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September 15, 2015

In a flagrant church-state violation a New Mexico mom loses her children after refusing to attend court mandated Christian counseling sessions.

KRQE reports Holly Salzman was hoping to get some help co-parenting her 11-year-old twin boys with her ex-husband, but instead she says she got 10 court-ordered religious sessions that she did not want.

Salzman said:

I walked into the session and the very first thing she said to me was, ‘I start my sessions by praying.’ When I expressed my concerns that I didn’t pray she said, ‘well this is what I do’ and she proceeded to say a prayer out loud.

Salzman, a single mother of two, said she felt so “offended and disgusted” that she stopped going to the court-ordered sessions. The result was that the court took her kids away. Salzman reports:

It’s probably the worst thing I’ve ever been through in my life.

In order to regain custody of her children, Salzman was forced to complete the faith based counseling despite her objections, and despite the fact that she is not religious, and does not believe in God.

KRQE reports that in every counseling session there were handouts with quotes from Psalms and other religious sources, and religious based homework such as one activity titled “Who is God to me?”

In a series of undercover videos the court mandated Christian counselor repeatedly forced the issue of God and Christianity into the counseling sessions, despite the fact that her client had no interest, and found the discussion of religion in the context of the counseling sessions offensive.

In one secretly recorded session the counselor told Salzman:

The meaning in my life is to know love and serve God. If you want to explore how God was in your past,  how God was in your life and not in your life…  I know you don’t believe in God which is fine but I know at some points he was in your life in some way.

It is hard to imagine something more obnoxious, or more infuriating, than being forced to endure some holier-than-thou Christian counselor explaining that God really was in your life, despite the fact that you don’t believe in God.

And it is heartbreaking to note that if a mother does not quietly endure the abuse of the obnoxious Christian counselor, her children will be taken from her by the courts.

Commenting on the story, Peter Simonson, ACLU Executive Director, said:

No one should be put in a position where they are forced to accept training or therapy that violates their own religious beliefs and morals.

We’ve got protections in our country under the Bill of Rights are intended to try and stop that. On the face of it, it looks pretty problematic.

“Problematic” is an understatement. This is despicable, and a clear violation of Salzman’s civil and constitutional rights.

To be clear, there is nothing wrong with being a Christian counselor, but as a Christian counselor, one must be honest and upfront with one’s clients about one’s biases. In addition, clients must be free to refuse Christian based counseling if they are not Christian. Otherwise, the counselor is being unethical, and unprofessional.

Clearly it is wrong for a court to mandate Christian counseling, and it is wrong and unethical for a licensed counselor to force religion on a court-mandated client who is not interested in religion.

As for the Christian counselor, identified as Mary Pepper, according to reports her proselytizing to court mandated clients is not her only unethical activity. Pepper does her court-mandated counseling surreptitiously at the public library to avoid overhead, and in so doing illegally forces her local government to subsidize her business expenses. Plus, she demands cash payments from her court mandated clients, presumably to thwart the IRS.

As for Pepper’s background, she is a Catholic extremist who used to be a “parent educator” at Project Defending Life, a radical anti-abortion group.

The good news is that Salzman completed the counseling sessions, and she has her kids back again. Let’s hope she gets a good lawyer and sues everybody responsible for this despicable debacle.

Watch the news report about this story, embedded below:

(Image via Screen Grab)
(Image via Screen Grab)
June 8, 2015

Leaving a meeting with Argentine President Cristina Fernandez on Sunday, Pope Francis asked reporters to pray for him, and then giving a nod to atheists, the pontiff joked: “and if some of you can’t pray because you are not believers, send me good vibrations.”

Reuters reports Francis always asks people to pray for him but he put a new twist on the request as he was leaving a meeting with Argentine President Cristina Fernandez on Sunday.

There Francis turned to reporters and joked in Spanish:

Pray for me, and if some of you can’t pray because you are not believers, send me good vibrations.

Yet despite his apparent good humor and sometimes liberal rhetoric, Francis has been, and continues to be, a big disappointment.

Last month, in what can only be described as a stunning bit of ironic hypocrisy, Francis, the head of a notoriously sexist institution that routinely discriminates against women, issued a call for equal treatment of women in the workplace.

More serious, last year, in a scathing report, the UN condemned Francis and the Catholic Church for protecting and enabling pedophile priests engaged in the sexual abuse of children. And there is strong evidence Francis continues the Catholic Church’s reprehensible policy of protecting pedophile priests from criminal prosecution.

Indeed, the recent moral failures of Pope Francis range from the sinister to the comical. Earlier this year a clueless Francis told an audience at St. Peter’s Square that choosing not to have children is “selfish,” apparently forgetting that he is a celibate man without children.

In February, Francis endorsed corporal punishment, a form of child abuse, making the perverse claim that parents hitting children is “beautiful” as long as the act of violence against a child is done with “dignity.”

Perhaps most disturbing, last January, commenting on the Charlie Hebdo massacre, Francis declared “one cannot make fun of faith” and that anyone who throws insults can expect a “punch,” offering a tacit justification for terror and violence in response to a cartoon making fun of religious superstition.

In short, despite the friendly facade, the occasional superficial liberal rhetoric, and a humorous joke now and then, Pope Francis is a moral failure guilty of perpetuating the institutional immorality of the Catholic Church.

As for “good vibrations,” this one’s for Pope Francis:

francis maxresdefault 1 pray vib

 

June 1, 2015

Trans Victory: Despite some ugly criticism from religious extremists, a brave Caitlyn Jenner makes her public debut on the cover of the July issue of Vanity Fair.

Posing for a stunning photo shoot by famed photographer Annie Leibovitz, the transgender Olympic champion and reality star formerly known as Bruce Jenner was reintroduced to the world as a woman named Caitlyn Jenner earlier today.

Jenner, 65, is now using female pronouns as she continues her transition.

Earlier this year, in a highly anticipated interview, Jenner told Diane Sawyer that “for all intents and purposes, I am a woman.” As one might expect, many religious extremists used the opportunity to abuse and mock Jenner and other transgender individuals.

In fact, immediately following the interview some ‘loving Christians’ condemned Jenner as an abomination and in need of Jesus.

One particularly heinous example of bashing Jenner for being transgender came from a blog posted here at Patheos. Catholic blogger Kathy Schiffer, writing at Seasons of Grace, minced no words in expressing her bigotry and contempt towards Jenner and other transgender individuals.

The following is an excerpt from Schiffer’s post:

Bruce Jenner is a man.  He will always be a man.  He may be a man who’s been surgically altered (ouch! just thinking about it!), but he’ll still be a man.  He may grow long hair, have his Adam’s apple surgically removed, take hormones to enhance breast growth, and paint his fingernails; but he’ll still be a man.

Every single cell in his body contains XY chromosomes, and no amount of chemical or surgical or psychological manipulation will change that.  His skin is male; his fingernails are male; his chest hair is male, as are his feet, his nose, his eyeballs.

Bruce Jenner is not a woman.  He may be a sad, physically mutilated and psychologically troubled man–but a man he is.

Schiffer’s uninformed and uneducated opinion why Jenner will never be a woman is cruel and mean-spirited. Schiffer’s unseemly rant is a paradigmatic example of transphobia, and represents the exact kind of attitude and argument that drives so many transgender kids and adults to suicide.

However, Schiffer is not alone in openly persecuting, demeaning, and degrading transgender individuals. Indeed, she represents a common type of religious fundamentalist that will always condemn and attack that which they do not understand.

While Schiffer may represent an ugly reality, it is important to note that not all Christians express bigotry and contempt for transgender individuals. Indeed, the ironic fact is that Jenner identifies as a Christian, as do many other transgender individuals.

The fact is, many Christians and other religious individuals are good and decent people who accept and love transgender individuals.

However, one need only recall the tragic life and death of Leelah Alcorn to understand that the kind of open hostility and cruelty towards transgender people expressed by Schiffer and other religious extremists often have real and tragic consequences.

As one might expect, after the release of her Vanity Fair photo shoot went viral, Caitlyn Jenner was immediately trending on Twitter.

(Portions of this article were previously published here)

 

 

May 3, 2015

Irony alert: Pope Francis, the head of a notoriously sexist institution that routinely discriminates against women, is calling for equal treatment of women in the work place.

Vatican Radio reports Pope Francis is now calling for equal pay for equal work, calling compensation disparity between men and women a “pure scandal.”

In a statement made Wednesday at his weekly General Audience in St. Peter’s Square, Francis called for

equal opportunities in the workplace.

While well meaning, calling for equal pay and equal opportunity for women in the workplace is profoundly ironic, and profoundly obtuse, given the fact that the Catholic Church has a ban on women serving as priests, effectively barring women from any leadership position within the church.

Indeed, in 2013 Pope Francis reaffirmed the essential sexist and discriminatory nature of the Catholic Church by reaffirming the ban on the ordination of women as priests, stating unequivocally that

The Church has spoken and says no. That door is closed.

Writing for RH Reality Check Erin Matson nicely sums up the absurdity of Pope Francis calling for equal treatment of women in the workplace:

There’s nothing quite like a call for equal pay for equal work from a boss who openly denies every actual and prospective woman employee her ability to work as an equal.

Talk is cheap. By paying lip service to social justice concerns Pope Francis may fool some, but the “do as I say, not as I do” rhetoric is transparent in its hypocrisy.

The Catholic Church’s confused and discriminatory attitudes towards women reflects profound moral and intellectual contradictions, and is but one of many reasons that ultimately make the tenants of the Catholic Church untenable by any reasonable person.

As for Pope Francis, despite his sometimes liberal rhetoric, Francis has been a big disappointment. Last year, in a scathing report, the UN condemned Francis and the Catholic Church for protecting and enabling pedophile priests engaged in the sexual abuse of children. And there is strong evidence Francis continues the Catholic Church’s reprehensible policy of protecting pedophile priests from criminal prosecution.

Indeed, the recent moral failures of Pope Francis range from the sinister to the comical. Earlier this year a clueless Francis told an audience at St. Peter’s Square that choosing not to have children is “selfish,” apparently forgetting that he is a celibate man without children.

In February, Francis endorsed corporeal punishment, a form of child abuse, making the perverse claim that parents hitting children is “beautiful” as long as the act of violence against a child is done with “dignity.”

Perhaps most disturbing, last January, commenting on the Charlie Hebdo massacre, Francis declared “one cannot make fun of faith” and that anyone who throws insults can expect a “punch,” offering a tacit justification for terror and violence in response to a cartoon making fun of religious superstition.

In short, despite the friendly facade, and the occasional superficial liberal rhetoric, Pope Francis continues to be a moral failure.

(image via Facebook)
(Image via Facebook)
May 2, 2015

Drawing a potent analogy between pedophile priests and dirty cops, Bill Maher illuminates profound institutional corruption within both the Catholic Church and police forces across the country.

Speaking about the recent horrific incident of police brutality in Baltimore where six police officers have been charged in the tragic death Freddie Gray, Maher made a connection between abusive cops, abusive priests, and the institutional cover-up that so often occurs after the fact of abuse, cover-up which often has the effect of protecting bad actors and enabling further abuse.

Maher said:

I don’t understand why the police are infallible. They remind me a lot of the Catholic Church. Well they do. Here’s the stat: They were sued, the police, the Baltimore police, I think 317 suits, they paid about $5.7 million since 2011. This does remind me of the Catholic Church and in the Catholic Church of course not every priest is a pedophile but the institution covered up for the pedophiles.

Maher’s observation is spot on. Even the most casual observer must admit that cops and priests have often been allowed to get away with the most heinous crimes because their fellow officers and fellow priests will often cover for them, while a gullible public will often look the other way, make excuses, and swallow the false assumption of “infallibility.”

Speaking about the appalling incident of police brutality in Baltimore, Maher’s guest D. L. Hughley said:

If they (the cops) had just treated Mr. Gray like a human being when he asked for help, they wouldn’t be going to court and he wouldn’t be dead. And the only reason that exists in this country is because America by and large thinks its no big deal.

True words. And of course, the same sort of thing could be said about pedophile priests raping children, treating their victims not like human beings, but objects to be used to satisfy their perverse desires, while too many for too long simply looked the other way.

Maher’s analogy between pedophile priests and dirty cops is instructive, yet it is important to note that while a police force is a necessary evil, the Catholic Church, while definitely evil, is not necessary.

It is also important to note that the Catholic Church does not have a monopoly on the sexual abuse of children: pedophiles can also often be found leading the youth group at the local Christian church.

Bottom line: Power corrupts, and no human being, regardless of station, is infallible.

(Image via Screen Grab)
(Image via Screen Grab)
April 25, 2015

Christian love: Last night a brave Bruce Jenner revealed he is transitioning into a woman, and as one might expect, many Christians are taking the opportunity to abuse and mock Jenner and other transgender individuals.

In a highly anticipated interview, Jenner told Diane Sawyer that “for all intents and purposes, I am a woman.”

Immediately following the interview some ‘loving Christians’ condemned Jenner as an abomination and in need of Jesus. Many patronizing and condescending Christians on social media sites like Twitter and Facebook simply repeated messages such as:

Bruce Jenner needs Jesus

So people find this brave & normal? The world is going bad! A total mess! Jesus is coming back soon! #FixItJesus #BruceJenner

I know this is strange, but my heart grieves for Bruce Jenner. I pray that he finds Jesus because only He can break every chain!!

The #Perversions never end and just gets worse…that’s why God calls it an #Abomination…Live & let live – yes! Glorify – No! #BruceJenner

We Christians KNOW if you were born a man, you ARE a man. If you were born a woman, you ARE a woman, period!!!

Bruh #BruceJenner is a fuckin abomination and he is going to hell tbh idc what ppl say if u believe in God u live with what he made u

One particularly heinous example of bashing Jenner for being transgender comes from a blog posted here at Patheos. Catholic blogger Kathy Schiffer, writing at Seasons of Grace, minced no words in expressing her bigotry and contempt towards Jenner and other transgender individuals.

The following is an excerpt from Schiffer’s post:

Bruce Jenner is a man.  He will always be a man.  He may be a man who’s been surgically altered (ouch! just thinking about it!), but he’ll still be a man.  He may grow long hair, have his Adam’s apple surgically removed, take hormones to enhance breast growth, and paint his fingernails; but he’ll still be a man.

Every single cell in his body contains XY chromosomes, and no amount of chemical or surgical or psychological manipulation will change that.  His skin is male; his fingernails are male; his chest hair is male, as are his feet, his nose, his eyeballs.

Bruce Jenner is not a woman.  He may be a sad, physically mutilated and psychologically troubled man–but a man he is.

Schiffer’s uninformed and uneducated opinion why Jenner will never be a woman is cruel and mean-spirited, and reveals an astonishing lack of intellect, character, and human decency.

Schiffer takes the opportunity to openly persecute and humiliate Jenner, and by extension all transgender people, in a vicious and ugly rant dripping with the smug self-satisfaction that only the religiously deluded can manage.

Schiffer’s unseemly rant is a paradigmatic example of transphobia. It is the exact kind of attitude and argument that drives so many transgender kids and adults to suicide.

Yet Schiffer is not alone in her prejudice and bigotry towards transgender individuals. Indeed, she represents a common type of religious fundamentalist that will always condemn and attack that which they do not understand.

And while Schiffer may represent an ugly reality, it is important to note that not all Christians express bigotry and contempt for transgender individuals. Indeed, the ironic fact is that Jenner identifies as a Christian, as do many other transgender individuals. The fact is, many Christians are good and decent people who accept and love transgender individuals.

However, one need only recall the tragic life and death of Leelah Alcorn to understand that the kind of open hostility and cruelty towards transgender people expressed by Schiffer and other religious extremists often have real and tragic consequences.

(Note: At this time, Bruce Jenner has not yet chosen to publicly identify as a woman, hence the author’s use of the male pronoun in the opening paragraph.)

(Screen-grab via YouTube)
(Screen-grab via YouTube)
April 16, 2015

Currently a controversial and dangerous course on exorcism approved by the Vatican is underway at the European University of Rome.

The course is sponsored by the Vatican Congregation for the Clergy and organized by the Sacerdos Institute, all with the approval of Pope Francis and the Vatican.

The course runs from April 13 to 18, with reports indicating that at least 170 students are attending in order to learn how to “recognize and fight demonic possession.”

The conference is an assault on reason and science, and an insult to the intelligence. More than this, promoting the idea that demonic possession is somehow real poses an ominous threat to the mentally ill, while serving as a potent reminder of the dangers associated with religious superstition.

The Catholic Encyclopedia defines exorcism as “the act of driving out, or warding off, demons, or evil spirits, from persons, places, or things, which are believed to be possessed or infested by them, or are liable to become victims or instruments of their malice”

The belief that individuals are possessed by demons is silly and dangerous nonsense. Yet this silly nonsense can have grave implications for the mentally ill. Mental illness is real. For Pope Francis and the Vatican to embrace the ludicrous idea that people are possessed by demonic forces is to deny in part the scientific reality of mental illness, and to condemn mentally ill people to the whims and abuses of religious charlatans.

There is nothing good or life affirming by approving the medieval and superstitious practice of exorcism. Demons and evil spirits are but figments of the imagination. To pretend that exorcism is something other than cheap and tawdry religious smoke and mirrors is to take a vacation from reality.

Promoting exorcism for people experiencing real pain and suffering is at once both dishonest and unethical. By backing this tawdry course on exorcism, Pope Francis and the Vatican reject modern science, and embrace ignorant and harmful religious superstition.

(Portions of this article were previously published here)

Goya's painting of a Catholic priest performing an exorcism (Wikipedia)
Goya’s painting of a Catholic priest performing an exorcism (Wikipedia)
April 10, 2015

A not so liberal Pope Francis rejects the new French ambassador to the Vatican because he is gay, despite his previous positive rhetoric concerning LGBT people.

Multiple media reports indicate Pope Francis has personally rejected the nomination of ambassadorial candidate Laurent Stefanini as new French ambassador to the Vatican because Stefanini is gay.

Stefanini is a highly respected French diplomat and a close aide to French President Francois Hollande. The fact that the French diplomat is gay is no secret, and choosing him to represent France at the Holy See was considered by many to be a “provocation,” and a test of Pope Francis and his willingness to abandon, or at least soften, the traditional homophobic, anti-gay stance of the Catholic Church.

Apparently, Francis has failed that test.

Previously Francis made headlines after famously declaring “Who am I to judge?” while speaking about gay priests. However, when it comes to gay diplomats, it appears Francis is more than happy “to judge.”

Despite his sometimes liberal rhetoric, Pope Francis has been a big disappointment. Last year, in a scathing report, the UN condemned Francis and the Catholic Church for protecting and enabling pedophile priests engaged in the sexual abuse of children. And there is strong evidence Francis continues the Catholic Church’s reprehensible policy of protecting pedophile priests from criminal prosecution.

The recent moral failures of Pope Francis range from the sinister to the comical. Earlier this year a clueless Francis told an audience at St. Peter’s Square that choosing not to have children is “selfish,” apparently forgetting that he is a celibate man without children.

In February, Francis endorsed corporeal punishment, a form of child abuse, making the perverse claim that parents hitting children is “beautiful” as long as the act of violence against a child is done with “dignity.”

Perhaps most disturbing, last January, commenting on the Charlie Hebdo massacre, Francis declared “one cannot make fun of faith” and that anyone who throws insults can expect a “punch,” offering a tacit justification for terror and violence in response to a cartoon making fun of religious superstition.

In short, despite the friendly facade, Pope Francis continues to be a disappointment, and a moral failure.

Meanwhile, The Daily Beast is running a salacious story concerning gay orgies being regularly held at the Vatican. As usual, the moral depravity and hypocrisy of the Catholic Church is without limit.

Pope Francis 

 

March 7, 2015

Edward Michael Egan, American Cardinal of the Roman Catholic Church, is dead. As a member of the church hierarchy, Egan protected and enabled pedophile priests by shuffling them from parish to parish in an immoral attempt to preserve the reputation of the church and protect the church from financial liability.

Egan died on March 5, at the age of 82. He served as Bishop of Bridgeport from 1988 to 2000, and as Archbishop of New York from 2000 to 2009.

While serving as Bishop of the Bridgeport Roman Catholic Diocese, Egan allowed several priests facing multiple accusations of sexual abuse to continue working for years, putting numerous children at risk.

Egan also failed to investigate other complaints of abuse, and, during closed testimony in 1999, suggested that a dozen people who made complaints of rape, molestation and beatings against the same priest may have all been lying.

In addition, Egan authorized payments to victims in exchange for silence agreements, and lied about those payments during a deposition.

The Hartford Courant has a detailed account of Egan’s gross misconduct and abject moral failure in handling the rape and abuse of children by Catholic clergy while Bishop of Bridgeport.

The NY Times reports that as Archbishop of New York, Egan “was slow and reluctant to act” when pressed by prosecutors to turn over files on accused priests. Indeed, Egan openly flouted the law, at one point declaring the church had no obligation to report sexual-abuse accusations to the authorities, even though a law on the books since the 1970s states otherwise.

According to the NY Times report,  Egan believed that his diocese did nothing wrong in its handling of complaints and that most priests were innocent.

NBC reports that in 2002, at the height of the clergy sex abuse crisis, Egan wrote a letter to parishioners apologizing for any mistakes in responding to victims and stopping abusers. But a decade later, Egan told Connecticut magazine:

I should never have said that. I did say if we did anything wrong, I’m sorry, but I don’t think we did anything wrong.

Egan went to his death believing that by protecting and enabling pedophile priests he did nothing wrong. Despite this fact, he is celebrated by the Catholic church, and will be entombed in the crypt at St. Patrick’s Cathedral.

Cardinal Egan – Protector of Pedophile Priests
February 17, 2015

Another moral failure for Pope Francis: Victims of clergy sexual abuse are urging Pope Francis to stop protecting pedophile priests from criminal prosecution by civilian courts.

Victims of pedophile priests from the United States, Argentina, Chile, Mexico and other nations joined forces Monday to urge Pope Francis to allow civilian courts to punish sexually abusive priests and those who covered up their crimes.

Yesterday victims issued a public statement in Mexico City condemning Pope Francis for hypocrisy when it comes to punishing clergy sexual abuse and those who enable and cover up the crimes of pedophile priests, noting:

We find not only ambiguities, but obvious contradictions between your actions and your pledge that you would not tolerate pedophilia and take all the steps necessary to end this calamity in the Church.

The statement declared that only civilian trials will put an end to the “great holocaust of thousands of boys and girls who were sacrificed to avoid scandal and salvage the image and prestige of the Catholic Church’s representatives in the world.”

The victims said the pope’s recent admonishments of sex abuse in the Church are “ambiguous and contradictory” because they do not lead to any “institutional process toward truth and justice.”

The statement was read by Jose Barba at a press conference in Mexico City on Monday, Feb. 16. Barba is one of the victims of Marcial Maciel, the Mexican founder of the ultra-conservative Legion of Christ order who died in 2008.

In the statement, victims told the Argentine pontiff that “words are not enough.”

In early February, Francis sent a letter to the church’s bishops and other high-ranking members of the Catholic hierarchy calling for a zero-tolerance policy towards child sex abuse as well as those who cover up incidents.

However, the group of outspoken victims say the Pope’s much publicized announcement calling for a zero-tolerance policy towards child sex abuse is only a superficial public relations move that does nothing to bring justice to the victims or punish the criminals. Indeed, victims point to recent Papal appointments of priests and cardinals who have been accused of covering up serious cases of child abuse as proof that Francis has no real commitment to the problem beyond public perception.

The victims argue that the Church continues to seek ways to avoid negative attention that may harm its prestige. They say that turning a blind eye has done much more harm than good to the institution’s image.

Barbara Blaine, president of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, said via video conference from the United States that Pope Francis should follow the recommendations of the United Nations, which said last year that the Church violated the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.

Last year, in a scathing report, the UN condemned Francis and the Catholic Church for protecting and enabling pedophile priests engaged in the sexual abuse of children

Lately, Pope Francis has been a big disappointment. Last week a clueless Francis told an audience at St. Peter’s Square that choosing not to have children is “selfish,” apparently forgetting that he is a celibate man without children.

Earlier this month, Francis endorsed corporeal punishment, a form of child abuse, making the perverse claim that parents hitting children is “beautiful” as long as the act of violence against a child is done with “dignity.”

Perhaps even more disturbing, last month, commenting on the Charlie Hebdo massacre, Francis declared “one cannot make fun of faith” and that anyone who throws insults can expect a “punch,” offering a tacit justification for terror and violence in response to a cartoon making fun of religious superstition.

All the while Francis continues the Catholic Church’s reprehensible policy of protecting pedophile priests from criminal prosecution.

In short, despite the friendly facade, Pope Francis is a moral failure.


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