News Ticker


GOP Still Investigating Planned Parenthood, Even After Sting Videos Backfire

January 31, 2016

Photo credit: Olivier Douliery/Getty By Samantha Lachman Republicans are determined to push on with their investigation of Planned Parenthood, even after a Texas grand jury cleared the organization of wrongdoing on Monday and instead indicted two anti-abortion activists who targeted the family planning provider in a series of undercover videos. One of the videos, taped at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Houston and purporting to show Planned Parenthood staff members discussing the sale of fetal tissue for medical research, inspired Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, a Republican, to ask Harris County District Attorney Devon Anderson to initiate a criminal investigation of the organization in August. Planned Parenthood has maintained that it was not selling fetal tissue, which would have been illegal, and commissioned a study that demonstrated the videos were manipulated. The organization sued the Center for Medical Progress, the anti-abortion group behind the videos, earlier this month. The grand jury’s decision hasn’t affected Republicans’ plans to continue investigating Planned Parenthood, however. Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.), who is chairing a select investigative committee that purports to be investigating “big abortion providers” — but for all intents and purposes is only scrutinizing Planned Parenthood — said in a statement Tuesday that “the mission of our investigation has not changed.” “We will continue to gather information and get the facts about medical practices of abortion service providers and the business practices of the procurement organizations who sell baby body parts,” Blackburn said. “These are issues of importance to the American people. We will study the laws on the books and follow the facts to defend life.” Continue reading by clicking the name of the source below. [MORE]

Faith and the 2016 Campaign

January 31, 2016

Photo credit: Pew Research Center By Pew Research Center The conventional wisdom in American politics has long been that someone who is not religious cannot be elected president of the United States. Most Americans have consistently said that it is important to them that the president have strong religious beliefs. And a new Pew Research Center survey finds that being an atheist remains one of the biggest liabilities that a presidential candidate can have; fully half of American adults say they would be less likely to vote for a hypothetical presidential candidate who does not believe in God, while just 6% say they would be more likely to vote for a nonbeliever. On the other hand, the share of American adults who say they would be less likely to vote for an atheist candidate has been declining over time. Moreover, one of the candidates who is widely viewed by Republicans as a potentially “good” or “great” president, Donald Trump, is not widely viewed as a religious person, even by those in his own party. And on the Democratic side, the share of Americans who say Hillary Clinton is not a religious person now stands at 43%, which is sharply higher than it was in the summer of 2007, when she was seeking the presidential nomination for the first time. These are among the key findings of a new Pew Research Center survey conducted Jan. 7-14, 2016, on landlines and cellphones among a national sample of 2,009 adults. This is the latest in a long line of research the Center has conducted on the role of religion in presidential campaigns. In 2012, for instance, polling found that Mitt Romney’s Mormon faith was a potentially important factor in the Republican primaries but was not likely to play a major role in determining the outcome of the general election. In the run-up to the 2008 campaign, voters who saw presidential candidates as at least “somewhat” religious expressed more favorable views of those candidates; but the Center’s research also showed that White House contenders need not be seen as very religious to be broadly acceptable to the voting public. And in 2004, a majority of the U.S. public thought it was improper for the Catholic Church to deny communion to pro-choice politicians like John Kerry. Continue reading by clicking the name of the source below. [MORE]

God’s Own Party

January 29, 2016

Photo credit: Shutterstock By Herb Silverman I don’t think that politicians in our secular country should be quoting the Bible to make their case for legislation. That’s why I half agree with Virginia Rep. Dave Brat, the GOP lawmaker who famously upset former House Majority Leader Eric Cantor in a 2014 Republican primary. Here’s the half with which I disagree. Brat said that it’s fine for Republicans to quote the Bible, but not for Democrats to do so. He continued, “Our side, the conservative side, needs to re-educate its people that we own the entire [biblical] tradition.” What especially drew Brat’s ire was President Obama’s reasons for allowing Syrian refugees to enter our country, which included a biblical reference from James 1:27 about looking after widows and orphans. If politicians can’t provide good evidence-based reasons to support an issue, they shouldn’t rely on an ancient pre-scientific book written by bigoted, misogynistic, homophobic, intolerant, superstitious men. I understand why politicians often pander to people who prefer black and white theocratic decisions. After all, political pandering is bi-partisan. Brat, however, goes too far. Although I find his comments mildly amusing, if I were a Christian I’d be incensed by the way Brat is giving Christians a bad name (or worse name, depending on your point of view). Some Republicans say we need to take our country back, but they usually don’t specify where or from whom. Perhaps they want to take our country back from a black president, or from Democrats. But they are not saying we need to take our government back, so perhaps they want to take our country back to the bad old days before we adopted civil rights legislation, equal rights for women and other minorities, and social programs that helped people in need. Continue reading by clicking the name of the source below. [MORE]

Map: Publicly Funded Schools That Are Allowed to Teach Creationism.

January 26, 2016

Photo credit: Slate By Chris Kirk A large, publicly funded charter school system in Texas is teaching creationism to its students, Zack Kopplin recently reported in Slate. Creationist teachers don’t even need to be sneaky about it—the Texas state science education standards, as well as recent laws in Louisiana and Tennessee, permit public school teachers to teach “alternatives” to evolution. Meanwhile, in Florida, Indiana, Ohio, Arizona, Washington, D.C., and elsewhere, taxpayer money is funding creationist private schools through state tuition voucher or scholarship programs. As the map below illustrates, creationism in schools isn’t restricted to schoolhouses in remote villages where the separation of church and state is considered less sacred. If you live in any of these states, there’s a good chance your tax money is helping to convince some hapless students that evolution (the basis of all modern biological science, supported by everything we know about geology, genetics, paleontology, and other fields) is some sort of highly contested scientific hypothesis as credible as “God did it.” Continue reading by clicking the name of the source below. [MORE]

How the Evangelical Church is Failing Women

January 26, 2016

by Kristy Love As the calendar reflects 2016, I’m vaguely aware of an anniversary. Or maybe a birth. Either way, I’m reminded my new found atheism is about a year old. Surprising, only because I never thought I’d ever claim to be an atheist. Nor would anyone who has known me for any length of my adulthood. At this point, atheism is probably something of my identity, too. Just as much as I once claimed to be a devout, Bible-believing fundamental evangelical Christian. Yes, that kind of Christian. A supporter of foreign missionaries, a Women’s Ministry Leader, a Vacation Bible School veteran many times over, Evangelism team leader, Homeless Ministry, Youth and Adult Sunday School Leader, Prayer Volunteer, Food Pantry, a steward like no other. A faithful above and beyond tither— I could clock volunteer hours in nearly every corner of the ministry world. There was nothing I’d turn down if given the opportunity—not unusual when you believe assignments are divinely sent. Yet, my atheism was not something that happened overnight. The process that destroyed my faith, was gradual. Much like the melting of a glacier, slowly eroding with each new doubt. First, like tiny fissures, then complete breaks—fracturing every belief I had, evaporating under the heat of my scrutiny. I was something of upstart. Despite being from a mostly atheistic home life, I had found evangelicalism from a friend right after a horrendous break-up in college. The friend was a former guitarist in a punk rock band, someone who I admired and in whom I had witnessed an enormous change in character as a result of his conversion—shunning his old punk rock ways for a suit, tie and a Bible. After attending church few weeks, I joined a Ladies’ Bible Study group in a sleepy town south of Houston, started reading the Bible and became saved. And, that miraculous change of character I saw in my punk rock buddy happened in me too. I would soon be mentoring young women toward the paths of righteousness. And a week ago I found myself having brunch with a woman I discipled in her college years. Two years passed since we last connected, our lives had taken those meandering paths that led us to different towns, different circumstances, or so I thought. Read more by clicking on the name of the source below.   [MORE]

Turkey issues new Friday prayer directive

January 26, 2016

by Tulay Cetingulec As Turkey grapples with terrorism and myriad social and economic problems, an unexpected controversy has moved on to the country’s crowded agenda. A Jan. 6 directive issued by Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu allows public employees to take time off for Friday prayers: “In line with freedom of religious faith, guaranteed by the constitution and related laws, employees of public institutions and establishments who so desire will be given time off for Friday prayer if its time overlaps with working hours without causing a loss in working hours.” Twitter users were quick to react. Some saw the circular as an affront to the secular system. “Bye bye secularism, bye bye republic, hello Afghanistan!” one user wrote. Another remarked, “Today schools and teachers off for Friday prayer, tomorrow students and soon Friday a full holiday.” Some saw the directive as an attempt by the government to distract from other controversies and problems. “This time they must be trying to distract attention from the Hitler issue and the price hikes,” wrote one person. Others saw the move as putting pressure on less religious employees. “There was already permission for Friday prayer, especially in public offices. Now, those who don’t go will be fingered. Let them not go now if they dare,” one man commented. Omer Faruk Eminagaoglu, a prominent lawyer petitioned the Council of State, Turkey’s top administrative court, to quash the directive. He argued that the authority to determine working hours belonged not to the prime minister but to the Cabinet. “The purpose here is to flout the secular legal system under the pretext of freedom of faith. Rearranging daily working hours during Ramadan will be brought up next,” asserted Eminagaoglu. In remarks to Al-Monitor, Eminagaoglu said he was in favor of freedom of religions, but argued that the circular had effectively suspended the unalterable constitutional provision on the Turkish republic’s secular character. He recalled that a similar effort had been turned back in the past by a court ruling later backed by the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR). “In 1997, the Cabinet issued a decision adjusting working hours during Ramadan to the fast-breaking hours. The arrangement was annulled by the Council of State, and the Constitutional Court deemed it an act contravening the secular system. Objections were then brought before the ECHR, but the ECHR found no irregularity in the [annulment] ruling,” explained Eminagaoglu. “Not long ago, [female] attorneys were allowed to attend court hearings wearing headscarves. Now, judges have come to wear the headscarf, too. Tomorrow, working hours during Ramadan will be adjusted to the fast-breaking hours despite legal rulings to the contrary. A political and judicial transformation is under way. The latest directive could lead to the blacklisting of those who do not go to prayers,” Eminagaoglu further asserted. Read more by clicking on the name of the source below.   [MORE]
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