Archive for June, 2010

Christian and Gay Equals OKIn a change from its usual dutiful, obedient, lock-step march behind the vast hosts of the Religious Right, the US Supreme Court dealt a blow to a Christian group at a law school in California. The AP via Google News reports on this decision (WebCite cached article):

An ideologically split Supreme Court ruled Monday that a law school can legally deny recognition to a Christian student group that won’t let gays join, with one justice saying that the First Amendment does not require a public university to validate or support the group’s “discriminatory practices.”

The court turned away an appeal from the Christian Legal Society, which sued to get funding and recognition from the University of California’s Hastings College of the Law. The CLS requires that voting members sign a statement of faith and regards “unrepentant participation in or advocacy of a sexually immoral lifestyle” as being inconsistent with that faith.

But Hastings, which is in San Francisco, said no recognized campus groups may exclude people due to religious belief or sexual orientation.

Isn’t it amazing that fundamentalist Christians believe themselves to be above the rules everyone else must obey? They get to do whatever they want, ’cause of Jesus … I guess. This group thought they could have it both ways … they could gain recognition by the school — and the funding that goes along with it — without actually having to abide by the rules required of recognized groups.

(I’m not sure that aspiring lawyers ought to be looking for ways to excuse themselves from having to obey rules … I mean, that kind of runs counter to the entire field of law … but hey, I’m just a cold-hearted, cynical, skeptical, God-hating agnostic heathen, so what do I know?)

The Court’s theocrat-in-chief made just the sort of doomsday prediction one would expect from any mindless religiofascist:

Justice Samuel Alito wrote a strong dissent for the court’s conservatives, saying the opinion was “a serious setback for freedom of expression in this country.”

What Alito doesn’t get is that a lack of school recognition doesn’t prevent the members of the Christian Legal Society from believing in whatever reprehensible notions they feel like … all it means is they can’t get any funding from the school. And isn’t that what this was all about … extracting money from the Hastings College of the Law? I wonder what Jesus would say about the Christian Legal Society’s obvious greed.

Photo credit: Thomas Hawk.

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Masaccio - The Expulsion Of Adam And Eve From Eden - Restoration / Example of using fig leaves for 'modesty'A couple of Religious Right organizations are taking advantage of the proposed Comcast-NBC/Universal merger, to indulge their childish, sanctimonious impulses and find out just how much Comcast makes on pornography. Yes, folks, that’s right; none of the various pitfalls associated with this problematic merger matter, what matters is that we find out how much profit a cable company makes on “immoral” programming. The Hill’s Hillicon Valley blog reports on their maneuver (WebCite cached article):

The Parents Television Council (PTC) and a handful of Christian groups have called on Comcast to disclose the amount of revenue it brings in from pornographic and adult entertainment programming before it merges with NBC Universal (NBCU).

The groups, which include James Dobson’s organization Focus on the Family, want the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to consider the company’s porn revenues when judging if the merger is in the public interest, they wrote in a filing last week about the merger.

The U.S. Communications Act allows the FCC to use a “public interest” standard to evaluate the transfer of broadcast licenses.

The only problem is, they haven’t explained why this particular nugget of information about Comcast, is their business. I can only suppose they’ve simply decided that their own outrage over the fact that pornography exists, entitles them to that information. Fierce religionists usually think everything is their business, and they usually work to make it their business … even things that aren’t.

Hat tip: Consumerist.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.

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Ergun Caner by Biglo at en.wikipedia [Public domain], from Wikimedia CommonsFor a few months now, questions have swirled around Ergun Caner, the dean of theology at Liberty University, a college founded by the late Rev Jerry Falwell. He claimed to have originally been a devout Muslim, but converted to evangelical Christianity. For this he became relatively famous in fundamentalist Christian circles, going on the fundie-church lecture circuit around the country, especially after September 11, 2001. The fundies, you see, just love hearing about people who go from being a devout {something-other-than-Christian} to a devout Christian.

In any event, the fundies in charge of Liberty University found they could no longer credibly ignore the controversy; they investigated Caner, and decided he’s out as head of their theology department. The AP via Google News reports on their decision (WebCite cached article):

A Baptist minister who toured the country to talk about his conversion from Islam to Christianity is no longer the dean of Liberty University’s theological seminary following allegations he fabricated or embellished facts about his past, the school said Friday.

The university founded by Rev. Jerry Falwell said that a board of trustees committee concluded Ergun Caner made contradictory statements. Although it didn’t find evidence that he was not a Muslim who converted as a teenager, it did discover problems with dates, names and places he says he lived, a statement said.

Caner will remain on the Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary faculty, but won’t be dean when his term expires on June 30.

During the course of the controversy, when bloggers had just started discussing the conflicting and/or incorrect claims he’d made, Caner went around the Internet asking for information about him, or material by him, to be deleted. Unfortunately, covering one’s tracks on the Internet doesn’t work too well.

Note that — in spite of Caner’s documented lying and dissembling, LU still couldn’t summon the courage to fire Caner completely or concede he’d never been a Muslim; they said, in a statement (courtesy of WSET-13, Lynchburg VA; locally cached version):

However, the committee found no evidence to suggest that Dr. Caner was not a Muslim who converted to Christianity as a teenager, but, instead, found discrepancies related to matters such as dates, names and places of residence. … Dr. Caner will remain on the faculty of Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary as a professor.

That’s the way it is with fundamentalist Christians … they may have their disagreements, and they may even have to admit wrongdoing on the part of one of their own, but — no matter what any of them might do — ultimately, they all stick together nonetheless.

This sorry episode makes Ergun Caner another member of my “lying liars for Jesus” club, and the directors of Liberty University gain honorary membership in it, for essentially being apologists for a lying liar for Jesus. Way to go guys!

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.

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Hitler and MussoliniI’ve blogged before about how quick ideologues are to leap on the emotionally-charged reductio ad Hitlerum fallacy. It seems there is no letup in this phenomenon, in spite of how obviously invalid it is. The latest example that’s come to my attention is the following column by militant Rightist Thomas Sowell, courtesy of Jewish World Review (WebCite cached article), which opens as follows:

When Adolf Hitler was building up the Nazi movement in the 1920s, leading up to his taking power in the 1930s, he deliberately sought to activate people who did not normally pay much attention to politics. Such people were a valuable addition to his political base, since they were particularly susceptible to Hitler’s rhetoric and had far less basis for questioning his assumptions or his conclusions.

It’s curious that Sowell is complaining about “activating” people who haven’t previously been politically active … especially since his own fellow Right-wingers in the “Tea Party” could also be described this way. Oh well. You have to just accept a certain amount of brazen hypocrisy from a guy like that.

At any rate, while Sowell does not actually state in this column that “Obama is a Nazi” or “the Democrats are the Nazi Party,” his opening the column with the above paragraph cannot have any intention other than to make just this comparison. The reductio ad Hitlerum here is implied, rather than stated outright. It’s a clever move, I admit, but it’s also transparent.

In any event, allow me to address several points about this:

  1. Among the first things Hitler and his Nazi party did, once he became Chancellor in January 1933, was to outlaw other political parties, beginning with the Communists, then the Social Democrats, then the (Weimar) Democrats, the People’s party, the Centrists etc., eventually banning all parties other than their own. I’m not aware that Obama or the Democrats have even begun to make any moves along the lines of abolishing any other political parties.

  2. Hitler and the Nazis nationalized the country, dismissing the elected governments of Germany’s various states, and appointing Nazi operatives to run them. To my knowledge, neither Obama nor the Democrats have absconded with any of the 50 state governments; their elected governors and legislators remain in place.

  3. Prior to their seizure of power, Hitler and the Nazis had a freecorps or militia working for them, the Sturmabteilung (aka the S.A., Brownshirts, or storm troopers), who intimidated the Nazis’ opponents and rivals in the years leading to Hitler’s appointment, and which became their privately-run enforcement arm afterward (eventually spawning the dreaded Schutzstaffel, aka the S.S.). I haven’t heard that Obama or the Democrats have any such militia, at the moment.

  4. Hitler and the Nazis also took control of higher education in Germany, installing loyal Nazis to run the universities and expelling many professors (particularly Jewish) they deemed harmful to the regime or to Nazi ideology. But I haven’t heard that Obama or the Democrats have changed the management or faculty of any university or college.

  5. The Nazis also abolished all labor unions, forcing workers to join, instead, a nationalized agency, known as the German Labor Front (aka the D.A.F.) which essentially placed Germans at the whim of their employers. Not one union, on the other hand, has been outlawed since Obama took office … that I’m aware of, anyway.

  6. The people in charge of organizations that the Nazis abolished — such as rival political parties, the trade unions, etc. — were exiled and/or placed in concentration camps. These imprisonments numbered in the thousands, in the early years of the Nazi regime. I’m not aware that Obama or the Democrats have even come close to doing anything like this.

This is just a small selection. The truth is that the Nazi regime, in its early years, did many things the current administration hasn’t even dreamed about doing, much less attempted to do.

Really, details matter. If you’re going to call Obama and his administration “Nazis” — or as Sowell does, merely imply that they’re Nazis — then there have to be some details in common. I see no comparison, however. Obama hasn’t even come close to doing any of these things which were early hallmarks of the Nazi regime.

Granted, this is not a phenomenon solely found in the Right. It’s something I’ve seen coming from the Left, during the George W. Bush administration; Bush and Cheney were also compared to Hitler and the Nazis, in their time. However, I’ve found this rhetoric to be more frequent, at the moment, wielded by the Right.

For the most part, when someone compares Obama — or any other person or group — to Hitler and/or the Nazis, it’s not because there’s a discernible and objective resemblance. It’s merely because the accuser happens not to like them. Basically, then, it’s nothing more than name-calling. It’s childish, and therefore not acceptable behavior in grown adults. People like Sowell are much too old to be engaging in behavior this juvenile … yet they do so, nonetheless. One wonders why … ?

Photo credit: Wikipedia.

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South Africa vs. Mexico: Opening Game World Cup 2010In case you’ve been living under a rock for the last week or so, the 2010 World Cup is being played right now, in South Africa. Outside of the US, soccer is a popular sport, and interest worldwide is high. A couple billion or so people will likely be watching one or more games during the course of this massive tournament. But hyperreligiosity knows no bounds, and a desire to watch a game, cost a man his life, as CBS News reports (WebCite cached article):

A South African man who wanted to watch a World Cup football match instead of a religious program was beaten to death by his family in the northeastern part of the country, police said Thursday.

David Makoeya, a 61-year-old man from the small village of Makweya, Limpopo province, fought with his wife and two children for the remote control on Sunday because he wanted to watch Germany play Australia in the World Cup. The others, however, wanted to watch a gospel show. …

“It appears they banged his head against the wall,” Malefo said. “They phoned the police only after he was badly injured, but by the time the police arrived the man was already dead.”

Soccer fans who live with religious families, had best beware: Your soccer-watching is an evil vice that Jesus disapproves of — apparently — and it could get you killed!

Hat tip: iReligion Forum on Delphi Forums.

Photo credit: ER24 EMS (Pty) Ltd.

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St. Michael's residential school, Alert Bay, BCThe Roman Catholic clerical abuse scandal has erupted a few times over the last decade, and especially during the last year — in a cascade of revelations beginning with the release of the Ryan Report just over a year ago — but elsewhere, scandals of a similar nature have been dealt with for much longer, and are getting closer to a resolution. An example of this is the Canadian residential schools scandal. The abuses of the period in question came to light some time ago, and the Canadian government has been working on compensating victims for over a decade. The question — for all that time — has not been whether or not the Canadian government and the churches who operated the residential schools did anything wrong, but over what kind of compensation would be provided to the victims, their survivors, and the rest of the native peoples.

CTV reports on what victims said at a hearing before a commission set up to address this matter:

Hundreds of aboriginals gathered in Winnipeg Wednesday to share their stories of abuse suffered during years of living in Canada’s disgraced residential school system.

The hearing was the first in a series of seven national events being run by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which aims to document the physical and sexual abuse and other horrors endured by children at residential schools across Canada.

While there’s still a lot of debate over this effort in Canada — including victims who think not enough has been done, and others who think it’s going to cost the country too much — the fact is that a resolution is being worked out. The same cannot be said for the Roman Catholic Church, which continues to evade its guilt and its responsibilities, and continues to view the scandal dysfunctionally, as a spiritual attack upon it by the forces of Satan, rather than as a catastrophic moral and ethical failing of its own making. The Vatican ought to watch what’s happening in Canada, and be ashamed of themselves for not being as willing to admit fault and change its ways.

Photo credit: Canada’s World.

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This Jan. 2006 photo provided Tuesday, June 15, 2010 by the Larimer County, Colo. Sheriff's Office shows Gary Brooks Faulkner, after he was arrested on a Compulsory Insurance charge.A lone American, on orders — he claims — from God himself, ventured to Pakistan to hunt Osama bin-Laden. Pakistani officials found him wandering around with a cache of weapons, as the AP reports via Google News (WebCite cached article):

An American construction worker detained in Pakistan while on a solo mission to kill Osama bin Laden claimed Wednesday that he was obeying an order from God to avenge the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, said Pakistani security officials.

Gary Brooks Faulkner said God revealed the order in one of his dreams, prompting him to travel to Pakistan in search of al-Qaida’s leader, said two security officials, one of whom is part of a team of investigators questioning the American.

This article includes the obligatory blurb from family members claiming there’s nothing wrong with the guy and he’s only doing what ought to have been done in the first place:

Catching bin Laden was 50-year-old Faulkner’s passion, his brother Scott Faulkner said. A devout Christian with a prison record, Faulkner has been to Pakistan at least six times, learned some of the local language, and even grew a long beard to blend in, relatives and acquaintances said.

“Our military has not been able to track Osama down yet. It’s been 10 years,” Scott Faulkner told reporters in Denver. “It’s easier as a civilian, dressed in the local dress, to infiltrate the inside, the local people, gain their confidence and get information and intel that you couldn’t get as an American soldier, Navy SEAL, whoever you might be.”

News flash for the Faulkner family: Individual infiltrations are exactly the sort of thing the Special Forces already do! And I’m betting they’re a lot better trained in it than this guy is. But then, the Faulkners seem not to think that matters, because the Lord will provide:

[Senior Pakistani police official Mumtaz Ahmad] Khan said when Faulkner was asked why he thought he could trace bin Laden, he replied, “God is with me, and I am confident I will be successful in killing him.”

Just one question: How good of a job was God doing, if instead of guiding Faulkner to bin-Laden’s hidden lair, he led him — instead — into a Pakistani patrol? Just wondering out loud.

I’m also wondering about something else. Faulkner is “a devout Christian with a prison record”? How exactly does that work? I thought believing in Jesus made Christians into upstanding citizens, because morality can only come from God?

Photo credit: AP Photo/Larimer County Sheriff’s Office.

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