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Location: Tallahassee, Florida, United States welcomes all opinions from any religion or viewpoint in the common appreciation of Chick tracts. This blog, however, will highlight religious events and controversies that would be of special interest to regular Chick readers. You don't have to agree with them or each other, but if you read Chick tracts or Battlecry, you might expect these type stories to be addressed. (Sorry, no personal attacks allowed.) All main postings are from writers and any responses are from the public

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Sex Victim Kills Rapist Priest

William Lynch's life spiraled out of control in the 35 years since he alleges he and his brother were molested by a Jesuit priest: He struggled with depression, had nightmares and tried to kill himself twice.

Authorities believe that anger and pain erupted when Lynch lured the Rev. Jerold Lindner to the lobby of his Jesuit retirement home by pretending he had news of a death in the priest's family and beat him severely in front of shocked witnesses.

Lynch, 43, was arrested Friday and booked on suspicion of assault with a deadly weapon for the May 10 attack. He was allowed to post $25,000 bail and will plead not guilty at an arraignment sometime next month, his attorney, Pat Harris, told The Associated Press.

Lynch punched the 65-year-old priest repeatedly in the face and body after Lindner said he didn't recognize Lynch during a confrontation at the Jesuits' Sacred Heart retirement home in Los Gatos, said Sgt. Rick Sung, Santa Clara County sheriff's spokesman.

Lynch and his younger brother settled with the Jesuits of the California Province, a Roman Catholic religious order, for $625,000 in 1998 after alleging that Lindner abused them in 1975 during weekend camping trips in the Santa Cruz Mountains.

Harris alleged that the boys, who were 7 and 5 at the time, were raped in the woods and forced to have oral sex with each other while Lindner watched. Lindner has been accused of abuse by nearly a dozen people, including his own sister and nieces and nephews.

Investigators connected Lynch to the attack using phone records, Sung said. A half hour before the beating, a caller identifying himself as "Eric" called the rest home and said someone would arrive shortly to inform Lindner of a family member's death.

Lindner was able to drive himself to the hospital. He did not return a call left on his answering machine.

He has previously denied abusing the Lynch boys and has not been criminally charged. The abuse falls outside the statute of limitations.

Lindner was removed from ministry and placed at the Los Gatos retirement home in 2001. He was named in two additional lawsuits for abuse between 1973 and 1985, according to the Archdiocese of Los Angeles. The cases were included in the record-breaking $660 million settlement struck between the church and more than 550 plaintiffs in 2007.

The Rev. John McGarry, the provincial, told the AP that Lindner has recovered and resumed his work at the retirement home, where he helps care for 75 infirm priests. He is not allowed to leave the home unsupervised, he said.

"As you can imagine it's very emotionally distressing to go through something like this. He hasn't spoken a lot about it," McGarry said. "He's living a quiet life of prayer and service within our community."

Lynch declined an interview Friday but in a 2002 Los Angeles Times article, he said he'd had nightmares for years, battled depression and alcoholism and had attempted suicide twice because of the priest's abuse.

"Many times I thought of driving down to LA and confronting Father Jerry. I wanted to exorcise all of the rage and anger and bitterness he put into me," Lynch told the newspaper. "You can't put into words what this guy did to me. He stole my innocence and destroyed my life."

There have been several other instances of violence, sometimes fatal, against priests accused of abuse since the Roman Catholic clergy abuse scandal unfolded in 2002.

In Baltimore, a man who claimed he was sodomized and fondled by a priest a decade before shot the clergyman three times after the priest told him to go away when he demanded an apology.

The defendant was acquitted of attempted murder but served 18 months of home detention on a gun conviction.

The following year, priest John Geoghan was strangled in his cell by a fellow inmate who claimed he was chosen by God to kill pedophiles. Geoghan was serving a 9- to 10-year sentence for groping a boy and was at the center of the Boston clergy abuse scandal. He had been accused of molesting as many as 150 boys.

Lindner was ordained in 1976 and taught at various Catholic high schools during his career, including 16 years as chairman of the English department at Loyola High School, a prestigious Catholic prep school in Los Angeles.

There, he launched nearly two dozen after-school programs for students, including a chess club and renaissance club, and became master of a Boy Scout troop that included mostly lower-income Puerto Rican boys, his older brother, Larry Lindner, told The Associated Press.

Most of Lindner's family severed contact with him years ago after discovering he had molested his nieces and nephews when they were as young as 3. His sister, Kathy McEntire, said they were unaware of the attack. See Chick's MEN IN BLACK.

Monday, October 25, 2010

NPR CEO Admits Screw-Up Over Williams Firing

NPR's CEO is apologizing to colleagues for how she handled Juan Williams' firing, saying she stands by her decision to sack the longtime news analyst over his comments about Muslims but should have done more to help member stations cope with the fallout.

NPR fired Williams Oct. 20, two days after he appeared on Fox News saying he gets "worried" and "nervous" when he sees people "in Muslim garb" on airplanes. Since then, NPR has come under fire from the right and left, with conservative commentators and media personalities alike defending Williams' right to free speech and decrying his former employer as being too "politically correct."

CEO Vivian Schiller's apology came in a memo to member stations sent out late Sunday, according to Politico.

"I want to apologize for not doing a better job of handling the termination of our relationship with news analyst Juan Williams. While we stand firmly behind that decision, I regret that we did not take the time to prepare our program partners and provide you with the tools to cope with the fallout from this episode," she wrote, acknowledging that NPR stations felt "reverberations" from the public.

This is actually Schiller's second public apology over the Williams debacle. On Oct. 21, Schiller spoke at the Atlanta Press Club, where she told the audience that Williams should have kept his feeling about Muslims between himself and "his psychiatrist or his publicist." Hours later, she issued a statement apologizing for speaking "hastily" and making a "thoughtless remark," according to an NPR blog.

The same day, NPR's own ombudsman, Alicia Shepard, said she agreed with the decision to fire Williams but wrote on her blog that she believes "NPR handled this situation badly" and that Williams deserved "a chance to explain himself."

In Schiller's memo to member stations, she said she regretted the fact that she fired Williams over the phone rather than meeting with him in person, and said his firing was the result of "a series of deeply troubling incidents over several years." The firing came at the same time NPR is asking listeners to donate money during a membership drive. NPR not only receives private donations, it also gets millions in government grants, which it disguises with the private sounding name of "Corporation for Better Broadcasting."

Williams has accused NPR of firing him for "telling the truth" and for his appearances on NPR's more popular rival Fox News. A taxpayer advocacy group has since begun a petition to stop subsidizing NPR with millions in government funds. Those who wish to sign can do so at:

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Christian Flag Controversy Rages in N.C.

The Associated Press

KING, N.C. — The Christian flag is everywhere in the small city of King: flying
in front of barbecue joints and hair salons, stuck to the bumpers of trucks,
hanging in windows and emblazoned on T-shirts.

The relatively obscure emblem has become omnipresent because of one place it
can't appear: flying above a war memorial in a public park.

The city council decided last month to remove the flag from above the monument
in Central Park after a resident complained, and after city leaders got letters
from the American Civil Liberties Union and Americans United for the Separation
of Church and State urging them to remove it.

That decision incensed veterans groups, churches and others in King, a city of
about 6,000 people 15 miles north of Winston-Salem. Ray Martini, 63, an Air
Force veteran who served in Vietnam, launched a round-the-clock vigil to guard a
replica Christian flag hanging on a wooden pole in front of the war memorial.

Since Sept. 22, the vigil has been bolstered by home-cooked food delivered by
supporters, sleeping bags and blankets donated by a West Virginia man and offers
of support from New York to Louisiana.

"This monument stands as hallowed ground," said Martini, a tall, trim man with a
tattoo on his right arm commemorating the day in 1988 when he became a
born-again Christian. "It kills me when I think people want to essentially
desecrate it."

The protesters are concerned not only about the flag, which was one of 11 flying
above the memorial when it was dedicated six years ago, but about a metal
sculpture nearby depicting a soldier kneeling before a cross.

"I won't let it fall," Martini said. "I have already told the city, before you
can take it down, I'll tie myself to it and you can cut me down first."

The identity of the resident who complained about the flag, a veteran of the
Afghanistan war, has not been made public. But the state chapter of the ACLU has
no problem with the vigil.

"We were concerned when the city was sponsoring the Christian flag, but we don't
have any concern with veterans groups displaying the flag," legal director Katy
Parker said. "We think it's great the city is offering citizens a chance to
express their opinions."

The protesters, though, aren't satisfied with the vigil. They're planning an
Oct. 23 rally in support of their ultimate goal, which is for the city to
restore the Christian flag to the permanent metal pole on the memorial.

At a recent public hearing, roughly 500 people packed the King Elementary School
gymnasium, many waving Christian flags. Of more than 40 speakers, no one spoke
in favor of removing it.

"We've let our religious freedoms and constitutional rights be stripped away one
by one, and I think it's time we took a stand," King resident James Joyce said.

Mayor Jack Warren said the city won't make a decision until it can go over its
options with legal counsel. One possibility is designating a flag pole at the
memorial for the display of any religious emblem, he said. Another is selling or
donating the memorial to a veterans organization, essentially privatizing it.

"What it comes down to is: What can we do and what can't we do, what's legal and
what's illegal?" he said.

Created by a pastor in New York City a little over a century ago, the flag,
which sets a red cross in a blue square in the upper left corner of a white
field, has been used by both liberal and conservative Protestant churches, but
rarely draws much attention, according to Elesha Coffman, a history professor at
Waynesburg University.

"I would guess most churchgoing Protestants in America have never even noticed
if there is a Christian flag in their own sanctuary," she said. "It's just kind
of there, unless there's a controversy, and suddenly people pick it up."

In King, it's virtually inescapable. Gullion's Christian Supply Center, an area
retailer, has sold hundreds of flags since the dispute began, according to
Leanne Gay, who was running a tent at Calvary Baptist Church in King where
everything from Christian flag decals to T-shirts were for sale.

"In the first couple weeks, we were running out of flags every two hours or so,"
she said.

The Rev. Kevin Broyhill, pastor at Calvary Baptist, donated the flag now flying
at the vigil. But Broyhill thinks having it returned permanently to the memorial
is a losing legal strategy. He wants the city to transfer the memorial to a
veterans group, which would make it private land.

"Right now, the judges on the Fourth Circuit Court are very liberal," he said.
"This battle's already been fought in court."

Broyhill is probably right, according to Larry Little, a lawyer and professor of
political science at Winston-Salem State University.

"They know they'd lose," he said of the city council. "They would have to use
taxpayers' money to defend what any lawyer worth a grain of salt could tell them
is a violation of the separation of church and state."

For veterans who say they're honoring the sacrifices of fallen comrades or
Christians who say they're defending their faith, though, such a compromise
seems like a sellout.

"That's an easy out," said Eugene Kiger, who has been part of the vigil since
the beginning. "The people here saw what was happening and said, 'Somebody has
stood up. It's time to stand up with them.'"

Friday, October 22, 2010

NPR Fires Journalist For Air Flight Comment

NPR has fired longtime news analyst Juan Williams after he admitted to the Fox News Channel that he gets nervous when he sees Muslims on airplanes.

Williams appeared on "The O'Reilly Factor" on Monday, and host Bill O'Reilly asked him what he thought about the idea that America is facing a "Muslim dilemma."

Williams said Monday he agreed with O'Reilly's statement that "jihad, aided and abetted by some Muslim nations, is the biggest threat on the planet." The two also discussed political correctness, which Williams said could "lead to some kind of paralysis, where you don't address reality."

"Look, Bill, I'm not a bigot. You know the kind of books I've written about the civil rights movement in this country. But when I get on the plane, I got to tell you, if I see people who are in Muslim garb and I think, you know, they are identifying themselves first and foremost as Muslims, I get worried. I get nervous," Williams said.

William's admission, a common fear for Americans who fly after 911, was the only reason given for his dismissal. Late Wednesday, NPR issued a statement saying it had given Williams notice that his contract was being severed. "His remarks on 'The O'Reilly Factor' this past Monday were inconsistent with our editorial standards and practices, and undermined his credibility as a news analyst with NPR," the statement read, according to a story on NPR's website.

Williams told NPR that he's conferring with his wife about what's happened and that he's not ready to comment publicly.

Before working for NPR, Williams spent 21 years at The Washington Post as an editorial writer, op-ed columnist and White House reporter. He is the author of several books on civil rights in America and hosted NPR's flagship news call-in show, "Talk of the Nation," according to his bio on NPR's website.

But Williams' frequent appearances on "the largely conservative and often contentious prime-time talk shows of Fox News have long been a sore point with NPR News executives," the largely liberal and always politically correct NPR website reported. Williams' title was recently changed from correspondent to analyst after he took clear-cut policy positions in TV appearances and in newspaper columns.

In February 2009, NPR demanded that Williams stop being identified on "The O'Reilly Factor" as a "senior correspondent for NPR," even though that title was accurate at the time, The New York Times reported.

At the time, NPR ombudswoman Alicia C. Shepard called Williams a "lightning rod" because he "tends to speak one way on NPR and another on Fox." Shepard told the Times that NPR received 378 listener e-mails in 2008 complaining about Williams. (NPR listeners tend to be liberal, and many want their hosts to provide the same perspective when they are on other networks.)

National Public Radio network was created with public money, and still receives millions in taxpayer funds directly and indirectly through the Corporation For Better Broadcasting and local stations who receive grants to buy NPR shows. Although the funding for NPR is bipartisan, the content is not. It is seen as being one of the most liberal networks in the USA, featuring well known and outspoken liberal hosts (Diane Rehm, Terry Gross, Diane Rehm, etc) but no known conservatives.

Williams is only the latest high-profile media personality to lose a job by offending liberals with politically incorrect comments. Last month, CNN anchor Rick Sanchez was fired from the TV network for controversial remarks he made about Jews dominating CNN news, and how that reflected in a biased perspective. See Chick's MEN OF PEACE?

Clinton Lost Codes For Nuclear Attack

President Bill Clinton's administration lost track of "the Biscuit," special codes that allow the president to launch a nuclear attack, according to retired Gen. Hugh Shelton.

The codes, printed on a credit-card-sized certificate, are a key part of America's nuclear protocol. They allow the president to open a special briefcase that contains instructions for a surprise nuclear launch, and the commander in chief is supposed to keep the card with him at all times.

Under Bill Clinton, the card disappeared. One version says the President himself lost the codes, the other blames an aid. Both versions show the President never admitted to scandal.

"The codes were actually missing for months," Shelton, former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, wrote in his book "Without Hesitation: The Odyssey of an American Warrior."

"This is a big deal -- a gargantuan deal -- and we dodged a silver bullet," Shelton wrote, according to Agence France-Presse.

Shelton believes that Clinton put one of his aides in charge of guarding the codes and that he probably didn't even know they'd been misplaced. "The president never did have them, but he assumed, I'm sure, that the aide had them like he was supposed to," Shelton wrote.

Once a month, Pentagon officials stop by the White House to ensure the president still has the card. For at least two months in a row, one of Clinton's aides told the military checker that the president was in a meeting but that he definitely had the codes.

But when the time came to update the codes with new ones sometime in 2000, a Clinton aide confessed that the card was missing. According to his book, Shelton burst into the office of then Defense Secretary William Cohen and said, "You are not going to believe this."

New codes were issued within minutes, and procedures have since been changed. Now the Pentagon official who goes to the White House once a month is required to physically see the card in the president's possession.

Analysts say the case of the missing codes marks one of the most serious security breaches in American nuclear history. But if an unauthorized person found the "biscuit," he or she would still be unable to launch a nuclear attack on their own. The other key part is the special briefcase, dubbed "the football," which contains detailed instructions for a nuclear launch.

"Even if you had a piece that was required, it would be very difficult for one person to execute the command and control of this thing," Fran Townsend, who served as Homeland Security adviser to President George W. Bush, told CNN. "There are plenty of things to be concerned about. I just find it difficult to imagine somebody could execute this thing, if they found a piece to it."

Shelton claims that his story about the missing nuclear codes has never before been publicly known. But another retired military chief, Air Force Lt. Col Robert Patterson, gave a similar account in his own book published seven years ago.

Patterson was one of the officials in charge of carrying the briefcase with the nuclear instructions, and described how at one point he had to ask Clinton for the codes to swap them for updated versions. That routine check happened on the morning after the Monica Lewinsky scandal broke.

"He thought he just placed them upstairs," Patterson told ABC News. "We called upstairs, we started a search around the White House for the codes, and he finally confessed that he in fact misplaced them. He couldn't recall when he had last seen them."

In Patterson's version of events, the president himself lost the codes in 1998, while Shelton blames the mistake on a presidential aide and says it happened in 2000. There's been no comment from Clinton, who never admitted anything about it to the 300 million American people whose lives were on the line.

As for the complex, layered security system that ensures America's nuclear secrets don't fall into the wrong hands, Shelton wrote, "You can do whatever you can and think you have an infallible system, but somehow someone always seems to find a way to screw it up." See Chick's WHERE DID THEY GO?

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Obama Back Pedals On Gay Recruiting

Fearing a backlash from already depressing election prospects, the Obama administration has filed a request with the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to stay a lower court injunction stopping the military policy regarding openly gay troops serving.

Late Tuesday, U.S. District Court Judge Virginia Phillips in California denied the government's request for an emergency stay of her order barring the military from expelling openly gay service members.

That ruling came as the Pentagon has begun advising recruiting commands that they can accept openly gay and lesbian recruit candidates, according to a Pentagon spokeswoman. The guidance from the Personnel and Readiness office was sent to recruiting commands on Friday, according to spokeswoman Cynthia Smith.

The notice also reminded recruiters that they have to "manage expectations" of applicants by informing them that a reversal of the court decision might occur, whereby the "don't ask, don't tell" policy could be reinstated, Smith said.
Groups representing gays and lesbians have warned against coming out to the military because the policy is still being appealed in courts.

See Chick's DOOM TOWN.

Obama Dodges Muslim Photo Op

President Barack Obama may skip a planned visit to the Golden Temple in Amritsar on his trip to India next month because wearing the required head cover in the religious space could make him look like a Muslim.

The Golden Temple in Punjab is the holiest site for people of the Sikh faith. Sikh men, who keep their unshorn hair in turbans and have long beards, are often mistaken for Muslims in the West, and Indian media are reporting that the White House is concerned that Obama could face the same fate if he has to don a headscarf, as non-Sikh men generally do when entering the shrine.

Obama is a Christian, but some right-wing opponents have pushed the idea that he's a covert Muslim. Last month, a Time magazine poll found that 24 percent of Americans mistakenly believe the president is a Muslim.

The body that looks after Sikh affairs in India, the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee, is trying to come up with alternatives, such as Obama wearing a cap. "We are only concerned that one should cover his or her head as per the Sikh code of conduct," said Jathedar Avtar Singh Makkar, president of the SGPC.

In a popularly cited precedent, Britain's Queen Elizabeth wore a hat during a visit in 2007. Makkar said that while Sikhs cannot visit the temple wearing a cap or hat, there is no such restriction for non-Sikhs.

But there are different interpretations of how much leeway exists. "We have no problems if he wears a skull cap, the kind that Muslims wear to the mosque, or any other cap that is modified to something similar," said Giani Gurbachan Singh, head priest of the Golden Temple. "But we don't allow baseball caps or Army hats."

Makkar said on Tuesday that he was calling an "emergency meeting with other executive members" to see whether some compromise could be reached.

Indian sources are suggesting that it's already too late for that. Under the original schedule, Obama, who will begin a three-day visit to India in Mumbai on Nov. 6, was supposed to fly from there to Amritsar. But in the current version of the schedule, according to the Indian media, he will leave directly for New Delhi after Mumbai.

The White House will not confirm any cancellation, saying the president's schedule has not been released. "We haven't canceled anything because we haven't announced anything," a White House official told AOL News.

Noting that India is a vast country with several things to see, the official stressed that Obama's aides had scouted several places for the three-day visit and some had been ruled out for different reasons.

But Indian papers, citing officials in New Delhi, have reported that a White House advance team has already ruled out Obama wearing a headscarf due to political sensitivities in the U.S. These concerns were communicated to the Indian authorities

An American official reportedly explained at one meeting that Obama has to remind Americans every day that he should not be mistaken for a Muslim just because his middle name is Hussein, according to The Indian Express.

The apparent cancellation has disappointed the Sikh community, especially the Sikh-Americans settled in the U.S.

"President Obama's visit would send a very significant message of mutual respect and harmony to this region of the world," Rajwant Singh, national chairman of the Sikh Council on Religion and Education, told the Indo-Asian News Service. "Once again, this is now a moral issue and the president has to take a stand. May God bless him to make the right move!" See Chick's THE TRAITOR.

Vatican Thinks Simpsons Are Catholic

It might be one of the most controversial cartoon shows currently on television, but "The Simpsons" has always attracted an army of devout fans.

And now programme makers can boast that the antics of Homer, Bart and the rest of the dysfunctional family are watched religiously - after receiving the blessing of the Vatican.

The official Vatican newspaper has declared that the programme's central characters - beer-swilling, doughnut-loving Homer Simpson and son Bart - are Catholics who raise questions concerning the Christian faith.

The article in Sunday's Osservatore Romano even encourages parents to let their children watch 'the adventures of the little guys in yellow'.

'Few people know it, and he does everything to hide it. But it's true: Homer J. Simpson is Catholic', the article declares.

The newspaper cited a recent study by a Jesuit priest of a 2005 episode of the show called The Father, the Son and the Holy Guest Star. That study concludes that The Simpsons is 'among the few TV programmes for kids in which Christian faith, religion and questions about God are recurrent themes'.

'The family recites prayers together before meals and, in its own way, believes in heaven,' the newspaper quoted the Jesuit study as saying.

The programme has courted controversy since it first aired in the U.S. in 1989, with conservative groups claiming its characters are poor role models for children.

During his 1990 re-election campaign, former U.S Presidednt George Bush said: 'We are going to keep on trying to strengthen the American family, to make American families a lot more like The Waltons and a lot less like The Simpsons.'

His wife, former First Lady Barbara Bush also condemned the cartoon, describing it as'the dumbest thing' she had ever seen.

But last year the Vatican described the show as "tender and irreverent, scandalous and ironic, boisterous and profound, philosophical and sometimes even theological, nutty synthesis of pop culture and of the lukewarm and nihilistic American middle class'.

Yesterday the programme's executive producer denied that its characters were Catholic, saying he was baffled by the endorsement.

'We've pretty clearly shown that Homer is not Catholic,' Al Jean said.

'I really don't think he could go without eating meat on Fridays - for even an hour.'

Mr Jean pointed out that the Simpson family attends the First Church of Springfield 'which is decidedly Presbylutheran'.

'My first reaction is shock and awe, and I guess it makes up for me not going to church for 20 years,' Mr Jean said.

Technically, however, this does prove the fallibility of Papal Fallibility, since the Pope himself did not make the faulty proclamation from the thrown of Saint Peter's chair. See Chick's WHY IS MARY CRYING?

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Obama Slips Gays in Back Door

Military recruiters have been directed to start signing up gay men and lesbians who apply for the armed forces -- and also to regard the don't ask, don't tell law as suspended until the fate of the controversial policy is settled by the courts or Congress.

Top level guidance (i.e., the White House) has gone out giving the go-ahead for acceptance of gay recruits, but also cautioning that the moratorium on the ban on openly gay service members could be lifted at anytime, a Defense Department spokeswoman told the AP and other news agencies Tuesday.

A federal judge in California ordered the military last week to stop enforcing the Clinton-era law, which requires gays to keep their sexual orientation private with the promise that they will not be grilled by officers about their personal lives. The government has appealed and asked for a stay of the order, even though President Obama wants to do away with don't ask, don't tell.

On Monday, U.S. District Judge Virginia Phillips said she had decided tentatively "to deny the application for a stay." If Phillips officially turns down the government's request, the Justice Department is expected to take its appeal to a higher court.

Obama prefers the legislative route. The U.S. House has already voted to repeal the policy and the Senate could follow suit after the election. The president also says he wants to see a Pentagon report, due in December, on the impact of implementing the change (but insiders believe he is afraid the report will be negative, and is exploring other way to deliver on his promise to gays to end the policy). Democrats hope this effort to slip gays in during the court battle will help get out the gay vote for the election. However, it could do just the opposite, mobilizing the majority of Americans who are opposed to lifting the ban. If that happens, Democrats could suffer even more of a loss than they are already expected to experience on November 2nd. See Chick's DOOM TOWN.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Big Surprise: Gay Parents Often Raise Gay Children

(From AOL news) Walter Schumm knows what he's about to do is unpopular: publish a study arguing that gay parents are more likely to raise gay children than straight parents. But the Kansas State University family studies professor has a detailed analysis that past almost aggressively ideological researchers never had.

When one such researcher, Paul Cameron, published a paper in 2006 arguing that children of gay parents were more likely to be gay themselves, the response from the academic press was virulent, to say nothing of the popular press; the Southern Poverty Law Center, for instance, equated Cameron to a Nazi.

Not all of the vitriol was hyperbolic. Cameron does not tolerate gay people. He believes that "homosexual practice is injurious to society."

The gay press, as far back as the 1980s, labeled Cameron "the most dangerous anti-gay voice in America." Though Cameron was the first to publish papers on the dangers of secondhand smoke, the scientific community has abandoned him. The American Psychological Association long since dropped him from its membership for an "ethical" violation.

Today, Cameron is the founder and chairman of the Family Research Institute, whose "overriding mission" is to publish "empirical research on issues that threaten the traditional family, particularly homosexuality."

Schumm doesn't go for that sort of research. After Cameron's 2006 paper, Schumm listened as the academic community stated certainty of two things: Cameron was an idiotic bigot; and the existing literature showed little to no societal, cultural or parental influence on sexual orientation.

Schumm began investigating the second premise. "I just want to know the truth about something," he tells AOL News. And he found it strange that parents can influence so many facets of their children's lives -- but not in any way their sexual orientation.

Lawyers for the state of Florida heard of Schumm's fledgling research and invited him in 2008 to testify in a case. The state's Department of Children and Families was attempting to uphold a ban on gay and lesbian parents adopting children. Schumm's testimony actually ended up aiding the gay parents in the trial.

He said: "Gay parents can be good foster parents," and "The decision to permit homosexuals to adopt is best made by the judiciary on a case by case basis."

Schumm tells AOL News that he agreed to testify as one of the state's witnesses only if his evidence was not "slanted" for or against gay rights.

But also in his testimony was an inkling of the robust research Schumm has just completed. His study on sexual orientation, out next month, says that gay and lesbian parents are far more likely to have children who become gay. "I'm trying to prove that it's not 100 percent genetic," Schumm tells AOL News.

His study is a meta-analysis of existing work. First, Schumm extrapolated data from 10 books on gay parenting; Cameron, for what it's worth, had only looked at three, and offered no statistical analysis in his paper. Schumm skewed his data so that only self-identified gay and lesbian children would be labeled as such.

This is important because sometimes Schumm would come across a passage of children of gay parents who said they were "adamant about not declaring their sexual orientation at all." These people would be labeled straight, even though the passage's implication was that they were gay.

Schumm concluded that children of lesbian parents identified themselves as gay 31 percent of the time; children of gay men had gay children 19 percent of the time, and children of a lesbian mother and gay father had at least one gay child 25 percent of the time.

Furthermore, when the study restricted the results so that they included only children in their 20s -- presumably after they'd been able to work out any adolescent confusion or experimentation -- 58 percent of the children of lesbians called themselves gay, and 33 percent of the children of gay men called themselves gay. (About 5 to 10 percent of the children of straight parents call themselves gay, Schumm says.)

Schumm next went macro, poring over an anthropological study of various cultures' acceptance of homosexuality. He found that when communities welcome gays and lesbians, "89 percent feature higher rates of homosexual behavior."

Finally, Schumm looked at the existing academic studies, the ones used to pillory Cameron's work. In all there are 26 such studies. Schumm ran the numbers from them and concluded that, surprisingly, 20 percent of the kids of gay parents were gay themselves. When children only 17 or older were included in the analysis, 28 percent were gay.

Abbie Goldberg is a psychology professor at Clark University, and the author of "Lesbian and Gay Parents and Their Children: Research on the Family Life Cycle," which this year won the Distinguished Book Award from the APA. She hasn't read Schumm's study, only seen the abstract. But she says, in general, that a meta-analysis of this nature relies on sample sizes that are often too small and may furthermore brim with participants whose perspective is firmly aligned with the LGBT community. In other words, they're aware of these sorts of studies and seek them out.

"The fundamental problem with this [type of meta-analysis] is such samples tend to be biased," Goldberg tells AOL News.

Schumm says he guarded against that by seeking out so many different works. And across all his data -- the 10 books he consulted, the anthropological study, the scientific articles -- he noticed how lesbians begat more lesbians. In Schumm's study, he quotes from the extant literature the stories of young women, describing how being gay was never frowned upon in their household, and so that "option" was available to them. That said, Schumm also finds evidence of gay mothers pushing their daughters, upset over a relationship with a man, to "try out women."

But couldn't gay men also tell their sons this? Yes, but Schumm tells AOL News that most gay men have at some point been with a woman, so they understand why their sons might date them. Whereas the literature shows some lesbians "have a hatred of men that's intense," Schumm says.

Schumm says it shouldn't have taken until 2010 to do the meta-analysis. Too often his colleagues impose "liberal or progressive political interpretations" on their studies, which inhibit further inquiry. "It's kind of sad," he tells AOL News.

As if expecting a political backlash himself, Schumm concludes his study with a quote from philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer. "All truth passes through three stages: First it is ridiculed. Second, it is violently opposed. Third, it is accepted as being self-evident."

See Chick's SIN CITY.

New Catholic Saints Declared

- Pope Benedict XVI gave Australia its first saint on Sunday, canonizing a 19th century nun who was briefly excommunicated and also declaring five other saints in a Mass attended by tens of thousands of people.

Speaking in Latin on the steps of St. Peter's Basilica, Benedict solemnly read out the names of the six new saints, declaring each one worthy of veneration in all the Catholic Church.

"Let us be drawn by these shining examples, let us be guided by their teachings," Benedict said in his homily, delivered in English, French, Italian, Polish and Spanish to reflect the languages spoken by the church's newest saints.

A cheer had broken out in the crowd when Mary MacKillop's name was announced earlier in the Mass, evidence of the significant turnout of flag-toting Australians celebrating the humble nun who was briefly excommunicated in part because her religious order exposed a pedophile priest.

Even more MacKillop admirers- an estimated 10,000 - converged Sunday at the Sydney chapel where she is buried and at Sydney's Catholic cathedral, where a wooden cross made from floorboards taken from the first school that MacKillop established was placed on the steps.

Thousands of others in Australia spent their Sunday evenings watching live broadcasts of the Vatican ceremony on television in homes and on large outdoor screens in Sydney, in Melbourne where she was born, as well as in Penola where she established her first school.

Born in 1842, MacKillop grew up in poverty as the first of eight children of Scottish immigrants. She moved to the sleepy farming town of Penola in southern Australia to become a teacher, inviting the poor and the Aborigines of the area to attend free classes in a six-room stable.

She co-founded her order, the Congregation of the Sisters of St. Joseph of the Sacred Heart, with the goal of serving the poor, the sick and the disadvantaged, particularly through education.

"She supported Aboriginal people because she believed in supporting people who were disadvantaged," said Melissa Brickell, a pilgrim from Melbourne who was in St. Peter's Square on Sunday for the ceremony. "She is a friend of Aboriginal people from the early days."

As a young nun, MacKillop and 47 other nuns from her order were briefly dismissed from the Roman Catholic Church in a clash with high clergy in 1871. In addition to bitter rivalries among priests, one of the catalysts for the move was that her order had exposed a pedophile priest.

Five months later, the bishop revoked his ruling from his deathbed, restoring MacKillop to her order and paving the way for her decades of work educating the poor across Australia and New Zealand.

In his homily, Benedict praised MacKillop for her "courageous and saintly example of zeal, perseverence and prayer."

"She dedicated herself as a young woman to the education of the poor in the difficult and demanding terrain of rural Australia, inspiring other women to join her in the first women's community of religious sisters of that country," Benedict said in English.

MacKillop became eligible for sainthood after the Vatican approved a second miracle attributed to her intercession, that of Kathleen Evans, who was cured of lung and brain cancer in 1993.

In a statement Sunday, Evans said she was humbled by MacKillop's example, grateful for her healing and overjoyed that MacKillop's example will now be known to others.

"I think she would be delighted to see so many people looking at their own lives and considering how they can live better and care more," said Evans, who brought relics of MacKillop up to the altar during the canonization Mass.

Veronica Hopson, 72, was MacKillop's first miracle, cured of leukemia in 1961. She broke half a century of silence about her case, telling Australia's Channel Seven's Sunday Night program: "How does a miracle feel? I feel very fortunate that I was given the opportunity to live my life, have a family, have grandchildren, so that's a miracle."

Hopson was 22 when she was diagnosed with leukemia and given only weeks to live. She said her mother contacted nuns at Saint Joseph's convent in northern Sydney where Hopson was taught as a schoolgirl and where MacKillop once lived. The nuns brought cloth that MacKillop had worn and prayed for Hopson.

Hopson, who has had six children and four grandchildren and is recovering from recent bowel cancer, said her miracle also carried a message for people who did not believe in God.

"I guess they must have some sort of hope, not just give in and just let the illness or sad things that happen in their life take over their life. Just keep hoping that it will get better," she said.

Quebec's flag was also out in force in St. Peter's Square in support of Brother Andre Bessette, a Canadian brother who legend says healed thousands of sick who prayed with him at his Montreal oratory.

Born in 1845, Brother Andre was orphaned at the age of 12. After taking his religious vows, he devoted his life to helping others and gained a reputation as a healer. When he died in 1937 at the age of 91, an estimated 1 million people came to pay homage.

Benedict noted that Brother Andre was poorly educated but nevertheless understood what was essential to his faith.

"Doorman at the Notre Dame College in Montreal, he showed boundless charity and did everything possible to soothe the despair of those who confided in him," Benedict said in French.

"I think all the people from Quebec are happy now," said Alain Pilote, a 49-year-old pilgrim from Rougemont, near Montreal, who came to Rome for the Mass.

Australia's foreign minister, Kevin Rudd, was in Rome for the canonization as was Canada's foreign minister, Lawrence Cannon. The Polish president, Bronislaw Komorowski, joined thousands of Polish pilgrims to honor that country's latest saint, Stanislaw Kazimiercyzk.

Also being canonized Sunday were Italian nuns Giulia Salzano and Battista Camilla da Varano, and Candida Maria de Jesus Cipitria y Barriola of Spain. See Chick's ARE ROMAN CATHOLICS CHRISTIAN?

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Activist Judge Overturns Openly Gay Military Ban

A federal judge ordered the military Tuesday to immediately stop enforcing its ban on openly gay troops, bringing the 17-year "don't ask, don't tell" policy closer than it has ever been to being overturned.

Justice Department attorneys have 60 days to appeal the injunction but did not say what their next step would be.

President Barack Obama has backed a Democratic effort in Congress to repeal the law, rather than in an executive order or in court.

But U.S. District Judge Virginia Phillips' injunction leaves the administration with a choice: Continue defending a law it opposes with an appeal, or do nothing, let the policy be overturned, and add an explosive issue to a midterm election with Republicans poised to make major gains.

Department of Justice and Pentagon officials were reviewing the judge's decision and said they had no immediate comment.

"The whole thing has become a giant game of hot potato," said Diane H. Mazur, a legal expert at the Palm Center, a think tank at the University of California at Santa Barbara that supports a repeal. "There isn't anyone who wants to be responsible, it seems, for actually ending this policy.

"The potato has been passed around so many times that I think the grown-up in the room is going to be the federal courts."

A federal judge in Tacoma, Wash., ruled in a different case last month that a decorated flight nurse discharged from the Air Force for being openly gay should be given her job back.

Phillips, based in Riverside, Calif., issued a landmark ruling on Sept. 9, declaring the policy unconstitutional and asked both sides to give her input about an injunction. The judge said the policy violates due process rights, freedom of speech and the right to petition the government for redress of grievances guaranteed by the First Amendment.

Gay rights groups hailed Phillips' latest move, crediting her with what the administration and Washington have not been able to do.

"For a single federal judge to tell the government to stop enforcing this policy worldwide, this afternoon, with no time to think about it or plan for it, is almost unprecedented," said Richard Socarides, a former Clinton White House adviser on gay rights. It is likely to be remembered as one of the more glaring examples of a judge making law from the bench, rather than enforcing it.

Gay rights advocates, however, tempered their celebrations, warning service members to avoid revealing their sexuality for fear that the injunction could be tossed out during an appeal and they would be left open to being discharged.

If the government does not appeal, the injunction cannot be reversed and would remain in effect. If it does, it can seek a temporary freeze, or stay, of her ruling. An appeal would go to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit. Either side could then take it to the U.S. Supreme Court.

The Pentagon did not immediately comment, and a Justice Department spokeswoman said the government was reviewing the decision. Meanwhile, a group of 19 Democrat senators signed a letter sent to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder urging him to let the injunction stand.

A "don't ask, don't tell" supporter said Phillips overstepped her bounds.

"The judge ignored the evidence to impose her ill-informed and biased opinion on our military, endangering morale, health and security of our military at a time of war," said Wendy Wright, president of Concerned Women for America, a public policy group.

Wright said Phillips should have let Congress continue to investigate the impact of the repeal.

Phillips' order goes into effect immediately, said Dan Woods, the attorney who represented the Log Cabin Republicans, the gay rights group that filed the lawsuit in 2004 to stop the ban's enforcement.

The group says more than 13,500 service members have been fired under the Clinton administration-era policy, which prohibits the military from asking about the sexual orientation of service members but bans those who are openly gay.

Under the 1993 policy, service men and women who acknowledge being gay or are discovered engaging in homosexual activity, including in their own homes off base, are subject to discharge.

Phillips' ruling also ordered the government to suspend and discontinue all pending discharge proceedings and investigations.

Government attorneys had warned Phillips that such an abrupt change from an injunction might harm military operations during wartime. They had asked Phillips to limit her ruling to the 19,000 members of the Log Cabin Republicans, which includes current and former military service members.

The Justice Department attorneys also said Congress should decide the issue - not the court.

Phillips disagreed, saying the policy doesn't help military readiness and instead has a "direct and deleterious effect" on the armed services by hurting recruiting when the country is at war and requiring the discharge of service members with critical skills and training.

"Furthermore, there is no adequate remedy at law to prevent the continued violation of servicemembers' rights or to compensate them for violation of their rights," Phillips said in her order.

Obama opposed "don't ask, don't tell" in the 2008 presidential campaign and pledged to work for its repeal.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates, a Republican, and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Mike Mullen, the military's top uniformed officer, have both said they support lifting the ban. But Gates and Mullen also have warned that they would prefer to move slowly.

Gates has ordered a sweeping study due Dec. 1 that includes a survey of troops and their families. Activists want the policy reversed before the results of those surveys are publicly disclosed.

The president agreed to the Pentagon study but also worked with Democrats to write a bill that would have lifted the ban, pending completion of the Defense Department review and certification from the military that troop morale wouldn't suffer. Most observers concede that a majority of the military supports the ban and does not want to be housed together with known homosexuals.

That legislation passed the House but was blocked in the Senate by Republicans.

Gates has said the purpose of his study isn't to determine whether to change the law - something he says is probably inevitable but up for Congress to decide. Instead, the study is intended to determine how to lift the ban without causing serious disruption during wartime.

If Democrats lose seats in the upcoming elections, repealing the ban could prove even more difficult - if not impossible - next year.

See Chick's SIN CITY.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Condemned Iranian Woman's Son and Lawyer Missing

The son of an Iranian woman sentenced to death by stoning for adultery is reportedly missing after two foreign nationals, believed to be German journalists, were arrested after trying to interview him.

The lawyer for the woman, 43-year-old Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani, also has not been heard from.

Iran's chief prosecutor, Gholam-Hossein Mohseni-Ejei, called the two people detained "foreign tourists" and said they lacked correct media credentials, according to a statement published today on the semi-official Mehr News website.

Amnesty International / AFP / Getty Images
The son and lawyer of Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani, an Iranian woman sentenced to death by stoning for adultery pictured here in an undated photo, are reported missing.

But an Iranian human rights activist, based in Germany, who said she arranged the interview told AOL News today that the Iranian government has also arrested the son of Ashtiani and her longtime lawyer.

The government has not confirmed the arrests or detention of Ashtiani's son, Sajjad Ghaderzadeh, or her lawyer, Javid Houtan Kian. But sources connected to the case said neither of them returned to their homes Sunday night, nor have they answered their phones.

Mina Ahadi, the Iranian-born head of the Frankfurt-based International Committee Against Stoning, said the arrests occurred Sunday afternoon while she was on the phone in Germany acting as translator during the interview.

The interview was taking place in the Tabriz law office of Kian, Ashtiani's longtime lawyer.

Ashtiani has been held on death row in nearby Tabriz prison since 2006 on adultery and murder charges. She was sentenced to death by stoning but has not yet been executed following international outrage over her case.

Ahadi said she had helped arrange the meeting in Iran. Both journalists are male, she said; one is a photographer. She declined to identify them for security reasons.

The interview had just started and Ahadi was helping translate the third question when the journalist suddenly sounded agitated, she said, and then hung up. She tried calling back several times, but no one at the interview ever answered their phones again.

"It was terrible, terrible," Ahadi said in a telephone interview from Frankfurt. "We were on the phone talking and then I heard a lot of noise and the phones went dead."

The journalists are reportedly associated with Germany's Bild Zeitung, a tabloid newspaper.

Sources close to the case said it was probably true that they did not have official media credentials to interview Ashtiani's son and lawyer because such credentials would probably never be granted.

Tobias Frohlich, a spokesman for the Berlin-based newspaper, wrote in a short e-mail to AOL News: "We do not know anything about any arrests of employees of our company. That's all I can say at the moment."

Maryam Namazie, an Iranian-born human rights activist based in Britain, said that Ashtiani's 17-year-old daughter went to Tabriz prison today to ask if her 22-year-old brother and her mother's lawyer were arrested.

"They wouldn't tell her anything," Namazie told AOL News. "But she told me her brother has not been home and he's not answering his telephone. No one can reach the lawyer either."

Namazie said the Iranian government has threatened Ashtiani's lawyer before. She said that officials "held him" for eight hours on Saturday and would not let him sit down during questioning.

"It was about his contact with the media," Namazie said.

Namazie pointed out that Sunday's arrest of the journalists occurred on World Day Against the Death Penalty.

"Often they do things like this on important days," she said. "These are just windows into Iran and how they consider women to be subhuman. They've been getting away with it for years now. Sakineh would be dead by now it there hadn't been this international pressure."

Ashtiani, a mother of two, was originally convicted in May 2006 after being found guilty of having had an "illicit relationship" with two men following the death of her husband.

She was given 99 lashes while her son watched.

Later that year, as a result of information that surfaced during the trial of a man accused of murdering her husband, her adultery case was re-opened.

Despite retracting a confession she said she had made under duress in August, Ashtiani was convicted of adultery and sentenced to death by stoning.

Gays Protest Paladino Remarks

Tea Party favorite and New York's Republican candidate for governor, Carl Paladino, on Sunday attacked homosexuality in a speech to Orthodox Jews in Brooklyn.

Being homosexual "is not how God created us," Paladino told an enthusiastic crowd at Congregation Shaarei Chaim in the trendy and traditional Williamsburg section of Brooklyn, where hipsters live cheek by jowl with Hasidic Jews.

"I just think my children and your children would be much better off and much more successful getting married and raising a family, and I don't want them brainwashed into thinking that homosexuality is an equally valid and successful option -- it isn't," said Paladino, who has a reputation for being frank to the point of volatility.

Paladino also had controversial remarks that he did not deliver, writing at one point in his prepared speech: "There is nothing to be proud of in being a dysfunctional homosexual."

In an interview early Monday on the "Today" show, Paladino sought to clarify his remarks, saying that "discrimination against homosexuals is horrible. It's terrible." And he insisted that he would "absolutely" recruit gays to work in his administration. "You name it. Wherever their expertise may be, we'll put them in our government."

Asked about the "brainwashed" remark, he said that comment had "to do with schooling children. My feelings on homosexuality are unequivocal. I have absolutely no problem with it whatsoever. My only reservation is marriage."

He said that "children should not be exposed to that at a young age. They don't understand this. It's a very difficult thing. And exposing them to homosexuality, especially at a Gay Pride parade, and I don't know if you've ever been to one, but they wear these little Speedos and they grind against each other. It's just a terrible thing."

When interviewer Matt Lauer noted that some of the content in Paladino's speech was written by the people he was addressing -- a group of Orthodox Jews – Paladino said, "That section of my presentation was written, okay, and it was handed to a staffer and it was put into the [text]. I crossed it out. "

"That group gets to write the comments they want you to make?" Lauer asked?

"No," Paladino responded. "It was with a discussion, but then they went too far in the discussion and I crossed all that stuff out. The only part that I said was what you just quoted me" on about children being brainwashed.

Asked to clarify the reference to homosexuality equating with "dysfunction," he replied, "I did not say that. It's unacceptable."

In his remarks Sunday, the Republican also had harsh words for his Democratic opponent, Attorney General Andrew Cuomo, for marching in this year's gay pride parade. "[T]hat's not the example we should be showing our children," he said to applause.

He added: "Don't misquote me as wanting to hurt homosexual people in any way. That would be a dastardly lie."

In his "Today" interview, Paladino took another swing at his opponent: "I was trying to define myself very clearly, as oppposed to Mr. Cuomo. Mr. Cuomo took his daughters to a Gay Pride parade. Is that normal? Would you do it? Would you take your children to a Gay Pride parade? . . . I don't think it is proper for them to go there and watch a couple of grown men grinding against each other. I don't think that's proper. It's disgusting."

Paladino's campaign manager, Michael R. Caputo, told The New York Times on Sunday that the candidate employs a gay man on his campaign staff and said his views reflect those of the Catholic Church.

"Carl Paladino is simply expressing the views that he holds in his heart as a Catholic," Caputo told The Times. "Carl Paladino is not homophobic, and neither is the Catholic Church."

Caputo continued that line in remarks to CNN.

"Carl Paladino's position on this is exactly equivalent to the Catholic Church," Caputo said. "And if Andrew Cuomo has a problem with the Catholic Church's position on abortion and homosexuality, he needs to take it up with his parish priest."

Paladino's comments drew a harsh rebuke from the gay community.

"His words foster a climate of hatred and intolerance instead of helping heal the city of its wounds," Michael Silver, executive director of the Transgender Legal Defense & Education Fund, told the Daily News. Silver called on Paladino to apologize immediately.

Cuomo spokesman Josh Vlasto blasted Paladino's comments.

"Mr. Paladino's statement displays a stunning homophobia and a glaring disregard for basic equality," Vlasto said in a statement. "These comments along with other views he has espoused make it clear that he is way out of the mainstream and is unfit to represent New York."

Caputo disagreed. "The majority of New Yorkers agree with him," he said of Paladino's views on homosexuals and gay rights.

Polls have shown 58 percent of New Yorkers gay marriage (when asked about it in person), which Paladino says he opposes. Polls have also shown Cuomo expanding his lead on Paladino after the gap had closed last month to six points.

Paladino's own personal life has been an issue in the campaign. He has raised charges about Cuomo's sex life that he now admits are unsubstantiated, while Paladino is married but has a 10-year-old daughter from an affair with a former employee of his. He has also admitted to sending out what Democrats describe as obscene and racist e-mails.

Saturday, October 09, 2010

Aliens Around the Corner?

It seems as if everyone from the Vatican to the military to scientists conducting the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence, or SETI, are getting on the ET bandwagon.

Just last week, in Prague, the capital of the Czech Republic, the International Academy of Astronautics' SETI Permanent Study group created new guidelines for how earthlings should best handle official contact with extraterrestrials.

"The guidelines were and still are: Do good science and don't cry wolf. Make sure that what you're about to announce is, in fact, what you think it is," Jill Tarter, director of the SETI Institute's Center for SETI Research in California, told AOL News.

"In the case of the first protocol, it was: Don't respond until there's some consensus, a) that we should respond; and b) when we respond, who's going to speak for Earth and what are they going to say?

"We originally took that to the United Nations Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space, and it's duly filed away. When we presented that, we suggested that the U.N. might want to be proactive, and to think about the fact that this might happen."

For decades, SETI scientists, using radio and optical telescopes, have searched the heavens for proof that we're not alone in the universe. In the new SETI guidelines, the protocol for confirmation of an alien intelligence is clearly laid out:

"If the verification process confirms -- by the consensus of the other investigators involved and to a degree of certainty judged by the discoverers to be credible -- that a signal or other evidence is due to extraterrestrial intelligence, the discoverer shall report this conclusion in a full and complete, open manner to the public, the scientific community and the secretary-general of the United Nations."

Last November, Tarter was a participant at a Vatican-sponsored astrobiology conference -- a gathering of international scientists and religious leaders who considered the idea that life may exist elsewhere in the cosmos. In fact, a Jesuit astronomer, Jose Funes, director of the Vatican Observatory, had previously suggested that the idea of "brother extraterrestrials" would not conflict with Catholic doctrine.

Tarter, whose work formed the basis of the character portrayed by Jodie Foster in the 1997 movie "Contact," suggests religious groups would be fine with the idea that Earth is not the only inhabited planet around.

"People say, 'Oh, my God, it's the end of religion if you detect a signal,' and I think organized religion is a lot more flexible than that," she said. "It's been around for millennia. Our view of the universe has changed hugely, so I don't think that this would be the death knell or the singularity in organized religion."

It's also hard to escape all the recent UFO items in the news.

Two months ago, the National Archives of England released UFO-related documents, including some that revealed how former Prime Minister Winston Churchill reportedly covered up wartime accounts of UFO sightings because he feared they might create a panic among the population.

Later this month, we'll find out how the European Union will finally respond to Italian Northern League leader Mario Borghezio's request, made in June, that EU member governments disclose their UFO files and establish a European UFO commission.

Ten days ago, at the National Press Club in Washington, several former Air Force officers came together, offering testimony of their experiences with UFOs at nuclear weapons sites, both in the U.S. and abroad, going back several decades.

An upsurge of UFO reports in China this year has prompted a planetary astronomer at the Purple Mountain Observatory of the Chinese Academy of Sciences to speculate that "contact between humans and extraterrestrial life will, hopefully, come this century."

Last week's announcement of the discovery of an Earth-like planet in our galactic neighborhood created a stir in the scientific community as well as the media.

While Tarter is engaged in the search for radio signals from possible distant civilizations, she acknowledges the significance of finding a planet that may harbor only primitive life forms.

"The universe is appearing to be more bio-friendly as we get closer to having a real Earth analog," she said. "It's really nice to see something that's about Earth-sized in an orbit that might, in fact, allow there to be a temperate and water-filled area on the planet."

And this week, British researchers hope to find alien life forms closer to home, in Earth's upper atmosphere, a prospect Tarter finds intriguing.

"There could be, in fact, another shadow biosphere on Earth where there's a different form of metabolism that might not use DNA, or might use different bio-solvents -- it's actually not completely out of the question."

Tarter suggests that life might even be found in non-Earthlike habitable zones, in places where "extremophile" organisms may thrive -- life forms that may actually require hazardous conditions.

"As we've looked at extremophiles and looked at our own solar system better, we appreciate that," she said. "There might be life under the ice of [Jupiter's moon] Europa, and that could happen in other planetary systems. The nice thing is that we're getting close enough to it being science -- that we can actually go after the details and not just have to tell a story. It's really exciting." See Chick's THE GREATEST STORY EVER TOLD.

Attacks Go After Angle's Church

Senator Harry Reid supporters have been working overtime to smear Sharron Angle, and now their going after her church.

Recent statements about Mormons by Angle's longtime pastor are causing the Republican candidate and Tea Party champion more headaches as her campaign enters the home stretch.

Pastor John Reed of Sonrise Church in Reno, a non-denominational, evangelical-style church where Angle was an active member for many years, calls Mormonism a "cult" and Reid, the majority leader and a Mormon, "a powerful person in a cult" whose position should "alarm" people.

Nevada has the third-highest concentration of Mormons of any state -- more than 7 percent of the population, following only Utah (72 percent) and Wyoming (11 percent) -- and Mormons and their GOP-leaning social conservatism are sure to be crucial to an Angle victory.

The sentiments expressed by Reed may also portend complications for Mitt Romney, who is also a Mormon, should he pursue the 2012 Republican nomination, as expected. Apart from Glenn Beck, who has found greater acceptance among conservative Christians than probably any other Mormon (though few realize he is Mormon), Mormons often face suspicion for their beliefs.

Reed's comments -- published on Thursday in an interview with columnist Dennis Myers of the Reno News & Review -- reflected the more explicit form of that Christian suspicion, as Reed said Mormonism has "kooky" beliefs and that the church employs hit squads to "kill" lapsed members.

Reed also compared Angle to Snow White: "There's no dirt," and added: "The dirt's on Harry Reid, you know -- the whole Mormon thing. I could tell you the junk about Mormonism and the weird things that go on."

Reed also said this of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS), the formal name for the Mormons:
"The Christian community -- all the Christians, theologians and scholars, all recognize that, that Mormonism is a cult," Reed continued. "I have books in my library on cults, and it lists Mormonism right there with all these bizarre cults. Well, there must be a reason. I mean, here a member of a cult is one of the most powerful people in the United States. Doesn't that alarm you?"

"And his allegiance is to Salt Lake City. Something is up with that. Something's weird. But nobody touches that...Harry Reid's allegiance is to Salt Lake City."

"The Mormon church is rich, powerful, they do illegal things. They do secretive things. They've got all this money. They own American businesses. There's weirdness going on there. Churches are not multimillionaire organizations like the Mormon church. You know, there's some weirdness with that, but nobody questions it, nobody asks one question to Harry Reid and says, 'Tell us about your faith. What does a Mormon believe?' Ask him about the holy garments that he wears that protect him from evil. Isn't that kooky? Ask him about getting his body parts anointed by oil. Isn't that kooky? Ask him about when he goes to the temple and he gets baptized for dead people. Isn't that kooky? Ask him about the hit squad of the Mormon church and why they need people to kill Mormons that go against them. Isn't that controlling? Ask him how they shun people, then they get their family members to disown them and divorce them if they dare leave the Mormon church. Isn't that cultish?" (It is public fact that they do baptize dead people, shun uncooperative members, and are one of the richest religious organizations.)

"I mean, I could go on and on. The Mormon church is a cult, and Harry Reid is a powerful person in a cult, and nobody even questions it."
In a follow-up interview with The Associated Press, Reed stood by his comments:

"What I am saying is what most Christians believe and know," he told the AP. Many Christians note that Mormonism, which was founded by Joseph Smith in 1830 and has its headquarters in Salt Lake City, is outside mainstream Christianity because it rejects the classic doctrine of the Trinity and has its own sacred texts and views on the afterlife.

Harry Reid's campaign naturally jumped on the pastor's comments. "These disturbing and hateful expressions of extreme religious bigotry from Sharron Angle's spiritual adviser should alarm any Nevadan that believes in religious freedom and the separation of church and state," said Reid campaign spokesman Kelly Steele.

And Angle's campaign quickly sought to limit the damage. "As a Christian, Sharron shares the same values with other active Christians, including those of the Latter-day Saints community. Sharron has the utmost respect for followers of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and she strongly disavows any disparaging remarks against them," said Angle spokesman Jarrod Agen.

Her campaign also distanced herself from Sonrise Church and Pastor Reed, saying she had not been a member for more than six years.

But up to this year, Angle listed Sonrise as her church on her website, and Pastor Reed said Angle sang in a contemporary Christian band at the church. She taught Sunday school for more than a decade until her husband urged her to switch to a different church earlier this year where he could hold a more prominent volunteer position, he said.

"She asked if she could come back and visit," Reed said. "She was very sad to leave us."

Angle now attends Fellowship Community Church in Reno, another conservative, evangelical church where Sharron and her husband, Ted, are listed as one of the couples who host a weekly home Bible study group. Ted Angle is also listed as a deacon.

Whether the latest controversy will turn out to be Angle's version of Barack Obama's Jeremiah Wright problem remains to be seen. (Obama was basically given a pass for his longtime membership in a church where the pastor made racist comments about whites.)

The furor could also conceivably help Angle, since surveys show that Americans are less likely to vote for Mormon candidates than any other groups except for Muslims and atheists. And Republican evangelicals are less likely than any other group to say they would support a Mormon. So maybe Angle will find the issue rallies her base. See Chick's THE VISITORS.

Friday, October 01, 2010

Criticism of Stewart Get Sanchez Fired

Late this afternoon, CNN announced that it had fired anchor Rick Sanchez following controversial comments he made about Jews, the media and Comedy Central host Jon Stewart.

"Rick Sanchez is no longer with the company. We thank Rick for his years of service and we wish him well," a statement from CNN read.

Appearing Thursday on the Sirius radio program "Stand Up! With Pete Dominick," Sanchez, who was born in Cuba and grew up in Florida, repeatedly took aim at Stewart, calling him a "bigot."

When pressed by Dominick as to what he meant specifically, Sanchez gave the following explanation.

"I think he looks at the world through his mom, who was a schoolteacher, and his dad, who was a physicist or something like that," Sanchez said, according to transcripts provided by the radio program's blog. "Great, I'm so happy that he grew up in a suburban middle-class New Jersey home with everything you could ever imagine."

Dominick then asked what group it was that Stewart held a prejudiced view toward.

"Everybody else who's not like him," Sanchez responded. "Look at his show, I mean what does he surround himself with?"

Later in the program, Sanchez retracted the word "bigot" from his criticism of Stewart. "All right," Sanchez said. "I'll take the word bigot back; I'll say prejudicial, uninformed." But as the conversation continued, Sanchez hammered away at Stewart, and after Dominick noted that, being a Jew, Stewart had a sense of what it was to be an oppressed minority, Sanchez laughed.
"Very powerless people," Sanchez said with a snicker. "He's such a minority, I mean, you know. ... Please, what are you kidding? I'm telling you that everybody who runs CNN is a lot like Stewart, and a lot of people who run all the other networks are a lot like Stewart, and to imply that somehow they -- the people in this country who are Jewish -- are an oppressed minority? Yeah."
Sanchez argued that Jews don't experience the same level of discrimination as blacks and Hispanics.

"I grew up not speaking English, dealing with real prejudice every day as a kid; watching my dad work in a factory, wash dishes, drive a truck, get spit on. I've been told that I can't do certain things in life simply because I was a Hispanic," Sanchez said. "My friends who are black, I've seen that with them; I've seen that with a lot of minorities. I can't really think -- although I understand the plight of Jews, and all the experiences, and the things that have happened historically for them -- but I can't say that my buddy Glen or my buddy Izzy who I grew up with in South Florida ever were prejudiced against directly simply because they were Jewish. There may have been jokes around them or about other things, but it's kinda -- you know what I'm saying, it's kind of a different thing."

Surge Desk's calls to Sanchez and CNN seeking comment were not returned. See Chick's WHERE'S RABBI WAXMAN?