Tag Archives: war

Edd Doerr didn’t care for the AHA “No God” adverts

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Seems former president of the AHA Edd Doerr doesn’t like the AHA adverts that say “No God? . . . No problem!”. He not only had a letter in the New York Times he also got one in the LA Times today.

Re “Humanists launch a holiday campaign,” Dec. 7

As a former head of the American Humanist Assn., I am embarrassed by the organization’s rather puerile “good without God” campaign.

Advertising what humanists are for is more important than stressing what is not included in our beliefs. Mere nonbelief is negative — and emphasizing the negative invites blowback and hinders mutual understanding and respect.

In essence, humanism is about ethics, compassion, civil liberties, religious freedom, separation of church and state, peace, women’s rights, protecting the environment, social justice, reason and science and democracy. Importantly, humanists are all for cooperating and working with Catholics, Protestants, Jews and others who share these concerns and values.

Edd Doerr
Silver Spring, Md.
http://www.latimes.com/news/opinion/letters/

Of course Edd ignores the actual innocuousness of the advertising message. It wasn’t childish and nonbelief is *NOT* negative it is one of the primary principles of a secular philosophy like Humanism. Ignoring nonbelief ignores the reason secular humanism is different from theism.

I thought it was ironic that Edd shares the concerns and values with religious leaders who also stated in the article that the ad was offensive and an attack. He is one Humanist leader who has tried to brush nonbelief under the rug so we can be just like believers as if that would “grow” Humanism. I prefer the small secular humanism tent down the street than Edd’s “big tent” that requires me to hide and belittle my nonbelief.

I like this quote from referring article:

“Why didn’t they choose the summer solstice?” asked Bill Donohue, president of the Catholic League, a civil rights organization that puts up a Nativity scene every Christmas in New York’s Central Park.

“I guess they have no other time of the year to get out their message except to crib off someone else’s holiday,” Donohue added.

Another letter writer wrote that Donohue forgets that “Christianity has long been the Microsoft of religions — gathering up existing traditions and re-branding them under its own banner” and it ripped off the Roman Saturnalia holiday for Christmas.

Here is a link to the December 7th LA Times article on the ads that Edd was responding to.

Humanists launch a godless holiday campaign

American Legion backs law in attempt to stifle religious dissent

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The American Atheist AANews list reported on 3/13 that the American Legion, the largest war veteran’s group in the country, has announced its support for a law, introduced by Rep. John Hostettler, R-Ind., that would forbid judges from awarding compensatory fees in Establishment Clause cases.

Meeting recently in Washington, DC for its annual convention, the American Legion said that it would launch a new effort on behalf of H.R. 2679, the “Public Expression of Religion Act.” The proposed statute, introduced in March, 2005 by Rep. James Hostettler (R-IN), would amend Section 42 of the United States Code. The introduction states:

“To amend the Revised Statutes of the United States to eliminate the chilling effect on the constitutionally protected expression of religion by State and local officials that results from the threat that potential litigants may seek damages and attorney’s fee.”

Under Section 2 of PERA, the bill provides:

“(b) The remedies with respect to a claim under this section where the deprivation consists of a violation of prohibition in the Constitution against the establishment of religion shall be limited to injunctive relief.”

“(b) Attorneys Fees – Section 722(b) of the Revised Statutes of the United States (42 USC 1988) is amended by adding at the end of the following: ‘However, no fees shall be awarded under this subsection with respect to a claim described in subsection (b) of section nineteen hundred and seventy nine.”

The legislation would amend the Civil Rights Attorney Fees Act to stop courts from awarding legal fees or damages to any individual or group which successfully brings suit under the Establishment of Religion clause of the First Amendment. Supporters of the measure argue that organizations like the American Civil Liberties Union have reaped enormous compensation from such actions, costs which are ultimately paid by taxpayers. They add that the mere threat of lawsuits is having a “stifling effect” on religious practices, specifically the public display of the Ten Commandments and other sectarian symbols on public property.

Legion Announces Support For Bill Ending Legal Fee Awards For First Amendment Litigation Cases

In the Legion’s press release, it said:

“Title 42 U.S. Code, Section 1988 was intended to help the poor obtain legal counsel in claims of real, tangible violations of civil rights,” said Tom Bock, national commander of The American Legion. “To leverage defendants into submission and enrich themselves at the same time, organizations like the ACLU have exploited it.”

A bill pending in the U.S. Congress, the Public Expression of Religion Act (H.R. 2679), would take away the authority of judges to award attorney fees in Establishment Clause cases involving religious heritage, such as veterans’ memorials.

Legion Launches National Awareness Campaign to Stop Abuse of the Taxpayer

Rep. Hostettler said in his speech to the Legion:

“We need to pass PERA, and we need to pass PERA now,” he said. He urged American Legion members to spread the word to their friends that they oppose “the ACLU and their minions who would enrich themselves at the expense of our Constitution.”

Hostettler closed the speech by saying although the ACLU wouldn’t like him saying so, “May He (God) continue to bless the United States of America.”

Hostettler asks Legion to help confront ACLU

The bill would stifle religious dissent because while a government has a boat load of lawyers, all paid for by the tax payers, someone bringing a suit against a government’s illegal action would have to depend on the kindness of a lawyer working for free. Imagine if a minority litigant had to wait for a donation of legal services? Jim Crow might still be in force today.

Suing the government is not like suing your neighbor. In most cases, particularly civil rights cases, the only way for a plaintiff to pay for their legal bills is through the awarding of attorney’s fees.

A government entity facing having to pay legal bills if they lose more often than not will settle the dispute (correct their illegal action) without the ACLU or similar group having to go to court. If this bill would pass, that leverage would be gone and more of these challenges would go to trial or have to be dropped.

As American Atheist President Ellen Johnson put it:

They know, as do we, that most attorneys are simply unable to work on long-term, complex litigation if they don’t receive some compensatory fee,” Johnson said. “We’re not talking about donating a few free hours ‘to the cause.’ These cases require an enormous amount of time and effort.”

Johnson said that governments are often quite willing to squander taxpayer funds in order to defend their unconstitutional practices.

“Whether it is school prayer or defending a religious monument in the public square, state and local governments are frequently very short-sighted and belligerent when caught doing something that violates the First Amendment,” Johnson said. “If the Legion and Representative Hostettler really wish to save all of us some money, they should work to stop unconstitutional practices that promote religion.”

What also disturbs me is the group representing war veterans, the same people who like to claim they fought for our rights, would support such un-American law in the name of religion.

When did special rights for religion become more important than the Constitution?

Taming the “savages” of Iraq – the Christian way

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While surfing the net today I came across a blog post by David Hilfiker, a physician who has worked in the inner city of Washington DC and currently is Finance Director for Joseph’s House, a ten-bed home and community for formerly homeless men with AIDS.

In is essay, Onward Christian Organizers, he complains that all Christians get lumped in with the Religious Right as if they all are conservative and hate gays. Hilfiker says he is a Christian and a leftist and that many Christian groups help people. He says they take on social problems like AIDS and the poor. He says they do it not to proselytize but to get closer to Jesus and His teachings.

I don’t have much in common with Dorothy Day, Martin Luther King, Jr, or Cesar Chavez, except this: We all are (or were) Christian, and we’ve each spent much of our adult lives in the trenches of the movement for peace and justice. Most of those who have gone to prison for long sentences for hammering on nuclear warheads, or stopping nuclear trains, or crossing the line at military bases have been Christians, and they have often submitted to those long sentences because they believed their faith gave them no other option and would sustain them in the dark months of prison.

Onward Christian Organizers

Among the Christian charity work he mentions is the work of the Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT) in Iraq who documented abuses of detainees before anyone ever heard of Abu Ghraib. Four members of CPT were kidnapped while working in Iraq.

I agree with Hilfiker that we shouldn’t paint with a wide brush and in my blog I make an extra effort not to do so, but his essay brings up an interesting point.

Missionaries have always followed the military into newly conquered areas. History is littered with the carcasses of stamped out religions and culture in the name of the Christian God.

While some groups like CPT aren’t there in Iraq to convert Muslims, other groups did move in, frothing at the mouth to convert the evil ones to Jesus.

An article, from 2003, in the Christian Science Monitor pointed out some of the issues concerning Iraq:

Iraq is particularly volatile, because it has just emerged from a dictatorship and is under military occupation. And those planning to proselytize are known in the region: the former leader of the Southern Baptist Convention has called the prophet Muhammad a “demon-possessed pedophile,” and Mr. Graham, head of Samaritan’s Purse, has termed Islam “an evil religion.”

Their remarks flew across the Muslim world with such effect that a group of Baptist missionaries working in 10 predominantly Muslim countries sent a letter home calling for restraint and saying such comments “heighten animosity toward Christians,” affecting their work and personal safety.

Graham’s close ties to the administration – he gave the prayer at Mr. Bush’s inauguration and is invited to give the Good Friday prayer at the Pentagon – give Muslims the impression, some say, that evangelization efforts are part of US plans to shape Iraqi society in a Western image.

and

During the first Gulf war, Franklin Graham sent thousands of Arabic-language New Testaments to US troops in Saudi Arabia to pass along to local people. This violated Saudi law and an agreement between the two governments that there would be no proselytizing. When Gen. Norman Swarzkopf had a chaplain call Graham to complain, Graham said he was under higher orders. He later told Newsday, however, that had he been explicitly asked, he would have desisted.

A greater concern of some people is that the administration may in fact support the effort, given the president’s beliefs and the import of conservative Christians as a political constituency.

A crusade after all? (4/13/2003)

After some missionaries were killed and 21 churches were bombed, foreign missionaries left Iraq.

Many evangelicals in the West think that places like Iraq are 100% Muslim and that is not the case. Just like in the flash point of Jerusalem, Iraq has a large Christian population and until the foreign evangelicals arrived they had a harmonious relationship with Iraq Muslim community. The reason being that each agreed not to proselytize to the other.

Some Iraqi Christians expressed fear that the evangelicals would undermine Christian-Muslim harmony here, which rests on a long-standing, tacit agreement not to proselytize each other. “There is an informal agreement that says we have nothing to do with your religion and faith,” said Yonadam Kanna, one of six Christians elected to Iraq’s parliament. “We are brothers but we don’t interfere in your religion.”

Delly said that “even if a Muslim comes to me and said, ‘I want to be Christian,’ I would not accept. I would tell him to go back and try to be a good Muslim and God will accept you.” Trying to convert Muslims to Christianity, he added, “is not acceptable.”

Sheik Fatih Kashif Ghitaa, a prominent Shiite Muslim leader in Baghdad, was among those who expressed alarm at the postwar influx of foreign missionaries. In a recent interview, he said he feared that Muslims misunderstand why many Christians talk about their faith.

“They have to talk about Jesus and what Jesus has done. This is one of the principles of believing in Christianity,” said Ghitaa. “But the problem is that the others don’t understand it, they think these people are coming to convert them.”

Evangelicals Building a Base in Iraq (6/23/2005)

But some Western evangelicals don’t get it:

Robert Fetherlin, vice president for international ministries at Colorado-based Christian and Missionary Alliance, which supports one of the new Baghdad evangelical churches, defended his denomination’s overseas work.

“We’re not trying to coerce people to follow Christ,” he said. “But we want to at least communicate to people who He is. We feel very encouraged by the possibility for people in Iraq to have the freedom to make choices about what belief system they want to buy into.”

Sara said that if Muslims approach him with “questions about Jesus and about the Bible,” he responds. But the white-haired pastor said there was plenty of evangelizing to be done among Christians because, in his view, many do not really know Jesus. “They know [Him] just in name,” he said, adding that they need a better understanding of “why He died for them.”

His church appeals to dissatisfied Christians, he said, adding, “If you go to a Catholic church, for example, there is no Bible in the church, there is no preaching, and just a little singing.”

Supporting Religious Liberty = War on Christianity?

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This past week the Air Force Academy released a report on an investigation of religious intolerance at the school. Reports had included a top officer claiming if cadets didn’t believe in Jesus they would go to hell and some cadets referring to another as a “filthy Jew”.

The Air Force investigating team “found a religious climate that does not involve overt religious discrimination, but a failure to fully accommodate all members’ needs and a lack of awareness over where the line is drawn between permissible and impermissible expression of beliefs.”

The report commends progress at the academy during the past two years, but notes that commanders and supervisors still need more explicit guidelines regarding religious expression.

Anyone who doubts the wisdom of this recommendation need only read the report’s section describing the investigating team’s meeting with 16 coaches. Several seemed utterly at sea in terms of how and whether they can discuss religion, with one saying “he leads his team in prayer and invokes Jesus’ name regularly.”

AFA report: critical but fair

Most of these government investigations lead to blathering and posturing in Congress as each party tries to capitalize on the results. It happened this week when Rep. David Obey (D-WI) offered an amendment to the military appropriations bill calling on the secretary of the Air Force to “develop a plan to ensure that the Air Force Academy maintains a climate free from coercive intimidation and inappropriate proselytizing” which was what the report recommended.

Most reasonable people would see Obey trying to uphold religious liberty but instead, as is the usual GOP motive, Rep. John Hostettler (R-Ind.) accused the Democrats of waging war on Christianity. He said on the floor of the House:

“The long war on Christianity in America continues today on the floor of the United States House of Representatives. It continues unabated with aid and comfort to those who would eradicate any vestige of our Christian heritage being supplied by the usual suspects, the Democrats. Like moths to a flame, Democrats can’t help themselves when it comes to denigrating and demonizing Christians.”

Hostettler’s remarks are for lack of better words – damn stinking lies. There is no war on Christianity in America. No one is trying to “eradicate any vestige of our Christian heritage” (whatever that means). Obey’s amendment was to support religious liberty at the school – nothing more.

If Hostettler’s remarks were off the wall, another Republican made even more shocking remarks:

Rep. Mike Conaway of Texas, said: “I, too, am a Christian, and one of the basic tenets of my faith is that I must share that faith. I am instructed to go and tell. And the going and telling of that involves looking someone face to face and explaining the tenets of my religion, one of which is a heaven and a hell.

“If I were to do that at the Air Force Academy, then I could be accused of abusive and coercive proselytizing and be charged, and that is not the case.”

Obey angrily rejected that claim, saying the issue was coercion by officers and supervisors, not religious free speech.

“No one is objecting to anyone trying to talk about religion,” the Wisconsin Democrat said. “What they are objecting to is the malicious and mean-spirited attacking of other people for the religious views that they do or do not hold.”

In the debate, Hostettler also suggested that “proselytization” really means “forced conversion” to Christianity, and that no such “proselytization” has occurred at the school.

Air Force Debate Turns White Hot

No, Rep. Hostettler, “proselytization” doesn’t mean “forced conversion”. It is the “going and telling” someone about your faith even if they don’t want to hear it. It is the act of telling someone about your faith and trying to convert them which is what the officers and supervisors did at the Academy and what the Air Force report found.

Military members have a right to express their religious views but not in a coercive manner as happened at the Academy.