a short-lived statue caused a stushie in Roseburg, Oregon. The picture is included in an exhibition celebrating the acheivements of local women, but it seems that some local fundies were upset because it used the image of an ancient Greek goddess to promote temperance.

The inclusion of another figure in the exhibit, though, has caused some controversy in recent months. Hebe, the Greek goddess of youth, was included because she is a part of Roseburg's history.

A drinking fountain bearing her image was constructed in the early 1900s and installed on the corner of Cass Avenue and Main Street in Roseburg. The fountain was destroyed in 1912 by a runaway wagon.

McLaughlin said Hebe's original purpose was to encourage people to drink water over alcohol. However, some people are against her because she is perceived as a pagan symbol. Because of the public outcry, the Douglas County Commissioners originally vetoed her inclusion in the exhibit. They later reversed their decision.

Hebe has always been cloaked in controversy, McLaughlin said. She has always made people think. How exciting is that, to get people to talk to one another and think?

The article does not mention whether the driver of the wagon was drunk.

Women, Hebe in spotlight at museum -The News-Review, 7th April 2005.

Posted by Feòrag in Church and State at 23:45 | View blog reactions

January 16, 2005

Fresh on the blogroll

Every so often, I add something truly worthwhile to the blogroll. Ed, the author of Dispatches from the Culture Wars describes his blog rather simply as Thoughts From the Interface of Science, Religion, Law and Culture. What we have is a site which looks at fundie activities in the US and demolishes their arguments, with references and links to the relevant data. Two recent articles will demonstrate exactly what I mean. WorldNutDaily Stupidity on Teen Pregnancy analysies a piece in WorldNetDaily, a news site with a strong Christian bias, which made some shocking claims about teen pregnancy during the Clinton era--that teen pregnancy and abortion were at an all time high during that period, and that this was linked to improved sex education and increased condom use. So, Ed went and checked the stats:

Continue reading "Fresh on the blogroll"

December 12, 2004


Yesterday's Today was a balanced affair in which two Roman Catholic high heedyins, Rocco Buttiglione (the bigot who wasn't allowed to become the European Commissioner overseeing anti-discrimination law) and Archbishop of Westminster Cormac Murphy-O'Connor got to moan about how Christians are excluded from political and social life (like Tony Blair, perhaps). Roz Kaveney was listening to this programme, and to this morning's edition of Sunday, and was not impressed:

Cormac Murphy-O'Connor was clearly embarrassed to be in this company, but not so much so as to disavow it. And was very much taking the line that Christians are being persecuted by not automatically having the political power to impose their views on everyone.

This is very much the position of the Evangelical woman who wrote the report arguing that Christians faced persecution in a secular society and was talking on the Sunday Programme this morning. Apparently the occasional mockery of people who have faith is economic discrimination because there are jobs they feel unable to apply for. Part of the point here is that, given the way Christian groups exclude others from employment whenever they have the power to do so, and have managed to keep that right enshrined in law, this is pretty rich. The other is that, frankly, those of us who grew up queer, and live as queer in a society that her sort of Christian still has some power in, know a lot more about the experience of persecution than she can begin to imagine.

What she was offering is a softer version of the standard US Christian claim that Christians are being persecuted if they are not allowed to preach their message. Oddly, this tends to be about other people's sex lives, not about economic justice, a subject on which the Jesus of the Gospels had a lot to say.
Posted by Feòrag in Church and State at 12:00 | View blog reactions

December 10, 2004

Jesus was a poof! Pthrrrrpppp!!!!!

Scotland: An organisation of alleged Christians is upset about a play they have refused to see, and which played the Edinburgh Fringe to critical acclaim about five years ago.

Corpus Christi by American playwright Terence McNally, depicts Jesus and his disciples as gay men in a Texas town and is being performed at the Crawford Arts Centre in St. Andrews. The protestors, who haven't read the play either, insist that Jesus uses naughty words: I don't like Christ portrayed as a filthy, swearing, pervert. The play's director Zsuzsi Lyndsay, did not notice any of this, and had the strange belief that it contained a message that Christianity was for everyone, not just ignorant bigots:

She said: What we were trying to do is to reiterate the fact that Jesus is for everyone, not just for people who are straight but for homosexuals as well.

I have the deepest respect for their beliefs, I'd have even more respect for them though if they came to see the show and saw what they were picketing against.

I'm afraid that Jesus is not portrayed as a drunken, foul-mouthed messiah and if you read the play you would know that.

He doesn't say one bad word throughout the play.

One Born-Again Christian who saw the play, was much more sensible.

On leaving the opening night, she said: I consider myself a born again Christian and a lot of stuff which happened in that play, I could see as being offensive.

But we live in a world where stuff like this happens and you've to take these things with a pinch of salt.

You know what's going to happen in the play and I enjoyed it.

One member of extremists 'Christian' Voice did see enough of the play to give him an excuse to waste police time. The anonymous fundie has file a complain of blasphemy against Fife Constabulary, who are now obliged to investage rather than, say, catching rapists and murderers. The last public prosecution for blasphemy in Scotland was in 1843.

In the meantime, if you want to go and see the play, you're out of luck—its entire run has sold out.

Fury over 'gay Jesus' productionBBC News, 10th December 2004.

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December 2, 2004

Conservative Correctness Agenda in Public Schools

United States: The loony fundies are rampant in Texas again. This time they're throwing a hissy fit over textbooks and, surprisingly enough, winning the fight to force their narrow minded, bigotted beliefs on the rest of the country.

Christian Conservatives on the Texas state Board of Education are rewriting textbooks to bring them in line with their neo-conservative social agenda. These are the same kinds of people who have been insisting for years that the liberals are driving their agenda in schools... but that seems to have been a case of Freudian Projection all along.

Where a textbook says something that doesn't agree with their warped take on reality, these people simply change the textbook. Here are some examples of changes proposed and changes in the past:
  • References to marriage must be defined as a lifelong union between a husband and a wife (not between two people, because that would imply that gays and lesbians married in Massachusetts, Canada or many parts of Western Europe actually exist).
  • References to partners become husbands and wives.
  • Adolescence brings about an attraction to the opposite sex" not attraction to others (even though adolescence plainly does bring about attraction to others of the same sex for gay youths, it isn't part of the universe that these conservatives accept, therefore it must be written out of the book.)
  • The last ice age took place in the distant past not millions of years ago (because the earth is only 6000 years old).
Unfortunately, because textbook publishers don't want to create separate editions of their books for the red states versus the blue states, large red states like Texas often end up getting their way, and religious and conservative convictions become hardwired into textbooks to promote a Conservative Correctness agenda in our public schools.

Revision Marches to Social Agenda - Los Angeles Times, 22th November 2004 (via Morons.org).

November 5, 2004

Offensive Saints

United Kingdom: In yet another account of political correctness run amok, the St Mary Magdalene Church of England Primary School in Islington has been asked by the council to drop the Saint from its name for feel of offending other religious groups. The parents, governors and teachers involved with the school are far from impressed.

The practice of calling schools after saints or bishops alienates people from other faiths and non-believers, say officials and councillors in Islington, north London.

Islington council plans to incorporate the existing St Mary Magdalene Church of England Primary School into a new City Academy for five- to 18-year-olds.

The church, which is giving £2 million towards building costs, has been told by the local authority — a partner in the scheme — that the name of the new school cannot be religious.
Continue reading "Offensive Saints"

October 25, 2004

The Devil and the deep blue sea

United Kingdom: An Edinburgh-born sailor has been granted the same rights as any other religious sailor to practice his religion on board ship and Ann Widdicombe is upset because Ldg Hand Chris Cranmer is a Satanist. After years of trying to impose her religious beliefs on others when she was a government minister, she has now decided it's a private matter which should be kept in the home.

I am utterly shocked by this, Miss Widdecombe said.

Satanism is wrong. Obviously the private beliefs of individuals anywhere including the Armed Forces are their own affair but I hope it doesn't spread.

There should be no question whatsoever of allowing Satanist rituals on board any ship in Her Majesty's Royal Navy.

What they believe and do in their own home is one thing, what they do at work is the business of their employer.

The Navy should not permit Satanist practices on board its ships.

God himself gives free will, but I would like to think that if somebody applied to the Navy and said they were a Satanist today it would raise its eyebrows somewhat.

British law does not permit employers to discriminate against someone on grounds of religion.

Widdecombe horror at navy Satanist - The Guardian, 24th October 2004.

Posted by Feòrag in Church and State at 10:20 | View blog reactions

October 21, 2004

Hallowe'en 'offensive to witches'

United States: A Washington State school district has cancelled Hallowe'en celebrations in case the festival is offensive to Wiccans.

The district said Halloween celebrations and children dressed in Halloween costumes might be offensive to real witches.

Witches with pointy noses and things like that are not respective symbols of the Wiccan religion and so we want to be respectful of that, Hansen said.

The Wiccan, or Pagan, religion is said to be growing in the United States and there are Wiccan groups in Puyallup.

On the district's list of guidelines related to holidays and celebrations is an item that reads: Use of derogatory stereotypes is prohibited, such as the traditional image of a witch, which is offensive to members of the Wiccan religion.

School Says Halloween Disrespectful to Witchesabc News, 21st October 2004.

Christian claims cross not religious symbol

United States: A judge has rejected a lawsuit from a Christian who opposed the removal of a cross from the Los Angeles County seal. Ernesto Vasquez made contradictory complaints that the symbol wasn't actually religious, but that removing it would be discriminating against Christians.

According to the plaintiff, the cross only represents the historic 'influence of the church and the mission of California,' [U.S. District Judge S. James] Otero wrote. Yet plaintiff maintains L.A. County is conveying a message of hostility to religious groups by removing the symbol from the seal.

A representation of the goddess Pomona is also due to be removed, and replaced with a picture of a Native American woman, but Vasquez appears not to be concerned about that.

Judge Dismisses L.A. County Seal Lawsuit - The Guardian, 21st October 2004.

Posted by Feòrag in Church and State at 20:44 | View blog reactions

September 30, 2004

Elections happen in places other than the US

Australia: Politics and religion do not mix much Down Under, and candidates for election are not noted for their appeals to imaginary friends, or equally imaginary enemies. With one exception, of course:

The Rev Fred Niles Christian Democratic Party has a different view.
In this federal election it is absolutely vital for Christians to vote for Christian candidates and for the Christian party, it says.
Mr Niles group argues that while the Liberal and Labor parties were founded by people with Christian values, the religious influence has waned.
Family First Party is supported by the Assemblies of God but claims it isnt a Christian party, which is why Mr Nile reckons it doesnt deserve a Christians vote.
The biggest enemy, according to Mr Niles group, are the Greens, which Mr Nile describes as the most pagan party ever to be formed in Australia.
The Greens, by the way, have religious freedom as one of their policies. [lack of apostrophes all sic.]

In God we do not put our votes - Wodonga Border Mail, 30th September 2004.

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September 27, 2004

Hospital to non-Christians - Fuck off!

England: Norwich hospital bosses have cancelled a regular fund-raising event because it might be of a pagan nature. The Sacred Celebration of Remembrance, Release and Renewal has raised cash for a variety of local charities over the past few years, and this year the Norfolk Suicide Bereavement Support Group was due to benefit. Although the event is organised by the owner of a New Age shop, it is not of a specifically religious nature:

The earth-centred, end-of-year service and celebration on November 7 marks the end of autumn and gives people a chance to indulge in meditation, reflection and relaxation for three hours.
Organiser Naomi, from Inanna's Festival -- a new-age shop selling books, gifts and jewellery in Pottergate -- said she felt she had been discriminated against and that the event was not linked to religion. Naomi, who would not reveal her surname, added: This event is non-spiritual, non-denominational and is just a chance for people to reflect in peaceful surroundings.
In all the years I have been doing this, I have never run into anything like this and it is illegal and discriminatory for them to do this.

The hospital claims some of its patients would be offended - presumably the same ones who would be offended at the hospital providing, for example, Halal food to Muslim patients.

Festival cancelled on religious grounds - Norwich Evening News, 27th September 2004.

September 16, 2004

Christians banned from learning

Uzbekistan: Two medical students have been expelled from college because they are Christians.

Sherimbetova, Artykbayeva and other Protestant students in Nukus have been subjected to a sustained campaign from the police, the secret police and the prosecutor's office this year. A teacher at the Medical Institute raided the private flat rented by Sherimbetova, Artykbayeva and two other students in April, confiscating Christian literature and forcing them to move to communal lodgings where she said they could be more closely scrutinised. The teacher also told the students that it would be better for you to work as prostitutes than to read those dreadful books

Unregistered religious activity is banned in Uzbekistan, but in the region of Karakalpakstan, Christian churches of any denomination have been refused registration and are therefore not allowed to meet legally.

UZBEKISTAN: Medical institute expels Protestant students - Forum 18, 16th September 2004.

Posted by Feòrag in Church and State at 12:27 | View blog reactions

August 10, 2004

Captive Audience

Turkmenistan: Book not selling well lately? Well, Turkmenistan's president for life has found a way to get his tome into the hands of the people. Aside from mandating that it's crammed down the throats of students, now future licence applicants will need to be well versed in it as well.

Knowing the highway code is no longer enough to get a driving license in Turkmenistan, whose autocratic President Saparmurat Niyazov has told future drivers to cram his sacred writings to qualify.
Continue reading "Captive Audience"
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August 8, 2004

Vatican Targets Sports

Vatican City: The boys in the frocks have taken on a new tack in their eternal quest to convert the heathens, they're going to start pestering people over sport.

The Vatican, long in the business of souls, is now getting into the business of sports. Or more precisely, it is getting into the business of putting the soul back into sports.
The Vatican has set up a department whose stated aim is to help re-inject fundamental values of fairness, ethics, transparency and legality into sports.
Neatly coinciding with next week's opening of the Olympic Games in Athens, the department, called Church and Sport, has been opened as part of the Vatican's Pontifical Council for Laity.

New Vatican Office to Put Soul Back Into Sports - Reuters, 4th August 2004.

August 3, 2004

Cult Caught Playing the Grant Game

Australia: Feòrag's finely tuned Google News filters vomited forth the tale of a local wingnut with his very own doomsday cult who has opted for the time honoured method of procuring money favoured by all religious groups; applying for a Government grant.

A doomsday cult led by a self-proclaimed prophet who has been banned by the Vatican has secured $332,000 from the Howard Government to run a private school [Saint Joseph's School in Cambewarra, near Nowra, on the NSW south coast.] since 1996.

William Little Pebble Kamm has previously predicted a tsunami would devastate Australia's east cost and believes his Order of St Charbel converts in NSW, Victoria and South Australia will survive the coming apocalypse after he is appointed as the last pope.
Continue reading "Cult Caught Playing the Grant Game"

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July 31, 2004

Religion vs the real world

The Vatican: Celibacy has its advantages. For one, you need never have to deal with the responsibility of bringing up children. Unfortunately, this also means you have no idea exactly what that might involve, although this won't stop you bringing out a document to tackle feminism. Kathryn Cramer has covered this, so I don't have to.

These are lovely sentiments. But what are God and the Catholic Church going to do to make this so? How, exactly, do they propose that a woman staying home with her kids not be penalized financially for her decision? Perhaps God will strike down a woman's elderly relatives with large bank accounts and make sure she's mentioned in the will. Or is the church offering stipends? Given the Pope's well-known opinions on birth control, I expect that the Vatican has earmarked a hefty sum for this project.
And then there's the plight of working women. First of all, God will add several hours to the working mom's day so she can get some sleep. And the church will pitch in by requiring its priests to become licensed child care providers, massage therapists, and yoga instructors and henceforth will require priests to do day care on weekdays and evenings and will offer free massages and yoga classes with confession. (Shall we break into a chorus of Lord, won't you buy me a Mercedes Benz?) Or do they have some other plan?

I'm not sure I want the Catholic Church caring for any sprog of mine after Boston, Portland and all the other priestly child abuse scandals.

Posted by Feòrag in Church and State at 13:33 | View blog reactions

July 25, 2004

Mixed messages

India: Someone in the government is confused. More than 2500 women have been murdered after being accused of witchcraft in the last 16 years, and obviously something must be done. How about increasing the stigma these women face by making that which they are falsely accused of illegal? The decision to ban witchcraft, and do nothing about the murderers, comes on the back of a UN report into the problem:

The central government has moved to declare witchcraft illegal after the UN expressed concern at the number of murders ascribed to witch-hunting.
The UN also released figures of what is said were the victims of witchcraft and black magic around the world. The world body has named India along with countries in Africa, Asia and South America as a high-incidence zone for witchcraft related killings.
According to official figures, 2,556 women were branded as witches and killed in India between 1987 and 2003.

And one very bizarre statistic:

The figure was around 4,000 collectively for Britain, Scotland, Ireland, Wales and Australia between 1999 and 2003.

The BBC has very little to say about this apparent epidemic. The closest story they have relates to a male occultist murdered in Yorkshire, but that was not the killers' motive. The result for Australia was even less helpful:

There are no pages about witchcraft murder australia from BBC News .

Perhaps there is a secret conspiracy of fundies going round bumping off occultists to please their God, and no-one knows about it.

Government may make witchcraft illegal - newkerala.com, 25th July 2004.

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July 16, 2004

The taxman cometh

United States: The IRS has been asked to investigate televangelist Jerry Falwell after he sent out a newsletter urging his supporters to vote for George W. Bush in the forthcoming Presidential election. The newsletter also asked for donations to an organisation which supports Republican candidates. The complaint was made by Americans United for Separation of Church and State. Executive Director, Rev. Barry W. Lynn, said Falwell is thumbing his nose at the IRS. He must not be permitted to use a tax-exempt ministry to engage in partisan politics.

Falwell, in his Falwell Confidential bulletin, wrote, For conservative people of faith, voting for principle this year means voting for the re-election of George W. Bush. The alternative, in my mind, is simply unthinkable. To the pro-life, pro-family, pro-traditional marriage, pro-America voters in this nation, we must determine that President Bush is the man with our interests at heart. It is that simple.
Falwell continued, However, simply voting may not be enough. I believe it is the responsibility of every political conservative, every evangelical Christian, every pro-life Catholic, every traditional Jew, every Reagan Democrat, and everyone in between to get serious about re-electing President Bush. That is why I am utilizing this column to urge you to support the Campaign for Working Families, which is headed by Gary Bauer. It is the organization that I believe can have the greatest impact in re-electing Mr. Bush to the Oval Office.

Falwell told the New York Times that the message did not come from his religious organisation, but from a lobbying organisation, and that it represented his personal view. But Falwell published it on his ministry's web site, and it was sent out under the auspices of Jerry Falwell Ministries.

Continue reading "The taxman cometh"

July 14, 2004

I'm Not Drunk, Officer, I'm A Priest

Croatia: Croatian priests are seeking exemption from a tough new drink driving bill on the grounds that drinking wine is part of their job description.

In an effort to improve road safety the government is planning to scrap the 0.05% limit for blood-alcohol content.
The proposed zero-tolerance approach has alarmed some clergy in the heavily Roman Catholic country, according to Jutarnji List newspaper.
Many travel between parishes to say Mass, which includes ritual drinking.
Continue reading "I'm Not Drunk, Officer, I'm A Priest"

July 13, 2004

Christian charity: creationism is bollocks

England: A Christian charity, which plans to take £200m of taxpayers' money to open its own faith-based school will not be teaching creationism which Rev Steve Chalke, director of the Oasis Trust, described as rubbish.

Asked whether the academy would advocate the teaching of creationism, which has been taught alongside scientific explanations of how the world came into being at other academies sponsored by Christian organisations, he said: No. We will develop an open and honest curriculum and we will not impose our views on anyone.
My personal belief is that... those who wish to read into Genesis chapter one that God made the world in six days... are not being honest and scholarly. It won't be taught in the school because I think it's rubbish. It's a bizarre thing to claim the Bible suggests that. Genesis is saying that behind creation is a good God.

Christian charity to open London academy - The Guardian, 13th July 2004.

July 9, 2004

The Protocols of the Elders of Russia

Russia: You thought the Jehovah's Witnesses were merely annoying, with their habit of paying visits at the least opportune moments, but you would be underestimating their true evil. According to Russian TV documentary Protocol, they are in fact the Mafia. But ProFindPages News smells a large rodent. After all

We are not aware of any reports of members of this faith being involved in criminal activities (certainly no more than any average citizen) and they do not show hostility to the law or its agents.
Do they use their power for their own ends? There are just 6 million Jehovah's Witnesses in the world and a little over 100,000 in the whole of Russia. It is unlikely that that such a small number could possibly have any power at all.

Perhaps, just maybe, it could be something to do with the well-documented campaign against religious freedom being fought by the Orthodox Church, and supported by the government?

So what is all the fear about? A group connected with The Russian Orthodox Church have been trying to eliminate this organization for years and it has become nothing less than harassment! The Russian Church will not tolerate sharing a Russian citizen with any other faith and want them all! They have the support of the government to operate in this way, but they must promote government guidelines in exchange for this favour (as they did in Stalin's time).

And the timing is suspicious too.

So why should a program so heavily biased against the Jehovah Witnesses suddenly appear after they are banned in Moscow? We suspect that this is to try and counteract the International pressure that will be coming shortly on this case and to provide public support for "extending" that ban to the whole of Russia.
There is no doubt that other religious groups will also be "leliminated" in the near future and some of the larger ones will also feel some pressure.

And ultimately, that's not good news for the Russian economy.

Russia has shown that it cares nothing for International laws on human rights or the opinion of countries who it hopes to trade with. We have also seen how the government deal with businesses in Russia and the problems that their banking sector have. Hardly a good advert for encouraging investment in the country or attracting people to trade here.


Posted by Feòrag in Church and State at 19:19 | View blog reactions

B***** C***********

England and Wales: Home Secretary David Blunkett's proposals for a law against religious hatred have come under scrutiny, and most are sceptical, including the Financial Times. An editorial first notes that incitement to violence, for whatever reason, is already illegal, and then observes

Any new law would probably have the same effect as the more comprehensive incitement to racial hatred clause of the Public Order Act 1986, which covers threatening, abusive or insulting words or behaviour, including inflammatory comments made in public or in the media. While such measures are understandable in the case of race, they would be utterly excessive when applied to religion. Racial origins are an aspect of people's inheritance, but religious creeds are subject to choice. No less than political or social ones, they should be open to critical comment.

The government also gets to define 'religion' and could well discriminate against atheists, and anyone else critical of religion.

Second, any definition of religion is likely to include not only Muslims, Christians, Hindus and Buddhists, but potentially Scientologists, Druids, or even Satanists. There is no non-arbitrary boundary between religions, creeds, cults and sects. Nor is it clear that this legislation would be neutral with respect to secular commentators or satirists who express disdain for all religious worship. Such criticisms are an essential aspect of any open society.

Bounded tolerance - Financial Times, 9th July 2004.

Posted by Feòrag in Church and State at 07:58 | View blog reactions

June 28, 2004

Familiar claims

Cyprus: Richard Bartholemew has compiled a useful article on the Satanic panic the Orthodox church is trying to whip up in Cyprus. In it, he looks at the background to some of the characters involved, and the rather loose definition of Satanism used - it seems if a teenager experiences pleasure, or any other emotion, while listening to rock music, then that counts as experience of Satanism and Occultism.

June 27, 2004

And they wonder why people are leaving.

Scotland: The high heedyins on the Isle of Lewis have decided that if their imaginary friend won't let them swim on Sundays, then no-one else can either.

We opposed it mainly because of Biblical reasons. We believe we are still governed by God's law and regard Sunday opening as a breach of the Fourth Commandment. But we also were concerned that, if we were to open the sports centre, the floodgates would open for other sporting activities - such as bowling, golf, five-aside football - on a Sunday.

Health campaigners pointed out that it was ridiculous that you could get drunk on Sunday, but not go for a swim. Even more ironically, the centre was funded through gambling - something the Wee Frees do not approve of. Perhaps the council should give back the cash they got from the National Lottery.

God-fearing Lewis bans Sunday swims - The Observer, 27th June 2004.

Posted by Feòrag in Church and State at 12:29 | View blog reactions

June 24, 2004

What I did on my holidays

Partei Bibeltreur Christen poster - Europe für Jesus - spotted in central BerlinGermany: It seems the United Kingdom was not alone in having a barking mad loony fundie party contest the European Elections (see Fetch the swingometer, Pagan Prattle 28th May 2004) - Germany has the Partei Bibeltreuer Christen (Bible-believing Christian Party, or something like that). As this poster, photographed in the centre of Berlin shows, they do not believe in the separation of church and state. Their platform also included the traditional (and nowhere in the Bible) ban on abortion, and the promotion of a non-existent, idealised family. They are currently celebrating scoring a massive 0.38% of the vote in the election - they needed just over 13 times that to get a seat. In Berlin itself, they scooped a whopping 0.24% of the vote. Depressingly, 30,000 more people voted for them this time than last.

June 21, 2004

Catholic Church Pimping For Bush

United States: With the boys in frocks taking a public political stance, it looks like it's time to strip the Catholic church of its tax exempt status. Funny how this came about a week after King George II pimped his loony fundie stance to the Pope and requested the doddering old pontiff run interference with his opposite number.

The nation's Roman Catholic bishops approved a statement on Friday on Catholics in Political Life that brands politicians who support abortion rights as cooperating in evil and leaves the door open for bishops to deny communion to such lawmakers.
The bishops, meeting outside Denver, stopped short of saying that those lawmakers should be forbidden to take communion. But they reminded all Catholics that they were not worthy to receive communion until they had examined their consciences, including their fidelity to the moral teaching of the church in personal and public life.
The bishops also asserted unequivocally that the Catholic community and Catholic institutions should not give awards, honors or platforms to Catholics who act in defiance of our fundamental moral principles.
Continue reading "Catholic Church Pimping For Bush"

June 17, 2004

President Bush's Links To Wacky Cults

United States: Fun Neal Pollack article in The Stranger about President Bush's kooky religious beliefs.

This is also the kind of country where the president meets with the members of a radical, far-right millennialist Christian sect three weeks before he counteracts all known international law and opinion regarding the Israeli-Palestinian situation. That sect, known as the Apostolic Congress, opposes any deal with the Palestinians because it believes that Christ won't return to Earth until all of Israel belongs to the Jews and Solomon's temple is rebuilt.

Church & State - The Stranger, 10th June 2004 (via BoingBoing).

June 15, 2004

Churches as Paid Mouthpieces for BushCo

United States: King George II has been recruiting churches to spread the Bush lies, a blatant breach of law and a damn fine reason to strip any church involved of their tax-exempt status.

The byplay was as inevitable as chickens being provided to the barrios of Mexico just before the eleccion. President Bush first opens the spigot of public money to churches and other faith-based groups to the tune of over a billion dollars last year, then he knocks on the faith community's door for a political favor, por favor.
The Bush-Cheney re-election campaign is not a bit embarrassed at being caught trying to organize a brigade of (mostly) Christian soldiers in houses of worship throughout Pennsylvania who would act as point people for the campaign. After reports emerged that the Bush campaign's national headquarters asked the Pennsylvania contingent to identify 1,600 'Friendly Congregations' in Pennsylvania where voters friendly to President Bush might gather on a regular basis, Steve Schmidt, a spokesman for the Bush administration, told the New York Times: People of faith have as much right to participate in the political process as any other community.
Continue reading "Churches as Paid Mouthpieces for BushCo"

June 13, 2004

Loony Fundie Plays Politics With Teenagers Lives

Australia: What sort of moron puts a loony fundie in charge of health decisions? Little Johnny Coward, of course. The repressed and moronic Tony Abbott, a staunch Catholic and firm believer in keeping women of all ages barefoot and pregnant, has stuck his fool neck out and demanded that the morning after pill be yanked from pharmacies and that teenagers health records no longer be subject to doctor-patient confidentiality.

Federal Health Minister Tony Abbott wants to make the controversial morning-after pill a prescription-only drug, only six months after it was made available over the pharmacy counter.
Citing concern about media reports of 13-year-old girls requesting the emergency contraception, Mr Abbott said the obvious thing is simply to restore the situation that existed before the de-scheduling by the National Drugs and Poisons Schedule Committee.

Apparently Mr Abbott is quite happy for 13-year-old girls to be having babies. The bloody law was changed so kids like this could gain access to a drug that could help them instead of forcing them to hide a pregnancy then smother the baby behind the bike sheds. Gee, which is the preferable option.

Continue reading "Loony Fundie Plays Politics With Teenagers Lives"

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June 4, 2004

Fascists call opponent fascist

United Kingdom: The Bishop of Manchester has expressed his opinion that the racist British National Party is incompatible with Christianity.

In a statement, he said Christians should not vote for those who would deny the... equal rights of others...
Rt Revd McCulloch said: Needless to say, we further urge all followers of Christ to use their vote wisely, and not to vote for any political party or candidate promoting division, exclusion and blame, or in any other way seeking to stir up racial and ethnic hatred...
We do not presume to advise which party or parties Christians should vote for.
However, we do affirm our conviction that genuine Christian discipleship is incompatible with actual support for racist and fascist parties, such as the BNP or the National Front.

In response, and apparently without irony, a BNP representative called the Right Reverend Nigel McCulloch fascistic. Christians urged not to vote BNP - BBC News, 3rd June 2004.

Posted by Feòrag in Church and State at 00:22 | View blog reactions

June 3, 2004

Bush seeks loss of tax breaks for churches

United States: George W. Bush's election campaign might lead to some churches losing their tax exempt status because of the way it is trying to recruit support among churchgoers. E-mail sent by the campaign invites members of congregations to to serve as a coordinator in your place of worship, a task which involves distributing general information/updates or voter registration materials in a place accessible to the congregation.

The Internal Revenue Service prohibits political campaign activity, for or against any candidate, from taking place at all organizations that receive tax exempt status under a section of the federal tax code -- including most churches and religious groups. Violators could lose their tax breaks and face excise taxes.

Those who keep an eye on church/state issues are not impressed.

The director of a nonpartisan watchdog group called the campaign's church appeal a breathtakingly sad example of mixing religion and politics.
I have never in my life seen such a direct campaign to politicize American churches -- from any political party or from any candidate for public office, said Rev. Barry W. Lynn of the Americans United for Separation of Church and State. By enrolling churches in an election scheme like this, I think the Bush-Cheney campaign is actually endangering those churches' tax exemptions without even the courtesy of telling them that they run a risk.

Bush Push May Cost Churches Tax Breaks - AP (via Yahoo! News), 2nd June 2004.

Posted by Feòrag in Church and State at 20:43 | View blog reactions

Marriage—so good we're not letting you have it

United States: Fundie group the Focus on the Family want to hear your views on how wonderful marriage is, so they can publish a book calling for it to be denied to pooves.

E-mail us your anecdotes, stories and observations about the value of marriage to you -- and to society. How has being married made you a better man or woman? How has seeing the marriage of a friend or relative helped teach you valuable lessons about life? How did the unique contributions of each of your parents shape who you are today?

Those are the kinds of thoughts we'd like you to share in a message of no more than 400 words. Send it to citizenlink@family.org with the subject line Why Marriage Matters -- and be sure to include your name, address and phone number, in case we need to contact you.


I have only been married for eleven months, and we only bothered because of the legal and tax benefits. I admit I'm surprised how good it's been—our relationship is exactly the same as it was beforehand and we didn't start arguing like my married parents did throughout my childhood. So wonderful is it, that I would be more than happy to let my friends who happen to have same-sex partners share the joy (and especially the tax breaks).

I don't think that what they want, somehow (via Ex-Gay Watch).

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May 31, 2004

Schadenfreude ahoy!

United States: Roman Catholic Bishop Michael Sheridan recently wrote that Catholics should not receive communion if they vote for politicians who disagree with the church by backing abortion rights and other topics. Now Americans United for the Separation of Church and State has petitioned the IRS to strip his Colorado Springs diocese of its tax-exempt status as Sheridan might have crossed the line into unlawful partisan politicking.

Looked at in context, I believe it is clear that this letter has a partisan political intent,"wrote AU's Lynn to IRS officials. It is designed to endorse Republican candidates who oppose legal abortion, stem-cell research and other 'life' issues. At the same time, it threatens sanctions against any church members who support Democratic candidates who disagree with the church on any of these issues.

AU says the partisan intent of the Sheridan missive is clear when viewed in light of the current political situation both nationally and in Colorado. President George W. Bush and Democratic Sen. John F. Kerry hold opposing views on legal abortion. In addition, a Colorado senate race this year will pit a pro-choice Democrat against an anti-choice Republican.

AU told the IRS that Sheridan's letter appears to run afoul of election-year guidelines issued by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.

There is a precedent for the requested action:

In 1995, the IRS revoked the tax-exempt status of a New York church that ran ads before the 1992 election telling people that voting for Bill Clinton was a sin because of his views on abortion, gay rights and other social issues. The church sued to get the exemption back but lost in court.

IRS Should Investigate Electioneering By Colorado Springs Catholic Diocese, Says Americans UnitedAmericans United for the Separation of Church and State press release, 27th May 2004.

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May 28, 2004

Fetch the swingometer

United Kingdom: The European Parliamentary Election will be held soon, but I will be, well, in Europe, so I applied for a postal vote. The ballot paper arrived this morning. There are several parties that I would not even consider voting for, but the one least likely to get my X is this:

Operation Christian Vote "Proclaiming Christ's Leadership"

As well as denying reproductive choice to women, and banning useful research, Operation Christian Vote declares We believe all government to be under the authority of God and that the purpose of government is the maintenance of freedom and justice solely in accordance with biblical principles. Makes the BNP look tolerable in comparison.

May 25, 2004

Watching the goalposts pass by

United States: A Florida school has voted to change its rules on clubs to prevent a 12-year-old pupil starting a Pagan club.

The girl had asked about forming a club based on her pagan beliefs because the school had Christian clubs, her mother said. Bruner officials, however, told her she would have to gather 200 signatures to form such a club.

The existence of the Christian clubs means the school couldn't suddenly get concerned about the separation of church and state, so instead, they insisted on a minimum membership—want to bet that if one of the Christian clubs falls below that, the rule won't be enforced?

Okaloosa school board passes rule to block pagan clubHerald-Tribune, 25th May 2004.

May 18, 2004

Making Revelation happen

United States/Israel: A terrifying article in the Village Voice looks at the influence of evangelical Christians on US policy towards Israel. One group in particular, the Apostolic Congress, is singled out, and their representative in Israel, Kim Johnson, seems particularly interesting. She believes that she was attacked by witchcraft because there was a Harry Potter in the same block of flats as herself:

Two of the three nights in my apartment I have been attacked by a hair raising spirit of fear, she writes, noting the sublet contained a Harry Potter book; at this time I am associating it with witchcraft

Fortunately, as she holds herself to the sumptuary standards of Orthodox Jewish women, so as to better blend in to her surroundings, she's probably far too busy looking for a new wig to cause any trouble. The Jesus Landing Pad - Village Voice, 18th May 2004 (via Eschaton, and thanks to Charlie and PBen for thinking of me when they saw it...).

May 4, 2004

Religious Leaders Urge Gay-Marriage Support

United States: Baptists, Episcopalians, Buddhists, Unitarians, Muslims, Jews and representatives of other faiths gathered to urge repeal of a state law defining marriage as the union of a man and a woman.

A Baptist leader called for social justice, an Episcopalian insisted that all couples get equal treatment, and a Lutheran — citing Washington's long history of civil rights leadership — exhorted other religious leaders across the state to stand up in support of same-sex marriages.

They gathered yesterday with 100 Buddhists, Unitarians, Methodists, Muslims, Presbyterians, Jews and representatives of other faiths to urge the repeal of a 1998 state law defining marriage as the union of a man and a woman, and to decry President Bush's attempt to ban gay and lesbian unions within the U.S. Constitution. Continue reading "Religious Leaders Urge Gay-Marriage Support"

April 24, 2004

Clue needed

United States: Texas state Comptroller Carole Keeton Strayhorn is peeved. The Ethical Society of Austin, a humanistic religious organization whose goal is to search for the good in human life, has won the latest court case in its battle to be recognised as a religious organisation, and so be exempt from property and sales taxes. The Texas Supreme Court declined to hear Strayhorn's appeal, and she is unhappy:

But Strayhorn said granting the group religious status will prompt any wannabe cult who dresses up and parades down Sixth Street on Halloween to apply.

She neglected to explain how this is different from a cult dressing up in fancy frocks and waving smoking handbags around. The US Constitution guarantees freedom of religious belief, and separation of church and state, which means a state cannot give privileges to one religious group, and not another.

The case reaffirms that religious protection in the United States extends not just to large, well-recognized religions but to people of all faith, said Pete Kennedy, who represented the Ethical Society for the American Civil Liberties Union.

And unlike certain 'Christians', the Ethical Society really is acting on a point of principle, pays the tax it owes and stands to gain little from winning exemption. Austin group wins round against Strayhorn - Houston Chronicle, 23rd April 2004.

Pope Peeved With Kerry

United States: John Kerry has decided to make a stand with the majority on women's rights rather than the moronic loud-mouth minority and it seems to have caught the boys in the frocks a bit off-side.

Democratic candidate John Kerry said Friday a woman's right to abortion is a major part of his campaign for president, ignoring a prominent Vatican official's call for denying Communion to Catholic politicians who support abortion rights.
I believe that in the year 2004 we deserve a president who understands that a stronger America is where women's rights are just that, rights, not political weapons to be used by politicians of this nation, Kerry said during a rally he had scheduled with women's rights groups.
Continue reading "Pope Peeved With Kerry"

April 23, 2004

Cult Central Campus

United States: The Independent have run an interesting article on cult central, otherwise known as Patrick Henry College. There are some serious brain donors loose on the campus.

On a tour of the campus, we bumped into a bright young man called Jordan Estrada, from Pennsylvania. Estrada, 18, carried a book entitled Systematic Theology. He had played the part of Creon in Sophocles' Greek tragedy Antigone when it was performed recently by the drama team. He said he was interested in science fiction and wanted to be a writer.
Why had he wanted to study at Patrick Henry? A lot of what they teach in public schools is not based in reality. I am a believer in creation, he says. Did that belief lead to a conflict with his pursuit of science? None whatsoever. I have discussed this and spoken to many scientists and I found that there is no contradiction.
Continue reading "Cult Central Campus"

April 15, 2004

Crazy Little Thing Called Love

Zanzibar: The Muslim loons in charge of the East African tourist trap have outlawed homosexuality in an attempt to preserve its culture. Which is a little odd, given that Zanzibar's only cultural export worth mentioning was an openly bisexual, Zoroastrian rock star.

Zanzibar outlaws homosexual actsBBC News, 14th April 2004.

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April 13, 2004

Atheist Punished For Stance on Separation of Church and State

United States: A high school student, in a broadcasting TV assignment sent through the school, said the pledge of allegiance. Being an atheist, he left out our two most favourite words... and was severely punished.

A Spanaway Lake High School senior has been banned from TV production assignments for the rest of the year because he altered the Pledge of Allegiance during a student-produced broadcast.
The student, Kenny Hess, removed the words under God from the pledge, which is shown with an American flag background on classroom TV throughout the school. Hess also declined to recite the phrase and, instead read, one nation ... indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.
School officials said they've punished Hess for misusing school equipment to deliver a personal message.
He made a poor choice, said Mark Wenzel, Bethel School District spokesman.
Continue reading "Atheist Punished For Stance on Separation of Church and State"
Posted by Red Wolf in Church and State at 02:14 | View blog reactions

April 8, 2004

Brainwashing From the Comfort Of Your Own Home

United States: What do the loony fundie creationists do with their sprogs when their attempt to pervert the educational system fail? They homeschool their offspring to carefully mould them into bigoted wankers, just like Mummy and Daddy.

Homeschooling gives parents the opportunity to transmit values and political beliefs to their children to a degree that public schools generally cannot. Class schedules for homeschoolers are also more flexible, allowing time for students and parents to volunteer for political and social causes.
Until recently, most homeschool families' biggest lobbying efforts were expended on preserving their right to homeschool.
But as the movement has matured, one group has branched out into a more overtly political mission: urging evangelical Christian homeschoolers to volunteer for conservative causes and serve in political campaigns.
Continue reading "Brainwashing From the Comfort Of Your Own Home"

April 7, 2004

Fundies annoy Christians, too

Sometimes it's easy to forget that religion doesn't turn everyone into a barking mad, hate-filled loon. There is a type of Christian, inspired by the reported words and actions of Christ, with a completely different attitude to others. And they think fundies have missed the point completely, as Jeffrey Ritchie explains:

The Gospel according to St. Luke depicts Christ being crucified along with two other criminals - both of whom it would appear were justly convicted and sentenced for their crime. When one of the criminals asks Jesus to remember me when you come into your kingdom, Christ does something that must appear perplexing and downright unchristian to the right wing. Christ tells the criminal that today you will be with me in paradise.
Say what? Shouldn't Christ have first asked what the criminal's views were on abortion? Shouldn't he have checked to make sure the criminal wasn't gay? Shouldn't Christ have at least - I mean at very least - made sure that the criminal was a Republican?

An Easter Sermon - Democratic Underground, 7th April 2004.

Posted by Feòrag in Church and State at 12:03 | View blog reactions

April 6, 2004

Nothing but raspberry leaf tea for you, dear.

United States: A new federal law, allegedly designed to protect pregnant women from violence, is likely to increase the rate of abortion. Why? Because if a women lets her pregnancy continue, she's likely to face criminal charges if anything goes wrong. Lynn M. Paltrow, executive director of National Advocates for Pregnant Women, looked at the effects of similar laws enacted in individual states:

In 1997, South Carolina used this law against a pregnant woman, Cornelia Whitner, who was charged with failing to provide proper medical care for her unborn child. Whitner had given birth to a healthy baby who tested positive for an illegal drug. Based on extrapolation of the state feticide law, Ms. Whitner was convicted of criminal child abuse. At sentencing Ms. Whitner begged for drug treatment. The judge responded, I think I'll just let her go to jail....
In America, we do not punish people for being sick. And courts generally do not permit the arrest of someone merely because they suffer the disease of alcoholism or other drug dependency. Nevertheless, relying on the argument that the fetus is an independent victim, hundreds of women nationwide have been arrested for continuing their pregnancies to term in spite of a drug or alcohol problem that for anyone else would be treated as a health problem. Underlying these arrests is the belief that being addicted to drugs or having another health problem during pregnancy is no different from a man shooting his pregnant girlfriend in the head.

The South Carolina law has been used to punish women who had the temerity to suffer a stillbirth, even where there was no evidence that anything they did contributed to it. And prosecutors warn that they will file charges in such cases, even if pregnant women have been using perfectly legal substances. And though most anti-abortion fanatics have claimed its nothing to do with them, others have been more truthful.

Yes, some of UVVA's sponsors have admitted that it is about abortion, but its most immediate and devastating threat is to women who have no intention of terminating their pregnancies and for many of whom abortion is abhorrent. Far from safeguarding pregnant women or children, the UVVA creates the legal foundation for policing pregnancy and punishing women who carry their pregnancies to term.

The solution for the pregnant woman who wants to avoid the risk of prosecution? Terminate the pregnancy at the first possible oppportunity. TOMPAINE.com - Policing Pregnancy, 2nd April 2004 (via The Sideshow).

Posted by Feòrag in Church and State and Hypocrisy at 14:33 | View blog reactions

April 5, 2004

Be evangelised at, or fail your course

Eire: University College Dublin is investigating students' complaints that they would fail their exams if they did not attend an event held by Catholic extremist group Opus Dei.

Mr Paul Dillon, president of UCD Students' Union, said yesterday his office had received a number of complaints from students at the college's School of Diagnostic Imaging about pressure to attend an Opus Dei event.
This took place last January in Dublin and was called The Richness of the Human Person, according to Mr Dillon.
As far as we're concerned, attendance at the meeting was compulsory, he said. The lecturer noted the names of all those who didn't attend the meeting last January . . . students felt intimidated into going.

A University representative said that the allegations were being taken very seriously as the University is strictly non-denominational. The lecturer concerned has voluntarily stopped teaching while the complaints are investgated. UCD launches inquiry into Opus Dei claims by students - Irish Times, 3rd April 2004 (via Crazysoph).

Posted by Feòrag in Church and State at 23:49 | View blog reactions

School indoctrination special

Religion in the school systems, both in the UK and elsewhere, seems to be in the news right now. Firstly, Jon of Maine sends a pointer to a Boston Globe article:

PRESQUE ISLE, Maine - A seventh-grade history teacher has been placed on administrative leave, less than four months after he filed a lawsuit alleging the school district violated his First Amendment right to free speech by requiring him to adhere to a European history curriculum that emphasizes only the evolution of Christian civilization.
Citing confidentiality policies, administrators in the school district said they could not discuss the reasons Gary Cole was placed on the paid leave last month. Cole, 60, of Washburn, declined to discuss the lawsuit or the administrative leave, referring questions to his lawyer, A.J. Greif of Bangor. Greif said that if one sues a school district and suddenly finds a more hostile working environment, I think a causal link between the two can be easily inferred.

Presumably the curriculum ignores minor aspects of European history like the Holocaust, and certain events which would explain why Muslim Iraqis object to being policed by Spanish forces. On Friday, the National Secular Society Newsline published a letter from Tom Paine about his daughter, and the policy of her allegedly non-denominational school of having evangelical Christian missionaries take assembly. When challenged, they said the law obliged them to do it.

When we brought the matter up at the Governors meeting we were simply told that it was the law. We looked this up on the internet and found out that since 1944 all school children, with the right of withdrawal, have to attend a daily act of broadly Christian worship (now hidden in The Schools Standards and Framework Act 1998). This feels like a colonial law that now reduces Britain to be its own colony and allows schools to be targeted by evangelical parents / parent governors who select head-teachers who, in our case, allow in missionaries. We sought the advice of a top human rights lawyer who told us that public authorities, and this means schools, have a positive obligation to uphold the Article 9 human rights of all its staff and pupils (the Human Rights Act 1998). As nobody had been told that Christian evangelists were coming into the school; we continually pushed the school to meet its Article 9 obligation and inform the whole school that these assemblies were taking place, so that other parents could protect their children's rights. We were fobbed off with excuses such as, The school governors are going to review the assembly provision soon. This took 18 months to happen. We also complained to Charles Clarke, our MP, our Education Authority and its SACRE (this, if nothing else, embarrasses the school).

The school then broke the law when they failed to respect the parents' request that their daughter not be exposed to the assemblies. A meeting with the governors and a snotty letter later...

Within a week of that unpleasant meeting, our response to it, and another letter from one other parent we were told that the school would no longer be visited by Christian evangelists. This has been an empty victory because we never got an explanation as to why the school thought it was OK for our daughter to sit alone in her class room during the year that she had to endure brain surgery (twice) and radiotherapy for a brain tumour, even though withdrawal was her (happy) choice.

Then yesterday's Observer reported on a legal victory secured by an atheist father:

A former Lancashire policeman has won several hundred pounds' compensation from his local council after being forced for several years to pay for buses to take his atheist daughter to a non-religious school.
The decision by Lancashire County Council is likely to have profound national implications. Children whose parents want them to attend a religious school receive subsidies to pay for their school transport pass. But families who don't want their children educated in a religious school have to pay for their own buses to take them to secular state schools.
But now a council has conceded that non-believers are entitled to the same rights as religious families, in a decision that could have national repercussions.

Teacher who sued is placed on leave - Boston Globe, 1st April 2004; Letters to Newsline - NSS Newsline, 2nd April 2004; Secular college victory for atheist schoolgirl - The Observer, 4th April 2004.

Church Grip Slips in Chile

Chile: No doubt fearing the control of the church slipping from his grasp, the top man in a funny hat and frock in Chile has condemned the government for original thought over their plans to introduce divorce laws.

The head of the Roman Catholic Church in Chile has criticised government plans to introduce the nation's first divorce laws.
The Roman Catholic archbishop Francisco Errazuriz said divorce would threaten the family and undermine the sanctity of marriage.
Chile is one of the only two democratic countries in the world, along with Malta, that does not allow divorce.
The archbishop's annual speech at a religious service to mark the country's Independence Day reaffirmed the Church's moral position on marriage.

Church slams Chile divorce plans - BBC, 19th September 2003 via Meta-Roj Blog. Chile Congress backs divorce law - BBC, 11th March 2004.

Posted by Red Wolf in Church and State at 03:31 | View blog reactions

March 26, 2004

Discrimination By Law

United States: Always eager to bend over for the loony fundies, Bush has bowed to their wishes and will allow these total wankers to fire employees based on their sexual preference.

Despite President Bush's pledge that homosexuals ought to have the same rights as all other people, his Administration this week ruled that homosexuals can now be fired from the federal workforce because of their sexual orientation.
Continue reading "Discrimination By Law"

March 24, 2004

County treats all equally

United States: An Oregon county has decided to stop issuing all marriage licences after it was threatened with legal action if it did not stop doing so to same-sex couples. The ban will remain until the Oregon Supreme Court has ruled on the constituionality of same-sex marriages. The County Commissioners said they had decided to treat everyone equally:

So to be fair, Dixon said, the three commissioners voted to stop issuing licenses to anyone until courts resolve the matter.
That treats everybody equally, he said. It was a question of treating everyone the same. It won't hurt anybody. They can still get licenses in other counties.

Fundies are not happy

Tim Nashif of the Defense of Marriage Coalition, which has been fighting same-sex marriages, blasted the Benton County decision.
It's just crazy, he said. I don't understand it. We're happy that they're not giving out licenses that violate the law, but how do they get to the point that they're not issuing licenses to anybody?
Nashif, whose group is involved in the Multnomah County court case, said if a heterosexual couple is prevented from getting a license in Benton County, we would be very open to representing their rights in a lawsuit.

But presumably, if marriage is a right and not a privilege, giving straight and gay people different rights goes against the Oregon constitution? Benton stops all marriage licensing - The Oregonian, 23rd March 2004.

Posted by Feòrag in Church and State at 20:57 | View blog reactions

March 20, 2004


The Church of England bishop has warned that the church faces becoming a minority sect because it is not annoying enough.

Bishop McCulloch said the clergy were being diverted from their true mission of evangelism by the debate over sexuality, 25 years of Church legislation and more red tape caused by secular regulations.

Odd, I thought the only reason the Church of England existed at all was so the monarch could get a divorce and shag someone else.

Figures published in The UK Christian Handbook: Religious Trends show that, at the current rate of decline, total Church membership will have fallen to 5,598,000 by 2005, down by more than a million people in 15 years. Over the same period, the number of church buildings will have fallen by 1,400 to 48,600 and the number of ministers by 1,000 to 35,400.
Even if there is no further decline, by the turn of the next century, there will still be thousands of churches and ministers, but they will have no Christians to minister to.

The bishop did not give examples of the secular red tape that bothers him, and the Church is already exempt from most legislation concerning planning and the protection of historic buldings. Church may end up as sect, warns bishop - The Guardian, 20th March 2004.

March 19, 2004

Abbott and Costello in Political Tiff

Australia: It would actually be amusing that Australia has Abbott and Costello loose in parliament if they weren't such a pair of tossers. Abbott, in particular, is a loony fundie who has been on a Bush inspired god-bothering bent of late, insisting on sharing (by law if he had his way) his weird little beliefs on how his imaginary friend thinks we should live our lives.

Continue reading "Abbott and Costello in Political Tiff"

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Posted by Red Wolf in Church and State at 05:56 | View blog reactions

March 18, 2004

Typically Californian

United States: California Assembly member Leland Yee has penned a resolution urging the state and municipalities to take account of Feng Shui when commissioning new buildings. His excuse is that it would respect California's ethnic diversity. Lawmaker defends feng shui bill - San Jose Mercury News, 18th March 2004.

Posted by Feòrag in Church and State at 15:08 | View blog reactions

March 13, 2004

One Invisible Friend to Rule Them All

United States: The loony fundies are pushing through a law that will make their invisible friend sovereign of all, and if you dare to take offence at anything done in the name of said invisible friend, you can expect swift and vengeful punishment for your heathen attempt at original thought.

One of the sticking points in crafting the just-signed interim constitution of the Pentagon cash cow formerly known as Iraq was the question of acknowledging Islam as the fundamental source of law. After much wrangling, a fudge was worked out that cites the Koran as a fundamental source of legal authority, with the proviso that no law can be passed that conflicts with Islam.

We in the enlightened West smile at such theocratic quibbling, of course: Imagine, national leaders insisting that a modern state be governed solely by divine authority! Governments guaranteeing the right of religious extremists to impose their views on society! What next — debates about how many angels can dance on the head of a pin? Oh, those poor, ignorant barbarians in Babylon!

Well, wipe that smile off your face. For even now, the ignorant barbarians in Washington are pushing a law through Congress that would acknowledge God as the sovereign source of law, liberty [and] government in the United States. What's more, it would forbid all legal challenges to government officials who use the power of the state to enforce their own view of God's sovereign authority. Any judge who dared even hear such a challenge could be removed from office.
Continue reading "One Invisible Friend to Rule Them All"

March 12, 2004

Fundies Steam Ahead With Hate Campaign

United States: Terrified at the thought their hatred of homosexuals being condemned by the mainstream, a bunch of loony fundies, with the help of the notoriously bigoted American Family Association, is fighting Mayor Greg Nickels official recognition of same-sex marriages.

A group of ministers, troubled that Mayor Greg Nickels has signed an executive order recognizing same-sex marriages from other states, will gather today at the King County Courthouse to support a lawsuit demanding an end to it.

The American Family Association, a conservative advocacy group based in Tupelo, Miss., has dispatched lawyers to file legal papers challenging local governments from California to New York that have endorsed gay unions, and Seattle is their next stop.
Continue reading "Fundies Steam Ahead With Hate Campaign"

March 11, 2004

Good job he wasn't running for the school board

United States: Thank you to the correspondent who mailed me with a pointer to this PUBLIC NOTICE REFERENCING THE FUTURE LEADER OF OUR TOWN, published by the eventual winner in an election in a northern Louisiana town. Written in all caps (which, as 'Contributor B' of Mistakes Were Made observes, can make anything more important.) it features the excellent grammar we have come to associate with loony fundies:


The purpose of the flyer? To point out that another candidate isn't an uncircumcised, but righteous, person.


Oops. Or perhaps he got the wrong quote, as his real problem seems to be that she is a lesbian.


And, perhaps giving a hint as to how he planned to behave when elected, he continued:


Is she cute? Oh, hang on, she's in a stable committed relationship, isn't she? Drat.

Posted by Feòrag in Church and State at 18:23 | View blog reactions

Anti-gay politician's son weds male partner

United States: The son of a Californian senator who penned a law banning same-sex marriage has married his boyfriend in San Francisco. David Knight and Joe Lazzaro had previously had a civil union in Vermont.

Knight explained the difference between civil unions and marriage to the Chronicle.
Although Vermont recognizes the 400 or so rights granted by that state, if we lived in Vermont, we'd have those, but we'd still lack the thousand or so rights a married couple, a heterosexual couple, receives from the federal government.

It was his father's homophobic actions which inspired Knight to come out. Sen. William "Pete" Knight was not present at the ceremony. Son of anti-gay politician Knight marries same-sex partner - Gay.com News, 10th March 2004.

Posted by Feòrag in Church and State at 18:08 | View blog reactions

March 9, 2004

Indoctrinating the Young and Impressionable

United States: Every wondered how so many insane, brainwashed fundies end up in US politics? Ever thought that there must be some farm where the terminally spineless were moulded into Pat Robertson clones? Turns out there is — the evil, little bastards are churned out of a specialist Hitler Youth style college controlled by evangelical wingnuts.

As one of 12 siblings taught at home by their parents in St. Croix Falls, Wis., Abram Olmstead knew he would fit right in at Patrick Henry College, the first college primarily for evangelical Christian home-schoolers. But what really sold him was the school's pipeline into conservative politics.

Of the nearly 100 interns working in the White House this semester, 7 are from the roughly 240 students enrolled in the four-year-old Patrick Henry College, in Purcellville. An eighth intern works for the president's re-election campaign. A former Patrick Henry intern now works on the paid staff of the president's top political adviser, Karl Rove. Over the last four years, 22 conservative members of Congress have employed one or more Patrick Henry interns in their offices or on their campaigns, according to the school's records...
Continue reading "Indoctrinating the Young and Impressionable"
Posted by Red Wolf in Church and State at 05:46 | View blog reactions

March 8, 2004

Churches Caught Out By Same-Sex Marriages

United States: By getting married with a license in a church or synagogue, many couples are hoping to chip away at opposition to same-sex marriages among religious people.

For three weeks, the grand marble staircase at City Hall has been wedding central in San Francisco, with thousands of gay and lesbian couples lining up to be married by city officials.

But many of the couples are not stopping at the staircase. They are taking their marriage licenses and heading to a church or synagogue for a second ceremony or, in some cases, for an alternative to the civil proceeding.

The decision is driven largely by the religious convictions of the gay couples, clergy members who perform the ceremonies say. But there is also a deeply political undercurrent to the religious weddings that is creating divisions in some institutions, even those with a history of blessing gay and lesbian partnerships.

By getting married with a license in a church or synagogue, many couples are hoping to chip away at opposition to same-sex marriages among religious people, and thereby advance the broader goals of the gay rights movement.
Continue reading "Churches Caught Out By Same-Sex Marriages"

March 2, 2004

Black Is Better Than Gay

United States: Apparently deciding that black people are a lesser evil than gay people, the loony fundies from the Family Research Council are trying to enlist black Christians to believe the lie that opposing gay marriage isn't a breach of civil rights.

Speaking recently to a group of black evangelical ministers and lay people here, Genevieve Wood of the conservative Family Research Council made an impassioned plea. Black Christians, she said, must speak out against advocates of gay marriage.
They are wrapping themselves in the flag of civil rights, said Ms. Wood, who is white, as visitors from across the country shook their heads in dismay. I can make arguments against that. But not nearly like you all can.

Both Sides Court Black Churches in the Debate Over Gay Marriage - New York Times [BugmeNot], 1st March 2004.

Posted by Red Wolf in Church and State at 01:06 | View blog reactions

February 19, 2004

'Fanatical, demented, unstable'

United States: There are some odd religious offshoots out there, and Andrew Gumbel takes a close look at a group of Mormon fundamentalists who might be driven over the edge.

Continue reading "'Fanatical, demented, unstable'"
Posted by Feòrag in Church and State at 03:54 | View blog reactions

February 15, 2004

The New American Dominionist Church/State

United States: Couple of interesting articles about how the loony fundie movement set about taking over America and how they keep the plebs in the dark and begging for more.

Continue reading "The New American Dominionist Church/State"

February 13, 2004

At Least He Wasn't Molesting The Flock

United States: Everyone's got to have a hobby and Reverend Arko's was gardening. Unfortunately, the Ohio authorities frown on the cultivation of certain plants.

A Roman Catholic priest accused of growing marijuana in his church living quarters pleaded innocent Friday.
Continue reading "At Least He Wasn't Molesting The Flock"
Posted by Red Wolf in Church and State at 00:00 | View blog reactions

February 4, 2004

Christian Foot Soldiers Battle for Bush

United States: An increasingly polarised presidential election appears to be in the offing. One of the fault-lines is religion and, in particular, Bush's evangelical faith and how that guides his political beliefs.

Continue reading "Christian Foot Soldiers Battle for Bush"
Posted by Red Wolf in Church and State at 01:26 | View blog reactions

February 2, 2004

No Such Thing As Evolution

United States: School officials in Georgia are trying to find new and interesting ways to educate children without pissing off the loony fundies from the creationist camp. But changing the term evolution to biological changes over time needs a bit more work as the plan has enraged everyone.

Continue reading "No Such Thing As Evolution"
Posted by Red Wolf in Church and State at 01:58 | View blog reactions

January 31, 2004

Polygamy Crackdown

United States: Authorities have got themselves in a tizz over crackdown on polygamy, favoured by the odd isolated fundie Mormon sect. They seem unsure how to even go about it.

The most sensational of the recent incidents has come in the small, tight-lipped community of Colorado City, Ariz. Recently, a power struggle has emerged within the polygamy-oriented sect that dominates the town. Some men have been excommunicated and their wives and children been reassigned to other men...
Continue reading "Polygamy Crackdown"
Posted by Red Wolf in Church and State at 03:23 | View blog reactions

January 22, 2004

Loathesome Combination of Church and State

United States: In an attempt to put the hard word on politicians to tow the Catholic line and oppose abortion and euthanasia, Bishop Raymond Burke, of the La Crosse diocese issued a ten page pastoral letter titled, On the Dignity of Human Life and Civic Responsibility [PDF]. His preferred method of arm twisting is to refuse to allow the offenders to participate in holy communion.

Local reaction to the letter has been mixed both from various fundie groups and from state legislators.

The people of La Crosse can be happy that Bishop Burke will be leaving soon to take up new challenges elsewhere, but the people of St Louis should be aware that their new Archbishop has no qualms about sending a few politicians to hell who happen to vote the way their constituents want them to. It's clergymen like this that led Thomas Jefferson to write about this loathesome combination of Church and State.

Wisconsin Bishop Attempts To Sway Politicians By Denying Communion - morons.oeg, 11th January 2004.

Posted by Red Wolf in Church and State at 05:23 | View blog reactions

January 17, 2004

Fundies Dismantling Iraqi Women's Rights

Iraq: With a fundie loon currently chairing the Iraqi Puppet Council under a rotating leadership system, the conservative wankers snuck in a change to the legal system, Iraqi family law will no longer be secular — it is now going to be according to Islamic Shari'a.

Continue reading "Fundies Dismantling Iraqi Women's Rights"
Posted by Red Wolf in Church and State at 05:34 | View blog reactions

January 15, 2004

Angelic Leaders of the World

Free Press International has compiled just a few of the many photographs mainstream media has been deliberately releasing to the public showing our world leaders with halos. The devil is indeed in the details.

What's The Deal Mainstream Media? - Free Press International (via Boing Boing Blog).

Posted by Red Wolf in Church and State at 23:34 | View blog reactions

January 10, 2004

Christmas Ornaments are Evil

Saudi Arabia: The morality police are out in force and they are determined to stamp out annoying commercialised Western holiday paraphenalia.

Continue reading "Christmas Ornaments are Evil"
Posted by Red Wolf in Church and State and Ho! Ho! Ho! at 02:27 | View blog reactions

January 9, 2004

Tug of War Over Jesus

United States: If Nicholas Kristof's predictions for a presidential campaign bent on grovelling to the moral moronity of the loony fundie faction prove true, the we will soon be up to our eyeballs in stories from the lunatic fringe gone mainstream.

Continue reading "Tug of War Over Jesus"

January 6, 2004

My Invisible Friend Made Me Do It

United States: Most of us have known bullies and their tactics at some point in our lives. Saul Landau discusses uber-bullies and what happens when a loony fundie uber-bully gets into a position of power.

Continue reading "My Invisible Friend Made Me Do It"

January 5, 2004

The Politico-Christian Right

United States: It's getting harder for the fundies in power to cover their slips in godliness as they do whatever if takes for personal gain.

Continue reading "The Politico-Christian Right"
Posted by Red Wolf in Church and State at 03:24 | View blog reactions

December 30, 2003

Ruffled Feathers

United States: The gathering of stern men in brightly coloured frocks and funny hats that make up the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Boston has demanded the removal of a People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals billboard showing the Virgin Mary cradling a lifeless chicken in her arms.

Continue reading "Ruffled Feathers"
Posted by Red Wolf in Church and State and Ho! Ho! Ho! at 01:31 | View blog reactions

December 24, 2003

The Ultimate Captive Audience

United States: Always on the outlook for a new captive audience, the evangelical driven InnerChange Freedom Initiative has found the ultimate pool of people to harrass by moving into the business of faith-based prisons.

Continue reading "The Ultimate Captive Audience"
Posted by Red Wolf in Church and State at 03:07 | View blog reactions

December 15, 2003

Wasting police time

Switzerland: Authorities have decided to do nothing after investigating complaints brought by a fundie group against Marilyn Manson.

The Zurich district prosecutor's office said on Monday it had found no evidence to back allegations that the artist had incited violence and breached Swiss law protecting religion during a concert in the city in February 2001.

Fundies also failed in their attempt to get the group banned from performing in Zurich. They had claimed that the majority would find the act offensive. Manson off the hook, News24, 15th December 2003.

Posted by Feòrag in Church and State at 16:20 | View blog reactions

December 11, 2003

Teacher Sues for Right to Teach

United States: Gary Cole, a seventh grade social studies teacher in Maine, has sued the School Administrative District 1 claiming it violated his First Amendment right of free expression.

It seems the moral moronity of loony fundies have managed to bully the school system into developing a history curriculum that forbids discussion of any non-Christian civilisations or any religions other than Christianity.

Continue reading "Teacher Sues for Right to Teach"

December 10, 2003

Beyond Gomorrah: America's Culture

United States: Anthony LoBaido is an evangelical fundamentalist with access to a computer and a complete lack of understanding that America and culture are mutually exclusive. He has recently taken a respite from his self imposed exile from the television to enlighten the god botherers on the filth currently being peddled on the box.

Continue reading "Beyond Gomorrah: America's Culture"

December 9, 2003

Religious freedom in Kyrgystan

Kyrgyzstan: Authorities are painting all non-traditional Islamic and non-Orthodox Christian groups as totalitarian sects...using deceptions, silent methods and obtrusive propaganda in order to attract new members, and have a blacklist which includes peaceful religions such as Seventh-Day Adventism and the Ba'hai faith.

Official and casual opponents accuse the churches of using deceitful methods to attract young people through the so-called "incentive system". Representatives of the Muslim clergy claim the Protestant communities pay $50 each month to those who attend their religious gatherings. Protestant leaders deny such accusations. But in deference to them, many church leaders require children to bring parental consent when they attend mass. For adults as well as children, the dangers of attending church can be powerfully discouraging. My mother-in-law is trying to attract my wife to attend [mass], says Vyacheslav Salimov of Osh. I am very concerned about it. I am Muslim and my wife is Orthodox Christian and we don’t have any problems in our relations on the basis of religion. However, I am against her visiting these religious masses of the new sect.
In a rare recorded case of religious persecution, more than 100 people reportedly laid siege to the house of two Protestant brothers in Suzak village on December 31, 2000. The crowd demanded that the brothers and their families give up the new religion. In the meantime, the crowd was ready to burn their house with gasoline, which was kept in small containers by people in the crowd. Police were able to defuse the situation peacefully, and produce an official report.


Posted by Feòrag in Church and State at 19:13 | View blog reactions

Shocking Pots Claim Turner Prize

England: Grayson Perry, accepted the £20,000 Turner Prize at a dinner at Tate Britain last night dressed in a little-girl frock with his blond hair brushed up as his female alter ego, Claire.

His vases typically depict controversial topics such as sex and child abuse. Vases depicting sex scenes and child abuse are, however, quite bland for the Turner Prize. Previous winners have included a soiled bed, a pickled cow and a painting adorned with elephant dung. Last year's winner, Keith Tyson, presented lead casts of every item on a Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurant's menu.

Transvestite's shocking pots claim victory in Turner PrizeThe Telegraph, 8th December 2003 (via The Green Man).

Posted by Red Wolf in Church and State at 00:32 | View blog reactions

December 8, 2003

Holier Than Thou Politics

United States: As the media circus that is the run up to elections in the US mobilises, the Democratic candidates are playing the holy roller card that has served the Republicans so well.

Democrats Try to Regain Ground on Moral Issues - The New York Times (registration required), 6th December 2003.

Posted by Red Wolf in Church and State at 03:19 | View blog reactions

December 6, 2003

Battle of the Fish Stickers

Egypt: The stylised fish, long a symbol of Christianity amongst Egypt's Coptic minority, has started a local war of bumper stickers in Cairo. The Copts imported their tacky fish stickers from the United States, while some of the wags in the Muslim community counteracted by selling shark stickers.

If you're after the car emblems, which are the metal car badges rather than the dodgy holographic stickers, Evolve Fish sell a wide range, including the legendary Darwin Fish.

Christian Fish, Muslims Shark Swimming Through Cairo Traffic in War of Stickers - SFGate.com, 28th November 2003.

Posted by Red Wolf in Church and State at 02:11 | View blog reactions

December 4, 2003

Go Directly to Court, Do Not Pass Church, Do Not Collect Scholarship

United States: When Joshua Davey graduated from high school in 1999, he won a Washington State scholarship to help pay for his college tuition. But when he declared he wanted to major in theology and become a minister, the state retracted its aid offer.

Not taking this affront to his choice of a future career lying down, Davey did the all American thing and sued. And with every fundie with a grievance over the separation of church and state trying to stick their nose into the case, the only real winners will be the lawyers.

A Case of Faith and College Aid - The Christian Science Monitor, 2nd December 2003.

Posted by Red Wolf in Church and State at 03:34 | View blog reactions

Not Without Your Male Guardian

Saudi Arabia: Debate is raging over a popular Saudi Arabian television program.

Continue reading "Not Without Your Male Guardian"
Posted by Red Wolf in Church and State at 03:18 | View blog reactions

December 2, 2003

Marilyn Manson Used to Promote Fundie Propaganda

Switzerland: No doubt looking to drum up some free press, the Swiss-based fundie group Christians for Truth, displaying a typical lack of understanding between fantasy and reality, have attacked Marilyn Manson.

...the artist [Marilyn Manson] was under investigation for allegedly breaching Swiss law protecting religion as well as making incitements to violence during a concert in the city in February 2001.

I find it more interesting that this particular group of loons, while claiming to be based in Switzerland, are in reality based in South Africa. It's also worth noting that they are happily spouting the Vatican party line on condoms causing AIDS.

Marilyn Manson Faces Swiss Criminal Probe - ABC News, 2nd December 2003.

I Will Never Use the Word Gay in School Again

United States: It's no big shock that the fundies run roughshod over education in the US, there are still a bunch of them trying to force their creationist fairy tale on schools. I'm sure it will come as no surprise that a 7 year old was punished for telling a classmate that his mother was a lesbian.

A teacher who heard the remark scolded Marcus, telling him gay was a bad word and sending him to the principal's office. The following week, Marcus had to come to school early and repeatedly write: I will never use the word 'gay' in school again.

Louisiana school punishes 7-year-old for talking about lesbian mother, ACLU alleges - SFGate.com, 1st December 2003.

Posted by Red Wolf in Church and State at 22:13 | View blog reactions

December 1, 2003

Spot the real Christians

UK charity Christian Aid has urged the Blair government to influence the Bush administration to go beyond its unrealistic abstinence-only approach to AIDS prevention.

Although the US has made a welcome commitment of $US 15 billion to be spent over five years in the fight against HIV/AIDS, fully a third of this money is allocated to programmes promoting 'abstinence-until-marriage'. These programmes do not include sex education and the use of condoms. While abstinence is clearly the most reliable method of avoiding HIV infection, the reality is that most people, especially young people, do not choose abstinence.
In a report published by Christian Aid in October 2003, research showed that good quality sex education reduces the levels of unwanted pregnancies, sexually transmitted infections and HIV.
In addition, Dying to Learn, exposes the myth that access to condoms increases promiscuity among young people. On the contrary, condom use does not increase the number of sexual partners. More importantly, when used correctly and consistently, condoms are effective in preventing HIV infection among young people who are sexually active.

Bush's preference for fœtuses over adults means the US refuses to fund any organisation which supports abortion in any way, even though the money will not be used for this kind of service.

In Ghana, 697,000 clients of Planned Parenthood Association of Ghana will lose, not only family planning services, but also access to HIV voluntary counselling and testing, and HIV prevention education. This will have severe repercussions in a country with low HIV infections rates and which is working hard to maintain these low levels.

Condoms are crucial in HIV prevention, says Christian Aid - Christian Aid press release, 19th November 2003.

Posted by bimbo in Church and State at 11:40 | View blog reactions

November 29, 2003

Matthew, ch. 6, v. 1

United States: Jim Towey is the White House Deputy Assistant to the President and Director, Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives, and about halfway down this Q and A, is asked Do you feel that Pagan faith based groups should be given the same considerations as any other group that seeks aid? Now, personally, even though I've seen plenty of Pagans volunteering in the charity sector, I've never seen them form groups specifcally to push religion. And neither has Jim Towey, but he has a different reasoning. It's not because Pagans aren't obnoxiously religious about their charity work, it's because they're horrid, unloving people.

I haven't run into a pagan faith-based group yet, much less a pagan group that cares for the poor! Once you make it clear to any applicant that public money must go to public purposes and can't be used to promote ideology, the fringe groups lose interest. Helping the poor is tough work and only those with loving hearts seem drawn to it.

Jim Towey hosts Ask the White House - White House web site, 26th November 2003 (via Internet Infidels).

The American Crusades

Ben Tanosborn has written a interesting article comparing Bush's attack on Iraq to Urban's call for arms against a bunch of pesky Turks who refused to bow and scrap before him. And we all know how well that turned out.

Continue reading "The American Crusades"

November 27, 2003

Case law is dictatorship, says Cardinal

United States: The Roman Catholic archbishop of Chicago has declared that extending human rights is the end of democracy and the beginning of dictatorship. He is upset that the Massachusetts' Supreme Judicial Court recently concluded that denying civil marriage to same-sex couples was unconstitutional. Earlier he had noted that An active homosexual lifestyle is contrary to the gospel of Jesus Christ, but a search of the several Bibles in Prattle Alley Library reveals the following recorded words of Jesus on the matter: .

Gay Ruling Signals End Of Democracy & Beginning of Dictatorship, US Cardinal Claims, 365gay.com, 27th November 2003.

Mark of the Beast

United States: Applied Digital Solutions are marketing the VeriChip as the world's only implantable ID technology, claiming they could one day replace credit cards. They are also receiving condemnation from some fundamentalist Christians who believe that this is the fabled 'mark of the beast' of biblical lore.

When Cash Is Only Skin Deep - Wired News, 25th November 2003 (via Opinions of the Wolf: News).

November 25, 2003

Religious Turf Wars

Australia's Anglican Church is on the verge of a split, with the Archbishop of Sydney, the extraordinarily bigoted Peter Jensen, more than a little miffed over the church's position on the ordination of practicing homosexuals, in particular the Bishop of New Hampshire, Gene Robinson. The good Reverend has decreed that there is every chance he will behave like a spoilt brat and cut ties with the Archbishop of Canterbury and instead ally his group of god-botherers with the equally silly Archbishop Peter Akinola of Nigeria.

I'm still wondering at the logic of a group, whose flock is rapidly dwindling, alienating people who want to join. But then it's not like churches have ever been big on giving a toss about their members when it gets in the way of their lust for power and money.

Religious Turf WarsSunday, 23rd November 2003.

November 23, 2003

Coming Ready or Not

Melani McAlister, an associate professor of American studies at George Washington University, takes us on an interesting journey through the evangelical mind and its obsession with fulfilling its end times prophecy at any cost — as well as making a tidy profit on the side.

Continue reading "Coming Ready or Not"
Posted by Red Wolf in Church and State at 23:36 | View blog reactions

November 21, 2003

In Defense of Biblical Marriage

United States: Fundies in the US are getting in a tizzy over the Massachusetts Supreme Court's decision that limiting a cosy arrangement of one's financial affairs to opposite-sex couples is unconstitutional, so some wag has consulted the Bible to determine how to redefine marriage to keep them happy:

The Presidential Prayer Team is currently urging us to: Pray for the President as he seeks wisdom on how to legally codify the definition of marriage. Pray that it will be according to Biblical principles. With any forces insisting on variant definitions of marriage, pray that God's Word and His standards will be honored by our government.
Any good religious person believes prayer should be balanced by action. So here, in support of the Prayer Team's admirable goals, is a proposed Constitutional Amendment codifying marriage entirely on biblical principles:
A. Marriage in the United States shall consist of a union between one man and one or more women.(Gen 29:17-28; II Sam 3:2-5.)
B. Marriage shall not impede a man's right to take concubines in addition to his wife or wives. (II Sam 5:13; I Kings 11:3; II Chron 11:21)
C. A marriage shall be considered valid only if the wife is a virgin. If the wife is not a virgin, she shall be executed (Deut 22:13-21)
D. Marriage of a believer and a non-believer shall be forbidden.(Gen 24:3; Num 25:1-9; Ezra 9:12; Neh 10:30)
E. Since marriage is for life, neither this Constitution nor the constitution of any State, nor any state or federal law, shall be construed to permit divorce. (Deut 22:19; Mark 10:9)
F. If a married man dies without children, his brother shall marry the widow. If he refuses to marry his brother's widow or deliberately does not give her children, he shall pay a fine of one shoe and be otherwise punished in a manner to be determined by law. (Gen. 38:6-10; Deut 25:5-10) *
G. In lieu of marriage, if there are no acceptable men in your town, it is required that you get your dad drunk and have sex with him (even if he had previously offered you up as a sex toy to men young and old), tag-teaming with any sisters you may have. Of course, this rule applies only if you are female. (Gen 19:31-36)

Two for the price of one!

United States: A murder trial in Denver has thrown up an interesting conundrum. A Native American medicine man has asked to have the same rights as the clergy of any other religion after he was pressurised by prosecution attorneys over an alleged confession made by the accused.

[Defense attorney Robert] Duthie wants evidence that investigators gathered from violating that privilege suppressed. He also argues that Herrera's confession should be suppressed because Herrera confessed after he knew the medicine man, 37-year-old Robert Cervantes, had testified.
Echo-Hawk said that a medicine man should not have to wear long black robes and hear confession in a booth to qualify for equal protection under the law. However, he said he is not surprised that law enforcement officials would treat a medicine man differently than they would a priest or preacher.

And as an extra bonus, the accused is alleged to have admitted murdering Brenda Chavez because he thought she was threatening him with witchcraft practices. Clergy right sought for medicine man - Denver Post, 20th November 2003.

Posted by Feòrag in Church and State at 01:27 | View blog reactions

November 19, 2003

Right to spam, for the right only.

Australia: Fundies would be allowed to swamp Australian inboxes with hate speech under proposed anti-spam legislation, according to Senator Brian Greig.

Greig decried the proviso as farcical and said it was outrageous that fundamentalist churches were allowed to send spam containing campaign messages opposing abortion, contraception or homosexual law reform while groups with alternative view points were left without an avenue of reply.

The exception allows religious organisations, registered political parties and charities to send unsolicited messages containing factual informatiom. Hang on, wouldn't that proviso automatically outlaw the religious nonsense? Democrats lash-out over right wing 'spam-scam' - ZDNet Australia, 18th November 2003 (via Red Wolf).

Posted by Feòrag in Church and State at 11:12 | View blog reactions

October 27, 2003

Hallowe'en ethnically-cleansed from Moscow schools

Russia: Education authorites have banned the celebration of Hallowe'en in schools because Schools should celebrate holidays according to the basic values of the Russian culture. It seems that authorities are most worried that the festival acknowledges the existence of death, which is apparantly a bad thing to remind children of.

The very fact that Halloween activities contain religious elements (the cult of death, scoffing at death, personification of death and evil spirits, and so on) contradicts the temporal character of education in the state-run educational institutions and produces a destructive effect upon the psychological, moral and spiritual health of students.

There have been a small number of cases of juvenile delinquents using it as an excuse to do things they would have done anyway. Halloween Banned in Russian Schools - Pravda, 27th October 2003.

October 21, 2003

Green candles are your friends

Norway: A witch has received a business grant worth £5000 to enable her to develop a trade visiting clients in their homes and selling creams and potions.

Skarning said has always been a witch, but needed seed money for her business to take root. She attended a seminar on entrepreneurship and then applied for the grant.
Ove Gahren of the SND insisted the agency wasn't under a spell when it gave her the money.
He said money was awarded for applications that were exceptional, very innovative, and very importantly, offered a new service or created a job.

Witch wins government grant to mix magic potions - Ananova, 21st October 2003.

Posted by Feòrag in Church and State at 16:08 | View blog reactions

October 19, 2003

Christmas is not religious - official

The Department of Trade and Industry plans to ban all large stores from opening on Chirstmas Day, and insists the move is not religious in intent. Ostensibly to protect workers, and allow them at least one day a year with their families, a DTI representative paid lip service to the truth that there are very few Christian nuclear families in the UK today:

There is a diversity of religious groups in this country. But Christmas Day is a major part of the UK's holiday culture, he added.

And just to reassure us,

Employment Relations Minister Alan Johnson said then: Regulation will ensure that the special nature of Christmas Day is preserved and that shop workers in large stores are protected from being forced to work.

The legislation will affect any retail outlet more than 3000 sq. ft. in size which, if that's as small as I think it is*, would force at least two supermarkets I know of in Bradford, and one in Golders Green to observe the festivals of a religion followed by neither the owners, the staff nor the bulk of their customers. Perhaps, to be fair, for perfectly non-religious reasons, and for the sake of the workers, other shops should be forced to close for Eid-al-Fitr, Yom Kippur, Diwali, Chinese New Year, the Birthday of Guru Nanak, Ridvan, Kwaanza, Hogmanay and Hallowe'en. Plan to ban Christmas Day opening, BBC News, 19th October 2003.

* Sorry, I'm crap with Imperial measures (except 568ml, which I know intimately), but this useful site tells me it's 270 sq. m., which is pretty small.

October 16, 2003

Religious schools and intolerance.

In a recent Guardian editorial, Francis Beckett calls for the abolition of faith schools because they breed only intolerance and isolation.

At the orthodox Jewish school near my home, the playground jokes are often racist ones, mostly about Arab Muslims. At the Catholic school where I was educated, we were especially contemptuous of the Church of England, whose minions, we were taught, had tortured and executed our martyrs under Elizabeth I. We were not taught that, during the previous reign, our priests had done the torturing.

He contrasts this with the education his daughter is getting:

The better alternative is the comprehensive school my daughter attends, whose intake reflects the rich cultural mix of north London. She might find herself sitting beside a Muslim in one lesson, a Sikh in the next, a Catholic in the next. She will grow up understanding and respecting all faiths - except, perhaps, one. Though orthodox Jews form a strong faith community where I live, none of them are at my daughter's school. They are segregated in the faith school down the road, where they mix only with other orthodox Jews.

Teaching tolerance - The Guardian, 14th October 2003.

Posted by Feòrag in Church and State at 09:32 | View blog reactions

October 15, 2003

Hallowe'en banned in Wrexham

Wrexham Council has banned hallowe'en displays in libraries, and prohibited hallowe'en related activities in schools after what looks like an orchestrated campaign. The council says it has received a number of complaints but insists they only banned the ancient festival because it doesn't relate to any mainstream faith. Christians who mark All Souls' and All Saints' Day will be surprised. Halloween on the shelf - BBC News, 15th October 2003.

Posted by Feòrag in Church and State and Hallowe'en at 18:01 | View blog reactions

October 13, 2003


The Observer discovers that the campaign against gay priests in the Anglican church is being bankrolled by rich American fundies. US millionaire bankrolls crusade against gay Anglican priests - The Observer, 12th October 2003.

Posted by Feòrag in Church and State at 11:55 | View blog reactions

October 7, 2003

Gay Sex Protection Week

United States: George W. Bush has declared Marriage Protection Week on behalf of insecure married people everywhere, but in a beautiful example of the separation of church and state, it only refers to the Christian model of marriage. Muslims and Mormons, for example, can piss off.

Marriage is a union between a man and a woman, and my Administration is working to support the institution of marriage by helping couples build successful marriages and be good parents.

In response, Nick of morons.org has declared Gay Sex Protection Week:

Gay sex Is a Sacred Institution, and Its Protection Is Essential to the continued strength of our society. Gay Sex Protection Week provides an opportunity to focus our efforts on preserving the sanctity of gay sex and on engaging in hot and wet gay sex in America.
We must support the institution of gay sex and help gays have multiple orgasms. And we must continue our work to create a compassionate, welcoming society, where all people are treated with dignity and respect (unless they're not into that).
During Gay Sex Protection Week, I call on all Americans to join me in expressing support for the institution of gay sex with all its benefits to our porno, our culture, and our society.

But play safe now, and remember to use condoms, dams and other appropriate forms of protection.

Posted by Feòrag in Church and State at 10:59 | View blog reactions

September 24, 2003

Superstitious minister 'must go'

India: Opposition politicians are demanding the sacking of a Minister who held a reception honouring 51 witch doctors, occultists, sorcerers and faith healers.

Sanjay Paswan should be immediately sacked from the Union ministry for flouting the provisions of the Prevention of Witchcraft Practices Act, 1999 of Bihar and for spreading superstition among the people, [RJD chief Laloo Prasad] Yadav told reporters here.
When the world was laying stress on development of a scientific temperament, Paswan, Union Minister of State for Human Resources Development, is busy patronising superstition in society, he said and described the minister's gesture as part of BJP's 'dhong' (ploy) to befool the masses.

Sorcery row: Laloo demands Paswan's dismissal - The Times of India, 24th September 2003.

Posted by Feòrag in Church and State at 13:55 | View blog reactions

September 21, 2003

Human Rites

Greece: Religious freedom is something guaranteed by European human rights legislation, but nobody appears to have told the Greek government, as a recent article on a Neopagan movement in Greece highlights:

One group of Hellenes, led by Panaghiotis Marinis, from the Committee for the Recognition of the Greek Religion Dodecatheon, applied two years ago for the movement to be officially recognised. The Greek government has still to make a decision on the application and, without official recognition, the group cannot build temples, have an office, or hold public ceremonies.

There are plans to take the Greek government to the European Court of Human Rights if they don't act soon. As well as administrative hurdles, such groups suffer intolerance, especially from the Church:

Making Greek society more tolerant will not be easy. According to official figures, 98% of Greeks are Greek Orthodox Christians. And Hellenes report occasional harassment. During one ceremony at a lake near Mount Olympus, Buschbeck recalls, the local Greek Orthodox Christian Bishop and some monks led a group of 100 people to the other side of the lake to oppose them. The Bishop shouted at them through a megaphone, and played cloister music through a PA system to drown out their ceremony.

Pagans fight for divine rights of old Greek gods - Scotland on Sunday, 21st September 2003.

Posted by Feòrag in Church and State at 21:03 | View blog reactions

September 13, 2003

More Canadian politics

Canada: A new challenger has emerged for the Liberal Party leadership, and Madonna-Megara Holloway has the non-specific divine entity on her side!

I feel it is my destiny to do this, Holloway said in an interview Wednesday.
I believe in reincarnation and the law of cause and effect. I believe that it's my destiny because of karmic rights or karmic liabilities - whichever way you want to look at it - that it doesn't matter what happens.

Unknown Liberal leadership hopeful claims divine ally in long-shot bid - Canada.com, 10th September 2003; Madonna-Megara Holloway's web site.

May 11, 2003

No pooves please, we're British.

New employment legislation will institutionalise discrimination against lesbians and gay men according to, well, everyone except Tony Blair. The 2003 Employment Equality Regulations are riddled with exemptions which allow discrimination on superstitious grounds.

Other major changes to the original draft, allowing discrimination against atheists or others who do not share the religious beliefs of their employer, were made following strong lobbying from evangelical groups. One of the biggest loopholes allows an employer to dismiss or fail to hire an individual if he is not satisfied that they fit his own ethos based on religion or belief.

Critics claim that this would allow firms such as Stagecoach, run by Scottish evangelist Brian Souter, or Vardy, the North-east car dealership owned by millionaire Christian Peter Vardy, to discriminate freely.

No news on whether it allows gay employers the right to sack their employees if they are religious. Still, such regulations should make it easier to dismiss any employees who use this to cause trouble.

Blair gives religious employers the right to sack gay workersIndependent on Sunday, 11th May 2003.

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January 26, 2002

Constitution? What constitution?

A Florida mayor's Hallowe'en proclamation banning Satan from the town of Inglis has brought the threat of legal action and might well cause her downfall. Carolyn Risher's proclamation called for action in the name of Jesus, mentioning him several times, and copies were placed in four hollowed-out fence posts marked Repent, Request and Resist. The American Civil Liberties Union of Florida has written to the mayor saying that a federal lawsuit will be filed if the proclamation isn't repealed. The ACLU emphasises the United States' strict separation of church and state: The Constitution protects private assertions of faith, but absolutely prohibits government involvement in those same matters. They have demanded the removal of the fenceposts, the repeal of the proclamation and insisted that the mayor personally reimburse the town for any public funds used. ACLU action lands Satan on Inglis meeting agendaSt. Petersburg Times January 25th 2002.

June 21, 1994

News: Wiccan candidate ousted over religion

Canada: A candidate for the British Columbia provincial legislature has had his nomination taken from him because his party, the ruling New Democratic Party (roughly equivalent to Labour) found out he is Wiccan.

Samuel Wagar, organiser of Pagans for Peace and a pastor in the North American-wide Covenant of the Goddess Church, secured the nomination to run for Matsqui in a by-election but was forced to resign by the party leader in the province of British Columbia when the party discovered that Wagar is Pagan and worships a horned god, dancing around a fire in the nude

Continue reading "News: Wiccan candidate ousted over religion"

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