ON October 20, the murder trial of self-proclaimed Satanist Mark Dobson will resume in Barrie, Ontario. On May 2, 2012, Dobson was discovered in a hotel room where he had drugged and killed two female acquaintances—his girlfriend and an older woman he called “mom.” He had also attempted to take his own life and allegedly told the shocked hotel staff, “I did it, it was a satanic cult thing.”
Dobson’s attorney has found three psychiatrists to testify that Dobson was not criminally responsible because he was psychotic and schizophrenic. However, Dr. Andriy Kolchak, a psychiatrist for the prosecution, has argued that Dobson was performing a ritual in accordance with his religious beliefs, and therefore was not mentally ill.
In an eerily similar case, Pamela Christensen of Montgomery, Illinois, is awaiting trial for attempting to kill her three daughters so they could “meet Jesus Christ.” Like Dobson, Christensen tried to drug and stab her loved ones before attempting to kill herself. Christensen claimed she was responding to a phone call from her husband, a pastor, who announced that the world was ending and to get the family ready.
Cases such as this raise questions that have long gone unanswered about how the state should define “religion.” By what criteria should we decide whether deviant beliefs and actions are an expression of religion or evidence of a medical problem?
Piety or Prison No More: Atheist Jailed for Refusal to Enter Faith-Based Drug Rehab Program Receives Large Settlement
An atheist who once spent 100 days in prison because he refused to enter a religion-based rehab program has been awarded a sizable settlement for his unjust treatment.
Back in 2007, Californian Barry Hazle was busted for possession of methamphetamine and sentenced to one year in jail. Hazle was paroled, but to stay out of jail he had to enter a treatment program. That’s where Hazle, described in media reports as a lifelong atheist, ran into trouble.
Hazle was ordered to attend a program run by Fresno-based WestCare California, Inc. On its website, the WestCare Foundation describes itself as “a family of tax-exempt nonprofit organizations” that offers “a wide spectrum of health and human services in both residential and outpatient environments.” Those services include “substance abuse and addiction treatment, homeless and runaway shelters, domestic violence treatment and prevention, and mental health programs.”
A synod of Catholic bishops gathered at the Vatican has decided to eliminate a landmark opening to gays that had appeared in an interim summary of discussions made public earlier this week that had appeared to signal a possible shift in the tone of the church.
The move to scrap the message about gays, as well as one that would have signaled more acceptance of divorced church members, is seen as a sign of deep division in the ranks of the bishops.
The Associated Press reports:
“The bishops failed to approve even a watered-down section on ministering to gays that stripped away the welcoming tone contained in a draft document earlier in the week.
“Two other paragraphs concerning the other hot-button issue at the synod - whether divorced and civilly remarried Catholics can receive communion - also failed to pass.”
After 11 days of testimony from three dozen witnesses related to a lawsuit alleging clergy sexual abuse, jurors here never received for deliberation the case brought by a former altar boy against the Kansas City-St. Joseph, Mo., diocese.
Instead, a global $9.95 million settlement Tuesday night resolved the suit and 29 others against the diocese, just hours before closing arguments were set to begin Wednesday.
A statement from the diocese said the claims were filed between 2010 and early 2014 and involved allegations dating back 20 years or more. Insurers will cover “a significant amount of the settlement,” it said, with the diocese responsible for the remaining balance.
A preliminary Vatican report that offered words of welcome and understanding to gays and unmarried couples has come under heavy criticism from some Roman Catholic bishops who want the final version to emphasize the church’s firm boundaries on acceptable family structures.
Bishops attending a special assembly, or synod, on the family convened by Pope Francis have spent the past few days behind closed doors, in groups separated by language, debating the final text of the report. A vote is expected Saturday.
In public, some conservative bishops have voiced dismay and even disdain for the preliminary report released Monday, saying that appearing to condone gay couples and unconventional families could lead Catholics astray and even cause a schism in the church.
In 2011, Emily Herx was teaching English at St. Vincent de Paul Catholic School in Fort Wayne, Indiana. She was also having trouble getting pregnant, so she began in vitro fertilization treatments. When she informed her supervisors, they were initially supportive, permitting her to begin treatments. But when she requested more time off for her second round of treatment, she was referred to the school’s priest and, later, the local bishop. Eleven days later, she was fired. In response, Herx filed a discrimination lawsuit against the school and the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend. Earlier this month the judge in the case decided that Herx’s firing did not violate the Americans With Disabilities Act—the U.S. government classifies infertility as a disability—but the trial will continue to determine whether there was gender discrimination in play.
The Catholic Church’s rigid stance against abortion and contraception is well known. In Humanae Vitae, Pope Paul VI described the “transmission of human life” as a “sacred duty.” In Catholic thought, it is incumbent upon us to create life, not to prevent or destroy it. What is less well known is that this same logic is arrayed against women who seek to become pregnant through certain reproductive technologies such as IVF, in which a significant number of embryos are fertilized, many of which are then typically destroyed. Embryo destruction in the course of fertility treatments is, like abortion, murder in the eyes of the church.
There is no denying the real and pronounced clash between church teaching and IVF as it is usually practiced. That said, some of the church’s concerns could be alleviated if a couple committed to using all of the fertilized embryos resulting from treatment. Admittedly, from a Catholic perspective, there would still be ethical issues: instrumentalizing the embryo, for example, or colluding with a fertility industry that can be seen as commodifying women’s bodies.
So much for the common claim by Islamophobes that mainstream or moderate Muslims never protest the extremists. Here is yet another example of that occurring, which the anti Muslim wingnuts expects us to believe never occurs. David O’leary reports.
Refugees cross into Turkey from Syria to escape fighting in the border town of Kobani. Picture: Getty
SCOTTISH Muslims are to stage an anti-Islamic State protest rally in Edinburgh condemning the group’s “heinous activities”, with thousands expected to attend.
The demonstration will take place on 2 November at The Mound in Edinburgh and is organised by the city’s Muslim community, who say it will be “open to members of all communities” who wish to voice their opposition to the barbaric acts of IS and condemn the murders of David Haines and Alan Henning.
Organised by award- winning restaurateur Matin Khan, speakers confirmed for the day include Labour MPs Sheila Gilmore and David Hamilton, with more to be announced.
Khan is the owner of Itihaas restaurant in Dalkeith and the current Scottish Curry Chef of the Year, and says he was moved to organise the peace rally in an attempt to show that IS “do not in any way represent Islam”. He said: “The IS beheading of David Haines and Alan Henning and the posting of their actions on the internet is barbaric.
For critics of the faith this will be unimpressive. But I see another angle. If the changes are adopted, it turns the religious argument toward tolerance and kindness.
(Reuters) - In a dramatic shift in tone, a Vatican document said on Monday that homosexuals had “gifts and qualities to offer” and asked if Catholicism could accept gays and recognize positive aspects of same-sex couples.
The document, prepared after a week of discussions at an assembly of 200 bishops on the family, said the Church should challenge itself to find “a fraternal space” for homosexuals without compromising Catholic doctrine on family and matrimony.
While the text did not signal any change in the Church’s condemnation of homosexual acts or its opposition to gay marriage, it used language that was less judgmental and more compassionate than past Vatican statements under previous popes.
The document will be the basis for discussion for the second and final week of the assembly, known as a synod, which was called by Pope Francis and focuses on the theme of the family.
Will Catholic Bishops finally acknowledge that Family Planning is a good idea that’s necessary for the future?
The bishops also called for a re-reading of the 1968 encyclical Humanae Vitae that outlined the church’s opposition to artificial birth control. The bishops said couples should be unconditionally open to having children, but that the message of Humanae Vitae “underlines the need to respect the dignity of the person in the moral evaluation of the methods of birth control.”
There has been much talk inside the synod about applying the theological concept of the “law of gradualness” in difficult family situations. The concept encourages the faithful to take one step at a time in the search for holiness.
Applying the concept to matters of birth control would be an acknowledgement that most Catholics already use artificial contraception in violation of church teaching.
Thanks to a complaint from Americans United, a proposed theme park run by a fundamentalist Christian ministry is in danger of losing tax incentives preliminarily approved by misguided Kentucky officials. Now, with so much at stake, that ministry is going on the offensive - claiming it has a “religious liberty” right to taxpayer subsidies!
As we detailed earlier this week, Ark Encounter, a proposed theme park featuring a 510-foot replica of Noah’s Ark, is in danger of losing $18 million in tax incentives thanks to discriminatory hiring practices by Answers in Genesis (AiG), the Ark Park’s parent organization.
To recap: In August, AU informed the Kentucky Tourism Development Finance Authority and Gov. Steve Beshear (D) that AiG had posted online an opening for a computer-assisted design technician to work at Ark Encounter. That job post has since been removed, but in the August description, AiG said applicants must submit a “[c]reation belief statement,” as well as “[c]onfirmation of [their] agreement with the AiG Statement of Faith.”
That “statement of faith” required potential AiG employees to affirm their belief that homosexuality is a sin on par with bestiality and incest, that the earth is only 6,000 years old and that the Bible is literally true. Anyone who doesn’t agree with those statements won’t be considered for the job.
As a result, Bob Stewart, secretary of the Kentucky Tourism, Arts and Heritage Cabinet, told AiG that the Ark Park’s hiring practices are a major problem and the $18 million deal is dead without a promise from Ark Encounter ensuring fair hiring will take place.
AiG is none too pleased about this development. But given that a project even AiG admits is “evangelistic” should not be eligible for any sort of taxpayer assistance anyway, AiG doesn’t exactly have a legally sound argument for why it should receive a generous tax break from the state. So AiG is trying a desperate tactic - the ministry claims it has a First Amendment right to a tax break.