Jeremy Morris is one reason we have a War on Christmas

This story is infuriating. Jeremy Morris is a Christian fanatic and zealous Republican — he named his dog Ronald Reagan — who claims to love Christmas. When you read the story, though, it’s clear that he’s far more interested in bullying and antagonizing his neighbors with an overwrought Christmas display, and throwing his weight around, than he is in actually practicing Christian charity. He is “owning the libs” personified. So he puts on an extravagant Christmas display involving hundreds of thousands of lights, paid actors, and a camel, and basically dares his neighbors to complain. And when they do, he declares that they must be anti-Christian.

Be prepared. There are no good guys in this story. He gets into a legal battle with his Home Owners Association, and HOAs are intrinsically evil — they accuse him of attracting riff-raff from a nearby Walmart to their pristine real estate. The Three Percenters offered to help Morris out. Everyone is claiming the precious sanctity of their religion, and when he goes to court, he wins, with a jury of North Idahoan Christians all agreeing that forcing a rich lawyer to tone down his kitschy display of blaring Christmas carols and blinking lights and prancing Santa Clauses is discriminating against Christianity.

Lovely country out there in North Idaho. It’s too bad it’s full of assholes.

Charleston sees the light…or the oncoming legal sledgehammer

I mentioned that it was odd that the Charleston, Illinois Parks & Rec department was sponsoring all these evangelical Christian events, including a trip to the Ark Park. Well, they aren’t anymore: The FFRF slammed them for unconstitutional religious advocacy, and they canceled.

When it comes to the secular U.S. government, the City of Charleston has acted in an unconstitutional manner to endorse any religious mission facilitated by such attractions. The government cannot organize, fund, or sponsor any trip to either the Creation Museum or to Ark Encounter. Ryan Jayne, the FFRF staff attorney, sent a letter to Rachael Cunningham, the City Attorney, stating the government is actively doing an unconstitutional action by advertising and organizing any trip to religious attractions like a Christian museum and a Christian theme park. Funding such activities also go against the United States government ethos. The letter continued saying although it is a laudatory aim to encourage citizens to attend a recreational event, pushing a religious attraction alienates those who are not Christians and belong to any other faith or to no faith. “Surely there are appropriate secular activities, in addition to the planned trip to the Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Gardens, that would not attempt to convert attendees to a particular religion.”

I imagine some people in Charleston are seething right now. Good.

Something is supposed to happen today?

I haven’t been paying any attention at all to QAnon. Apparently Something Big was predicted for today, 5 December, and Colin McRoberts Jennifer Raff is confident it won’t happen, because Q is a fraud.

This time, if you weren’t already aware, Q and his most dedicated followers have been predicting Big Things for December 5. Exactly what Big Things depends on what and how much you read between the lines of his choppy little nuggets; Q mostly stopped making specific predictions after a series of embarrassing failures. He learned the lesson of horoscope writers and started making vague, open-ended predictions, so that no matter what happens he can always go back and claim to have predicted it. But people wouldn’t pay attention to Q if he didn’t promise apocalyptic drama, so whatever you think he’s predicting, it’s supposed to be a big deal.

Ah, but what does he know? The Q insiders are well aware that the prediction is actually about the size of the President’s bowel movement, and everyone will be dazzled with the insight when he tweets, “Made a big poopy. The biggest!” later today.

Read the rest of his post for the well-known information about the mechanics of conspiracy theories and prophecies, and how to recover from the delusions. Also, that is the most awesome photoshopped illustration of how right-wing conspiracy mongers think of themselves and their enemies.

What kind of weird hell is Charleston, Illinois?

Anyone live there? Or near there? I was just pointed at their Parks & Recreation department, which has been busy promoting a very Christian life, despite being listed as a “government organization”. Like this:

I guess it is the Charleston Parks & Rec department’s job to take people out of Charleston and drive them all the way across Indiana to a Christian religious indoctrination camp. It just seems way out of bounds for a city government.

Then I noticed other events that they’ve sponsored.

Really? Daddy-daughter dances and Mom-son dates? Could all of you creepy Christians learn that there are healthy parent-child relationships, and they don’t try to mimic courtship rituals?

Charleston has a large regional university, Eastern Illinois, but even that doesn’t offset my impression of the town as a bizarre little theocracy full of glassy-eyed Christian zealots who wouldn’t think of complaining about how the city government has been hijacked by fundies. Maybe there are some residents of the region who can correct me, unless the kinds of people who would read freethoughtblogs have all been incinerated in a wicker man over the years.

God’s convenient rules of real estate

Someone explain this Robert Jeffress quote to me. I can’t quite wrap my head around it.

‘While Christian compassion is one consideration, it’s not the only consideration in the immigration problem,’ he said.’I mean, the Bible also says that God is the one who established nations and its borders. God is not necessarily an open borders guy, as a lot of people would think that he is.

Borders change. Is every change god-ordained? Does God have a map in his head that says whether Alsace-Lorraine should be within the French or German borders?

Which borders are the official ones? Should we go back to the True Borders at the time of Jesus?

I’m also a bit concerned about what happened in the 16th century. There were a lot of nations in North America that were, I assume, established by God, and a whole lot of Europeans came in and fucked them up.

That was a major immigration problem. What did God have to say about that? We seem to have broken a lot of nations and borders, and God did diddly-squat in response.

I also have to say that that I seem to have read more of the Bible than an ordained minister. God never seemed to have cared much about respecting borders — his Chosen People were a huge wandering caravan of ex-slaves who wandered for 40 years, and finally found their land of milk and honey and just up and conquered it, slaughtering the people who already lived there.

(Maybe Jeffress is acknowledging that there is no historical evidence for any of this, and that the tribes of Canaan just made it all up.)

I am beginning to suspect that Jeffress is simply full of expedient bullshit to justify whatever the hell he wants.

These are the scariest Halloween costumes ever

Zombies, ghouls, and miscellaneous brain-dead monsters:

It’s for a homeschooling conference titled Teach Them Diligently, with the motto “Strengthen Your Family Through Biblical Homeschooling”. Would you pay money to have these jokers teach your children lies?

Hmmm. I’ve got a strong family with children who grew up to make me proud, and we never had to indoctrinate them in biblical foolishness to accomplish that. What does their audience have to be so insecure about? That maybe, unless they lie really loudly, their children will grow up to ask questions and abandon dogma? Most of us consider that to be a desirable outcome.

What would Jesus say, Pat?

Pat Robertson has some opinions on the idea of butchering a journalist while he’s alive with a bone saw. They’re not what I would have thought a Christian would openly admit.

He argues that we should basically overlook a little thing like a torture-murder because Saudi Arabia are key allies, our main enemy in the Middle East is Iran, and there’s also that little $190 billion arms deal which means a lot of jobs and a lot of money coming into our coffers. You know, 2000 years ago the most powerful empire of the time also endorsed a torture-murder of someone in the interests of maintaining the balance of power in the Middle East and pacifying a troublesome population; I guess that would have been OK if Jesus had also been interfering with a profitable trade in spears and swords.

I like ol’ Pat. He keeps opening his mouth and contributing to the corruption of religious faith. He’s probably done far more for atheism than Richard Dawkins. Televangelists in general have been awesome forces for discrediting organized religion for years.

Why were nuns assumed to be good caretakers for children?

Just because they were female? Maybe that was a bad assumption, because the stories coming out of the Catholic orphanage system are horrific. One example:

Sally had been caught running and giggling in the dormitory. The nun, Sister Jane of the Rosary, was known for her constant companion: a thick razor strap that the girls called “the green pill,” bitter medicine for any child who came near it.

Sister Jane of the Rosary took Sally to the little bedroom off the sewing room and made her lie facedown, dress yanked up, panties pulled down. Then the nun sent in Eva, a seamstress, who along with another lay employee, Irene, was one of the only two people that Sally felt safe with.

Eva came into the little room, looked at Sally — face down, dress up, defenseless — and stood frozen for a few long moments. The strap lay beside her on the bed. Then she left. Irene came in next, but she couldn’t do anything, either. Even Sister Jane of the Rosary, usually so quick to punish, came in but did nothing.

At last Sally heard Sister James Mary announce that she had “no problem” performing the task. Entering the room, she brought the strap down hard on Sally, from the back of her neck all the way down to her ankles. Once, twice. Ten times. Too many times to count.

Sally recoiled with each downstroke, but she tried her best to hold back the tears. The silence only enraged Sister James Mary, who kept hitting her. On and on, the blows kept coming. “You will cry!” the nun insisted.

Eventually Sally did. She began to weep.

Sally couldn’t twist around far enough to see the damage. But when Irene looked, she gasped.

“How many times do we have to tell you?” Sister Jane of the Rosary demanded from above. “If you cry, you cry alone. If you smile, the whole world smiles with you.”

Irene brought Sally across the long hallway, down the marble stairs, past the foyer, and into the office of the mother superior herself. Irene showed her Sally’s wounds. It wasn’t right to do that to a little girl.

Mother Superior replied that Sally was going to end up in reform school anyway.

The next time Sally was sent to Irene and Eva for a beating, Irene said she would deal with the child herself.

Irene hit her, but only on her bottom. Sally was so overwhelmed with gratitude that the next day, she told Irene that she loved her.

Wow — that’s a clever use of psychology. You’ve got two torturers, and the victim learns to love the one who tortures her a little less. But otherwise, you have to wonder about caregivers who are known for the instruments of abuse they carry with them everywhere — and this is one of the milder stories. Don’t read the whole thing unless you want nightmares.

As has been the case in recent years, there have been attempts to bring legal redress to the Catholic church. I was interested to see the defense strategies described. It’s all about denial.

One of the rewards for being good at the orphanage was an activity that the sisters had called “serving God.” God, at least for those purposes, turned out to be Father Devoy, the resident chaplain.

Devoy had his own rooms and dining table, at which he was often joined by seminarians. Sally told Sartore that when she was quite little, she had done her very best to be good for a whole week, and for once it had worked. At the end of the week, Sally got to go into God’s rooms. She set his table and took in his food and placed it on the table before him.

She managed to put God’s plate down without spilling anything, but when she turned to walk away, Father Devoy put his hand under her skirt. He yanked down her panties, touched her backside, and told her that she had cute buns. The next time he tried it, the headstrong girl spilled the soup in his lap.

Sartore sounded outraged at Sally’s inference. “Will you agree with me that a grown man, an elderly man, a priest, could pinch the behind of a little girl without it constituting, quote, sexual abuse?”

Sally declined his invitation to undermine herself. “I can’t answer it,” she said. “Because I thought if you swore, okay, it is like a form of sexual harassment…”

Sartore wouldn’t let go. “What was there if anything about the way Father Devoy grabbed your behind that constituted sexual abuse?”

“Because he used to say how cute they were,” Sally explained. “You have cute little buns,” she recalled him saying.

“And so for a 60- or 70-year-old man to pinch a little girl’s bottom and say you have cute buns, you now consider that sexual abuse?” Sartore asked.

“I don’t know as I say sexual abuse,” Sally said. “I just don’t see it was right, whether it was an old man, young man, to do that to a child.”

If an old man pulls down a little girl’s panties and fondles her, YES THAT IS SEXUAL ABUSE. Why is this even a question?

The boys were also abused. Here’s a tactic that would make me hate lawyers.

Greene told the attorneys that a counselor assaulted him in his bed in the boys dorm at St. Joseph’s probably 10 or 20 times. Over what period of time? he was asked. Greene found it hard to say.

“Did this happen once a week to you?” they asked.

“To me,” said Greene, “I’d say it was more than once a week.”

“Was it twice a week?”

“I’m not sure.”

“But you think it was more than once a week?”

“Yeah,” said Greene.

“At least once a week he’d come in to you and want this done?”

“Yeah,” said Greene. The defense paused, lingered over another detail, and then returned to the counting.

“So you think he came in once a week and tried something with you. Might have happened 10 or 20 times to you; is that accurate? Is that your best recollection today?”

“Yeah, he came in at least once a week, probably more,” said Greene.

“So if he did it 10 or 20 times, this would have lasted 10 or 20 weeks, is that right?”

“It lasted for a year or two,” said Greene.

“Then why only 10 or 20 times if he came in every week?” defense asked.

“Because — it might have been more.”

“Well I’m just trying to—”

Greene became exasperated.

“I’m not sure how many times it was,” he said. “I know that it went on for a few years. As far as a count goes, I’m not sure. I have no idea. I mean, all I remember is he would abuse us, he’d abuse somebody every night, every single night that he worked.” Greene added, “And as far as how often, I don’t know. But it went on for years.”

“Do you think,” defense replied, “it was for you personally a weekly event?”

The defense attorneys asked plaintiffs to estimate the frequency of their rape or molestation by day, by week, by year, and then overall. Then they would get the plaintiff to compare the estimates and to count — so if it was x times a week, that would be y times in total, right? Inevitably the figures didn’t quite add up.

I can appreciate that a defense lawyer must give a strong, vigorous defense, but this is outright lying — on the one hand, they insist that the accusers can’t possibly have accurate recollections of their maltreatment decades after the fact and imply that everything was a confabulation, but on the other hand, they’ll demand that a young man who was raped decades before must have a precise tally of every single instance.

How about ONCE. He was raped once. Isn’t that enough to condemn the system? Then he was raped again and again. Do we care whether the number was 10 or 20, isn’t 1 enough?

Go ahead, read the whole thing if you want to start your day with a good head of rage. It’s just appalling to me that anyone ever figured that celibate old men and childless nuns were automatically qualified to take care of children. These are people who consciously rejected the roles of father, mother, (although, weirdly, they insist on the titles) and parent, and are the least suited to have responsibility for the young, lacking the temperament or experience, and yet, there they are, handed babies.

It’s unsurprising that they failed so horribly.

Donohue: those Catholic priests didn’t rape anyone, and besides, it’s The Gays’ Fault

Portrait of Bill Donohue

Bill Donohue has come out with his defense of the Catholic Church in the Pennsylvania case (pdf). A couple of things leapt out at me. He often parses the language finely to excuse the problems. For instance, it wasn’t rape.

Most of the alleged victims were not raped: they were groped or otherwise abused, but not penetrated, which is what the word “rape” means. This is not a defense—it is meant to set the record straight and debunk the worst case scenarios attributed to the offenders.

Furthermore, Church officials were not following a “playbook” for using terms such as “inappropriate contact”—they were following the lexicon established by the John Jay professors.

Examples of non-rape sexual abuse found in the John Jay report include “touching under the victim’s clothes” (the most common act alleged); “sexual talk”; “shown pornography”; “touch over cleric’s clothes”; “cleric disrobed”; “victim disrobed”; “photos of victims”; “sexual games”; and “hugging and kissing.” These are the kinds of acts recorded in the grand jury report as well, and as bad as they are, they do not constitute “rape.”

It’s OK if there was no penetration! Is this a new Catholic rule? Priests get to get naked with teenagers while watching porn and grope them, and that’s not a problem?

Then he plays games with the numbers.

How many of the 300 were probably guilty? Maybe half. My reasoning? The 2004 report by the John Jay College for Criminal Justice found that 4 percent of priests nationwide had a credible accusation made against them between 1950-2002. That is the figure everyone quotes. But the report also notes that roughly half that number were substantiated. If that is a reliable measure, the 300 figure drops to around 150.

The Pennsylvania reports says that 300 cases of abuse were credibly supported by the evidence — this was a specific analysis of the evidence in Pennsylvania. So Donohue argues that other, national figures say that half of their cases are unsubstantiated…so he evades the specifics and tries to claim that half the Pennsylvania cases are unsubstantiated. You don’t get to do that.

Also, even if he were right (he’s not), it’s 150 child molesters in the Pennsylvania clergy. What number is acceptable? I’m saying zero would be a number to shoot for.

His next excuse: most of the cases can’t be tried, because we’ve past the statute of limitations.

Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh “Salacious” Shapiro admitted on August 14 that “Almost every instance of child abuse (the grand jury) found was too old to be prosecuted.” He’s right. But he knew that from the get-go, so why did he pursue this dead end?

Because even if the crime can’t be prosecuted, the criminals should be exposed? Because this is an ongoing problem in the Catholic Church, so the church needs to be constantly prodded to make changes? Because the law isn’t always about justice, but justice must be pursued?

And then, most despicably, he doesn’t mince words in one excuse. This isn’t a problem with pedophilia in the church; this is a problem with The Gays.

How do I know that most of the problem is gay-driven? The data are indisputable.

The John Jay study found that 81 percent of the victims were male, 78 percent of whom were postpubescent. Now if 100 percent of the victimizers are male, and most of the victims are postpubescent males, that is a problem called homosexuality. There is no getting around it.

It’s an 80/20 male/female ratio of victims, but priests are 100% male, and priests are mostly going to be in charge of boys and young men. This ratio sounds like a ratio of opportunity.

Did I say he doesn’t play word games with this one excuse? Not quite. You see, Donohue argues that if the victims were post-pubescent, it doesn’t count as pedophilia. I don’t see a difference that matters — they’re all minors under the supposed care of the priest. It’s a vile abnegation of responsibility and decency. But to Bill, it’s just plain The Gay Abomination.

How many were pedophiles? Less than five percent. That is what the John Jay study found. Studies done in subsequent years—I have read them all—report approximately the same ratio. It’s been a homosexual scandal all along.

No, Bill. It’s been a Catholic scandal all along, and you’re not helping.