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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

Friday, October 28, 2011

Atheists At It Again, But Goof Big Time

A billboard in Costa Mesa, Calif., is getting some attention, but it's certainly not the kind its sponsors were hoping for.

The sign, paid for by atheist group Backyard Skeptics, includes a quote about Christianity attributed to Thomas Jefferson. But further research reveals there's no solid evidence that Jefferson ever uttered or wrote the words, the Orange County Register first reported.

The billboard includes a picture of Jefferson with the quote: "I do not find in Christianity one redeeming feature. It is founded on fables and mythology."

Experts at the Jefferson Library Collection at Monticello are constantly asked about the quote, the Orange County Register reports. Some say the former president wrote the words in a letter to a Dr. Wood, but officials cannot find trace of any correspondence to a person by that name.

Bruce Gleason, a member of the group, told the Orange County Register that he should have done a bit more research before putting the words on the sign. The billboard was unveiled on Wednesday, the newspaper reports. Gleason explained that purpose of this sign and others around the city was to "expunge the myth that this is a Christian nation," as well as to "share the idea that you can be good and do good without a religion or god."

UPDATE: 6:24 p.m. --

Jefferson kept a personal book containing certain verses from the New Testament and the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, the Los Angeles Times points out. He arranged the snippets into a small "scrapbook," which left out mentions of the virgin birth, Jesus' resurrection, and other forms of divinity and miracles. He called it, "The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth," but it later came to be known as the "Jefferson Bible."

The founding father identified himself as a Christian, despite his questions, the Christian Post explains. Scholars have debated the issue, and some have posited that "without acknowledging Jesus' divinity and resurrection, Christianity [is] baseless."

Author Lori Ann Ferrel, who's written about the "Jefferson Bible," told the Los Angeles Times that Jefferson "was more skeptical about religion than the other Founding Fathers."

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Scientolists "Investigated" South Park Team

For Matt Stone and Trey Parker, nothing is holy or immune to satire. And since the launch of their groundbreaking animated TV series "South Park," they've skewered a multitude of world religions, pointing out hypocrisies, inanities or just playing with ridiculous stereotypes. One of their most famous religious satires, 2005's Scientology-targeting "Trapped In The Closet" episode, allegedly struck such a nerve with the church's leaders that the group responded by targeting Stone, Parker and their friends in a long-term covert investigation.

Marty Rathbun, a former Church of Scientology executive-turned-critic and independent worshipper, revealed to the Village Voice a number of documents that detailed the religious sect's detailed surveillance of the Emmy-winning TV moguls. Through the help of informants, public records and various other means, they searched for "vulnerabilities" in the pair's personal lives, and after exploring their personal and business connections, widened their focus to investigating actors such as John Stamos, as well.

"Phone records. Bank records. Personal letters that expose some kind of vulnerability," Rathbun told the Voice. "They'll read stuff into the kind of alcohol you're drinking and how much. Prescriptions. They'll figure out your diet. They can find out a lot about you through your trash."

Rathbun's personal site leads with a post that includes more information, including this summary: "In ’06 the creators of South Park, Trey Parker and Matt Stone, became targets of Corporate Scientology’s OSA. Operations were run in an attempt to silence Parker and Stone. While Corporate Scientology was ultimately unsuccessful, left behind an instructive data trail during their efforts."

"Trapped in the Closet" featured a storyline that had Stan, one of the four children that make up the show's core, take a "personality test" after being encountered on the street by a group of Scientologists. The vague test reveals that he is miserable, which leads him to agree to pay the church to make him happy again. An "E-meter" reading reveals that he is housing the soul of Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard, and various Hollywood celebrities who are members of the church flock to his home to help convince him to become their new leader.

One of those celebrities included Tom Cruise, who locks himself in a closet, which was a clear allusion to various rumors about his sexuality. John Travolta, another member of the church, soon joined him in the closet. Stan's friends tell him that the religion is actually a cult, pointing out that Hubbard was a science fiction writer, though he at first refuses to believe it. Eventually, the Scientology elders reveal that the church is a for-profit con, calling their own religion "crap."

Cruise was so incensed by the episode that he allegedly threatened to not participate in promotion for "Mission: Impossible III" junket if a re-run of the episode was aired; Viacom owns both Comedy Central and Paramount, the studio that put out the film. Cruise's reps denied this, though the episode was indeed pulled. Stone and Parker, for their part, put out a satirical statement on the matter:

"So, Scientology, you may have won THIS battle, but the million-year war for earth has just begun! Temporarily anozinizing our episode will NOT stop us from keeping Thetans forever trapped in your pitiful man-bodies. Curses and drat! You have obstructed us for now, but your feeble bid to save humanity will fail! Hail Xenu!!!"
"Trey Parker and Matt Stone, servants of the dark lord Xenu."

Rathbun teased more documents, which reveal major advances in their investigations, would come soon. He was arrested in September, allegedly at the behest of the Church of Scientology, though charges were later dropped; the Voice reported then that the Church of Scientology was harassing him, in part because he practices the faith outside of the official Church.

"South Park" satirizes religion in just about every episode (click here for a slide show of ten of their most memorable). The show has cast Satan as the cowardly lover of Saddam Hussein, while Kyle, another of the four core children, comes from a very stereotypical Jewish family. Parker and Stone also created the Broadway show, "Book of Mormon," which pokes fun at that religion.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Actress Calls Pope a Nazi

Susan Sarandon has called Pope Benedict XVI, who like most German youngsters at
the time, served in the Hitler Youth as a child, a Nazi - outraging Catholics.
Catholic and Jewish groups blasted Susan Sarandon after the Oscar-winning
actress twice described Pope Benedict XVI as a Nazi.

"Susan Sarandon's ignorance is willful: Those who have hatred in their veins are
not interested in the truth," said William Donohue, spokesman for the Catholic

"Sarandon's comment is obscene. Sadly, it's what we've come to expect of her."

The flap started when Sarandon, who won an Academy Award for her role as a Roman
Catholic nun in "Dead Man Walking," appeared at the Hamptons Film Festival this
past weekend.

Sarandon, during an interview, said she sent a copy of the book that provided
the basis for her film to the pope - and then qualified her answer, Newsday

"The last one," she said. "Not this Nazi one we have now."

The social activist/actress than repeated the comment.

The German-born pope, born Joseph Ratzinger, was briefly a member of the Hitler
Youth when membership was mandatory.

"Unlike most of the other teenagers, Ratzinger refused to go to meetings,
bringing economic hardship to his family," Donohue said. "Moreover ... he
deserted at the first opportunity."

The Anti-Defamation League, a group battling anti-Semitism, called on Sarandon
to apologize for her remarks.

"Ms. Sarandon may have her differences with the Catholic Church, but that is no
excuse for throwing around Nazi analogies," the ADL said in a statement.

"Such words are hateful, vindictive and only serve to diminish the true history
and meaning of the Holocaust."

Sarandon, 65, has yet to comment on the controversy, and a Tuesday e-mail to her
agent went unanswered. See Chick's THE HOLOCAUST.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Ground Zero Mosque May Close

The infamous Ground Zero mosque, which quietly opened in September, faces a new
dilemma. This time, the difficulties are unrelated to religious freedom.

According to the New York Post, Park51, the development company behind the
mosque project, owes Con Ed $1.7 million in back rent. They have been given an
ultimatum by the utility: settle up or forfeit their claim to the property.

Currently, there are two buildings on the site. The one on the eastern half, a
former wholesale clothing outlet, is owned outright by Park51. The one on the
western half is a former substation owned by Con Ed, which has been leasing the
space out to Park51. Currently, the ground floor is being used for prayer
services, though eventually both structures are to be razed in preparation for
the construction of a new $100 million, 15-story community center and mosque.

Things seemed to be moving swimmingly for Park51. That was until August, when
Con Ed raised the rent from $2,750 a month—the rate set in 1972—to $47,437 a
month, retroactive to July 31, 2008.
Park51 was given a deadline of October 4 to come up with the $1.7 million owed
or face the eviction.

Park51 principals sued for injunctive relief, calling the rent demands
“outrageous.” Lead developer Sharif El-Gamal is quoted by the Post as saying:

"Whether it is bowing to political pressure or seeking to retain the valuable
premises for itself, Con Ed appears intent on proceeding with its wrongful

Gamal further moaned that Con Ed’s move puts the kibosh on his company’s ability
eventually to buy the substation building.

A hearing date of November 17 has been set for the case. See Chick's WHO CARES?

Teacher Attacked for Gay Criticisms on Facebook

A New Jersey high school teacher became the center of a Facebook controversy on
Thursday after writing on the site that “homosexuality is a perverted spirit
that has existed from the beginning of creation” and complaining about a school
display recognizing October as Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender History

The teacher, Viki Knox, posted a photo of a display from the school, Union High
School in Union Township, on her personal Facebook page last week. It included
photos of Virginia Woolf, Harvey Milk and Neil Patrick Harris. When a friend
asked if the school had really put it up, Ms. Knox wrote that it had, and “I’m
pitching a fit!”

In subsequent posts, Ms. Knox, who teaches special education classes, defended
her views in lengthy exchanges with other Facebook users, referring at times to
God and her Christian beliefs. A copy of the comments was provided to The New
York Times; her Facebook page was removed from public view. News of Ms. Knox’s
comments was first reported on Thursday morning by The Star-Ledger in Newark.

“The district is taking the matter very seriously,” said Union’s superintendent
of schools, Patrick Martin. “We are running a thorough investigation. We will
take all appropriate actions.”

Dr. Martin declined to comment further on the investigation, or Ms. Knox’s
background, citing laws that protect the privacy of public employees.

The state’s teacher database showed that Ms. Knox had 12 years of experience in
the district and that she earned $72,109 in 2010. Some residents and parents
said that she also advised a student prayer group, and that, until now, she had
not been involved in any controversies.

Ms. Knox did not respond to messages left at the school.

In her Facebook posts, Ms. Knox wrote that while she had friends and loved ones
who were gay, she believed that the way they lived was “against the nature and
character of God” and that the high school was “not the setting to promote,
encourage, support and foster homosexuality.”

Edward Barocas, legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union in New
Jersey, said in a statement, “Although we do not agree with the sentiments
expressed on Ms. Knox’s personal Facebook page, her beliefs and comments are
protected by the First Amendment.”

But Mr. Barocas added, “Because her postings raised questions about her conduct
within school, the school district can and should investigate whether she is
performing her job in accordance with school policies and the state’s Law
Against Discrimination.”

Members of Garden State Equality, a statewide civil rights organization that
advocates gay rights, sent hundreds of e-mails and made phone calls to the
district on Thursday demanding that Ms. Knox be dismissed because of her

Steven Goldstein, chairman of the group, said, “If these Facebook posts are from
Ms. Knox, she should not be teaching our children in public schools.”

See Chick's SIN CITY.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Witch Doctor's Terrorize Uganda Children

A BBC investigation into human sacrifice in Uganda has heard first-hand accounts which suggest ritual killings of children may be more common than authorities have acknowledged.

One witch-doctor led us to his secret shrine and said he had clients who regularly captured children and brought their blood and body parts to be consumed by spirits.

Meanwhile, a former witch-doctor who now campaigns to end child sacrifice confessed for the first time to having murdered about 70 people, including his own son.

The Ugandan government told us that human sacrifice is on the increase, and according to the head of the country's Anti-Human Sacrifice Taskforce the crime is directly linked to rising levels of development and prosperity, and an increasing belief that witchcraft can help people get rich quickly.

In the course of our investigation we witnessed the ritual torching of the shrine of a particularly active witch-doctor in northern Uganda by anti-sacrifice campaigners.

The witch-doctor allowed ceremonial items including conch shells and animal skins to be burned in his sacred grove after agreeing to give up sacrifice.

He told us that clients had come to him in search of wealth.
"They capture other people's children. They bring the heart and the blood directly here to take to the spirits… They bring them in small tins and they place these objects under the tree from which the voices of the spirits are coming," he said.
Asked how often clients brought blood and body parts, the witch-doctor said they came "on average three times a week - with all that the spirits demand from them."

We saw a beaker of blood and what appeared to be a large, raw liver in the shrine before it was destroyed, although it was not possible to determine whether they were human remains.

The witch-doctor denied any direct involvement in murder or incitement to murder, saying his spirits spoke directly to his clients. He told us he was paid 500,000 Ugandan shillings (£160 or $260) for a consultation, but that most of that money was handed over to his "boss" in a nationwide network of witch-doctors.

Head of the Anti-Human Sacrifice and Trafficking Task Force, assistant commissioner Moses Binoga of the Ugandan police, said he knew of the boss referred to - involved in one of five or six witch-doctor protection rackets operating in the country.
"The senior ones extort money from lower people because they deal in illegal things," he told us.

Mr Binoga said police had opened 26 murder cases in 2009, in which the victim appeared to have been ritually sacrificed, compared with just three cases in 2007.

"We also have about 120 children and adults reported missing whose fate we have not traced. We cannot rule out that they may be victims of human sacrifice," he said.

But child protection campaigners believe the real number is much higher, as some disappearances are not reported to police.

Mr Angela told us he had first been initiated as a witch-doctor at a ceremony in neighbouring Kenya, where a boy of about 13 was sacrificed.

"The child was cut with a knife on the neck and the entire length from the neck down was ripped open, and then the open part was put on me," he said.

When he returned to Uganda he says he was told by those who had initiated him to kill his own son, aged 10.
"I deceived my wife and made sure that everyone else had gone away and I was with my child alone. Once he was placed down on the ground, I used a big knife and brought it down like a guillotine."

Asked if he was afraid he might now be prosecuted as a result of confessing to killing 70 people, he said:
"I have been to all the churches… and they know me as a warrior in the drive to end witchcraft that involves human sacrifice, so I think that alone should indemnify me and have me exonerated."

Uganda's Minister of Ethics and Integrity James Nsaba Buturo believes that "to punish retrospectively would cause a problem... if we can persuade Ugandans to change, that is much better than going back into the past."

Child protection activists in organisations such as FAPAD (Facilitation for Peace and Development) and ANPPCAN (African Network for the Prevention and Protection against Child Abuse and Neglect) have highlighted recent cases of ritual killing and called for new legislation to regulate so-called "traditional healers".

In some cases against alleged witch-doctors due to come to trial later this year, police will use the testimony of children who managed to survive abduction.

One such witness is a three-year-old boy called Mukisa, who was left for dead after his penis was hacked off by an assailant.
He survived thanks to quick work by surgeons, and later told police he had been mutilated by a neighbour who is known to keep a shrine.

Mukisa's mother told us: "Every time I look at him, I ask myself how his future is going to be - a man without a penis - and how the rest of the community will look at him, with private parts that can neither be attributed to a man or a woman. Every time I recall the normal birth that I had and the way Mukisa is now, it is like the end of the world."

See Chick's THE TRAITOR.

Saturday, October 01, 2011

He Fooled Them

Convicted cop killer, Troy Davis was celebrated as "martyr and foot soldier" Saturday by more than 1,000 people who packed the pews at his funeral and pledged to keep fighting the death penalty.

Family, activists and supporters who spent years trying to persuade judges and Georgia prison officials that Davis was innocent were unable to prevent his execution Sept. 21. But the crowd that filled Savannah's Jonesville Baptist Church on Saturday seemed less interested in pausing in remorse than showing a resolve to capitalize on the worldwide attention Davis' case brought to capital punishment in the U.S.

Benjamin Todd Jealous, national president of the NAACP, brought the crowd to its feet in a chant of "I am Troy Davis" – the slogan supporters used to paint Davis as an everyman forced to face the executioner by a faulty justice system. Jealous noted that Davis professed his innocence even in his final words.

"Troy's last words that night were he told us to keep fighting until his name is cleared in Georgia," Jealous said. "But most important, keep fighting until the death penalty is abolished and this can never be done to anyone else."

After four years of extraordinary appeals, every court that examined Davis' case ultimately upheld his conviction and death sentence for the 1989 slaying of Savannah police officer Mark MacPhail, who was shot twice while trying to help a homeless man being attacked outside a bus station. MacPhail's family and prosecutors say they're still confident Davis was guilty. Davis supporters argued that he was convicted without any physical evidence (which is true-- he was convicted on eye witnesses testify, some of which were convinced to recant their testimony in later years.) But few activists are aware of the physical evidence that was collected but withheld by the courts, including blood stained shorts that Davis gave his mother to wash in an attempt to destroy MacPhail's DNA. The evidence was suppressed because of questions whether the mother really gave permission for her house to be searched, but it should give pause to those who continue to insist he was innocent.

Regardless, questions raised by Davis and his lawyers garnered support from thousands worldwide, including dignitaries such as former President Jimmy Carter and Pope Benedict XVI. The night Davis was executed, protests were held from Georgia to Washington, from Paris to Ghana.

During a call-and-response litany at the funeral, the congregation chanted in unison: "We pray to the Lord for our souls and the soul of Troy Davis, martyr and foot soldier."

"He transformed a prison sentence into a pulpit," the Rev. Raphael Warnock, pastor of Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, said in his eulogy Saturday. "He turned death row into a sanctuary."

Other than expressions of outrage at Davis' execution, there was little doom and gloom at his funeral. Warnock's congregation at Ebenezer, the church where Martin Luther King Jr. once preached, helped raise money for the 3 1/2 hour service, which carried more than a hint of celebrity sheen. See Chick's FRAMED.