Nel's New Day

January 6, 2013

Religious Madness

Mind-bloggling events from the religious perspective:

While the country needs resolution for the economy, jobs, poverty, etc., one of the first bills introduced in the Indiana legislature is to force students to recite the Lord’s Prayer in school every morning. State Sen. Dennis Kruse is known for his ignorance about the constitution: last year he introduced a bill to teach creationism in public schools. Before that, he tried to get language on evolution taken out of the state’s science standards. Taxpayers pay Kruse and others like him to waste time in the legislature.

The Vatican is also struggling with the 21st century in a bipolar fashion. Pope Benedict said in his New Year’s message on Tuesday he hoped 2013 would be a year of peace and that the world was under threat from unbridled capitalism, terrorism and criminality.

There’s already a lack of peace in the Vatican. The country can no longer  take credit cards—at least for now. The Bank of Italy pulled its authorization as of the first of January because the Holy See hasn’t complied with European Union safeguards against money laundering. The Vatican has tried to upgrade its measures, even hiring a Swiss expert, but got failing grades for its financial watchdog agency and its bank.

A Catholic priest is also giving the Vatican bad press. In Italy, where 118 women were murdered last year in domestic violence, Father Piero Corsi blames the women.  On the church bulletin board, the Catholic priest in the northwestern part of the country posted a message titled, “Women and Femicide, How often do they provoke?'”

According to NPR reporter Sylvia Poggioli, “Corsi said scantily dressed women bring out the worst instincts in men and cause violence or sexual abuse. He claimed women end up exacerbating tensions by ‘leaving children to themselves, having filthy houses, serving cold meals, buying fast food and providing dirty clothes.'” Corsi has a controversial history: in October he posted anti-Muslim cartoons on the church bulletin board and before that, scuffled with a homeless man.

In the United States, a mother is upset with the Catholic Church because it refuses to allow her daughter to play football. Sixth-grader Caroline Pla has played football with the Catholic Youth Organization (CYO) for two years, but this year she can’t suit up with her team. The family started a petition on change.org calling for an update to the CYO rules. “Archdiocese of Philadelphia CYO Office: Stop Discrimination – Change the CYO Football Rule – Allow Girls to Play.” Caroline’s teammate, Jake Kueny, and her coach, Jim Reichwin, agree that she should be able to play. CYO’s website says that the purpose of the organization is to develop the individual and promote teamwork.

The fundamental Christian side of religion is not happy either. Bryan Fischer of the far-right American Family Association is upset with legislation passed to avoid the “fiscal cliff.” He declared that it violated the Ten Commandments’ prohibition on covetousness and accused the Democratic Party of being driven by a “Satanic” ideology. Thus the legislation is “demonic.”

Fischer also thinks that abortion is a good idea if—and only if—scientists find a “gay gene.” He wrote, “… I expect many abortion-minded parents will want to know exactly how strong this epi-marker is in their unborn children so they can decide whether or not to exercise reproductive choice. ” Thus he supports abortion for one characteristic that he considers “a birth defect.”

The AFA is also trying to rile up its constituency by warning members that, within 50 years, Christians will be treated like African Americans during the Jim Crow era. The email from Donald Wildmon predicted that government will take children from parents at birth and any city with “saint” or other religious-related name will have to change. “Marriage will include two, three, four or any number of participants. Marriage will not be important, with individuals moving in and out of a ‘family’ group at will,” according to the email.

Two good ideas from Wildmon are that churches will no longer receive “tax credit” and “churches will not be allowed to discuss any political issues.” The email also said that “we will have, or have had, a Muslim president.” It seems that the AFA no longer believes that the current president is a Muslim. And from left field comes the warning that anyone with “any religious affiliation will be forced out of health care.”

AFA’s email comes from the same group that called for kidnapping the children of same-sex couples through a modern-day “Underground Railroad” system. When a man followed this advice and helped a lesbian take her daughter into hiding in South America, AFA recommended that he flee the country to escape U.S. law.

Does Irving Independent School District have an “Islamic bias” in the school curriculum? That was what a chain email claimed. Worried about the backlash of such a possibility, the district asked for a response from the director of Region 10 that administered the state-wide teaching program called CSCOPE, which is put together by the Texas Education Service Center Curriculum Collaborative.The 72-page answer revealed a “Christian bias” in the school. Jan Moberly told the board  that “she hired a ‘very socially and fiscally conservative’ former social studies teacher who ‘watches Glenn Beck on a regular basis’ to seek out any Islamic bias in CSCOPE [the curriculum].” She “asked her to look for anything she would consider the least bit controversial.”

The report about the investigation that mentioned “every religious reference in the CSCOPE curriculum, from kindergarten to high school” was not a surprise:

Christianity got twice as much attention in the curriculum as any other religion. Islam was a distant second.

The Red Crescent and Boston Tea Party reference mentioned in the email were nowhere in CSCOPE’s curriculum, although they may have been in the past.

If there was any Islamic bias in CSCOPE it was “bias against radical Islam.”

At least one church is the loser after Superstorm Sandy hit the Northwest. After it hit St. George Malankara Orthodox Church of India in New Dorp, Staten Island, ruining its basement, windows and doors, the vicar tried to get a grant from FEMA to help with the estimated $150,000 rebuilding cost. FEMA said no. “They considered the church a business, so they offered us a loan,” the Rev. Alex K. Joy said.

A variety of private nonprofit organizations qualify for federal disaster assistance grants, including zoos, museums, performing arts centers and libraries, but houses of worship, however, are not on the list. In recent years the federal government has ruled that some religiously affiliated institutions like schools and hospitals can get grants. Many other churches don’t have the problem that St. Malankara does because they carry insurance.

Churches may not receive preferential treatment from FEMA, but their tax-exempt status protects them in many other ways. Trying to stop this, the Wisconsin-based Freedom from Religion Foundation (FFRF) has filed a lawsuit with the IRS, alleging that churches and religious non-profits get unconstitutional preferential treatment unavailable to secular groups. Churches and other religious organizations are exempted from the requirement to file detailed reports required from non-profit organizations, according to the lawsuit. The FFRF alleges it is unconstitutional for the IRS to provide benefits to churches and religious organizations “while discriminating against” secular non-profit groups “solely on the basis of religious criteria.”

It’s interesting that FEMA considers churches a business, but the government fails to collect taxes from this “business.”

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