If anyone was still unconvinced prior to yesterday that the National Day of Prayer (NDP) is little more than a fundamentalist Christian political rally, Focus on the Family founder James Dobson’s rant on Capitol Hill should have erased any doubts.
During an event organized by the National Day of Prayer Task Force (a non-profit run by conservative evangelical Christians) and attended by members of the U.S. House of Representatives, Dobson slammed President Barack Obama, calling him the “abortion president.”
In a lengthy rant at an event that was supposed to be about prayer, not politics, Dobson attacked Obama primarily for his support of the Affordable Care Act’s contraceptive mandate, which says that most businesses must offer insurance plans to their employees that include access to no-cost birth control.
“President Obama, before he was elected, made it very clear that he wanted to be the abortion president,” Dobson fulminated. “He didn’t make any bones about it. This is something that he really was going to promote and support, and he has done that, and in a sense he is the abortion president.”
He also called the regulations “wicked” and vowed to never abide by them.
Dobson’s opposition to the birth control mandate isn’t exactly a secret. His Family Talk radio program recently won a temporary reprieve from offering employees birth control in their insurance plans thanks to a legal challenge. Dobson claims his 28-employee organization is a Christian ministry and therefore should be exempt on religious grounds
Today, ABC’s “This Week” chose to celebrate Easter by hosting a panel of extreme religious right crackpots who say gay people are going to hell unless they repent. And no, I’m not kidding.
As a part of a special Easter week discussion on religion, Graham told ABC News’ Martha Raddatz that gays could go heaven if they repent.
“Maybe gays that are watching want to know, ‘Can God forgive me? Or can I go to heaven as a gay person?’ Absolutely. But the same for any of us. We have to repent of our sins in turn. A person cannot stay in adultery and be accepted by God. You’ll have to repent,” said Graham, president of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association.
Happy Easter, everyone!
I agree with and support this decision; Ms. Ali has allowed her experiences with the worst sorts of Islamic fundamentalists to shape her view of all Muslims. She has fallen into the narrow viewpoint of the standard Islamophobe that moderate Islam can not exist, much less outweigh or overcome the extreme fundamentalist sects. Like the syndrome suffered by some reformed smokers, to some extent she has become a zealot rather than a voice for reason, and thus has fallen into the camp of the extreme islamophobes. Beyond the valuable story of her own journey she is merely restating much of what you hear people like Robert Spencer and Pamela Geller spout ad nauseum.
Facing growing criticism, Brandeis University said Tuesday that it had reversed course and would not award an honorary degree to Ayaan Hirsi Ali, a campaigner for women’s rights and a fierce critic of Islam, who has called the religion “a destructive, nihilistic cult of death.”
“We cannot overlook that certain of her past statements are inconsistent with Brandeis University’s core values,” the university said in a statement released eight days after it had announced that Ms. Hirsi Ali and four other people would be honored at its commencement on May 18.
The university said that the president of Brandeis, Frederick M. Lawrence, discussed the matter with Ms. Hirsi Ali on Tuesday, and that she “is welcome to join us on campus in the future to engage in a dialogue.” Universities consider it important to make a distinction between inviting a speaker who may air unpopular or provocative views that the institution does not endorse, and awarding an honorary degree, which is more akin to affirming the body of a recipient’s work.
Lucien Greaves, the head of the Satanic Temple, has some “heartfelt”(?) words about the planned event:
At the time, I predicted that Fred hadn’t too much longer till he would pass, and I stated - in a direct tweet to the WBC - that I would be presiding over Fred’s own Pink Mass before too long. As I have made a promise to a dying man, I fully intend to do my very best to see it through, and the pomp and circumstance of this Pink Mass will surely far, far exceed that of the original event in Meridian, Mississippi.
So, uh. This is a thing. It’ll be interesting to see if the WBC tries to keep this form of protected free speech away from Fred’s gravesite. However, given that they have excommunicated Fred for apparently having a change of heart (and actually accepting real Christian values into his blackened heart), who knows?
I was looking for a picture of a gay Muslim wedding cake yesterday, just to poke fun at the wingnuts, but I found this Imam instead. He wasn’t lost, of course; the rest of us were if we thought he couldn’t exist.
I didn’t find a credit for the above photo, but it appears on the Imam’s own website, smaller but less cropped.
The article below is from last April. I found it through this website, which is where I first saw the wonderful photo above. It makes a nice introduction.
Imam Daayiee Abdullah arrives by bus, sweaty and lugging a green bag stuffed with a Koran, two books of poetry by Persian mystic Rumi and three Islamic prayer rugs. Tonight, he’s speaking to a room full of young, gay activists and progressives after a screening of the documentary “I Am Gay and Muslim” at the Human Rights Campaign’s bright white Equality Center in downtown Washington.
But when the openly gay imam takes the stage, he stuns even this audience.
“I think we’re at the start of a movement: a more inclusive Islam in America,” says Abdullah, who runs Washington’s Light of Reform mosque and is thought to be the only publicly gay Muslim leader in the Western Hemisphere.
“So if you have any same-sex marriages,” he says with a soft smile and a shrug, “I’m available.”
Some young Muslims in attendance mumble, “Wow!” and “Seriously?”
Read the rest of it here: Imam Daayiee Abdullah Welcomes Gay Muslims to Worship, Marry
I also found an article from the Metro Weekly from 2006, which gives more insight into the Imam’s personal and spiritual journey.
A Man for All Seasons
Imam Daayiee Abdullah offers a gay Muslim’s insights for the holidays
This year, with the Christmas battlefield relatively quiet, a cheerful Abdullah took time from his day-to-day life of running his own foreign-language software company to speak with Metro Weekly. With an educational background in Chinese and Arabic languages, Middle Eastern studies, the Koran and law; extended periods of time spent in Beijing, Cairo, Damascus, Taipei, among other global spots; and decades of activism in the gay community, including moderation of an Internet group for gay Muslim men, there turned out to be quite a lot to talk about.
‘Cheerful’ seems to be his hallmark. Read the whole interview here.
But American reporters are curious: if US Christian Zionists, who have significant overlap with the US anti-choice movement, love Israel so much, shouldn’t they be up in arms about the country adopting one of the world’s most expansive abortion policies?
The Daily Beast’s Jonathan Krohn set out to find out (“You would expect conservative groups to go ballistic when it comes to taxpayer funding of abortions,” reads his lede) and got a number of vague answers which suggested that US anti-choicers don’t feel particularly inclined to export the abortion wars to Israel. But Americans United for Life’s Charmaine Yoest, who is Christian, ventured into a suggestion that perhaps the Israelis were getting their own religious laws wrong:
Dr. Charmaine Yoest, the CEO of Americans United for Life (AUL), decided to use Jewish law as a defense, saying “In a meaningful passage, the Talmud teaches that ‘Whosoever preserves a single soul…, [it is] as though he had preserved a complete world.’ Unborn lives are rich with possibilities and worth saving and government should never be used to harm life and harm women.”
Yes, Angola again. I know you might be tired of hearing about it by now, but I despise yellow journalism, so I tend to be like a dog with a bone when ridiculous fake stories make the rounds on the internet. This is especially true when they involve Muslims as victims or perpetrators—there are plenty of true stories about acts both good & evil, so there’s no need to make things up.
Although I posted a link in the comments of CriticalDragon’s (updated) Page yesterday about The Atlanta Journal-Constitution having largely debunked the story, today’s definitive debunking comes from an article I just discovered which appeared yesterday in South Africa’s Daily Maverick.
Being unfamiliar with the Daily Maverick I thought it best to at least do a cursory check on who they are. Based on their Wikipedia page—which lists several awards and no controversies—and on the tone & subjects of their articles, I feel confident that they’re a reliable news source. The situation in Angola truly is more complicated than most headlines would have you believe.
On Monday, the International Business Times, a New York-based digital publication, reported that several news outlets had reported that Angola had banned Islam and ordered the destruction of mosques in the southern African country. The paper noted that while reports of such a ban had picked up over the last few days, actual evidence of such a ban remained slim. The story was also picked up in the Indian press. And the Daily Mail. And others who seemed to wish the ban inspires a global trend.
Our initial attempts to fact check the story were at first stymied by the rate that the report had spread. Even human rights agencies working in Angola were confused, indicating at first that it may well be true - the political space in Angola has closed significantly in recent weeks and now, it appears, the religious space too.
Still, actual proof of the ban was hard to come by.
The International Business Times has traced the story back to the Beninese newspaper La Nouvelle Tribune. […]
“The Republic of Angola…it’s a country that does not interfere in religion. We have a lot of religions there. It is freedom of religion. We have Catholic, Protestants, Baptists, Muslims and evangelical people,” the statement said.
In addition to this, Mufti Ismail Menk, a Zimbabwean Muslim scholar, issued a statement saying he had consulted with Angolan scholars who said the story was “completely fabricated”.
As it turns out, the Angolan government had ordered the demolition of structures that had been erected without the requisite building permissions - among them a mosque.
It remains true, however, that Islam, as the Angolan Culture Minister is quoted as saying in the Beninese press, has not been legalised in the country. […]
Religion & Religious Freedom in Angola
It strikes me as extremely odd to use demographics as the main legitimizing factor for a religion’s legal status, but maybe it’s just my American viewpoint that makes it seem that way—tyranny of the majority and all that. The report also says there are only 450-500 Jews living in Angola. Does that mean that with such small numbers Judaism has no legal status there despite having been around for thousands of years? I would assume so, but I couldn’t find anything in the report to confirm or disprove my assumption.
Anyway, if you read the entire source article as well as the linked report above, you’ll see that while the State Department says there were “no reports of abuses of religious freedom” in Angola, there are indeed problems and I assume Muslims are not the only ones experiencing such. For example (added emphasis mine):
There were no reports of abuses of religious freedom; however, the government imposed restrictions that affected members of minority religious groups. […]
Muslim group leaders reported Muslims could not practice Islam freely because the government did not recognize Islam and selectively intervened to close mosques, schools, and community centers. Although government officials asserted the government protected religious groups without legal status and did not have a policy to close mosques or other Islamic facilities, there were several reports of local authorities closing mosques or preventing their construction.
In January local police in Dundo, Lunda Norte Province, reportedly twice prevented a Muslim group from building a mosque, although the group had a license to build one. Police allegedly destroyed the mosque’s foundation at one location, directing the group to build elsewhere. When construction began at the new site, however, police again reportedly demolished the work and told the group that it could not build a mosque at all.
In May in Kuito, Bie Province, the National Criminal Investigation Police (DNIC) reportedly chained the doors on a large residential/commercial building used as a mosque by local Muslims. The DNIC representative allegedly said he had orders to close the building and told the Muslim community it could not continue to pray there. Muslim leaders from Kuito and Luanda wrote repeated letters to DNIC authorities, but received no response. At year’s end there was no resolution. […]
As I mentioned, it’s not just Muslims experiencing problems:
Government agencies, religious groups, and civil society organizations continued campaigns against indigenous religious practices involving shamans, animal sacrifices, or “witchcraft.” The stated goal of these campaigns was to discourage abusive practices that included willful neglect or physical abuse, particularly of women, children, and the elderly. According to the National Institute for Religious Affairs (INAR), cases of abusive practices diminished significantly due to the campaigns and government directives.
In October local authorities closed 19 unregistered churches in Namibe Province. The government claimed the unlicensed churches were operating out of people’s homes, often as a means to make money. […]
I have no problem with a government intervening to stop criminally abusive religious practices or to prevent people from committing fraud, but the whole demographics-based legal status—which seems to be the only thing that affords legal protections that might protect religious minorities from abuse—makes me very uneasy and will remind me to be extra thankful tomorrow (and every day) for having been born in the USA.
The only good thing about this fake story was that it caused the masks to slip off of many who claim to be freedom- and Constitution-loving patriots whose only opposition is to violent extremism, exposing them for the hateful anti-Muslim bigots they really are. Thanks again to CriticalDragon for collecting all the tweets, and to Charles for creating a media library where everything will be saved, despite any possible future efforts to delete them from their respective timelines.
For other debunked stories…
This is the guy who founded Christians United for Israel (CUFI). This guy and others like him are the ones that always yammer about America’s “Judeo-Christian” values. What a truly disgusting load of two-faced B.S.
Trinity Broadcasting Network hosted a Praise The Lord prophecy special this month, featuring a number of speakers including televangelist John Hagee. The right-wing pastor explained that during the End Times, the Jewish people will not accept Jesus as the Messiah until he returns “because they have just— three-and-a-half years or seven-years before — made a deal with the Antichrist, who is the false messiah, and they are extremely skeptical of that.”
David Reagan, another Christian Zionist preacher, said the Jewish people will experience a “horrible holocaust” and the vast majority will die during the End Times: “Two-thirds of them are going to die and that one-third that is left at the end is going to finally come to the end of themselves.” […]
According to documents released today, Cardinal Timothy Dolan, the archbishop of New York, moved nearly $57 million into a cemetery trust fund in 2007 specifically to shield it from lawsuits by victims of clergy sexual abuse. The New York Times has the scoop:
[T]he files released Monday contain a letter [Dolan] wrote to the Vatican in 2007, in which he explained that by transferring the assets, “I foresee an improved protection of these funds from any legal claim and liability.”
The Vatican moved swiftly to approve the request, the files show, even though it often took years to remove known abusers from the priesthood.
The files also reveal graphic details of the alleged abuse, including new revelations about its magnitude:
Archbishop Listecki released a letter last week warning Catholics in his archdiocese that the documents could shake their faith and trying to explain the actions of church leaders while offering apologies to victims.
“Prepare to be shocked,” he wrote. “There are some graphic descriptions about the behavior of some of these priest offenders.”
This week, the new Pope Francis raised quite a ruckus when he said:
“The Lord has redeemed all of us, all of us, with the Blood of Christ: all of us, not just Catholics. Everyone,” the pope told worshipers at morning Mass on Wednesday. “‘Father, the atheists?’ Even the atheists. Everyone!”
Francis continued, “We must meet one another doing good. ‘But I don’t believe, Father, I am an atheist!’ But do good: we will meet one another there.”
Was he really saying that atheists are not necessarily doomed to eternal hellfire? That would be … quite a change.
Or is this just a misunderstanding of the Roman Catholic terms of service?
On Thursday, the Vatican issued an “explanatory note on the meaning to ‘salvation.’”
The Rev. Thomas Rosica, a Vatican spokesman, said that people who aware of the Catholic church “cannot be saved” if they “refuse to enter her or remain in her.”
At the same time, Rosica writes, “every man or woman, whatever their situation, can be saved. Even non-Christians can respond to this saving action of the Spirit. No person is excluded from salvation simply because of so-called original sin.”
Rosica also said that Francis had “no intention of provoking a theological debate on the nature of salvation,” during his homily on Wednesday.
Although the pope’s comments about salvation surprised some, bishops and experts in Catholicism say Francis was expressing a core tenant of the faith.
“Francis was clear that whatever graces are offered to atheists (such that they may be saved) are from Christ,” the Rev. John Zuhlsdorf, a conservative Catholic priest, wrote on his blog.
“He was clear that salvation is only through Christ’s Sacrifice. In other words, he is not suggesting - and I think some are taking it this way - that you can be saved, get to heaven, without Christ.”
Chad Pecknold, an assistant professor of theology at the Catholic University of America, agreed with Zuhlsdorf, pointing out that the pope’s comments came on the Feast of Saint Rita, the Catholic patron saint of impossible things.
See? That’s why you always need to read the fine print.