As I blogged about already, the US Department of Justice had, under Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez, become an engine of theocracy. Gonzales’s successor, Michael Mukasey, has finally weighed in on this scandal and decided to take no action on it:

Atty. Gen. Michael B. Mukasey said Tuesday that the Justice Department had no plans to bring criminal charges in connection with hiring abuses that took place under his predecessor, Alberto R. Gonzales.

Mukasey said the findings in two recent reports by Inspector General Glenn A. Fine — that a group of influential Gonzales aides considered politics and ideology in hiring career employees and summer interns — were “disturbing.”

The aides violated civil service laws and department regulations, Mukasey said, but they did not commit crimes that could send them to jail.

“Where there is evidence of criminal wrongdoing, we vigorously investigate it. And where there is enough evidence to charge someone with a crime, we vigorously prosecute,” Mukasey said in a speech to the American Bar Assn. in New York. “But not every wrong, or even every violation of the law, is a crime.”

The decision not to prosecute means that some of the best-known figures in the scandal — such as Monica M. Goodling, a lawyer and public affairs officer who became a powerful gatekeeper in the department under Gonzales — will likely emerge relatively unscathed.

Mukasey’s statement — that not all violations of the law should be prosecuted — is an interesting one. I wonder how might it work out, if an ordinary citizen were to put it into practice, in some ordinary situation? One could contest, say, a speeding ticket in court, by saying, “Your Honor, according to the US Attorney General, not all violations of the law are crimes, so don’t convict me of speeding.” How well might that work?

Answer: It wouldn’t!

Mukasey is essentially giving the theocrats who lurked in the Department of Justice a “pass,” permission to violate long-standing hiring procedures and the Constitution itself. After all, anything is acceptable if done in the name of theocracy!

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Pastor Rick Warren, multi-millionaire author of the insipid and trite “Purpose-Driven Life” book franchise, is hosting both presidential candidates for some kind of forum (it’s not a debate, exactly … I have no idea what it is … I’m not even sure they know what it is). Warren is setting himself up as the nation’s pastor, with the tacit approval of the media, as seen for example in this Reuters story:

It’s the evangelicals, stupid.

Commentators who have written off U.S. evangelical voters as a relic of the Bush era should take notice of this Saturday’s “Civil Forum on the Presidency” moderated by famed evangelical mega pastor Rick Warren at his Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, California.

Democratic Presidential candidate Barack Obama and his Republican rival John McCain will each spend about an hour taking questions from Warren and will only share the stage briefly. …

Evangelicals account for one in four U.S. adults making them the country’s largest religious group and a key battleground faith.

Other media outlets are running stories about Warren becoming something of a religious “elder statesman” in the US. Supposedly Warren is opening the door for the candidates to introduce themselves to evangelical Christians, who largely distrust McCain as being not-religious-enough, and consider Obama too liberal for their taste.

This marks a new strategy by the Religious Right™. Previously their tactic had been to select one political party — in 1980 they chose the Republicans — to promote and push into power, then use that party to impose their religiosity on the country and build a theocracy. With the collapse of the GOP, Warren has modified this tactic, to embrace both parties’ candidates. No matter who wins in November, Warren will be able to take credit for that victory in the name of America’s evangelicals, and force the winner to adopt the evangelicals’ agenda.

I must say it’s clever, and Warren is not without critics among the Religious Right™, but I know the rise of dominionism when I see it … and now you do, too.

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A strange situation has unfolded in North Carolina. Some four years ago, a trustee of North Carolina Central University named Bishop Eddie Long set up a “satellite campus” of that university at his New Birth Missionary Baptist Church in Lithonia, GA. It turns out this was not properly authorized, and the program was never accredited, so all the degrees that have been awarded there, are worthless.

In case you’ve never heard of NCCU, it’s part of the University of North Carolina system, making it a public university. UNC’s current administration is mystified as to where this program came from, how it operated for four years, or how it managed to get started outside of the usual satellite-campus creation program (which — had it been followed — would have ended up with the New Birth/NCCU program being properly accredited).

I’m mystified as to the following:

  1. How, exactly, is it that a church (i.e. a religious institution) was allowed to operate a public university program in the first place? Have these people never read the First Amendment?

  2. What reason was there for a North Carolina public university to operate a program in another state (Georgia) — a state which already has its own public university system?

  3. How could this program have been created without the knowledge of NCCU’s chancellor or director of distance education?

I truly doubt this was a rogue, stealth program operated by a lone trustee … I’m sure — contrary to their denials — that NCCU’s administration was fully aware of this. Essentially, Bishop Eddie Long and NCCU scammed the students, making them believe they’d end up with accredited degrees after four years of coursework. I wonder if anyone will be prosecuted for fraud? Probably not … North Carolina is, after all, part of the Bible Belt where clergy are considered perfect and can do no wrong, and anything done in the name of a church is God’s will and never to be questioned. Just another example of how Christians will do anything in Jesus’ name … including break the law, violate university rules and procedures, scam students, and worst of all, trample separation of church and state. After all, Jesus was an unaccredited teacher, wasn’t he? That makes this all OK, no?

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Religionists have found an additional avenue for driving religion into public schools. And that is to get the kids to promote religion themselves. They can then declare that the promotion of religion was voluntary on the kids’ part and is not adult proselytizing. Here’s an example of this tactic in practice:

This past school year, a second-grader decided to sing Awesome God. But during rehearsal, the teacher in charge, on hearing the title and lyrics, told the child that principal Joyce Brennan would have to approve that song. Brennan contacted the attorney for the school district.

Brennan then explained in a letter to the child’s mother that the song was “inappropriate for a school-run event with a captive audience of, in many cases, quite young children because of its religious content.” …

In the Frenchtown Elementary School’s case, the American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey is supporting the child plaintiff. Attorney Jennifer Klear, who took the case on behalf of the ACLU, filed a brief to the court. In it, she made the essential — and to me, obvious — point that it was the child who chose the song, not the school.

Here’s the problem with this scenario as it’s being painted — that a second grader, of all people (what, 7 or 8 years old?) spontaneously decided that an appropriate song for a school assembly was a hymn, of all things? Really? Do you honestly expect me to believe that? That when it’s time to sing a song in front of a class, a hymn, of all things, leaps to the mind of a 7 or 8 year old?

Sorry but I’m not buying it.

What is much more likely is that said child was coached by some adult — parents, maybe, a pastor, or a religionist teacher — to do it. This way the adult(s) in question can claim not to be proselytizing, protest that it was the child’s wish, and of course it must be honored.

Yeah right. I wasn’t born yesterday; I’m not naïve enough to be conned by that story.

What surprises me is that the ACLU is stupid enough to buy into this. No one there can possibly be that gullible.

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The Washington Post reports on the ACLU trying to end the U.S. Naval Academy’s practice of forcing midshipmen to pray in order to have lunch:

The American Civil Liberties Union is threatening to sue the U.S. Naval Academy unless it abolishes its daily lunchtime prayer, saying that some midshipmen have felt pressured to participate. …

The Naval Academy rejected the ACLU’s request that the prayer be eliminated.

“The academy does not intend to change its practice of offering midshipmen an opportunity for prayer or devotional thought during noon meal announcements,” the university said in a statement. It said that some form of prayer has been offered for midshipmen at meals since the school’s founding, in 1845, and that it is “consistent with other practices throughout the Navy.”

This reasoning is fallacious. Just because things have been done one way for a long time, does not make them right. If the Naval Academy really wants to do things the way they were done in 1845, they’d have to remove all the women who attend, since they weren’t allowed in 1845. For that matter they’d also have to reinstitute slavery, since that was also the law of the land back then. Are these people really sure they want to roll the clock back to 1845? Somehow I doubt it. They’re just reaching for a rationale to justify the immaturity that drives them to proselytize.

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Among the litany of stories on Senator Obama’s faith, I saw an interesting little tidbit in Newsweek, which no doubt many will see, but few will realize how wrong it is:

Obama calls his mother “an agnostic.” “I think she believed in a higher power,” he says. “She believed in the fundamental order and goodness of the universe. She would have been very comfortable with Einstein’s idea that God doesn’t play dice. But I think she was very suspicious of the notion that one particular organized religion offered one truth.”

Obama seems to think that “agnostic” means “lukewarm believer,” however that’s not what it means at all. Someone who truly “believes in a higher power” cannot be an agnostic. An agnostic takes the position that the existence of a deity cannot be known. Such a person cannot “believe” in a deity (or “higher power” or whatever euphemism one may apply).

Obama also misuses Einstein’s comment about dice and the universe, which was not an admission by Einstein of religious belief, but rather a disparagement of quantum mechanics — an area of science he later would accept, if grudgingly, meaning that he eventually changed his mind on the matter.

Lastly Obama refers to “organized religion,” as though his mother’s objection had been merely to “organized religion” rather than “religion” generally. This does not, however, make her an agnostic or any other kind of non-believer. It just means she was a believer in non-organized religion. Creating a distinction between “organized religion” and other things (such as “spirituality”) is common, often used to separate the objectionable aspects of religion from more acceptable parts. Unfortunately, such a distinction does not actually exist. Religion can be organized or not. All “spirituality,” or whatever alternative term one uses, is still “religion.” There is no difference!

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Yep, those creationist types in Kansas just aren’t going to let the matter of teaching their religion in Kansas public-school classes die. The Wichita Eagle reports on a renewed effort to water down teaching of evolution in that state:

With five seats on the State Board of Education up for grabs this year, education advocates say how children learn about evolution hangs in the balance — and who voters choose could affect Kansas’ national reputation.

A frequent flip-flop between moderate and conservative majorities on the 10-member board has resulted in the state changing its science standards four times in the past eight years.

Conservatives have pushed for standards casting doubt on evolution, and moderates have said intelligent design does not belong in the science classroom. …

This year, none of the three moderates whose seats are up for election are running again. Only one of the two conservative incumbents is running for re-election.

It’s funny to note that these creationist-types haven’t yet figured out a way to process the ruling in Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District, in which a conservative evangelical Christian appellate-court judge — appointed by George W. Bush himself! — declared the “intelligent design” movement a ruse designed to drive religion into public schools in violation of the law and Constitution. It seems they’re ignoring that and pressing the matter … having done so successfully in Louisiana they’re resuming the same battle in Kansas (where they’ve lost several times already). It’s bad enough these people are willing to break the law in order to proselytize … but now that their lie has been exposed, and everyone knows them for the liars they are, they continue it! Just how desperate can they be?

Two words leap to mind … “childish” and “asinine.” When are these people going to grow the hell up and stop imposing their religion on others?

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