Category - Faith and Spirituality

Koch-backed group sending ‘real scientists’ to school Pope Francis about ‘Biblical duty’ to pollute

Raw Story, By Travis Gettys, April 24

A Koch-backed think tank plans to send climate change deniers to Rome in hopes of convincing Pope Francis not to support United Nations action on the environment.

The libertarian Heartland Institute — perhaps best known for working alongside cigarette manufacturers to question the dangers of second-hand smoke — will host a workshop featuring two “real scientists” Tuesday in Rome ahead of a Vatican summit on the environment, although the group neglected to identify its scientists.

Pope Francis plans to issue an encyclical letter this summer that will address environmental issues, and very likely climate change — which could make the issue a moral and religious concern for Christians worldwide.

[…]

“The Holy Father is being misled by ‘experts’ at the United Nations who have proven unworthy of his trust,” said Joseph Bast, president of the Heartland Institute. “Humans are not causing a climate crisis on God’s Green Earth – in fact, they are fulfilling their Biblical duty to protect and use it for the benefit of humanity. Though Pope Francis’s heart is surely in the right place, he would do his flock and the world a disservice by putting his moral authority behind the United Nations’ unscientific agenda on the climate.”

Via Wonkette: Koch Brothers Explain Bible To Pope. Thanks, Koch Brothers!

First Time in World History Judge Recognizes Two Chimpanzees as Legal Persons, Grants them Writ of Habeas Corpus

Nonhuman Rights Project, April 20

New York, NY – For the first time in history a judge has granted an order to show cause and writ of habeas corpus on behalf of a nonhuman animal. This afternoon, in a case brought by the Nonhuman Rights Project (NhRP), Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Barbara Jaffe issued an order to show cause and writ of habeas corpus on behalf of two chimpanzees, Hercules and Leo, who are being used for biomedical experimentation at Stony Brook University on Long Island, New York.

Under the law of New York State, only a “legal person” may have an order to show cause and writ of habeas corpus issued in his or her behalf. The Court has therefore implicitly determined that Hercules and Leo are “persons.”

How Corporate America Invented Christian America

Inside one reverend’s big business-backed 1940s crusade to make the country conservative again.

Politico, By Kevin M. Kruse, April 16

In December 1940, as America was emerging from the Great Depression, more than 5,000 industrialists from across the nation made their yearly pilgrimage to the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in New York City, convening for the annual meeting of the National Association of Manufacturers. The program promised an impressive slate of speakers: titans at General Motors, General Electric, Standard Oil, Mutual Life, and Sears, Roebuck; popular lecturers such as etiquette expert Emily Post and renowned philosopher-historian Will Durant; even FBI director J. Edgar Hoover. Tucked away near the end of the program was a name few knew initially, but one everyone would be talking about by the convention’s end: Reverend James W. Fifield Jr.

Handsome, tall, and somewhat gangly, the 41-year-old Congregationalist minister bore more than a passing resemblance to Jimmy Stewart. Addressing the crowd of business leaders, Fifield delivered a passionate defense of the American system of free enterprise and a withering assault on its perceived enemies in Franklin D. Roosevelt’s administration. Decrying the New Deal’s “encroachment upon our American freedoms,” the minister listed a litany of sins committed by the Democratic government, ranging from its devaluation of currency to its disrespect for the Supreme Court. Singling out the regulatory state for condemnation, he denounced “the multitude of federal agencies attached to the executive branch” and warned ominously of “the menace of autocracy approaching through bureaucracy.”

It all sounds familiar enough today, but Fifield’s audience of executives was stunned. Over the preceding decade, as America first descended into and then crawled its way out of the Great Depression, the these titans of industry had been told, time and time again, that they were to blame for the nation’s downfall. Fifield, in contrast, insisted that they were the source of its salvation.

They just needed to do one thing: Get religion.


Shades of Jeff Sharlet’s The Family, as updated

— and Lindsay Bayerstein interviews Jeff Sharlet here: Worse Than Fascists: Christian Political Group ‘The Family’ Openly Reveres Hitler

Sen. Hillary Clinton has been involved with the Family since 1993 when, as first lady, she joined a White House prayer circle for political wives. Clinton has also sought spiritual counseling from the current head of the Family, Doug Coe. Sharlet argues that Clinton’s longtime association with the Family has helped her forge working relationships with powerful religious conservatives such as Family member and anti-abortion crusader Sen. Sam Brownback of Kansas.

The National Memo: Book Review: ‘One Nation Under God: How Corporate America Invented Christian America’ By Sarah Posner, April 12

Vatican ends controversial three-year oversight of US sisters’ leaders

National Catholic Reporter, By Joshua J. McElwee, April 16

Vatican City – A controversial three-year program of Vatican oversight of the main leadership group of U.S. Catholic sisters has come to a curt and unexpected end, with the sisters and the church’s doctrinal office announcing that the goal of the oversight “has been accomplished.”

The Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith has accepted a final report of the doctrinal assessment of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, “marking the conclusion” of the oversight, the Vatican announced Thursday.

The lengthy process saw the Vatican issue what the sisters called unsubstantiated sharp critiques of their work and life while appointing Seattle Archbishop J. Peter Sartain to oversee a program of reform for LCWR. Thursday’s news release says the Vatican and the sisters both noted the “spirit of cooperation” of the ordeal.
Read More

Florida House Overwhelmingly Passes Religious ‘License To Discriminate’ Adoption Bill

Think Progress, By Zack Ford, April 9

On Thursday afternoon, the Florida House of Representatives voted 75-38 to pass a bill (HB 7111) that would allow the state’s adoption agencies to engage in any kind of discrimination if serving a particular family violates its “religious or moral convictions or policies.” The state contracts with several private agencies to manage its child-placement services, some of which are religiously affiliated. Under the bill, the state could not revoke a license nor refuse any funding to these agencies based on their decision not to place children with certain families.

Unlike how the “religious freedom” bills played out in Arkansas and Indiana, proponents of Florida’s legislation were quite open during this week’s debates about the bill’s discriminatory intentions. On Wednesday, Rep. David Richardson (D) spearheaded efforts to undermine the bill with various amendments that would have carved out nondiscrimination exemptions. His first amendment would have prevented the state from funding organizations that discriminate; the bill’s sponsor, Rep. Jason Brodeur (R) responded, “This amendment does the exact opposite of the entire bill. I was ask that you vote it down.” It was, in fact, voted down 38-78.

From there, other members introduced separate amendments carving out discrimination exemptions for specific classes: one for race, one for marital status, one for sexual orientation, one for gender, etc. Among the amendment sponsors was Rep. Janet Cruz (D), who explained, “I have a daughter who’s gay and I want to make sure she’s never discriminated against if she decides to adopt a child.” In each case, Brodeur offered a substitute amendment — each of which was identical — adding instead only the words, “An act by a private child-placing agency under this subsection does not constitute discrimination.” The substitute amendments passed every time as the House essentially voted in favor of discrimination based on all of those classes.


Why Pope Francis could be facing a Catholic schism

If the battle over communion for the remarried doesn’t die down, one side or the other may take drastic measures

The Spectator, By Luke Coppen, April 11

A scurrilous rumour recently swept Rome: the Pope had summoned the Vatican’s finance czar over his expenses. When Cardinal George Pell admitted spending more than £3,000 on a designer kitchen unit, Francis quipped: ‘What, is it made of solid gold?’

That never happened, of course, but the tittle-tattle served a purpose. The story appeared in an Italian magazine just as Francis was deciding how much power to give Cardinal Pell over the curial accounts. Influential figures wanted to keep their money away from the cardinal’s prying eyes. What better way than to present him as a rogue who demanded receipts for every cappuccino while shelling out on marble counter-tops?

Vatican politics haven’t been this unpleasant since the bleakest days of Benedict XVI’s reign, when a papal butler leaked stacks of sensitive letters to the press. As one veteran Catholic commentator put it, ‘The nasty is back.’ And it’s likely to get nastier still in the run-up to this year’s crunch synod of bishops in Rome. Catholic bloggers are talking about the ‘great division’.

In truth, ‘the nasty’ never really went away. Although Francis was elected two years ago with a mandate to overhaul the Curia, the Vatican bureaucracy looks much the same as when he arrived (with the exception of Cardinal Pell’s new Secretariat for the Economy). The threat of imminent redundancies has kept the Pope’s opponents on the back foot, but also lowered morale among loyal and diligent officials. When Francis addressed the Curia last December, no one expected him to bounce out like the former Microsoft boss Steve Ballmer, shouting, ‘I love this company!’ But many were taken aback when he accused workers of being gripped by 15 sicknesses of the soul, including ‘spiritual Alzheimer’s’ and ‘vainglory’. One news outlet summed up the speech with the headline: ‘Merry Christmas, you power-hungry hypocrites.’

Thousands march in evening protest in downtown Montreal

Police quickly declared the demonstration illegal, arrests made

CBC, March 24

Thousands of protesters hit the streets of downtown Montreal Tuesday night as part of student protests against the province’s austerity measures.

Crowds gathered at Parc Émilie-Gamelin at 9 p.m. before marching along the downtown streets.

Police quickly declared the protest illegal, saying an itinerary of the route was not provided, and began making arrests.

CTV News: Montreal students protest for second night, police disperse crowds

Class and the Classroom

How Elite Universities Are Hurting America

Foreign Affairs, By George Scialabba, March / April 2015

One of the most fruitful ideas to emerge from twentieth-century social theory is Max Weber’s notion of the “iron cage” of purposive rationality. Weber argued that once some principle of organization—market competition, say, or ideological orthodoxy—has achieved dominance in the spheres of production and governance, the rest of a society’s institutions find themselves gradually but inexorably adopting the same principle. In an ideology-dominant society, everything fluid turns to stone; in a market-dominant society, everything solid melts into air.

Not everything, of course. The iron cage is, like most other useful theoretical notions, an ideal type. All societies retain protected (or neglected) spaces where not-yet-rationalized traditions and communities flourish. Still, although the mills of rationalization turn slowly, they grind exceedingly fine. In time, Weber believed, every practice or institution in a modern society, regardless of its original purpose, experiences an irresistible pressure to adapt to the society’s fundamental organizing principle.

Read More

China’s Tensions With Dalai Lama Spill Into the Afterlife

New York Times, By Chris Buckley, March 11

Hong Kong — Chinese Communist Party leaders are afraid that the Dalai Lama will not have an afterlife. Worried enough that this week, officials repeatedly warned that he must reincarnate, and on their terms.

Tensions over what will happen when the 14th Dalai Lama, who is 79, dies, and particularly over who decides who will succeed him as the most prominent leader in Tibetan Buddhism, have ignited at the annual gathering of China’s legislators in Beijing.

Officials have amplified their argument that the Communist government is the proper guardian of the Dalai Lama’s succession through an intricate process of reincarnation that has involved lamas, or senior monks, visiting a sacred lake and divining dreams.

Party functionaries were incensed by the exiled Dalai Lama’s recent speculation that he might end his spiritual lineage and not reincarnate. That would confound the Chinese government’s plans to engineer a succession that would produce a putative 15th Dalai Lama who accepts China’s presence and policies in Tibet. Their anger welled up on Wednesday, as it had a day earlier.

Zhu Weiqun, a Communist Party official who has long dealt with Tibetan issues, told reporters in Beijing on Wednesday that the Dalai Lama had, essentially, no say over whether he was reincarnated. That was ultimately for the Chinese government to decide, he said, according to a transcript of his comments on the website of People’s Daily, the party’s main newspaper.

“Decision-making power over the reincarnation of the Dalai Lama, and over the end or survival of this lineage, resides in the central government of China,” said Mr. Zhu, formerly a deputy head of the United Front Department of the Communist Party, which oversees dealings with religious and other nonparty groups. He now leads the ethnic and religious affairs committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, an advisory body that meets at the same time as the Legislature, or National People’s Congress.

Not Guilty: Flood Wall Street Protesters Vindicated By Manhattan Court

Judge rules NYPD violated demonstrators’ First Amendment rights

Common Dreams, By Sarah Lazare, March 6

In a ruling on Thursday hailed as a vindication, a Manhattan court has determined ten climate activists “not guilty” on charges related to a thousands-strong climate protest that “flooded Wall Street” in New York City’s financial district in September of last year.

Over 100 people—including one dressed as a polar bear—were arrested at the civil disobedience, which took direct aim at the role of capitalism in driving global warming and overall planetary destruction. Timed to coincide with a United Nations summit of heads of state and corporate leaders, the direct action followed the People’s Climate March, which featured over 400,000 participants and was led by communities from the front-lines of the climate crisis.

[…]

According to a statement from protesters, New York City Criminal Court Judge Robert Mandelbaum ruled that the dispersal order issued by the New York Police Department constituted an unlawful violation of demonstrators’ First Amendment rights.

Going beyond the “not guilty” ruling, however, Mandelbaum also took judicial notice of the fact that climate change is real, human-made, and requires drastic action. Defense Attorney Martin Stolar said that this acknowledgment is “unprecedented and has significance for future litigation involving climate change.”

New York City to add Muslim holidays to school calendar

France24, March 4

New York City public schools will start observing two of Islam’s most important holidays, Eid al-Fitr and Eid al-Adha, The New York Times reported on Wednesday, citing an announcement to be delivered by the city’s Mayor Bill de Blasio.

According to the newspaper, the changes to the school calendar are in line with de Blasio’s election pledge to better integrate and represent the city’s increasing Muslim population, which is estimated at between 600,000 and 1 million. New York City public schools already recognise several Jewish and Christian holidays.

In a post on Twitter prior to the announcement, de Blasio said the new policy will represent “a change that respects the diversity of our city.”

A 2008 study carried out by Columbia University showed that around 10 percent of New York City public-school children were Muslim, and that about 95 percent of Muslim children in the city attend public schools.

Many heads will, no doubt, explode.

Catholics don’t have to breed ‘like rabbits’, says Pope Francis

Pope says Catholic church supports “responsible parenting” but criticises ‘ideological colonisation’ of the developing world

Pope defends church’s opposition to artificial contraception

AP, January 20

Catholics do not have to breed “like rabbits” and should instead practise “responsible parenting”, Pope Francis said on Monday.

Speaking to reporters en route home from the Philippines, Francis said there were plenty of church-approved ways to regulate births.

But he firmly upheld church teaching banning contraception and said no outside institution should impose its views on regulating family size, blasting what he called the “ideological colonisation” of the developing world.

African bishops, in particular, have long complained about how progressive, western ideas about birth control and gay rights are increasingly being imposed on the developing world by groups, institutions or individual nations, often as a condition for development aid.

“Every people deserves to conserve its identity without being ideologically colonised,” Francis said.

At that, Francis’ head exploded from the cognitive dissonance and hypocrisy.

Anchor Leaves CNN After Paris Tweets


aletejahtv

NYT – The veteran CNN anchor Jim Clancy has left the network after a series of Twitter messages he wrote about the terrorist attack on the French satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo that left 12 people dead.

In the tweets, which were sent on the day of the attack, Mr. Clancy wrote about the cartoons the paper had published depicting the Prophet Muhammad, but he then began criticizing supporters of Israel and sparring with other Twitter users. Mr. Clancy’s Twitter account has since been deleted, but the tweets were published on several websites, including Gawker, Twitchy and Mediaite.

Pope strongly defends church teaching against contraception

AP, January 16

Manilla – Pope Francis issued his strongest defense yet of church teaching opposing artificial contraception on Friday, using a rally in Asia’s largest Catholic nation to urge families to be “sanctuaries of respect for life.”

Francis also denounced the corruption that has plagued the Philippines for decades and urged officials to instead work to end its “scandalous” poverty and social inequalities during his first full day in Manila, where he received a rock star’s welcome at every turn.

[…]

Francis has largely shied away from emphasizing church teaching on hot-button issues, saying the previous two popes made the teaching well-known and that he wants to focus on making the church a place of welcome, not rules. But his comments were clearly a nod to the local church, which recently lost a significant fight when President Benigno Aquino III pushed through a reproductive health law that allows the government to provide artificial birth control to the poor.

“Be sanctuaries of respect for life, proclaiming the sacredness of every human life from conception to natural death,” Francis exhorted the crowd. “What a gift this would be to society if every Christian family lived fully its noble vocation.”

He then deviated from his prepared remarks to praise Pope Paul VI for having “courageously” resisted calls for an opening in church teaching on sexuality in the 1960s. Paul penned the 1968 encyclical “Humanae Vitae” which enshrined the church’s opposition to artificial birth control.

Francis noted that Paul was aware that some families would find it difficult to uphold the teaching and “he asked confessors to be particularly compassionate and understandable for particular cases.”

But he nevertheless said Paul was prescient in resisting the trends of the times.

“He looked beyond. He looked to the peoples of the Earth and saw the destruction of the family because of the lack of children,” Francis said. “Paul VI was courageous. He was a good pastor. He warned his sheep about the wolves that were approaching, and from the heavens he blesses us today.”

Oklahoma to stage first execution since botched procedure 9 months ago

Lethal injection of convicted murderer will use controversial drug cocktail; Florida also set for execution Thursday.

AP, January 15

After a nearly nine-month delay prompted by a botched lethal injection last spring, Oklahoma plans to execute a death row inmate Thursday with the same controversial three-drug method Florida intends to use around an hour earlier.

Oklahoma prison officials ordered new medical equipment, more extensive training for staff and renovated the execution chamber inside the Oklahoma State Penitentiary to prevent the kind of problems that arose during the execution of Clayton Lockett in April. Lockett writhed on the gurney, moaned and tried to lift his head after he’d been declared unconscious, prompting prison officials to try to halt his execution before he died.

Attorneys for the state say a failed intravenous line and a lack of training led to the problems with Lockett’s injection, not the drugs.

Both Oklahoma and Florida plan to start the executions with the sedative midazolam, which has been challenged in court as ineffective in rendering a person properly unconscious before the second and third drugs are administered, creating a risk of unconstitutional pain and suffering.

3bb1012ca7881a903f6bb688401857a5453d3be4