“The Golden Compass” is an outstanding work of literary fantasy. I have read it, just as I have read the Bible, and this gives me a sinfully unfair advantage over those who hold opinions on either work without having read them. “The Golden Compass” is objected to by Bill Donohue of the Catholic League. Why object to a work of fantasy? Bill does know the difference between fact and fantasy. Doesn’t he? Ellen Johnson will discuss the matter with him this afternoon. Don’t miss this one.
A federal judge in Utah has ruled that the Christian cross is not a religious symbol. How about that? One wonders if this ruling covers crosses with a dead Jesus on them or only those crosses without a dead Jesus on them. How about Natty’s cross with a Santa tacked to it?
To those very few readers who have opined that this newsletter spends too much time “bashing” religion, we say quit reading it or start your own newsletter. After all, it is written that it is better to light a candle than to curse the darkness. Sometimes it is possible to do both.
ELLEN JOHNSON TAKES ON BILL DONOHUE,
CATHOLIC LEAGUE ~ GOLDEN COMPASS
CNN, FRIDAY NOV. 23
ELLEN JOHNSON, President of American Atheists, will be a guest on CNN Headline News this Friday, November 23, 2007, in an exchange with Bill Donohue of the Catholic League. The topic is the soon-to-be-released movie, THE GOLDEN COMPASS based on the book of the same title by Atheist writer Philip Pullman.
The Catholic League has condemned this critically-acclaimed book for promoting a “stealth Atheist agenda.” The movie is slated for release on December 4, and news reports have established that producers New Line Cinema have “toned down” portions of the film that religionists might find offensive. The Catholic League has called for a boycott of the movie. (See: http://weblogs.baltimoresun.com/entertainment/critics/blog/2007/11/another_salvo_at_the_golden_co.html )
The segment with the Johnson/Donohue debate will air nationwide on the CNN Headline News channel sometime after 5:00 PM ET on Friday, Nov. 23. Check local listings. You can then join the conversation and post your comments on the NoGodBlog at http://www.nogodblog.com .
WHO & WHAT: American Atheists President Ellen Johnson takes on Bill Donohue, Catholic League over the forthcoming film “The Golden Compass”
WHEN: This Friday, Nov. 23, 2007 beginning at 5:00 PM ET, check local listings.
WHERE: CNN Headline News channel, http://www.cnn.com
MORE INFO: http://www.cnn.com
(AMERICAN ATHEISTS is a nationwide movement that defends civil rights for Atheists, Freethinkers and other nonbelievers; works for the total separation of church and state; and addresses issues of First Amendment public policy.)
The cross gets a reprieve
Deseret Morning News editorial
Published: November 23, 2007
To quote from Paul Simon, “The cross is in the ballpark.” U.S. District Judge David Sam has ruled that posting a cross to memorialize a fallen Highway Patrol trooper does not violate the U.S. Constitution.
His reasoning — that sometimes religious symbols become secular symbols — is sound and filled with common sense. One can imagine it applied in other areas. For a child to be hoisted by Santa Claus does not mean the child is being taught to rely on the intervention of St. Nicholas. Space and time have created a certain disconnect between the two things.
Still, the cross became a lightning rod in the Highway Patrol case for a reason. It was an excuse, in ways, for deeper concerns.
Some people see the United States as a Christian nation and Christian principles should be the norm. Many of them would likely like to see schoolchildren go back to eating fish on Fridays and let teachers make students memorize the Lord’s Prayer. The problem with that, of course, is that forcing Jewish or Muslim children to memorize Christian prayers is unfair on the face of it. Mutual respect and understanding should rule. And when religious issues arise, they should be dealt with on a case-by-case basis.
On the other side, it’s no secret that those fighting to have the crosses removed are not all high-minded constitutional purists. Many have an ax to grind when it comes to religion and, knowing that big issues — like getting the phrase “In God We Trust” chipped off the money — are too much of a challenge, they choose to fight skirmishes and firefights on the edges, hoping a victory here and there will weaken the role of religion in America. They are crusaders as much as the early Christians, with all the ugly short-sightedness and prejudice as their Christian counterparts centuries ago.
In the end, Judge Sam was right. Christian symbols do morph into cultural symbols at times. But that doesn’t mean Christians should crow and the non-religious should pout. It means Americans must be careful when such cases arise to treat each one with seriousness and common sense, just as Judge Sam has done with the troopers and the cross.
American Atheists California
RALLY FOR REMOVAL OF RELIGIOUS REFERENCES IN THE PLEDGE OF ALLEGIANCE
AND ON NATIONAL CURRENCY
Tuesday, December 4, 2007
San Francisco Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals Building
American Atheists California, in conjunction with Bay Area Atheist and Humanist groups, will rally in front of the San Francisco Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals building on Tuesday, December 4, to support the idea of removing religious references and slogans in the Pledge of Allegiance and on national currency.
In 2004, when Michael Newdow argued before the Supreme Court for removal of _under god_ in the Pledge of Allegiance, California Atheists showed their support by rallying at the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.
The court dismissed that suit due to lack of standing and never addressed the real issues. Undaunted, Newdow found parents with solid standing and is now representing them in a new suit.
In addition, the prolific Dr. Newdow has another suit that challenges placement of the religious slogan _In God We Trust_ on our nation_s currency. Both suits are now before the Ninth Circuit. Oral arguments have been set for December 4 in San Francisco.
The rally is a celebration of unity among god-free Californians intended to not only support Dr. Newdow, but also encourage the Ninth Circuit to adhere to its landmark 2002 decision.
The rally will begin at 7:30 a.m. and include a program of speakers. Signs will be provided. Both cases are scheduled for the morning session, and participants are welcome to attend court proceedings after the rally (seating on a first-come, first-served basis).
The Richard Dawkins website (richarddawkins.net) is planning to tape the event for broadcast. Help us make a good showing in support of First Amendment rights.
WHAT: Rally at the San Francisco Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals building (Seventh and Mission) for removing religious references and slogans in the Pledge of Allegiance and on national currency
WHEN: Tuesday, December 4, 7:30 to 8:30 a.m.
Supreme Court asked to hear Utah commandments case
By Geoffrey Fattah
Deseret Morning News
Published: November 21, 2007
A legal group based in Washington, D.C., announced Tuesday that it has filed a petition asking the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn a decision allowing a Utah religious group to erect its own monuments next to two displays of the Ten Commandments in Pleasant Grove and Duchesne cities.
“Today we are asking the Supreme Court of the United States to review and overturn a lower court decision that would force local governments across the country either to dismantle a host of monuments, memorials and other displays, including long-standing patriotic and historical displays, or else let all comers install privately owned monuments or displays, regardless of content,” stated a release by the American Center for Law and Justice, which is legally representing Pleasant Grove and Duchesne.
The statement said the petition will give the Supreme Court a chance to “rectify a lower court’s very twisted interpretation of the First Amendment.”
The move comes after the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals last April ruled that the group Summum had a right under the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution to erect a display of its “Seven Aphorisms” next to displays of the Ten Commandments. The decision upheld a Utah federal judge’s ruling.
ACLJ chief counsel Jay Sekulow has argued that the 10th Circuit has confused public speech with private speech, and that such monuments should reflect the standards and values of the community.
Sekulow also argues that the 10th Circuit decision conflicts with other circuits, requiring the Supreme Court to review the case.
Summum attorney Brian Barnard says he doubts the Supreme Court will hear the case. The 10th Circuit decision is similar to one it issued in 2002 against Ogden, which forced city officials to remove its Ten Commandments display from city property and relocate it onto private property nearby.
“It does not require a constitutional scholar to understand simple fairness. If a government entity allows one group to erect a permanent monument in a public park expressing religious beliefs dear to that group, other groups should be allowed to display similar tenets of faith,” Barnard said. “Pleasant Grove seeks to perpetuate a misguided policy that allows it to support and display one set of religious beliefs to the exclusion of others.”
All three displays were donations from the Fraternal Order of Eagles many years ago.
If the Supreme Court declines to hear the case, the 10th Circuit decision will stand.
Utah Foots the Bill for Ailing Cops’ Controversial Scientology-Based Detox Treatment
Wednesday, November 21, 2007
Nov. 7: Ailing meth cops sweat it out at an Orem, Utah, clinic.
A controversial Church of Scientology treatment used on World Trade Center emergency responders is being used in Utah to “detoxify” cops who raided methamphetamine labs in the 1980s and 1990s.
The Utah Meth Cops Project is treating around a dozen former and current police officers at taxpayers’ expense, using a regime devised by Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard at a Bio-Cleansing Centers of America facility in Orem, Utah.
State Attorney General Mark Shurtleff brought the project west after seeing it used to treat emergency workers in New York who were injured working at Ground Zero following the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
More than 800 rescue and recovery workers who had complained of respiratory ailments have been treated at the New York Rescue Workers Detoxification Project in Manhattan, using funds raised by Scientologists including actor Tom Cruise.
The Hubbard protocol has its critics, despite anecdotal evidence from responders who said the treatment has made them feel better.
“There is no demonstrated efficacy or effectiveness for that protocol,” said Raymond Harbison, a professor of environmental and occupational health at the University of South Florida’s School of Public Health. “That is, there’s no demonstration that that protocol speeds the release of substances associated with meth labs from one’s body.”
The Utah program — funded with an initial $50,000 grant from the state — is being run in conjunction with a $500,000 study into the causal link between chemicals in meth labs and respiratory ailments suffered by around 110 ailing meth cops in the state.
“Anecdotal stories, to me, is enough, I mean cops who say they couldn’t walk up a flight of stairs without stopping to breathe now can,” Shurtleff said. “That’s pretty good evidence, but we want more scientific evidence, mostly to assist the study in Utah that there is a causal connection.”
Dr. Gerald H. Ross, the director of the program, said the use of this treatment on meth cops is a first.
“To most people and to a lot of physicians, [it] sounds like a lot of hokum, but believe me it’s not,” Ross said. “There’s really quite an accumulation of scientific publications that show the reduction of chemical residue in people who have this kind of therapy.”
At the Orem clinic, the men take a vitamin cocktail that includes B-3 or niacin and spend 20 to 25 minutes stretching in a 160-degree sauna for a nearly four-hour period to help the body release toxins that may be stored in the body, Ross said.
The program, which has been up and running for a little over a month, is designed for about 30 days of treatment, seven days a week, but it can be modified depending on the patient, Ross said.
“The saying is out there: ‘You don’t see any old meth cooks’ because they’re all dead,” said Kelly Call, 53, a retired officer with the Utah Department of Public Safety who is participating in the Utah Meth Cops Project. “They don’t live; there’s got to be a reason for that.”
Call said that 27 days of treatment at the Utah Meth Cops Project have curbed his constant headaches, short-term memory loss, tinnitus and Barrett’s esophagus, a disorder caused by acid reflux. He blames all his ailments on the meth raids.
“I started back in the mid-’80s, when we didn’t even have rubber gloves,” Call said. “We went into those with our teeny runners, our cutoffs and our tank tops.”
Lt. Al Acosta of the Utah Department of Public Safety blames his muscle tremors, headaches, chest pains and difficulty breathing on the more than 300 labs he’s raided in his nearly 20-year career.
He said one whiff of his sweat — with bouquets of ammonia or cat urine, depending on the day — is enough to tell him he’s expelling those chemicals.
“Whoever the skeptical people are [should] come here and just take a whiff of the odors that we’re putting off,” Acosta said. “I don’t think we normally smell this way.”
But Harbison said it’s unlikely the men are sweating out chemicals they were exposed to days, months and even years ago in the meth lab.
“You would not expect the chemicals that are associated with meth labs to stay in your body for that long of a period of time,” he said.
Shurtleff said that before he brought the program to Utah, he needed assurances that the officers wouldn’t be proselytized by Scientologists. The only Scientologists involved, he added, are fundraisers.
“It’s a completely secular program,” Ross said.
Scientology only comes up in social banter, Acosta said.
“We make jokes about Tom Cruise coming to visit us,” he said.
Shurtleff shirks off any taxpayer worry about the cost of the program. He plans to appropriate an additional $140,000 to complete the treatment for 20 of the worst cases and hopes to raise private money to finance the rest of the treatments for the others.
“Hopefully it will ultimately result in worker’s compensation to be authorized for these officers and their families.”