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Updated: 4 hours 7 min ago

South Carolina Republicans Table Bill To Define Gay Marriage As ‘Parody Marriage’​

Tue, 2018-02-20 14:30

By David Brennan

Six South Carolina Republican lawmakers have introduced a bill to amend state law to define same-sex marriage as “parody marriage.”

The Marriage and Constitution Restoration Act argues that any marriages not between a man and a woman “fail to check out the human design.” The bill also defines marriage as a “union between a man and a woman.”

The legislation, which has been submitted to the House Judiciary Committee, seeks “to provide that ‘parody marriage’ policies are non-secular in nature” and “to prohibit the state from respecting, endorsing or recognizing any ‘parody marriage’ policy or policies that treat sexual orientation as a suspect class.”

Josiah Magnuson, Bill Chumley, Steven Long, Mike Burns, John McCravy and Rick Martin are the six representatives behind the bill. All are up for re-election in the 2018 general election.

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Legal bill hits $700,000 in fight over Ten Commandments monument in rural New Mexico

Tue, 2018-02-20 14:27

By Dana Coffield

FARMINGTON, N.M.  — A northwest New Mexico community is considering using online fundraising to pay the $700,000 it owes from a lawsuit that stemmed from a dispute over a Ten Commandments monument that was formerly located outside of Bloomfield City Hall.

The U.S. Supreme Court in 2017 sided with a lower court that ordered the monument’s removal, saying it violated the U.S. Constitution and represented a government endorsement of religion, the Farmington Daily Times reported .

The city of Bloomfield must now pay the legal fees for the American Civil Liberties Union, which filed the complaint in 2012 on behalf of two Bloomfield residents, Janie Felix and Buford Coone.

Bloomfield has until June 30, 2021, to pay the $700,000 it owes for the American Civil Liberties Union’s legal fees, City Manager Eric Strahl said.

If the city is unable to raise money through donations to pay the $700,000, it will have to pay the sum out of its general fund, Strahl said.

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In Iowa, a GOP-Sponsored Bill Promoting Bible Classes in Public Schools Is Dead

Tue, 2018-02-20 14:24

By Hemant Mehta

A pointless bill in Iowa aimed at getting Bible lessons into public schools is dead.

HF 2031 was proposed by a dozen state legislators and would’ve allowed public schools to teach classes on the Hebrew Scriptures and the New Testament in order for students to learn (among other things) of their influence on “law, history, government, literature, art, music, customs, morals, values, and culture.”

The courses would not have been mandatory, but just as with other states, it was really just a backdoor approach to getting the Bible taught in public schools. Very often, these kinds of courses which claim to provide an objective look at an influential holy book turn into biased courses peddling indoctrination and treating Christian mythology as actual history.

While the bill passed through the Education Subcommittee earlier this month, it didn’t survive last week’s “funnel,” a method taking all proposed legislation and narrowing them down to ones that actually have a chance at passing.

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In Idaho, medical-care exemptions for faith healing come under fire

Tue, 2018-02-20 14:21

By Carissa Wolf

BOISE, Idaho — As Willie Hughes walked around the weathered plots and mounds of dirt at Peaceful Valley Cemetery, he remembered family that died too young and his brother Steven, who was born with spina bifida.

Steven never saw a doctor or physical therapist or used a wheelchair. He crawled around on his forearms and died of pneumonia at age 3.

“I remember his was the first body that I saw and touched. It was traumatic for a 4½ -year-old to see his little brother in a coffin. I can’t tell you how many dead bodies I’ve seen,” said Hughes, a Boise truck driver who grew up in the Followers of Christ church.

Nearly one-third of the roughly 600 grave sites in Peaceful Valley Cemetery belong to a child, advocates say. Spotty records make it difficult to identify how and why the children died before their burial at the graveyard used by the Followers of Christ, a splinter sect that practices faith healing and believes that death and illness are the will of God. But coroner and autopsy reports gathered by advocates, and former church members’ childhood memories, tell a story of children needlessly dying from a lack of medical care.

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Texas Councilman Called Out For Anti-Muslim Rhetoric

Tue, 2018-02-20 10:58

Texas Councilman Called Out For Anti-Muslim Rhetoric
Tue, 02/20/2018 – 10:58

Authored by

Liz Hayes


Residents and city officials in Plano, Texas, are calling out the anti-Muslim rhetoric of one of Plano’s council members.

According to news reports, Councilman Tom Harrison, 73, last week shared on his personal Facebook page an anti-Muslim meme that read, “Share if you think Trump should ban Islam in American schools.” The meme, originally posted by a Facebook page that supports President Donald Trump, cycles through several images of young schoolchildren wearing hijabs and praying.

This is the anti-Muslim meme shared by Plano Councilman Tom Harrison. (screenshot from Religion News Service)

Consider this the trickle-down effect of Trump’s own anti-Muslim rhetoric. If the president of the United States advances xenophobic views about Muslims, immigrants, people of color and other minorities, it should come as no surprise that other elected officials would feel emboldened to do the same. (Just last week a federal appeals court that struck down Trump’s Muslim ban noted his animus toward Muslims.)

Fortunately, the public outcry was swift in Plano. Council members called a special meeting on Sunday to censure Harrison. Plano Mayor Harry LaRosiliere said it was the only official action council could take.

“Mr. Harrison’s conduct is unbefitting a council member to serve our diverse community. I find this Facebook post abhorrent and believe this is a stain on our city and does not represent who we are,” LaRosiliere said in a statement to The Washington Post.

Plano Mayor Pro Tem Rick Grady also was upset by Harrison’s rhetoric.

“I have fought my entire life for this hatred to go away, for this stereotype to go away, for bigotry to go away, and it seems to continue,” Grady said at Sunday’s meeting, according to The Post. “This kind of intolerant behavior, this insensitivity for people, needs to cease.”

City officials encouraged Harrison to resign but said they don’t have the authority to forcibly remove him from office. Some residents expressed an interest in gathering signatures for a recall election.

Harrison has said he won’t resign. A day after posting the anti-Islam meme (which he has since deleted), he posted a statement on his Facebook page which tried to excuse his actions. He made the incredulous claim that his intent in sharing the meme was to raise awareness of religious diversity.

“My intent on inputting this on my personal Facebook page was to emphasize that Christianity is not the only religion being targeted for exclusion in our public school. It was not meant as a personal attack against the Islamic faith. As a Christian, it is my belief that all should be free to worship as they choose, but we live in a time where any practice of religious expression in public schools is rarely tolerated. My hope is that due to the rightful negative response to my post, that it will spark a renewed discussion about all religions and their place in our public schools.”

It strains credibility that Harrison’s true intent with the hateful post was to encourage Muslim children to freely express their faith in public schools – especially since the meme promotes the exact opposite idea. News reports have cited other racist and xenophobic posts Harrison has shared on social media. As Harrison repeatedly mentions Christianity in his lame apology, I suspect he’s perfectly fine with Christian students expressing their faith, but would condemn anyone of a minority faith or of no faith expressing those views in the public square.

Religious freedom is about fairness. It means no one should be discriminated against or made to feel like a second-class citizen because of his or her faith or beliefs.

The one thing his “apology” got right was the renewed discussion about religion and diversity in Plano. More than 500 people reportedly crammed into Plano council chambers on Sunday, many demanding Harrison’s resignation.

Mariam Khan, a Muslim mother of four, held a sign that said, “No Hate! Makes Plano Great!,” according to Religion News Service (RNS). Her 14-year-old daughter Iman Siddiqui’s sign declared, “Stop Pretending Your Racism Is Patriotism.”

“The growing hate in our community is a concern. Plano is a welcoming place, but after the recent election … we always face racism because of the headscarf,” Khan said, referring to the election of Trump.

“So this is a time for everybody who wants to live in peace and make America great again … to stop the racism,” added Khan, who immigrated to the U.S. from Pakistan in 2000.

“Six years ago or 10 years ago, I would have given him the benefit of the doubt,” said Plano resident Gans Subramanian, a Hindu immigrant from India who attended the meeting, according to RNS. “But in the current political context, we are all very, very careful about things. … If you have a councilman make an incorrect statement like that, it breaks the trust in the community.”

Religious freedom is about fairness. It means no one should be discriminated against or made to feel like a second-class citizen because of his or her faith or beliefs. Elected officials like Harrison and Trump should be ensuring that all Americans, regardless of their beliefs, are treated with fairness, equality and respect.


Religious Freedom Religious Minorities’ Rights


Texas Anti-Muslim Discrimination

Georgia Bill Would Allow Child Placement Agencies to Refuse Service on Religious Grounds

Tue, 2018-02-20 10:21

By Don Byrd

Written by Don Byrd

A legislative effort to modernize Georgia’s adoption laws failed last year when the state senate added language to allow child placement agencies to refuse to provide services that they object to on religious grounds, even if such refusal violates state nondiscrimination laws, and even if the agency receives government funds. Governor Nathan Deal vowed to veto the bill because of that amendment, and the legislative session ended without action on the measure.

Now, Georgia lawmakers are trying to enact a religious exemption bill for adoption agencies again, this time as stand-alone legislation. Senate Bill 375, the “Keep Faith in Adoption and Foster Care Act,” asserts that “child-placing agencies have the right to provide services in accordance with the agencies’ sincerely held religious beliefs.” It allows agencies under contract with the state to “decline to accept a referral for foster care or adoption services… based on the child-placing agency’s sincerely held religious beliefs,” provided the agency comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Civil Rights Act. Agencies not under contract “may decline to perform any service that conflicts with the child-placing agency’s sincerely held religious beliefs, and the department shall not cause …read more

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Right Wing Bonus Tracks: A Drone Over Every School

Tue, 2018-02-20 10:21

By Kyle Mantyla

  • Wayne Allyn Root has a brilliant plan for preventing school shootings: placing armed drones over every school in America.
  • Anna Khait suggests that the best way to stop school shootings is to give homeless veterans jobs as armed security guards.
  • Pat Robertson is thrilled that Regent University is training thousands of teachers who will impart “a Judeo-Christian mindset” into the public schools.
  • George Barna warns that President Trump’s support among evangelicals is slipping and that is a problem: “The fact that his favorability rating has declined, albeit slightly, in the past year within that segment ought to be a red flag to him. If he loses a mere five percent of the backing of born-again Christians, he is guaranteed to be a one-term president. Elections are a numbers game, and the numbers clearly show that Trump cannot afford the slightest erosion from his base of supporters.”
  • Finally, even Josh Bernstein realizes that Trump’s plan to hold a massive military parade “is a horrible, horrible idea.”

…read more

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Right Wing Round-Up: A Bag Of Prayers

Tue, 2018-02-20 10:21

By Kyle Mantyla

…read more

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U.S. Supreme Court Asked to Resolve Church Property Dispute

Tue, 2018-02-20 10:21

By Don Byrd

Written by Don Byrd

The Diocese of South Carolina has asked the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn the state’s Supreme Court and return property awarded to the national Episcopal Church. The dispute, which centers around the Diocese having broken from the church and its congregations claiming ownership of their property, raises significant questions of how courts are to determine disputes between denominational groups.

The Post and Courier reports on the competing views in the case:

“When a schism occurs within a religious denomination between a national church and an affiliated local diocese or congregation, secular courts must often determine which organization owns the property where the local church worships,” the filing states. “This Court has long held that courts may resolve these church property disputes the same way they resolve garden-variety property disputes between secular institutions or, for that matter, between a religious and a secular institution …”

The Episcopal Church, instead, has viewed the dispute through a constitutional lens, arguing that the church is a hierarchical institution governed by its own set of laws and rules, and that its autonomy and authority would be compromised should the disaffiliated diocese prevail.

Individuals are free to leave the church if they disagree with its theology …read more

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CBN Hosts Mar-A-Lago Gala, Gets Presidential Endorsement Of Correspondent’s ‘Spiritual Biography’

Tue, 2018-02-20 09:21

By Miranda Blue

On Saturday night, President Trump dropped by a gala hosted by a charity affiliated with Pat Robertson’s Christian Broadcasting Network, which reportedly had been planned just so that it could be hosted at Trump’s “Winter White House” in Florida.

Saturday night at Mar-A-Lago. Bumped into this guy for a quick conversation. @realDonaldTrump @POTUS @CBNNews

— David Brody (@TheBrodyFile) February 18, 2018

Last year, the Washington Post reported that even as other charities were fleeing Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort, CBN decided “to hold its first Palm Beach fundraiser gala for its charity Orphan’s Promise” and that event was “meant for Trump’s club.”

Since his presidential campaign, CBN has been a safe space for Trump to answer hard-hitting questions such as whether his run for office was “a divine calling.” Since becoming president, Trump has given two sit-down interviews to CBN. In an interview with CBN’s David Brody soon after his inauguration, Trump spoke of the media as “the opposition party,” making an exception for people “like yourself.” Brody himself has been critical of the mainstream media: earlier this year, he tweeted out an email from Christian-nation operative David Lane that claimed that …read more

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Fighting back against ‘alternative facts’: Experts share their secrets

Mon, 2018-02-19 11:21

By Dan Ferber

Days after President Donald Trump took office, his spokeswoman Kellyanne Conway coined a term that ricocheted around the world. Chuck Todd, host of NBC’s Meet the Press, confronted her about an overinflated White House estimate of the crowd size at the president’s inauguration. “Don’t be so overly dramatic about it, Chuck,” she shot back. “You’re saying it’s a falsehood. [But] Sean Spicer, our press secretary, gave alternative facts.”

The exchange became fodder for a thousand late-night TV monologues, and it seemed to launch a new era of degraded public discourse, in which falsehoods become “alternative truths,” and unwelcome news for politicians becomes “fake news.” At a lively brainstorming session here yesterday at the annual meeting of AAAS, which publishes Science, approximately five dozen researchers, teachers, journalists, students, and science advocates brainstormed ways to push back.

Session leader Mark Bayer, an Arlington, Virginia-based consultant and former longtime aide to Senator Edward Markey (D-Mass.), opened up with some cold water for the crowd. “Facts were never enough” to make a convincing case to people, he said, “so let’s just get over that.” Even Aristotle, in his classic Rhetoric, writes about the need to persuade the audience that you’re credible (ethos) and appeal to their emotions (pathos), as well as using logical arguments (logos), Bayer said.

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Secret to Great Pyramid’s Near Perfect Alignment Possibly Found

Mon, 2018-02-19 11:13

By Owen Jarus

Though slightly lopsided, the towering, Great Pyramid of Giza is an ancient feat of engineering, and now an archaeologist has figured out how the Egyptians may have aligned the monument almost perfectly along the cardinal points, north-south-east-west — they may have used the fall equinox.

The fall equinox occurs halfway between the summer and winter solstices, when Earth’s tilt is such that the length of the day and nightare almost the same.

About 4,500 years ago, Egyptian pharaoh Khufu had the Great Pyramid of Giza constructed; it is the largest of the three pyramids — now standing about 455 feet (138 meters) tall — on the Giza Plateau and was considered a “wonder of the world” by ancient writers.

Turns out, the pyramid builders somehow designed this ancient wonder with extreme precision.

“The builders of the Great Pyramid of Khufu aligned the great monument to the cardinal points with an accuracy of better than four minutes of arc, or one-fifteenth of one degree,” wrote Glen Dash, an engineer who studies the Giza pyramids, in a paper published recently in the Journal of Ancient Egyptian Architecture.

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CRISPR hack transforms cells into data recorders

Mon, 2018-02-19 11:09

By Heidi Ledford

Researchers have harnessed the popular gene-editing tool CRISPR–Cas9 to turn DNA into a sensitive recording device that can document the duration and order of events within cells — and even erase and re-record information in the same genome.

The work, published in Science on 15 February1, joins a flock of other CRISPR-based cellular recorders that have emerged from research labs over the past few years. The hope is that such recorders could keep track of changes in gene expression, trace a cell’s individual family lineage or monitor shifts in environmental conditions.

“It’s clear that the genome has this enormous recording capacity,” says Jan Philipp Junker, a systems biologist at the Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine in Berlin. “With CRISPR, we finally have the tools to use it.”

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A GOP Congressman Gave Trump a Literal Bag of Prayers After the School Shooting

Mon, 2018-02-19 11:06

By Hemant Mehta

Over the weekend, Rep. Mike Bost (R-IL) delivered a bagful of thoughts and prayers to Donald Trump, presumably as a response to the tragedy in Parkland, Florida. (I think this is now the official GOP response to all mass shootings.)

But I have so many questions about this photo…

Is that it? Those are all the prayers from southern Illinois? I don’t know whether to be proud that so few people are wasting their time or disturbed by how a few prayers were still enough for these politicians to think “photo op!”

Why are they in a sealed bag? Do prayers spoil if they’re exposed to air?

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Christian school in London taught creationism as science

Mon, 2018-02-19 08:21

By Barry Duke

The Kings Kids Christian School in southeast London fell foul of Ofted, the education watchdog, when it was found to be filling pupils heads with creationist baloney … in science classes!

According to this report, the primary school did not meet independent school standards because students weren’t taught about scientific theories of earth’s origin.

Ofsted reported that:

The school’s curriculum does not meet requirements. Pupils do not study practical science or develop the skills to collect and evaluate scientific evidence.

The creation story is taught in science and there is no evidence that pupils learn scientific theories about the origin of the Earth.

However, Nigel Steele, the school’s spokesperson, insisted that had Ofsted spent more time at the school, it would had have noticed that the school taught “different perspectives”.

They do look at the evolutionary theory but they also cover the design aspect as well. We’d say actually the students have a broader education regarding origins.

The school’s next thing to do would be to create an action plan to meet those standards. It doesn’t mean the school will be changing the curriculum; they will still be able to teach science from a design perspective. They will need to make it clear where they are …read more

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NSS says UK should follow Iceland’s lead to end genital cutting

Mon, 2018-02-19 04:21

The NSS has said the UK should “follow the lead” of Iceland, which is expected to ban cutting boys’ genitals for non-medical reasons.

…read more

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Drugs, porn & hookers … a few of this vicar’s favourite things

Mon, 2018-02-19 00:21

By Barry Duke

A Church of England vicar in London – Stennett Kirby, 64 – is reportedly on ‘sick leave’ after he was exposed this weekend as a drug-taking enthusiast of porn and prostitutes.

According to this report, he was allegedly caught on camera appearing to smoke crack, snort cocaine and watch porn in the £1.5 million vicarage of West Ham Parish Church in East London, in which he lives.

He has been the vicar of the church since 2007, and is considered a respected member of the community, but is currently on sick leave “for unknown reasons”.

In footage obtained by the Sun on Sunday, which cheekily created the “His favourite hymns” graphic, he appears to be smoking from a crack pipe before he struggles to snort a line of white powder as he relaxes with a friend.

At one point, he seems to be watching pornography and says:

All I want now is for a woman to be sucking my dick that would be nice. How much would a woman cost to come here? In other words if I really want it then I will pay for it.

His friend reportedly then says he prefers prostitutes to relationships, which unmarried Kirby agrees with.

The footage then …read more

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True believers, entrepreneurs, and scammers in alternative medicine

Sun, 2018-02-18 20:21

By David Gorski In the online echo chamber promoting alternative medicine, there are varying degrees of deception. There are true believers (who are often victims), entrepreneurs (who are often true believers who found a profitable business), and scammers. The categories are not mutually exclusive. …read more

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On Presidents Day, Secular Coalition Admonishes President Trump For Betraying His Oath of Office

Sun, 2018-02-18 02:21

By Casey Brescia

February 19, 2018

On Presidents Day, Secular Coalition Admonishes President Trump For Betraying His Oath of Office

Washington, DC — The Secular Coalition for America released the following statement today in recognition of Presidents Day.

Statement by Larry T. Decker, Executive Director of the Secular Coalition for America

“Today we celebrate all those who have occupied the office of the Presidency and swore an oath to ‘preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.’ Throughout American history, those who swore this solemn oath knew it entailed a commitment to maintaining the wall of separation between church and state which is enshrined in the first sixteen words of the First Amendment to the Constitution. Regardless of their political parties, their religious persuasions, or their political agendas, most of America’s presidents never questioned their duty to uphold the secular character of our government.”

“By remembering this proud history, we must also recognize the perils of the present. Since swearing his oath of office in 2017, President Trump has departed from his predecessors by not merely neglecting his oath to protect the First Amendment but outright rejecting it. Rather than defend religious freedom, the Trump Administration has imposed religious privilege through executive orders, …read more

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Secularism is as great a threat to Christianity as terrorism

Sun, 2018-02-18 02:21

By Barry Duke

Former US House Speaker Newt Gingrich – a Catholic Republican – claimed last night that Western secularism is as great a threat to Christianity as that posed by terrorist groups such as ISIS and al-Qaida.

However he believes that in the current culture war raging between faith-heads and secularists, religion will eventually win.

Addressing about 300 people at the Ave Maria School of Law in Florida, Gingrich, according to this report, said:

Either the radical secularists will succeed in controlling the Government and driving religion out of American life or the people who believe in faith will succeed in controlling government and insist that you cannot impose radical values on American people.

He expressed optimism that the religious side could prevail.

We’re not going to give up on America. We’re not going to give up on God.

Gingrich, who represented a Georgia district in the House for 20 years and ran unsuccessfully for president in 2012, said religious institutions such as the Ave Maria School of Law can serve as “centers of resistance” to the “horrendous wars against Christianity” waged by secular and terrorist organisations.

The secular philosophy dominates universities and is embraced by newspaper editors and Hollywood, Gingrich added. It represents:

A repudiation of everything we’ve …read more

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