Religion News Blog Roundup for Feb. 8, 2008

“RNB Roundup” is a collection of clippings, snippets, links, commentary and other items that, in one way or another, relate to the topics normally covered in Religion News Blog.

Note: This page may grow throughout the day€¦ Too, linked items may be online for a limited time only. Get them while they’re hot.


A Big Apology

An atheist-sponsored billboard that went up along U.S. 30 during the Christmas holiday has been replaced by a new sign with an apology from the billboard company.

The new sign, located near Sunnyway Foods and Warm Spring Road, has the message, “In God We Trust: Kegerreis Outdoor Advertising LLC..” Underneath are the words: “The previous sign posted at this location does not reflect the values or morals of our company. Thank you.”

In God We Trust

Dusky A. Chilcote, senior account executive for Kegerreis Outdoor Advertising, Chambersburg, said the sign was posted Monday as the older sign, with the words, “Imagine No Religion,” was being removed.
[…]

Chilcote, a Christian, said she was personally hurt by the deception of the sponsor, who allegedly led her to believe the sign was presented by a local church.

She said in December that the sponsor of the billboard had contacted her and said “their desire was that people would have the freedom to walk into any church they choose.”


The sign in question included the Freedom From Religion Foundation‘s name and its Web site. FFRF is a national, nonprofit organization based in Madison, Wis. It has about 12,000 members and supporters, it is considered the “largest group of atheists and agnostics in North America,” according to its Web site.

The group works to protect the constitutional principle of separation of church and state, among other things. A FFRF press release stated the sign on Radio Hill was sponsored by a local FFRF member who wanted to remain anonymous.
See the sign at PublicOpinion.com


Atheism

Madalyn Murray O’Hair Street does not exist
Omaha will not dedicate a street to the woman who helped end prayer in public schools.


The City Council voted unanimously Tuesday to deny a request to erect a commemorative street sign for Madalyn Murray O’Hair, the founder of American Atheists and the plaintiff in the 1960s U.S. Supreme Court case that found prayer in public schools to be unconstitutional.

Atheist Raymond Zbylut had asked the council to put up the sign on the stretch of 108th Street between West Maple Road and Bedford Avenue. He said the move would honor Murray O’Hair’s work to protect the civil rights of all Americans.

Murray O’Hair, who was not from Omaha, was murdered in 1995.
Omaha World-Herald


Rowan Williams’ promotion of Islamification

Has the Archbishop gone bonkers?
That is the question Ruth Gledhill, religion correspondent of The Times (yes, that one: The Times of London) at her blog, Articles of Faith.
Rhetorical or not, it is of course the right question to ask in reference to Rowan Williams, the ‘Archbishop of Canterbury.’
The Archbishop of Canterbury is the senior bishop and principal leader of the Church of England, as well as the symbolic head of the worldwide Anglican Communion. Apparently not content to busy himself with the many problems facing the church he leads, the other day he attempted to speed along the Islamification of the United Kingdom by suggesting that the adoption of Islamic Sharia law in the UK is “unavoidable” and that it would help maintain social cohesion.
Anyone with access to Google News, or unlucky enough to live in a country where Islamic law is actually practiced, will be puzzled by seeing ‘Sharia law’ mentioned in such close proximity to ‘social cohesion.’
Ruth Gledhill provides some excellent information to justify the question she asked
Then she closes her blog post with this chilling bit of information:

A few weeks ago, I was chatting to a woman who works in an advocacy role for Muslim women in an area that, quite independently of the Bishop of Rochester, she described as a ‘no-go area’ for non-Muslims. Her clients were women in the process of being sectioned into mental health units in the NHS. This woman, who for obvious reasons begged not to be identified, told me: ‘The men get tired of their wives. Or bored. Or maybe the wife objects to her daughter being forced into a marriage she doesn’t want. Or maybe she starts wearing western clothes.There can be many reasons. The women are sent for asssessment to a hospital. The GP referring them is Muslim. The psychiatrist assessing them is Muslim and male. I have sat in these assessments where the psychiatrist will not look the woman patient in the eye because she is a woman. Can you imagine! A psychiatrist refusing to look his patient in the eye? The woman speaks little or no English. She is sectioned. She is divorced. There are lots of these women in there, locked up in these hospitals. Why don’t you people write about this?’

My interlocuter went very red and almost started to cry. Instead, she began shouting at me. I was a member of the press. ‘You must write about this,’ she begged.

‘I can’t,’ I said. ‘Not unless you become a whistle-blower. Or give me some evidence. Or something.’

She shook her head. ‘I can’t be identified,’ she said. ‘I would be killed. And so would the women.’

So there you have it. After weeks of wondering what to do, inspired by the Archbishop, I’ve taken her word that she is telling the truth, respected her anonymity, and written it anyway.

And this, I imagine, is what the Archbishop wants for the whole of England. As they used to say in my father’s country parish: ‘Heaven preserve us!’ I wonder what they’re saying there today. Expressions somewhat shorter and sweeter, I fear.
– Read the entire post at Articles of Faith

As Gledhill points out, Ontario — Canada’s largest province — a few years ago considered establishing Sharia courts to enfore Islamic law in civil manners.
Women’s groups and countless Muslim women were outraged. The proposal sparked international protests, and eventually Ontario rejected the idea:

There will be no Shariah law in Ontario. There will be no religious arbitration in Ontario. There will be one law for all Ontarians.”

[Premier Dalton] McGuinty said religious arbitrations “threaten our common ground,” and promised his Liberal government would introduce legislation “as soon as possible” to outlaw them in Ontario.

“Ontarians will always have the right to seek advice from anyone in matters of family law, including religious advice,” he said. “But no longer will religious arbitration be deciding matters of family law.”

Here’s something to consider: If Islam is, as the claim goes, a ‘religion of peace,’ and if Sharia is so wonderful, why are Muslims countries at the center of trouble spots around the world?
Incidentally, according to an informative article on Sharia law in the Daily Mail, Sharia courts are already said to be operational in one form or other in most major cities in the UK.

Politics

Bush administration reserves the right to torture
So Mitt Romney has left the race for the White House. Thus for the time being we won’t know whether a Mormon would have run the country with a better moral compass than the self-proclaimed Evangelical Christian currently running the show.
George W. Bush has shown himself to be a habitual liar on many issues, but particularly on the subject of human rights. For instance, he has claimed — consistently — that the United States does not torture. But not unlike Mormons — who use terminology familiar to Christians, but imbued with completely different meanings — George Bush justifies his lies by dancing around the words:

So we are reduced to fighting over a word, “torture”. President George W Bush’s preferred terminology is “alternative interrogation techniques” or “coercive interrogation” or “harsh interrogation methods”, or simply, amazingly, his comment last Thursday that a policy of waterboarding detainees is merely a policy to “question” them.

Suddenly I am reminded of George Orwell. One essay of his, Politics and the English Language, still stands out over the decades as a rebuke to all those who deploy language to muffle meaning. One passage is particularly apposite:

“A mass of Latin words falls upon the facts like soft snow, blurring the outline and covering up all the details. The great enemy of clear language is insincerity. When there is a gap between one’s real and one’s declared aims, one turns as it were instinctively to long words and exhausted idioms, like a cuttlefish spurting out ink. In our age there is no such thing as €˜keeping out of politics’. All issues are political issues, and politics itself is a mass of lies, evasions, folly, hatred, and schizophrenia. When the general atmosphere is bad, language must suffer.”
Andrew Sullivan, The Times, Sep. 24, 2006

Were Orwell alive today, he likely would have implored his publisher to put a picture of George Bush on the dustjacket of his infamous book.
Here, then, is what you get with an ‘Evangelical Christian’ like George Bush for President:

The White House said Wednesday that the widely condemned interrogation technique known as waterboarding is legal and that President Bush could authorize the CIA to resume using the simulated-drowning method under extraordinary circumstances.

The surprise assertion from the Bush administration reopened a debate that many in Washington had considered closed. Two laws passed by Congress in recent years €” as well as a Supreme Court ruling on the treatment of detainees €” were widely interpreted to have banned the CIA’s use of the extreme interrogation method.
Waterboarding is legal, White House says

How George Bush — and the naive Christians who still support him — can sing “God Bless America” is beyond us over here in Amsterdam, Netherlands.

Scientology

Scientology leader outlines attempt to destroy psychiatrists
All eyes… well, lots of eyes are currently focused on the Church of Scientology which, in the manner of all scam artists, claims the wave negative publicity of the last few weeks is actually helping people discover their hugely expensive courses. They use different terms, of course, but you get the general drift.
In much the same way, you’ll also be able to wade through the Scientology gobbledygook to get the gist of what the cult‘s current leader is saying about Scientology’s fight against psychiatry:

Scientology outlines attempt to destroy psychiatrists.

Quackery

After prescribing goat testicles, a quack became an inadvertent serial killer
While we’re on the subject of quackery, check out this review of Charlatan: America’s Most Dangerous Huckster, the Man Who Pursued Him, and the Age of Flimflam:

One day in the fall of 1917, a Kansas farmer named Bill Stittsworth, 46 years of age, showed up at the clinic that had recently been opened in the hamlet of Milford by a medical quack named John R. Brinkley. “His visit didn’t seem like the Annunciation,” Pope Brock writes in this hugely amusing if somewhat sobering book, “any more than he looked like the archangel Gabriel.” Stittsworth reluctantly admitted that he was suffering the condition for which Viagra is now prescribed. As Brinkley tried to dream up a solution, the farmer looked wistfully out the window, “pondering the livestock,” and said: “Too bad I don’t have billy goat nuts.”

Precisely what happened thereafter “is in dispute,” but two nights later Stittsworth returned to the clinic, “climbed onto the operating table,” and awaited Brinkley. “Masked, gowned, and rubber gloved, Brinkley entered with a small silver tray, carried in both hands, like the Host. On it were two goat testicles in a bed of cotton. He set the tray down, injected anesthetic,” and Brinkley was on his way. Two weeks later Stittsworth “reappeared with a smile on his face.” As he told other farmers about his good fortune, men — and then women — began to queue up for injections of billy goat magic, with the result that Brinkley soon “became a pioneer in gland transplants” at exactly the moment when America was ready for them.

Brock says, accurately, that “there has probably never been a more quack-prone and quack-infested country than the United States,” and the period between the two world wars — the years when Texas Guinan welcomed customers to her New York speakeasy with the gleeful cry, “Hello, suckers!” — turned out to be a high-water mark of quackery, as the widespread longing for health and eternal youth coincided with the age of science: “Mankind had found wisdom at last. Science! Technology! These were the new church. Adam was out, apes were in. Rationality ruled. Rationality had made the airplane possible, and instant coffee. Few realized that it also made possible the golden age of quacks.”
– Full review by Jonathan Yardley, Washington Post


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