Tuesday, April 28, 2009

A Comment offered to a South Dakota Progressive Blog

April 28th, 2009 at 10:22 pm
Prairie Progressive

It appears that not a great deal of thought was put into consideration of legislation banning stem cells when it was first considered by the S. Dakota legislature. The bills sponsors were obviously acting on behalf of the various churches who have - for specious reasons and often in opposition to the sentiments of their congregations - mobilized against this type of research.

I have Parkinson’s disease which, because it may be caused by pesticides is a major problem in non-urban areas where pesticides are used. Embryonic Stem Cell Research seeks a way to use stem cells to replace the dopaminergic neurons that have died in my brain so that I cannot control movement in my limbs and the function of other bodily systems. Unfortunately for a person my age, George Bush, some churches and - regrettably the South Dakota legislature have put the cure beyond my lifetime. But millions of other people can benefit if the ban is lifted - people with Parkinson’s, type one diabetes and spinal cord injuries among many other diseases.

As you point out, scientists are not the best people to communicate their need for support to the public. Science has always been suspicious of media, politicians and religion who prefer uncritical statements of “fact” to the kind of questioning, analytical demands of science’s doubting Thomases. I hope that when legislation is next considered by the SD legislature, legislators and senators will be better informed so that the ban on embryonic stem cell research will be lifted and scientists there can start working - out of true respect for life - on terrible diseases that affect millions of men, women and children around the world.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Catholics Carry Battle Against Embryonic Stem Cell Research to States

Polls tell us that a majority of catholics support embryonic stem cell research (ESCR) because it holds the promise of treating - even curing - a number of serious diseases such as parkinson's, juvenile diabetes and spinal cord injuries. But churches are based on obedience not democracy so despite the majority view, the church continues to engage in politics to block embryonic stem cell research. After President Obama's recent order restoring support for ESCR at the national level the religious right has now shifted the battle to the states. According to an April 26th article in the Sioux Falls Argus-Leader the church has promised to defeat any attempt in the legislature to lift South Dakota's ESCR ban.

"It's a very important issue that strikes very close to who we are as human beings, how we live our lives and how we treat others," said Travis Benson, co-director of the Catholic Diocese of Sioux Falls' Respect Life office.

The church supports adult stem cell research, Benson said, but opposes embryonic stem cell research. Harvesting stem cells from an embryo kills the embryo "which is a human being in the very earliest stages of life," he said.

Supporters of such research say that it can lead to life-saving cures, but Benson says "you should never do evil, even if you can accomplish good with it."

Mr. Benson has a strangely twisted notion of good and evil. According to his definition people suffering from progressive, degenerative diseases should spend the remainder of their lives in painful, humiliating dependency - a burden on their families and their community - because of his church's insistence that fertilized embryos - most of which will die naturally are equal or superior to born human beings. In fact, most embryonic stem cell research uses unwanted excess embryos created artificially in fertility clinics and usually dumped in a landfill if they are no longer required

If Mr Benson and his church honestly believed embryos were persons, they would have them baptized named and, of course, given last rites and burials in consecrated landfills. For the church, embryos are instruments for political organization.

In this case the church doesn't respect life. Their object is political and concern for life is only a slogan developed by their PR people. I suspect that when catholic legislators are tempted to support lifting South Dakota's ban on Embryonic Stem Cell Research in the next legislative session, they will be threatened with exclusion from the sacraments. But at least they will be in company with a majority of catholics who practice birth control and support ESCR because they know that on these issues as on others the church has confused good and evil to achieve its political objectives

Breaking News about Ted Haggard

Click Here Ted Haggard Is Completely Heterosexual

Monday, April 20, 2009


A father watched his young daughter playing in the garden.

He smiled as he reflected on how sweet and pure his little girl was.

Tears formed in his eyes as he thought about her seeing the wonders of nature through such innocent eyes.

Suddenly she just stopped and stared at the ground.

He went over to her to see what work of God had captured her attention.

He noticed she was looking at two spiders mating.

'Daddy, what are those two spiders doing?' she asked.

'They're mating,' her father replied.

'What do you call the spider on top?' she asked.

'That's a Daddy Longlegs,' her father answered.

'So, the other one is a Mommy Longlegs?' the little girl asked.

As his heart soared with the joy of such a cute and innocent question he replied, 'No dear. Both of them are Daddy Longlegs.'

'The little girl, looking a little puzzled, thought for a moment, then lifted
her foot and stomped them flat.

'Well, we're not having any of that shit in our garden' she said.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Witch Hunt on MSNBC

See more at witchhunt.msnbc.com

In a debate about capital punishment on this blog one Dudley Sharpe asserted - I hope I have his argument correct - that no innocent person has been executed in the United States since 1900. His argument was reversed, however, by putting the burden of proof on his opponents. "You prove that an innocent person has been executed in the U. S. since 1900" Since this kind of proof is virtually impossible in support or in opposition, the stunt was basically ignored by participants in the discussion. However, another of Mr. Sharpe's assertions - that there are so many fail-safe protections built into the legal process to keep innocent people from being executed, that there is no chance - at least very little chance - of an innocent person being killed (innocent of capital murder, that is).

An interesting show on MSNBC a few days ago might give pause even to Dudley Sharpe. The show, called "Witch Hunt" on MSNBC showed how 32 innocent people in Kern County - Bakersfield, California were swept up in a mass hysteria around satanism, witchcraft and child molestation and put into Jail for as long as 20 years. The hysteria was originally started by books and movies like Rosemary's Baby, The Damien Series and the Exorcist. It was fanned into political demonstrations from the pulpit. And it was supported by now-discredited social science fads like repressed memory where feminist psychologists argued that suggestive and leading questions could bring out facts about abuse that had been hidden from memory by fear and shame. In fact the interview techniques used by Kern County officials and psychologists intimidated innocent children into inventing monstrous stories of assault, sexual molestation even murder. Politically ambitious police and prosecutors allowed themselves to be swept up in the hysteria to the extent of concealing exculpatory evidence and ignoring the advice of state officials. Similar miscarriages of justice took place in South Carolina (The Little Rascals Case) and in Saskatchewan, Canada at the same time.

Hysteria generally develops around capital punishment cases like Sacco and Vanzetti and Leopold and Loeb but any murder is such a horrible crime that hysteria is generally and understandably present. It is precisely at these times that the state should remain unemotional and to do nothing that can't be reversed.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

reply to "independent thinker" on bill maher's blog

Blogger niki said... (in response to "idependent thinker" who says words don't kill---

Independent thinker should connect his thought to fact - rather than allowing one to flare off independent of the other. Words can do serious harm in our society because they are expressions of hatred whether they come from the pulpit or from the platform. US courts have always been reluctant to punish content of speech, except where it poses a "clear and present danger" like yelling "fire" in a crowded theatre.

independent thinker should look into cases like Rwanda where years of divide and conquer British colonialism created hatreds that were fed by radio broadcasts that incited tens of thousands of killings. Its not really necessary to rehash hitler's speeches and the attendant consequences. Words are the vehicle of hatred and they can be deadly - especially when they appear to be sanctioned by a creator who considers gays an 'abomination' that should be punished by death

April 15, 2009 7:07 PM

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Churches Kill "Gay" Children

That may sound like an extreme statement but it's hard to deny that attacks against homosexuals by clergy validate bullying in schools and gay bashing on the street. In the past week an 11-year old student at a Springfield, Mass. Charter school committed suicide by hanging himself after being taunted by other students for being effeminate and "gay."

Self-appointed extremist evangelicals have decided that it is their god-given right to carry out a religious crusade against homosexuals from the pulpit knowing that their incendiary speech is exempted from prosecution as hate speech because of the constitutional protection granted to religious hate speech. Mega-church "pastors" like Ted Haggard of Colorado Springs an advisor to President Bush was a crusader against homosexuals until it was found that he was an active homosexual himself - an employer of gay escorts and a user of illegal drugs. Haggard has already arranged for god to forgive him but how many bullies had he inspired, how many gay-bashings had he encouraged, how many suicides had he caused before his hypocrisy was found out.

Haggard and his submissive wife are now on the media circuit attempting to resurrect him in public opinion and in the good graces of his church. But he's finding it difficult to get the congregation he taught to hate homosexuals to put him back in charge of the collection plate which brought in the tax-free millions to support his "lifestyle." Maybe, using his logic, he should have made the heterosexual "lifestyle choice" Like Jimmy Swaggart, he would be back in the pulpit again and enjoying the untaxed, unaudited income that position will bring

Monday, April 13, 2009

Corrected comment on Bill Moyer Blog

I don't know why Americans attempt to mythologize their dead presidents and turn them into undeserving heroes, while people of great accomplishments are ignored. People like Charles Sumner and other 'Radical Republicans' kept Lincoln's feet to the fire on emancipation even as Lincoln was firing generals who liberated blacks in conquered southern territory. I wasn't aware before of Lincoln's murder of 38 Sioux in Minnesota. Doesn't this put him in the same category as Slobodan Milosevic? That's not to say that he wasn't the best president only that like most heroes, he's only as good as the facts his marketers can conceal

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Obamas invite families headed by gays to Easter Egg Roll!

Congratulations to the Obamas for inviting families headed by gays and lesbians to the annual White House Easter Egg roll. The US administration is changing from one that undermines human rights to one that celebrates them! Unfortunately, it might make it more difficult for the Obamas to find a church in Washington.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Does the Pope know the planet is getting crowded?

Wednesday, April 8, 2009
Biff America: A solution we can agree on

Jeffrey Bergeron
Vail, CO Colorado

There are thoughtful, intelligent and informed people who think I'm 'full of it'.

I'm OK with that.

There are problems and there are solutions. I think most of us can agree upon what the problems are that the world now faces; where we differ is what the solutions might be.

Some of those global challenges are security, poverty, financial collapse, human rights, and pollution. Many of those dilemmas also are found within our own borders but to them you can add immigration, degradation of our public schools, unemployment, affordable health care and distrust of the public process.

Like most all of you I have thoughts on how to best deal with those challenges. But for every one of us who has thoughts on solutions there is another who thinks we are nuts.

And just as our political and financial conundrums divide us, social, moral and spiritual issues can be even more polarizing.

A woman's right to choose, same sex marriages, separation of church and state, global warming, security vs. individual liberties, taxation and social services are hugely polarizing topics in this country.

Of course I have my own ideas on how best to deal with many of these challenges and social issues; here are a few.

For instance, let's take same sex marriages. Rather than argue, legislate, create ballot initiatives' and file law suits; I say we leave it up to God. Instead of telling couples in love they can not marry-allow them to marry-and if God doesn't like it he can hit them with lightning. It has always amazed me that those who profess such belief in the Almighty are convinced that God is unable to take care of him/herself and thus needs them to do his bidding.

Now on to world health and hunger: How about we require all of us who have more money than we need give some to the people who would sell their own kidney for a loaf of bread. I read a study where it was determined that if every American gave $30 it could provide basic health care to the world's poorest populace.

Since I'm now on a roll here is my solution to help solve the deteriorating of our public schools-pay the school teachers as much as we pay the politicians who denounce quality of our teachers. And while were are at it let's require all those parents who complain about the public education system to spend as much time a week with their own children as do their children's teachers

I can hear some of you reading this saying--“That guy is full of it”--and you might be right. All those proposed solutions of mine could very well be na├»ve, simplistic and wrong. I will admit that; I'm a freak.

But I do have one idea that I'm absolutely certain would help cure many of afore mentioned maladies. Unlike those previously mentioned knee-jerk solutions I don't believe this hypothesis is even up for any reasonable debate

Hunger, pollution, poverty, financial collapse, territorial aggression, public education, immigration could all be lessened if--we as a country--but especially as a planet-- would stop having so many babies.

It is simple math--with limited space, limited natural resources and unlimited population; something has to give. Actually two things have to give, Puritanical Government and an out of touch Church.

Many conservatives were angered when the Obama administration, renewed support for the “United Nation Population Fund” who's mission statement reads in part “UNFPA supports countries in using population data for policies and programmes to reduce poverty and to ensure that every pregnancy is wanted, every birth is safe, every young person is free of HIV/AIDS, and every girl and woman is treated with dignity and respect.” To be clear they also provide birth control and post abortion care.

Reagon and G.W. Bush cut funding (which to me is like throwing the baby out with the bath water) Clinton and Obama restored it.

Equally frustrating is the Catholic Church's stance on population control. I totally understand and support their right to take a stand on abortion but to maintain the only anointed form of birth control is the rhythm method seems prejudiced against those of us who can't dance. Even the Mormons are more liberal in that respect.

I friend of mine just gave birth to her second child, with a C-section delivery at a Catholic hospital. She and her husband asked the doctor if while he could tie her tubes after delivery. He said it would safe, efficient and convenient to do so but the Catholic hospital would not let him perform that procedure. Does the Pope know the planet is getting crowded?

If you want to bring a child into the world and you can love, care and provide that child, go for it. That is your choice and yours alone. In the meantime it is fun to keep practicing………

Jeffrey Bergeron, under the alias of Biff America, can be seen on RSN TV and read in several newspapers and magazines. He can be reached at biffbreck@yahoo.com.

Biff's book “Steep, Deep and Dyslexic” is available from local book stores or from www.webersbooks.com

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Congratulations to Vermont for Legalizing Gay Marriage

Thanks to these sponsors of Vermont Bill H.178
Introduced by Representatives
Larson of Burlington, Zuckerman of
Burlington, Ancel of Calais, Bohi of Hartford, Botzow of
Pownal, Burke of Brattleboro, Cheney of Norwich, Clarkson of
Woodstock, Copeland-Hanzas of Bradford, Davis of
Washington, Deen of Westminster, Donovan of Burlington,
Edwards of Brattleboro, Fisher of Lincoln, Frank of Underhill,
French of Shrewsbury, French of Randolph, Geier of S.
Burlington, Grad of Moretown, Haas of Rochester, Head of S.
Burlington, Heath of Westford, Hooper of Montpelier, Howard
of Rutland City, Jerman of Essex, Jewett of Ripton, Johnson of
S. Hero, Kitzmiller of Montpelier, Klein of East Montpelier,
Lanpher of Vergennes, Lenes of Shelburne, Lippert of
Hinesburg, Lorber of Burlington, Maier of Middlebury, Marek
of Newfane, Martin of Springfield, McCullough of Williston,
Milkey of Brattleboro, Minter of Waterbury, Mitchell of
Barnard, Moran of Wardsboro, Mrowicki of Putney, Nuovo of
Middlebury, O’Brien of Richmond, Orr of Charlotte, Partridge
of Windham, Pugh of S. Burlington, Ram of Burlington, Shand
of Weathersfield, Sharpe of Bristol, Spengler of Colchester,
Stevens of Waterbury, Sweaney of Windsor, Waite-Simpson of
Essex, Webb of Shelburne, Weston 1 of Burlington, Wilson of
Manchester, Wizowaty of Burlington and Zenie of Colchester
who proved that Americans seeking equal rights can have their
rights affirmed by democratically elected legislators rather than exclusively through the courts

Vermont becomes 4th state to allow gay marriage

By Jason Szep Jason Szep – Tue Apr 7, 1:25 pm ET

BOSTON (Reuters) – Vermont legalized gay marriage on Tuesday after lawmakers overrode a veto from the governor by a wafer-thin margin, making the New England state the fourth in the United States where gays can wed.

The vote, nine years after Vermont was the first in the United States to adopt a same-sex civil-union law, also makes the tiny state of 624,000 people the first in the nation where lawmakers passed a gay marriage law instead of the courts.

"We've shown that truth and fairness and justice and love are more powerful than one man's veto pen," same-sex marriage advocate Beth Robinson said to cheers from supporters in the state capital Montpelier after Vermont's House of Representatives passed the bill by a 100-49 vote.

Known for picturesque autumn foliage, maple sugar and colonial-style inns, Vermont joins New England neighbors Connecticut and Massachusetts in allowing gay couples to marry. Iowa legalized gay marriage last week.

The bill looked in peril after a vote on Thursday in the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives that fell five votes short of the support needed to clear a veto threat from Republican Governor Jim Douglas.

Douglas vetoed the bill on Monday, urging lawmakers to focus on the economy instead. Supporters needed two-thirds of the votes in each chamber to override his veto. They got that easily in the state Senate, which passed the bill 23-5 earlier on Tuesday. Its fate in the House looked unclear.

The vote comes just four days after Iowa's Supreme Court struck down a decade-old law that barred gays from marrying. The surprise ruling, which made Iowa the first in the heartland to allow same-sex marriages, may have influenced some Vermont lawmakers to change their vote, gay marriage advocates said.

California briefly recognized gay marriage until voters banned it in a referendum last year.

Lawmakers in New Hampshire and Maine also are considering bills to allow gay marriage, putting New England at the heart of a divisive national debate over the issue.

The group Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders, which helped to legalize gay marriage in Massachusetts and Connecticut, has set a goal of expanding gay marriage to all New England states by 2012. Maine and New Hampshire already offer same-sex couples some form of legal recognition.

Forty-three U.S. states have laws explicitly prohibiting such marriages, including 29 with constitutional amendments restricting marriage to one man and one woman.

(Reporting by Jason Szep; Editing by Will Dunham)

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

A Preacher Advocates Church Taxation

A Preacher Advocates Church Taxation
Rev. L. M. Birkhead

(Minister, All Souls' Unitarian Church, Kansas City, mo.)

One of the most amazing and paradoxical of modern Political situations is that of the United States committed fundamentally to the absolute divorce of church and state, and yet contributing indirectly, by means of the exemption of church property from taxation, more than $250,000,000 annually to the support of the church.

Theoretically in America we maintain that the aim of taxation is "to secure the equal distribution of the burden of civil society." Theoretically we maintain that our government is founded on the principle of the separation of church and state. The fundamental law of the land states explicitly that "Congress shall make no laws respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof." But it is pure hypocrisy to maintain that we carry out these principles in practice. The exemption of church property from taxation is a plain denial of these principles.

And Incidentally we might mention many other evidences of a too close connection between Christianity and government in America, as, for instance, the employment of chaplains in legislative bodies, in the army, and in other government institutions, the appropriation of public money for charitable and educational institutions of a sectarian character, the compulsory reading of the Christian Bible in the public schools of a number of states, the appointment of religious festivals and holidays by the President of the United States and governors of the various states, laws compelling the keeping of Sunday as the Sabbath, and many other such regulations.

It is claimed for the church that it ought to be exempt from taxation because of the, valuable social service which it renders to human suffering. It is well just to keep in mind two facts: first, that very few churches are actually engaged in ministering to the poor (other agencies render such services much more efficiently), and, second, that the churches so engaged never do so from the highest motives; they are always thinking of winning supporters and members.

But granting that the church is a useful institution, " if you were to exempt that which is useful," to quote the wisdom of Ingersoll, "You would exempt every trade and every profession." Or, to use the words of James F. Morton, Jr., In his recent book 'Exempting the Churches,' "Our great philanthropists, scientists, inventors, and educators are not exempt from taxation on the ground of the great good they are doing."

The church contributes services to the state as a police power more valuable than the mere pittance it might pay on its tax exempt property, the friends of religion claim. But does it? I ask this question in all sincerity. It may be there was a time when people could be frightened into being good by the fear of hell. It may be that Voltaire was right in his day when he said that he didn't believe in hell, but he wanted his servants to believe in It. But that time is gone, for hell has been abolished and the church has lost its power (if it ever possessed it) to keep "bad people" in order. It is illuminating in this connection to read the statistics with respect to the religion of criminals confined in our penitentiaries.

To tax church property would put many churches out of existence, the defenders of the exemption of church property say. If an organization cannot pay its way, if it hasn't members and friends who believe in it sufficiently to support it, why should those of us who do not believe in it at all, who believe, in fact, that it is a vicious, superstitious institution, be compelled to support it?

We all agree that there may be some excuse for exempting schools, orphanages, and hospitals from taxation, for they are performing functions the state would be obliged to perform. But religion is another matter -- a very personal and private matter which is no affair of the state.

It cannot be said too frequently to the American people that religion is a strictly private affair, and that it is never the duty of the state to interest itself in either the life or death of the church. The church is not a public institution in the sense that it performs any duties which the state would have to perform in the absence of the church,

To tax church property is "robbery of God," we are told by the defenders of the faith. But which God? The Methodist, Baptist, Catholic, or Jewish, Fundamentalist, or Modernist?

Since the churches are subsidized by the whole community -- by means of tax exemption -- one would suppose that they would be community institutions. But such is not the case -- they are very exclusive and are quick to deny their privileges to the public except upon very exacting conditions.

It is rather illuminating to note that, though all of the states of the Union exempt church property. from taxation, there is expressed in the legislation (pertaining to this matter of church property) in many states a suspicion that religions institutions might speculate in land or might use their buildings and property for profit in the name of religion.

in many states, limitations are placed upon the amount of church property which can be exempted from taxation. In some states, churches are limited to one acre (on which exemption can be claimed) within the city, and to five acres a mile or more from the city,

In the state of New Hampshire, the amount of church property exempt from taxation is limited to $150,000. In Iowa, church land is exempt up to, but not exceeding, 160 acres; in North Dakota, the limit is one acre. In Missouri, the exemption is restricted to one acre within the municipality or within one mile of the municipality, and to five acres if one or more miles from the municipality. In Kansas, exemption applies only to buildings used exclusively for religious purposes and "grounds not to exceed 10 acres." Montana places the exemption of church property on the following basis: "Such property as is used exclusively as places of actual religious worship, but no more than is necessary for such purposes."

The state of Washington exempts all churches, built and supported by donations, whose seats are free, and ground not exceeding 120 feet by 200 feet, together with parsonage. and "the area of unoccupied ground exempted in connection with both church and parsonage shall not exceed 120 feet by 120 feet and the grounds are to be used wholly for religious purposes."

Some of the states place no limit on the property exempted if the property is used exclusively for religious purposes. The statutes in such states read; "all buildings and grounds, when used solely and exclusively for religious purposes," or "when not used for profit," or "when not held by way of investment."

It would be interesting to investigate the enforcement of these statutes, to discover, if possible, how law-abiding church organizations (so loud in their defense of the 18th Amendment and the Volstead Act) really are. I dare say that it would be very easy to find many instances of religious organizations exceeding the limit of church property exempt or evading taxes on property used for other than religious purposes,

What one of our leading weekly magazines called "saintly profiteering" is quite common among religious organizations. Look at New York City, for instance, where more than $500,000,000 worth of church property is exempt from taxation! The Madison Avenue Methodist Episcopal Church of New York City recently made $650,000 profit by selling its church property for an apartment house site. A Jewish synagogue, Temple Emanu.El, made $1,000,000 clear from the sale of its property a few years ago. St. Patrick's Cathedral, New York City, is said to be located on property worth $10,000,000. The fabulous wealth of Trinity Church, located at the head of Wall Street, is familiar to everyone. But New York is not the only city where such conditions prevail, though its case is extreme. There is, for instance, the case of a great midwestern religious organization which recently won from the Federal government the right to have its income exempt from taxation -- and the income involved in this contest with the government amounted to several million dollars. I refer to the Unity society of Practical Christianity with International headquarters in Kansas City, Mo.

A commission on taxation reported to Governor Pinchot of Pennsylvania a few years ago that in the city of Philadelphia, 14.77 percent of the total property was exempt from taxation, and of this 14.25: percent consisted of churches, parochial schools, and buildings for teachers of parochial schools. The commission reported that it was convinced that this condition constitutes a subtle and dangerous form of securing a state subsidy for religious institutions. "However commendable the purposes of these institutions may be," the committee recorded, "it is nevertheless a fact that the rapid increase in welfare facilities and the generous donations to welfare work are gradually creating a non- taxed class of property which is increasing more rapidly than the wealth of the community, thereby forcing additional tax burdens upon the taxable wealth to an unfair degree."

The commission recommended, therefore, that religious and charitable institutions be required to pay taxes on their land values, leaving improvements exempt.

Very few of our political leaders have ever had the courage to speak out on this matter of taxing church property. Be it said to the glory of General Ulysses S. Grant that while he was President he gave expression to prophetic wisdom in the following words contained in a message to Congress (in 1875):

I would call your attention to the importance of correcting an evil, that if permitted to continue, will probably lead to great trouble in our land before the close of the nineteenth century. It is the acquisition of vast amounts of untaxed church property. In 1850, I believe, the church property of the United states which paid no taxes, municipal or state, amounted to $87,000,000. in 1860 the amount had doubled. In 1870 it was $354,483,587. BY 1900, without a check, it is safe to say, this property will reach a sum exceeding $3,000,000,000. So vast a sum, receiving all the protection and benefits of a government, without bearing its proportion of the burdens and expenses of the same, will not be looked upon acquiescently by those who have to pay the taxes. In a growing country, where real estate enhances so rapidly with time, as in the United States, there is scarcely a limit to the wealth that may be acquired by Corporations, religious or otherwise, If allowed to retain real estate without taxation. The contemplation of so vast a property as here alluded to, without taxation, may lead to sequestration. without constitutional authority, and through blood. I would suggest the taxation of all property equally.

It would be almost impossible to get any sort of a political, intellectual or social leader of today to speak with such boldness concerning the church and its failings.

"One of the clearest and most audacious of the few recent utterances on the taxation of church property has been made by Professor Harry Elmor Barnes in his 'The Twilight of Christianity.' If he is not severely punished by the church for so forthright a condemnation of the church, then I am no prophet. Barnes wrote:

One aspect of the economics of religion is the economic waste connected with the maintenance of ecclesiastical edifices and their operation. One could conceive of a type of religion for which large expenditures would be economically justifiable on the ground that the churches were rendering a very valuable social, economic and ethical service to the community, but the activities of orthodox churches in America must be regarded as rather worse than useless.

The hypothetical adjustment of man to an imaginary supernatural world and the salvation of mankind from a non- existent hell cannot be regarded as a service of any merit whatever. The churches may incidentally offer some relief to the poor, but it is a moot question as to whether, in the long run, this sort of charity is not socially disastrous.

By 1926, the annual expenditures of religious organizations in America for salaries, repairs. payments on debts and benevolence were $814,370,000. To this sum should be added large donations to the cause of foreign missions. The writer of these lines is well known to be a person of pacifist leanings who earnestly deplores our present excessive expenditures for modern armaments, but it is certainly more justifiable to expend large sums of money to protect ourselves against potential earthly enemies, than to appropriate infinitely greater amounts to protect ourselves from wholly imaginary enemies in the postulated spirit world. We may be in no danger from Japan or Great Britain, but they certainly menace us more than the devil.

In 1926, the value of church edifices was $3,842,500,000. These are free from taxation, though they benefit by all sorts of public expenditures such as fire protection, transportation facilities, police protection and the like. Probably no other step would be allowed with such definite practical consequences as the reasonable taxation of church property.

In addition to the churches, we must consider the parochial schools which are maintained at great expense by the faithful, though in many cases parents can ill-afford to make the necessary contributions.

The annual expenditures in America today for this purpose of adjusting Americans to supernatural powers certainly total far more than a billion dollars. One can scarcely refrain from remarking upon what might be done with this money if wisely and directly expended for the secular betterment of mankind, or even used to support modernized religious cults and organizations whose aims are chiefly related to social improvement and aesthetic appreciation.

The present economic status of the American Church -- rightly characterized as "a tax-dodging and tax-eating institution" -- defies the courage and sagacity of liberals. As liberals -- theists, atheists, agnostics, humanists -- we are contributing to the support of religious institutions which are founded upon superstition and whose influence is vicious. This is certainly a violation of the fundamental human liberties and decencies. By no sort of sophistry can we establish any significant difference between appropriating money for a sect and relieving it of taxation. The church at present is enjoying a form of legalized graft, for it is in no sense rendering a service equal to the benefits it enjoys under our liberal laws. The separation of church and state is, so far, merely theoretical. The church is subsidized to the extent of more than $250,000,000 annually by relief from taxation. Its property has increased in value until today it totals more than $6,000,000,000, though some conservative students put the figure at $4 000,000,000.

If the church hasn't the decency to come forward and confess that it has been enjoying special privileges which it did not deserve, and voluntarily give up these privileges, have we liberals the courage to say that the church's abuses of our liberties must cease? And have we the boldness and skill to put the church in its proper place?

This is one of the most challenging labors confronting liberals today.

See also: Why I Believe In Fair Taxation Of Church Property by Joseph McCabe.

Small boats

Monday, April 6, 2009

I lived on the moon

I lived on the moon.Click here for music

Dear little lad
Here is the story of my life
I lived on the moon... Read More... Read More
Grey flying snakes along
the mountains of destiny while
the three tailed monkeys
were drawing the stars.
Light from the Sun and I
hide myself on the dark side, alone
I’ve run so far
to find my way
Then I dream again… alone

Dear little boy, Listen
to the voices of your soul
it showed you the way
Of silence and peace
Follow your thoughts and fly
Choosing all the things that you desire
Giant Waves, fireflies…
Your dreams will be your only shell
Your secrets, your hiding place, my son
Don’t let them try
to crush your brain
let you go far
….my son

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Chile sues U.S. banks over hidden Pinochet accounts

The Associated Press

Updated Thursday, March 12th 2009, 2:39 PM

MIAMI — Chile's government has filed lawsuits against four banks claiming those institutions were negligent or had deliberately helped former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet conceal about $26 million in public funds allegedly stolen over several decades.

The lawsuits filed Wednesday in federal court in Miami claim the banks were complicit in the alleged theft of the Chilean funds by Pinochet and others reputedly assisting him. The Chilean government seeks an unspecified amount of damages, although that would likely run into the tens of millions of dollars.

Following basic bank regulations and complying with money-laundering rules would probably have exposed many of Pinochet's hidden accounts, according to the lawsuits filed by Miami attorneys Pedro J. Martinez-Fraga and Tania Cruz on behalf of Chile's State Defense Council.

"More tragically, some of these financial institutions went beyond mere negligence, and instead chose to knowingly and actively assist Pinochet in concealing the source and true ownership of the substantial funds being deposited into their institutions," the lawsuits by Chile's government legal office allege.

The lawsuits were authorized by a July 2008 decree from Chilean President Michelle Bachelet, according to court documents filed Wednesday.

The decree states that lawsuits should seek "adequate compensation for acts and omissions of United States banks" stemming from their Pinochet dealings.

The State Defense Council, whose mission is to defend Chile's interests at home and abroad, said Thursday in Santiago that it would have no comment "as part of the legal strategy."

Pinochet, one of Latin America's most notorious dictactors, seized power in a bloody 1973 military coup that ousted Marxist President Salvador Allende, who died in the overthrow.

Pinochet embarked on a long campaign to root out leftists, with an official government report concluding some 3,197 people died or disappeared for political reasons before Pinochet left power in 1990.

He continued to serve as army commander-in-chief and as a Chilean senator until 2004, dying two years later at 91.

The government lawsuits name Pittsburgh-based PNC Financial Services Group Inc.; Spain's Banco Santander; Espirito Santo Bank of Portugal; and the Bank of Chile. In the case of the foreign banks, the lawsuits focus on transactions handled mainly by their Miami- or U.S.-based subsidiaries.

A PNC spokesman said the bank wouldn't comment. The other three institutions did not immediately respond to e-mail and telephone messages left by The Associated Press seeking a response.

Pinochet's finances have long been the subject of investigations in Chile, the U.S. and elsewhere.

Many of the U.S. connections were exposed by a 2005 U.S. Senate probe that brought to light allegations that Pinochet controlled about 50 secret accounts in 10 U.S. banks through aliases, family members and offshore entities.

One such institution was the venerable Riggs Bank in Washington — acquired in 2005 by PNC — that paid more than $40 million in fines and penalties for its Pinochet relationships.

The Chilean lawsuits allege Pinochet siphoned public money for personal use through a number of ways, including a government presidential security account, accounts opened in the names of Chilean military officers and commissions from various arms deals — such as a late-1990s transaction involving the sale of German Leopard I tanks.

No court dates have been set for any of the lawsuits, which were assigned to four different judges but could be consolidated into a single case.

For years, Pinochet's defense lawyers and family members have said the money was legitimate and the accusations politically motivated. They insist the money came from donations by wealthy supporters worried Pinochet would be persecuted after leaving power.

Pinochet's wife and grown children were indicted on tax fraud charges in Chile amid a probe of the general's wealth.

Those charges were dropped on a technicality in 2007 for those family members save Pinochet's younger son, Marco Antonio, who is still facing charges.

Protestants beat Catholics in child Sex abuse Survey

USA>Society & Culture
from the April 05, 2002 edition

"What drove leaders to begin to respond to this issue was not the welfare of children," Cobble says. "It was fear of large, costly lawsuits."

Sex abuse spans spectrum of churches
By Mark Clayton | Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor
Despite headlines focusing on the priest pedophile problem in the Roman Catholic Church, most American churches being hit with child sexual-abuse allegations are Protestant, and most of the alleged abusers are not clergy or staff, but church volunteers.

These are findings from national surveys by Christian Ministry Resources (CMR), a tax and legal-advice publisher serving more than 75,000 congregations and 1,000 denominational agencies nationwide.

CMR's annual surveys of about 1,000 churches nationwide have asked about sexual abuse since 1993. They're a remarkable window on a problem that lurked largely in the shadows of public awareness until the Catholic scandals arose.

The surveys suggest that over the past decade, the pace of child-abuse allegations against American churches has averaged 70 a week. The surveys registered a slight downward trend in reported abuse starting in 1997, possibly a result of the introduction of preventive measures by churches.

"I think the CMR numbers are striking, yet quite reasonable," says Anson Shupe, anIndiana University professor who's written books about church abuse. "To me it says Protestants are less reluctant to come forward because they don't put their clergy on as high a pedestal as Catholics do with their priests."

At least 70 incidents a week

Dr. Shupe suggests the 70 allegations-per-week figure actually could be higher, because underreporting is common. He discovered this in 1998 while going door to door in Dallas-Ft. Worth communities where he asked 1,607 families if they'd experienced abuse from those within their church. Nearly 4 percent said they had been victims of sexual abuse by clergy. Child sexual abuse was part of that, but not broken out, he says.

James Cobble, executive director of CMR, who oversees the survey, says the data show that child sex-abuse happens broadly across all denominations– and that clergy aren't the major offenders.

"The Catholics have gotten all the attention from the media, but this problem is even greater with the Protestant churches simply because of their far larger numbers," he says.

Of the 350,000 churches in the US, 19,500 – 5 percent – are Roman Catholic. Catholic churches represent a slightly smaller minority of churches in the CMR surveys which aren't scientifically random, but "representative" demographic samples of churches, Dr. Cobble explains.

Since 1993, on average about 1 percent of the surveyed churches reported abuse allegations annually. That means on average, about 3,500 allegations annually, or nearly 70 per among the predominantly Protestant group, Cobble says.

The CMR findings also reveal:

• Most church child-sexual-abuse cases involve a single victim.

• Law suits or out-of-court settlements were a result in 21 percent of the allegations reported in the 2000 survey.

• Volunteers are more likely than clergy or paid staff to be abusers. Perhaps more startling, children at churches are accused of sexual abuse as often as are clergy and staff. In 1999, for example, 42 percent of alleged child abusers were volunteers – about 25 percent were paid staff members (including clergy) and 25 percent were other children.

Still, it is the reduction of reported allegations over nine years that seems to indicate that some churches are learning how to slow abuse allegations with tough new prevention measures, say insurance company officials and church officials themselves.

The peak year for allegations was 1994, with 3 percent of churches reporting an allegation of sexual misconduct compared with just 0.1 percent in 2000. But 2001 data, indicates a swing back to the 1 percent level, still significantly less than the 1993 figures, Cobble says.

Child sexual-abuse insurance claims have slowed, too, industry sources say.

Hugh White, vice president of marketing for Brotherhood Mutual Insurance, in Ft. Wayne, Ind., suggests that the amount of abuse reported in the CMR 2001 data is reasonable though "at the higher end" of the scale.

Mr. White's company insures 30,000 churches – about 0.2 percent to 0.3 percent of which annually report an "incident" of child sexual abuse. But he says that his churches are more highly educated on child abuse prevention procedures than most, which may account for a lower rate of reported abuse than the CMR surveys.

What all the data show is a settling that followed "a large spike" in the frequency and severity of church sexual misconduct claims from the mid-1980s, White says.

"Church insurance carriers implemented educational programs and policies that have helped decrease and then stabilize the trend," agrees Jan Beckstrom, chief operating officer for the church insurer GuideOne Insurance in West Des Moines, Iowa.

CMR surveys also show many smaller churches have lagged in starting such programs, while larger churches with more resources and management controls have led the way. And for good reason: They have more to lose, and a larger abuse problem.

"I don't know of a church that isn't doing this," says Simeon May, of the Richardson, Tex.-based National Association of Church Business Administration, which gives training for large churches with administrators.

At Grace Community Church in Tempe, Ariz., the executive pastor, Gary Maitha, says his church has adopted a tougher sort of love since 2000. That's when criminal background checks, finger printing, detailed questionnaires, and careful policies – such as never having children and adults "one-on-one" – kicked into gear. It's a necessity with 700 to 800 children showing up for Sunday School and many more for other church activities during the week, he says.

"We have fingerprinting and a criminal background check for anyone over age 18 that works with children," says the Rev. Maitha. "If it comes back with a blemish, they're not working with kids. That's all there is to it."

Debby DeBernardi, director of Grace Community's children's ministry, says church policies require, for instance, that adults go in pairs when supervising bathroom breaks for children and that they check to ensure no adults are in the bathrooms, before children enter.

Fingerprints for Sunday school

Men who've been screened and fingerprinted may work in the nursery. But only female staff members – not volunteers – may change diapers. Only adults wearing an identity badge that indicates they've been cleared may work with children – and photo IDs are coming soon. Some long-time volunteers, offended by all the new policies, have bowed out of children's activities.

But the new procedures have already proven their worth, Ms. DeBernardi says. "We did have someone already apply who had a police file and had been accused of child molestation. Because of our new procedures, we caught it.... Sometimes you have to bring people in and say, 'Look, you're welcome to come to the church, we love you. But you may not minister in the children's area.' "

That sort of toughness is swiftly becoming a prerequisite for insurance coverage, and to protect against lawsuits and false allegations, which can be nearly as demoralizing to a church organization.

The problem, Cobble says, is that churches are the perfect environment for sexual predators, because they have large numbers of children's' programs, a shortage of workers to lead them, and a culture of trust that is the essence of the organization.

Churches have been active since the early 1990s in addressing the problem, Cobble reports. More than 100,000 copies of a book he co-authored, "Reducing the risk of Child Sexual Abuse in Your Church" were sold.

Since January, when Roman Catholic dioceses nationwide began drawing headlines over pedophile priests, some church organizations have focused anew on revamping sexual abuse policies.

The Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America, for instance, is reportedly drafting a new sexual- abuse policy.

Ralph Colas, of the American Council of Christian Churches, a Bethlehem, Penn. organization representing fundamentalist denominations, reports fresh activity. "I've helped several churches this last week draw up some guideline policies," he says. "I've encouraged churches to secure legal advice, to make sure they are meeting the legal mandatory reporting requirements."

Fear of lawsuits sparked new rules

But the shift to "trust but verify" – impelled to a degree by current headlines – has been ongoing since a conference in Chicago in November 1992 when more than 100 denominational leaders met for the first time to discuss how to deal with child sex abuse. About that time, insurance companies were dropping coverage of churches without screening policies.

"What drove leaders to begin to respond to this issue was not the welfare of children," Cobble says. "It was fear of large, costly lawsuits."

Saturday, April 4, 2009

If all atheists left America

If all atheists left America

Tax Churches!!!

The God Business:
Questioning Tax Exemptions

[Copyright 1996 by Luree. This article may be freely copied and distributed in paper and electronic form without charge. You may alter it to suit your particular region. Warning: It generates a lot of replies and letters to editors.]

All over Canada, in every small community, huge sums of money are being denied to residents through the tax exemptions given to major businesses. This is money which could be used to build playgrounds and parks, provide nursing homes for the elderly, youth recreation programs for teenagers, community centers for the use of all, libraries, health clinics, hospitals, animal shelters, fire halls, water treatment plants, road repairs, schools - all things that are vital to the fabric of civilization. Unfortunately, all these things are expensive and difficult for the average tax payer to support. In this time of fiscal restraint, when all our social and medical programs are being threatened, we must seriously look at why some segments of our communities are exempt from contributing their fair share.

Let's look at the city of Vancouver. The majority of people who live here are hard-working, middle-income citizens, who struggle to keep some earnings for recreation after all necessities are paid. Is it really fair to ask these people to subsidize major land holders in their community, particularly when these land holders represent big business firms which are considerably more wealthy than the taxpayers who now support them.

After researching church property assessment figures for our Greater Vancouver, B.C. area which includes the city and 11 surrounding municipalities with a population of about 1.3 million, the loss of revenue to the communities becomes apparent. The tax exempt assessed value of churches in the 12 areas totals $854,738,500! The average residential mill rate for the group is 7.309. This represents foregone tax revenue of $6,247,280. If we do rough calculations to include the whole country we conclude that the religious loopholers are getting away without paying taxes of about $160,000,000 in Canada. We wonder why cash- starved local governments don't jump at the chance to ask the churches to participate in the community instead of riding free.

SOME break down numbers.

Exempted Municipal Taxable Value for Churches $118,833,800
1994 population 139,435
Exempted Municipal Taxable Value for Churches $19,773,500
1994 population 81,980
Exempted Municipal Taxable Value for Churches $4,279,000
1994 population 40,717
Exempted Municipal Taxable Value for Churches $10,536,800
1994 population 41,461
Exempted Municipal Taxable Value for Churches $19,039,000
1994 population 47,736
Exempted Municipal Taxable Value for Churches $420,105,800
1994 population 508,814

And where does the money from donations to these businesses go? Because these organizations are not required to post accurate financial statements, few contributors realize that their money goes to purchase stocks, bonds and other property which all become tax exempt as well. Taxpayers are constantly complaining that we should be taxing the big corporations to give relief to the average Joe. Perhaps they just don't realize that churches ARE the big corporations.

We live in a democracy and people are free to adhere to any belief system they fancy. In all fairness to the various citizens who inhabit this country, they should not be forced to surreptitiously support a religion they do not believe in or may even find abhorrent. If you are a Christian, do you really want your money going to support a Christ-killing synagogue? If you are Jewish, do you want to contribute to the mosques of terrorist infidels? If you are a rational person, do you want good money wasted on promulgating superstitious nonsense?

Canadian citizens can no longer afford to carry free-loaders. For those people who find the idea of taxing religions repugnant, then perhaps they would concede if churches were required to put back into their community an amount equal to their tax assessment. As things stand, it is very doubtful that any church is putting as much into the community as it receives in benefit from being part of that community. As an alternative to taxation, churches could receive recognition for the things they give for use of the general public, providing it is presented without the accompanying propaganda. For example, if a playground was built with the tax assessment money from the local Catholic church, then a little plaque could be erected saying "Donated by St. Mary's Church in lieu of taxes for the year 1996".

This is not an indictment against religion in particular. Religion is a personal and private matter. It should also be one of free choice. This is an indictment of desperately needed money being withheld from communities. It is an indictment against money being given to businesses and organizations without knowledge or consent of donors. More than ever, citizens need honesty, integrity and accountability from organizations within their communities.

Reasons Why Churches Should No Longer Be Tax Exempt

1. In a true democracy, children would receive a liberal education in the wide variety of religious doctrines available. Then, when they reach the age of consent, these young adults would be able to make an informed choice whether to accept the ideology of any religion in particular. Currently, children are indoctrinated like Hitler Youth, with no opportunity to question the validity of the tenets they are required to embrace. Would the majority of parents be willing to accept a curriculum which included the study of the major religions, leaving other parents with the right to educate their children, after school hours, in the privately supported church of their choice? Is there any reason why various religions would find it unacceptable for their children to obtain a liberal and complete education?

2. Religions tend to promote hatred against minorities. The most common example is the persecution of homosexuals on religious grounds. Scientists have now uncovered the genetic link to homosexuality. People are born with a specific eye color. Likewise, people are born with a specific sexual orientation. Who has control over the way they are born? God only knows! It is cruel to continue perpetrate hatred against a fragment of the population who have no control over the desires they were born with. Do you know if your donations are being used to perpetuate hatred?

3. Some religious organizations receive taxpayers' money to use terrorist tactics to enforce their will on democratic citizens. A recent example is the Right To Life Society which openly condones the shootings at abortionist clinics. If you find that harassment and victimization of Canadian citizens is repulsive, then you should be outraged that such organizations receive government and charitable funding. In the United States, families of shooting victims, as well as victims of harassment and stalking, are now proceeding with major lawsuits against organizations which promote hatred and crimes of hate. Would you like to see millions of your dollars being lost because you unknowingly contributed to the terrorist activities of these religious groups?

4. Do you know where the money you donate is being spent? Are you getting the most value for your dollar? Is it spent on things that you believe in? Perhaps you feel that your money should go to help the hungry at a soup kitchen, or go towards a shelter for the homeless. How do you know for sure that it isn't being spent to invest in luxury condos and holiday resorts for the wealthy? Perhaps it is going to purchase weapons to support a holy war, or subversive terrorist activities. Unless you can see a proper financial statement from your church, you have no idea where your money is going.

5. Common law has clearly established that the advancement of religion is a charitable purpose. Ask the native Indians just how charitable the purpose of the missionaries was. Natives lived on this land for thousands of years without cutting down a rainforest, or causing the pollution of a stream. Perhaps their pagan gods were much more benevolent than the Christian one they were forced to adopt? It is time to take a serious look at the value of these old accepted laws. Who do they really benefit?

6. It is correct to assume that most parents love their daughters and want the best for them. Why would they choose to support institutions in which women are excluded from positions of importance, where the female body is considered shameful, where the pains of childbirth are punishment for original sin and where women are depicted as wanton temptresses who incite men's desires? Isn't this an assault to the self-esteem of any young girl.?

Some religions are still debating if women have souls. Genital mutilations are done today as a faith ritual. A Muslim man may not pray if he has touched a woman and not washed first. St. Augustine was quoted as saying; "Women should not be enlightened or educated in any way. They should in fact, be segregated as they are the cause of hideous and involuntary erections in holy men." Would everyone in your community want to support a philosophy where men get all the excuses for immoral behavior and women get all the blame?

7. Mankind's history on earth has always been violent. Many parents consider violence to be pornographic. And yet, every holy book is filled with cruel atrocities, hatred, genocide, murder of whole civilizations, women, children and families. Little mercy or understanding is demonstrated for non-believers of a particular doctrine. The books reinforce the primitive "Might is Right" philosophy, with relatively little compassion for women, children or animals. Those who are physically weaker and unable to communicate their needs are in the most need of protection, however the written word ignores these pleas. Furthermore, holy books are filled with pornography, rape, sodomy, incest, adultery and many things that make for unsavory reading for young members of the community.

The two African countries of Rwanda and Burundi are the most Christianized of all the African nations. Unfortunately, birthrates are the highest in Africa because family planning and birth control are outlawed. Schools and hospitals are run by nuns. This has resulted in overcrowding, misery, tribal hatreds and environmental degradation, as well as the most horrendous slaughter and massacre of human beings. The birth control issue is highly hypocritical because the Catholic Church has owned shares in the major birth control producing company, Instituto Farmecologico Sereno, (as exposed in David Yallop's book, In God's Name. )

Almost every religion has a vengeful and cruel god who destroys entire nations on a whim. The holy books have been used as excuses to perform hideous acts against other human beings in the name of heresy and blasphemy. Psychotherapist, Dr. Albert Ellis, has suggested that a cruel and bloody god produces cruel and bloody followers. There seems to be much evidence to support this idea just by reading today's newspapers.

Conversely, hardened criminals can find immediate forgiveness (and possibly early release from prison) by proclaiming their new-found belief. Con men and religious hucksters, who have bilked people out of millions of dollars, can then go forth and confess their sins. Of course, their victims are supposed to be religious enough to forgive the sinner who fleeced them, and so the shell game continues.

Out of respect for non-believers who find many holy books totally offensive, bloody, racist, sexist and pornographic, wouldn't it make more sense to expose their children to these books, when they are old enough to study these concepts objectively?

8. Religious thinking is opposed to free inquiry and scientific investigation. It suppresses a child's natural curiosity and fills them with nightmares of hell and punishment if they dare question things that defy logic or make no sense. The dark ages set the progress of science and medicine back hundreds of years. As late as October, 1992, the Pope forgave Galileo, a seventeenth century scientist, for saying that the earth revolved around the sun.

Religious teachers condemn such ancient books as Homer's Iliad as being false and unproven, but they ignore the fact that Henry and Sophia Schliemann discovered the actual city of Troy in the late 1800's, using only Homer's exact words. Anyone can read the historic account of this discovery by Schliemann himself in Troja: Results Of The Latest Research, 1884, or the biographical account by Irving Stone called The Greek Treasure, 1975. To date, any discovery of Noah's Ark, using the Bible, has proven to be a hoax. This doesn't confirm one way or the other about the existence of Noah's Ark. It just confirms that some ancient manuscripts have proven to be far more accurate than the Bible.

Unfortunately, many religious teachers prey on the gullibility of their followers. A prime example was the television documentary on the discovery of Noah's Ark, which later was proven to be a hoax. In fact, Richard A. Fox won an award for his magazine article that analyzed the program and questioned the authenticity of the story. The article was entitled "The Incredible Discovery of Noah's Ark': An Archaeological Quest?" It appeared in the Summer 1993 issue of Free Inquiry. Any librarian should be able to get a copy. His article was also given national attention in Time magazine. This point is raised only because so many people think that Noah's Ark has actually been discovered and therefore this proves that there really was a Noah who put a gazillion animals into a small boat and managed to survive, in spite of the logical impossibility of this myth.

Religious advocates encourage fantastic thinking and discourage logical investigation. A most recent example is the celebration of holy statues drinking milk. This "miracle" occurs because the statues are made of a porous material. They would just as easily absorb chicken blood or urine. However, real scientists are never invited to closely scrutinze modern miracles. Unfortunately, Creation scientists, who are often called in to examine these phenomena, are not recognized as real scientists by the academic community because their methods fall short of scientific standards.

Whether you believe that the Universe has a purpose or not, do you feel comfortable with your money supporting Middle Age ideas?

9. Many religions promote cruel and barbaric punishments against outside observers of the faith and even their own followers. These people ask only for some change to bring their religion's doctrines into the modern world. Taslima Nasreen is under death threat by Muslim fundamentalists in Bangladesh. Her crime is one of blasphemy for having said that the Koran should be revised in regard to the status of women. Of course, the western world is well aware of poor Salman Rushdie, who is under sentence of death for "blaspheming the Prophet." Sheik Ahmed Deehat, a Muslim scholar from South Africa, when visiting Canada proclaimed, "According to the rules of the Holy Koran, the Holy Bible tells us anyone who blasphemes must be stoned to death. Those are the laws as given by God to the Christians and the Jews". (Ottawa Citizen, July 16, 1994) As late as 1994, Reverend Anthony Kennedy was quoted; "I would burn the bloody bitches....Let these bloody women go off and form their own politically correct church and religion. I would shoot the bastards if I was allowed, because a woman can't represent Christ."

No matter what religion you choose to follow, do you want money allocated to these extremist views? For those of you who hold these views, then you are entitled to contribute to your religion accordingly. Others should be free not to.

10. Sadly, religion cannot keep its promises to its followers. Who really knows if you will get to heaven faster if you send your pension to the televangelist? If you are an Islamic Jihad Suicide Bomber, will you really get to "sit on the right-hand side of God and enjoy the attention of 72 nymphs." (according to Sheik Abdallah Shami, spiritual leader). These assurances would constitute fraud or false advertising in the modern world. Religions tend to prey on fears of the sick and elderly, society's most vulnerable. In all fairness to these people, they deserve to see how their hard-earned pennies are spent. A full accounting would not be unreasonable.

Nothing will stop people from believing what they want to believe; and they have every right to their beliefs. They should not have the right to inflict their expenses on others. This report does not deny the comfort that some people receive by participating in the faith of their choice. I am sure that religion is seen as valuable to its many adherents. However, it is time to examine the old tradition of tax exemption for an ideology that isn't applicable to everyone in a community. As Thomas Jefferson said, "To compel a man to furnish contributions of money for the propagation of opinions which he disbelieves and abhors is sinful and tyrannical."

We are facing severe fiscal restraint. Social, health and education programs are in crisis. Tax payers are bled dry. Would it be unreasonable to expect religious corporations to present auditor's reports to their parishioners? Wouldn't you feel more comfortable knowing what decisions the directors and officers of your church are making with your money? Is their any reason why we shouldn't consider a referendum so taxpayers can decide if they wish to continue to support tax exemptions to churches? Isn't it time for honesty and accountability from all members of the community?

Should God Be Removed From The Constitution?

Apparently the NDP Federal leadership has banished Svend Robinson to the back-benches as "punishment" for presenting a Petition to remove "supremacy of God" phrase from the preamble to the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

It is very disappointing that members of a free society would take this attitude. Unfortunately, most people seldom read the religious books that they claim to adhere to and therefore don't realize the damage that religious belief has caused to our free country.

Christianity is based on a book that depicts racism, brutality, massacre and homophobia. In fact, Christians worship a God who promotes these activities. Do you know how many times their god has commanded his "chosen ones" to exterminate entire tribes and nations? Inquisitions, persecutions and witch hunts were all done in the name of godly devotion.

Even Hitler used Christianity as an excuse to commit atrocities. "My feeling as a Christian points me to my Lord and Savior as a fighter. It points me to the man who, once lonely with only a few followers, recognized these Jews for what they were, and called me to fight them, and who, so help me, was greatest not as a sufferer but as a fighter. With boundless love, as a Christian and as a man, I read the passage which relates how the Lord finally gathered His strength and made use of the whip in order to drive the urserers, the vipers, and cheats from the temple...." (From Voelkische Beobachter, April 22, 1922)

Religions were created to empower special groups of people. Most of the world's current strife can be traced to religious origins. Furthermore, most religions promulgate the myth of male superiority, with the brunt of problems and blame falling on female shoulders. Isn't it time that we freed ourselves of the shackles of primitive barbarity and stepped into the twenty-first century?

When has the bombing of a public or private building ever been traced to a humanistic or atheistic organization? When has the assassination of an abortion doctor ever been traced to a religious skeptic? If Canada is truly free, then all citizens should remain free to reject or accept religion. To be forced to accept a God as part of their Human Rights Charter denies the very freedom our society is based on.

Priest convicted of grand theft

February 24, 2009
National Briefing | South
Florida: Priest Guilty of Embezzlement
By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS ny times Read:churchsecurity.info

A jury in West Palm Beach convicted a priest of stealing from his church, but it found that he had embezzled far less than the $488,000 prosecutors charged. The Rev. Francis Guinan, 66, was found guilty of second-degree grand theft of more than $20,000 but less than $100,000 after less than four hours of jury deliberations. Prosecutors said the clergyman from St. Vincent Ferrer Catholic Church in Delray Beach used the money to finance a lavish lifestyle that included trips to the Bahamas and Las Vegas, jewelry and home furniture. Father Guinan will remain jailed until his March 25 sentencing. He had been charged with first-degree grand theft, which carried a sentence of up to 30 years.

Florida priests 'embezzled $8.6m from parishioners'

By Andrew Gumbel in Los Angeles The Independent

Saturday, 30 September 2006

Two Catholic priests in Florida stand accused of embezzling $8.6m (£4.6m) from their parishioners over a 42-year period and spending the money on holiday houses, luxury travel, gambling in Las Vegas casinos and secret girlfriends.

The scandal, at St Vincent Ferrer Church, in Delray Beach, north of Miami, cast yet another embarrassing spotlight on a Catholic diocese that recently lost two bishops to child sex abuse scandals.

According to police who investigated the suspect finances at St Vincent Ferrer for more than a year, Fathers John Skehan and Francis Guinan acted as "professional money launderers" who took money from the collection plate and set up a network of slush-fund bank accounts to which only they had access.