Category: Religion

Texas Governor: ‘The Problem is Not Guns, It’s Hearts Without God’

By Michael Stone

Ten dead and ten injured in a high school shooting, but Texas Governor Greg Abbott believes “the problem is not guns, it’s hearts without God.”

Calling Friday’s shooting “one of the most heinous attacks that we’ve ever seen in the history of Texas schools,” Texas Governor Greg Abbott told reporters Friday that ten people died after the shooting at Santa Fe High School, a Houston-area high school.

More on Abbott’s statement via CNBC

The governor said the suspect had a shotgun and .38 revolver, which appeared to be legally owned by the suspect’s father. He says explosive devices including a molotov cocktail that had been found in the suspected shooter’s home and a vehicle as well as around the school and nearby.

The governor says the suspect said he originally intended to commit suicide but gave himself up and told authorities that he didn’t have the courage to take his own life.

While Abbott did mention the importance of mental health care in his statement, he said little about the dangerous epidemic of gun violence plaguing the nation’s schools.

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Creationist Cynthia Dunbar Fails to Win GOP Nomination for U.S. House Seat

By Hemant Mehta

Remember earlier today when I posted about how Creationist Cynthia Dunbar was on the verge of winning the Republican nomination for a U.S. House seat from Virginia’s 6th District?

You can breathe out now. It looks like that’s not going to happen.

Remember that this wasn’t a regular primary election. The GOP changed the rules to help her out. They opted for a nominating convention instead of a typical everyone-can-vote primary, and they even made sure that a candidate could win the nomination with a plurality of the votes instead of a majority, which is fantastic if you have a slight edge in an eight-way race.

Despite the advantages, though, Dunbar couldn’t pull it out at today’s nominating convention.

Some of the no-chance-in-hell candidates threw their support behind Ben Cline, a state delegate who probably won’t draw much negative attention this November, just to make sure the controversial Dunbar wouldn’t get the nod.

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The Virginia GOP wants to get this creationist elected to Congress

By Casey Michel

A few years ago, Cynthia Dunbar played a central role in the great Texas textbook controversies, moving to inject creationism into the curricula and eliminate Thomas Jefferson from American history — all while blasting public schools as “tyrannical” and calling for making the judicial branch “subordinate” to Congress.

Now, she’s gunning for the Republican nomination for Virginia’s 6th congressional district.

And she appears favored to win — but not without stirring a brand new round of controversy that stems from watching the district GOP re-write the rules to all but ensure her nomination.

With Dunbar’s rise, national voices on both sides of the aisle are perking up about the controversy. After all, whoever comes out of Saturday’s convention for the Republican nomination seems close to a lock to win in November — except Dunbar, who Republicans fear will torpedo their chances at holding onto the solid red district.

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Mauritania Passes Law Mandating Death Penalty for “Blasphemy”

By Hemant Mehta

Mauritania has long been one of the worst countries in the world for freethinkers. Those guilty of “blasphemy” have been threatened with the death penalty, which is disturbing on its own but even more so when you realize how blasphemy is always in the eye of the beholder.

But now that punishment will become mandatory.

The International Humanist and Ethical Union reports:

The National Assembly passed a law on April 27, 2018 that replaces article 306 of the Criminal Code and makes death penalty mandatory for anyone convicted of “blasphemous speech” and acts deemed “sacrilegious”. The new law eliminates the possibility under article 306 of substituting prison terms for the death penalty for certain apostasy-related crimes if the offender promptly repents. The law also extends the scope of application of the death penalty to “renegade acts.”

The law also provides for a sentence of up to two years in prison and a fine of up to 600,000 Ouguiyas (approximately EUR 13,804) for “offending public indecency and Islamic values” and for “breaching Allah’s prohibitions” or assisting in their breach.

That law has prompted a coalition of groups to urge officials there to reverse the law immediately. They also referenced a blogger accused of blasphemy who has been sentenced to death, had his conviction overturned, but still remains in police custody.

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Probing Pence: Did his Hillsdale College commencement speech get anything right?

By Andrew Seidel

Every year, the Freedom From Religion Foundation gets complaints about graduations in public schools. Preachers delivering sermons, staff and students scheduled to deliver prayers, the graduation being held in a church — you name the violation, we’ve seen it. None of these is an issue for a commencement ceremony at a private religious college, such as Hillsdale College in southern Michigan, which, however, had a problem of its own.

The trouble with Hillsdale’s commencement, which was full of religion, was that it was also full of lies and alternative facts (but perhaps I repeat myself). The source of this problem was Vice President Mike Pence, who addressed the graduating class.

One of Pence’s favorite lines, which he used when he accepted the Republican nomination and trotted out again for the graduates, nicely illustrates the Pence problem: “I’m a Christian, a conservative, and a Republican — in that order.” Pence considers himself a Christian before anything else, including someone who values facts and truth (but perhaps I repeat myself yet again).

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Inside the Fight Against America’s Wave of Anti-LGBT Adoption Bills

By Samantha Allen

On May 11, Oklahoma became the eighth state to allow state-licensed child welfare agencies to cite religious beliefs in order to discriminate against LGBT people looking to foster or adopt children.

The Sooner State won’t be the last, either: Kansas Gov. Jeff Colyer has already said that he “look[s] forward to signing” a similar bill that has already cleared the legislature.

Both of these laws are notable losses for LGBT advocates in a year that has mostly seen the failure of anti-LGBT bills, as The Washington Post noted this April.

Legal challenges already underway could reverse the rising tide of anti-LGBT adoption bills: Troy Stevenson, executive director for the advocacy group Freedom Oklahoma, told The Daily Beast that they have retained counsel and are “definitely filing” a lawsuit, but still determining the best timing.

The American Civil Liberties Union already has a lawsuit underway against a similar anti-LGBT adoption law in Michigan, which took effect in June 2015.

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Tony Perkins appointed to US panel on international religious freedom

By Jack Jenkins

(RNS) — Tony Perkins, the head of the conservative Christian lobbying group Family Research Council, has been appointed to a U.S. government commission dedicated to “defending the universal right to freedom of religion or belief abroad.”

On Monday (May 14), the Congressional Record revealed that Perkins had been appointed to the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom on the recommendation of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky. The USCIRF is an independent, bipartisan U.S. federal government commission created in 1998 through the passage of the International Religious Freedom Act, and issues an annual report every May 1 on international religious freedom issues.

“I am grateful to Majority Leader McConnell for appointing me to this prestigious position. From my post at USCIRF, I look forward to doing all that I can to ensure that our government is the single biggest defender of religious freedom internationally,” Perkins, an evangelical Christian and frequent faith adviser to President Trump’s administration, said in a press release.

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Gay ‘Conversion Therapy’ Is Now Illegal In Maryland

By Nina Golgowski

It’s now officially illegal to perform so-called gay “conversion therapy” on minors in Maryland.

The Youth Mental Health Protection Act, which Gov. Larry Hogan (R) signed into law Tuesday, threatens mental health or child care practitioners with disciplinary action if they are found attempting to change the sexual orientation or gender identity of anyone under the age of 18.

Chad Griffin, president of the Human Rights Campaign, said the new law makes Maryland “a better place for countless young people.”

“No child should ever be subjected to the abusive practice of so-called ‘conversion therapy,’” he said in a statement. “This dangerous and inhumane form of child abuse has no basis in science and is uniformly rejected by every major mental health and child welfare organization.”

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Must Pensacola cross come down? Appeal arguments to be heard this week

By Lawrence Specker

It has been nearly a year since a judge ruled that a Christian cross long displayed in a Pensacola public park must come down. This week a higher court is scheduled to hear oral arguments in the city’s appeal.

The case goes back to 2016 and has provoked official interest in Alabama, which is one of more than a dozen states to express support for Pensacola’s right to keep the 34-foot cross in Bayview Park. Its judicial handling also prompted criticism from Roy Moore during his run to become governor of Alabama.

The cross was erected in 1969 by the Pensacola Jaycees, replacing an earlier wooden version built by the National Youth Administration. In 2016 a quartet of plaintiffs — Amanda and Andreiy Kondrat’Yev, Andre Ryland and David Suhor — sued for its removal, charging that it violated the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment. The city argued that the cross did not represent a violation and should be left alone.

In June 2017, Senior U.S. District Judge Roger Vinson ruled in favor of plaintiffs. Vinson made it abundantly clear that the ruling was distasteful to him but that precedent in such cases was clearly established. “It is still the law of the land and I am not free to ignore it … the law is the law,” he wrote. 

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Nevada Lt. Gov. Candidate Pushed Scientology on Former Employees, They Say

By Hemant Mehta

Usually, when we talk about Republican politicians promoting religion, we’re talking about the Mike Pences of the world pushing their Christianity anywhere they can.

In Nevada, however, Brent Jones, a former assemblyman and current candidate for lieutenant governor, is apparently the subject of multiple lawsuits from employees of his bottled water company because, they say, he pushed Scientology on them.

Riley Snyder of the Nevada Independent has more:

… Jones and the parent company of Real Water, Affinitylifestyles.com, have been targeted in several discrimination lawsuits by former employees, including one centered on claims that the former lawmaker required her and other new employees to watch videos with Scientology undertones that promoted the controversial system of religious beliefs founded by writer L. Ron Hubbard.

While one district judge ruled in Jones’ favor and Jones himself denied these allegations, there’s plenty of evidence that Scientology propaganda made its way into training courses for staffers.

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