SCA’s Morning Read 8/7/13

Coalition MembersMorning Read
Air Force Offers Secular Oath To Trainees After Atheist Group Challenges ‘So Help Me God’(Huffington Post)
Air Force Trainee Jonathan Bise and others will be offered a chance to recite and sign a secular oath as part of their graduation ceremony on Tuesday, after officials noted that they had erred in including the phrase, “So help me God” as mandatory in both written and verbal versions.

Pastor: Atheist military chaplains would be a good thing (Deseret News)
When Congress blocked a push for atheist chaplains in the military, advocates for religion rejoiced while humanists called the exclusion unfair. Now, a Baptist pastor says both sides should rethink their reaction.

National
On The Way to Thor’s Hammer…. (Patheos)
An interesting thing happened at the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) in July (2013), to little fanfare and even less media coverage; the VA approved the addition of the “Hammer of Thor” to their list of symbols allowed to be placed on the tombstones at the grave sites of veterans who are buried in veteran cemeteries.  The newly approved symbol is intended for the practitioners of a form of paganism that worships the Norse pantheon, including Thor.

The most overused word in our time (WND)
Some atheists took offense recently to a military chaplain’s quoting of the old saying, popularized by Dwight Eisenhower, “In battle, they learned the great truth that there are no atheists in the foxholes.” Some atheists in the military have taken issue with Ike’s quote, calling it a “bigoted, religious supremacist phrase.” One of them said, “Faith based hate is hate all the same.”

Dispelling the Myth of a “Christian Nation” (Washington Post)
Culture warriors, pseudo historians and opportunistic politicians have spent the last several decades peddling the myth that America was founded as a “Christian nation.” The propaganda appears to be working. A majority of the American people (51 percent) believes that the U.S. Constitution establishes a Christian nation, according to the State of the First Amendment survey released last month by the First Amendment Center.

States
Moral Monday in Asheville (Mountain Xpress)
An estimated 8,000 to 10,000 people showed up for Mountain Moral Monday this evening, filling Pack Square Park and protesting the policies of the North Carolina General Assembly. Participants — in one of the largest turnouts for a protest in Asheville in recent years — held signs and heard speeches by local activists and Rev. William Barber, president of the state NAACP. Their grievances included voter restrictions, an education overhaul, legislators’ refusal to expand Medicaid, new rules that could close the state’s abortion clinics and cuts in support for low-income families.

Washington, D.C. Passes Law to Allow Atheists To Officiate Wedding Ceremonies (Friendly Athiest)
It used to be that the only people who could officiate your wedding ceremony in Washington, D.C. were representatives of religious groups. Humanist and Secular Celebrants did not count, so atheists were pretty much left in the dark. They could fake it and get a religious person to solemnize their vows… or they could just have a court wedding.

Atheist Group Pens Complaint to Ala. University With ‘Faith-Based’ Housing (Christian Post)
A Wisconsin-based atheist organization has sent a letter of complaint to a public academic institution in Alabama over its soon-to-be opened “faith-based” housing program. Freedom From Religion Foundation of Madison sent the letter last Thursday to Troy University arguing that their housing program, scheduled to be open in the fall, was unconstitutional.

Atheism increasingly finds a home in the Bible Belt. (Oklahoma Gazette)
Oklahoma is home to more than 6,500 churches. It’s also home to one of the largest atheist meet-up groups in the U.S. That latter fact might seem incongruous in a state often characterized as the buckle of the Bible Belt. But some experts suggest the large numbers of self-described atheists aren’t so surprising.

Family Freedom/Development Protection
Opinion: Hobby Lobby deserves protection (Oklahoma Gazette)
In this time of polarized politics, it is hard to conceive of any significant bill that’s supported by the entire American political spectrum. But in 1993, the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) achieved just that.

Planned Parenthood Investigation Launched (Salem Radio News Network)
A congressional watchdog agency has agreed to investigate how Planned Parenthood and other abortion rights organizations spend federal funds, drawing praise from pro-life advocates inside and outside the legislative branch.

Battle to Keep Busiest Virginia Abortion Clinic Closed Continues (Life News)
The busiest abortion business in the state of Virginia closed last month. Nova Women’s Healthcare, a Fairfax, Virginia, abortion clinic with a history of botched abortions and at least one patient death, was forced to close after state lawmakers adopted new pro-life laws holding abortion clinics accountable for putting women’s health at risk.

Wendy Davis, the War on Women, and Buddhist Embryology (Patheos)
Some weeks back, Texas Senator Wendy Davis did an incredibly brave thing by filibustering (for an amazing ten-plus-hours) Senate Bill 5, a piece of legislation meant to create new abortion regulations in the state. This not only brought attention to dangerous restrictions on women’s reproductive rights (and attempts at more) in Texas and elsewhere, but has since proven to be a flashpoint in the “war on women.”

Science and Medicine
Letter: Religion could interfere (Skagit Valley Herald)
If our “interlocal” hospitals — Skagit, Island and Cascade — partner with a Catholic health network, all hospital-based care and most outpatient care (through clinics owned by these entities) will be under Catholic religious mandates from Canada to King County.

Judicial
Opinion: Supreme Court Justices Who Want to be Supremacists (Christian Post)
Redefining the First Amendment is a core aim of Barack Obama’s plan to “fundamentally transform the United States.” He is steadily changing the First Amendment’s words, “free exercise” of religion, to the much more restricted notion of freedom of worship.

Religion
Texas Faith: What relevance does Pope Francis have beyond the Catholic Church? (Dallas News)
Pope Francis made quite a splash when he said last week in response to a question about a priest being gay: “If someone is gay and he searches for the Lord and has good will, who am I to judge?” As you may expect, there has been plenty of discussion about what the pope meant. Was he speaking personally? Was he speaking as head of the Catholic Church? Or was he speaking as both?

In Theory: Is the Internet the enemy of faith? (The Burbank Leader)
The Internet can be a source of information and illumination, but for some it’s also a cause for worry, and in some cases, a loss of faith, as one Mormon man discovered. Hans Mattsson, a “solid believer” in his faith, began to have doubts after friends emailed him about websites that contained information about Mormonism that contradicted the church’s official history and teachings.

Pope Francis, the Reformer (Huffington Post)
Some people think that Pope Francis is a reformer. Message to these people: to be a reformer you actually have to change something. In fairness to Pope Francis, the Reformer, it’s pretty hard to change something if you believe that the Catholic Church is the one true church. It doesn’t get much better than believing that you have a corner on eternal truth, so I’m not expecting any change there.

Excommunicated For ‘Grave Scandal’ of Ordaining Women (Religion Dispatches)
Growing up in a small town in Louisiana, I went to segregated public schools for twelve years. Even our little Catholic church was segregated, with the last five pews reserved for the black members. I graduated from high school in 1956. Looking back, I cannot remember one white person in our town who had the courage to say: “We have a problem here, and it is called racism.” What I do remember are the mantras: “Segregation is our tradition” and “Blacks are separate but equal.”

Discrimination and Equal Rights
LGBT-friendly businesses continue to increase (Baptist Press)
The list of major companies with policies favorable to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender employees is long and quickly growing. The latest annual report from the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) shows nearly 300 of the country’s Fortune 500 businesses offer workplaces with insurance, employment and retirement policies friendly to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered (LGBT) workers.

At Catholic colleges like Georgetown, grappling with what it means to be young and gay (The State)
“Come out of the closet in style!” read the poster, and on a crisp fall day, dozens of students on Georgetown’s Red Square did – metaphorically at least. They formed a winding conga line and sashayed through a life-size closet door. That afternoon, they gathered for same-sex smooching in a campus “kiss-in.”

World
Russia’s Anti-Gay Pogrom Has Disturbing Parallels to Medieval Anti-Semitism (Truth Wins Out)
Recently, a totalitarian law passed in Russia that prohibits words or actions considered remotely positive about gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender individuals. It labels any accurate information or support for the LGBT community “propaganda.” Conservative legislators realized that open and free discussions about LGBT people inevitably lead to equality.

The Rebirth of the Irish Pro-Live Movement (Catholic World Report)
Within weeks, hospitals in Ireland could, for the first time, begin performing abortions. It comes after Irish President Michael D. Higgins signed a controversial piece of legislation that the government insists allows for abortion only in limited circumstances, but that pro-lifers argue permits an extremely liberal abortion regime.

Anglican Church in Canada celebrates the twentieth year since the apology to American Indians in Canada (God Discussion)
Twenty years ago, on August 6, 1993, the Anglican Church in Canada apologized to the Canadian-American Indians, who attended Anglican residential school in Canada. Like the United States, Canada also did their share to destroy various nations and people, using both genocide and their own brand of Carlisle Schools, but Canada’s government and Anglican Church gave a formal public apology.

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