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How Religious Harassment Varies by Region Across the Globe

FT_14.04.25_religiousHarassment[1]In nearly three out of every four countries of the world, religious groups experience harassment by individuals or groups in society. The harassment and intimidation take many forms, including physical or verbal assaults; desecration of holy sites; and discrimination against religious groups in employment, education and housing. Every year, we track such harassment through a variety of sources, including the U.S. State Department’s International Religious Freedom Report and U.N. Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion and Belief reports. (For more information on our sources and procedures, see our latest report on religious restrictions and hostilities.) [Read more]

Courts Are Hearing New Challenges to Tax Exemptions for Religion

05nclergy250px[1]Pastor Rick Warren had a tax problem. Warren is the best-selling writer and leader of the evangelical Christian Saddleback Church in Orange County, Calif. As a “minister of the gospel,” under IRS rules he may receive a tax-free housing allowance from his church and apply it toward the cost of owning and maintaining a home. But in the tax years 1993 through 1995, he was paid housing allowances of $76,000 to $80,000 each year—all or most of his church salary. This ran afoul of IRS rules permitting clergy to claim only the “fair market rental value” of the home, which the agency said was between $58,000 and $60,000. [Read more]

Let Us Pray? It Depends on Whom You Ask

37906159001_3540857730001_video-still-for-video-3540823484001[1]Call it prayer or a moment of silence. Some simply see it as a solemn time of observation or remembrance. Regardless of what you consider in those moments of contemplation, Monday the Supreme Court ruled that this type of expression is OK in public meetings, albeit by a slim margin. And that seems to work for a majority of local governments across Southwest Florida. “I believe in the power of prayer and certainly hope that our creator would bless our meetings and guide us to make wise decisions on behalf of the people we represent,” said Lee County Commissioner Brian Hamman. [Read more]

Bodies Found, More Missing After India Massacre of Muslims

Villagers from Muslim communities affected by ethnic violence weep at a relief camp in Narayanguri village in Baksa district in the northeastern Indian state of AssamIndian police searched for at least a dozen missing people on Wednesday after finding seven bodies floating down river from a national park in Assam where Muslim villagers were killed in a massacre that has marred the country’s general election. India is in the home stretch of a five-week election, which has heightened ethnic and religious tensions in some parts of the country, and in which a coalition led by the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) could be within reach of claiming a parliamentary majority. [Read more]

U.S. Religious Progressivism ‘Way of the Future’

1024px-tag_nuns_on_the_bus[1]The future of religion in U.S. politics lies not with conservatives but rather with religious progressives, social scientists here are suggesting, with a faith-based movement potentially able to provide momentum to a new movement for social justice. According to a new report from the Brookings Institute, a think tank here, the current religious social justice movement can be compared to the period of civil rights activism in the mid-20th century. “There really is an opening now for a religious movement for social justice that is similar in many ways to the civil rights movement. We see it around issues of minimum wage, budget cuts, and immigration,” E.J. Dionne, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and one of the authors of the report, told IPS. [Read more]

Movie on Gosnell ‘House of Horrors’ Nearing $2.1 Million Crowdfunding Goal

gosnell-movie[1]A film team hoping to produce a movie about Pennsylvania abortion provider Kermit Gosnell has raised over $1.9 million for its project, presently titled “America’s Biggest Serial Killer.” With less than a week to go, the production company Ann and Phelim Media must reach their $2.1 million goal by next Monday before midnight. If they fail to reach the goal, then the funds will be returned. “Dr. Kermit Gosnell is the most prolific serial killer in American History, but almost no one knows who he is,” reads their crowdfunding page on Indiegogo.com. [Read more]

The Supreme Court Rules That Christianity Is Not Christian

large_n-SUPREME-COURT-BUILDING-large570[1]For the past six years I have followed and written sporadically about an obscure lawsuit in a town nobody could locate on a map, noting to the few who would listen that this was one of the most important legal battles being waged in the country. This labor in obscurity has ended this week with the Supreme Court ruling in favor of a return to pre-revolutionary America. That the Court even agreed to take the case is a sign of the end of times. [Read more]

Time for Atheist Prayers at Town Meetings

atheist-prayer[1]I have a relative, of sorts, who thinks their religion is being oppressed because they can’t drag out family gathering dinner prayers to something more than a couple of sentences followed by an hour of intense theological fornication. They forget the family is composed of a number of religious alliances ranging from Episcopalian, Buddhism, atheist, secular, and spiritual but not religious, including their own version which though unnamed seems intensely devout, perhaps an old time Anglican Crack. [Read more]

Congressional Candidate Appears to Draw Comparison Involving Birth Control Benefit and Neo-Nazis, KKK

monte-shaw-375x250[1]Monte Shaw, the fundraising front-runner of the Republican primary in Iowa’s contested 3rd Congressional district, made comments during a debate Monday that appeared to draw comparisons between complying with the Affordable Care Act’s birth control benefit and being forced to do work for hate groups like the neo-Nazis and the Ku Klux Klan. [Read more]

Student Files Contempt Motion Over School Prayer

prayer[1]A student supported by an atheist group says the Rankin County school district is still violating a ban on school prayer. The senior at Northwest Rankin High School, represented by the American Humanist Association, filed a contempt motion yesterday in U.S. District Court in Jackson. The student says an April 17 district-wide honors program violated the district’s November settlement of a lawsuit over Christian-themed assemblies at the school. A district spokeswoman and a lawyer didn’t respond to requests for comment. [Read more]

Supernatural Visions are Perfectly Normal

toast-3[1]The Toronto Star, Canada’s highest-circulation newspaper, has good news for those of us who see signs and wonders in our breakfast toast. Their headline is: ‘Jesus on toast’ just a sign your brain is doing its job. They say, with some bold font added by us for emphasis: Spotting Jesus on your morning toast, the Virgin Mary on a piece of bark or the face of Elvis on a potato chip is completely normal; all you have to do is believe. “Believing is seeing,” says Kang Lee, a University of Toronto professor and the lead researcher behind a new study that finds “face pareidolia” or finding the Lord and Saviour in your toast is, in fact, not a sign your imagination has run away with itself. Rejoice, dear reader — you’re not insane. [Read more]

How to Fight Back Against the Court’s Prayer Decision

SCT%20Rightwing%20Majority[1]This week’s Supreme Court decision allowing some sectarian prayer at city council meetings is a deeply disappointing betrayal of America’s honored progressive values. Once again, the lopsided conservative majority proudly announced that it is on the wrong side of history. In Town of Greece v. Galloway, the four staunchly non-progressive justices huddled together in what social scientists call “in group bias.” They patronizingly viewed us “out group” atheists, agnostics, Jews and other non-Christians as marginalized citizens. [Read more]

Cousin of ‘Duck Dynasty’ Clan May Run for Vance McAllister’s Congressional Seat

vance-mcallister[1]The Robertson family of “Duck Dynasty” fame is reportedly trying to convince a close relative to run for the state’s 5th Congressional District race, now that current Congressman Vance McAllister has announced he won’t be seeking re-election after news of his infidelity hit the media last month. Willie Robertson, star of the A&E reality show, told The News Star in a recent interview that his first cousin Zach Dasher, a pharmaceutical representative from Calhoun, is one of the smartest young men he knows, and the relative would have the full support of the famous family if he chose to run for McAllister’s seat. [Read more]

God and the Gay Christian: An Interview with Matthew Vines

god_and_gay_christian_302[1]In 2012 Matthew Vines made a video that went viral; no cute kittens, just a speech he gave to his Presbyterian Church USA congregation in Wichita, Kansas, explaining exactly why six pieces of scripture, commonly called the “clobber passages,” do not in any way condemn homosexuality. That video is the basis of a new book called God and the Gay Christian, specifically tailored for a more conservative, evangelical audience. That audience has proved less than receptive so far, with Albert Mohler, president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky, penning an entire booklet designed to refute the book’s arguments before it even hit the shelves. [Read more]

A Good For Nothing God

God-Is-Love[1]We live in a bottom line society. If something isn’t efficient enough, if it doesn’t get the job done, or, most importantly, if it doesn’t make money, we get rid of it or ignore altogether in the first place. Whether in business, church, or just day to day life, many of the decisions we make are based on what’s best for the bottom line, what makes the most sense in light of our resources, or what will be the most beneficial to us in the end. Which means the things and even people we cherish the most are often those that are the most efficient, the most productive, and the most profitable. [Read more]

Jesus Statue on Montana Ski Hill Sparks State Fight with Atheists

Montana’s attorney general is digging in and says the state will not back down in a fight with atheists that’s winding through the courts over a 6-foot-tall Jesus statue that has stood at the Whitefish Mountain Resort for decades. The statue is technically on U.S. Forest Service property. Attorney General Tim Fox, along with the American Legion, filed an amicus brief with the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in response to a complaint from the Freedom From Religion Foundation, which is based in Wisconsin.

[Read more]

Supreme Court’s Prayer Ruling: Does It Allow Satanists’ Invocations, Too?

Now that the US Supreme Court has ruled that sectarian content is permissible within America’s longstanding tradition of public invocations and official prayer, other Americans, including Satanists and secular humanists, are hoping to use the ruling to make a case for their own public prayers at the start of official government gatherings.

[Read more]

Purity Balls, Plan B and Bad Sex Policy: Inside America’s Virginity Obsession

The men and girls in the photos hold hands and embrace – the young women are in long white dresses, the men in suits or military regalia. If some of the girls in the pictures weren’t so young – Laila and Maya Sa up there are seven and five years old, respectively – the portraits could be mistaken for wedding or prom pictures. [Read more]

The Enduring Benefits of Vaccination

Recently I wrote about a type of scientific denialism — often practiced by religious people — that cheats children out of the wonders of modern cosmology and encourages unnecessary religious doubt. [Read more]

Rand Paul’s Support for Israel

Republican Senator Rand Paul is an isolationist. This ought to make him a natural ally for appeasers like Steve Walt and John Mearshimer and the whole blame Israel first crowd. And indeed, he has taken positions, like opposing additional sanctions on Iran that placed him in their camp. [Read more]

How Crazy is Religion?

I’ve seen a number of posts and comments suggesting that religion should be treated as a mental illness. There certainly seems to be a strong correlation between religion and insanity. [Read more]

Even as U.S. Hispanics Lift Catholicism, Many Are Leaving the Church Behind

By all accounts, Hispanics are the future of Catholicism in America. Already, most young Roman Catholics in the United States are Hispanic, and soon that will be true of the overall Catholic population. [Read more]

Ham – Teaching Science is just Like Being Hitler

“He alone, who owns the youth, gains the future!” (– Hitler) That’s what Ken Ham’s arguing in his latest blog post. This is his  take on the notion that people wish to start teaching kids about science at an earlier age. Because teaching biology would entail teaching kids about evolution and that means Ken Ham cannot tell little children that magic did everything. [Read more]

PETITION: Rescind Saudi Laws Designating Atheists as “Terrorists”

Saudi Arabia has recently passed a set of laws which declare atheists to be terrorists, and accompanied with draconian punishments – even death – that put atheists in Saudi Arabia at great risk. Even innocent acts such as visiting an atheist website or communicating with any atheist organisation or individual is now a criminal offense. [Sign Petition]