Category: Religion

‘Toxic Christianity’: the evangelicals creating champions for Trump

By Harriet Sherwood

Three times a week, 15,000 students stream into the Vines Center, a huge silver-domed building on the campus of Liberty University for “convocation”, an intoxicating mix of prayer, political rally and entertainment. Thousands more watch a live stream of the event.

The star attraction has twice been Donald Trump, in 2012 and 2016. His first appearance was as a successful businessman and reality TV star, the second as the man campaigning to be the Republican party’s candidate for president. Last year, he made a third appearance at Liberty, to address the university’s graduation ceremony. By then, he was one of the most divisive leaders in the country’s history.

But not at Liberty. The Christian university which dominates the town of Lynchburg, Virginia, has become almost synonymous with Trump. It sits at the heart of the alliance between the president and conservative evangelical Christians – an alliance forged in part by Jerry Falwell Jr, Liberty’s president, Lynchburg’s most prominent citizen and Trump’s close associate.

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Trump administration to strengthen religious liberty rules on birth control, LGBTQ discrimination

By Alison Durkee

The Trump administration is planning to double down on “religious liberty” protections that could affect birth control access and allow for LGBTQ employment discrimination.

Planned rules would strengthen or expand existing religious liberty protections for employers to deny health care access or make hiring decisions based on their religious beliefs and “moral convictions.”

The potential regulations continue the Trump administration’s push for “religious liberty,” which President Donald Trump has emphasized through multiple executive orders protecting religious liberty. Other executive branch agencies have also made their own moves to protect religious freedom, including the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and Department of Justice.

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Why Are Americans Still Uncomfortable with Atheism?

By Casey Cep

Daniel Seeger was twenty-one when he wrote to his local draft board to say, “I have concluded that war, from the practical standpoint, is futile and self-defeating, and from the more important moral standpoint, it is unethical.” Some time later, he received the United States Selective Service System’s Form 150, asking him to detail his objections to military service. It took him a few days to reply, because he had no answer for the form’s first question: “Do you believe in a Supreme Being?”

Unsatisfied with the two available options—“Yes” and “No”—Seeger finally decided to draw and check a third box: “See attached pages.” There were eight of those pages, and in them he described reading Plato, Aristotle, and Spinoza, all of whom “evolved comprehensive ethical systems of intellectual and moral integrity without belief in God,” and concluded that “the existence of God cannot be proven or disproven, and the essence of His nature cannot be determined.” For good measure, Seeger also used scare quotes and strike-throughs to doctor the printed statement he was required to sign, so that it read, “I am, by reason of my ‘religious’ <strikethrough>training and</strikethrough> belief, conscientiously opposed to participation in war in any form.”

By the time Seeger submitted his form, in the late nineteen-fifties, thousands of conscientious objectors in the U.S. had refused to fight in the two World Wars. Those who belonged to pacifist religious traditions, such as Mennonites and Quakers, were sent to war as noncombatants or to work as farmers or firefighters on the home front through the Civilian Public Service; eventually, so were those who could prove their own independent, religiously motivated pacifism. Those who could not were sent to prison or to labor camps. But while Selective Service laws had been revised again and again to clarify the criteria for conscientious objection, they still did not account for young men who, like Seeger, refused to say that their opposition to war came from belief in a Supreme Being.

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‘Transgender’ Could Be Defined Out of Existence Under Trump Administration

By Erica L. Green, Katie Benner, and Robert Pear

WASHINGTON — The Trump administration is considering narrowly defining gender as a biological, immutable condition determined by genitalia at birth, the most drastic move yet in a governmentwide effort to roll back recognition and protections of transgender people under federal civil rights law.

A series of decisions by the Obama administration loosened the legal concept of gender in federal programs, including in education and health care, recognizing gender largely as an individual’s choice and not determined by the sex assigned at birth. The policy prompted fights over bathrooms, dormitories, single-sex programs and other arenas where gender was once seen as a simple concept. Conservatives, especially evangelical Christians, were incensed.

Now the Department of Health and Human Services is spearheading an effort to establish a legal definition of sex under Title IX, the federal civil rights law that bans gender discrimination in education programs that receive government financial assistance, according to a memo obtained by The New York Times.

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Pakistani Christian woman convicted of blasphemy awaits verdict on death sentence

By Mushtaq Yusufzai and Linda Givetash

PESHAWAR, Pakistan — A Christian woman’s fate hung in the balance on Thursday as Pakistan’s Supreme Court prepared to announce whether she would be executed under the country’s controversial blasphemy laws.

Demonstrators were out in the streets of Lahore last week demanding judges uphold the death penalty for Asia Bibi. Chanting “Hang infidel Asia,” activists from the Tehreek-e-Labbaik party also rallied in other cities Friday, threatening wider protests if she is freed.

The mother of five was convicted in 2010 for insulting Islam’s Prophet Muhammad during an argument and remains on death row while appealing the case.

Bibi’s lawyer Saiful Malook told NBC News he couldn’t comment on the details of the case as a verdict on the appeal is imminent. Malook wouldn’t comment on rumors that he faces death threats for defending Bibi but said the jailed woman’s family has moved to the United Kingdom.

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Voters with no religious affiliation hold power to sway direction of country

By Annie Laurie Gaylor

Secular voters could very well determine the outcome of the upcoming midterm elections.

The ranks of atheists, agnostics and those with no religious affiliation – “the Nones” – have increased by 19 million since Barack Obama was first elected president, making them the fastest-growing group by religious identification in America. In 2004, the Nones comprised just 16 percent of all American adults, but have now grown to a represent roughly a quarter of all adults and a third of millennials.

The Nones have been traditionally underrepresented at the ballot box, but that’s changing. The religiously unaffiliated accounted for 15 percent of voters in the 2016 presidential elections, a 3 percentage point increase since 2012. The coming election will quite possibly see a further uptick in this number.

“Religiously unaffiliated voters, who may or may not be associated with other civic institutions, seem most excited about supporting or donating to causes, going to rallies, and expressing opinions online, among other activities,” states a recent Atlantic magazine analysis. “Political engagement may be providing these Americans with a new form of identity.”

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GOP Rushes to Confirm Enemy of Church/State Separation to Appellate Court

By Hemant Mehta

In news that’s shocking to nobody, Republicans are trying to push judicial nominees through the confirmation process even though Democrats (and several Republicans) on the judiciary committee are home campaigning. Indeed, that’s the reason they’re going through with the hearings at all — might as well jam these six ultra-conservative nominees through en masse before anyone can push back against them.

It’s a travesty, yet it’s also the only way Republicans seem to operate these days. They know many of these nominees would never make it through a fair process, under critical questioning, so they’re trying to work around it by holding hearings without any Democrats around.

One of the nominees four Republicans were around for yesterday was Allison Jones Rushing, who could have a lifetime appointment to the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals. One of the four senators around to question her, Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT), said in his opening remarks to Rushing, “I’m very impressed with you.”

But a number of church/state separation groups are condemning her nomination specifically.

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Jamal Khashoggi: What the Arab world needs most is free expression

By Jamal Khashoggi

A note from Karen Attiah, Global Opinions editor

I received this column from Jamal Khashoggi’s translator and assistant the day after Jamal was reported missing in Istanbul. The Post held off publishing it because we hoped Jamal would come back to us so that he and I could edit it together. Now I have to accept: That is not going to happen. This is the last piece of his I will edit for The Post. This column perfectly captures his commitment and passion for freedom in the Arab world. A freedom he apparently gave his life for. I will be forever grateful he chose The Post as his final journalistic home one year ago and gave us the chance to work together.

I was recently online looking at the 2018 “Freedom in the World” report published by Freedom House and came to a grave realization. There is only one country in the Arab world that has been classified as “free.” That nation is TunisiaJordanMorocco and Kuwait come second, with a classification of “partly free.” The rest of the countries in the Arab world are classified as “not free.”

As a result, Arabs living in these countries are either uninformed or misinformed. They are unable to adequately address, much less publicly discuss, matters that affect the region and their day-to-day lives. A state-run narrative dominates the public psyche, and while many do not believe it, a large majority of the population falls victim to this false narrative. Sadly, this situation is unlikely to change.

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Pharmacist at Meijer store in Michigan refuses medicine to woman having miscarriage

By Kristen Jordan Shamus

A Michigan woman is demanding that Meijer discipline a pharmacist and implement a company-wide policy for how pharmacists should handle religious and moral objections to dispensing medication after she was denied a prescription to help complete a miscarriage.

Rachel Peterson, 35, alleges a pharmacist at a Meijer store in Petoskey refused to fill her prescription for a drug called misoprostol (brand name Cytotec) in July because of his personal religious views. She says he also refused to transfer the prescription to another pharmacy.

Misoprostol can be used to prevent stomach ulcers and also can be used to induce labor during pregnancy, to aid in the completion of a miscarriage and in the treatment of postpartum hemorrhage. When combined with another drug, it can be used to induce an abortion.

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Prominent evangelical leader on Khashoggi crisis: let’s not risk “$100 billion worth of arms sales”

By Tara Isabella Burton

A major evangelical leader has spoken in defense of US-Saudi relations after the apparent killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in a Saudi consulate, saying that America has more important things — like arms deals — to focus on.

Pat Robertson, founder of the Christian Broadcasting Network, appeared on its flagship television show The 700 Club on Monday to caution Americans against allowing the United States’ relationship with Saudi Arabia to deteriorate over Khashoggi’s death.

“For those who are screaming blood for the Saudis — look, these people are key allies,” Robertson said. While he called the faith of the Wahabists — the hardline Islamist sect to which the Saudi Royal Family belongs — “obnoxious,” he urged viewers to remember that “we’ve got an arms deal that everybody wanted a piece of…it’ll be a lot of jobs, a lot of money come to our coffers. It’s not something you want to blow up willy-nilly.”

Robertson praised the approach of President Donald Trump, who has publicly cast doubt on the allegations against the Saudis, comparing them to those of sexual assault against Supreme Court justice Brett Kavanaugh earlier this month. On Wednesday, after the New York Times reported that it had obtained audio of Khashoggi being tortured, murdered, and dismembered inside the consulate, Turkish newspaper Yeni Safak reported that Trump said that he had requested the recording, “if it exists,” later adding “I’m not sure that it exists.”

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