Church and State: July 2004 Archives

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.

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 -, 25th July 2004.

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.

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.

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.


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.

About this Archive

This page is an archive of entries in the Church and State category from July 2004.

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