Saudi Blogger Raif Badawi, Punished for “Insulting Islam,” May Have Received a Pardon

It appears that there may be hope for Saudi Arabian blogger Raif Badawi, who was facing another 950 lashes to round out a punishment he received last year (and was upheld a few months ago).

After being sentenced to 1,000 lashes and 10 years in jail for “insulting Islam,” Badawi received the first 50 lashes at the beginning of the year, with the expectation that he would receive 50 more every Friday for a total of 20 weeks. But those additional lashes never came for reasons that were unclear.

Here’s the good news: Yves Rossier, the Swiss secretary of Foreign Affairs, has told the newspaper La Liberté that Badawi’s sentence has been officially suspended.

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An Atheist Explains Why He Loves Christmas and How His Group Puts That Into Action

Eric Jayne, president of Minnesota Atheists, says there’s no “War on Christmas” being waged by his group. In fact, he loves Christmas — at least the spirit of it:

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ISIS Isn’t the Greatest Terrorist Threat to America

On November 15th, Jamar Clark was shot by police officers in Minneapolis. Details surrounding the shooting are contested, but far from encouraging. One side says Clark was interfering with paramedics who were helping a woman he had allegedly attacked. Another side says he was only trying to speak with her, not interfering with the medical help, and not resisting arrest at all.

The family revealed that Clark was shot directly in the head, execution style. Though the public has demanded the release of available video of the shooting, authorities have refused, stating it would jeopardize the investigation.

In a city that had been described as “one bullet away from Ferguson,” the protests erupted quickly. Gathered outside the police station, protesters demanded justice for the death of another unarmed black man. Their emotions were running high, though the demonstration itself was peaceful.

That is, until a group of self-avowed white supremacists opened fire on the crowd, hitting five. As protesters screamed to the police that people had been shot, officers reportedly said, “This is what you wanted,” before shutting their doors. When they finally did come out, they maced the protesters instead of pursuing the assailants.

In the meantime, protests continue in Chicago after the city finally released, after 400 days and a court order, video of an officer executing 17-year-old Laquan McDonald, shooting him in the back as he walked away. Community members are furious that it took over a year to bring charges against the officer in question, especially with video evidence so clear, as he continued to collect a paycheck. Outrage was particularly fanned when it was revealed that officers had collectively conspired to erase more than 80 minutes of footage from nearby surveillance tapes. The city was aware of the impact the video’s release would have, stating plainly that they were preparing for mass unrest.

These aren’t isolated incidents. The names Michael Brown, Eric Garner, Tamir Rice, Walter Scott, Freddie Gray, Reika Boyd, Sandra Bland, and too many others compose a kaleidoscope of lives ended too soon at the hands of law enforcement, often without consequence. And despite efforts to cast these victims as deserving of what happened to them and dismiss concerns of Black Lives Matter protesters, the data shows that these are not one-off cases. Regardless of whether the individual is resisting arrest or not, black individuals are far more likely to be on the receiving end of a police officer’s bullet.

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Does the FFRF’s Andrew Seidel See a Hankering for Jim Crow Where None Is Evident?

Sheriff Mike Jolley of Harris County, Georgia made some waves recently by putting up an obnoxious sign:

WARNING: Harris County is politically incorrect. We say: Merry Christmas, God Bless America and In God We Trust. We salute our troops and our flag. If this offends you… LEAVE!

The sentiment is no different than that offered by Tea Partiers and religious social conservatives everywhere, but it’s definitely a bit chilling that it was erected by a man whose duty it is to represent and protect all who reside in his county.

As Hemant noted,

Nothing on it is technically illegal. But it’s the sort of “Christian cheer” that includes a subtle “fuck you” to anyone who might hold a different belief.

And that’s all that needed to be said on the subject, I thought.

But Andrew Seidel, a staff attorney at the Freedom From Religion Foundation who is also a Patheos blogger, is so perturbed that, in addressing the Harris County sign, he loses himself in some pretty heated invective.

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A Creationist is Mad at Pixar for Assuming Humans and Dinosaurs Didn’t Already Live Together

Disney/Pixar released The Good Dinosaur a few days ago, and it appears to be doing well at the box office, giving the final Hunger Games movie a run for its money. The film is all about what would have happened if an asteroid did *not* wipe out the dinosaurs 65 million years ago and humans lived alongside them today.

And who better to talk about dinosaurs living alongside humans than the people who think The Flintstones was a documentary?

At Creation Ministries International, Lita Cosner is obviously upset that the movie just assumes the dinosaurs would have gone extinct millions of years ago if not for an asteroid, since, you know, the Earth only came into being 6,000 years ago.

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