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If Bill Robinson gets his way, Wakita, Oklahoma, a small town near the Kansas border consisting of 380 residents, will be the home of the first all-Christian prison in the U.S. Robinson, who runs a Dallas-based outfit called Corrections Concepts Inc. (CCI), hopes to have the facility up and running within 16 months.
Located in Grant County and founded in 1898, Wakita (pronounced Wok-ih-taw) was "featured in the 1996 blockbuster movie 'Twister' starring Helen Hunt and Bill Paxton in which [the town] was destroyed by an F4 tornado …," according to Wikipedia.
OneNewsNow, a news service of Donald Wildmon's American Family Association, recently reported that while there are a number of prisons with "Christian or faith-based units," no prisons have "an all-Christian staff." "All of the employees will be Christians," Robinson said. "We have an opinion letter from the [Equal Employment Opportunity Commission] that says we can do that." Christian guards and staffers would supervise volunteering inmates.
The news service pointed out that "The facility would house only prisoners who want to transfer there. They will not be required to go to church or Bible study, but will be required to sign an agreement to participate in some prison programs. Inmates will be offered classes in literacy, GED requirements, and life skills."
"It's a faith-based, work ethic, corrections initiative where we take men in their last 12 to 24 to 30 months before their earliest release, and they have to volunteer to come, which makes us constitutional," said Robinson, an ex-con and prison minister. Read more.
Christopher said he never intended to harm Obama. He said he made the threat to gain attention for his cause that he is the second coming of Christ and the apocalypse is coming in 2012 and much of the world will be destroyed.
A Wisconsin man was sentenced late today in federal court in Jackson to three years in prison for making a threat on the Internet to assassinate then-President-elect Barack Obama. Read more.
Horror at Fort Hood Inspires Horribly Predictable Islamophobia
By John Nichols | The Nation
Thursday's shootings at the Fort Hood army base in Texas -- which left at least 12 people dead and more than 30 others wounded -- were of course the "horrific outburst of violence" that President Obama bemoaned and condemned.
But, because a soldier identified as the gunman had a name that led to the presumption that he was Muslim, the incident inspired an all-too-predictable explosion of Islamophobia.
News reports named the man who used two handguns in the assault on his fellow soldiers at a base that is a prime point of departure for troops headed to Iraq and Afghanistan as Major Malik Nidal Hasan. The major, who was wounded during the incident, was identified as a psychiatrist who had served in the Department of Psychology at the Center for the Study of Traumatic Stress at the Bethesda Naval Facility in Bethesda, Maryland, before his transfer to Fort Hood.
Hours after the incident, and hours after news anchors and politicians cited his religion as an explanation for the shootings, a family member told reporters Major Hasan was indeed a Muslim. Read more.
No to Single Payer, Yes to Prayer?
For Those Who "Suffer From a False Belief"
By Missy Comley Beattie
A recent Los Angeles Times article by Tom Hamburger and Kim Geiger detailed a provision to the healthcare band-aid, one introduced by Sen. Orrin Hatch and supported by other congressional luminaries like Sen. John Kerry, which “requires insurers to consider covering Christian Science prayer treatments as medical expenses.”
After reading this, I immediately began to excavate for information about the Church of Christ, Scientist, whose name seems more than a little oxymoronic. According to the site, beliefnet.com, “suffering is a false belief” that originates in the mind. “Physicians are not viewed antagonistically; but their methods are seen as ineffective because they treat disease as originating in the body rather than mind.”
By Stephen Lendman
On October 28, New York Times writer Nick Bunkley wrote the following:
"Federal agents (today) fatally shot a man they described as the leader of a violent Sunni Muslim separatist group in Detroit." Targeted was Luqman Ameen Abdullah "whom agents were trying to arrest in Dearborn on charges that included illegal possession and sale of firearms and conspiracy to sell stolen goods."
The Times echoed FBI allegations that Abdullah "began firing at them from a warehouse (and) was shot in the return fire...." Ones also that he said:
-- "America must fall;"
-- if police tried to arrest him he'd "strap a bomb on and blow up everybody;" and
-- that he urged his followers to get bulletproof vests by "shoot(ing) a cop in the head and tak(ing) their vest."
LETTER TO THE PASTOR OF ST. PATRICK’S
On Sunday, October 4, 2009, Martha Cone was one of five people who attended St. Patrick’s Roman Catholic Church in Armonk in a bannering campaign that has been conducted in Westchester County over the last two years to encourage clergy and parishioners to oppose the occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan. Here is her letter to the pastor of the church prompted by the grabbing and shoving of two of the group by an usher and the silence of the congregation after what they witnessed.
White Plains, October 8, 2009
The Reverend John F. Quinn
St. Patrick’s Catholic Church
29 Cox Avenue
Armonk, N.Y. 10504
Dear Reverend Quinn:
Enclosed please find the mission statement of the little group that visited your church last Sunday (Oct. 4) with our peace banners. I wrote it because this was not the first time we encountered extreme anger from parishioners. In the confusion that followed the incident I omitted to leave it behind.
There is a scene in “Othello” when the Moor is so consumed by jealousy and rage that he loses the eloquence and poetry that make him the most articulate man in Venice. He turns to the audience, shortly before he murders Desdemona, and sputters, “Goats and monkeys!” Othello fell prey to wild self-delusion and unchecked rage, and his words became captive to hollow clichés. The debasement of language, which Shakespeare understood was a prelude to violence, is the curse of modernity. We have stopped communicating, even with ourselves. And the consequences will be as extreme as in the Shakespearean tragedy.
Those who seek to dominate our behavior first seek to dominate our speech. They seek to obscure meaning. They make war on language. And the English- and Arabic-speaking worlds are each beset with a similar assault on language. The graffiti on the mud walls of Gaza that calls for holy war or the crude rants of Islamic militants are expressed in a simplified, impoverished form of Arabic. This is not the classical language of 1,500 years of science, poetry and philosophy. It is an argot of clichés, distorted Quranic verses and slogans. This Arabic is no more comprehensible to the literate in the Arab world than the carnival barking that pollutes our airwaves is comprehensible to our literate classes. The reduction of popular discourse to banalities, exacerbated by the elite’s retreat into obscure, specialized jargon, creates internal walls that thwart real communication. This breakdown in language makes reflection and debate impossible. It transforms foreign cultures, which we lack the capacity to investigate, into reversed images of ourselves. If we represent virtue, progress and justice, as our clichés constantly assure us, then the Arabs, or the Iranians, or anyone else we deem hostile, represent evil, backwardness and injustice. An impoverished language solidifies a binary world and renders us children with weapons. Read more.
Former right-wing leader warns of religious right violence: ‘Anyone can be killed’
By Larisa Alexandrovna | Raw Story
Frank Schaeffer is an outspoken critic of the politicized Christian evangelical right. He sees the "End Times" movement as anti-Semitic. He fears that a right-wing terrorist might assassinate the President of the United States.
None of these talking points would be novel on the left, but Schaeffer is hardly a bleeding heart liberal. His father, Dr. Francis Schaeffer, is considered to be the godfather of the modern religious right movement. Schaeffer himself took up the family mission and became a prominent speaker and writer, promoting many of the sentiments that have given rise to the politically active, extremely well organized and zealous movement of today. He left the religious right in the 1980s, and was a Republican until 2000.
In an interview with Raw Story, Schaeffer -- who has a new book coming out this month called Patience with God: Faith for People Who Don't Like Religion (or Atheism) -- discussed his concerns about the radicalization of the Christian right and the increasingly violent rhetoric he foresees turning into actual violence.
"Since President Obama took office I've felt like the lonely -- maybe crazy -- proverbial canary in the coal mine," Schaeffer said. "As a former right wing leader, who many years ago came to my senses and began to try to undo the harm the movement of religious extremism I helped build has done, I've been telling the media that we're facing a dangerous time in our history. A fringe element of the far right Republican Party seems it believes it has a license to incite threatening behavior in the name of God."
"The bestselling status of the Left Behind novels proves that, not unlike Islamist terrorists who behead their enemies, many evangelical/fundamentalist readers relish the prospect of God doing lots of messy killing for them as they watch in comfort from on high," he added. "They want revenge on all people not like them -- forever." Read more.
Church Blogging # 23
CHURCH CROWD SILENT AFTER PROTESTERS ARE GRABBED, SHOVED
By Nick Mottern
On Sunday, October 4, Martha Conte, Gayle Dunkelberger, Nora Freeman, Debbie Kair and I attended St. Patrick’s Roman Catholic Church in Armonk, NY in our bannering campaign to encourage clergy and parishioners in Westchester County to work to end the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars.
We experienced a disturbing incident in which the pastor, the Reverend John F. Quinn, had to intervene to prevent an usher from trying to wrestle me over backward after the man had grabbed Debbie’s shoulder and attempted unsuccessfully to rip one of our banners from her hands.
Since he came from behind us, it was not clear whether the usher, a man in his late 60s or early 70s, had read either of the banners we held or whether he was simply enraged by our intrusion into the service. He was accompanied by at least five or six other men, some pressing in on us with him while others tried to restrain him.
Father Quinn told us later that St. Patrick’s is a “peace church,” but after the service not one soul in the church spoke to us and most averted their eyes from us. Also disturbing was the behavior of parishioners who made it difficult for Debbie to enter the line going to the altar for Communion, which came toward the end of the service. “They glared at me and walked right in front of me,” Debbie said.
Frank Schaeffer, author of Crazy About God, wrote:
I quit my leadership role in the far right religious movement when it began advocating violence against those who had a different political or moral view. Now I am speaking out, and have joined with Velvet Revolution to organize a movement to stop far right violence. We’re doing this because more and more of us see that if unchecked, the inflammatory garbage spewing from the Right’s hate machines will result in tragedy — in other words violence.
I started pondering the question of what we could do right after the assassination of Dr. Tiller by a religious extremist. I felt that it wasn’t enough to call for boycotts of right wing commentators who spew their hate, because that did not really address the core problems. In fact as a former right wing religious “pro-life” leader I felt compelled to publicly apologize for the “America-is-like-Nazi-Germany” rhetoric that my late Evangelical leader father and I helped create in the 1970s and 80s that inexorably led to justifying violence in the Tiller case.
Now I want to endorse a campaign to address these issues. It was launched last week at StopDomesticTerror.com by VR. On Tuesday, I posted this article in Huffington Post asking everyone to join this important campaign.
High court to decide if war memorial violates Constitution
By Bill Mears | CNN
A federal judge has ordered the Mojave Cross, a war memorial erected by a veterans group 75 years ago, to be covered. It's boxed in plywood. The issue is less about what the cross symbolizes and more about where it sits: In the middle of the Mojave National Preserve, which is government land....Riley Bembry, who served as a medic in World War I, helped erect the cross in 1934. It sits on a 4,000-foot plateau and was a place of reflection for many vets who retreated to the desert in part to recover from severe lung diseases caused by mustard gas attacks during the Great War. An annual Easter service is held there, but until recently only locals knew about it. The site is not on any maps.
Driving along a pockmarked road amid rocks and Joshua trees in a lonely southern California desert, religious controversy might be the last thing you'd expect to encounter.
And if you don't look too closely, you're likely to zip right past the focus of a hotly contested Supreme Court battle. Read more.
Coalition Works to Defeat 3 "Health Care" Provisions: "Non-Medical" Care; 1984's "Conscience Clause" & "Abstinence Only" Funds
Sean Faircloth, Executive Director of the Secular Coalition of America wrote:
I write to let you know that the Secular Coalition for America is working to defeat three proposed amendments to the Senate Finance Committee's health care bill that would alter public policy to privilege religious people. These amendments are in some House versions as well.
Of great concern is a bipartisan amendment sponsored by Senators Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) and John Kerry (D-Mass.) that would require private and public health plans to cover all "spiritual care" - whether or not the individual has religous objections to medical care. This proposed funding undermines our Constitution and will open up your tax dollars to scam artists.
This amendment will make an existing problem worse. Religious people who object to medical care already have some "spiritual care" covered by Medicare and Medicaid. This "spiritual care" includes reimbursements for payments that Christian Scientists make to members of the Church who pray for them when they are ill. Numerous children have died while receiving this "spiritual care" when modern science would easily have saved their lives. And you helped pay!
Under the new amendment, all health plans would be obligated to cover such expenses. The Hatch-Kerry bill amendment doesn't stop there, expanding this practice to all Americans, regardless of whether or not they object to medical care. Tax payers would help foot the bill for this religion-based care, care offering no scientific evidence of effectiveness. "Care" which, in fact, endangers lives by placing government approval on non-scientific practices.
The Military Religious Freedom Foundation was founded in 2005 by Mikey Weinstein, a U.S. Air Force Academy graduate and Reagan administration White House counsel, after the harassment his own sons faced as Jewish cadets at the academy led him to discover that the fundamentalist Christian takeover of the Air Force Academy was far from an isolated problem.
It was a militarywide issue that needed to be confronted head on. But it quickly became apparent that MRFF's initial mission of protecting the rights of our men and women in uniform was only addressing part of the problem.
The evangelizing and proselytizing of Iraqi and Afghan Muslims by private religious organizations and U.S. military personnel also had to be exposed and stopped -- particularly the materials and media available via the Internet and television that could be used by Islamic extremists as propaganda for recruiting purposes....
Top Ten Ways to Convince the Muslims We're On a Crusade
10. Have top U.S. military officers, Defense Department officials and politicians say we're in a religious war.
9. Have top U.S. military officers appear in a video showing just how Christian the Pentagon is.
8. Plant crosses in Muslim lands and make sure they're big enough to be visible from really far away.
7. Paint crosses and Christian messages on military vehicles and drive them through Iraq. Read more.
Intolerance is a bitter beast. There are many groups in America that are subject to discrimination and prejudice, but none are more hated than atheists. Research conducted a couple years ago at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis found that atheists are more distrusted than muslims or homosexuals in the US.
Austin Cline from about.com writes, “Every single study that has ever looked at the issue has revealed massive amounts of bigotry and prejudice against atheists in America. The most recent data shows that atheists are more distrusted and despised than any other minority and that an atheist is the least likely person that Americans would vote for in a presidential election. It’s not just that atheists are hated, though, but also that atheists seem to represent everything about modernity which Americans dislike or fear. Read more.
Not surprisingly, states with a higher religious index score had a lower abortion rate, so religiosity predicted more teen births and fewer abortions, Strayhorn found. The correlation remained high even when the researchers controlled for income.
"(A) possible explanation for this relationship is that teens in more religious communities may be less likely to use contraception," Strayhorn wrote.
Likewise, he said, it was possible that "conservative religious communities in the U.S. are more successful in discouraging use of contraception among their teen community members than in discouraging sexual intercourse itself."
States with populations that express strong religious beliefs also have high teenage birth rates, according to a new study. Read more.
It is hardly a secret that the Religious Right helped elect President George W. Bush and exercised extraordinary influence with his administration. But if we need more evidence, it’s just been put on the table.
Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Government (CREW) has just released a report tallying visits to the Bush White House by major Religious Right players. CREW filed a request for visitor records that coughed up the information.
According to a Sept. 4 CREW press release, the count looks something like this: Read more.
Protesters Rally Against Pastor's 'Why I Hate Obama' Sermon: "...Pray For The Death Of The President"
Protesters Rally Against Pastor's 'Why I Hate Obama' Sermon
Arizona Baptist Pastor Confronts Local Reporter, Says Secret Service Called Him
By Susan Donaldson James | ABC News
"It's hard to believe we could have someone of a religious nature wishing our president was dead," protester William Crumb told the ABC affiliate.
"I'm just disgusted with this man who claims to be a minister of the Lord preaching hate toward the president," protester Larry Crane said....
The day after Anderson's sermon, one of his parishioners, Christopher Broughton, carried a loaded AR-15 semiautomatic rifle and a handgun to a protest of Obama's address to a veteran's group.
Broughton said he was motivated not by his pastor but by a long-standing dislike for the president, but told The Associated Press he "absolutely" agreed with Anderson. He was not arrested, as it is not illegal to openly carry a gun in Arizona.
Members of an Arizona community are trying to counteract what they say is hate-speech seething in one of the town's conservative churches.
About 100 protesters arrived at Tempe's Faithful Word Baptist Church on Sunday to demonstrate against controversial comments from its pastor, Steven L. Anderson.
The pastor delivered a sermon last month that was entitled, "Why I Hate Barack Obama," and called on his parish to pray for the death of the president. Read more.
By Linda Milazzo
I was out last evening. I tried to escape, just for a while, back to the days of (Taking) Woodstock when we who worked to end the Vietnam war did so as a united, free-spirited force. I readily admit that in today's times of racism disguised as patriotism, religious perversion, rampant ignorance, unhinged media menaces, and growing hostility amongst Americans, I yearn for that long ago era of 'peace and love.'
Enroute home after my wistful evening, I glanced at my phone and saw a Washington Post alert saying Obama's Green Jobs appointee, Van Jones, had resigned. I was shocked. I knew Jones was being assaulted by the right, but I didn't think he'd resign, and I didn't think the Obama administration would so readily sacrifice this brilliant advocate for the environment and the poor. After all, Jones is a person in the Obama administration who personifies the term "public servant." For progressives, Van Jones' appointment was, and is, Obama's tour de force gift to America of a high level appointee free of corporate entanglements who cannot and will not be bought. Jones is a man for the people in an administration where for the corporation is the norm.
This story reports on an extraordinary 2004 article by a Harvard lecturer and former Chief of Neuropsychiatry at Guantanamo Bay, which made the shocking claim that "hard-core zealots" had "brains that are structurally and functionally different from us." Furthermore, the article stated, 100,000 "zealots" within the Muslim body politic would have to be eliminated, the way "malignant [cancer] cells" are removed from a healthy body.
The author of the article, "Terrorism - The Underlying Causes," in the Winter/Spring 2004 issue of the Intelligencer, Journal of U.S. Intelligence Studies (PDF), house organ for the American Federation of Intelligence Officers (AFIO), was William Henry Anderson, M.D. Anderson's piece received a stinging protest letter to the editor from psychologist and military ethics expert, Jean Maria Arrigo, but I'm not aware of any other complaint regarding this racist, fascistic article in the pages of a major intelligence services journal.
CNN: Secret Service Interviewed Pastor Who Prays For Obama's Death
By Justin Elliott | TPM Muckraker
CNN has picked up our story from yesterday on Steven Anderson, the Arizona pastor who prayed for Barack Obama's death the day before one of his parishioners, who attended the sermon, brought an AR-15 rifle to an Obama event.
And they've advanced the story a bit: CNN analyst Mike Brooks reports that the Secret Service has interviewed Anderson, who told TPMmuckraker yesterday: "To be honest with you, I have prayed for Obama to die. I'm not the only one, I'm just the only one with the spine to say it."
"Daybreak: Undoing the Imperial Presidency and Forming a More Perfect Union," by David Swanson is due in stores September 1st, but the publisher has it now and you can get it straight from Seven Stories Press.
Religious Fundamentalism in Israel
By Stephen Lendman
Israel Shahak's (1933 - 2001) "Jewish History, Jewish Religion" argued that while Islamic fundamentalism is vilified in the West, comparable Jewish extremism is largely ignored. In the book's forward, Edward Said wrote:
"....Shahak's mode of telling the truth has always been rigorous and uncompromising. There is nothing seductive about it, no attempt made to put it 'nicely,' no effort expended on making the truth palatable....For Shahak killing is murder is killing is murder: his manner is to repeat. (He) shows that the obscure, narrowly chauvinist prescriptions against various undesirable Others are to be found in Judaism (as in other monotheistic religions) but he always goes on to show the continuity between those and the way Israel treats Palestinians, Christians and other non-Jews. A devastating portrait of prejudice, hypocrisy and religious intolerance emerges."
"Christians" Wink at Torture
By Ray McGovern | July 31, 2009
Anyone harboring doubts that the institutional Church is riding shotgun for the system, even regarding heinous sin like torture, should be chastened by the results of a recent survey by the Pew Research Center.
Who but the cowardly crew leading the “Christian” churches can be held responsible for the fact that many of their flock believe torture of suspected terrorists is “justified?”
Those polled were white non-Hispanic Catholics, white Evangelicals, and white mainline Protestants. A majority (54 percent) of those who attend church regularly said torture could be “justified,” while a majority of those not attending church regularly responded that torture was rarely or never justified.
I am not a psychologist or sociologist. But I recall that one of the first things Hitler did on assuming power was to ensure there was a pastor in every Lutheran and Catholic parish in Germany. Why? Because he calculated, correctly, that this would be a force for stability for his regime. Thus began horrid chapter in the history of those who profess to be followers of Jesus of Nazareth but forget his repeated admonition, Do not be afraid.
A mere seven decades after the utter failure of most church leaders in Germany, their current American counterparts have again yielded to fear, and have condoned evils like torture by their deafening silence.
What kinds of folks comprise this 54 percent? An informal “survey” of my friends suggests these are “my-country-first” people — like the fellow who recently gave me the finger when he saw my bumper sticker, which simply says “God bless the rest of the world too.”
Texas Curriculum Review Sparks Debate About Religion
Does Religion Have a Place in American History?
By Emily Friedman | ABCNews.com
The debate about whether to teach religious-based social studies in Texas public schools has dominated a broader discussion about the schools' curriculum, which is undergoing a review by state officials hoping to improve the nation's second-largest school system.
The outcome could possibly influence the textbooks used by students in other parts of the country where there appears to be little or no lobbying for such religious-based material.
Of the six experts appointed in the spring by the 15-member Texas Board of Education to review the state's K-12 curriculum, three have said they would like to see more attention paid to the religious aspects of American history. Read more.
There is growing evidence CMUs were created to extract information from inmates for the war on terrorism. Since privacy rights are reduced for the incarcerated, increasing attention to prisoners as a source of information was a logical step for proponents of sustaining a war on terrorism. And by stretching what constitutes a terrorism related charge, the government could consolidate prisoners believed to possess desired knowledge and ignore even basic civil liberties afforded other incarcerated people by invoking “war on terrorism.” To be sure, similar to the tenuous links to terrorism, the extent of any inmate’s knowledge about terrorism is questionable at best.
Ultimately, due to the secretive nature of CMUs, the real explanation continues to be a mystery. What is not a mystery is that the war on terrorism continues to be wrongfully conflated with Islam. This likely explains the disproportionate level of Muslim inmates. Although there are non-Muslim inmates at CMUs, at least one Muslim inmate claims that security guards have called non-Muslim inmates “racial balancers.” Whether or not non-Muslim inmates are mere decoys is unclear. But such a claim should heighten our concern that the government is targeting inmates based on a racial perception of who is a terrorist.
Despite President Barack Obama’s declaration that the United States is not and never will be at war with Islam, government practices suggest otherwise.
In June, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) filed complaints against the U.S. Bureau of Prisons (BOP) for illegally establishing secret prisons called Communications Management Units, or CMUs. The ACLU also alleged unconstitutional restrictions on Muslim inmates’ right to religious freedom. As a law student investigating the CMUs, the existence of these secret prisons trouble me.
The first CMU was clandestinely established in late 2006 at the federal prison facility in Terre Haute, IN. In 2008, another CMU was established in Marion, IL. According to the government, CMUs were created to “house inmates who, due to their current offense of conviction, offense conduct or other verified information, require increased monitoring of communication between inmates and persons in the community in order to protect the safety, security, and orderly operations of Bureau facilities and protect the public.”
Sounds mundane, right? But the fact is CMUs are a palpable and disconcerting product of xenophobia and the war on terrorism. Concocted during the Bush administration, CMUs are alarmingly reminiscent of McCarthy-era practices and the Japanese American internment camps. Read more.
A U.N. tribunal convicted two Serb cousins Monday of having burned alive more than 100 Muslims in what the presiding judge called a part of the "wretched history of man's inhumanity to man."
Milan Lukic and Sredoje Lukic were convicted of crimes dating back to the early 1990s, during the bitter ethnic conflict that ravaged the former Yugoslavia.
Milan Lukic organized a group of local paramilitaries with ties to police and the military, sometimes referred to as the "White Eagles" or "Avengers," according to an indictment. Before and during the war, his cousin Sredoje Lukic worked as a policeman before joining the group.
The crimes include two incidents in which Muslim men, women and children were forced into homes that were then set on fire -- and some who tried to escape were shot.
Milan Lukic was found "guilty of persecutions, murder, extermination, cruel treatment and inhumane acts, as crimes against humanity and war crimes, in relation to six discrete incidents," the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) at the Hague said. He was sentenced to life in prison.
Sredoje Lukic was found guilty of "aiding and abetting the commission of the crime of persecutions inhumane acts, murder and cruel treatment." He was sentenced to 30 years in prison. Read more.
Valerie Celeste Coffey is a woman on a mission. For six years, her small group of local atheists has gathered to exchange bemused stories about the things Christians do in worship and swap tips for raising confident skeptics.
But on a recent Wednesday evening here at the Java Room cafe, Ms. Coffey said the time had come to take the meetings in hand.
"I don't think this group has a vision," said Coffey, a freelance editor who lives in nearby Boxborough, Mass. "We need to figure out what our values are."
Ten days later, something unprecedented happened: The group met over Sunday brunch for a structured discussion with preplanned topics.
The ranks of nonbelievers are on the rise, research suggests, and as they seek out each other online and in small groups, they are increasingly looking to do more than just vent. Read more.
Prominent religious officials led a march to the White House last month to urge President Obama to form a commission of inquiry into interrogation practices under the Bush administration. The clerics and other senior religious leaders and supporters who joined them for the "public witness" formed a crowd adorned with robes, collars, hijabs and yarmulkes.
"It is often said the way to move forward is putting behind the past," said Michael Kinnamon, general secretary of the National Council of Churches, as he stood in front of the White House. "We who gather here today believe the way to the future comes after a full disclosure of truth of wrongdoing."
The rally was sponsored by the National Religious Campaign Against Torture (NRCAT), which has applauded Obama's executive order requiring that the U.S. abide by international anti-torture agreements. Read more.