Discrimination charges against religions?

Journalist Asra Q. Nomani, writing in USA Today, is calling for the government to enforce anti-discrimination laws against religious organizations, denying them tax-exempt status if they discriminate against women.  She is thinking of her fellow Muslims, but the proposal also would apply to Christians.  Her article specifically mentions the Roman Catholic Church and the Lutheran Church Missouri-Synod:

As much of the world cheers the rise of democracy in the public square of the Middle East, it’s time that we see the Arab Spring bloom somewhere equally important: mosques. We should start with mosques in the U.S., and the government should help promote democracy in places of worship by denying non-profit tax-exempt status — called 501(c)3 designation — to places of worship that practice gender inequity, just as they can deny tax-exempt status to places of worship that engage in political activity. . . .

The IRS has ruled that “tax exempt organizations may jeopardize their exempt status if they engage in illegal activity.” Political activity is covered in the “illegal activity” doctrine. Applying this doctrine in 1983, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld a lower court ruling that the IRS could deny Bob Jones University tax exemption because of racial policies at the evangelical Christian university (kicking students out for interracial dating). Tax attorneys say the ruling established public policy that tax-exempt organizations can’t racially discriminate in educational institutions.Meanwhile, in 1984, in a case against the Jaycees civic organization, the Supreme Court held that a private organization cannot discriminate based on gender.

So far, though, gender rights aren’t protected at places of worship. . . .

Who would stand in the way of reform? Catholic churches, for one, and other places that get exemptions in employment law so they can practice gender inequity (think priest jobs). Alan Goldberger, a non-profit attorney in Millburn, N.J., is a former member of a conservative synagogue that integrates women, but he has attended orthodox Jewish synagogues that segregate women and says that it could be “more prudent with public policy” to enforce non-discrimination in places of worship, but the courts “like to stay away from intervening in the affairs of a private organization.”

Daniel Dalton, 46, a non-profit attorney in Farmington Hills, Mich., says the IRS has taken the position “it’s not going to look at ecclesiastical, doctrinal issues.” He grew up in the Missouri Lutheran Church, which limits women’s roles in leadership positions. “I don’t understand it. I don’t agree with it,” says Dalton. “But that’s a doctrinal issue.”

I understand the difficulties in having the state intervene in worship issues. I believe in a separation of church and state, but I’ve come to the difficult decision that women must use the legal system to restore rights in places of worship, particularly when intimidation is used to enforce unfair rules.

via End gender apartheid in U.S. mosques – USATODAY.com.

We need to realize that if religious freedom is taken away, it will begin with unpopular religions.

Why do believers have more children?

Sociologist Peter Berger (an ELCA Lutheran), after surveying the overwhelming data that religious people have more children than the non-religious do, offers this explanation:

Religion has always given its adherents a sense of living in a meaningful universe. This protects individuals from what sociologists call anomie—a condition of disorder and meaninglessness. Religion, by the same token, gives a strong sense of identity and confidence in the future. More than anything else that human beings may do, the willingness of becoming a parent requires a good measure of confidence in the future. Mind you, this is not an argument for the truth of religion. Illusions may also bestow meaning and confidence. But my hypothesis offers an explanation for the ubiquity and persistence of religion.

via Why do Godders have so many kids? | Religion and Other Curiosities.

He’s probably right in what he says, but I’m not sure that’s the whole story.  What else plays into it?

(And note the new word in his title:  “Godders.”  Should we embrace that word for those who believe in God or proclaim ourselves  offended?)

HT: Joe Carter

World Swastika Rehabilitation Day

Sunday is World Swastika Rehabilitation Day, celebrated by the New Age religious cult known as the Raelians:

World Swastika Rehabilitation Day (WOSRED) will be celebrated on June 26 through marches and informative events worldwide, according to a statement released this morning by the International Raelian Movement (IRM).

WOSRED was launched last year by Rael, spiritual leader of the IRM.

“The goal is to return the swastika’s true meaning of peace and harmony to this ancient symbol regretfully hijacked by the Nazis,” said Brigitte Boisselier, Ph.D., IRM spokesperson. “I’ve been questioned often about my Raelian symbol, in which a swastika intertwines with two overlapping triangles that form a six-pointed star. People were obviously disturbed to see a swastika intertwined with a Star of David, but when they’re told it was used for millennia and is still used today by many peaceful religious groups, especially in Asia, they look at our symbol in a very different way.”

On June 26, “hundreds, or, hopefully, thousands of people” will celebrate World Swastika Rehabilitation Day in the streets of Miami, Houston, San Francisco, Los Angeles and New York in the United States; in Vancouver and Toronto in Canada; in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Perth in Australia; in Zacatecas, Veracruz and Mexico City in Mexico; in Milan, Italy; Lyon, France; and Rotterdam, Holland.

Boisselier pointed out that the Pro-swastika group initiated by Rael now includes Buddhists and Hindus, who have used the swastika as a symbol since the very beginning of their religions.

“No one should be surprised to see the swastika as a revered symbol in most religious groups because it’s part of the symbol given to us by the human scientists from another planet who created us, the Elohim – those who are at the origin of all religions,” Boisselier explained. “They gave the Raelian symbol to Rael when they met with him in 1973 (see rael.org), just as they gave it to all the prophets of the past. That’s why we can find traces of this symbol on every continent and in every culture, not only in Asia with the Buddhists and Hindus, but in America with the Native Americans and Aztecs; in Europe with the Celts and the Greeks; and even in Israel, where you can see it in some of the temples.”

Boisselier said it’s important for Raelians to rehabilitate this symbol given to us by our creators, since they not only brought it to us but explained what it means.

“They said it represents the infinity of time, a very important concept that is now essential to the Raelian philosophy,” she explained. “According to Rael, the universe is infinite in both space and time. It has always existed and will always exist.”

The problem, Boisselier said, is that our society wants to have a beginning and an end for everything, including the universe.

“That’s the reason for the big bang theory, which is now more and more contested by scientists,” she said. “Already in 1973, the Elohim were telling us that there is no beginning to an infinite universe, and this concept of infinity is essential to grasp before we can continue to advance scientifically from where we are now. By promoting the swastika, we’re actually helping the world scientists who have a few minutes to share with us. They need to make this major paradigm shift to progress!”

via Raelians to Celebrate ‘World Swastika Rehabilitation Day’ on June 26 – Yahoo! News.

That the Nazis did choose this figure as their symbol tells us something about them as well, their embrace of an essentially pagan worldview, one that rejects “Jewish” (a.k.a. Biblical) notions such as creation and linear time.

Anyway, so the Raelians believe that we were created by space aliens who came back to have a conversation with their founder in 1973.  Here is another new religion that tries to cast itself in scientific and materialistic terms.  Maybe the swastika could become the symbol of the Singularity.

HT: Joe Carter

The Singularity will give you everlasting life

A new religion is born.  The concept of the “singularity” used to be a dream of technology, the notion that exponentially-growing computing power would reach a point at which machines would become more intelligent than human beings.  But now the hypothetical Singularity is being invested with religious significance:  It will give you eternal life.

The Singularity, promised by futurist Ray Kurzweil, has accelerated interest in an entirely new field known as Transhumanism, giving hope to deep-pocketed Baby Boomers that they will be able to live forever. Watching Kurzweil’s fascinating documentary film – Transcendent Man (now finally available on Netflix) – you can get a glimpse of what is possible due to the accelerating pace of technological change in fields ranging from genetics to nanotechnology. At some point, the line between “man” and “machine” blurs, as intelligence increases exponentially.

The concept of the Singularity is singularly fascinating since it confirms so much of what appears to be happening around us. Next-generation technologies appear on schedule, seemingly every few months, and popular culture is full of examples of Baby Boomers who are healthier and living longer than ever before. The cultural zeitgeist is right, too: The Baby Boomers are the first generation that is receptive to, rather than threatened by, the pace of technological change.

Perhaps not surprisingly, themes from the Singularity are finding their way from the world of science and technology into the cultural mainstream. At the World Science Festival in New York City, for example, one of the major themes at the event was human longevity and the possibility that we can reverse the human aging process. Just two months ago, at the first-ever Transhumanism Meets Design conference, held at the Parsons School in New York City, speakers joined in from fields such as neuroscience and artificial intelligence to discuss the impact of technology on human potential.

How will all this play out? Will the Singularity be as elusive as the Fountain of Youth? Will we ever see the day when FDA-approved ads for bio-engineered pills promise us the ability to live forever?

via The men and women who want to live forever – Ideas@Innovations – The Washington Post.

The religion of transhumanism!  Doesn’t it resonate with our times?  A religion based solely upon technology–which can already do so many signs and wonders–and that will make no moral demands and require no spiritual beliefs.  Its notion that flesh will become obsolete and its trust in the virtual realm tie in nicely to our gnostic tradition.  Prediction:  Watch for attempts to Christianize the Singularity, as well as attempts to transhumanize the church.

Would conservative Christians vote for a Mormon?

Two of the Repubican presidential candidates, the alleged front-runner Mitt Romney and Jon Huntsman, are Mormons.  Both addressed the Faith & Freedom Coalition, an organization of conservative Christian political activists:

“I came today not to give a political speech,” former Utah governor Jon Huntsman Jr. told the crowd in a downtown Washington ballroom Friday, “but simply to introduce myself and my family.”

There was, however, nothing simple about it. The audience he was addressing consisted of hundreds of politically oriented Christian conservatives. Huntsman, who is expected to announce soon that he is running for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination, is a Mormon.

The message that Huntsman, who is largely unknown nationally, seemed to be delivering to the annual conference of the Faith and Freedom Coalition was this: My values are no different from yours.

The other Mormon in the race — former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney, who is presumed to be the early front-runner — also addressed the group. But where Huntsman made overt references to God, Romney made none. Instead, he emphasized economic themes: unemployment, declining home prices, debt, foreclosures.

via Can a Mormon presidential candidate win over the Republicans’ evangelical base? – The Washington Post.

In principle, would you be bothered by having a Mormon president?  Would you vote for a Mormon?  Would you vote for either of these two Mormons?

Would refusing to vote against a candidate because he is a Mormon be an example of bigotry?  An unconstitutional imposition of a religious test and an establishment of a religion?  A violation of Luther’s doctrine of the Two Kingdoms?

Banning circumcision?

San Francisco is considering a bill that would ban circumcision.  There would be no religious exemptions.  Voters will vote on the measure in November.  Now it turns out that the author of the bill runs an anti-semitic website:

Author of SF’s Anti Circumcision Initiative Engages in Disturbing Anti Semitic Advocacy » First Thoughts | A First Things Blog.

This is another attempt to use government power to suppress religion.  The target in this case, once again, is the Jews.


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