The IRS finally figured out that the fundamentalist flophouse on C Street owned by the secretive Christian group known as "The Family" is a dorm. Until recently, the C Street home for legislators avoided paying property taxes by claiming to be a church.
This is big news, not only because C Street will have to start paying property taxes on its snazzy digs, but also because its new status has transparency implications. If I understand correctly, claiming to be a church also exempted C Street from disclosing financial details that an ordinary non-profit would have to divulge on its publicly accessible tax returns. If it continues to operate as a non-profit, it will have to file 990s like other non-profits.
Michael Hussey and I have been investigating Faith in Teaching, an obscure non-profit dedicated to putting Christian slogans on state license plates and distributing the proceeds to religious groups.
Ever heard of these people? Floridians, we welcome your tips.
Guess who's makin' a list and checkin' it twice....
HH: You have stayed above scandal. Thank you for that, because so many Christian pastors, you know what happens when this happens, and we could name 30 of them, the damage they do.
RW: Yeah, I keep a list.
HH: You keep a list?
RW: Actually, I have what, Hugh, I’ve had it for almost 40 years. I call it a warnings file. And every time I watch somebody, and Satan has no temptations that are new. It’s either money, sex or power. It’s lust of the flesh, lust of the eyes, the pride of life, and you have to know the antidotes, and you have to set up the parameters that keep you from even being tempted in those areas, which means for instance, I’m never alone, ever, ever alone with a woman, or even my myself when I’m traveling.
Who watches Pastor Rick when his wife's not around? He says he won't be alone with a woman. That seems to imply that he travels with a male masturbation monitor, or at least two female supervisors, or maybe a man and a woman tasked with keeping the pastor from sin.
Now that I know more about the motivation for Ernie Chambers' lawsuit against God, I'm really disappointed in him.
Apparently, he launched the suit to protest an earlier suit by a rape victim who sued a judge who said she couldn't use the word "rape" in her own testimony.
If we asked Chambers, I bet he'd say he objected to fact that any defendant was suing a judge after the issue had already been resolved by another court. But if he was looking for a test case, was it really necessary to hold a rape victim's suit up to public ridicule? She's not a lawyer. Maybe her suit was legally dubious for procedural reasons, but her underlying grievance is serious.
I wonder whether there's more context to the God suit story that hasn't made its way into the national media--because the motivations for the stunt that have been reported don't make sense and seem to contradict each other.
Chambers has also said that he sued God to make a point that the court house should be open to all. Which, unless he was just being sarcastic, seems to be anathema to the rape-suit protest motivation.
"Nobody should stand at the courthouse door to predetermine who has access to the courts,'' he said. "My point is that anyone can sue anyone else, even God,'' said Chambers, in explaining his cause of action. "If I had just stood here and said, 'The courts should be open to everybody,' then you would all have yawned. This lawsuit grabbed attention". [LFB]
In general, Chambers is opposed to greater restrictions on the public's access to the courts. Some people think he filed the lawsuit to prove that there's no such thing as a frivolous lawsuit, but that interpretation doesn't square with the idea that he sued God to make fun of the rape victim's suit.
He's also a blogger at Argonaut Photo.
Here's a post Aaron wrote about the making of his series of photographs of Sufi Muslims:
I knew I was in pretty good with the Sufis when they started putting their snakes on my head. They don’t just give their snakes to anyone you know. It was Imam Hussein’s birthday, I was in Cairo, Egypt at the place his head is supposed to be buried, and I was 10 hours into my second night of dancing. I had meant to be there making photographs for a global look at Sufism, but 10 minutes into the first night I was dancing. For one thing it was the only way I was going to get to stay, but it was also a steady stream of some of the raddest beats I had ever heard. I'd even go so far as to call it one of the top ten dance floors on the planet. With a heavy metal violin, a distortion pedal for the echoing microphone, tambourines, and reed flutes raging on for 12-hour sets, the musicians created a religious Mosh pit the likes of which I could never have imagined. [...]
Read the original, and watch the laying on of snakes video on Aaron's blog.
My good friend and esteemed colleague Max Blumenthal has uncovered some footage of Sarah Palin getting blessed against witchcraft at the Wasilla Assembly of God. In this clip, visting pastor Muthee casts out the spirit of witchcraft over (sic) Sarah Palin, but only after he prays for campaign contributions for her gubernatorial bid. Priorities, priorities...
You should watch the whole thing for the prologue about how religion must infiltrate every sphere of society from politics to the media to the entertainment industry, but if you're in a hurry, fast forward to 6:58 on the YouTube clip for the Palin-specific footage including anti-witchcraft blessing.
Then, watch this, and you'll feel better. I promise.
PZ made the joke because he was exasperated by media reports of a Florida university student receiving death threats for walking out of church with some unconsumed Eucharist. Ironically, PZ was standing up for the rights of a Catholic student who was being harassed by fellow Catholics.
For the record, the student, Webster Cook, didn't even steal the wafer, it was given to him. Cook is Catholic and is entitled to receive communion.
He says he didn't intend to desecrate the wafer. He just wanted to show it to his non-Catholic friend, whom he had invited to church, before consuming it. It was an unorthodox move, but hardly a hate crime.
Cook says he only walked out with the cracker after a church member saw him take the blessed cracker and physically assaulted him in an attempt to retrieve the wafer. If that's what happened, good for him for walking out. People are free to worship however they like, but that freedom doesn't extend to enforcing their own rules by force.
PZ was joking about desecrating the Eucharist. In his view, the sheer absurdity of death threats over a cracker called for an equally outrageous rhetorical response. Along the lines of: Oh, yeah, I'll desecrate ten crackers Live! on the Internets!!!, what are you going to do about it?
It's called hyperbole, a tactic often used in the these "jokes" the kids enjoy nowadays. Bill Donohue is from an era when any harsh word against the church was punishable heresy. Somewhere there's an Inquisition missing its Inquisitor.
PZ called out bullying by attempting to provoke an even more disproportionate response from the fanatics. He succeeded.
Donohue and his ilk wrap themselves in the mantle of religious freedom, but they don't give a damn about the other part of the First Amendment: freedom of expression.
Some well-intentioned liberals get sucked in by the Catholic League's main rhetorical trick which is to construe any criticism or mockery as a hate crime.
The Catholic League likes to attack the livelihoods of people who criticize them, or run afoul of their proprietary vision of acceptable discourse about the Catholic Church. Donohue and his minions are doing their best to get PZ fired from the University of Minnesota.
Donohue has no religious credentials of his own and no official connection to the Catholic Church. He's not a priest, he's not a theologian. He's just a self-aggrandizing bully who likes to rail against celebrities and get bloggers fired. Why anyone takes him seriously is beyond me. Donohue managed to whip up a minor moral panic around Amanda Marcotte's joke about the Virgin Mary and the Holy Spirit--as if he and the Catholic League holds the copyright on the Virgin, like Disney does for Mickey Mouse!
For Donohue to construe that remark as hateful towards Catholics should be enough to permanently disqualify him as a cultural critic. Mockery isn't hatred. Being crass isn't a crime.
Clearly, Bill Donohue can't take a joke. He is the self-appointed defender of one of the richest and most powerful organizations in human history and he has assigned himself the task of policing snark by atheist bloggers. Donohue's complete lack of perspective makes him ridiculous in the truest sense of the word.
If he had more shame, or less money, Donohue would be totally irrelevant.
I wonder how the Catholic League feels about the sale communion wafers as diet snacks in heavily-Catholic Quebec...
Making fun of people who liken the removal of a communion wafer to kidnapping and hostage-taking is A-OK in my book--especially when these folks seem surprisingly unconcerned about the alleged physical assault that preceded the removal, or the death threats that followed.
The Catholic League claims to be a civil rights organization. Yet it consistently targets high-profile atheists like Amanda Marcotte and PZ Myers and attempts to get them fired. Draw you own conclusions.