Sign the Petition On Behalf of Victims of ISIS/ISIL Barbarism in Iraq

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Several Public Catholic readers pointed me to this petition on behalf of victims of ISIS barbarism in Iraq.

The petition, which bears the signatures of prominent American academicians of many faith traditions, can be found here.

I’ve signed the petition.

Here from IraqRescue.org is the verbiage of the petition, and the primary authors/signatories:

A Plea on Behalf of Victims of ISIS/ISIL  Barbarism in Iraq

The so-called Islamic State of Iraq (ISIS/ISIL) is conducting a campaign of genocide against Christians, Yazidis, and others in Iraq.  In its fanatical effort to establish a caliphate, ISIS/ISIL has engaged in crimes against humanity by deliberately causing mass starvation and dehydration, and by committing unconscionable acts of barbarism against noncombatants, including defenseless women, children, and elderly persons.

It is imperative that the United States and the international community act immediately and decisively to stop the ISIS/ISIL genocide and prevent the further victimization of religious minorities. This goal cannot be achieved apart from the use of military force to degrade and disable ISIS/ISIL forces. President Obama was right to order airstrikes against ISIS/ISIL to stop its advance on key cities, as well as to provide humanitarian assistance to people fleeing their assaults. Much more needs to be done, however, and there is no time to waste.

We, the undersigned, are Democrats, Republicans, and Independents.  We are conservatives, liberals, and moderates.  We represent various religious traditions and shades of belief.  None of us glorifies war or underestimates the risks entailed by the use of military force. Where non-military means of resolving disputes and protecting human rights are available, we always and strongly favor those means. However, the evidence is overwhelming that such means will not be capable of protecting the victims of the genocide already unfolding at the hands of ISIS/ISIL.  That is why Iraq’s Chaldean Patriarch Sako has requested military intervention.

Therefore we call upon the United States and the international community to do everything necessary to empower local forces fighting ISIS/ISIL in Iraq to protect their people. No options that are consistent with the principles of just war doctrine should be off the table.  We further believe that the United States’ goal must be more comprehensive than simply clamping a short-term lid on the boiling violence that is threatening so many innocents in ISIS/ISIL’s path.  Nothing short of the destruction of ISIS/ISIL as a fighting force will provide long-term protection of victims.

We call upon President Obama and the Congress of the United States to expand airstrikes against ISIS/ISIL with a view to eroding its military power, and to provide full air support for Kurdish and other forces fighting against ISIS/ISIL.  Further, we endorse the Washington Post’s call for the United States to provide arms, ammunition, and equipment to Kurdish forces, Sunni tribesmen, and others who are currently hampered in their ability to fight ISIS/ISIL by a lack of sophisticated weapons and other resources.  The U.S. should also assist with intelligence. We are hopeful that local forces, with adequate support and assistance from the U.S. and the international community, can defeat ISIS/ISIL.

The expansion of humanitarian aid to the displaced and fleeing is also urgent. Local churches and aid agencies are overwhelmed, and we have grave concerns about how these victims of violent religious persecution will be cared for this winter. The U.S. can and should take the lead in providing food, water, medicine, and other essential supplies.

We must be mindful that in addition to stopping the genocide, the U.S. and Europe have very concrete interests in disabling ISIS/ISIL.  As theWashington Post has warned:

“The Islamic State forces, which have captured large numbers of U.S.-supplied heavy weapons, threaten not only the Iraqi and Kurdish governments, but also Lebanon, Turkey and Jordan. With hundreds of Western recruits, they have the ambition and capability to launch attacks against targets in Europe and the United States.”

It is also worth bearing in mind that our own nation is not without responsibility for the plight of victims of ISIS/ISIL genocide.  What is happening to these people now, and the further threats they face, would not be happening but for errors and failures of our nation’s own in Iraq.  This can and should be acknowledged by all, despite disagreements we may have among ourselves as to precisely what these errors and failures were, and which political and military leaders are mainly responsible for them. The point is not to point fingers or apportion blame, but to recognize that justice as well as compassion demands that we take the steps necessary to end the ISIL/ISIS campaign of genocide and protect those who are its victims.

Signers

Robert P. George, McCormick Professor of Jurisprudence, Princeton University

Russell Moore, Ph.D., President, The Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention

Benjamin S Carson Sr MD, Emeritus Professor of Neurosurgery,Oncology,Plastic Surgery and Pediatrics, Johns Hopkins Medicine, President and CEO American Business Collaborative, LLC

James R. Stoner, Jr., Professor of Political Science, Louisiana State University

Gerard V. Bradley, Professor of Law, Notre Dame Univesity

Edward Whelan, President, Ethics and Public Policy Center

Matthew J. Franck, Witherspoon Institute

William Happer, Professor of Physics Emeritus, Princeton University

Prof. Dan Robinson, Philosophy Faculty, Oxford University and Distinguished Professor Emeritus, Georgetown University

David Mills

Micah J. Watson, Ph.D, Director, Center for Politics & Religion; Associate Professor, Political Science, Union University

Alan Charles Kors, Professor of History, University of Pennsylvania

Anthony M. Esolen, Professor of English, Providence College

John Londregan, Professor of Politics and International Affairs, Princeton University

Fr. John Cassar

Thomas Kelly, Professor of Philosophy, Princeton University

Rabbi Eliezer Bercuson, Princeton University

Eric Metaxas, author of Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy

C. Ben Mitchell, PhD, Interim Provost & Vice President for Academic Affairs, Graves Professor of Moral Philosophy, Union University

Thomas F. Farr, Director, Religious Freedom Project, Visiting Associate Professor, Georgetown University

Lauren Weiner

Ben Cohen, Writer and Political Analyst, New York City

Robert J. Lieber, Georgetown University

Michael Stokes Paulsen, University Chair & Professor of Lae, The University of St. Thomas

Katherine Kersten, Center of the American Experiment in Minneapolis, MN

Patrick Lee, Franciscan University of Steubenville

Sol Stern, Senior Fellow, Manhattan Institute

Jonathan Brent

Josh Block, Chief Executive Officer & President, The Israel Project

Richard Weissman, Associate Professor Emeritus, University of Colorado at Denver; Adjunct Professor, Portland Community College

Martin Peretz, Editor-in-Chief, The New Republic, 1974-2012;Lecturer in Social Studies, Harvard University, 1971-2008

Fred Litwin, President, Free Thinking Film Society

Leon Wieseltier

Abigail Thernstrom, Adjunct Scholar, American Enterprise Institute

Stephan Thernstrom, Winthrop Professor of History Emeritus, Harvard University

Jeffrey Herf, Distinguished University Professor, Department of History, University of Maryland, College Park

John B. Sprung, Lt. Col., USAF (Ret.)

Vladimir Tismaneanu, Professor of Politics, University of Maryland (College Park)

Susannah Heschel, Eli Black Professor of Jewish Studies, Dartmouth College

Harvey Klehr, Emory University

Russell A. Berman, Walter A. Haas Professor in the Humanities at Stanford University

Richard Landes, Professor of History, Boston University

Alfred Kentigern Siewers, Associate Professor in English, Bucknell University

Melissa Moschella, Assistant Professor of Philosophy, Catholic University of America

Leila Beckwith, Professor Emeritus, Department of Pediatrics, University of California at Los Angeles

Ralph (Benjamin) Stell, Mother of God Joy of All Who Sorrow Orthodox Church

Victoria F. Gibson

Nina Shea, Director of Hudson Institute’s Center for Religious Freedom

James Kirchick, Foreign Policy Initiative

Louis Menashe, Professor Emeritus, Polytechnic Institute of NYU

Sally Muravchik

Dulany Gibson, Princeton, NJ

Mitch Pearlstein, Ph.D. , Founder & President, Center of the American Experiment, Minneapolis

David A. Michelson, Assistant Prof. of the History of Christianity, Vanderbilt University

Affiliations are for purposes of identification only and do not imply institutional endorsement

Robin Williams is Dead. Does that Mean We Win?

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I confess. I haven’t been all that interested in the obsessive coverage of Robin Williams’ death.

My feelings about Mr Williams before his death were generally positive but mostly disinterested. I enjoyed his movies and wished him well.

I knew, as soon as I heard that he had died, that we would be in for another of these 24/7 whatevers that the media does when someone famous dies. Sure enough, I flipped briefly to the news last night, and I saw a talking head interviewing one person after another eulogizing Mr Williams.

I don’t want to say anything bad, negative or dismissive about Robin Williams, his tragic suicide, or the hell his family and the few people who truly loved him must be going through right now. I’m also not going to say anything faux profound about depression or suicide.

What I do want to write about is one thing: Why?

Why do we go into these orgies of obsession every time someone famous dies?

It is so predictable and so bizarre that I am beginning to think that these griefathons serve some sort of purpose for us as individuals. The media is consistent about intoning gravely that we are engaging in a “national mourning” and then carpet-bombing our senses with what begins as worshipful eulogies spiced with titillating details about how the person died, and finishes with sordid details about their personal failures and picadillos.

It’s a script. The media follows it like a cooking recipe, and we eat it up like it was dessert.

What’s the purpose? I don’t mean the obvious purpose of getting ratings and a kind of prurient interest in other people’s pain, but what is the real purpose for this obsessive and downright irrational behavior?

And it is irrational. Because, my friends, you didn’t know Robin Williams. You didn’t know Michael Jackson. Or Sonny Bono. Or Princess Diana. Or Marilyn Monroe.

You didn’t know any of them.

They were two-dimensional representations of themselves on big screens and little screens and videos to you. This does not belie the fact that they were people and that other people loved them deeply and suffered the extremes of grief and emotional dislocation when they died.

But the fact is, you are not one of those people. You did not know them. You did not love them. Before their passing, you did not even think about them all that much.

But the minute they die, we focus on them and the endless blabbing about their “contribution,” “genius,” and their saintliness begins and goes on for days and weeks until we finally wear it out and turn to something else.

We stop working, stop talking to our families, stop thinking about paying the bills and taking the dog for a walk, just plain stop our lives and sit transfixed in front of the tube watching hour after hour of celebrities being interviewed by talking heads who are themselves celebrities, saying the same trite things over and over about the newly departed. We are like spotlighted deer, staring at the images of this person we didn’t know and pushing ourselves to a kind of vicarious grief over their death.

Later, as the inevitable take-down starts and the tawdry details of their lives drip through, we extend the obsession into fascination and tut-tut our way through more wasted time and energy.

What’s going on here? People give whole days and weeks of their lives over to emotion about someone they never met, and then turn around in six months or a year when another big celebrity dies and do it again.

What are they getting out of it? What beast in the subterranean oozy places of our minds is this feeding?

Maybe it stems from that thing we know but don’t really believe: Our own mortality. Does this have something to do with an affirmation that Robin Williams/Michael Jackson/Sonny Bono/Princess Diana/Marilyn Monroe are dead … but we are alive?

Is this a backdoor way of dealing with the fact that we are all going to die and that this knowledge haunts us all of our living days? Robin Williams threw away the one thing that any of us ever truly possesses: His life. He refused years of living.

I don’t want to say anything about suicide or depression. I have no deep thoughts to add to that conversation. But it is a fact that Robin Williams revoked his own lease on life. He gave up what most people would fight with everything they had to keep: Life.

I have no doubt that this titillates us.

But what makes it writ large is that he had everything that the gods of this world have taught us makes life worth living. He was a success on an international scale. He was up there as high as you can get in his very public profession; one of the handful out of the billions who walk this planet today. He had more money than we can count and the adulation of millions. He had everything we have been taught to spend our lives striving to get; every “if only” we think would make us happy and fill the holes in us that keep us awake at night.

That fascinates because if affirms in a silent sort of way that maybe all those things we’ve been taught to want and never got — the fame, success, endless money and pretty young things on our arms — don’t matter all that much after all. If the rich and famous can tumble to our feet like this, then maybe we aren’t missing all that much. Maybe we’re more ok than the same media that is now riveting us to Robin Williams’ death tells us we are.

Maybe our old jalopy and our two-bedroom house with the leaky faucet and our humdrum jobs that bore us to tears and our sadistic bosses from hell aren’t all that bad after all.

Because there’s this: He/She/They are dead. And we’re not.

Maybe the fascination lies in the fact that if the richest and most successful among us can die by their own excesses or even their own deliberate intent, then, maybe, in spite of all their glitzy success and our lackluster workaday lives, we, in fact, win.

Updated: Muslim Leaders Join in Condemnation of ISIS

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On August 8, the Oriental Bishops called on Islamic leaders to issue Fatwas against the genocide committed against Christians and Yazidis in Iraq by the group that calls itself the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.

So far as I know, there has been no Fatwa against genocide. I found one Fatwa issued against ISIS by Ayatollah Ali Sistani, who is said to be Iraq’s most influential religious leader. Ayatollah Sistani called for a Fatwa urging Iraqis to fight against ISIS. However, I believe that this particular FATWA was aimed at defending Shia Muslims against Sunni Muslims. I do not think it addressed the slaughter of Christians and Yazidis.

I don’t know anything about either Fatwas or the arguments between various branches of Islam. I am only quoting what I have read. So this could be wrong. ISIS itself issued a charming Fatwa in favor of rape, but nothing else from religious leaders.

On August 8, the Indonesia Ulem Council Issued a Fatwa against ISIS. Again, it was not against the genocide or the barbaric actions of ISIS. The Fatwa seemed to be based on the potential ISIS has to harm Islam.

The Grand Mufti Shawqi Allam, who is said to be Egypt’s top religious authority condemned ISIS yesterday. Once again, his basis for doing so was that ISIS is damaging to Islam. The article I read did not contain a condemnation of the genocide.

If Public Catholic leaders know of Fatwas issued by Islamic religious leaders against the genocide in Iraq and Syria, please share the information and I will publish it.

At the same time that Islamic religious leaders are mostly silent on the genocide, Islamic political leaders have spoken out. The Arab League accused ISIS of crimes against humanity as regards the Yazidi. In another article, they were said to have called for the formation of a “national unity government” in Iraq. I have no idea what a “national unity government” might be, but I view it with suspicion. The article I read said nothing about the crimes against Christians. It may simply be an incomplete article.

In Australia, Samier Dandan, president of the Lebanese Muslim Association, called the man whose little boy was photographed holding the head of a victim of ISIS, “a lunatic.”

The International Union of Muslim Scholars (IUMS) issued a condemnation of the forced expulsion of Iraqi Christians. Sheikh Youssef al-Qaradawi, who is said to be an influential Muslim religious leader, posted this condemnation on his website. “These are acts that violate Islamic laws, Islamic conscience and leave but a negative image of Islam and Muslims,” the statement said. “The Christians are native sons of Iraq and not intruders.”

Iyad Ameen Madani, Secretary General for the Organization of Islamic Cooperaton, which represents 57 countries and 1.4 billion Muslims, officially denounced “the forced deportation under the threat of execution” of Christians, calling it a “crime that cannot be tolerated.” He said that ISIS has “nothing to do with Islam and its principles that call for justice, kindness, fairness, freedom of faith and coexistence.”

Mehmet Gormez, head of the Religious Affairs Directorate, the highest religious authority in Turkey, said that Muslims should not be hostile towards “people with different views, values and beliefs, and regard them as enemies.” This doesn’t sound like a Fatwa, but it is at least an Islamic religious leader, speaking on the general subject.

And finally, Indonesia has declared ISIS illegal. 

This response from Islamic leaders around the world is heartening. Decent people everywhere need to unite against these crimes against humanity, whoever does them, wherever they happen.

This roundup is informal in the extreme. I hope that Public Catholic readers will add information to it if they have it.

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UPDATE: For a survey of reaction against the Iraqi genocide in the Muslim press, go here.

Vatican Unambiguously Denounces and Condemns Unspeakable Jihadist Acts

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Public Catholic reader Ken brought this to my attention.

The Vatican has released a statement condemning the crimes against humanity that are occurring in the Middle East. The statement lists what it calls “unspeakable criminal acts … which bring shame on humanity,” including beheading, crucifying, abduction of women and girls as spoils of war, the barbaric practice of infibulation and forced conversions.

From the Vatican Website:

The whole world has witnessed with incredulity what is now called the “Restoration of the Caliphate,” which had been abolished on October 29,1923 by Kamal Ataturk, founder of modern Turkey. Opposition to this “restoration” by the majority of religious institutions and Muslim politicians has not prevented the “Islamic State” jihadists from committing and continuing to commit unspeakable criminal acts.

This Pontifical Council, together with all those engaged in interreligious dialogue, followers of all religions, and all men and women of good will, can only unambiguously denounce and condemn these practices which bring shame on humanity:

-the massacre of people on the sole basis of their religious affiliation;

-the despicable practice of beheading, crucifying and hanging bodies in public places;

-the choice imposed on Christians and Yezidis between conversion to Islam, payment of a tax (jizya) or forced exile;

-the forced expulsion of tens of thousands of people, including children, elderly, pregnant women and the sick;

-the abduction of girls and women belonging to the Yezidi and Christian communities as spoils of war (sabaya);

-the imposition of the barbaric practice of infibulation;

-the destruction of places of worship and Christian and Muslim burial places;

-the forced occupation or desecration of churches and monasteries;

-the removal of crucifixes and other Christian religious symbols as well as those of other

religious communities;

-the destruction of a priceless Christian religious and cultural heritage;

-indiscriminate violence aimed at terrorizing people to force them to surrender or flee.

No cause, and certainly no religion, can justify such barbarity. This constitutes an extremely serious offense to humanity and to God who is the Creator, as Pope Francis has often reminded us. We cannot forget, however, that Christians and Muslims have lived together – it is true with ups and downs – over the centuries, building a culture of peaceful coexistence and civilization of which they are proud. Moreover, it is on this basis that, in recent years, dialogue between Christians and Muslims has continued and intensified.

The dramatic plight of Christians, Yezidis and other religious communities and ethnic minorities in Iraq requires a clear and courageous stance on the part of religious leaders, especially Muslims, as well as those engaged in interreligious dialogue and all people of good will. All must be unanimous in condemning unequivocally these crimes and in denouncing the use of religion to justify them. If not, what credibility will religions, their followers and their leaders have? What credibility can the interreligious dialogue that we have patiently pursued over recent years have?

Religious leaders are also called to exercise their influence with the authorities to end these crimes, to punish those who commit them and to reestablish the rule of law throughout the land, ensuring the return home of those who have been displaced. While recalling the need for an ethical management of human societies, these same religious leaders must not fail to stress that the support, funding and arming of terrorism is morally reprehensible.

That said, the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue is grateful to all those who have already raised their voices to denounce terrorism, especially that which uses religion to justify it.

Let us therefore unite our voices with that of Pope Francis: “May the God of peace stir up in each one of us a genuine desire for dialogue and reconciliation. Violence is never defeated by violence. Violence is defeated by peace. “

[01287-02.01] [Original text: French - working translation]

I Just Bought a Bumper Sticker. You Should Buy One Too.

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I just bought a bumper sticker like the one in the photo above. Next month, I’m getting a t-shirt to go with it.

The symbol on the left is a letter in the Arabic alphabet. It is pronounced “noon.” It is a slur against Christians in that part of the world, meaning Nazarene.

ISIS has used this symbol to mark the homes of Christians, as well as the bodies of the Christians they have murdered. They intend it as a great insult and degradation. But there is no higher honor than to be marked with the name of Christ. These people they are killing are martyrs who go straight to heaven.

I have this sign of the Nazarene on my Facebook, Twitter and Google+ pages. It is an honor and a privilege to do so.

Now, it’s going on my car.

The merchant is Lisieux Learning on Zazzle.

Free Speech is a Civil Right: IRS and the Freedom from Religion Foundation Disagree

Free speech is a civil right bumper sticker

So … we’ve got an organization whose sole purpose is to drive religious expression from the public sphere by the use of threats of legal action and harassment.

This organization files a lawsuit against the Internal Revenue Service and demands that the IRS join them in their harassment of religious people by “monitoring” churches for possible violations of IRS rules. In this instance, what they were suing about was the so-called “Johnson Amendment” to the IRS code.

The Johnson Amendment is the basis for the IRS rule that preachers may not endorse candidates from the pulpit if they are to receive tax-free status. The IRS rule itself is quite specific and narrow. Neither it nor the Johnson Amendment were intended to become the dreadnought by which churches are harassed and bullied in order to keep them from speaking out on moral issues. But that is exactly what has happened.

Groups such as the Freedom From Religion Foundation routinely conflate the Johnson Amendment with a limitation on First Amendment guarantees of freedom of speech and religion, including freedom of speech in religion. They harass, bully and intimidate Christians all over the country with threats of lawsuits.  I say Christians because I am not aware of them doing this to other faiths.

It seems obvious to me that they are using the Johnson Amendment as a lever to try to destroy the moral and prophetic voice of Christianity, not only in the public sphere, but from the pulpit, as well.

The Internal Revenue Service of the United States government settled this latest lawsuit by agreeing to become the FFRF’s hammer to beat down on free speech in the pulpit. They didn’t say this in so many words. What they agreed to do was to single out groups based on whether or not they are faith (read that Christian) organizations and “monitor” what their pastors preach for possible violations of the IRS code. If that is not a deliberately chilling government surveillance for the purpose of limiting free speech, what is?

It is particularly salient that the Freedom From Religion Foundation is not just trying to stop churches from endorsing candidates for political office; it is also claiming that they violate the Johnson Amendment when they discuss legislation or political issues. Abortion is a political issue. Gay marriage is a political issue. The genocide in the Middle East is a political issue. Corporatism, the environment, divorce, pornography, sex trafficking, prostitution, taxes, jobs and most everything else in America is a political issue.

We are Americans, which means that we are political people. We have what is purported to be a government of, by and for the people, which means at its root that governmental matters belong to us to cuss, discuss, slice and dice however we choose. That should include every segment of our society, including the pulpit.

If we are also Christians, then our faith guides us in everything we do. Jesus Christ is the Lord of our lives. We try to follow the Gospels in everything. Our faith leaders have not just a right, they have a responsibility to lead us in the Gospel paths of living.

There is no line for Americans between themselves and their politics for the simple reason that our politics, and our government, are us. Our beliefs are legitimately pertinent to political debate because we are the government.

What this lawsuit by the FFRF — and other actions to censor and stifle religious discussion, opinions and activism —  amount to is an attempt to censor and silence a whole set of ideas. This lawsuit is a blatant push to silence people that the FFRF disagrees with by the use of government surveillance of selected groups, coupled with the threat of government action against those groups, and the government is going along with it. 

The Freedom From Religion Foundation is using the IRS to censor speech in the pulpit. This is not an attempt to drive Christianity from the pubic square through bullying. It is a direct mis-use of government power to silence free speech among a whole class of citizens because another group of citizens does not like what they are saying.

The IRS is going to “monitor” churches to see if the clergy talks about anything more pertinent to our daily lives than, say, Isaac blessing Jacob instead of Esau, for the purpose of hauling them up before the Man. It is as simple as that.

From New American:

The Internal Revenue Service continues to extend its already vast overreach, this time by agreeing to monitor church sermons as part of an agreement the government made on July 17 with the aggressively atheistic Freedom From Religion Foundation.

Freedom Outpost reported, “The Internal Revenue Service settled a lawsuit brought by the Freedom from Religion Foundation. The 2012 lawsuit was settled after the IRS agreed to monitor what is said in houses of worship, something that is a clear violation of the First Amendment, since no law can be written by Congress to this effect.”

The Freedom From Religion Foundation, based in Wisconsin, brought the suit against the IRS, asserting that the group had been ignoring complaints that churches were violating their tax-exempt statuses. According to the group’s suit, churches promote political issues, legislation, and candidates from the pulpit.

FFRF asserted, “Pulpit Freedom Sunday … has become an annual occasion for churches to violate the law with impunity. The IRS, meanwhile, admittedly was not enforcing the restrictions against churches.”

FFRF claims that the churches are acting in violation of the 1954 Johnson Amendment, which states that non-profits cannot endorse candidates.

A 2009 court ruling determined that the IRS must staff someone to monitor church politicking, but the Freedom From Religion Foundation claims that the IRS has not been adhering to the ruling.

Erik Stanley, senior legal counsel for Alliance Defending Freedom and head of the Pulpit Initiative, told LifeSiteNews that “the IRS has no business censoring what a pastor preaches from the pulpit.” Stanley states that his organization is currently “attempting to bring the era of IRS censorship and intimidation to an end by challenging the Johnson Amendment, which imposes unconstitutional restrictions on clergy speech.”

He contends that churches should not have to choose between tax-exempt status and freedom of speech. “No one would suggest a pastor give up his church’s tax-exempt status if he wants to keep his constitutional protection against illegal search and seizure or cruel and unusual punishment,” he said.

Stanley insists that not only would it be unfair for churches to have to choose between one or the other, but that “churches are automatically tax exempt out of recognition that the surest way to destroy the free exercise of religion is to begin taxing it.” “Churches are constitutionally entitled to a tax exemption and that exemption cannot be conditioned on the surrender of constitutional rights.”

In celebration of its victory with the IRS, the Freedom From Religion Foundation issued a press release wherein it outlined its win:

The IRS has now resolved the signature authority issue necessary to initiate church examinations. The IRS also has adopted procedures for reviewing, evaluating and determining whether to initiate church investigations. While the IRS retains “prosecutorial” discretion with regard to any individual case, the IRS no longer has a blanket policy or practice of non-enforcement of political activity restrictions as to churches.

The press release also acknowledges, however, that the judge in the case could not order immediate action since a moratorium has been placed on the investigations by the IRS of tax exempt groups after the 2013 scandal in which the IRS was found to have been targeting Christian and conservative groups.

Governor Mary Fallin Condemns Black Mass

Governor Mary Fallin

Oklahoma’s Governor Mary Fallin condemned black mass that is scheduled for Oklahoma City next month.

From the Governor’s website:

Gov. Fallin Condemns Black Mass Scheduled for Oklahoma

OKLAHOMA CITY – Governor Mary Fallin today condemned a scheduled performance of a satanic black mass next month in Oklahoma City.

“This ‘Black Mass’ is a disgusting mockery of the Catholic faith, and it should be equally repellent to Catholics and non-Catholics alike,” said Fallin. “It may be protected by the First Amendment, but that doesn’t mean we can’t condemn it in the strongest terms possible for the moral outrage which it is. It is shocking and disgusting that a group of New York City ‘satanists’ would travel all the way to Oklahoma to peddle their filth here. I pray they realize how hurtful their actions are and cancel this event.”

Fallin joins Oklahoma City Archbishop Paul Coakley in criticizing the event, scheduled for Sept. 21 at the Oklahoma City Civic Center. The archbishop said the black mass “is a satanic inversion and distortion of the most sacred beliefs not only of Catholics, but of all Christians.”

Oklahoma City officials have said the Civic Center is a public building and the city must abide by the First Amendment and allow it to be leased to any group that agrees to abide by all laws and city ordinances.

The black mass in Oklahoma City reportedly is being organized by the Satanic Temple of New York City, which last year submitted plans for a public monument of a seated Satan on the state Capitol grounds to counter a monument of the Ten Commandments.

Video from Inside ISIS: What They Think of Themselves.

305087-e9a729cc-20f4-11e4-a212-44a8a3dd312bThey call themselves the Islamic State. This video from inside ISIS shows how they appear to themselves.

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If you want to see what they actually are, go here. But be warned, these are horrific photos of satanic depravity. If you would like to see the story behind the photo at the top, go here.

To put this in perspective, read Elizabeth Scalia’s post on how our lack of faith cripples the West. 

Be Our Defense Against the Devil

I first posted this in July, 2013.

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St. Michael the Archangel,

defend us in battle.
Be our defense against the wickedness and snares of the Devil.
May God rebuke him, we humbly pray,
and do thou,
O Prince of the heavenly hosts,
by the power of God,
thrust into hell Satan,
and all the evil spirits,
who prowl about the world
seeking the ruin of souls. Amen.

Catholics prayed this prayer, which has always seemed like a mini-exorcism to me, at the end of mass for a period of about 75 years. 

Pope Leo XIII wrote the prayer in 1884, just a few decades before the Our Lady visited Fatima. He had just finished saying mass. I’ve read several descriptions of what happened next. Basically, the Holy Father was stricken with what appeared to onlookers to be a trance that lasted for a few minutes. When he revived, he recounted a vision he had seen or heard of Satan’s future attack on the Church.

He immediately went to his quarters and wrote The Saint Michael Prayer and gave instructions that it should be prayed at the end of every low mass throughout the world. This practice ended after the Second Vatican Council in 1964.

Pope John Paul II encouraged faithful Catholics to pray the St Michael Prayer privately, a practice that I follow. I have even altered the prayer to fit my circumstance. My prayers asking St Michael to help me have been answered many times. I am convinced that St Michael the Archangel stands ready to aid us when we are attacked by Satan, including those times when the devil sends his emissaries on two feet to attack us for him.

I am glad that Pope Emeritus Benedict and Pope Francis joined together yesterday to consecrate the Vatican to St Michael’s protection. I do not understand exactly what is going on in the Vatican, but, based on the rumblings in the press, it appears that there are troubles of some sort inside those walls, and that it is probably of an evil nature.

I do know that the Church is under attack all over the world. If you doubt that, hold your nose and spend an hour reading some of the Christian-bashing blogs floating around. Their target, always and endlessly, is the Catholic Church. The Church is vilified and pilloried in private conversations, the press, and public demonstrations somewhere in the world at every minute of the day. At the same time, some of our own priests and bishops have provided kindling for the fires with their behavior.

Whatever the immediate reasons, I believe that consecrating the Vatican to St Michael’s protection is a wise move. I entrust my own self and the lives of those I love to his protection as part of my daily prayers. I encourage you to do the same.

From Vatican Radio:

(Vatican Radio) To the joy of Vatican City State workers, Friday morning Pope Francis was joined by Pope emeritus Benedict XVI in the gardens for a ceremony during which the Holy Father blessed a statue of St Michael Archangel, at the same time consecrating the Vatican to the Archangel’s protection.
Following a brief ceremony, Pope Francis addressed those present noting how St. Michael defends the People of God from its enemy par excellence, the devil. He said even if the devil attempts to disfigure the face of the Archangel and thus the face of humanity, St Michael wins, because God acts in him and is stronger:
“In the Vatican Gardens there are several works of art. But this, which has now been added, takes on particular importance, in its location as well as the meaning it expresses. In fact it is not just celebratory work but an invitation to reflection and prayer, that fits well into the Year of Faith. Michael – which means “Who is like God” – is the champion of the primacy of God, of His transcendence and power. Michael struggles to restore divine justice and defends the People of God from his enemies, above all by the enemy par excellence, the devil. And St. Michael wins because in him, there is He God who acts. This sculpture reminds us then that evil is overcome, the accuser is unmasked, his head crushed, because salvation was accomplished once and for all in the blood of Christ. Though the devil always tries to disfigure the face of the Archangel and that of humanity, God is stronger, it is His victory and His salvation that is offered to all men. We are not alone on the journey or in the trials of life, we are accompanied and supported by the Angels of God, who offer, so to speak, their wings to help us overcome so many dangers, in order to fly high compared to those realities that can weigh down our lives or drag us down. In consecrating Vatican City State to St. Michael the Archangel, I ask him to defend us from the evil one and banish him. “
“We also consecrate Vatican City State in St. Joseph, guardian of Jesus, the guardian of the Holy Family. May his presence make us stronger and more courageous in making space for God in our lives to always defeat evil with good. We ask Him to protect, take care of us, so that a life of grace grows stronger in each of us every day. “

Defend us in battle

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