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Bob Jones University, Front Campus FountainThere are a number of evangelical Protestant colleges in the U.S., and Bob Jones University in South Carolina is one of the strangest and most controversial of them. It resisted admitting blacks until long after other major schools in that state had started admitting them, and even after that, it maintained a ban on interracial dating that lasted until 2000. In the 1970s the school fought a legal battle to retain its tax-exempt status, and ultimately lost. It’s also remarkably anti-Catholic (although this is in keeping with its Protestant evangelical origins). In spite of the controversy that swirled around it, BJU incubated more than a few Republican presidential campaigns.

But now BJU has found itself embroiled in yet another controversy. As the New York Times reports, this involves sexual-abuse reports on campus and the manner in which BJU dealt with them … or, rather, how it refused to deal with them (WebCite cached article):

For decades, students at Bob Jones University who sought counseling for sexual abuse were told not to report it because turning in an abuser from a fundamentalist Christian community would damage Jesus Christ. Administrators called victims liars and sinners.

All of this happened until recently inside the confines of this insular university, according to former students and staff members who said they had high hopes that the Bob Jones brand of counseling would be exposed and reformed after the university hired a Christian consulting group in 2012 to investigate its handling of sexual assaults, many of which occurred long before the students arrived at the university.

Last week, Bob Jones dealt a blow to those hopes, acknowledging that with the investigation more than a year old and nearing completion, the university had fired the consulting group, Godly Response to Abuse in the Christian Environment, or Grace, without warning or explanation. The dismissal has drawn intense criticism from some people with ties to Bob Jones, and prompted some victims and their allies — including many who were interviewed by Grace investigators — to tell their stories publicly for the first time, attracting more attention than ever to the university’s methods.

The management of BJU apparently had differences of opinion with Grace. They claim to have wanted to resolve these differences … but one wonders what that means, given how they chose to go about it:

[BJU president Stephen Jones] said the university had not told Grace what its concerns were and wanted to discuss them with the consultant but could do so only face to face and felt compelled to fire the firm first.

“We terminated our agreement with Grace so that we could sit down and get it back on track,” Mr. Jones said, vowing to complete the investigation, with or without Grace.

I honestly don’t understand how they were forced to fire their own chosen investigators in order to get the investigation going again. This is mind-boggling gibberish.

Also, rather strangely, it’s not just on-campus abuse that BJU tried to squash:

But at Bob Jones, most of the stories that have been made public do not involve assaults on campus. They are about people who were abused as children and then looked for help in college.

Honestly, this too is mind-boggling. Why would BJU object to its students seeking help for abuse that occurred years before? Why would they get in the way of it? How could they find that unacceptable?

At any rate, the firing of Grace has blown the lid off the situation at BJU, and people are now talking about how the university handles sexual abuse cases. The Times reports:

“They said not to go to the police because no one will believe you, to defer to authority like your father or especially someone in the church,” she said. “They said if you report it, you hurt the body of Christ.”

Now, maybe it’s just because I’m a cynical godless agnostic heathen, but I’m not quite sure how “the body of Christ” can be “hurt.” I mean, Christ is God, is he not? Can God be hurt at all? How, exactly, does that work?

I note that running interference for sexual abusers, and the pressure on victims not to report it, in the name of protecting “the body of Christ,” is nearly the same as what we find occurred in the priestly-pedophilia scandal. Yes, folks, it does happen in places other than the Roman Catholic Church. It really, truly, absolutely is not just a Catholic problem — and I’ve never once said it wasn’t (even if Catholicism’s apologists may claim otherwise). But that it happens elsewhere still doesn’t mean it should happen anywhere, especially at the hands of people who claim to be doing God’s work and promoting morality.

Hat tip: Rational Wiki.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.

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St. Peter's Basilica, VaticanI’ve blogged many times already about how the Roman Catholic Church blames the worldwide Catholic clerical abuse scandal on anyone and everyone other than itself or its own personnel. The blame-game is old and tired, but it seems the Church just won’t give up playing it. The latest example of this comes in the wake of a UN committee’s report on how the Vatican obstructed justice and aided abusive clergy around the world for decades. As the AP reports via CBC News, the Vatican denounced this report, blaming its content on “pro-gay ideologues” (WebCite cached article):

The Vatican “systematically” adopted policies that allowed priests to rape and molest tens of thousands of children over decades, a UN human rights committee said Wednesday, urging the Holy See to open its files on pedophiles and bishops who concealed their crimes.

In a devastating report hailed by abuse victims, the UN committee severely criticized the Holy See for its attitudes toward homosexuality, contraception and abortion and said it should change its own canon law to ensure children’s rights and their access to health care are guaranteed.

The Vatican promptly objected and its UN ambassador accused the committee of having betrayed the international body’s own objectives by allowing itself to be swayed by pro-gay ideologues. He said it appeared the committee simply hadn’t listened when the Holy See outlined all the measures it has taken to protect children.

The Vatican’s reasoning here is absurd: They’re saying they shouldn’t be held accountable for child abuse and obstruction of justice in the past, because they’re better about them, now. Applied elsewhere, this sort of thinking would promptly be dismissed as ridiculous. For example, take a guy arrested for a murder a couple years after it happened; should he be able to insist that he shouldn’t be prosecuted for it, because he hadn’t killed anyone since then?

As usual, the R.C. Church once again complains it’s being attacked; in this case by these “pro-gay ideologues” who, they think, are trying to destroy them. This latest whine is just one more example of the Church’s denials: They continue to insist their clergy never abused any kids and their hierarchs never protected them. It’s all fabricated. The Church, its spokesmen, and defenders have cited plenty of other bogeymen in the past, ranging from “masonic secularists” to the Jews to the Devil, and even to the abuse victims themselves.

Clearly the Church hierarchy is committed to its ongoing plan to repeatedly deny and blame, deny and blame, then deny and blame some more. They cannot and will not admit fault, nor will they willingly allow themselves to be held accountable for what they did. Nevertheless, they claim to be the world’s sole remaining arbiter of morality. That’s the sort of hypocrisy that their own Jesus explicitly condemned … but like most Christians, they happily engage in it anyway.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.

Hat tip: Peter at Skeptics & Heretics Forum on Delphi Forums.

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This 2011 file photo shows the Cathedral of St. Helena in Helena, Mont. The Roman Catholic Diocese of Helena filed for bankruptcy protection Jan. 31 in advance of proposed settlements for two lawsuits that claim clergy members sexually abused 362 people over decades and the church covered it up. (Photo: Ron Zellar, AP)For what I believe is the tenth time over the last decade, yet another Roman Catholic diocese has been forced to declare bankruptcy, in the face of allegations it allowed its clergy to abuse children. As USA Today reports, this would be the Helena, MT diocese (WebCite cached article):

The Roman Catholic Diocese of Helena planned to file for bankruptcy protection Friday as part of a proposed settlement of $15 million for hundreds of victims who say clergy members sexually abused them over decades while the church covered it up.

Diocese spokesman Dan Bartleson said the bankruptcy reorganization plan comes after confidential mediation sessions with the plaintiffs’ attorneys and insurers, resulting in the deals to resolve the abuse claims.

Those bastions of Christian charity managed to hand off most of the bill for this:

The church anticipates paying at least $2.5 million of the costs, with the rest paid by insurers, which were part of the settlement talks, he said. Bartleson said the diocese does not expect to have to liquidate any of its assets or close any programs because of the filing.

Gee, how convenient … no? In this case the Church managed, successfully, to prevent its personnel from being prosecuted, and avoided most of the payout to victims.

Photo credit: Ron Zellar/AP, via USA Today.

Hat tip: Peter at Skeptics & Heretics Forum on Delphi Forums.

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Maryland State Police patrol the Columbia Mall after a fatal shooting on Saturday in Columbia, Maryland. Three people were killed in a shooting at the shopping mall, located about 45 minutes outside Washington. Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images, via the Washington PostIn breaking news today, there was a shooting at the Columbia Mall in Maryland. CNN reports on this event (WebCite cached article):

Gunfire erupted in a Columbia, Maryland, shopping mall Saturday morning, leaving at least three people dead, according to the Howard County Police Department’s Twitter account.

Police entered the mall and found three people dead, including one person who was found near a gun and ammunition and believed to be the shooter. There was no indication of additional shots being fired and the scene was secure shortly before 1 p.m., police said.

Two victims with minor injuries were transported to Howard County General Hospital, police said. They were not directly involved in the shooting.

Mall employees told CNN the gunfire erupted near a second-floor food court in late morning, sending shoppers and workers running for cover.

“It’s a mall shooting,” one mall worker, identified only as K.T., told CNN. “No one knows what’s going on. In today’s world, you hear gunshots and you run.”

The staccato of gunfire was followed by the cries and screams of children and adults running or ducking for cover under tables, the employees said.

Here’s CNN’s video story as of today:

I predict that religionists will use this event to promote their religion. They’ll say this shooting happened because there’s gay marriage in the U.S., or abortion, or because of Obamacare, or because the president is a socialist … or more generally, because the country isn’t godly enough.

Just you wait and see. I’ll bet this kind of religionistic blaming will start later today.

The implication of this, of course, is that the shooter him- or herself (s/he hasn’t yet been identified at the time I’m typing this) didn’t play any meaningful role in this shooting. Oh no. God arranged it, you see, because of gay marriage/abortion/Obamacare/socialism/ungodliness/yada yada yada. Nothing else contributed to it.

Photo credit: Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images, via the Washington Post.

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Screen shot of preventable-disease map, by CFREven though the current anti-vax movement has been constructed upon a single demonstrably-fraudulent study (WebCite cached article) by Dr Andrew Wakefield — which he’d intended as the basis for a franchise selling “remedies” for something he called “austistic enterocolitis” (cached), it’s taken on a life of its own. It morphed originally from Wakefield’s (false) contention that the MMR vaccine causes autism, to the assumption that all vaccines, of any type, are toxic.

The mass media have done more than their share to perpetuate the lie that vaccines are dangerous, including this past December when Katie Couric spent an entire show parading sanctimonious mommies on her stage (cached) telling everyone that the HPV vaccine is lethal. Ms Couric later sort-of conceded she might have gone too far with that one (cached).

The truth of the anti-vax movement is much worse than just that it’s a big fat fucking lie with a fraudulent genesis; it’s actually hurting people in very real — and measurable — ways. The Council on Foreign Relations released a map showing the incidence of vaccine-preventable outbreaks around the world (cached). And the picture isn’t pretty:Screen shot of preventable-disease map, by CFROne expects to see such illnesses in developing countries, but as is evident in the map, even in highly industrialized nations, preventable childhood illnesses are also occurring in large numbers. Europe is plastered with measles, for instance, and the U.S. is spawning whooping cough from sea to sea.

I know I’ll be accused of having been paid by “Big Pharma” to point this out and condemn the anti-vax movement … but no matter how fervently the anti-vax crowd may believe otherwise, I haven’t. “Big Pharma” doesn’t even know who I am. I also don’t know anyone who works for, or who’s ever been paid any amount, by a “Big Pharma” firm. I’m just a guy who objects to irrationality and lies, and doesn’t think it’s a good idea for people to he harmed or killed by irrationality and lies. Call me crazy if you want — and many have! — but that’s just how I roll. <shrug>

Photo credit: CFR map screen-shot.

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Apocalypse vasnetsovThe Religious Right loves to use disaster theology to bludgeon other people into obeying their own dour metaphysics. They do it because they believe their God is a terrifying cosmic tyrant who will, in fact, happily use disasters in order to terrorize humanity … and because of their own fear of him, they view fear as something that will motivate others to believe as they do, also. They either don’t understand — or worse, they refuse to want to admit — that disasters happen from time to time, regardless of any outside factors, and it’s impossible to verifiably ascribe them to an almighty cosmic entity who’s trying to coerce humanity into doing his bidding.

The latest example of a Religious Rightist using disaster theology to make others cower into doing as she demands, is Congressional candidate in Illinois’s 9th district, Susanne Atanus. The Arlington Heights, IL Daily Herald reports on what she said on the subject (WebCite cached article):

“I am a conservative Republican and I believe in God first,” Atanus said. She said she believes God controls the weather and has put tornadoes and diseases such as autism and dementia on earth as in response to gay rights and legalized abortions.

“God is angry. We are provoking him with abortions and same-sex marriage and civil unions,” she said. “Same-sex activity is going to increase AIDS. If it’s in our military it will weaken our military. We need to respect God.”

Yes, of course, Ms Atanus. Everything bad that ever happened in this world, was caused solely by vile, insolent, God-hating mortals who dared reject your deity and his ways. Why, of course! How could it possibly have been otherwise?

</sarcasm>

What you see here is the childishness typical of the fervent religionist. They dislike something, so they claim their God also hates it, and they cast about looking for things they can cite which, as they see it anyway, demonstrate his displeasure. What they haven’t done, and can never do, is to actually show this relationship using objective, verifiable evidence.

They also can’t or won’t explain how it makes sense for an almighty cosmic deity to try to send a message to humanity in such a way. Consider: if he really wanted to make clear that he despises gays and abortion, wouldn’t it make more sense for him to be more explicit and direct about it? Putting such a message in the sky, in enormous letters that don’t move with the wind, would certainly do the trick. Making some kids autistic and some of the elderly senile, and dispatching tornadoes to flatten some towns, don’t constitute a clear message.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.

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Cardinal-Francis-George 110516 photoby Adam-BielawskiYet another archdiocese has been forced to release documentation that it was complicit in the abuse of children by its clergy. This time it’s the Windy City, as the Chicago Tribune reports (WebCite cached article):

Thousands of pages of secret church documents [cached] released Tuesday as part of a court settlement provide an unprecedented and gut-wrenching look at how the Archdiocese of Chicago for years failed to protect children from abusive priests.

The documents provide new details and insights into how the nation’s third-largest archdiocese quietly shuttled accused priests from parish to parish and failed to notify police of child abuse allegations. The paper trail, going back decades, also portrays painfully slow progress toward reform, accountability and openness.

Most of the 30 clergymen tied to the documents were not prosecuted. They were shielded by Roman Catholic Church officials who thought the men could be cured with counseling or bishops blinded by a belief in second chances and forgiveness.

Some of the abuse and cover-ups in this document cache involves the current archbishop of Chicago, Cardinal Francis George, as the Tribune explains. The most outrageous quote in the article comes from the good Cardinal himself, referring to the abuse and cover-ups:

“That’s in the past, we’re hoping,” Cardinal Francis George said in an interview Sunday.

He’s “hoping” it’s “in the past”? He merely “hopes” his archdiocese’s custom of protecting abusive clergy is “in the past”? Seriously!?

The man is the fucking archbishop! What he says in his archdiocese, goes. The man needs to pull up his big boy pants and make this not just a “hope,” but a “reality.” As archbishop it’s entirely within his power to make it so. He’s in charge, and needs to fucking act like it. Yet, he doesn’t seem to want to.

If anyone wondered how decades of child abuse could have occurred at the hands of Catholic clergy and under the watch of the Catholic hierarchy, now you know why. Because not even a powerful Catholic hierarch is willing to take ownership of his own archdiocese and run it the way he sees fit. No. He just “hopes” it will be run better from now on.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.

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