Nel's New Day

July 7, 2013

Religion: The Good, the Bad, & the Ugly

Conservatives want religion taught in school–but just their own. California has a state law prohibiting the teaching of religion in public schools, and a San Diego couple decided that teaching yoga is religious indoctrination. Judge John Meyer in the San Diego Superior Court decided differently, and the Encinitas Union School District can continue to provide yoga as part of its health and exercise curriculum. Yoga, the judge said, is similar to other exercise programs like dodgeball. Encinitas Supt. Tim Baird hopes that teaching yoga to students will decrease instances of fighting and bullying.

At the same time, religious indoctrination is prevalent in Louisiana, Tennessee, Kentucky, Missouri, Oklahoma, Indiana, New Hampshire, Texas, Kansas, Mississippi, Montana, Arizona, Colorado, and several other states. Those opposing this can sign a petition calling for a federal ban on teaching creationism in school. Congress would have to pass any law against this, but the White House could cut federal funding from states that teach creationism in schools.

Many religious groups object to teaching creationism. According to the National Center for Science Education, at least 77 percent of people in the country who belong to the twelve largest Christian denominations belong to churches that support evolution education. A 2009 Pew Poll found that 87 percent of scientists support evolution and 97 percent say all living things on earth have evolved over time. Of a total of nearly half a million U.S. earth and life scientists, only a mere 700, or 0.15 percent, give any credence to creationism.

Federal courts are specific about creationism being theology, grounded in a literal reading of the Bible, not science. Creationists try to slip it into the schools by pretending that it teaches kids “critical thinking” skills, lumping it with other controversies, calling it academic freedom, and calling creationism something else but using the work “science.” Some public teachers ignore the curriculum and skip over evolution for creationism, telling their students that the Bible is more accurate than science.

On another front, Gov. Bobby Jindal (R-LA) lambasted the GOP after the last election for being the party of stupid, saying that they could not win elections if they kept the party tent small. Since then, Jindal figured that he had to assimilate the stupidity in order to be a viable GOP presidential candidate. His refusal to accept federal funding denies health care coverage to about 400,000 low-income Louisiana adults. As Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-LA) pointed out,  the state’s overall national health ranking is 49th. Women in the state have lower-than-average cases of breast cancer, but the state also ranks 49th in breast cancer deaths.

When the federal government denied Louisiana funding for a program, however, Jindal got mad. The Young Marine Program, run by the Bossier County sheriff’s office, has a “special emphasis on the love of God” and requires that participants attend church. After Sheriff Julian Whittington refused to make the program open to all, he lost federal funding and believes that his rights are being violated. He said he doesn’t need money for the program; he just thinks that the federal government should give funding to religious programs.

After Whittington sent a letter of protest to the governor, Jindal spoke at the July Fourth “In God We Trust Rally” about how the government overreaches, prayer is not contagious, and freedom of religion doesn’t equal freedom from religion. Jindal, raised Hindu, should understand the unconstitutionality of oaths mandating obligations to “God” and requirements to attend “church.” Maybe conservatives just want a Christian mandate to receive federal aid for anything.

Hobby Lobby will continue its argument that corporations can be religious with the permission of the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver said that the arts and crafts company can proceed with its lawsuit against Obamacare because it requires that they offer birth control to their employees. The company will not be required to pay fines while the case is pending.

The judges wrote:

“Hobby Lobby and Mardel have drawn a line at providing coverage for drugs or devices they consider to induce abortions, and it is not for us to question whether the line is reasonable. The question here is not whether the reasonable observer would consider the plaintiffs complicit in an immoral act, but rather how the plaintiffs themselves measure their degree of complicity.”

Hobby Lobby and other companies challenging the contraception mandate claim that the morning-after pill is tantamount to abortion because it can prevent a fertilized egg from becoming implanted in a woman’s womb. In fact, the medication keeps the ovary from releasing an egg before it can become fertilized, thus avoiding pregnancy. The company wants to impose its religious–and non-scientific–beliefs on its employees.

The Family Research Council is working with Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) and other anti-LGBT lawmakers to legislate an Ex-Gay Pride Month “to recognize former homosexuals.” Rep. Tim Huelskamp (R-KS), the lead sponsor of the House bill to implement a constitutional ban on gay marriage, has been invited as speaker at the inaugural dinner for the project on July 31. The initiative comes on the heels of the closing of Exodus International, shutting down after over 30 years of “curing” gays and lesbians after its leader, Alan Chambers, realized that there is no “cure.”

Cardinal Timothy Dolan, the man who refused to allow LGBT people into his Catholic Church until they washed their hands, is back in the media again. Documents released last week show that he protected pedophile priests while investigating charges against other priests. Six thousand pages of documents show how the Milwaukee archdiocese regularly reassigned priests to new parishes or paid them as much as $20,000 to leave the church after they were accused of sexual molestation. In addition to the payoff, priests were given a $1,250 monthly pension benefit and health and dental insurance, according to the released documents.

While Archbishop of Milwaukee, Dolan also asked the Vatican for permission to transfer $57 million to a trust fund so that it could be protected against court action. The Milwaukee archdiocese then filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, claiming that they lacked the finances to settle claims with the victims. Dolan denied these actions, calling the payoff accusation “false, preposterous and unjust.” This information may explain why Dolan wasn’t chosen Pope last spring.

Things are getting ugly in the world of Southern conservative religion. During his sermon, preacher Jim Standridge, 76, of the Immanuel Baptist Church in Skiatook (OK) called out a congregant for falling asleep. Then he attacked another one: “Where have you been? You’re one of the sorriest church members I have! You’re not worth 15 cents.”  Immediately following that statement, Standridge told the man to stand up, said he loved him, and gave him a hug. The rest of the sermon was peppered with other comments directed at churchgoers. To the man operating the church camera, he said, “If you loved me and submitted to me, you wouldn’t go about establishing your own kingdom in the video room!”

Standridge, a preacher for 50 years, said that he models his discipline of church members on the way that parents should discipline a child. He claims that these members “love and esteem” him.”

Disasters are usually blamed on LGBT people, this time the forest fires in Colorado. On Generations Radio, Colorado pastors Kevin Swanson and Dave Buehner added the state’s liberal abortion laws to the recent SCOTUS rulings legalizing some same-sex marriages as reasons for these tragedies. Their hypothesis is a bit off because the highly conservative city of Colorado Springs was hardest hit. Their belief in the punishment of God would therefore need to arrive at the conclusion that God is punishing the conservatives for their narrowness.

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