Tag Archives: religion

Christians pull cross out of ass with Bush’s help

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Well, imagine that. After 17 years of legal fighting and losing, religious conservatives and their vassals within the US Congress finally “won”. President Bush signed a law that allows the Federal government to acquire the Mt. Soledad cross.

I suspected that they might finally pull one out of their ass but I wasn’t surprised when the law was approved in the Senate and went to Bush for his scribble. Come on, it is an election year and the GOP is real danger of being thrown out of the majority in Congress. Members of Congress can now go around and tell their “constituents” that they “saved” the cross.

I’m sure it will look real good on the postage free mailings they will send out. Good for them.

It really isn’t any different than when the GOP went ape over President Clinton “protecting” 1.7 million acres of land in Utah back in 1996. They claimed he did it for politics not the environment. See this article: Federal land grab called ‘political’

It is just more proof that the GOP lies when they claim they are for less government. They are for less government unless it is to protect the special status of a particular religious sect.

I am reminded of an article I posted last year that likened this need for religious symbols on public property as a show of power to the non-believer or anyone not of the same faith. I quoted Marvin E. Frankel, a retired U S Federal District Court judge, and do so again here:

The symbols make a statement-not of religious faith. They are not needed for that. They assert simply and starkly, as I’ve said, POWER OVER the nonbelievers…. In the course of that proceeding, one of the sponsors of the creche was asked about his interest in viewing it while it stood on Scarsdale’s Boniface Circle during the Christmas season. To my surprise as the questioner, it turned out that he never bothered to go look at the creche at all, let alone to admire or draw inspiration from it. But on reflection that should not have been so surprising. The creche was not there for him to see or appreciate for its intrinsic spiritual value in his religious universe. It was there for others, who professed other religions or none, so that the clout of his religious group should be made manifest-above all to any in the sharply divided village who would have preferred that it not be there: This is the low road., followed by at least a good number of those who seek for. their religion and its symbols the imprimatur of government. If it is religious at all, this stance betokens a weak and self-doubting species of faith.

Faith and Freedom, Religiosity in America (quote can be found here: http://candst.tripod.com/leland10.htm)

The only thing that is keeping me from putting my head in an oven is knowing that lawyer for the plaintiff in the cross case, Jim McElroy, said they would file suit in Federal court to block the new law.

But the legal fight that began in 1989 when an atheist veteran sued San Diego over the cross is not over. Philip Paulson’s attorney, Jim McElroy, said he filed papers in federal court in San Diego last week to void the transfer and declare it unconstitutional.

“I don’t think anybody really thinks the cross is going to remain on Mount Soledad. It’s been 17 years of litigation, and every court, every judge who’s ever looked at it has ruled it’s unconstitutional,” McElroy said.

Federal Government Takes Control of a Huge Cross

Shilling for The Last Presentation

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Normally I am hesitant to shill for anyone or anything on this blog, but I was contacted by group trying to improve the perception of non-believers in the minds of the public, and they need money.

The group is The Colorado Coalition of Reason

They are raising money to fund the distribution of a 38 minute video for social science classes in the public schools across the country. The video opens young minds to the importance of logic, reason, and science, and introduces students to the nonbeliever’s point of view. The name of the video is “The Last Presentation” and is the result of comparing notes by various speakers to compile a presentation that can be shown during discussions of diversity and comparative religion. It would address the problem of trying to find a presenter with the knowledge and experience to speak to young people in school and would present a single version of the information.

The fundraising is due to close on 9/15/2006 but they need more funding. Currently the jar stands at $7,035 and their goal is $25,000.

Marvin Straus. the video’s producer and director had this to say:

Some nonbelievers, including myself, have made similar presentations to high school classes. When other speakers and I shared notes, we identified common themes. Generally, students at these social science presentations:

1) Were very interested in the opinions of nonbelievers.
2) Wanted to know more about the subject.
3) Were supportive of the speakers and his or her views.
4) Asked identical questions at different schools.

A few students did display deep-seated negative feelings such as “all atheists are communists” or “since nonbelievers have no religious background to guide them, they are probably immoral and unethical.”

After the presentations, many students said they had a more positive view of nonbelievers.

The problem: It is difficult to obtain an invitation to speak to a social science class. Teachers seldom invite nonbelievers, sometimes because they do not think of it. Attempting to contact each school or school board to ask for the opportunity to address high school students would be inefficient and time consuming.

The solution: Send TLP directly to the 16,000 public, high-school teachers. By doing so, with your help, we can

– open young minds to the secular world of logic, reason, and compassion,
– encourage the separation of church and state, and
– encourage the teaching of evolution instead of Intelligent Design.

These students are future voters and potential supporters of Jefferson’s wall. They will become citizens who hopefully will protect the rights of minorities, including nonbelievers. After watching the video, we hope the audience will think of nonbelievers as friends, not possible enemies.

For more information or to donate visit the video’s website at:


Intelligent Design supporters lose again in Kansas

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This just in…

Evolution opponents lose in Kan. primary

By JOHN HANNA, Associated Press Writer

TOPEKA, Kan. – Conservative Republicans who pushed anti-evolution standards back into Kansas schools last year have lost control of the state Board of Education once again.

The most closely watched race was in western Kansas, where incumbent conservative Connie Morris lost her GOP primary Tuesday. The former teacher had described evolution as “an age-old fairy tale” and “a nice bedtime story” unsupported by science.

As a result of Tuesday’s vote, board members and candidates who believe evolution is well-supported by evidence will have a 6-4 majority. Evolution skeptics had entered the election with a 6-4 majority.

Critics of Kansas’ science standards worried that if conservatives retained the board’s majority, it would lead to attempts in other states to copy the Kansas standards.

“There are people around the country who would like to see the Kansas standards in their own states,” said Eugenie Scott, director of the National Center for Science Education in Oakland, Calif., which supports the teaching of evolution.


O’Reilly schooled about Red Cross

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As happens in emotionally charged debates, one side or the other makes knee-jerk reactions of a slippery slope. They claim that if X is done then all instances of X would have to be done the same way. A majority of the time such claims are wrong.

The Media Matters website pointed out that on the July 25th edition of Fox News’ The O’Reilly Factor, host Bill O’Reilly falsely claimed that the Red Cross “historically … adopted” its emblem “because of the Christian philosophy of giving alms and giving assistance to people in need.”

He was interviewing the lawyer representing Philip Paulson, a man from San Diego, who has won 17 years of court cases to have the Latin cross on Mt. Soledad removed from the public park there. O’Reilly made the knee-jerk reaction that if the Mt. Soledad cross is removed then the American Red Cross would have to change its symbol of a red cross on a white field since it was adopted because of its ties to Christianity.

As Media Matters points out:

In fact, according to the American Red Cross website, it was “[i]n honor of the Swiss … [that] the symbol of a red cross on a white background (the reverse of the Swiss flag) was identified as a protective emblem in conflict areas.”

In addition to stating that its symbol was chosen as the reverse of the Swiss flag, the American Red Cross website adds that “[t]he Red Cross idea was born in 1859, when Henry Dunant, a young Swiss man, came upon the scene of a bloody battle in Solferino, Italy,” and that the “emblem was adopted at this first International Conference as a symbol of neutrality” at the first-ever Geneva Convention at Geneva, Switzerland, in 1864.

O’Reilly falsely claimed Red Cross symbol was “adopted” because of “Christian philosophy”

The Mt. Soledad cross is referred to as a Latin Cross, it has equal sized arms but a longer foot.

The cross used on the Swiss flag and at the American Red Cross shows all the pieces to be equal in size so that the symbol is squarish.

The Latin Cross has been a known Christian symbol since the 1200’s. The International Committee of the Red Cross does make allowances for countries where some might mistake the Red Cross as something wholly Christian. The Committee allows those countries to use a different symbol such as the Red Crescent in Islamic countries and the new Red Crystal where a crescent or cross wouldn’t be used but in all cases the symbol used is noting protection and neutrality.

Instead of saying that the Mt. Soledad cross should be kept or else all public images of the cross must be removed, the real point is that O’Reilly proved that the Mt. Soledad is religious in nature and is a symbol of Christianity. He has made the case as to why that cross should be removed from a public park.

Censorship of religious criticism is a bad thing

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As we see Middle East strife heat up, with a historical link to religious differences, and the Prophet Mohamed cartoon riots still fresh in our collective memory, there has been a recent attempt by some Islamic countries to censor any religious criticism.

Humanist Network News reported on July 12 that at the June 19th session of the United Nations Human Rights Council, delegates from Bangladesh, Lebanon, Sudan, Syria, Palestine, Egypt, Iraq, Iran, Kuwait, Pakistan and the United Arab Emirates called for limits on freedom of speech regarding religion. It was in response to the publishing of cartoons in a Danish newspaper last year that sparked several riots in Islamic countries.

The article said:

Considering the publishing of the Danish cartoons criticizing Islam “a blatant attempt to inflame religious hatred,” they called for mechanisms to curb criticism of religion by claiming that criticism of religion is the same as incitement to religious hatred.

In other words, they want most, if not all, criticism of religion to stop.

Religious Criticism Is Not Religious Hatred

In response at this attempt to censor speech, Roy Brown, head of the International Humanist and Ethical Union delegation to the UN in Geneva, said in a statement:

“The right to question religion and to freely express one’s views on religious matters is a human right. Human beings have human rights, religions do not. This Council has a solemn duty to protect people — not ideas, religions, customs, beliefs or traditional practices, especially when they are used as justification for the abuse of human rights. It is the believer, not the belief, that must be protected.”

On June 30th, the Council asked the Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief, Asma Jahangir, to see if material like the Danish cartoons was religious hatred.

In a follow up article on July 19th, Freedom of Speech and the Harm Principle, Ishtiag Ahmed makes a distinction between physical harm – where someone is acted on violently because of their beliefs – and hurt feelings. Ahmed points out that the historical background of freedom of speech always stopped at physical harm as well as libel and slander. He makes a point concerning the thoughts of John Mill in his book “On Liberty”:

Mill’s chain of reasoning leads him to assert that freedom is necessary to know the truth. If we suppress an opinion, it is possible that it turns out to be true. To assume otherwise is to assume that we are infallible — something which certainly is not true. Moreover, even if an opinion is false, it might still contain some truth. Consequently, given that it is unlikely even for a generally “true” account to be without fault, by listening to other opinions and accounts we get closer to a “total” truth. He goes on to argue that even if the true account already is considered to be “total truth,” it still has to be criticized or challenged, because only by defending an account against criticism or challenge are we able to understand why it is a true account, instead of just accepting uncritically that it is.

Freedom of Speech and the Harm Principle

Religious believers may not like having their beliefs questioned – and I doubt any of them feel good about it – but censoring religious criticism doesn’t lead to understanding and will continue to lead us to more strife like we are seeing in Lebanon.

Religious Right lies about Mt. Soledad Cross

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The US Supreme Court, more specifically Justice Anthony Kennedy, issued a stay of a lower federal court ruling that said the Mt. Soledad Easter Cross is unconstitutional and it needed to be removed from the city of San Diego’s property by August 2nd or the city would be fined $5,000 a day. U.S. District Judge Gordon Thompson Jr. issued his final ruling back in May to end the 17 year legal battle (see my previous post Enough is enough San Diego – move the dang cross ).

A stay is issued to give the justices time to read legal briefs from both parties in order to decide if they will hear the case as part of their regular docket. The stay was needed because the court may not get to hear the case before the fines start to add up.

Of course the Mayor of San Diego and the Religious Right think that Justice Kennedy’s actions means they have won the case.

It isn’t the first time that the religious right have lied about this case in the past 17 years in their quest to keep the unconstitutional cross up on city property. Plaintiff Philip Paulson issued the following points this week:

* Every annual publication of the Thomas Brothers Map from 1954 to 1989 presented a geographic legal description of the location as the “Mt. Soledad Easter Cross” after which year (cross case was filed on May 31, 1989) the name of the legal location on the map was changed to the “Mt. Soledad Memorial.”

* There was no placard or marker to be found anywhere on Mt. Soledad Natural Park nor at the site of the Mt. Soledad Easter Cross to indicate that it was a veterans’ memorial until after 1992, when the Mt. Soledad Memorial Association installed such a marker with a “Veterans” memorial inscription.

* Every Easter holiday sunrise since 1954 was an occasion at Mt. Soledad for local Christian worship services to celebrate the crucifixion of their concept of a deity and messiah Jesus Christ.

* The Mt. Soledad Cross was dedicated to “Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” in a dedication bulletin by the grandmother of William J. Kellogg, President of the Mt. Soledad memorial Association on Easter Sunday, 1954.

* The Mt. Soledad Memorial Association made improvements to the property within Mt. Soledad Natural Park. All improvements were unwisely added while litigation proceedings were taking place. “Six concentric walls hold 3,200 black granite plaques purchased by donors and engraved with the names and photos of war veterans — currently more than 1,700 are in place.”

* The Mt. Soledad Memorial Association claims that the site for the Veterans’ Memorial on Mt. Soledad Natural Park was dedicated on Easter holiday to commemorate and memorialize those who died during the Korean War era, but the cross clearly shows preference and discrimination only for Christian veterans. The Mt. Soledad Easter Cross is not a sacred symbol for non-Christian veterans, and it may be cogently argued that the presence of the Mt. Soledad Easter Cross demeans them with second-class citizenship status in their own country. The symbol arrogantly proclaims that “Jesus Rules San Diego.”

The other lie the religious right and supporters of the cross are spreading is trying to smear U.S. District Judge Gordon Thompson Jr. as a liberal – activist judge. Thompson was appointed to the bench in 1970 by President Nixon and those who know him or worked for him say is not a liberal or an activist judge.

Thompson is many things, but those who know him – former law clerks, lawyers who have been in his courtroom, former colleagues – say there are two things he most certainly is not: liberal or activist.

Instead they describe the judge – now 76 and on senior status with the court – as a rock-ribbed, serious-minded jurist with a reputation for handing down tough sentences in criminal cases.

“His reputation is he is a no-nonsense, law-and-order sort of judge,” said Peter Nunez, who was one of several U.S. attorneys in San Diego during Thompson’s stint on the bench. Nunez also was the first law clerk Thompson ever hired, shortly after he was sworn in October 1970.

“He is not an activist judge or anything like that, by any means,” Nunez said.

Judge in cross case praised by colleagues

This case has been fought for 17 years and the city and cross supporters have lost every time a judge has heard the case. In fact the US Supreme Court refused to hear a city appeal in 2003.

But the religious right and the pandering city officials who keep this case alive follow the same pattern the so-called Christians seem to follow – lying, name calling, character assassination, fraud, delays, and contempt of court. Kudos to Philip Paulson for sticking with it for so long to make sure the city of San Diego follows the court order.