Peter O’Toole, Atheist Actor and 8-Time Academy Award Nominee, Dead at 81

Yesterday, we lost Peter O’Toole, the actor who first came to fame portraying Lawrence of Arabia.

While much can be said of his brilliant career, it’s worth noting that O’Toole was the rare actor who would not have thanked God if he had ever won an Oscar.

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Why Taxpayer Money is (Still) Funding Anti-Gay Private Schools

This week, Salon writer Katie McDonough published a piece about voucher systems that allow private schools with anti-LGBT policies to receive taxpayer funding, adding to the ongoing conversation about why we’re letting this stuff happen over and over again.

The story has been a hot topic for the last few weeks in light of a scandal at North Carolina’s Myrtle Grove Christian School, which was eligible for a state taxpayer-funded voucher program, even though a “Biblical morality policy” determined that no LGBT students or parents were permitted. After substantial public outcry, the school announced that it would not accept any state funding due to controversy over the anti-gay policy — it would rather continue to discriminate with private money than take government money and have to accept everybody — though it appears to remain eligible for vouchers.

As McDonough says, it’s an infuriating story, but not a new one. And we’ve gotten too accustomed to blowing it off:

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A Pentecostal Christian-Turned-Atheist is Making a Documentary About Losing God

Two years ago, Josh Preville was a Pentecostal Christian. Today, he’s an atheist.

The process was a difficult one but he got through it (in part by writing a letter to his family explaining his decisions). Josh is now working on a documentary in which he discusses faith with a variety of atheists and Christians. No big names; just people from both sides who have very strong beliefs and want to share them.

(The guys at 0:26 and 1:49 will make you all sorts of angry.)

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Senate Republicans Introduce Religious ‘License to Discriminate’ Bill

What do you do when someone asks you to treat everybody equally? If you’re a kindergartner, you accept and graciously share your crayons. If you’re a Senate Republican, you throw a tantrum and create a legislative loophole.

This week, 11 Senate Republicans introduced a bill called the Marriage and Religious Freedom Act, which would prohibit federal agencies from taking away the tax-exempt status of churches and religious groups in spite of any discriminatory practices they may employ. The bill seems tailored to fight the impending “threat” of marriage equality, according to bill author Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT), but it opens the door to allowing any kind of discrimination — as long as that discrimination can be backed up by “religious beliefs.”

“What I would like to do is make sure that we go out of our way to protect churches from adverse action that could be taken against them as a result of their doctrinal views of the definition of marriage,” the Utah senator said.

The bill appears to be blatantly sidestepping the post-DOMA-repeal policy that requires federal recognition of legally married same-sex couples. According to Zack Ford at ThinkProgress, the bill could provide an easy path for religious businesses, government officials, or even hospitals to deny services to same-sex couples.

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This is Why I Still Cherish Christopher Hitchens

As noted earlier, the irreplaceable Christopher Hitchens passed away two years ago today.

He earned a place in my heart forever not because he was perfect and not because he was a faultless humanitarian (he was neither).

I cherished Hitchens, warts and all, because he was erudite and funny; because he was a sponge and a fountain at once. He was also, for those reasons, one of the best, most cutting orators I’ve ever seen or heard, whether he delivered a prepared speech or ad-libbed his way through a fiery discussion.

Hitchens was never afraid to stake out an unpopular position, at the calculated risk of alienating those who admired him — and even at the risk of fatally biting the hand that feeds.

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