Archive for June, 2014

Universal Church of the Lord God, Incorporate (PsiCop original graphic)Given the Supreme Court’s ruling in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby, released this morning, which exempts corporations from the ACA’s contraception mandate if they have religious objections to doing so (WebCite cached article), I expect corporations’ religious objections to just about everything to expand immensely.

Just think: If a corporation has a religious objection to paying minimum wages (for example), by the Court’s reasoning, they should be exempted from that. If they religiously object to having to provide a safe workplace, they can be exempted from OSHA regulations. If they religiously object to registering vehicles, they should be allowed to skip going to their state’s DMV. And so on.

“But wait!” you, Dear Reader, are no doubt objecting. “There’s no religion that objects to any of those things!” That may be so … but that problem can be easily fixed. All one needs to do is create a new religion which does object to them.

Let’s create a “Universal Church of the Lord God, Incorporate.” Its main tenet is that, since the Lord called his followers together to join as a Church, likewise people join together to form Corporations. As such, each and every Corporation is a reflection of the Lord God’s holiness. Each is inviolate and sacrosanct.

This new corporatist church could easily teach that Corporations should never be constrained or limited in any way. Government regulations would not apply to any UCotLGI-following Corporation. They can’t be taxed — taxation reduces profits, you see, and because profits are the reason Corporations exist, forcing them to pay taxes would violate their sanctity. Even things like simple liability would go right out the window for a UCotLGI-following Corporation. Too bad for you, if you’re hurt or killed by some defect in a UCotLGI-following Corporation’s products!

So let’s get moving on this new Universal Church of the Lord God, Incorporate! Make all CEOs its clergy. Have them all get together (hey, those rotten little anti-trust laws that would normally prevent such conferences are an unacceptable limitation on Corporate behavior!) and figure out how best to exploit all the possibilities. And those possibilities might even include things like the restoration of slavery!

Of course, there’s just one little problem here: Does anyone know precisely how it is that a corporation can have religious beliefs? I’m still not clear on that. Just wondering. Anyone care to fill me in on that?

Photo credit: PsiCop original graphic.

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Archbishop Józef Wesolowski, papal nuncio to the Dominican Republic / Catholic News Agency / url: http://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/vatican-willing-to-hand-over-accused-nuncio-to-civil-authorities/This story has been brewing for almost a year. Last summer, the Vatican’s nuncio (aka ambassador) to the Dominican Republic, archbishop* Józef Wesołowski, resigned last summer while under investigation by DR authorities for child abuse and returned to the Vatican, where his conduct was also being investigated. At the time, I wasn’t sure the Church had actually been “investigating” him. But it turns out they had; as the Religion News Service reports, some sort of ecclesiastical trial just concluded, and as a result, Wesołowski was defrocked (WebCite cached article):

A former Vatican ambassador to the Dominican Republic, Archbishop Jozef Wesolowski, has been defrocked and is likely to face criminal prosecution at the Vatican after a church inquiry convicted him of child sexual abuse.…

The 65-year-old envoy is the highest-ranking Vatican official to be investigated for sex abuse. He was found guilty after an inquiry conducted by the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which has jurisdiction over all sex abuse cases in the Roman Catholic Church.

In a brief statement released Friday (June 27), the Vatican said the verdict was issued “in the past few days” and the former diplomat was facing arrest due to the “gravity of the case.”

This rather quick — by Vatican standards — defrocking (aka “laicization”) is fairly remarkable, and on its surface, it might seem harsh. (I suppose, maybe, those within the Vatican actually view it as such.) But it’s not clear what all of this really means for the former archbishop; and it certainly doesn’t appear that Wesołowski is truly being “punished” at all:

A bishop from the Dominican Republic was recently reported to say that he was shocked to see Wesolowski walking freely on the streets of central Rome. Prosecutors in the Caribbean nation have said they have convincing evidence that the prelate molested young men.

To add to this non-punishment of their former nuncio, they’re actively protecting him from secular prosecution; they spirited him out of the DR, and are protecting him from extradition to his native Poland as well:

Wesołowski has also been accused of abuse in his native Poland. The Vatican rejected an extradition request from the Warsaw prosecutor’s office on the grounds he was “a citizen of the Vatican” and holds diplomatic immunity.

In Wesołowski’s case, specifically, the Vatican has been able to use his position as nuncio (with its attendant “diplomatic immunity”) as well as his putative Vatican City citizenship to prevent him from being prosecuted by secular authorities. But note that this is more or less the same approach they’ve taken in a other cases that don’t involve Church diplomats. The hierarchs really and truly believe their clergy should not be subject to secular courts and that only their own Curia has jurisdiction over them.

Photo credit: Catholic News Agency.

* Wesołowski never actually headed an archdiocese. His was a fake office, that of “Archbishop of Sléibhte.” Yes, there once had been a diocese of Sléibhte (in Ireland) … but it disappeared by the middle of the 9th century (if memory serves). The office of Archbishop of Sléibhte was resurrected as a titular (aka “in name only”) position by Pope Paul VI … probably because he’d wanted to stick a feather in the cap of some Vatican functionary whom he didn’t want to put in charge of a real diocese. (Yes, folks, that’s how popes operate. They quite literally just make shit up as they go along.)

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Seattle St James - pano 02Another year is almost half over, and that means another Roman Catholic institution has been forced to settle up with “priestly pedophilia” victims. This time, as the Seattle Times reports, it’s the Seattle archdiocese (WebCite cached article):

The Archdiocese of Seattle has agreed to pay $12.125 million to 30?men who say they were sexually abused as students decades ago at Seattle’s O’Dea High School and Briscoe Memorial School in Kent.

In lawsuits filed in King County Superior Court, the men alleged the archdiocese failed to protect them from known abusers, including two former O’Dea teachers who were members of the Roman Catholic Christian Brothers order, which filed for bankruptcy in April 2011.

The Christian Brothers operated O’Dea and Briscoe, a former orphanage and boarding school for boys, but both schools were owned by the Seattle Archdiocese.

“I deeply regret the pain suffered by these victims,” Archbishop J. Peter Sartain said Tuesday in a statement. “Our hope is that this settlement will bring them closure and allow them to continue the process of healing.”

The allegations in these cases dated back as long ago as the 1950s, and documentation from the 1960s indicated that problems were known, at that time:

In court papers, [plaintiffs’ attorney Mike] Pfau and law partner Jason Amala cited a 1966 letter from one of the Christian Brothers at Briscoe to an official at the Catholic order that described a “damaging atmosphere” that had reached “immoral and unethical limits.”

These men of God spent decades working very hard keep their nasty secrets from leaking out. I’m sure they’re all very proud of their efforts.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.

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Ergun CanerI blogged four years ago about lying preacher Ergun Caner, who lost his job as dean of theology at Liberty University but ended up skipping immediately off to another job in evangelical academia. He and his brother had built careers on the evangelical Christian circuit, telling everyone they’d once been Islamist extremists who’d seen the error of their ways and converted to Christianity. That whole thing turned out to have been a lie.

Well, it turns out Caner hasn’t been able to avoid problems. As Religion News Service reports, the school he now heads, has come under siege (WebCite cached article):

A small Baptist college now led by Ergun Caner, the outspoken evangelical who stirred controversy over his story of conversion from Islam, has lost its accreditation.

The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges recently voted to remove Brewton-Parker College in Georgia from membership one year after it placed the school on probation over finances.

RNS goes over the reasons Caner had been tossed out of Liberty University (which, as I’d explained in my blog post, never managed to actually fire him … rather, the school just sort of let him drift off on his own). Three years later, Brewton-Parker decided Caner’s lies and disingenuity were, in reality, a credential:

Brewton-Parker chose Caner in 2013 because of his past controversies, saying he has endured “relentless and pagan attacks.”

Ergun Caner finds himself in good company once again, as RNS explained, since his lying brother is also having problems at a different evangelical institution he’s currently running:

Caner’s brother and co-author, Emir Caner, has also weathered controversies at Truett-McConnell College, the sister college of Brewton-Parker. The school, also in Georgia, was named by Time magazine as one of the worst “dropout factories” in the U.S. The school graduates just 14 percent of its students within six years of enrollment, one of the lowest rates in its peer group.

I guess if Brewton-Parker and Truett-McConnell colleges want to hire known liars — and specifically because they are known liars — then I guess they have no one but themselves to blame if they find themselves falling apart.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.

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Columbo facepalm, via ButterfunkThe line between ideological ferocity and childishness is a thin one. It might even be so thin as to be non-existent. Consider that the very reason a lot of people cling to arbitrarily-assembled packages of notions is that they’re desperate for easy, simple answers to problems they find incredibly vexing. They can’t emotionally handle that they’re vexed, so they latch onto whatever they think explains why they’re vexed and grants them the right to tell everyone what to do about it … and to rage and fume at whoever it is they decide is vexing them.

After having spent about a decade as a Republican activist, I can tell you that a lot of these folks are very immature. But for those who haven’t dealt with these people as much as I have, it can be hard to see just how pervasive this immaturity is. Well, here’s an example that turns out to be very public. Time magazine reports on what someone did in the urinals at a Faith and Freedom Coalition conference this weekend (WebCite cached article):

President Barack Obama made a cameo at a conservative conference in Washington on Friday—in the restroom.

The Faith and Freedom Coalition’s Road to Majority Conference, which draws some of the biggest conservative icons and presidential hopefuls looking to make inroads with the grassroots, was heavy on criticism of Obama’s domestic and foreign policy agenda. And small figurines of Obama’s head, first spotted by the Huffington Post‘s Igor Bobic, were placed inside the urinals in the mens’ restroom outside the conference hall where the likes of Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie were addressing a crowd of several hundred.

Here’s the photo Bobic tweeted (cached):

'Scene from a Faith & Freedom restroom #RTM2014' / posted by Igor Bobic (@igorbobic) of Huffington Post, via Twitter

‘Scene from a Faith & Freedom restroom #RTM2014’ / by Igor Bobic (@igorbobic) of Huffington Post, via Twitter

Well done, guys. Really. I mean that. Thanks for putting your childishness on display for all to see. Now we truly know what sort of character you have … which is to say, you have none. You must be so proud!

Note, this example and discussion of Rightist immaturity shouldn’t be taken as an assertion that Leftists can’t be juvenile. Of course they can! A lot of them are. I don’t deny that at all. It’s just that, in this case, it’s Rightist childishness we’re talking about. And we’re talking about it in the context of a conference run by a religious organization, where one would expect attendees to behave with far more maturity than one would find elsewhere … since we all know that religion automatically makes adherents upright and moral.

Or does it … ? Hmm.

Not to mention, the fact that there are some immature Leftists doesn’t grant Rightists license also to be childish. To believe so is to fall for the “two wrongs make a right” fallacy.

Photo credit, top: Butterfunk; middle: Igor Bobic of HuffPo, via Twitter.

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Mehmet Oz - World Economic Forum Annual Meeting 2012I’ve blogged a time or two about Dr Mehmet Oz, aka “Dr Oz.” His friendship with Oprah Winfrey has given him his own TV show and small media empire. Some of his medical advice is fine, however, he occasionally waxes rhapsodic over spurious remedies which — as a physician who heads a program at New York-Presbyterian Hospital and who’s on the faculty of Columbia University — he has to know have no meaningful scientific support.

What Dr Oz doesn’t seem to have been aware of previously, and which was the subject of a Senate hearing yesterday, is that his words are grist for the mills of scammers, liars, cheats and con artists. As NBC News reports, Sen. Claire McCaskill in particular confronted him about this problem (WebCite cached article):

Dr. Mehmet Oz, a celebrity doctor who frequently extols weight-loss products on his syndicated television show, got a harsh scolding from several senators on Tuesday at a hearing about bogus diet product ads.

Oz was held up as the power driving many of the fraudulent ads, even as he argued he was himself the victim of the scammers. The hearing is a follow-up to the Federal Trade Commission’s crackdown last January against fake diet products.

“I don’t get why you need to say this stuff because you know it’s not true,” Missouri Sen. Claire McCaskill, a Democrat who chairs a Senate subcommittee on consumer protection, said at the hearing. “So why, when you have this amazing megaphone…why would you cheapen your show by saying things like that?”

Dr Oz’s defense is that he’s giving people “hope”:

Oz, a frequent guest on NBC’s TODAY show, admitted he uses “flowery” language on his shows, and said he realizes that the moment he recommends a product, the scammers use his words to sell spurious products. “I concede to my colleagues at the FTC that I am making their job more difficult,” he said.

But he said he has to be “passionate” to engage his audience. “When we write a script, we need to generate enthusiasm and engage the viewer,” Oz said.…

Oz said the products give people hope to keep trying to lose weight — something almost all experts agree is a very difficult thing to do. Two-thirds of Americans are overweight or obese.

Ah. So that makes it all better, I guess. Somehow. The Senator hit back on this point:

McCaskill asked why Oz didn’t use his show to promote what actually has been proven to help people lose weight — careful eating and exercise. “I want to see all that floweriness, all that passion, about the beauty of a walk at sunset,” she said.

“The scientific community is almost monolithic against you in terms of the efficacy of a few products that you have called miracles,” she added. “I just don’t understand why you need to go there … You are being made an example of today because of the power you have in this space.”

Of course, it’s not just green coffee bean extract which Dr Oz has touted. He’s pumped other things, too, such as magical pajamas. Yes, you read that right: Pajamas. Note, this recommendation wasn’t a general or generic one, like, “avoid salt” or “eat oranges.” It was a specific recommendation for a single, proprietary product known as “Goodnighties” (cached). Dr Oz also cooked up a weird, pseudo-scientific justification for believing in the claimed magical powers of Theresa Caputo, the so-called Long Island Medium. Pardon me while I laugh at the famed towering intellect of this academic-physician. I’m neither an academic nor a physician, yet I know there are no magical health-granting pajamas, and I also know that no one can talk with the dead.

Having said all of this, Dr Oz wasn’t the only one criticized at this Senate hearing, according to NBC News:

McCaskill also rebuked media companies that run the ads. “I find it troubling that broadcast and satellite radio witnesses who were asked to be here today were unwilling to appear. To me, this indicates that either there is something to hide or they don’t have a good story to tell,” she said.

The Senator has a good point. Media companies happily carry ads and promote shows that they, also, must know promote useless products. But they didn’t have the courage to appear before Congress and defend that practice. Hmm.

Although I’m gratified that the Senate held a hearing to expose this problem, I’d much rather they took meaningful action that would truly make things better. Perhaps the most important of those would be to repeal the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act (aka the DSHEA). This act removed “dietary supplements” … which would include things like green coffee bean extract … from FDA oversight, thus creating a vast market for bogus products that are peddled behind cowardly little legalistic caveats like “not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.” If any of these things actually did what their makers imply they do, it ought to be possible — if not trivial — to demonstrate it using the same sorts of studies which the FDA requires for pharmaceuticals. Sure, it’d cost money … but so what? We’re talking about people’s health here! Why is it so onerous or unreasonable to expect the makers of “herbal remedies” provide medical evidence for their claims, when we have no qualms about demanding the same in the case of pharmaceuticals? I don’t see how or why there should be any difference.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.

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When the Fail is so strong, one Facepalm is not enough / Picard & Riker / HaHaStop.ComNote: There’s been some news about this; please see below.

Once in a while some religious person or group does something in the name of his/her faith that’s simultaneously so ridiculous and surprising, that I’m rendered almost speechless by it. Today was one of these times. I read on the Friendly Atheist blog that Leadership Journal — a “sub-publication” (if you will) of Christianity Today — actually published a Christian youth pastor’s justification for having sexually abused one of his young charges (WebCite cached article). This confession/rationale is anonymous, of course … since, like most criminals of his kind, the creep is too much of a coward to take responsibility for anything and actually admit who he is. The crux of this creature’s admission is here:

A few years into my marriage and ministry I began to believe a lie. The realities of parenthood and marriage were sinking in, and I felt unappreciated at home. From my perspective, I was excelling at work and at home—and this perceived lack of appreciation led me to believe I deserved more.

Meanwhile, there was someone else in my life that appreciated me very much—one my students. Seeking approval and appreciation, I gravitated toward her. Before long, we were texting each other and interacting through social media. Nothing scandalous or questionable—a Facebook “like” or comment here, a friendly text there. Things friends do.

But I knew what appeared innocent was, in reality, wrong and very dangerous. Red flags kept popping up. Why was I not talking about this “friendship” with my wife? Why was I being secretive and sneaky about it? Why didn’t I, in the earliest stages, when I knew the “friendship” was rapidly escalating beyond what it should be, slam on the brakes?

(Please note how the creature threw his wife under the bus … just like Dinesh D’Souza, another devout Christianist.) In his answer to this question, the creature attributes his fall to being consumed by “sin”:

The answer: I had failed to address the sin in my life. Sin that is not dealt with doesn’t fade away. It destroys us from the inside.

There is a huge difference, of course, between merely “sinning” — as awful as one might think that is — and “criminality.” According to Christian scripture, all human beings are “sinners” … but not all of us are “criminals” like this creature. Calling his crimes mere “sins” is the creature’s way of whitewashing what he did — not to mention, implying it’s something almost anyone else might have done in his place (since, of course, all human beings are subject to “sin”).

The Friendly Atheist article goes on to explain how an online activist (Becca Rose) tried to get the Journal‘s editor, Drew Dyck, to explain why he thought this article was appropriate, but he inexplicably replied, “I don’t answer rhetorical questions” (cached) There was nothing “rhetorical” about Ms Rose’s question (“What exactly was the editorial process in publishing a rapist’s justifications for being a child molester?”) so I’m baffled by his reply. It makes no sense!

Please note, though, that the Journal has apparently not missed the (very understandable) shitstorm they kicked up. The article I linked to above, and cached using WebCite, has been modified, both to include an editorial disclaimer, and apparently to alter some offensive language used by its author. But that disclaimer, too, makes little sense. Their intention had been to provide a warning to pastors and churches. And I suppose it might be good for them to know something about how pastoral child-molesters think. However, the Journal could have provided that sort of information either from third-party experts or by brief excerpts from an interview with a child-molesting pastor (or by both means). They didn’t need to give such a creature a full article-length pedestal to stand on. That creature didn’t need to be given that much of a voice. If anything, we as a society need to work harder to not grant people like this creature any voice; they don’t deserve to be heard or understood, and only deserve revulsion and condemnation.

I’d also like to note, this is yet another example of how clerical child abuse isn’t solely a Catholic problem — not that I’ve ever said it was, but lots of Catholic apologists love to trumpet that canard every time some priest or bishop gets his sorry ass hauled into court over it. So all you Catholics, go ahead and jump up for joy over a Protestant publication giving a voice to a Protestant pastoral child-molester. Go ahead. Have a blast!

Update: It looks as though the editors of Leadership Journal finally got the message; they pulled the offending article and replaced it with an apology (cached). I’m not sure what caused them to change their minds, but I’m glad they did it.

Photo credit: HaHaStop.Com.

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