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Besmirching Prevaricators

December 19, 2019

The president says he in in full support of the separation of church and state, and opposes measures that would weaken it. Oh, I’m sorry, I should clarify. The president of Mexico said this. I can see why you might have been confused. The AP reports:

President Andrés Manuel López Obrador said Wednesday he does not support a proposal to further relax Mexico’s strict legal separation of church and state, throwing cold water on a draft bill that would upend longstanding political doctrine in the country.

López Obrador said the initiative, presented last week by a senator from his leftist Morena party, is something that “should not be touched” and “was resolved over a century and a half ago.” …

… Among specific measures, it would reportedly allow religious groups greater access to all manner of media, including TV, radio and newspapers, relax regulations on church ownership of property, provide for cooperation between church and state on cultural and social development and allow “conscientious objections” to law on religious grounds.

It would let ecclesiastical authorities do spiritual work in government facilities such as hospitals, rehab centers and even military installations.

Yeah, so, anyway, obviously the President of the United States was impeached on Wednesday, but there was no Morning Heresy on Thursday because of a bunch of meetings I had to be at, so I didn’t get to write anything about it when it was news. Of course, it’s not something that’s in the CFI wheelhouse anyway, so it’s not like I missed some big opportunity to weigh in on something that specifically touches on science, skepticism, and religion or something.

But this does! Evangelical magazine Christianity Today came out in favor of removal of the president:

That he should be removed, we believe, is not a matter of partisan loyalties but loyalty to the Creator of the Ten Commandments.

To the many evangelicals who continue to support Mr. Trump in spite of his blackened moral record, we might say this: Remember who you are and whom you serve. Consider how your justification of Mr. Trump influences your witness to your Lord and Savior. Consider what an unbelieving world will say if you continue to brush off Mr. Trump’s immoral words and behavior in the cause of political expediency. If we don’t reverse course now, will anyone take anything we say about justice and righteousness with any seriousness for decades to come? Can we say with a straight face that abortion is a great evil that cannot be tolerated and, with the same straight face, say that the bent and broken character of our nation’s leader doesn’t really matter in the end?

The aforementioned president was not pleased. NBC reports:

“A far left magazine, or very ‘progressive,’ as some would call it, which has been doing poorly and hasn’t been involved with the Billy Graham family for many years, Christianity Today, knows nothing about reading a perfect transcript of a routine phone call and would rather have a Radical Left nonbeliever, who wants to take your religion & your guns, than Donald Trump as your President,” Trump tweeted.

“No President has done more for the Evangelical community, and it’s not even close,” he continued. “You’ll not get anything from those Dems on stage. I won’t be reading ET again!”

We can presume he meant “CT” and not Entertainment Tonight or the novelization of a Spielberg movie. We can also presume he doesn’t read “CT” anyway, nor anything else.

You may not realize it, but anti-vaxxer spiritual guru Marianne Williamson is still running for president for some reason. In the most ironic of all ironies, the Post quotes her telling one voter, “It’s time to wake up from our magical thinking.” Oh, Ms. Williamson. If we did that, you’d disappear, as Douglas Adams put it, in a puff of logic.

Stephanie Martin of Southern Methodist University writes at USA Today about her worries over folks like Rick Perry and Nikki Haley (yes, Nikki Haley) saying that Trump is chosen by God, and how such ideas take root in evangelicalism.

Trouble is, the Perry and Haley arguments give leaders like Trump a pass when they do and say ungodly things — like allegedly groping women, lying about charitable giving or enacting immigration policies that result in children being separated from parents at the border. …

…What I discovered is that those vulnerable voices are all too often absent in the stories evangelicals tell. … when conservative pastors describe the United States and the American public sphere, they emphasize how God’s main purpose in the United States is either to grant evangelicals special status in the form of Christian religious liberty or else to supernaturally rule via a self-appointed leader who will make sure conservative values carry the day. Either way, evangelicals have primary citizenship while other groups and other issues are omitted from the conversation. It isn’t that they don’t matter. They simply don’t figure into the story.

Remember how a court quashed our case for Secular Celebrants in Texas? Well, we’ve officially appealed, as we promised we would:

“I’ve not seen a law that more blatantly and facially violates the Constitution’s prohibition against establishment of religion and its guarantee of equal protection for all,” said Nick Little, CFI’s Vice President and General Counsel. “This law takes a government benefit—the right to solemnize marriages—and conditions it explicitly on a person’s religion. That’s as unconstitutional as it gets.”

Hemant Mehta has a great summary of the whole case and the terrible decision by the previous judge:

There’s no reason Texas should be allowed to stop trained atheists from doing what dollar-store theists can already do with the full weight of the law. They figured that out in Indiana. They’ll learn that eventually in Texas, too.

Meanwhile, the Supreme Court is set to hear a case brought by Catholic school teachers fired due to alleged discrimination, which the schools counter fall under the rubric of “ministerial exceptions” to, well, laws.

We have the first new videos from 2019’s CSICon: Richard Dawkins on “Taking Courage from Darwin” and Jonathan Jarry on “How to Join the Home Front for Science.”

New Jersey, my state of origin, still hasn’t passed its toughened vaccination requirements because of intimidation from the anti-vaxxer crowd. If you live in New Jersey, tell your state senators to get a spine and support the bill.

The Night Before Christmas needs to be decoded,
For though it’s belovéd, we ain’t sure who wrote it!
To whom do we turn to solve parlous pickles?
The skeptic detective, the good man Joe Nickell.

The Houston Chronicle reports on how Southern Baptist churches are responding to the explosive revelations of sexual abuse exposed by the Chronicle and the San Antonio Express-News:

At the national level, SBC leaders have called for sweeping changes in how churches treat victims of abuse and have adopted a curriculum to help churches deal with allegations. The SBC’s public policy arm also overhauled its national three-day conference to focus on abuse.

At least a dozen state-level organizations have adopted reforms ranging from resolutions denouncing child abuse and those who conceal it to partnering with outside organizations to develop better prevention measures. More than 1,400 churches and organizations have also signed up for a program that provides background checks.

Churches have been ousted from or voluntarily left the convention because they employed convicted sex offenders, or because of allegations that they mishandled abuse complaints.

Speaking of explosive religion exposés, the news that the Mormon Church has been hoarding $100 billion and hiding it from the IRS seems to resulting in absolutely no action or consequences.

Mormons will also be pulling more than 400,000 kids out of the Boy Scouts of America (18 percent of its membership) and into their own counterpart program that will be much heavier on the God stuff. RNS reports:

The split between the Boy Scouts and church ends a nearly century-old relationship between two organizations that were brought together by shared values but have diverged in recent years. Amid declining membership, the Boy Scouts of America opened its arms to openly gay youth members and adult volunteers as well as girls and transgender boys, while the church believes that same-sex intimacy is a sin.

“The reality there is we didn’t really leave them; they kind of left us,” high-ranking church leader M. Russell Ballard recently said about the split.

The folks a Bethel Church in Redding, California apparently tried to raise a 2-year-old girl from the dead. No, really. RNS reports:

Arlene Sánchez-Walsh, a professor of religious studies at Azusa Pacific University, said that in this case, worshippers are not conducting prayers for the girl to go to heaven as is common after a death.

“They’re praying for this girl to come back to her body,” Sánchez-Walsh said. … When she came across this very public call for resurrection, she said, she was surprised.

“When I read about it, I thought it was somewhere else,” Sánchez-Walsh said. “I’m taken aback by the very raw nature of the request.”

The New York Times says India’s Muslims-Go-Away law betrays the legacy of what is supposed to be “a secular and democratic republic, with civil liberties for citizens of all faiths”:

Since he took office in 2014, Mr. Modi has actively worked to change that, even rewriting history books to exclude Muslim rulers — who, among other things, built the Taj Mahal — and changing official place names to Hindu from Muslim. Hindu mobs that lynch Muslims are rarely punished. … all democratic nations need to speak out against a law, and a national policy, that is patently discriminatory and a threat to India’s democracy.

Fifteen years ago, Navy pilot Chad Underwood reported the sighting of a unidentified flying object, which the New York Times made famous a couple of years ago with its big report on military investigation of UFOs. Now he’s talking to New York Magazine:

At no point did I want to speculate as to what I thought this thing was — or be associated with, you know, “alien beings” and “alien aircraft” and all that stuff. I’m like, “No. I do not want to be part of that community.” It is just what we call a UFO. I couldn’t identify it. It was flying. And it was an object. It’s as simple as that.

CFI’s Overlord of Libraries, Tim Binga, looks at a travelogue by Elbert Hubbard from the late 19th century with anecdotes about his encounters with Robert Green Ingersoll:

Hubbard points out that Ingersoll was under constant scrutiny from “prevaricators” who tried to impugn his reputation, but that his reputation was never “besmirched.” In this volume, Hubbard relays the famous “peacock tongues” story, which he himself witnessed.

Norway’s postal service makes an ad where Jesus is born of the union between Mary and a mailman. It’s a little-known fact that…uh…never mind.

Facebook is banning posts and ads that spread misinformation about the U.S. Census. All other lies I think are still fine.

Linking to a story or webpage does not imply endorsement by Paul or CFI. Not every use of quotation marks is ironic or sarcastic, but it often is.