RNB Roundup for Aug. 5, 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.

Scientology shoots itself in the foot

The other day a website called Holy Moly ran a brief item about ex-Scientologist Peter Letterese’s lawsuit against the Church of Scientology. The item was newsworthy because Letteresse names Tom Cruise as a co-defendant. He also names Google, Yahoo!, and a host of others. Draw your own conclusions.

Better yet… allow the Church of Scientology to do it for you. After all, the cult is known for shooting itself in the foot.

The folks at Holy Moly received a missive from the law offices of Elliot J. Abelson. According to Abelson, “Mr. Letterese’s allegations are false and my client’s position is not adequately represented in the story, which originally ran in the New York Daily News.”

He then asks that should the site not simply remove the item it includes a statement responding to the claims made in the story.

So, in the interests of free speech and hearing both sides of the story (and yes, I am aware of the incredible irony of the Church of Scientology asking for such things) here’s the statement that the ‘general counsel’ for the Church would like you to read.

– Source: Church of Scientolody Demands Right To Reply on HM Story, Ian MacShane, Holy Moly, Aug. 4, 2008

HM then posts the ‘response’, followed by MacShane’s comments:

So there you go. Both sides of the story have been reported and if Mr Abelson’s statement is true then it appears Peter Letterese is a remarkable fantasist, almost deranged and prone to hold a grudge. Which makes it all the more surprising that such traits didn’t show up on the in-depth tests and profiling he would have undergone before being invited to join the Church in the first place.

– Source: Church of Scientolody Demands Right To Reply on HM Story, Ian MacShane, Holy Moly, Aug. 4, 2008

We thank the Church of Scientology for helping the media point out its ineffectiveness.

Incidentally, speaking about ‘frivolous’ and ‘meritless’ lawsuits: the Scientology cult is known for its abuse of the legal system — a practice encouraged and condoned by Scientology’s founder, L. Ron Hubbard:

The purpose of the suit is to harass and discourage rather than to win. The law can be used very easily to harass, and enough harassment on somebody who is simply on the thin edge anyway, well knowing that he is not authorized, will generally be sufficient to cause his professional decease. If possible, of course, ruin him utterly.

– Source: A Manual on the Dissemination of Material, 1955 (See: The Purpose of a Lawsuit is to Harass)

Christian nudists afraid to be caught out

According to a story in Dutch daily De Telegraaf, Dutch nudists who are Christians live in constant fear of having their love of naturism exposed.

The paper quotes Leen (no last name), webmaster for Gan Edan — a website for Christian Naturists: “I know of situations in which people lost their jobs or were bannished from church.”

Henk-Jan Kamerbeek of the Naturistsn Federatie Nederland (Naturists Federation Netherlands) can understand that there is tension faith and naturisme. “Overall there is a lack of understanding for naturism; certainly where the churches in our country are concerned.”

– Source: Christennaturisten voortdurend bang, Thijs Wartenbergh, De Telegraaf, Netherlands, July 20, 2008

Nevertheless, at the end of June Gan Edan organized a church service for Christian nudists.

The service, attended by 80 people, was headed by a fully dressed female pastor.

It was such a success that another one is being planned for September 28.

Mt. Soledad Cross in San Diego can stay

In the late 1980’s Philip Paulson, an atheist, moved from Los Angeles (City of Angels) to San Diego (a city name after a saint). Almost immediately he sued the city of San Diego for the removal of the cross.

At the time a local newspaper reported that he had been upset by the cross when picnicking on top of the hill.

Some 20 years(!) later — and almost two years after Paulson died — a federal judge has ruled the cross can stay as part of a federally owned war memorial.

Still, some die-hard ACLU type is looking to continue the fight:

“The court finds the memorial at Mt. Soledad, including its Latin cross, communicates the primarily nonreligious messages of military service, death and sacrifice,” wrote U.S. District Judge Larry Alan Burns in his decision filed Tuesday. “As such, despite its location on public land, the memorial is constitutional.”

An official with the American Civil Liberties Union, which represents several of the plaintiffs in the case, including the Jewish War Veterans of the United States of America, voiced disappointment in the decision. Lawyers for the group had contended that including the cross in a government park violated the principle of the separation of church and state.

“If you want to put a cross on your front lawn . . . we will be the first to defend you,” said David Blair-Loy, legal director of the ACLU of San Diego and Imperial Counties. “When the government is sponsoring and endorsing the preeminent symbol of one religion, that’s when we have a problem.”

He said his side is discussing further legal action. An appeal to the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals is “clearly on the table,” Blair-Loy said.

William J. Kellogg, president of the Mount Soledad Memorial Assn. and grandson of one of the American Legion members who dedicated the cross in 1954, was pleased with the verdict. The association was not named in the lawsuit, but did not want the cross removed.

“The decision was based on the fact that it is clear it is a veterans memorial,” Kellogg said. “That’s what our association is all about.” A cross has marked Mt. Soledad since about 1913, and the current concrete cross was dedicated in 1954 in memory of Korean War veterans, Kellogg said.

– Source: Federal judge says cross can remain on San Diego’s Mt. Soledad, Jia-Rui Chong, Los Angeles Times, July 31, 2008

‘I was a gay priest’

Philosopher Mark Vernon, who left his job as a clergyman, shares what is it like to a gay priest in the Church of England:

One of the things about being gay is that you learn, from a very early age, to keep tabs on who knows. You can never be sure how people will react to that most intimate of personal details – who you love.

A priest, though, is called to preach a gospel of love. So when you are gay, this gospel traps you. You must keep tabs on who knows about the most immediate way that God’s love comes to you, which is to say with someone of the same sex.

This means that you internalise the charge of being an abomination. You live a lie. And like any lived lie, insidious psychological damage is the price.

After three years, I couldn’t handle the pretence any longer. I left, even though I had ostensibly had an easy ride in the church. Moreover, I left an atheist, a loss of faith that came about for a number of reasons, though the pretence played a major part.

– Source: ‘I was a gay priest’, BBC Magazine, July 15, 2008

Do they really think the earth is flat?

In the 21st Century, the term “flat-earther” is used to describe someone who is spectacularly – and seemingly wilfully – ignorant. But there is a group of people who claim they believe the planet really is flat. Are they really out there or is it all an elaborate prank?

Nasa is celebrating its 50th birthday with much fanfare and pictures of past glories. But in half a century of extraordinary images of space, one stands out.

On 24 December 1968, the crew of the Apollo 8 mission took a photo now known as Earthrise. To many, this beautiful blue sphere viewed from the moon’s orbit is a perfect visual summary of why it is right to strive to go into space.

Not to everybody though. There are people who say they think this image is fake – part of a worldwide conspiracy by space agencies, governments and scientists.

Welcome to the world of the flat-earther.

But are there any genuine flat-earthers left? Surely in our era of space exploration – where satellites take photos of our blue and clearly globular planet from space, and robots send back info about soil and water from Mars – no one can seriously still believe that the Earth is flat?


– Source: Do they really think the earth is flat?, Brendan O’Neill, BBC Magazine, Aug. 4, 2008

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Religion News Blog posted this on Tuesday August 5, 2008.
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