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We Don the Temper of Kings

February 4, 2019

Oh, Bladensburg, Bladensburg, take down your cross! No? Okay, here’s our amicus brief to the Supreme Court. In our statement, we explain why that big, crossy, crucifixy war memorial has to go:

Commemoration of the Americans who paid the ultimate price in the service of this nation is not the exclusive domain of any single religion, Christian or otherwise. The U.S. military has always gone to great lengths to ensure that individual religions cannot co-opt the memory of those fallen in combat. It’s just wrong to refuse to acknowledge the masses of atheists, agnostics, Jews, Muslims, Hindus, and other servicemen and women by presuming a Latin cross can represent them and their sacrifice.

Democratic strategist Maria Cardona writes at The Hill insists that Sarah Huckabee Sanders is wrong because God doesn’t put people in the White House, especially someone like Trump. I’m not sure how Cardona knows this to be so. Perhaps she is a prophet.

Dana Milbank’s take on Sanders’ theocratic assertions makes more sense:

For the president’s principal spokeswoman, during a West Wing interview, to claim God is for Trump — and, by extension, God is against Democrats (she also ridiculed the idea that Democrats have any moral authority) — goes beyond an expression of personal belief.

It contradicts an American creed, embraced by many believers in this nation under God, best captured by John F. Kennedy at the close of his inaugural address: “Let us go forth to lead the land we love, asking His blessing and His help, but knowing that here on earth God’s work must truly be our own.”

Hillary Clinton and John Kasich co-author an op-ed for the Post on the horrors of animal poaching:

. . . we must end the market for wildlife and wildlife parts by confronting ruthless criminal trafficking syndicates and governments whose policies and actions (or inaction) contribute to the senseless slaughter of species threatened by the global trade.

And why is there such a huge crisis? As Skeptical Inquirer pointed out last year, it’s the belief that animal parts have magic powers that largely fuels the wildlife apocalypse.

The New York Times profiles Gretta Vosper, the atheist minister at Canada’s United Church, and her tense but unbroken relationship with the church.

One of the lawyers working to see a “Biblical literacy” bill make its way through the Florida legislature says, “It’s not about a secret way to evangelize.” Of course not. It’s an overt way to evengelize.

The head of the Legion of Doom (aka the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops), Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, lets an accused sexual predator of children lead mass because he was “already scheduled.” The priest’s abuse has been known since 2003. But, you know, he was already scheduled.

Pharmaceutical Society of Australia is urging a ban on the sale and recommendation of homeopathic products, writing in an open letter, “There may be a public perception that these products have health benefits, placing their health at risk if they choose homeopathic products and reject or delay treatments for which there is good evidence for safety and effectiveness.”

Indonesia’s parliament considers a bill that would subject musicians to special blasphemy laws for lyrics deemed insulting to religion or promoting “negative values” from foreigners.

An Indonesian philosophy lecturer, Rocky Gerung, is accused of blasphemy and endures five hours of questioning after referring to holy texts as “fiction” on TV.

New York’s state legislature is considering a bill to drop all religious exemptions from vaccination requirements. Hell yes.

Salam Sarhan, writing for The Independent, proposes an international campaign to end the use of religion in politics:

The movement could take the form of an NGO to push for governmental endorsements to a well-drafted “International Treaty to Ban the Political Use of Religion”, along the lines of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons. Such a treaty would set out a clear framework for what constitutes the many and varied abuses of religion in politics, and would represent a step towards greater respect for human rights by liberating those who suffer from religious repression – which is, in itself, a major abuse of human rights.

Except, um, that whole nuclear non-proliferation treaty thing? Hate to break it to you…

A big ol’ crucifix is displayed in Quebec’s National Assembly, of which a slim majority of Quebecois approve. But this, from the Montreal Gazette, was interesting:

In a 2013 Léger poll, 57 per cent of francophones said they agreed with the decision to keep the crucifix in the legislature, versus 36 who wanted it removed. However, anglophones tended to be against the crucifix, especially in Montreal, where 54 per cent of respondents said it was time to remove the symbol.

Here’s a fun headline, from The Telegraph: “Gay atheist starts party for Poles to hit Church.” To clarify:

A gay atheist has launched his own party in a bid to take on Poland’s conservative political establishment and curb the influence of the Catholic Church.

Robert Biedron announced the name of his party, Wiosna (Spring), to a packed Warsaw conference hall yesterday (Sunday) in what he hopes will be the first step in unseating Law and Justice, the conservative governing party that has strong church ties.

Children’s advocates gather in the Idaho Capitol for a prayer vigil in opposition to the state’s religious exemptions for faith-healing in medical neglect laws. Instead of bringing 183 child-sized coffins as in a previous demonstration, this time they brought teddy bears.

Psychologist David DeSteno writes at NYT that science needs to be open to learning things from religion, saying that despite the fact that the scientific method is the best means of gaining knowledge, “It is hubristic to assume that religious thinkers who have grappled for centuries with the workings of the human mind have never discovered anything of interest to scientists studying human behavior.”

CFI’s Ben Radford writes a piece for Adventures in Poor Taste! in which he examines the differences between X-Men’s psychics and those who claim have psychic powers in real life, none of whom seem to be able to lift a truck or a building with their mind.

At the CFI blog, Ben examines cases in which defense lawyers make “patently false and controversial” arguments to bolster their cases in violent crimes, but those bad defenses aren’t the cause of a defendent’s acquittal.

A study from the UK and Canada shows that Muslim women testifying in court are more likely to be believed if they wear head or face coverings.

In London, a Ugandan woman is convicted of genitally mutilating her 3-year-old daughter. This is the first such conviction in the UK.

A judge in Pennsylvania says a dude can’t claim a religious exemption from paying taxes to fund the Affordable Care Act that he just made up because it’s a neutral law of general applicability. Well, duh! Someone tell Hobby Lobby.

Bills to impose a “code of ethics” on public school teachers to prevent “political or ideological indoctrination” appear in both the South Dakota and Maine legislatures, bills aimed at preventing topics such as climate change or evolution from being discussed.

Business Insider rounds up 10 lies told by anti-vaxxers.

Breakfast may be the most important meal of the day…to avoid.

Quote of the Day

It’s a crazy Monday. Let’s get some wisdom from Seneca:

That which annoys us does not necessarily injure us; but we are driven into wild rage by our luxurious lives, so that whatever does not answer our whims arouses our anger. We don the temper of kings. For they, too, forgetful alike of their own strength and of other men’s weakness, grow white-hot with rage, as if they had received an injury, when they are entirely protected from danger of such injury by their exalted station. They are not unaware that this is true, but by finding fault they seize upon opportunities to do harm; they insist that they have received injuries, in order that they may inflict them.

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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.