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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

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Appeals Court Favors Gay Marriage

A federal appeals court Thursday declared that the Defense of Marriage Act unconstitutionally denies federal benefits to married gay couples, a groundbreaking ruling all but certain to wind up before the U.S. Supreme Court.
In its unanimous decision, the three-judge panel of the 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Boston said the 1996 law that defines marriage as a union between a man and a woman deprives gay couples of the rights and privileges granted to heterosexual couples.
The court didn't rule on the law's more politically combustible provision, which said states without same-sex marriage cannot be forced to recognize gay unions performed in states where it's legal. It also wasn't asked to address whether gay couples have a constitutional right to marry.
The law was passed at a time when it appeared Hawaii would legalize gay marriage. Since then, many states have instituted their own bans on gay marriage, while eight states have approved it, led by Massachusetts in 2004.
The court, the first federal appeals panel to deem the benefits section of the law unconstitutional, agreed with a lower court judge who ruled in 2010 that the law interferes with the right of a state to define marriage and denies married gay couples federal benefits given to heterosexual married couples, including the ability to file joint tax returns.
"For me, it's more just about having equality and not having a system of first- and second-class marriages," said plaintiff Jonathan Knight, 32, a financial associate at Harvard Medical School who married Marlin Nabors in 2006.
"I think we can do better, as a country, than that," Knight said.
Knight said DOMA costs the couple an extra $1,000 a year because they cannot file a joint federal tax return.
Opponents of gay marriage blasted the decision.
"This ruling that a state can mandate to the federal government the definition of marriage for the sake of receiving federal benefits, we find really bizarre, rather arrogant, if I may say so," said Kris Mineau, president of the Massachusetts Family Institute.
Since DOMA was passed in 1996, many states have instituted their own bans on gay marriage, while eight states have approved it, including Massachusetts, Connecticut, New York, Iowa, New Hampshire, Vermont, Maryland, Washington state and the District of Columbia. Maryland and Washington's laws are not yet in effect and may be subject to referendums.
Last year, President Barack Obama announced the U.S. Department of Justice would no longer defend the constitutionality of the law. After that, House Speaker John Boehner convened the Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group to defend it. The legal group argued the case before the appeals court.
White House spokesman Jay Carney said the appeals court ruling is "in concert with the president's views." Obama, who once opposed gay marriage, declared his unequivocal personal support on May 9, just in time for a Hollywood fundraiser. 
Carney wouldn't say whether the government would actively seek to have DOMA overturned if the case goes before the Supreme Court.
"I can't predict what the next steps will be in handling cases of this nature," Carney said.
The 1st Circuit said its ruling wouldn't be enforced until the U.S. Supreme Court decides the case, meaning that same-sex married couples will not be eligible to receive the economic benefits denied by DOMA until the high court rules.
That's because the ruling only applies to states within the circuit – Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Maine and New Hampshire – and Puerto Rico. Only the Supreme Court has the final say in deciding whether a law passed by Congress is unconstitutional.
Although most Americans live in states where the law still is that marriage can only be the union of a man and a woman, the power to define marriage had always been left to the individual states before Congress passed DOMA, the appeals court said in its ruling. See Chick's DOOM TOWN.

American Arabs Seek Affirmative Action

The Commerce Department is considering naming Arab Americans a socially and economically disadvantaged minority group that is eligible for special business assistance.

The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) petitioned Commerce earlier this year to ask that Arab Americans be made eligible for the Minority Business Development Agency (MBDA), which helps minority entrepreneurs gain access to capital, contracts and trade opportunities.

The ADC petition cited “discrimination and prejudice in American society resulting in conditions under which Arab-American individuals have been unable to compete in a business world.” The group claimed discrimination against Arab Americans increased after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. See Chick's WHO CARES?

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Egypt Warns Christians of Muslim Tax

According to the popular Egyptian website El Bashayer, Muhammad Morsi, the Muslim Brotherhood presidential candidate, just declared that he will "achieve the Islamic conquest of Egypt for the second time, and make all Christians convert to Islam, or else pay the jizya," the additional Islamic tax, or financial tribute, required of non-Muslims.

In a brief report written by Samuel al-Ashay and published by El Bashayer on May 27, Morsi allegedly made these comments while speaking with a journalist at the headquarters of the Muslim Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party, adding "We will not allow Ahmed Shafiq [his contending presidential candidate] or anyone else to impede our second Islamic conquest of Egypt." ...

When asked what he thought about many Christian Copts coming out to vote for his secular opponent, Ahmed Shafiq, Morsi reportedly said, "They need to know that conquest is coming, and Egypt will be Islamic, and that they must pay jizya or emigrate." See Chick's MEN OF PEACE.

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Thursday, May 24, 2012

15-Year-Old Girl Kidnapped by Vatican For Sex (Alleged)

The Holy See was directly involved in thedisappearance of 15-year-old Emanuela Orlandi in 1983, according to a contentious accusation by the Catholic Church's leading exorcist. The Rev. Gabriele Amorth claimed that the girl's kidnapping was a "crime of a sexual nature."
"Parties were organized, with a Vatican gendarme acting as the 'recruiter' of the girls," Amorth told La Stampa, according to a translation by The Telegraph. "The network involved diplomatic personnel from a foreign embassy to the Holy See. I believe Emanuela ended up a victim of this circle."
Amorth, who was appointed by Pope John Paul II and has carried out more than 70,000 exorcisms, is no stranger to controversial public statements; according to The Sun, the exorcist has called Harry Potter the "work of the devil," and has claimed "the devil was at work in the Vatican" when discussing the Catholic Church's sex scandals.
Clues to the missing girl's whereabouts had pointed in several directions, including toward a Turkish gunman who attempted to assassinate Pope John Paul IIThe Telegraph reports.
On May 14, one rumor led Italian police to exhume the grave of Enrico De Pedis, a member of Rome's Magliana mob who was killed in 1990, the Associated Press reports. A one-time girlfriend previously said De Pedis committed the kidnapping, and an anonymous call to a television show in 2005 suggested clues on Orlandi's fate lay in the dead mobster's tomb in Basilica of Sant’Apollinaire. A set of bones not belonging to De Pedis were found, but the identity of the remains has yet to be released.
The Vatican insists it has done everything in its power to help solve the mystery of the missing girl. See Chick's ALBERTO comic.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Catholic Legion of Christ Admits Another Scandal

The Legion of Christ religious order, still reeling from revelations that its late founder was a pedophile, admitted Wednesday that it knew that its most famous priest had fathered a child years ago yet didn't remove him from teaching morality to seminarians or speaking publicly about ethics.
In a statement, the Legion said it was sorry it hadn't acted "earlier and more firmly" to remove the Rev. Thomas Williams from his very public ministry as a spokesman, author and high-profile television personality. It said it took responsibility for the lapse, but didn't admit when Williams' superiors knew of the existence of his child.
Williams, an American moral theologian and former superior of the Legion's Rome general office, admitted Tuesday he had had a relationship with a woman and had fathered a child "a number of years ago." He didn't identify the woman or say whether he is supporting the child, though the Legion said the child is being cared for.
Williams' admission was issued after The Associated Press last week confronted the order with the allegation against Williams, which was lodged by a Spanish association of Legion victims. The association's accusations, sent to the Legion and Vatican several weeks ago, also named other Legion priests accused of sexually abusing minors.
The Legion has been beset by scandal following revelations that its late founder, the Rev. Marciel Maciel, fathered three children with two women and sexually abused his seminarians. Maciel died in 2008, and in 2009 the Legion admitted to his crimes. The Maciel scandal has been particularly sensational given that the Mexican-born priest was held up by Pope John Paul II as a model for the faithful, with his priests admired for their orthodoxy and ability to bring in money and attract new seminarians.
The facade, however, began to crumble in 1997 with revelations of his abuse, though it wasn't until 2006 that the Vatican sanctioned Maciel to a lifetime of prayer and penance for his crimes. Just last week, the Legion admitted that seven of its priests were under investigation by the Vatican for allegedly sexually abusing minors – suggesting that the same culture of secrecy and silence that Maciel used to cover his crimes enabled other priests to abuse children.
Williams, the most prominent priest in the 800-strong order, was the public face of the Legion in recent years: He spoke about Maciel's double life in a February 2009 interview with the Catholic ETWN program, saying the revelations were a "very, very hard blow to all of us." His stone-faced delivery contrasted sharply with that of another Legion priest on the show, the Rev. Jonathan Morris, who was visibly choked up at the revelations of Maciel. Morris subsequently left the Legion and is now a priest in the New York archdiocese.
The Vatican in 2010 took over the Legion after conducting an investigation into the order and the double life of Maciel, who founded the Legion in 1941 in Mexico and oversaw its growth into a large and prominent congregation. It is now being run by a papal delegate, Cardinal Velasio De Paolis, who is spearheading a process of reform after the Vatican found serious problems with the cult-like group.
In his statement, Williams said he and his superiors had decided he should to take a year off of active ministry to reflect on his commitments as a priest. "I am truly sorry to everyone who is hurt by this revelation and I ask for your prayers as I seek guidance on how to make up for my errors," he wrote. See Chick's MEN IN BLACK.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Pat Robinson Gives Luke Warm Endorsement of Romney

Pat Robertson offered faint praise for Mitt Romney on the "The 700 Club" Monday, while indicating that he is the best alternative to President Barack Obama.
"It looks like the people who were worried about his Mormonism, at least that crowd is diminishing somewhat," said Robertson, 82, after the show aired an interview with Romney. "The question is, if you have two candidates, you don't have Jesus running against someone else. You have Obama running against Romney." (Relevant exchange from CBN starts at around 4:00.)
The founder of the Christian Coalition and one-time presidential candidate in April also indicated that Romney was the best choice against Obama. "I believe [we] now have a clear-cut choice between somebody who has no plan and between somebody who has a very detailed plan," he said.
Robertson also said in April that Romney's Mormonism wasn't his most relevant feature. "He's not running for Chief Rabbi or Chief American Pastor, he's running for Chief Executive. And he's a skilled lawyer, he's a skilled businessman. And that's what we need ... somebody who would bring business acumen to the White House."
Recent polling has shown that white evangelical voters favor Romney by a wide margin, an approval rate much improved from earlier in the primary. The Public Religion Research Institute found that Romney is favored by a 68-19 margin. Even among the 49 percent of evangelicals who think that Mormonism is different than their own religion favored him over Obama by a 67-22 margin.
Romney gave the commencement address Saturday at conservative Christian Liberty University, as part of an effort to court evangelical voters. He affirmed that he believes that marriage is "between one man and one woman" and said that there is "no greater force for good in the nation than Christian conscience in action." Romney, a devout Mormon, barely mentioned his own faith in the speech.

Vatican Tomb Opened For Missing Girl

Coroners and medical technicians swarmed the crypt of a Roman basilica on Monday to exhume the body of a reputed mobster as part of an investigation into one of the Vatican's enduring mysteries: the 1983 disappearance of Emanuela Orlandi, the teenage daughter of a Vatican employee.
The stench of sewage filled the courtyard next to Rome's Sant'Apollinare basilica where Enrico De Pedis was buried. Medical personnel in white pantsuits and masks milled about under a blue tent where his body was believed to have been taken for initial tests.
De Pedis, a member of Rome's Magliana mob, was killed in 1990. His one-time girlfriend has reportedly said he kidnapped Orlandi, and an anonymous caller in 2005 told a call-in television show that the answer to Orlandi's disappearance lay in his tomb.
Amid a new push to resolve the case, the Vatican said last month it had no objections to opening the tomb.
Emanuela Orlandi was 15 when she disappeared in 1983 after leaving her family's Vatican City apartment to go to a music lesson in Rome. Her father was a lay employee of the Holy See.
There had initially been speculation that her kidnapping was linked in some way to the assassination attempt on Pope John Paul II, which had occurred two years earlier, and the jailing of the gunman, Ali Agca.
Doubts have also been cast on whether the Vatican itself had cooperated fully with the investigation. In a lengthy statement last month, the Vatican spokesman the Rev. Federico Lombardi insisted the Holy See had done everything possible to try to resolve the case.
Outside the basilica, Orlandi's brother Pietro Orlandi said the move to exhume the tomb was a step forward in the investigation into his sisters' disappearance.
"I think it's something very positive, both from the point of view of the Vatican and the prosecutors," he told reporters.
Speculation has long swirled around the location of De Pedis' tomb, since it's buried in a prominent church alongside prominent Catholics - an unusual final resting place for a reputed local mobster. Sant'Apollinare church is right next to the elegant Piazza Navona in Rome's historic center and is adjacent to the Opus Dei-run Pontifical Holy Cross University.
Among those in the courtyard speaking with medical personnel was the rector of the basilica, Msgr. Pedro Huidobro, who oddly enough was a coroner before being ordained a priest. See Chick's ALBERTO.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Romney Rebukes Obama on Gay Flip Flop

Mitt Romney reinforced his stance that marriage is "between one man and one woman" while delivering the commencement address at Liberty University on Saturday.
"The American culture promotes personal responsibility, the dignity of work, the value of education, the merit of service, devotion to a purpose greater than self, and, at the foundation, the pre-eminence of the family," Romney said. "As fundamental as these principles are, they may become topics of democratic debate. So it is today with the enduring institution of marriage. Marriage is a relationship between one man and one woman."
Romney's remarks were well-received at the Christian university in Lynchburg, Virginia. A senior Romney adviser told reporters Friday that Romney planned to use the speech to "mention the fact that marriage is an enduring institution which deserves to be defended."
Romney's comments came just days after President Barack Obama made news by becoming the first sitting president to announce his support for same-sex marriage (flip flopping on his earlier promise to oppose it).
After addressing marriage, Romney touched on the subject of religious freedom, which he said has "become a matter of debate."
"It strikes me as odd that the free exercise of religious faith is sometimes treated as a problem, something America is stuck with instead of blessed with," Romney said. "Perhaps religious conscience upsets the designs of those who feel that the highest wisdom and authority comes from government."

"There is no greater force for good in the nation than Christian conscience in action," Romney continued.
Ahead of Romney's address, the Obama campaign stressed that there is a "strong contrast" between the president and the presumptive Republican nominee when it comes to values that are important to religious Americans. Rev. Derrick Harkins, the director of religious outreach for President Barack Obama's re-election campaign, said on a Friday conference call Obama stands for "values like loving our neighbors, being our brother's and sister's keeper and dignity for all" and "has stood up for Christian principles." Many Christians would disagree with that sentiment, angry that Obama has supported Muslim and gay agenda items more often then Christian goals. However, the fact remains that gays-- a generally wealthier constituent (because of far fewer children costs)-- support Obama and his gay marriage drive in droves. See Chick's SIN CITY.

Tennessee Puts Brakes on Sexual Activism in Class

Tennessee teachers can no longer condone so-called "gateway sexual activity" such as touching genitals under a new law that critics say is too vague and could hamper discussion about safe sexual behavior.

Governor Bill Haslam's office Friday confirmed that he had signed the bill, which stirred up controversy nationwide and was lampooned by liberal comedians like Stephen Colbert.

But proponents say the new law helps define the existing abstinence-only sex-education policy.

Under the law, Tennessee teachers could be disciplined and speakers from outside groups like Planned Parenthood could face fines of up to $500 for promoting or condoning "gateway sexual activities."

David Fowler, president of the Family Action Council of Tennessee, which pushed the bill, said it does not ban kissing or holding hands from discussion in sex ed classes. But he said it addresses the touching of certain "gateway body parts," including genitals, buttocks, breasts and the inner thigh.

It is unclear from the bill's wording whether Tennessee teachers could promote masturbation.

The bill sailed through the legislative session, passing the Senate 28-1 and the House 68-23.

Fowler said the new law was authored in part because of incidents in which teachers were instructing about alternate sexual practices as ways to have gratification without risking pregnancy, according to Fowler.

He said one such incident involved a Nashville high school teacher who was encouraging girls to give boys oral sex in order to get a condom on them.

Fowler also pointed to a Planned Parenthood-organized program at a school in Knoxville, where students were directed to a web site "that actually lists as possible methods of birth control things like oral sex and anal sex play that I think most Tennesseans would find inappropriate."

Lyndsey Godwin, manager of education and training for Planned Parenthood, said the idea that her group was encouraging such behavior was "utterly false." She said that while Planned Parenthood educators may answer a student's question by agreeing that anal and oral sex don't lead to pregnancy, they also emphasize the disease risks.

Godwin said Planned Parenthood supports the state's abstinence-centered policy, but the reality is not everyone can be abstinent. She said that being able to address issues of condom use, contraception and answer questions about sexual behaviors to educate students are essential to her group's role. See Chick's BABY TALK.

Wednesday, May 09, 2012

Prisoner/ Rastafarian Closes In On Obama in W. Virgina

Keith Judd, a self described Rastafarian and musician who is serving a 17 1/2-year prison sentence for extortion at the Federal Correctional Institution in Texarkana, Texas, took 41 percent of the vote in West Virginia's Democratic primary Tuesday night — 72,000 votes to President Barack Obama's 106,000. He would qualify for convention delegates, if anyone had signed up to be a Judd delegate. (No one did.)
How did Judd get so many votes?
It's likely not his past careers as a superhero and religious leader. Or his passionate FEC report ramblings. Simply put, West Virginia does not like Obama.
"I voted against Obama," a 43-year-old electrician named Ronnie Brown told the Associated Press. His daughter planned to vote for Judd, too, until she found out he was in prison. "I just want to vote against Barack Obama," she said.
Democrats outnumber Republicans in the state. West Virginia regularly votes in Democratic officials at the state level (its governor and all of its statewide elected officials are Democrats) and narrowly supported Bill Clinton in 1996. But the very rural state has never warmed to the current White House occupant.
"President Obama has no strong political allies in this state. A couple leading Democrats grudgingly support Obama, but say that only when they are asked," said West Virginia radio host Hoppy Kercheval. "Several are openly hostile to him."
Obama, not surprisingly, rarely visits the state.
The president angered voters with new Environmental Protection Agency policies, which some see as a "war on coal" and have stalled mining permits for the state's coal mining industry. Both Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin, a Democrat, and Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., have clashed with Obama on the issue, and neither has committed to supporting him in the fall.
"In talking to many West Virginians, they do recognize and realize that the president is working very hard to help working families across the country and in this state," said state Democratic Party Chairman Larry Puccio. "It's just that coal plays such a major role in West Virginia and folks are frustrated with this administration's position."
In the latest state-by-state Gallup poll, Obama's approval rating in West Virginia was 32.7 percent. A recent poll gave former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney a 17-point lead over Obama in the state.
But Obama was unpopular in West Virginia before he took office.
In the 2008 Democratic primary, Obama lost West Virginia to Hillary Clinton by 41 points — even though her campaign was all but over.
In the fall, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., beat Obama in the state by 13 points.
Obama wasn't likely to win West Virginia's five electoral votes this fall before last night — and the Judd result confirms he has almost no chance of carrying the state in November.
Potentially more interesting are the results from North Carolina, where 20 percent of Democratic primary voters chose "no preference" over the president. There's a chance more rural Democrats turned out to vote against gay marriage and skewed the results. But Romney didn't do so well in the battleground state either; he won only 66 percent of Republican primary voters.
Obama also fared poorly in Oklahoma's primary earlier this year, taking only 57 percent of the Democratic primary vote. Anti-abortion activist Randall Terry took 18 percent. See Chick's FRAMED.

Obama "comes out" on gay marriage

After seeing North Caroline outlaw gay marriage by a landslide on Tuesday, Barack Obama on Wednesday became the first sitting president to announce his support for same-sex marriage.
In a sit-down interview with ABC's Robin Roberts, Obama completed what has been a markedly long and oft-mocked evolution on the matter.
"I've always been adamant that gay and lesbian Americans should be treated fairly and equally," Obama told Roberts, in an interview that will air in full on ABC's "Good Morning America" Thursday.
"I have to tell you that over the course of several years as I have talked to friends and family and neighbors when I think about members of my own staff who are in incredibly committed monogamous relationships, same-sex relationships, who are raising kids together, when I think about those soldiers or airmen or marines or sailors who are out there fighting on my behalf and yet feel constrained, even now that Don't Ask Don't Tell is gone, because they are not able to commit themselves in a marriage, at a certain point I’ve just concluded that for me personally it is important for me to go ahead and affirm that I think same sex couples should be able to get married," he said.
The statement constitutes an act of political flip flopping on the president's behalf, as well as a major victory for the gay rights community, which has been pushing him to declare his support for marriage equality for several years. Their threat to without campaign funds during his election seemed to have the desired effect. And then Biden's gaff pushed the matter even further.
On Sunday, Vice President Joseph Biden told NBC's "Meet The Press" that he was personally comfortable with same-sex marriage, which was followed the next day by Education Secretary Arne Duncan saying the same.
The White House insisted that there was no daylight between the vice president's position and the president's, noting that Biden clarified his statement as being in reference to civil rights for gay couples. But the explanation was largely dismissed by both supporters and critics as a convenient way for the president to signal support for marriage equality without having to declare it himself.
On Tuesday evening, the state of North Carolina passed an amendment that defined marriage as a union between a man and a woman. The president expressed his disappointment with the measure, but it remained difficult to square his opposition to a measure outlawing same-sex marriage with his opposition to same-sex marriage itself. Obama fears he'll lose Christian (and especially black church) votes by declaring his controversial support of an anti-Biblical practice.
Already the Obama administration's Department of Justice has stopped defending the constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which defines marriage as a legal union between a man and a woman. Legislation to overturn DOMA outright would likely be blocked by congressional Republicans.
See Chick's THE GAY BLADE.