Saturday Night Live Mocks Dr. Ben Carson for Saying Homosexuality is a Choice Because Prison Turns Some People Gay

In case you missed it last night, Saturday Night Live ripped on Dr. Ben Carson for his recent homophobic comments during the “Weekend Update” segment… and kept going, joke after joke…



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Survey: U.S. Church Attendance Sinks to Record Low, but Prayer Is Still Resilient in the Age of the Nones

A survey research analyst who writes for the Washington Post asserts that, in America, religion is on the ropes. More precisely, Scott Clement says that

American religion is on the ropes, but it has a prayer.

A major poll whose results were released this past week, the 2014 General Social Survey, reveals that U.S. church attendance continues to fall.

A record-low share of Americans attend church regularly, affiliate with a religious faith and see themselves as religious. … The findings … mark a continuation of a decades-long departure from the pews along with a growing share who profess loyalty to no religion at all.

But reason isn’t truly taking over; prayer is going as strong as it was three decades ago.

Fully 57 percent of respondents said they pray at least once a day, little different from 54 percent in 1983, when the question was first asked on the survey. Three-quarters of respondents said they pray at least once a week, while 1 in 4 pray less often or never.

The poll has a margin of sampling error of 2.5 percentage points.



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French to Crack Down on Hate Speech, Including the Anti-Religious Kind, “In Much the Same Way [As] Pedophilia”

Recently, French Justice Minister Christiane Taubira announced that she wants the power to quash speech as she and her government see fit, stripping judicial niceties from the process of shutting people up, says Paris-based news outlet France24.

Justice Minister Christiane Taubira has said she will push for legal reforms that would help French authorities crack down on racism and anti-Semitism online in much the same way they do with pedophilia. The proposals include empowering French authorities to shut down websites hosting content that is deemed illicit without prior court approval.

“Crimes recognized in public spaces must also be recognized as such on the Internet,” Taubira [said], echoing other recent statements on combating terrorism. “Our challenge is to find the most appropriate responses, but we are determined to wage an unmerciful battle against racism and anti-Semitism on the Internet.”

Almost no one likes hate speech, but neither should the government of a modern, secular state be in the business of defining and targeting it… unless and until it rises to the level of incitement. It’s fairly easy to get people to agree (as do I) that racist and anti-Semitic invective should not be tolerated. For me, that means that sanctions should be social, from verbal pushback to full-throated rebuttals to ostracism.

Intemperate words and pictures are rarely, I think, a matter for the police or the courts.

Taubira’s well-intentioned but dangerous proposal has every likelihood of defining public discourse down to the comfort level of the most thin-skinned and vocal members of society. And I predict that this will please and benefit no group quite as much as French Muslims who believe that the Charlie Hebdo victims had it coming. The hate-speech crackdown will feel like vindication to them, and/or like a government-endorsed justification après la lettre.

Brendan O’Neill at Reason explains how illiberal France’s plan is:



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New York City Just Expanded Its Recognized Religious Holidays For Schoolkids. Here’s Why That’s Wrong

My friend Marc Randazza, a First-Amendment attorney, has a sweet piece up at CNN about officially-recognized religious holidays.

I wish the headline were different: “Why schools should observe ‘Day of the Dude'” (a reference to The Big Lebowski) is going to cause lots of people to click through to something less seemingly absurd. In fairness, absurdity is exactly the thing Marc was going for with his argument — in a good way. Follow along:

Schools in New York City have decided to observe two Muslim holidays and close schools for them. After all, for decades, kids have gotten Christian and Jewish holidays off.

But that’s the wrong approach, Marc argues:

First of all, virtually every recognized religion is practiced in New York City. Unfortunately, now only three of them have some kind of “officially acknowledged” status. Christians, Jews and Muslims have their holidays off, but what about New York’s other religions? What about my religion? March 6 has long been “The Day of the Dude,” and as a Dudeist minister, should I not demand respect for my beliefs, by insisting that the school district “take ‘er easy” on that date every year?



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Once Again, a Reporter Can’t Find Any Reason Why a Local Atheist Group is Featured on the AFA’s Bigotry Map

A few days ago, I wrote about how a Philadelphia Weekly reporter searched for all the groups in the area that made the American Family Association’s “Bigotry Map“… and couldn’t find a single instance of a group that was “anti-Christian” or hateful or bigoted in any sense of the word.

Now, a reporter in Grand Rapids, Minnesota has done something similar. But Nathan Bergstedt is genuinely trying to understand why the Grand Rapids Atheists and Freethinkers would be included on the map:

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