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Religious exemption in state’s anti-discrimination laws only would add injustice

Fri, 2018-04-20 10:45

By Daniel Smith

Fifty years ago, in the wake of the assassination of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., President Johnson signed the Fair Housing Act. Congress was coming to terms with the awful truth that people of color were systematically refused a decent place to live. And they decided it was time to do something about it.

And the people of Colorado wondered what took them so long. Seven years earlier, in 1951, we passed the Colorado Anti-Discrimination Act, and soon after established the Colorado Civil Rights Division (CCRD) and Colorado Civil Rights Commission (CCRC), protecting all citizens in our state from discrimination in employment, housing, and public accommodations. Today, the CCRD ensures that a man isn’t denied a job because he is older, a woman isn’t denied a place to live because she is pregnant, or a family isn’t denied a seat in a restaurant because they are black or both parents are dads. That’s something we can be proud of.

Of course, you don’t have to look far to see that problems still persist. The “protected classes” in Colorado’s anti-discrimination laws still face prejudice: Women are still paid less than men for the same job. Segregation in our cities and schools persists. LGBTQ youth are far more likely to be homeless. People with a disability still fight to have a place at the table. None of these problems can be solved alone by the CCRD and CCRC, they are the ugly results of generational prejudice and systemic injustice.

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Ten Commandments display to go back up at Arkansas capitol after first one destroyed

Fri, 2018-04-20 10:42

By Morgan Gstalter

The date is set for the new Ten Commandments monument to go up at the Arkansas capitol after the first version was destroyed when a driver plowed into it.

State Sen. Jason Rapert (R), who sponsored the original monument, said that crews will reinstall the Ten Commandments on the statehouse grounds in Little Rock next week. A spokesman for Arkansas Secretary of State Mark Martin confirmed to Arkansas Online that the installation is set for April 26.

“We are happy to have made this all possible for the citizens of Arkansas as they honor one of the historical and moral foundations of American law – the Ten Commandments,” Rapert wrote on the project’s GoFundMe account.

Rapert founded the American History and Heritage Foundation, which raised over $85,000 for a new monument, which will include concrete barriers for protection.

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Catholic Hospitals Require the Burial of Fetal Remains; All of Texas May Follow

Fri, 2018-04-20 10:38

By Hemant Mehta

Last year, Texas passed a law saying all fetal remains had to be buried or cremated. That used to be the case only for fetuses older than 20 weeks, but the new anti-abortion measure made the age irrelevant. The law also banned donation of that tissue for research purposes. It was blocked by a federal judge earlier this year, just days before it was supposed to go into effect, and that’s where we are right now.

While the intent was to dissuade women from having abortions, the reality was that women who suffered miscarriages or had very early abortions were essentially forced to treat it as a homicide, complete with burial. (As if a fetus that was never viable required a burial.) For women who went through a miscarriage, it only added insult to injury. But that’s what happens when anti-abortion officials get to write the laws.

How does a law like that even come into existence? You won’t be surprised to learn it has religious roots.

Sophie Novack at the Texas Observer just published the heartbreaking story of Blake Norton, who experienced the effects of this law before it ever became a law. That’s because, in 2015, when her doctor realized her 11-week-old baby didn’t have a heartbeat, he sent her to a Catholic hospital to remove the tissue. And that hospital already had a burial policy in place.

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White Evangelical Men Can’t Get Enough of Trump

Fri, 2018-04-20 10:32

By Harriet Sinclair

A record number of white evangelical Christians say they support President Donald Trump.

According to a poll from the Public Religion Research Institute released on Thursday, 75 percent on white evangelicals said they had a favourable view of the president and just 22 percent saying they had an unfavourable view.

And white evangelical men are the most likely of that group to back the president, with 81 percent holding a favourable view of Trump compared with 71 percent of white evangelical women.

This is a dramatic jump in support for Trump when compared to the rest of the population, with a recent poll from ABC News/Washington Post putting the president’s approval rating at just 40 percent. Another survey from NBC News/Wall Street Journal  put Trump’s approval rating at 39 percent.

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People Are Being Harmed By The Muslim Ban. Here Are Some Of Their Stories.

Fri, 2018-04-20 09:38

People Are Being Harmed By The Muslim Ban. Here Are Some Of Their Stories.
Fri, 04/20/2018 – 09:38

Authored by

Rokia Hassanein


The U.S. Supreme Court is set to hear arguments in the Muslim ban case April 25. It’s a legal tussle that many American Muslims and Americans perceived to be Muslim are watching closely, and for good reason: The ban has extended beyond public policy and has also increased Islamophobic rhetoric, harassment and hate crimes. That’s why this month, we’ve been speaking to Muslims (and those targeted because they’re perceived to be Muslim) about how the current political climate is impacting their lives in the United States.

Aden Hassan is a Somali refugee who came to the United States in 2017, only to be separated from his family because of President Donald J. Trump’s Muslim and refugee ban.

“My mother and my family were supposed to follow, but because of the Muslim ban, my family has been unable to come,” Hassan said. “They are still not yet allowed to come.” 

Sarah Faizy, an Afghan-American Muslim, said that while the ban doesn’t restrict her traveling or her family members’ traveling, the ban is hurting her sense of security in the United States.

“In a country that was founded on freedom of religion, it is ironic that the highest branch of government would impose such an absurd Muslim ban,” Faizy said. “My family and I have never felt more unsafe at any point of our lives living in the USA, until now.”

Faizy said that many people seeking refuge and immigrating to the U.S. are escaping wars and other horrors, adding that it’s shameful the same people often end up feeling unsafe in this country due to hate speech and crimes.

“Running away from a war zone, you would think that these types of security and safety issues would be in our past, but unfortunately that isn’t the case anymore,” she said. “I am constantly worried every time my mother steps out of the house. Since my mother has a very thick accent and has the typical Afghan look.” 

Faizy reiterated that hateful rhetoric from the Trump administration should not be overlooked because it continues to marginalize the American Muslim community and other religious minorities.

“While the Muslim ban doesn’t affect some Muslim Americans directly, [Trump’s] rhetoric validates the racists’ and Islamaphobes’ hatred and violence against minorities,” Faizy said. 

Huma Moinuddin, an American Muslim student, agrees.

“Mandating a ban against some Muslim-majority countries has had a finger pointing effect – as if Muslims are the problem,” Moinuddin said. “I’ve noticed this created an environment where people feel more comfortable in expressing their racism. It’s disturbing to witness.” 

We agree that the Muslim ban is discriminatory, hateful and targets Muslims based solely on their religion. We hope the U.S. Supreme Court rules on the right side of history by blocking the ban and ending this shameful policy. 

Our country is at its best when people of all religions feel welcome here. For people of all religions and for people who don’t claim any religion at all – religious freedom means that the law treats everyone equally regardless of faith. Americans United will continue to protect this ideal no matter what discriminatory policies the Trump administration tries to implement. 


Religious Minorities’ Rights Religious Freedom


Muslim Ban Islamophobia Storytelling religious discrimination hate crimes

POTUS Shield Prays For Protection Over Trump From Deep State ‘Evil Forces’ And Curses Of ‘Witches And Warlocks’

Fri, 2018-04-20 09:21

By Kyle Mantyla

When tsunami-stopping and ant-reviving pastor Frank Amedia appeared on “The Jim Bakker Show” earlier this month, he was joined by several members of his POTUS Shield organization, who collectively engaged in an extended prayer to protect President Trump from the “evil forces” of the deep state, in addition to the “witches and warlocks” who have been cursing him.

“I think we need to be wise to understand that this presidency is going to be taken to the edge of destruction by evil forces, by deep state forces, by a conspiracy that has already been named,” Amedia warned. “We know it’s coming. We need to withstand against that. We need to be the watchmen that say, ‘Don’t take your eyes off, the storm is coming.’”

“We prayed for the Lord to just stir up that storm,” he continued. “Stir up that storm of that president. We declare right now, in Jesus’ name, stir it up. Stir him up like a tornado, don’t let him stop. Let everything fly out that needs to fly out, let everything be exposed, don’t let anything be put back into a place that could come back and linger again.”

Amedia said that …read more

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Earth Day, Exodus and Martin Luther King

Fri, 2018-04-20 08:21

By Robert F. Murphy

(RNS) — If you want environmental peace, work for environmental justice.

The post Earth Day, Exodus and Martin Luther King appeared first on Religion News Service.

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Interfaith marriage in India puts many couples at risk

Fri, 2018-04-20 06:21

By Bhavya Dore

MUMBAI, India (RNS) — In India, interfaith and intercaste couples are increasingly facing bullying, harassment, familial opposition and even death threats.

The post Interfaith marriage in India puts many couples at risk appeared first on Religion News Service.

…read more

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Now Jerome Corsi Says He Wants To Fight James Comey

Fri, 2018-04-20 06:21

By Jared Holt

The Washington bureau chief of the conspiracy theory outlet Infowars, Jerome Corsi, recently invited Special Counsel Robert Mueller to meet him in “the backyard of the Justice Department” where they would “duke it out.” Now, Corsi also wants to fight former FBI Director James Comey.

During his appearance yesterday on a live stream where he literally spends hours every day “decoding” riddles on 8chan that he believes are posted by a high-level Trump administration official on direct orders from the president, Corsi expressed his anger against Comey, telling listeners listeners that he’d like to fight him and said that Comey should be hanged.

Comey has become a focus of right-wing media ire as he makes a media tour promoting his new “tell-all” book. Corsi said he believes that Comey was, alongside former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe, part of a “criminal conspiracy” to undermine President Trump and protect Hillary Clinton. Corsi said that McCabe, Comey, and former Attorney General Loretta Lynch were “all traitors” who were “trying to prevent” Trump from winning the election.

“Comey running around with this disgraceful book tour. He’s another one I want to duke it out with. …read more

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Gavin McInnes: Women ‘Voting With Their Hearts’ To Blame For ‘Illegals And Muslims’ That Murder

Fri, 2018-04-20 05:21

By Jared Holt

Gavin McInnes, the CRTV host who heads up a freakish boy’s club recently identified as a hate group, told viewers that he blamed women “voting with their hearts” for “illegals and Muslims” that murder people in the United States.

Last night on his show, McInnes claimed that conservatives “need to protect the left from themselves” because liberals are “so bad at anything but the patriarchy.” McInnes tried to make his case by turning to a story recently shared by University of Denver law professor Nancy Leong about a predatory Uber driver who told her he was going to take her to a hotel against her will—but not before McInnes noted that he thought Leong was “insanely hot” and rated her attractiveness.

McInnes presumed that the Uber driver who endangered Leong was an immigrant. He then used that assumption to put the blame for Leong’s experience on women who vote in favor of immigrant rights.

“Immigrants, mass immigration, that’s women voting, voting with their hearts, feelings—‘They just want a place to stay. They just want a place to crash.’—so they bring in illegals and Muslims and these Uber drivers end up killing people in New York and they tried to …read more

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Donald Trump is not a Christian, but he knows what the religious right needs to hear, says historian

Thu, 2018-04-19 12:21

By Jana Riess

Donald Trump is not a Christian, but he understands what white Protestants long for, says historian Matthew Bowman in the new book “Christian: The Politics of a Word in America.”

The post Donald Trump is not a Christian, but he knows what the religious right needs to hear, says historian appeared first on Religion News Service.

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Irreligious Britain is entering a ‘frightening new Dark Age’

Thu, 2018-04-19 11:21

By Barry Duke

Bishop Philip Egan of the Catholic Diocese of Portsmouth – pictured above with a glum young novitiate – warned at the weekend that a ‘frightening new Dark Age’ brought on by the end of faith in society is imminent for Britain.

According to this report, he said in an April 15 pastoral letter:

The demise of faith and religion, the demise even of people praying, is rapidly undermining in Britain the foundations of ethics. This dilution of our Christian patrimony threatens to usher in a frightening new Dark Age.

He added:

No wonder a death-wish is arising for assisted suicide and euthanasia. As Catholics, as people of life, we cannot ignore these challenges. We must act. We must ask Jesus to help us reach out in love to those around, to assist people develop a personal relationship with God.

In his letter, the Portsmouth bishop touched on sexuality, love, and human dignity. He also discussed a half-century of legalised abortion in England and current government efforts to ban pro-life advocates from helping women outside abortion facilities.

Consider this. It’s over fifty years since the 1967 Abortion Act, one of the most liberal in the world, came into effect. Since then, ten million babies in …read more

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Kenneth Miller finds good news in evolution

Thu, 2018-04-19 11:21

By Yonat Shimron

(RNS) — In his new book, ‘The Human Instinct,’ the Brown University biologist seeks to counter the message that evolution is dreary, depressing and demoralizing.

The post Kenneth Miller finds good news in evolution appeared first on Religion News Service.

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Lay off the ADL!

Thu, 2018-04-19 11:21

By Jeffrey Salkin

The attack on the ADL is yet another chapter in a sad pattern that goes back to Karl Marx.

The post Lay off the ADL! appeared first on Religion News Service.

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Right Wing Bonus Tracks: The Bigot Leading Bible Studies On Capitol Hill

Thu, 2018-04-19 11:21

By Kyle Mantyla

  • Dave Daubenmire is sure that there “are evil forces out there” that are trying to shut down his daily webcast: “I believe that there are probably witches, I believe there are God-haters that are cursing what is going on here.”
  • Without a hint of irony or even a bit of self-awareness, Robert Jeffress declares that “James Comey is the poster boy for sanctimonious moral hypocrisy.”
  • Radical anti-LGBTQ bigot Rick Scarborough is now “beginning to lead Bible Studies” for members of Congress and “in the other branches of government.”
  • Infowars host Owen Shroyer is livid that Attorney General Jeff Sessions is not working to take down Hillary Clinton once and for all: “Where’s Sessions? Rumor is he’s gearing up for tomorrow’s big holiday. Reefer madness with the Keebler elf.”
  • Finally, Josh Bernstein, who desperately tied to hide his attack on David Hogg, is now mocking Hogg for supposedly being “afraid to debate” him.

…read more

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Right Wing Round-Up: Comey Gets Loomered

Thu, 2018-04-19 11:21

By Kyle Mantyla

…read more

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How to blow up a star

Thu, 2018-04-19 11:18

By Elizabeth Gibney

After spending three months trying to blow up a star, Hans-Thomas Janka and his team finally saw what they had been waiting for. Like the world’s most patient pyromaniacs, they watched their massive stellar simulation — rendered in painstaking detail — inch closer to detonation. Each day, their supercomputer ticked through just 5 milliseconds of the star’s life.

But perseverance has its rewards. In the team’s previous attempts to make a realistic simulation, the stellar fireworks always petered out. This time, in 2015, Janka watched as the shock wave needed to drive the explosion continued to grow; the mock star was going supernova1. “That was the moment we recognized that, OK, now we are at the point we longed to be at for two decades,” says Janka, a theoretical astrophysicist at the Max Planck Institute for Astrophysics in Garching, Germany. “We were on the path to clarifying the explosion mechanism of these massive stars.”

For more than half a century, physicists have suspected that the heat produced by elusive particles called neutrinos, created in the core of a star, could generate a blast that radiates more energy in a single second than the Sun will in its lifetime. But they have had trouble proving that hypothesis. The detonation process is so complex — incorporating general relativity, fluid dynamics, nuclear and other physics — that computers have struggled to mimic the mechanism in silico. And that poses a problem. “If you can’t reproduce it,” Janka says, “that means you don’t understand it.”

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I Hung Out with Followers of Indonesia’s Self-Proclaimed Doomsday Prophet

Thu, 2018-04-19 11:14

By Arzia Tivany Wargadiredja

The biblical Garden of Eden was probably somewhere in modern-day Iraq. But what a lot of people don’t know is that there’s another Eden—a secretive place where people are preparing for the end of the world, right in the middle of the Indonesian capital.

Two weeks ago, I found myself standing at the gates of Eden. I was too afraid to ring the bell. I grew up hearing tales of Jakarta’s Eden, a mysterious cult run by a woman named Lia Eden who claims to have a direct line to God. According to her, God is angry at humanity for allowing religion to ruin the Earth. It’s gotten so bad that the only way forward is for the “purified” few to board a UFO piloted by the Archangel Gabriel and ride to a different Earth, in another galaxy, where we can start civilization over again without the negative effects of religion.

It’s a pretty bold statement to make in a country where blasphemy is illegal, and Lia Eden—her real name is Lia Aminuddin—has actually been jailed twice for insulting religion. It was back in 2005 during her first arrest that I started to hear about Lia Eden and her cult. People were calling her a “misguided,” person who claimed to be a prophet or angel. Others just said she was downright delusional.

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New Jersey Supreme Court Upholds Church-State Separation, Strikes Down Publicly Funded Grants For Churches

Thu, 2018-04-19 11:14

New Jersey Supreme Court Upholds Church-State Separation, Strikes Down Publicly Funded Grants For Churches
Thu, 04/19/2018 – 11:14

Authored by

Liz Hayes


In a victory for church-state separation, the New Jersey Supreme Court unanimously ruled yesterday that public money can’t be used to repair or maintain active churches.

Americans United, joined by the American Civil Liberties Union and the ACLU of New Jersey, had filed a friend-of-the-court brief in the case, Freedom From Religion Foundation v. Morris County Board of Chosen Freeholders. We explained that New Jersey’s constitution has a no-aid clause that prevents taxpayer dollars from being used to build or restore houses of worship.

In defiance of this constitutional protection, Morris County’s board of chosen freeholders (the equivalent of county commissioners) distributed more than $4.5 million in tax revenue to a dozen active Christian churches through an historical preservation program from 2012-2015. (The churches received nearly half of the total grant money distributed.)

“Historical preservation is a worthy goal, but it doesn’t justify violating the constitution and individuals’ religious liberty,” said AU Associate Legal Director Alex J. Luchenitser, who presented arguments before the New Jersey high court last fall. “Public funds should support buildings that can benefit all members of a community equally, not houses of worship that are used primarily by members of one particular faith.”

In its opinion, which reversed a lower court’s decision, the state high court noted that New Jersey’s constitution has one of the oldest and most detailed no-aid provisions of the 39 state constitutions that include them.

“The Religious Aid Clause has been a part of New Jersey’s history since the 1776 Constitution,” the court wrote. “The clause guarantees that ‘[n]o person shall … be obliged to pay … taxes … for building or repairing any church or churches, place or places of worship, or for the maintenance of any minister or ministry.’ The clause reflects a historic and substantial state interest. We find that the plain language of the Religious Aid Clause bars the use of taxpayer funds to repair and restore churches, and that Morris County’s program ran afoul of that longstanding provision.”

AU is awaiting a decision from New Jersey’s Supreme Court in a similar case that challenges $11 million in grants that were awarded by the state to two divinity schools. AU and the ACLU filed ACLU of New Jersey v. Hendricks in 2013 on behalf of three New Jersey taxpayers (including AU Delaware Valley Chapter member Gloria Schor Andersen) and the Unitarian Universalist Legislative Ministry of New Jersey. That case was argued the same day as the FFRF case.

Last month, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court also issued an opinion in a similar AU case, blocking a town’s attempt to give a church a taxpayer-funded historic preservation grant to restore stained-glass windows featuring religious imagery. Still to be determined in that case, Caplan v. Town of Acton, is whether the grant money can be used to fund a master plan to restore that church. That case was brought by AU (in partnership with the Venable LLP law firm) on behalf of 13 taxpayers and was spurred by concerns from AU’s Massachusetts chapter.

Both the Massachusetts and New Jersey high courts distinguished their opinions from the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision last year in Trinity Lutheran Church of Columbia v. Comer, which said Missouri’s no-aid provision could not be enforced to prevent a church from participating in a state-funded grant program that would allow it to resurface its playground. The state courts noted the distinction between the cases – Trinity wanted to use the money for a non-religious purpose (resurfacing its playground), whereas the churches in the Massachusetts and New Jersey cases want to use the money in ways that are explicitly religious (restoring religious images and worship spaces).

When the Trinity opinion came out last June, AU promised to protect religious freedom by ensuring that opponents of church-state separation don’t misuse the ruling to push the boundaries of using public money to support religion. That’s what we did in the Massachusetts and New Jersey cases, and that’s what we’ll continue to do nationwide.

(Photo of St. Peter Episcopal Church in Morristown, N.J., which received grant funds to repair the interior of its church tower. Photo credit: Jerrye & Roy Klotz MD)


Massachusetts Delaware Valley


Government Support Of Religion Taxpayer Funding Of Religion


New Jersey Massachusetts no-aid clauses


FFRF v. Morris County Board of Chosen Freeholders Caplan v. Town of Acton Trinity Lutheran Church of Columbia v. Comer ACLU of New Jersey v. Hendricks

The Trump administration is paying Focus on the Family to stop the AIDS epidemic in South Africa

Thu, 2018-04-19 11:09

By Danielle McLean

The State Department gave a prominent anti-LGBTQ religious organization a grant to combat HIV/AIDS in South Africa through a religious program that pressures kids into pledging that they will abstain from sex until marriage.

An affiliate of Focus on the Family (FOTF) received a $49,505 grant under the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) from the State Department’s Office of the U.S. Global AIDS Coordinator on September 18, 2017, while the department was under the leadership of then-Secretary Rex Tillerson, according to USA Spending. Focus on the Family’s Thriving Family is tasked with using these funds to prevent HIV and AIDS by implementing its global abstinence-only purity pledge program, called “No Apologies,” to 7,000 “learners” in 90 schools in South Africa between October 2017 and September 2018.

South Africa has the largest HIV epidemic in the world, with nearly 19 percent of its population, a total of 7.1 million people, living with the deadly sexually transmitted infection as of 2016, according to the U.K.-based global HIV and AIDS organization Avert.

PEPFAR was created in 2003 under the George W. Bush administration to combat the global epidemic — an effort Focus on the Family’s leadership has frequently criticized.

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