And Haggard is…

…toast with jam!

The church has spoken:

We, the Overseer Board of New Life Church, have concluded our deliberations concerning the moral failings of Pastor Ted Haggard. Our investigation and Pastor Haggard’s public statements have proven without a doubt that he has committed sexually immoral conduct.

Guess they looked at the weight of evidence behind the claim — something it would be nice for them to make a habit of before adopting their absurd views on homosexuality as some kind of disease and evolution as a myth — and saw that it came down in favor of the accuser.

I don’t think it can be understated how damaging this is to the Christian Right’s moral and political credibility, and the backscatter effect it could have on the GOP. They will, of course, recover, as they recovered after the Bakker and Tilton and Swaggart scandals — I predict some will adopt the “not a true Christian” stance — but in the short term, this will hurt them. Not bad, considering Election Day is in three days.

Speaking of which: remember I predicted that Washington would promptly start distancing themselves? Already happening…

On Friday, the White House sought to downplay Haggard’s influence within the administration.

Spokesman Tony Fratto told reporters Friday that it was inaccurate to portray him as being close to the White House, insisting Haggard was only an occasional participant in weekly conference calls between West Wing staff and leading evangelicals.

“He has been on a couple of calls,” Fratto said. “He’s been to the White House one or two times.”


Fear of an atheist planet

A Christian author by the name of Os Guiness is warning of a “growing atheist backlash to the political strength of Christian conservatives.” Well, duh, and it’s about bloody time, too! We’ve had it up to here with theocrats and religious demagogues attempting to legislate their faith, replace proper science education with Sunday School myths, deny large segments of the population basic rights like the ability to buy birth control or get married or have joint insurance for no reason other than ignorant prejudice, and generally running the country (and the world, if the gleeful drive towards Armageddon in the mid-east is any indication) into the ground. The fact that many of said theocratic demagogues are either arrogant bastards who think little things like tax laws don’t apply to them, or repellent hypocrites who rail publicly against giving gays and lesbians marriage rights while conducting alleged meth-fueled extramarital gay sexual liaisons with male prostitutes on the down low, only makes a backlash far more essential to the health of the body politic.

Guiness says:

…he hopes there can be a respectful exchange of ideas somewhere between the militant extremes of religious violence and militant atheism.

What is this “militant” atheism of which he speaks? I know some people have called Sam Harris and Richard Dawkins “militant,” but as far as I can tell, they only seem “militant” to theists who have heretofore gone through life enjoying an undeservedly privileged position of holding beliefs that it is considered impolite and “just not done” to question and critique in any public forum. If atheists can only be called “militant” because we exercise our free speech rights to voice our opinions, then it seems to me that cheapens the true meaning of the word “militant,” which can, I believe, be better applied to theistic maniacs who crash airplanes into buildings, shoot abortion doctors, beat up gay men, slice off women’s clitorises, and, you know, wage massive wars.

And if Christians want a “respectful exchange of ideas” with this “militant” atheist, perhaps they can start by repudiating the notion that I deserve an eternity of torture simply for not believing as they do.

That’ll do for starters.

Haggard fesses up to meth and massage

The latest update in this ongoing sordid tale has Ted Haggard confessing to purchasing meth, as well as getting a massage, from Mike Jones, the gay gigolo he has been accused of paying for sledge trips down Brokeback Mountain. Haggard says that he then threw the drugs away, which has the ring of a Clintonian “But I didn’t inhale!” comment.

Even if most of this turns out to be bogus, it looks like Haggard’s damaged goods. Expect to see Bush and other religious right leaders start distancing themselves.

This is just — unreal!

It appears that Ted Haggard, the blowhard evangelist who (as previously reported here) figures prominently in such recent media presentations as Dawkins’ The Root of All Evil? and Jesus Camp, has been accused of paying a gay man for gay sex. Haggard has temporarily stepped down in order to let an independent investigation (naturally in the interests of clearing his name) commence.

Haggard is considered one of the 25 most influential evangelicals in America. Like many other Dominionists, he has the ear of the president. And he is, of course, ferociously opposed to gay marriage.

Some years ago a similar accusation was made against TBN president Paul Crouch, but that accusation turned out to have no merit and was in fact a pretty clear attempt at extortion. Here, though, the gay man who has come forth with all this, Mike Jones, does not appear to be looking for money and claims to have spoken out of conflicted feelings dealing with his ongoing private relationship with a two-faced homophobe who publically took a passionate anti-gay stance. We will, of course, have to see how this all pans out, and if Haggard suffers the same ignominious fall from grace as Swaggart and Bakker.

In any event, while we atheists will certainly get another schadenfreude moment out of this if it turns out to be true, to add to our present Hovind schadenfreude, it will not exactly come as a huge surprise to encounter another hypocritical evangelist who doesn’t see fit to practice what he preaches, will it?

Hovind: The prosecution rests, the defense slips on banana peels

Today the prosecution in the tax-evasion trial of YEC lunatic Kent Hovind rested its case. The defense, it is reported, will not present a case, perhaps as they haven’t got one.

Just to give you an idea of what an inept loser Hovind has in his attorney, Alan Richey, this little gem: when IRS Agent Scott Schnieder was on the stand, Richey spent most of his cross throwing out stupid red herrings about Schnieder’s qualifications and doing his best to tap dance around the facts. This so pissed off the judge that Richey was admonished for his irrelevant and pointless questioning.

“Does everyone in your office pay their fair share of taxes?” Richey asked Schneider. Schneider didn’t respond because Assistant U.S. Attorney Michelle Heldmyer objected and the judge agreed it was irrelevant.

When Richey spent several minutes looking for documents, Rodgers excused the jury. She then told Richey he was wasting their time. Rodgers then suggested Richey come in earlier or stay later to make sure his files were organized.

Gales of derisive laughter!

American Family Association voter info guide for atheists

Those helpful bigots over at Donald Wildmon’s American Family Association have helpfully produced a guide for atheist voters in Texas, so that we’ll know for whom not to vote. How thoughtful of them. Of course, I think their purpose was to provide their own brand of “values” voters — and not us horrible evilution-loving, gay-marriage-approving heathens — with a list of approved candidates. But since we all know their “values” include hate, theocracy, ignorance and prejudice, the guide works just as well for us. Be sure to forward the PDF to everyone you know in Texas’s reality-based community, so that we can express our values at the polls, too.

Center for Inquiry comes to Austin

Yesterday afternoon, the new Austin chapter of the Center for Inquiry had a meet-and-greet brunch at the Iron Cactus downtown. I’m happy to see them come. They’re true movers and shakers in the arena of promoting naturalism, science, rationalism, and in fighting religious ignorance and extremism. I’ve always found it interesting that, in the public “culture war” (which, incidentally, has solely been agitated by religious right ideologues hungry for power) between faith and reason, reason has a tendency to win out. The pseudoscience of “Intelligent Design” creationism almost always fails in the courts and school boards (and in the rare cases it succeeds, that success is fleeting and soon overturned), despite the fact that fundamentalist anti-science organizations draw millions upon millions of dollars in funding, while groups like CFI and the NCSE subsist on only a tiny fraction of the money. As the Talking Heads song goes, fundies are learning that “facts don’t do what I want them to.”

Austin-area atheists looking for an organization of friendly folks who are determined actually to be active in standing up for reason in our unreason-besotted national climate ought to consider coming on board. I also understand that a Houston chapter is in the works. For my part, since I left ACA, I’ve been hankering for a way to get involved again, and ACA, as much fun as I had being a member and hosting the TV show, simply was not equipped to do things on the scale of CFI. I welcome CFI to Austin and can’t wait to get involved in their programs.

Florida schadenfreude continues: Hovind’s hubris will bring him down!

One can only imagine the glare on his face, and the word “Judas!” stuck on an endless loop inside his ever-so-loopy mind, as Kent Hovind watched his lawyer friend David Charles Gibbs effectively tie his noose on the stand in his tax-evasion trial. According to Gibbs, Hovind’s belief that he owed no taxes was rooted in a rather inflated sense of self-regard…

“He tried to stress to me that he was like the pope and this was like the Vatican,” Seminole attorney David Charles Gibbs testified at Hovind’s trial before U.S. District Judge Casey Rodgers.

LOL, ROTFL, and other snarky internet abbreviations! Even as an atheist I stand in awe of Michelangelo’s achievement on the Sistine Chapel ceiling. How deluded must Dr. Dumbo be to think the plywood cutout dinosaurs in his dippy theme park deserve comparison even on the subatomic scale?

Gibbs said Hovind tried to persuade him he had no obligation to pay employee income taxes and explained with “a great deal of bravado” how he had “beat the tax system.”

Gibbs said Hovind also told him he preferred to deal in cash and that when you are “dealing with cash there is not way to trace it, so it wasn’t taxable.”

Hey, it works for drug dealers, right?

When you think you’re the Invisible Sky Fairy’s official spokesman on Earth, I’m sure a bit of cockiness is in order, but here old Kent clearly isn’t even being subtle about thinking the laws of the land don’t apply to him, and proclaiming it loudly to boot.

Check the article’s comments, too. The majority of Christians are openly abandoning Hovind, if they ever accepted him in the first place. His only supporters are from the lunatic fringe of tax protesters, paranoid conspiracy theorists, and those guys who hang out in rural cabins with canned food, a shotgun, and a tinfoil hat, waiting for the Apocalypse.

Hovind on trial: Dr. Dino’s sleaze laid bare

Kent Hovind’s former employees — erm, excuse me, “missionaries” — have been testifying to his bizarre tax-avoidance practices. Among the shenanigans:

Popp testified that Hovind warned employees not to accept mail addressed to “KENT HOVIND.” He said Hovind told the workers the government created a corporation in his “all-caps name.” Hovind said if he accepted the mail, he would be accepting the responsibilities associated with that corporation, Popp testified.

Amazing. Will Hovind’s beleaguered attorney continue to try to spin this smarm as the behavior of a man who honestly didn’t know about the tax laws he was breaking?

Kent is also fond of bullying and threatening his emp— I mean, his “missionaries”…

After the Dinosaur Adventure Land was raided on April 2004, Kent Hovind required his employees to sign nondisclosure agreements if they wanted to keep their jobs, she said.

“I was uncomfortable signing it, I guess, because of not having a full understanding,” [ex-employee Diane P.] Cooksey said.

…as well as filing frivolous lawsuits.

Hovind tried several bullying tactics against her, Powe testified. A recording that Hovind made of a phone conversation was then played. In the phone conversation, Hovind tried to make an appointment with Powe by 10 a.m. that day. When Powe said she couldn’t meet him because she had a staff meeting, Hovind threatened to sue her, which he did.

“Dr. Hovind sued me three times, maybe more,” Powe testified. “It just seemed to be something he did often.”

She testified that the cases were dismissed.

The picture that emerges here is one of a man completely mentally imbalanced. One wonders how someone as deranged as this is able to move freely and function in society. The rational mind reels at the chaos that must be Hovind’s mind; how does one live with one’s self when one’s entire day-to-day existence is a never-ending parade of dishonesty, guile, and just plain ugliness towards fellow human beings?

In his bankruptcy forms, Hovind wrote that he had no form of income, that he rejected his Social Security number and that his employer was God, [Assistant U.S. Attorney Benjamin] Beard testified.

“That gives you a warning sign,” Beard said.

Indeed it does. Indeed it does.

Well, maybe Hovind will get a chance to take over the prison ministry. He’ll be happy to know no one will expect him to pay taxes for that sort of work.