The Seventh Circuit Court says parsonage tax exemptions are just fine, reversing a lower court’s decision in a case brought by the Freedom from Religion Foundation. Regarding the “Lemon test’s” third “excessive entanglement prong” for church-state cases, the court said the exemption “has a secular legislative purpose, its principal effect is neither to endorse nor to inhibit religion, and it does not cause excessive government entanglement.” The court also cited, and you knew this was coming, Greece v. Galloway, saying that the exemption is, well, just an old thing and we can just defer to the old thing. Oh, the beauty of the law!
Law360 talked to our legal director Nick Little about the decision:
The argument by the court that reducing discrimination between religions is a valid secular purpose seems to fly in the face both of logic — favoring all religions equally is still favoring religion (and even so, not all religions have ministers who can take advantage of the exemption) — and the clear ruling of the Supreme Court in Epperson v. Arkansas that not only does the Establishment Clause prohibit the favoring of one religion over another, but it also prohibits the favoring of religion over nonreligion.
Peter Beinart in The Atlantic noticed something different about many of the Democratic presidential candidates’ announcements: Not a lot of God-talk. He writes:
Secular Democrats haven’t only grown more numerous. They’ve also become some of the party’s most motivated activists. As The Atlantic’s Emma Green has noted, a PRRI poll taken last August and September found that Democrats who shun organized religion were more than twice as likely to have attended a political rally in the previous year than Democrats who identify with a religious group. Today’s Democratic candidates cannot simply assert, as Obama did in 2004, that “we worship an awesome God in the blue states,” because so many active Democrats do not.
What’s it like to be a pro-reality doctor in the age of anti-vax fanaticism? Soumya Karlamangla at the LA Times finds out. For example, after posting on Facebook that it was a good idea to get the next flu vaccine, here’s what happened to Dr. Dana Corriel:
Within hours, the post was flooded with thousands of comments from people opposed to vaccines. … she began to feel threatened. People she had never treated gave her one-star ratings online. Commenters called her a “pharma vaccine whore” and a “child killer,” according to screenshots shared with The Times. Someone looked up her office address in New York City and mailed her an anti-vaccine book.
Here’s an anti-vax comment received by a pediatrics practice:
We’re in WW3. The militaries around the world need to get together and stop this insanity.
Doctors in Canada are sounding the alarm about the sale of homeopathic “vaccines,” aka nosodes, for contributing to vaccine hesitancy and, oh yeah, NOT BEING VACCINES. Dr. Vinita Dubey, Toronto’s associate medical officer of health, told CBC:
[Homeopathic promotion spreads] the false logic that natural things are good and safe, while unnatural things are not … the argument that governments promote vaccination because of influence from pharmaceutical companies [and] selectivity in choosing which scientific papers to focus on.
Amazon did indeed remove a few books with false “autism cures,” but it turns out it still sells many others.
According to the website Egyptian Streets, police checked attendees at a Red Hot Chili Peppers concert in Cairo to see if they had brought rainbow flags. One concertgoer tweeted, “Police officer asks: ‘you have no flags?’ Asked what type of flags responds: ‘flag for the gays. Not allowed.'”
The Four Horsemen, the text of the 2007 conversation between Hitchens, Dawkins, Dennett, and Harris, will be released in the U.S. this week. Andy Norman in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette writes of “atheism’s Mount Rushmore”:
I find that the print volume adds something new to the public record: Not only do the surviving members of the foursome — Mr. Dawkins, Mr. Dennett and Mr. Harris — but also each weighs in with fresh thoughts on the subjects they discussed, the text affords a different, more reflective way of processing the truly vital exchange of ideas. This slim volume (130 pages) is chock-full of observations that secular readers will find thrilling and believers will find challenging. Those concerned to understand religion as a natural phenomenon will derive special benefit from ruminating over its pages.
Proceeds from the book benefit CFI, so, you know, buy many copies.
Rush Limbaugh says the New Zealand shootings might have been a “false flag” meant to make conservatives look bad. Yeah, I don’t think you need any help with that, Rush.
SCOTUSblog digs into roots of the conspiracy theories circulating on Twitter that Ruth Bader Ginsburg has died or is in a coma (neither is true) and we just aren’t being told.
Philosophy professor Laurie Shrage writes in the New York Times that it’s well past time to confront what she says are the anti-Semitic strains within the works of philosophers like Kant, Hume, and Voltaire. Here’s an example:
Kant, too, thought that Jews had immutable traits that made them inferior to Christians. […] For Kant, this tie rendered Jews “heteronomous” or incapable of transcending material forces, which a moral order required. In this way, Jews are the opposite of autonomous, rational Christians, and are therefore incapable of being incorporated into an ethical Christian society.
Sam Kestenbaum at the Times profiles the end-times obsessed pastor Jonathan Cahn and his role in elevating Trump as a theological figure.
The Economist looks at the widespread belief in conspiracy theories…in Britain!
A study of conspiracy theories conducted by researchers at Cambridge University and YouGov, a polling firm, found that some 60% of Britons believe in conspiracies. Leavers [pro-Brexit] are more attracted to them than Remainers: 71% of Leave voters believe in at least one, compared with 49% of Remain voters. Thirty-one per cent of Leavers believe that Muslim immigration is part of a wider plot to make Muslims the majority in Britain, compared with 6% of Remainers. This week a Tory activist, Peter Lamb, resigned from the party after it emerged that he had endorsed various conspiracy-flavoured theories about Islam, tweeting, for example: “Turkey buys oil from isis. Muslims sticking together!”
Archaeologist Rebecca Wragg Sykes writes of Neanderthals in Aeon:
Contrary to what we once thought, they were far from brutish, ‘lesser’ beings, or mere evolutionary losers on a withered branch of our family tree. Rather, the invention of new dating techniques, analysis of thousands more fossils and artefacts, and advances in ancient DNA research have collectively revealed the extent to which the lives of Neanderthals are braided together with our own.
Lydia Horne at Wired reports on the activities of Romania’s Instagram-savvy witches.
I would have taped over Christian homeschool VHS tapes with Conan O’Brien shows too.
Science sings to cheese.
The Onion explains a theological finding that Adam and Eve would have been better off if they each carried a piece:
Just imagine: If Adam and Eve had carried firearms and stood their ground against God, they would have been able to eat the fruit from the Tree of Knowledge in peace, and He could never have forced them to leave paradise.
Quote of the Day
At The Guardian, Van Bedham, who almost died of measles as a teenager, wants anti-vax parents to really think about what they’re doing:
I ask the parents who follow the “wellness bloggers” to oblige me one request. Look at the skin of your kids’ faces now. Imagine the rashes, the sores and the scars.
Look close, and ask yourself; how much pain on the face of the one you love do you reckon you’re ready to live with forever?
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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.