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There’s nothing unusual about partisans of the Bush administration defending waterboarding as a useful form of “enhanced interrogation.” Others will go even further, calling the technique “torture,” but saying it may be a necessary evil. What is a bit unusual is the case being made by Marc A. Thiessen, a former speechwriter for President George W. Bush.
In “Courting Disaster: How the C.I.A. Kept America Safe and How Barack Obama Is Inviting the Next Attack,” Mr. Thiessen, a practicing Roman Catholic, says that waterboarding suspected terrorists was not only useful and desirable, but permitted by the teachings of the Catholic Church.
This does not square, to put it mildly, with the common understanding of Catholic teaching. In the past month, Catholic bloggers and writers from across the political spectrum have united to attack his views, and to defend their own: that waterboarding is torture, and that Roman Catholics are not supposed to do it.
Mr. Thiessen makes two basic arguments. First, he says that waterboarding, the simulated drowning technique used on Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the professed chief planner of the Sept. 11 attacks, and others, is not torture. “I didn’t get into the Catholic theological stuff of it until I sat down to write the book,” Mr. Thiessen said in a phone interview. So when Mr. Bush asked him, in 2006, to write a speech explaining the C.I.A.’s interrogation program, Mr. Thiessen asked himself other kinds of questions.
“There’s a standard of torture in civil law,” he said, “which is severe mental pain and suffering. I also have a common-sense definition, which is, ‘If you’re willing to try it, it’s not torture.’ ” Read more.
ABC News Exclusive: Chicago Father Faces Jail for Bringing Daughter to Church
Feuding, Inter-Faith Parents Test Boundaries of Religion in Family Court
By Lauren Pearle, Felicia Patinkin, Teri Whitcraft and Sunny Antrim | ABC News
Three-year-old Ela Reyes is caught in the middle of her feuding parents' divorce battle -- a private child custody fight that has erupted in a public firestorm over religion and the boundaries of faith and the law.
Joseph Reyes faces jail time for taking daughter, Ela, to a Catholic church in defiance of a temporary court order forbidding him from exposing the child to any religion but Judaism.
His estranged wife, Rebecca Reyes spoke exclusively to ABC News' Chris Cuomo about why she asked for the order and the jail time, in a case that is making national headlines. Read more.
Israeli threats of war because of Hezbollah's role in the Lebanese government is just an excuse to prepare for attacks, the prime minister said in Italy.
Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri met with Pope Benedict XVI during an official visit to Italy, Lebanon's Daily Star newspaper reports. The premier said he wondered why Israel was using Hezbollah as a pretext for aggression, as the Shiite resistance movement has a history of government involvement.
"Hezbollah participated in the government in 2007, 2008 and 2009 so why now (is Israel) raising the issue? Because Israel is looking for excuses for war," he told the Italian daily Corriere Della Sera. Read more.
The University of Wisconsin-La Crosse and Viterbo University (La Crosse, Wisconsin, USA) will be the sites for the 2010 Wisconsin Institute for Peace and Conflict Studies conference on Human Rights (October 7-9, 2010).
Conference themes of the Universal Declaration include:
- Torture. Life, liberty and security of persons, Slavery
- Equality under the law
- Arbitrary arrest, detention or Exile
- Right to freedom of movement and residence
- Right to Freedom of Thought, Conscience and Religion
- Freedom of Opinion and Expression
- Peaceful assembly and association
- Right to participate in Government
- Economic, social and cultural rights
- Right to be treated with dignity
- Right to Education
- Right to Health and wellbeing
Visit the conference website for more details.
We are excited about the keynote speakers and in particular that this conference includes both an “academic” component for people to present scholarly papers on human rights issues as well as pedagogical sessions for people to either present or to get ideas about how to introduce human rights into the K-University curriculum. Please consider submitting a proposal (the deadline is coming up soon—April 1) and encourage your colleagues to submit proposals. In addition, please let K-12 teachers in your area know about this and encourage them to attend and/or submit proposals.
Afghanistan War Vet Faces Jail Time for Taking Daughter to Church in Violation of Court Order
Joseph Reyes Baptized Daughter Without Informing Estranged Wife
By Chris Cuomo, Lauren Pearle, Felicia Patinkin and Suzan Clarke | ABC News
A veteran of the war in Afghanistan could find out today if he'll get jail time for taking his daughter to church in defiance of a Chicago family court order obtained by his estranged wife.
The two are in a bitter divorce battle, and the question of what faith their child should be raised in is pushing the boundaries of child custody arrangements.
Reyes' decision to baptize his daughter without his wife's permission resulted in what some are calling an extraordinary court order: The Hon. Edward R. Jordan in the Circuit Court of Cook County, Ill., imposed a 30-day restraining order forbidding Joseph Reyes from, according to the document, "exposing his daughter to any other religion than the Jewish religion. …"
The couple married in 2004. Joseph Reyes was Catholic, but he converted to Judaism -- he said the decision wasn't "voluntary" -- to please his in-laws.
Despite his conversion, Reyes, 35, said he never stopped practicing Catholicism. Read more.
So say Lionel Ritchie and Quincy Jones, and with much gratitude toward God, in this video.
And, by the way, a bunch of American millionaires really are not the world. Charity from people who are allowing their government to destroy and exploit on unprecedented scale is pathetic enough, but thanking God for a timely tragedy is a little bit too much.
Nice song, though.
By Harvey Wasserman
"God made the idiot for practice, and then He made the school board."
Tomorrow's New York Times Sunday Magazine highlights yet another mob of extremists using the Texas School Board to baptize our children's textbooks.
This endless, ever-angry escalating assault on our Constitution by crusading theocrats could be obliterated with the effective incantation of two names: Benjamin Franklin, and Deganawidah.
But first, let's do some history:
1) Actual Founder-Presidents #2 through #6 -- John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, James Monroe and John Quincy Adams -- were all freethinking Deists and Unitarians; what Christian precepts they embraced were moderate, tolerant and open-minded.
Think of the origins of that staple of modern life, the cup of coffee, and Italy often springs to mind.
But in fact, Yemen is where the ubiquitous brew has its true origins.
Along with the first university, and even the toothbrush, it is among surprising Muslim inventions that have shaped the world we live in today.
The origins of these fundamental ideas and objects -- the basis of everything from the bicycle to musical scales -- are the focus of "1001 Inventions," a book celebrating "the forgotten" history of 1,000 years of Muslim heritage....
- Flying machine
- The crank
- Hospitals Read more.
"We must ensure that incidents like these are not repeated, so as not to give the impression that our country is involved in a religious crusade, which hurts America's image abroad and puts our soldiers in harms way."
Trijicon, the gunsight maker that has imprinted Bible verse numbers on its scopes, has announced that it will no longer imprint the verses on the sides of scopes intended for the U.S. military, and will also provide clients with the kits to remove the Bible verse numbers from existing scopes.
An ABC News report earlier this week revealed that the Michigan-based company, which has a contract to provide up to 800,000 scopes to the U.S. military, prints references to New Testament chapters and verses in code next to the model numbers of its scopes. The scopes are used by the U.S. Marine Corps and Army in Iraq and Afghanistan, and by U.S. allies in those countries, and for the training of Afghan and Iraqi troops.
Earlier today, Gen. David Petraeus, who commands CentCom, which oversees U.S. forces in Iraq and Afghanistan, told a D.C. thinktank that the company's practice was "disturbing …and a serious concern for me" and field commanders. He said there had been considerable discussions within the Department of Defense about how to deal with Trijicon's practice. Read more.
U.S. Military Weapons Inscribed With Secret 'Jesus' Bible Codes
Pentagon Supplier for Rifle Sights Says It Has 'Always' Added New Testament References
By Joseph Rhee, Tahman Bradley and Brian Ross | ABC News
Coded references to New Testament Bible passages about Jesus Christ are inscribed on high-powered rifle sights provided to the United States military by a Michigan company, an ABC News investigation has found.
The sights are used by U.S. troops in Iraq and Afghanistan and in the training of Iraqi and Afghan soldiers. The maker of the sights, Trijicon, has a $660 million multi-year contract to provide up to 800,000 sights to the Marine Corps, and additional contracts to provide sights to the U.S. Army.
U.S. military rules specifically prohibit the proselytizing of any religion in Iraq or Afghanistan and were drawn up in order to prevent criticism that the U.S. was embarked on a religious "Crusade" in its war against al Qaeda and Iraqi insurgents....
"This is probably the best example of violation of the separation of church and state in this country," said [Mikey] Weinstein [of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation]. "It's literally pushing fundamentalist Christianity at the point of a gun against the people that we're fighting. We're emboldening an enemy." Read more, view slideshow of more Bible inscriptions on US military weapons.
Robertson's "True Story": Haiti "Swore A Pact To The Devil" To Get "Free From The French" & "Ever Since, They Have Been Cursed"
Robertson's "True Story": Haiti "Swore A Pact To The Devil" To Get "Free From The French" And "Ever Since, They Have Been Cursed"
Remember Monica? No, not that Monica. Monica Goodling, the 33 year old graduate of Pat Robertson's Messiah College who, despite never being a prosecutor, was installed by the Bush administration to oversee the DOJ US Attorneys. She also is noted for ordering the breasts of the statues of the Great Hall covered in $8,000 draperies. If you do, you'll enjoy this walk down memory lane led by Bill Maher.
In this video, Dr. Ebadi speaks about the effects of deep faith on human rights, and her dreams for peace.
To suit their political agenda of merging church and state, right wing religious fundamentalists misrepresent that our nation’s founding fathers were “Christians” when in truth, they were Deists.
This article clarifies our national origins by describing the actual beliefs of our founders. ~Chip :)
Excerpt: ...Many sincere people believe that America was founded on Judeo-Christian principles. Even the powerful US Senator and candidate for US President, John McCain said, "The Constitution of the United States established the United States of America as a Christian nation." He says this even though the Constitution does not! In fact, nowhere in the Constitution is the word "God" ever even mentioned!
The Declaration of Independence mentions God but ONLY in Deistic terms! Nowhere in the Declaration is Jesus, Moses or the Bible ever mentioned. If America was founded as a Christian nation this would not be the case....Read more.
Secular campaigners in the Irish Republic defied a strict new blasphemy law which came into force today by publishing a series of anti-religious quotations online and promising to fight the legislation in court.
The new law, which was passed in July, means that blasphemy in Ireland is now a crime punishable with a fine of up to €25,000 (£22,000).
It defines blasphemy as "publishing or uttering matter that is grossly abusive or insulting in relation to matters sacred by any religion, thereby intentionally causing outrage among a substantial number of adherents of that religion, with some defences permitted".
The justice minister, Dermot Ahern, said that the law was necessary because while immigration had brought a growing diversity of religious faiths, the 1936 constitution extended the protection of belief only to Christians.
But Atheist Ireland, a group that claims to represent the rights of atheists, responded to the new law by publishing 25 anti-religious quotations on its website, from figures including Richard Dawkins, Björk, Frank Zappa and the former Observer editor and Irish ex-minister Conor Cruise O'Brien. Read more.
by Linda Milazzo
Monday night, in remembrance of the one-year anniversary of Israel's Operation Cast Lead that killed 1,400 Gazans, and in solidarity with the 1,400 international peace pilgrims converging in Egypt from 42 countries for the planned Gaza Freedom March, Los Angelenos gathered in front of the Israeli Consulate for a solemn candlelight vigil.
Photo by Mike Chickey
Excerpt: It is disheartening to learn that the debate is about how best to restrict access to abortion; it’s between whether to drive insurance covering it out of exchange markets through economic pressure and harrassment (House) or through state opt-out prohibitions sanctioned by federal statute (Senate). The middle ground between those two unconcionable, radical extremes is still unconcionable and radically extreme.
All but forgotten, the legal/Constitutional ground, as established by a once sane Supreme Court, is that the right to an abortion can only be restricted under very limited state interests that expand only in later trimesters. That supreme law and common sense approach apparently have no place in today’s debate, because if they did, the correct response would be that there should be no unwarranted restrictions on abortion access arising from the federal government’s subsidies or any other efforts to help woman avoid undue economic harm or discrimination for seeking legal and necessary health care. Read more.
A Gallup poll of Americans' attitudes towards religion released on Christmas Eve found significant recent increases in those responding either that they have no religious preference, that religion is not very important in their lives, or that they believe religion "is largely old-fashioned or out of date."
Only 78% of Americans now identify as Christian, while 22% describe their religious preference as either "other" or "none."
Most of these changes have occurred since 2000 and represent the first significant shift since a sharp decline in religious adherence during the 1970s. Over the last nine years, the number with no religious preference has grown from a level of around 8% to 13%. The number for whom religion is not very important has climbed from just over 10% to 19%. And the number who believe religion is out of date and has no answers for today's problems has jumped from slightly more than 20% to 29%.
These changes do not appear to have affected the majority of Americans who still consider religion "very important" in their own lives. That figure remains at 56% -- roughly the same as for the last 35 years -- while 57% still say religion has answers to most of the world's problems. Read more.
HOLY FAMILY CLOSED TO TALK OF WARS
By Nick Mottern | Church Visit #24
On a grey, chill Sunday morning, December 13, 2009, Martha Conte, Theodora “Ted” de Soyza, Nora Freeman, Debbie Kair and I visited Holy Family Catholic Church in New Rochelle, NY, in the latest of our bannering visits to urge the religious community in Westchester County to become aggressive in opposing the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars.
We hit a rock, except for two parishioners.
The Holy Family congregation meets in a huge yellow brick ark of a building, Italian in architectural style. The nave of the church, where the congregation sits, has a low flat ceiling of natural wood panels and massive wooden beams, decorated with fine red and green lines and flowers, creating a sense of sanctuary. This feeling is enhanced by large, arched, extremely intricate, stained glass, windows.
On walls are bas-relief sculptures of various scenes leading up to Jesus’ crucifixion known as Stations of the Cross. In one of the walls next to the altar is a sculpture of Mary, Joseph and Jesus - the Holy Family – in a manger scene. On the altar were four, very tall candelabra, and over the altar is a crucifix with, as Nora pointed out, a nearly life-size, very life-like sculpture of Jesus in pain, spiked to a cross.
The sense of the building is that of ancient tradition, a feeling reinforced by the liberal use of incense during the ceremony. The church’s website says the building “is comparable to a basilica.” But the church is not ancient, although, like many, many ancient Catholic churches, it was built out of the devotion of working-class people.
Sex Abuse Victims' Groups Outraged By Vatican Decision to Clear Accused Priest
Catholic Church Rules Alan Placa Not Guilty; Rudy Giuliani Defended, Employed Friend Accused of Molesting Boys
By Avni Patel | ABC News
Catholic sex-abuse victims' groups are decrying a Vatican decision to clear a former high-ranking Long Island priest, and longtime friend of former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, of sex-abuse allegations.
The Diocese of Rockville Centre announced on Friday that the Catholic Church had found Monsignor Alan Placa not guilty of molesting teenage boys, an allegation that first surfaced in a local grand jury investigation in 2002. The grand jury report concluded that Placa could not be prosecuted criminally because the statute of limitations had expired.
Victims' rights groups harshly criticized the Catholic Church's decision and the process of trying the accused priest.
"While not surprising, it's still heart-breaking to see that a victim deemed credible by virtually everyone else -- prosecutors, grand jurors, journalists, survivors, relatives and lay Catholics -- is deemed not credible by a couple of Vatican bureaucrats thousands of miles away," said David Clohessy, the national director of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests. Read more.
Jews Against Zionism
By Stephen Lendman
They're numerous, outspoken, and range from secular to orthodox to one group calling itself "True Torah Jews Against Zionism."
They believe that "traditional" Jews don't support Zionism, an ideology they call "contrary to Jewish law and beliefs and the teachings of the Holy Torah." They say Zionism:
- advocates "a political and military end to the Jewish exile;"
- fosters "pseudo-Judaism" based on secular nationalism;
- coercively seeks "armed materialism" in place of "a Divine and Torah centered understanding;"
- endangers all Jews worldwide;
- wants to disassociate Jews and traditional Judaism from ideological Zionism; and
- calls Israel a "Zionist State," not a Jewish one.
- cite their concern for "peace and safety of all people throughout the world including those living in the Zionist state" and in Occupied Palestine;
- say from ancient times until 100 years ago, Jews and Arabs lived in peace and friendship until Zionism changed the relationship;
- believe Zionists abandoned the Torah and traditional Judaism, demanded political sovereignty over the Holy Land, and aroused anger in the Arab world; and
- Torah Jewry doesn't recognize or support a Zionist state; nor do they represent world Jews; even the name "Israel" is a "forgery," they believe, because the Torah forbids violence in the words of the prophet Isaiah who said:
"And they will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. No nation will lift its sword against any other, nor will they learn warfare anymore."
More Arrests in America's War on Islam
By Stephen Lendman
A November 24 "hatemail" underscores the issue, titled "Muslims in America - violent clashing of cultures, basic incompatibility of Western thought and Muslim theocracy," then quoting Denver radio talk show host Peter Boyles (know.com) saying:
"Not all Muslims are terrorists, but all terrorists are Muslims."
Not Jews, not Christians, not Hindus, not Buddhists, or persons from any of the lesser known religions, just Muslims with no understanding that Islam teaches love, not hate; peace, not violence; charity, not selfishness; and tolerance, not terrorism; or that Islam, Christianity and Judaism have common roots.
Yet according to Pat Robertson, Monday, November 9 on his 700 Club:
"Islam is a violent - I was going to say religion - but it's not a religion. It's a political system. It's a violent political system bent on the overthrow of governments of the world and world domination."
From: Mr Iftikhar Chaudri Most Immediate
Journalists For International Peace
Mr Hans-Rudolf Merz
President of Swiss Confederation
Dated: 30 Nov 2009
Subject: Ban on Minarets, attached to Mosques
I hope that letter of mine will find you in the best of health and prosperity. The peace lovers and promoters of Interfaith Dialogue, all over the world met a set-back , when Swiss government banned construction of minarets , the slender towers attached to mosques, after the most controversial Referendum (29 Nov), in the history of Switzerland ever. The Swiss government invariably prompted the other countries to take similar actions against the minority religions on the demand of the public and its pressure. The accusation of the Swiss People’s Party, the largest party in the Swiss parliament, that minarets can be divisive political symbols and signs of an increasing Islamic presence in Switzerland - is absurd and without any reasoning.
The architectural designs are not aimed at promoting any ‘ism’ in general or Islamization in particular. Journalists For International Peace supports the stance of The Swiss Council of Religions, which includes Jewish, Christian and Muslim leaders - it issued a statement rejecting the call for the ban. In a statement, Catholic bishops said the ban would hinder interreligious dialogue and that Swiss building codes already regulate the construction and operation of minarets.
Minarets are tall spires extending from mosques or built next to them. They help identify a mosque and also serve as a spot where a religious leader can call the faithful to daily prayers.
The move to amend the constitution to ban new construction is part of a campaign by the nationalist Swiss People's Party (SVP).
The party says the minarets are political symbols and therefore go against the the country's constitution.
It designed fliers that feature a veiled woman against a background of a Swiss flag pierced by several minarets resembling missiles.
Swiss voters on Sunday adopted a referendum banning the construction of minarets, seen by some on the far right as a sign of encroaching Islamism.
"The Federal Council respects this decision," said a statement from Switzerland's government. "Consequently the construction of new minarets in Switzerland is no longer permitted. The four existing minarets will remain.
"It will also be possible to continue to construct mosques," the government statement said. "Muslims in Switzerland are able to practice their religion alone or in community with others, and live according to their beliefs just as before." Read more.
On Thursday, December 3, the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) will hold a news conference in the nation’s capital to release its 14th annual report, titled “Seeking Full Inclusion,” on the status of Muslim civil rights in the United States.
WHAT: CAIR to Release Annual Report on Status of American Muslim Civil Rights
WHEN: Thursday, December 3, 10 a.m. (Eastern)
WHERE: CAIR’s Capitol Hill Headquarters, 453 New Jersey Avenue, S.E., Washington, D.C.
CONTACT: CAIR National Communications Director Ibrahim Hooper, 202-488-8787 or 202-744-7726, E-Mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
The Washington-based Muslim civil rights and advocacy organization’s report - the only annual study of its kind – will offer a summary of incidents and experiences of anti-Muslim violence, discrimination and harassment reported to CAIR during the 2008 calendar year.
CAIR’s new report will also examine the use of Islamophobic rhetoric in the 2008 presidential election and highlight a number of issues of concern to the American Muslim community, including watch lists, surveillance of mosques and new FBI guidelines that allow religious and ethnic profiling.
The report will offer recommendations for action by the Obama administration, Congress and American Muslim institutions.
Targeting Muslim Charities in America
By Stephen Lendman
In a December 2008 article, this writer explained that the Texas-based Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development (HLF) was the largest American Muslim charity until the Bush administration bogusly declared it an enemy of the state and shut it down.
On December 4, 2001, the Treasury Department declared HLF a terrorist group, froze its assets, and falsely claimed they were being used to funnel millions of dollars to Hamas. HLF's appeal was denied.
It provided vital relief to Palestinian refugees in Occupied Palestine, Lebanon and Jordan as well as aid for the needy in Bosnia, Albania, Chechnya, Turkey, America, and elsewhere.
Its activities included:
- financial aid to needy and impoverished families;
- a sponsorship program for orphaned children;
- numerous social services;
- educational ones;
- medical and other emergency work; and
- community development, including helping Palestinians rebuild homes that Israel maliciously destroyed.
HLF described its work as follows. "We gave:
- books, not bombs;
- bread, not bullets;
- smiles, not scars;
- toys, not tanks;
- liberty, not poverty;
- hope, not despair;
- love, not hate; (and)
- life, not death.
“The most unfair thing about life is the way it ends. I mean, life is tough. It takes up a lot of your time. What do you get at the end of it? A Death! What's that, a bonus? I think the life cycle is all backwards. You should die first, get it out of the way. Then you live in an old age home. You get kicked out when you're too young, you get a gold watch, you go to work. You work forty years until you're young enough to enjoy your retirement. You do drugs, alcohol, you party, you get ready for high school. You go to grade school, you become a kid, you play, you have no responsibilities, you become a little baby, you go back into the womb, you spend your last nine months floating... ...and you finish off as an orgasm.” -- George Carlin
All good and well - and funny - but we can't create a world we can't conceive, and we can't be so myopic to believe that the "Western" way is the only way. How do the varying world views co-exist? First, we must compare them. And that's where the Utopian Visionaries website excels. Why not visit them?
Sarah Palin's heavily publicized book tour begins in earnest this Monday, but weeks before, her ghostwritten memoir, Going Rogue: An American Life, had already vaulted into the number one position at Amazon. Warming up for a tour that will take her across Middle America in a bus, Palin tested her lines in a November 7th speech before a crowd of 5,000 anti-abortion activists in Wisconsin. She promptly cited an urban legend as a "disturbing trend," claiming the Treasury Department had moved the phrase "In God We Trust" from presidential dollar coins. (The rumor most likely originated with a 2006 story on the far-right website WorldNetDaily.)
In fact, a suggested alteration in its position on the coin was shot down in 2007 after pressure from Democratic Senator Robert Byrd. Nonetheless, Palin did not hesitate to take up this "controversy," however false, since it conveniently pits a tyrannical, God-destroying, secular big government against humble God-fearing folk. In doing so, of course, she presented herself as this nation's leading defender of the faith.
In a Republican Party hoping to rebound in 2010 on the strength of a newly energized and ideologically aroused conservative grassroots, Palin's influence is now unparalleled. Through her Twitter account, she was the one who pushed the rumor of "death panels" into the national healthcare debate, prompting the White House to issue a series of defensive responses. Unfazed by its absurdity, she repeated the charge in her recent speech in Wisconsin. Read more.