FFRF files suit against IRS

The Washington Post reports that the Freedom From Religion Foundation is suing the IRS for selectively failing to enforce laws against political advocacy by non-profit organizations.

The lawsuit argues that the IRS is not enforcing the federal tax code, which prohibits tax-exempt religious organizations from electioneering. Not enforcing it is a violation of equal protection rights because the same preferential treatment is not provided to other tax-exempt organizations such as the Freedom from Religion Foundation, the lawsuit contends.

Interestingly, a number of Christian activists have been pushing for churches to deliberately violate the law in hopes of provoking just such a confrontation in court. This isn’t a bunch of unbelievers launching a mere nuisance lawsuit, this is the other side responding to taunts of “bring it on” from certain believers who want all such restrictions removed. Well, removed from believers anyway. I’m sure they see these restrictions as perfectly reasonable when applied to, say, the FRFF.

Why the Church is wrong

A few years ago, my home state amended its constitution specifically to prevent gay couples from being allowed to marry. They called it “defending” marriage, but of course what they really meant was “denying marriage to anyone who does not fall in love the same way we do.” I stewed about that for quite some time, and then decided that I was going to start a blog about religion (“better to light a candle” and so on).

For a while, the fight against homophobia was both depressing and infuriating, as state after state joined the mad rush to stomp on teh gey. But now it looks like public opinion may be swinging against this sort of bigotry at last. That is to say, the tide is turning in most arenas except one: religious conservatism. And that, to me, does a beautiful job of exposing what’s fundamentally wrong with the Church.

[Read more...]

Taking Back the Public Schools

Writing for The New American, Sam Blumenfeld has a plan for taking back the public schools from “the socialists” who, according to Blumenfeld, have been engaging in a decades-long plot to produce functional illiterates so that they will grow up to be Democrats. (Yeah, the whole piece is like that.) And his strategy involves, not better funding for public schools, or reducing the burdensome, irrelevant, and unfunded overhead imposed by Bush’s “No Child Left Behind” initiative. No, his strategy is to get parents to push school boards to reject what he calls the “whole language” approach to reading education, and replace it with a phonics-based program instead.

But the parents who put their children in these schools want them to be taught to read. They are the natural allies of the conservatives who want to take the schools back. Just as Obama as community organizer organized the “have-nots” into a local political force, so must conservatives organize parents in their communities — White, Latino, and African American — to pressure school boards to start teaching their children to read with intensive phonics. They can be called Parents for Literacy.

Of course, a phonics-based reading program will need a curriculum specifically designed to teach phonics. I wonder where the schools will be able to find such a thing?

First, we propose that the school board authorize the creation of a pilot program in which Alpha-Phonics is used to teach the worst readers to read. The program will prove that all children can be taught to read provided the correct teaching method is used. Now there are other very good phonics programs in existence, but as the author of Alpha-Phonics, I know how well it works and how inexpensive it is. The board may claim that they don’t have the money for this project. Yet they have enough money for programs that don’t work.

Hey, that’s great, we’ll all just buy his book. Lucky for us we have this opportunity, eh? We don’t even have to give the school district any more money to do it, ’cause they can just use the money they’ve been spending on “bad” programs.

Personally, I’m all for quality reading education, because I had one. That’s one of the ways I can recognize a scam when I see one.

Vatican vows to fight equality

The Chicago Tribune reports that the Vatican is determined to fight to limit marriage exclusively to heterosexuals, calling the privileged status of heterosexuals “an achievement of civilization.”

“It is clear that in Western countries there is a widespread tendency to modify the classic vision of marriage between a man and woman, or rather to try to give it up, erasing its specific and privileged legal recognition compared to other forms of union,” Father Federico Lombardi, said in a tough editorial on Vatican Radio.

Hmm, special privileges for people like us, with vigorous enforcement of laws excluding people who are not like us. Where have I heard that before?

[Read more...]

Christian parents suddenly decide secular education is better

Forget about “teach the controversy” and all that stuff about allowing teachers the “freedom of speech” to share their religious opinions. According to the LA Times, Christian parents want the public school system scrubbed clean of any curriculum that even hints at having religious overtones.

Yoga is taught at the local YMCA; at nearby Camp Pendleton, it is used to help Marines who suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder after having been in combat.

But soon after yoga teachers began leading students at five elementary schools in twice-weekly sessions of stretching, breathing and relaxing, four dozen parents protested to the school board, saying yoga is a system of spiritual beliefs.

[Read more...]

Good news from Kansas

Hutchnews.com reports more good election results:

Democrat Carolyn Campbell of Topeka won a second, four-year term on the State Board of Education in Tuesday’s election in the 4th District of northeast Kansas. She defeated Republican Jack Wu of Topeka.

Jack Wu moved from California to Kansas to attend the Westboro Baptist Church, and was running for the school board on an “I hate evolution” platform. Apparently Westboro’s famous “God hates America” stand doesn’t play too well in Kansas these days.

What to do in your second term

Congratulations on your re-election, Mr. President. I’m glad you got a second term, because there are still a few items that need to be finished up from your first one. And now that you don’t have to worry about being re-elected, I hope you’ll have the time, the freedom, and the will to fix some of our worst problems:

  • Transparency. We cannot afford to elect a government that can be blackmailed by anonymous power brokers with big bank accounts. We the People need to know who is writing the actual text of our laws, and who is profiting from them.
  • The Constitution. I know you’re busy, but can we have our Constitutional rights back, please? Particularly the First and Fourth Amendments? Bin Ladin is dead, yet as long as our nation remains so terrorized that we won’t take our families on board airplanes without government agents fondling our kids, the terrorists are winning. I’d like to live in a FREE country again.
  • Wall Street. It shouldn’t be legal to cheat people out of house and home. Nuff said?
  • The deficit, aka tomorrow’s taxes. Yes, that needs to come down, but can we start with wasteful “defense” spending? It’s one thing to speak softly and carry a big stick, but that stick gets kind of hard to carry when it reaches sequoia proportions.

[Read more...]

The cost of religion

Sometimes people will ask, “What’s so bad about believing in God? Even if it’s just a myth, it still gives people hope and a sense of purpose. What harm does that do?” If it were simply a matter of motivating people to live good lives and hope for the best, we might say it does no real harm at all. But that’s not all there is to it. There’s a cost to religion. Consider this argument, made by Heather Hughes on the Knoxville News Sentinal web site.

The main comment I seem to hear from atheists regarding Christianity is, “Prove it.” The truth is I can’t. But isn’t that sort of the point? If I could provide solid, undisputed scientific evidence of God’s existence, there would be no need for faith. That trust is an essential part of following Christ.

Faith, in other words, is when you put forth the effort to make yourself believe something for which there is no evidence. As a matter of fact, faith is when you drive yourself to believe things that are actually contrary to the evidence:

Often atheists, and at times even Christians, struggle to believe based on valid questions, many of which I can’t answer. I don’t know why there are natural disasters or why some lives are cut short due to sickness or violence. Even something as simple as why skunks and gnats exist is something I find myself asking occasionally.

But I have to return to that trust that I mentioned and just accept that God’s ways and thoughts really are higher than our own.

Faith, in other words, turns out to be ordinary gullibility—believing things that are contrary to fact and reason, just because “you’re supposed to.” Gullibility has a deservedly bad reputation, because gullible people deceive themselves and open themselves up to exploitation and abuse (and sometimes even self-inflicted abuse). And yet, when you take this same approach to believing things, and call it “faith” instead of gullibility, suddenly it becomes virtuous. People actually admire you for your ability to confront the evidence, and deny it. And that’s the cost of religion: it makes a serious handicap sound like an admirable virtue.

[Read more...]

Daily dose of irony

Writing on the Minnesota Public Radio web site, Prof. Savage of the St. Paul Seminary School of Divinity decries the breakdown of traditional gender roles.

But, as advocates of gay marriage point out, marriage as an institution is not exactly the exemplar of stability it used to be. The sad fact is that the same factors that have contributed to its fragmentation — a misunderstanding of the complementarity of men and women, the divorce between the procreative and unitive dimensions of the sexual act, promiscuity, etc. — are at work in the breakdown of traditional marriage as well.

You see what happens when you forsake the original Biblical commandments for the roles men and women are supposed to play? St. Paul is quite clear that correct, Biblical gender roles are essential, not just for society and social institutions like marriage, but for salvation as well (at least for women).

Let a woman learn in quietness with all subjection. But I permit not a woman to teach, nor to have dominion over a man, but to be in quietness. For Adam was first formed, then Eve; and Adam was not beguiled, but the woman being beguiled hath fallen into transgression: but she shall be saved through her child-bearing, if they continue in faith and love and sanctification with sobriety.

By the way, did I mention that Prof. Savage’s first name is Deborah? Speaking of the “breakdown” of traditional, Biblical gender roles…

[Read more...]