Popehat's new First Amendment law-podcast is great!

Make No Law is a just-launched podcast hosted by Ken "Popehat" White (previously), a former Federal prosecutor who writes some of the best, most incisive legal commentary on the web; the first episode deals with the oft-cited, badly misunderstood "fighting words" doctrine and its weird history in the religious prosecution of Jehovah's Witnesses (my sole complaint is that he didn't work in E. Gary Gygax). Read the rest

Baptist News: Evangelicals have killed Christianity in America

Writing in the Baptist News, Miguel De La Torre -- a progressive professor at Denver's Iliff School of Theology -- denounces evangelicals who "forgive" Trump for his myriad sins and support child-molesters like Roy Moore, saying that they embrace a faith that "fuses and confuses white supremacy with salvation." Read the rest

God told judge to tell jury that defendant should not be convicted, so he did

In New Braunfels, Texas, State District Judge Jack Robison walked into the jury room, twice, during deliberation in a teen sex trafficking case and told the jurors that the defendant shouldn't be convicted. Why? Because God told him to.

"He said he had thought it over and prayed on it and that God told him that he had to say this," said Mark A. House, jury foreman in the weeklong trial of Gloria Romero Perez that concluded Jan. 12.

Robison, a veteran jurist who presides in the 207th district that covers Comal and Hays counties, quickly informed the state and defense counsel of his conduct and recused himself from the punishment phase of the trial.

"It's probably the most unusual thing I've experienced in 20 years as an attorney," said Sylvia A. Cavazos, who represented Perez. "Judge Robison apologized in open court to the jury, saying something to the effect that 'I apologize but, if God tells me to do something, I have to do it...'"

Cavazos contends Perez should receive a new trial because of Robison's actions, but she noted, "The DA's position was (no retrial should occur because) he encouraged them to find her not guilty, and the jury had already reached their verdict, and he didn't change their minds."

House has filed a complaint against Robison with the state judicial authorities.

"Judge facing complaints over trying to sway jury" (San Antonio Express-News) Read the rest

Incredible! Face of Christ in a spiral

Claude Mellan's copper engraving "Face of Christ" (1649) consists of a single line starting at the tip of the nose and spiraling out with varying thickness to create the image. The copper plate is approximately 17" x 12.5". From ArtGallery.nsw:

Starting with the tip of his burin in the centre of the plate, Mellan pushed the tool forward while simultaneously rotating the copper plate with his free hand in an anti- clockwise direction to create a near perfect spiral. Today, the original copper plate for Mellan’s print is in the collection of the Bibliothèque royale in Brussels.

(via @pickover)

Read the rest

Evangelical congregation gives pastor standing ovation for admitting he raped a high-schooler

Andy Savage is one of the powerful, wealthy evangelical clerics implicated in the #churchtoo movement, in which congregants are disclosing the sexual assaults and harassment they experienced at the hands of faith leaders. Read the rest

Iran's mass protests were triggered by publication of a budget that revealed the costs of Shia evangelism

For more than a month, Iran has been rocked by mass demonstrations in its major and outlying cities, but the origin of these protests has been obscure. Read the rest

What's the story behind airport chapels?

Over the years, I've peeked into airport chapels and never seen a single person inside. Yet 16 of the country's 20 biggest airports have them. Above is the first example of such a space in the US, Our Lady of the Airways Chapel in Boston's Logan Airport, built in 1951 for airport employees. Wendy Cadge, a sociologist of religion at Brandeis University, has studied these sacred spaces. "Often, it is local, historical and demographic factors, including the religious composition of the region, that influence decisions" about why they're created and how they're used, she writes. From Smithsonian:

By the 1990s and 2000s, single faith chapels had become a “dying breed.” Most started to welcome people from all religions. And many were transformed into spaces for reflection, or meditation for weary travelers.

The chapel at San Francisco International Airport, for example, known as the Berman Reflection Room for Jewish philanthropist Henry Berman who was a former president of the San Francisco Airport Commission, looks like a quiet waiting room filled with plants and lines of connected chairs. A small enclosed space without any religious symbols or obvious connections to things religious or spiritual is available for services...

Certain airports such as Chicago’s O’Hare have strict rules regarding impromptu religious gatherings whether inside the chapel or out. Some use their public address systems to announce religious services. Others prohibit such announcements and do not even allow airport chaplains to put out any signs that could indicate a religious space.

"A Brief History of Airport Chapels" (Smithsonian)

(image: Randall Armor, CC BY-NC-ND) Read the rest

Woman who accused Roy Moore is homeless after her house burned down, fire investigated as arson

Tina Johnson accused Roy Moore of sexually assualting her in 1991, when she was 28, making her a rare adult to be preyed upon by the delusional pedophile mall-crawler. Read the rest

Tehran's police tell women that violations of religious dress codes will henceforth be treated as civil offenses, not criminal offenses

Iranian president Hassan Rouhani campaigned for re-election last year on a reform platform, and in the wake of his successful campaign, the police in the Iranian capital of Tehran have notified women that failures to adhere to the country's brutal religious dress-code will be treated as civil offenses and punished with fines, not jail sentences. Read the rest

Survey of top U.S. evangelical churches reveals "three explosive insights"

Church Clarity set out to report the policies and structure of America's churches, a project doomed to anger them. It results in "three explosive insights," which are fairly easy to guess: evangelical churches are universally hostile to LBGTQ people, 93% are led by white pastors, and 99% by men.

“Part of the reason we chose to release this now is because the New Year is a time when people decide to reengage with religion by attending church,” said Church Clarity’s co-founder Tim Schraeder. “As people of faith commit to new resolutions, we wanted to set them up for success by helping them make the most informed decision.”

Church Clarity’s leaders added that their decision to analyze race and gender in addition to sexuality also hints at the organization’s expanding mission. In the future, they plan to also report on race and gender inclusion among church leadership. So this is not the first time Church Clarity has created a stir, and neither will it be the last.

Read the rest

After priest/child rape scandal, Australian Archbishop says he'll ask the Pope to allow priests to have sex

As a Royal Commission in Australia wraps up its investigation into decades of rape by priests (especially rape of children), and decades of Church officials obstructing investigation into the rape, Melbourne Archbishop Denis Hart says he'll ask the Pope to change the rules so that celibacy for priests is voluntary, not mandatory. Read the rest

Religious fanatics go to the Supreme Court for the First Amendment right to trick women into bearing unwanted children

"Crisis Pregnancy Centers" are fake abortion clinics run by religious fanatics who use online fraud to get them to the top of the search results in order to lure women seeking abortions to visiting a place they believe to be an abortion clinic, but which is really a religious mission where the people pretending to be medical professionals dispense misinformation about the medical risks of abortion, then apply high-pressure sales tactics to bully and trick women into carrying unwanted pregnancies to term. Read the rest

Roy Moore is still in the running because "values voters" would support Satan himself if he was anti-abortion and homophobic

The term "values voter" is taken to mean someone who votes for politicians on the basis of their personal integrity and values; in reality, polls and studies show that evangelicals who identify as "values voters" support candidates they know to be repugnant or even monstrous, if they believe that those politicians will promise to take away abortion rights and persecute queers. Read the rest

Roy Moore's scandal is just the tip of American evangelical Christianity's child bride problem

When Alabama GOP Senate nominee Roy Moore was accused of sexually molesting children as young as 14, his fellow hardcore evangelicals shrugged at the scandal -- it was "common knowledge" that Moore had a fondness for young teens. Read the rest

Trumpists and evangelicals make apologies for GOP Senate nominee accused of sexually assaulting teen girls

Ray Moore is the ultra-conservative, racist, corrupt, homophobic, theocratic evangelical Christian Alabama Republican Senate nominee who was outed for repeatedly sexually assaulting girls as young as 14. Read the rest

Republican lawmaker Doug Cox tricked legislature into exempting "Christian" forced-labor camps from regulation

Christian Alcoholics & Addicts in Recovery is a scandal-haunted forced-labor program that addicted convicts in Oklahoma were diverted to; they were put into back-breaking, unsafe labor for long hours with little or no pay and no care or compensation when they were maimed on the job. Rather than meaningful addiction counseling, prisoners were directed to pray and work. Read the rest

Crowdfunding a Church of the Subgenius alien contact beam

Destinyland writes, "The Church of the Subgenius has moved online. (Founded in 1979, the 38-year-old parody religion combines UFOs and conspiracy theories with some social commentary and a few H.P. Lovecraft characters.) Their official Facebook page is now touting a new video channel on YouTube -- and in 'Adventures in the Forbidden Sciences,' former church CEO K'taden Legume makes a big announcement." Read the rest

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