First They Came for the Fact-Checkers

November 4, 2015

The Morning Heresy is your daily digest of news and links relevant to the secular and skeptic communities.      

Ellen Barry at the New York Times reports on the horror in Bangladesh:

So far this year, four bloggers and one publisher have been hacked to death in Bangladesh — a tiny number for a country with a population of around 160 million. But anonymous threats are common, and the cumulative psychological effect has been profound, prompting public figures to steer away from discussing the terrorist threat openly. …

With a handful of exceptions, “I can’t think of any Bangladeshi intellectual who is writing under his or her name on this issue,” [PEN International’s Salil Tripathi] said. 

You might not have noticed, but yesterday was election day in the U.S., and among other things, the voters of Houston decided that LGBT folks are okay to discriminate against, in large part due to malicious lies spread that the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance would allow men to prey on girls in public bathrooms. Why yes, that is ridiculous. And yet. 

Jared Woodfill, who ran the main organization championing discrimination, said they’d oppose the law even if transgender rights were taken out of the equation, because he says gays and lesbians don’t deserve this kind of protection either.

[Dominic Holden of] BuzzFeed News asked Woodfill, a Christian, if he also think nondiscrimination protections should be lifted for religion?

“Absolutely not.”

After being bought by Rupert Murdoch, National Geographic undergoes the largest storm of layoffs in its history. “Several people in the channel’s fact-checking department, for example, were terminated on Tuesday, employees said.” You don’t say. This is just what we need: nature and anthropology reporting that is “fair and balanced.”  

Leo Igwe writes about atheist activism in Botswana, saying they have their jobs cut out for them, “combating superstition based abuses, awakening the population from their dogmatic slumber and tackling religious extremism.” 

Last week, actress Leah Remini went on 20/20 to unload on the Church of Scientology

David G. McAfee guest-posts at Friendly Atheist to list what he says are the eight biggest threats to church-state separation in the U.S., though we think he missed some, not least of which is the push to fund private religious schools with taxpayer dollars through vouchers. Indeed, this very morning a Senate committee is holding a hearing on the D.C. school voucher program. Here’s why CFI opposes it.

Due to a lawsuit from a doctor who didn’t want to prescribe birth control because of Jesus, Philadelphia now offers huge leeway to physicians who want to opt out of doing their jobs when their religion gets in the way. 

Amy Porterfield Levy notes that the FDA seems far more concerned about the authenticity of mayonnaise than the efficacy or safety of homeopathic products. 

Agata Blaszczak-Boxe (that’s an amazing name) reports on sadly-necessary “fire is hot” news:

Many websites that promote unscientific views about vaccinations use pseudoscience and misinformation to spread the idea that vaccines are dangerous, according to a new study. 

The Boy Scouts of America will now require scouts to say out loud how they have “done their duty to God.” 

Anthropologist Dounia Bouzar speaks to Reuters about turning would-be ISIS recruits away from extremism, a process akin to disassociating from a cult. 

Jim Underdown of CFI-L.A. will be in Santa Monica on November 14 talking about scientific investigations of paranormal phenomena. 

Parents in Steeleville, Missouri are worried that their kids are going to learn way too much about Islam in school. What exactly they’re worried will happen is not explained.  

Your future foretold, based on used wax strips and oh forget it I give up. 

Former senator John Danforth, an ordained Episcopal priest, on the trainwreck that is our political system, and how religion hurts compromise, but could possibly help:

Religion can work either for or against compromise. Most often, especially in dogmatic forms, it has opposed compromise. To believe that one’s political positions are the same as God’s and that those who disagree are God’s enemies is to make negotiation impossible. Religiously fraught topics such as abortion and gay marriage are called “wedge” issues because they are intended to split us apart. A political process that values compromise allows both sides to express themselves respectfully. Because religion often insists on hardened positions, there is good reason for keeping it out of politics. Still, the meaning of religion is to bind us together and the ministry of the church is reconciliation. This means that religion’s message to politics should be to respect differ
ences, which often requires compromise.  

Quote of the Day:

Bonya Rafida Ahmed speaks before UNESCO on the crisis in Bangladesh: “Find a way to save these people if you can”…

I am pleading to the international community to pay attention before it gets completely out of control like some of the other countries we have heard about today. These brave journalists, writers, bloggers, and publishers love their country and want to make a difference in their own homeland. They are out, along with the citizens of Bangladesh, in the street today to protest these murders, the impunity, and the inaction of the Bangladeshi Government. We have been continuing our work knowing the threats. We are asking the international community to come forward to help us save our voices and help us maintain a healthy secular society.  

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Original images by Shutterstock

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