Our Common Good
Political watchdog and secularist groups are asking the U.S. government to investigate whether Catholic bishops and a Christian evangelical group headed by preacher Billy Graham should lose tax breaks for telling followers how to vote in this year’s election.
I once lived in this little town….  Ug….
(via Political message on church sign stirs sentiment in Leakey | kens5.com San Antonio)

Charles Pierce:

Apparently, this Sunday was something called Pulpit Freedom Sunday, in which various reactionary god-botherers engaged in an act of organized civil disobedience against a 58-year-old IRS regulation banning specific endorsements of specific candidates by ministers of any church otherwise claiming tax-exempt status. The whole thing was organized by a preposterous front operation on behalf of the wingnut god-enfeebled generally, organized to benefit the Republican Party specifically, and the presidential campaign of Willard Romney even more specifically. The front group is something called the Alliance Defending Freedom — and once again, in the Potemkin Village of the conservative grassroots, we are reminded of Bogart in The Maltese Falcon: the cheaper the crook, the gaudier the patter. The ADF is not shy at all about giving the game away:

When CNN asked to be put in touch with a church that plans to endorse the president, representatives from the organization said they don’t screen who the churches plan to endorse. The two pastors that the Alliance Defending Freedom put CNN in touch with plan to either criticize the president or endorse Romney.

The plan is simple. Break the law. Hope the IRS cracks down. Wail and rend your polyester about the heinous assault on your religious liberties for the time it takes for your case to work its way through the Supreme Court. And hope that, either because all the justices are now 100 years old, or because Romney has gotten elected, the Court is then populated entirely by simpletons waiting for Jesus to come with the car service to take them all to glory. Scoreboard!

Next Sunday, October 7, about a thousand preachers will violate the requirement they agreed to honor with the Internal Revenue Service by actively providing specific guidance about how to vote on issues and candidates. The yearly ritual started in 2008 to challenge the I.R.S. rules prohibiting campaigning from the pulpit, and it informs the callous disregard the preachers have for the law and financial gifts from American taxpayers.  It is important to remember that these members of the clergy are leaders of their respective congregations, and in openly flaunting their contempt for the law, are using god to frighten their adherents to vote for, or against, specific candidates for political office, violate an agreement, and model dishonesty Jesus Christ forbade. According to the agreement churches make with the IRS to receive their taxpayer subsidies,  IRC  501(c)(3)prohibits an organization from directly or indirectly participating in or intervening in, any political campaign on behalf of (or in opposition to) any candidate for elective public office. Contributions to political campaign funds or public statements (verbal or non-verbal) made by or on behalf of the organization in favor of, or opposition to, any candidate for public office violates the prohibition against political campaign intervention.”

The ritual, Pulpit Freedom Sunday, is an ongoing attempt to challenge the law so evangelical Christians can do what they have been doing without fear of losing their tax payer subsidies, and despite the clergy’s contention, the law does not violate the preacher’s right to free speech or the religious content of their sermons. However, the approximately 1,000 preachers this year hope the IRS will revoke their tax-exempt status and allow them to take the case before the Supreme Court to begin imposing evangelical state-sponsored religious rules at the taxpayers’ expense.  One of the sponsors of Pulpit Freedom Sunday explained why religious leaders have the right to disobey the law and breech their agreement with the government, and as usual, instead of the nation’s founding document (the Constitution), he cites evangelical’s law of the land; the Christian bible.

During a conference call with evangelicals on Tuesday, Texas Governor Rick Perry (R) called upon “Christian warriors” and “Christian soldiers” to “stand our ground” against President Barack Obama, who he said is trying to ”remove any trace of religion from American life,” a message inspired by “Satan” himself.

Perry made the comments during a conference call with pastors and evangelicals nationwide, as first cited by Right Wing Watch. He was taking part in an ongoing religious campaign called “40 Days to Save America.” Other participants in the calls this week include Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) former Sen. Rick Santorum (R-PA), and even former Jack Abramoff co-conspirator Ralph Reed.

Introducing his guest, pastor Rick Scarborough, one of the “40 Days” organizers, credited the governor’s spirituality with ending the Texas drought. (Update: The Texas drought is actually still going on.) But it was Perry himself who did the real preaching.

In audio published to the campaign’s website (embedded below), Perry claims that the constitutional provision which guarantees the right to religious freedom actually drives faithful Christians out of the public sphere. “This iron curtain or whatever you want to call it between the church and people of faith and this separation of church and state is just false on its face,” he said.

He went on to insist that it is a Christian’s duty to “defend life” by electing women who want to restrict women’s health services. “Satan runs across the world with his doubt and with his untruths and what have you, and one of the untruths out there is driven, is that people of faith should not be involved in the public arena,” he continued.

The Texas governor added that there’s “spiritual warfare” going on over “President Obama and his cronies in Washington” attempts to “remove any trace of religion from American life.” He did not specify how the president, a fellow Christian, was supposedly doing this. Perry also warned that it would be up to “Christian warriors, Christian soldiers” and Americans in general to “stand our ground and firmly send a message to Washington that our nation is about more than just some secular laws.”

Though Perry called for a “spiritual” war and not actual violence, suggesting that “warriors” and “soldiers” must “stand our ground” against the president is touchy rhetorical fodder, especially considering the wave of controversy that washed over the country following the killing of Florida teen Trayvon Martin.

(via Perry tells ‘Christian soldiers’ to ‘stand our ground’ against Obama | The Raw Story)



Fight Back against the Totalitarian Religious Extremism of The Republican Party!
Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF)
Americans United for Separation of Church and State (AU)
American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU)

Tax The Churches
Republican vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan said Wednesday that he supports prayer in public schools.

Holman Bible Publishers, a subsidiary of LifeWay, the publishing arm of the Southern Baptist Convention, will no longer be allowed to use the official U.S. armed forces branch emblems on their military Bibles.


In addition to the constitutional issue of allowing the use of official U.S. military emblems on any Bible, these Holman military Bibles also contain a lengthy section of essays and other information promoting the Officers’ Christian Fellowship (OCF), an organization of about 15,000 military officers who think the real duty of a military officer is to raise up “a spiritually transformed military, with ambassadors for Christ in uniform, empowered by the Holy Spirit.” This is the organization that has produced such fine Christian officers as Air Force Major Jonathan C. Dowty, a.k.a. the Christian Fighter Pilot, who became a member of the OCF while at the Air Force Academy and later went on to be an OCF team leader at Edwards Air Force Base.

The Bibles also contain a bogus quote from George Washington, created by taking a paragraph of Washington’s 1783 circular letter to the governors of the states at the end of the Revolutionary War and altering it to turn into a prayer in the name of Jesus Christ.

The story of the Amalekites has been used to justify genocide throughout the ages. According to Pennsylvania State University Professor Philip Jenkins, a contributing editor for the American Conservative, the Puritans used this passage when they wanted to get rid of the Native American tribes. Catholics used it against Protestants, Protestants against Catholics. “In Rwanda in 1994, Hutu preachers invoked King Saul’s memory to justify the total slaughter of their Tutsi neighbors,” writes Jenkins in his 2011 book, Laying Down the Sword: Why We Can’t Ignore the Bible’s Violent Verses (HarperCollins).

This fall, more than 100,000 American public school children, ranging in age from four to 12, are scheduled to receive instruction in the lessons of Saul and the Amalekites in the comfort of their own public school classrooms. The instruction, which features in the second week of a weekly “Bible study” course, will come from the Good News Club, an after-school program sponsored by a group called the Child Evangelism Fellowship (CEF). The aim of the CEF is to convert young children to a fundamentalist form of the Christian faith and recruit their peers to the club.

There are now over 3,200 clubs in public elementary schools, up more than sevenfold since the 2001 supreme court decision, Good News Club v Milford Central School, effectively required schools to include such clubs in their after-school programing.

The Iowa Senate simply did not have enough time to consider the nomination of a Catholic priest to the state’s Board of Medicine, which is composed of ten seats, including three for non-physicians. Because of that, Monsignor Frank Bognanno is now an active, albeit temporary, board member. The Iowa Senate revisits the nomination in January when the body resumes work, and Bognanno could get a three-year term. But for now, he’ll serve for the rest of 2012.

Bognanno’s nomination to the Board of Medicine, however, could be a problem for women’s health in the state because Bognanno is anti-abortion which means he may also be anti-contraception. Republican Governor Terry Branstad nominated Bognanno after Senate Democrats flatly rejected his previous choice of Colleen Pasnik, a “feverishly” anti-abortion activist. But Bognanno may be just as anti-abortion as Pasnik. Not only did Bognanno join Pasnik as “part of a group that urged the board to reject a Planned Parenthood abortion-pill dispensing system,” he’s already admitted that he would come down on the anti-abortion side if he can find room for interpretation in state law.


The issue here is that most anti-abortion advocates already believe that state law is wrong and that we should be following Biblical law. As a Catholic priest, Bognanno is required by church law to oppose abortion and contraception. Will he really be able to “fairly apply state law” as he says? Or is that just his way of making himself seem like a nominee the Senate can approve? Once he is approved, Bognanno can vote based on his religious beliefs all he wants, which could put the lives and health of women in Iowa at serious risk.

This also sounds like a violation of the separation of church and state because Branstad has selected a Catholic priest to serve on a state board. He didn’t choose just a Catholic citizen. He chose a priest who takes orders from the bishops, who take their orders from the Pope. Conservative Republicans have been furious about President Obama ordering insurance companies to offer contraception services to female employees of religious institutions. This nomination may be a clear Republican response that they want religion to dictate medical and health policy. I have no doubt that Bognanno is a respected clergy member, I simply doubt that he can objectively protect the health of women. The State Board of Medicine should make decisions based on what is best for people’s health. They should not make decisions based on what someone’s religion says.


For the past week I have been reading how in his “homily” last week, Peoria Bishop Daniel Jenky went on a tirade against President Obama, comparing him with Hitler and Stalin; describing him in terms of supporting “intrinsic evil.”  Rather than describe what he said, I’ll quote it:

You know, it has never been easy to be a Christian and it’s not supposed to be easy! The world, the flesh, and the devil will always love their own, and will always hate us. As Jesus once predicted, they hated me, they will certainly hate you.

But our Faith, when it is fully lived, is a fighting faith and a fearless faith. Grounded in the power of the resurrection, there is nothing in this world, and nothing in hell, that can ultimately defeat God’s one, true, holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church.

For 2,000 years the enemies of Christ have certainly tried their best. But think about it. The Church survived and even flourished during centuries of terrible persecution, during the days of the Roman Empire.

The Church survived barbarian invasions. The Church survived wave after wave of Jihads. The Church survived the age of revolution. The Church survived Nazism and Communism.

And in the power of the resurrection, the Church will survive the hatred of Hollywood, the malice of the media, and the mendacious wickedness of the abortion industry.

The Church will survive the entrenched corruption and sheer incompetence of our Illinois state government, and even the calculated disdain of the President of the United States, his appointed bureaucrats in HHS, and of the current majority of the federal Senate.

May God have mercy on the souls of those politicians who pretend to be Catholic in church, but in their public lives, rather like Judas Iscariot, betray Jesus Christ by how they vote and how they willingly cooperate with intrinsic evil.

As Christians we must love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us, but as Christians we must also stand up for what we believe and always be ready to fight for the Faith. The days in which we live now require heroic Catholicism, not casual Catholicism. We can no longer be Catholics by accident, but instead be Catholics by conviction.

In our own families, in our parishes, where we live and where we work – like that very first apostolic generation – we must be bold witnesses to the Lordship of Jesus Christ. We must be a fearless army of Catholic men, ready to give everything we have for the Lord, who gave everything for our salvation.

Remember that in past history other governments have tried to force Christians to huddle and hide only within the confines of their churches like the first disciples locked up in the Upper Room.

In the late 19th century, Bismark waged his “Kultur Kamp,” a Culture War, against the Roman Catholic Church, closing down every Catholic school and hospital, convent and monastery in Imperial Germany.

Clemenceau, nicknamed “the priest eater,” tried the same thing in France in the first decade of the 20th Century.

Hitler and Stalin, at their better moments, would just barely tolerate some churches remaining open, but would not tolerate any competition with the state in education, social services, and health care.

In clear violation of our First Amendment rights, Barack Obama – with his radical, pro abortion and extreme secularist agenda, now seems intent on following a similar path.

Now things have come to such a pass in America that this is a battle that we could lose, but before the awesome judgement seat of Almighty God this is not a war where any believing Catholic may remain neutral.

This fall, every practicing Catholic must vote, and must vote their Catholic consciences, or by the following fall our Catholic schools, our Catholic hospitals, our Catholic Newman Centers, all our public ministries — only excepting our church buildings – could easily be shut down. Because no Catholic institution, under any circumstance, can ever cooperate with the instrinsic evil of killing innocent human life in the womb.

No Catholic ministry – and yes, Mr. President, for Catholics our schools and hospitals are ministries – can remain faithful to the Lordship of the Risen Christ and to his glorious Gospel of Life if they are forced to pay for abortions.

I could criticize this on numerous levels, but this blog will focus on one issue.   The Roman Catholic Church is a tax-exempt organization.  As such, while it can take positions on public policy issues - and can voice its opposition to abortion — it can not, under Federal law — take positions on elections.   It can not endorse or reject candidates; it can not tell its members how to vote.  In return for that, it gets tax exemption.  It does not have to pay property taxes on its facilities.  Properties worth millions of dollars.   

Yet, when the Bishop describes the President, in an election year, as embodying intrinsic evil;  when the Bishop compares him with two of the individuals who most reflect global condemnation in terms of evil; when the Bishop tells the faithful that THEY must vote this fall; as the entire fate of the Church is at stake; when he does these things, he is unequivocally making it crystal clear that they should NOT vote for President Obama.  

It is therefore altogether appropriate that Americans United for Separation of Church and State filed a complaint with the IRS for the Diocese’ violation of its non-profit status.  But it is not just the Diocese, at least one parish in the diocese — Epiphany Roman Catholic Church of Normal (perhaps the most reactionary conservative Catholic church I have ever encountered) — has the full text of the homily on the front page of its website; it has it reproduced in this Sunday’s bulletin.   The Church is drawing a battle line.   And in doing so, it has crossed the line of violating federal law.   

The Roman Catholic Church, through its hierarchy (and really not through most of its members) has become a reactionary force of conservatism.   That is its choice.  But when it violates Federal laws; and when it tells its faithful how to vote; it has joined the Religious Right — and it can not be allowed to continue to benefit from one of the benefits that society vests upon non-profit organizations — tax exemptions.  

This Bishop has been engaged in similar tactics for a long time; and when the Bishop uses vile rhetoric as he has, he is no different than the Rev. Fred Phelps, of the infamous Westborough “God Hate Fags” Baptist church.  

Yesterday, the Diocese claimed that the Bishop’s homily was taken out of context; but I say re-read what I posted above. — There is nothing taken out of context.  It is crystal clear.   He has crossed a line; and must be made accountable.   That might come from the government (I doubt it); it may more likely come from Catholics who speak with their wallets.   I’d urge any Catholic in the Diocese of Peoria to put in a note in the collection basket saying “Bishop Jenky must apologize” instead of a check.   

And in the meantime, maybe the Bishop should spend some time with the Bible.  I’d suggest he start with John 13:34. “A new command I give you: Love one another.  As I have loved you, so you must love one another.”  


On Monday, the Republican dominated Tennessee Senate passed an anti-evolution bill by a vote of 24-8. The bill, known as HB 368, is sponsored by Republican Senator Bo Watson and “provides guidelines for teachers answering students’ questions about evolution, global warming and other scientific subjects,” according to Knox News,  ”The measure also guarantees that teachers will not be subject to discipline for engaging students in discussion of questions they raise, though Watson said the idea is to provide guidelines so that teachers will bring the discussion back to the subjects authorized for teaching in the curriculum approved by the state Board of Education.” The bill basically encourages teachers to present scientific weaknesses of “controversial” topics.

In the case of evolution and climate change, both have been scientifically proven and the only weaknesses that have been presented by the right-wing are based on unscientific biblical verses. In other words, Republicans want teachers to use religion to destroy accepted science.

This bill is yet another attempt by Republicans to inject creationism pseudo-science into science classrooms. It gives students the ability to interrupt the teaching of real evidence based science with religious nonsense that belongs in church. So basically, as long as students bring up creationist theories, teachers can discuss them. This opens up the classroom to conflict between students of different religions or none at all, who all have different doctrines and points of view. Such conflict only serves to bury actual science under religious myth and superstition and is a distraction to learning real facts.

According to the National Center for Science Education,

“Among those expressing opposition to the bill are the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the American Civil Liberties Union of Tennessee, the American Institute for Biological Sciences, the Knoxville News Sentinel, the Nashville Tennessean, the National Association of Geoscience Teachers, the National Earth Science Teachers Association, and the Tennessee Science Teachers Association, whose president Becky Ashe described the legislation as “unnecessary, anti-scientific, and very likely unconstitutional.”

The bill now heads to the House, which just passed a Ten Commandments bill, so we should expect them to pass this bill as well as part of the GOP war against freedom of religion and separation of church and state.


This kind of shit makes me so angry. Basically what it comes down to is these fundamentalist feel so entitled that they think they can have their creation myth pushed on everyone as “science”.

Intelligent design and creationism are not science, they do not follow scientific method and are not based in any kind of evidence.

It is religion posing as science. 

Chief U.S. District Judge Fred Biery issued what he called a “non-Kumbaya” order Monday to district Superintendent James Stansberry and high school band director Keith Riley after they allegedly made comments considered disparaging by the agnostic family that sued the district over school prayer.
The court does not expect the parties to hold hands and sing ‘Kumbaya’ around a campfire beside the Medina River,” Biery wrote. “Nor does the court expect the respondents to engage in a public spectacle of self-flaggellation for communicating words better left unsaid.

“Moreover, the court does not expect plaintiffs to become Traditional Christians, though the court suggests plaintiffs might follow the moral and civility lessons of Matthew 5:39 (‘if someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also’) and a portion of ‘Essay on Criticism’ (‘to err is human; to forgive, divine’).”


There’s no difference between this Pastor or a Jihadist. Extremism is extremism — where a person takes an extreme stand based on one’s faith to the exclusion of the right of others to exist with their own form of belief & way of life.
What part of “For Liberty and Justice for All” does Rick Santorum or the Pastors he “PALS AROUND WITH” not understand?
-from a comment on Huffington Post concerning this story


There’s no difference between this Pastor or a Jihadist. Extremism is extremism — where a person takes an extreme stand based on one’s faith to the exclusion of the right of others to exist with their own form of belief & way of life.

What part of “For Liberty and Justice for All” does Rick Santorum or the Pastors he “PALS AROUND WITH” not understand?

-from a comment on Huffington Post concerning this story



Church bus

“Not letting us tear down that wall is a violation of our religious freedom!!!”



Church bus

“Not letting us tear down that wall is a violation of our religious freedom!!!”