Monday, 18 February 2019

Christian Insist on Her Right To Deny Rights to Others

Christian-Owned Tax Service in Indiana Won’t File Lesbian Couple’s Joint Return | Hemant Mehta | Friendly Atheist | Patheos

The latest example of a Christian demanding the right of decide what rights others should have comes to us from Russiaville, Indiana, USA, where Christians discriminating against victims of their choice is perfectly legal.

The Christian in question is Nancy Fivecoate, of Carter Tax Service with whom Bailey Brazzel had always had good, professional relations, having used her services for a number of years.

However, when Bailey and her newly married partner, Samantha requested help filing their joint tax return for the first time since getting married in July, Fivecoate refused, using her Christian faith as an excuse. In her words:

I am a Christian and I believe marriage is between one man and one woman. I was very respectful to them. I told them where I thought she might be able to get her taxes prepared.

A 'respect' which apparently extended to discriminating against them on the grounds that she didn't personally approve of their sexuality and choice of partners, then lecturing Bailey and Samantha about the Bible, assuming they needed her to explain why their perfectly legal arrangement offended her sense of indignant self-righteousness so should not be permitted. So surprising was her arrogant condescension that the couple at first assumed she was joking, maybe parodying an extreme religious bigot for comic effect. Alas, she was being serious.

Fivecoate further explained:

The LGBT want respect for their beliefs, which I give them [sic]. I did not say anything about their lifestyle. That’s their choice. It is not my choice. Where is their respect for my beliefs?

Apparently, Fivecoate's idea of showing respect for her is to allow her to discriminate against and bully anyone of her choosing, and not question her right to do so.

One wonders whether Fivecoat inquires into the life-style of heterosexual couples for whom she provides services, and requires them to comply with her religion in all respects, including not judging others or showing evidence of hypocrisy, or whether she reserves her discrimination only for those who extend Christian love to people of the same sex.

The shame is that Fivecoate's discrimination would be illegal in the nearby cities of Kokomo and Indianapolis where there are ordinances in place to restrict the right of bigots to inflict their judgmental bigotry on others. This means there is very little BAiley and SAmantha can do in terms of recourse to law, however, Steve Sanders, an associate professor of law at Indiana University’s Maurer School of Law gives this advice:

The only recourse is good-old fashioned shaming — going on Facebook and telling their friends this is a discriminatory business and people might want to think twice about visiting.

Although Fivecoate and her Carter Tax Service has little in the way of presence in the social media, recommendations or otherwise for people looking for tax services in Indiana, USA can be left here. It will be interesting to see whether her high Christian principles and belief in her right to judge and bully others, survives the loss of income that might come from people declining to be judged and given lectures on morality and the Bible in return for paying her for her tax services.

Thursday, 14 February 2019

A Small Fish Refutes Religious Dogma

Blue streaked cleaner wrasse (Labroides dimidiatus)
Mirror test in Japanese study suggests self-awareness in fish, raising questions about animal intelligence | The Japan Times

It's been a long time now since we began to realise that humans are not the only intelligent species. Astonishingly though, we still find creationists and even sane mainstream Christians citing the 'uniqueness' of human intelligence and consciousness as evidence that humans were specially created, separate from other animals, so can't possibly share a common ancestor with them.

First, we discovered that chimpanzees could recognise themselves in a mirror, and Jane Goodall famously saw then fashioning tools from sticks. Hardly surprising given that they are our nearest evolutionary relatives. Over the years, more and more animals have been added to the list of intelligent, even tool-making species. The list now includes dolphins, elephants, different crow species, pigeons even ants, and manta rays have displayed unusual behaviour in front of mirrors.

Dolphins will even have sex in front of a mirror apparently for the fun of watching themselves do it, so there is no doubt that they recognise themselves and their partners.

Wednesday, 13 February 2019

Evolution Confirmed Without Even Trying Again

The human (left) and chimpanzee (right) brain organoids contain multiple types of neural stem cells (red and green) and mature brain cells (magenta and cyan), mimicking the development of real human and chimpanzee brains. (Scale bar 100 micrometers).

Credit: Pollen and Kriegstein Labs / UCSF
Chimpanzee 'mini-brains' hint at secrets of human evolution

Here's another one of those examples of where scientists don't set out to prove evolution and refute creationism, but they do anyway, quite incidentally, just by showing the facts.

They do it because the facts support evolution and so refute creation and any other wack-a-doodle rival notions about the diversity of living organisms from common origins. In this case, researchers were trying to explain what happened in human evolution that led to the increase in our brain size. This increase led to the evolution of the ability to learn and reason, to communicate and use language, and eventually to evolve group ethics and social systems. The rest is history, as they say.

Thursday, 7 February 2019

Catholic Abuse News - Texas Abusers Named

Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo,
Archbishop of Galveston-Houston and President of US Conference of Catholic Bishops
Hundreds of accused abusers named by Catholic leaders in Texas | NBC News via Associate Press.

According to Associated Press, the Catholic Church has released the names of 286 Catholic priests who have credibly been accused of the sexual abuse of children in Texas since 1950. Of these 286, 172 have since died.

This is the largest US state-based cohort of abusers since the 300 predatory priests named by the Pennsylvania Grand Jury report last August, although this Pennsylvania tally is likely to be dwarfed by Illinois where the attorney general reported last month that at least 500 Catholic clergy has sexually abused children.

The Texas list brings the total named by the 50 US Catholic diocese so far the report to 1,250. A further 30 diocese are yet to report so a final tally of around 2000 is to be expected. If Pennsylvania, where about 300 priests abused about 1000 children between them, is typical, this figure of 2000 predatory priests probably represents some 6-7,000 childhood victims of the priests and those who facilitated their abuses by covering them up.

This release of names by Texas diocese comes ahead of the three-day crisis Conference of Catholic Bishops called by Pope Francis for 21 February, to develop a protocol for the church heirarchy to use to investigate complaints. This crisis summit is likely to be attended by Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo, Archbishop of Galveston-Houston, Texas, and president of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops.

The Texas list was drawn up by police and federal investigators who reviewed church files and other records of complaints to assess their credibility. What is not clear is how many of these investigations by law enforcement agents will now result in prosecutions. A spokesman for the Texas attorney general confirmed that, while they stood ready to assist local law enforcement and district attorneys that asked for help in removing these threats and protecting children from theses predatory priests, no such request have yet been received.

What a mere list of names, drawn from records held by the church doesn't shed any light on, is who therefore knew of the predatory activities of these priests but did nothing to protect their victims and bring the criminals to justice.

It appears that the policy of the blind eye and cover-up was the norm throughout Texas as elsewhere.

Wednesday, 6 February 2019

Catholic Abuse News - Pope Admits Clerical Abuse of Nuns

Pope admits clerical abuse of nuns including sexual slavery - BBC News

The Pope has at last admitted what has long been known - that in addition to children and vulnerable adults, priests often use nuns for sexual gratification. In fact, of course, to a sexually abusive cleric, nuns are merely a sub-group of vulnerable people.

This admission was made to reporters during the Pope's recent visit to the Middle East when he admitted the Catholic Church has a general problem having its roots in 'seeing women as second class' - which of course fully accords with the treatment of women in the Bible and something taken for granted by the Christian church for centuries, until very recently.

The Catholic Women's section in L'Osservatore Romao (Women and Church) is even alleging that nuns have been forced to have abortions

Thursday, 31 January 2019

Evolution in Progress - Eurasian Blackcap

Male Blackcap, Sylvia atricapilla
It's nice to be able to report on a recently-observed example of behavioural change in one of Britain's more tuneful warblers - the Eurasian blackcap - brought about by human activity.

When I was young, a popular ornithology trivia question was, what is the only resident British warbler? 'Resident' meaning non-migratory and remaining in Britain all year round.
The answer, found after hours of searching though my bird books, was the Dartford warbler, a very pretty little warbler found in southern England and believed to then be the only warbler to over-winter here.

That's now changed. As I witnessed last winter with one regularly coming to feed in our garden, and again a few days ago when I saw and heard one singing in a tree in my sister-in-law's garden, an increasing number of Blackcaps are now resident in Britain throughout winter, at least in Oxfordshire. There have also been numerous reports from other parts of the UK. This has led scientists to speculate that this could be the beginning of a speciation as the two populations become reproductively isolated.

Monday, 21 January 2019

Catholic Abuse News - Covington Cases

Nick Sandmann and other Trump-supporting Covington Catholic High School students taunt and abuse an Elder of the Omaha Nation
The Diocese Of Covington, Kentucky Paid $120M To Settle Priest Sex Abuse Claims | The Intellectualist.

With the controversy over privileged white students from a private Catholic school in Covington, Kentucky, USA, donning MAGA hats and taunting Native Americans with racists abuse at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington DC, it's worth taking a look at the moral values of the Catholic Church in the Diocese of Covington that is teaching them.

Saturday, 19 January 2019

Christian Subversion Update - Mississippi Missionary Baptists

State Rep. Credell Calhoun, D-Jackson, introduced House Bill 427, which would violate the Establishment Clause.
Photo credit: Mississippi House of Representatives
Mississippi May Mandate Ten Commandments and Pledges to State, U.S. Flags in Schools | Jackson Free Press | Jackson, MS

American Christian fundamentalists are continuing their campaign to subvert the US Constitution, apparently in the belief that the Establishment Clause either doesn't or shouldn't apply to them. This time a concerted effort is being made in Mississippi to make the teaching of Christian dogma compulsory in public schools, to have Mississippi taxpayers pay for it and to impose fines for complying with the Constitution and Supreme Court Rulings forbidding it.

As the Jackson Free Press reports:

Thursday, 17 January 2019

Catholic Abuse News - Trust in the Clergy Hits a New Low

U.S. Catholics' Faith in Clergy Is Shaken

A recent Gallop poll has uncovered a huge decline in the perceived ethical standards of clergy in the USA, especially amongst Catholics.

In a survey conducted at the end of 2018, after the Pennsylvania Grand Jury report which found that over 300 priests had abused over 1000 children in 70 years in Pennsylvania alone, only 31% of Catholics believe the ethical standards of clergy (of all denominations) is high or very high. This compares with 49% just a year earlier. In 2008, it was more than double, at 68%.

Friday, 11 January 2019

Catholic Abuse News - The Nuns' Stories Updated

Sister Lucy Kalappura
Congregation threatens to dismiss “rebel” nun – Matters India

No sooner did I report on the promising, though uncharacteristic, response of the Catholic Church in India to the news of the arrest on rape charges of Bishop Franco Mulakkal of Jalandhar, than this update arrived in my 'to read' list. The response it seems is not quite what it first appeared to be.

The church seems now to have resorted to the time-honoured tactic of siding with the abuser, bullying the witnesses and ignoring and vilifying the victims.

Catholic Abuse News - The Nuns' Stories

Sister Josephine Villoonnickal, left, sister Alphy Pallasseril, center, and Sister Anupama Kelamangalathu, at St. Francis Mission Home, in Kuravilangad.
Credit: AP Photo/Manish Swarup
Nuns in India tell AP of enduring abuse in Catholic church

The sexual perk of choice for Catholic priests in Britain, Europe, North and South America, and Australia, is traditionally vulnerable children over whom they are able to exercise control, although nuns feature too, especially in places like Africa and Asia where many nuns come from a misogynistic, patriarchal and uneducated background.

In India, it seems, according to this AP News report, the choice for recreational sex for priests is nuns. Many Indian Catholic nuns come from a culture which reveres Catholic priests and in which a woman is expected to be servile and subservient.

Tuesday, 1 January 2019

Catholic Abuse News - Covering Their Backs

Cardinal O'Malley (left) and Cardinal Dolan
O’Malley Turns in Dolan for Abuse Cover-Up

The fall-out from the Pennsylvania Grand Jury report into sexual abuse of minors by Catholic priests, and their cover-up by bishops and cardinals, continues.

As more American States launch similar investigations, cardinals like Boston's Sean O'Malley have started to distance themselves from the scandal by turning other colleagues in, according to this Spanish language report in Religión Digital.

The president of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, Archbishop of Boston, Cardinal Seán O'Malley, has denounced his counterpart, Cardinal Timothy Dolan, Archbishop of New York, in a letter to the Papal nuncio in Washington for the cover-up of the crimes of the convicted pedophile priest, Donald Timone.

Friday, 21 December 2018

Catholic Abuse News - The Missionary Position

American Roman Catholic priest Rev. Kenneth Bernard Hendricks looks at documents after being arrested in a church in Naval town in the island province of Biliran, central Philippines.

Credit: Bureau of Immigration PIO via AP
American priest facing 'horrifying' sex abuse charges during his time as a missionary in Philippines | ABC News.

An American Catholic priest, Rev. Kenneth Hendricks, has been arrested in the Philippines and charged with sexually abusing young boys. He is now facing extradition to Ohio, USA where he is also under investigation for similar crimes in the state.

The case started when two Filipino boys came forward with allegations of abuse to local authorities, prompting an investigation. More boys have subsequently come forward with very similar stories. According to Ben Glassman, the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of Ohio, Ben Glassman:

Each of these victims got to know Father Hendricks through the course of his official work as a priest... he befriended them, he would invite them to his residence, often to take a bath or shower. That interaction would proceed to kissing... fondle their genitals... [and] ultimately have oral or anal sex with the victims... It is horrible, horrible abusive conduct. It is grooming children, young children who are interested in being involved in church activities and taking those kids and sexually abusing them.

Catholic Abuse News - At Least 500 More in Illinois

Archbishop Blase Cupich of Chicago. "Profound regret".
Investigation identifies 500 Catholic priests and clergy accused of sex abuse in Illinois - ABC News

Contrary to Pope Francis' protestations of regret and promises to root out and put a stop to paedophile and sexually abusive priests and the church's routine cover-up and facilitation, it continues unabated it seems, at least in the six Catholic diocese in the State of Illinois, USA, if the outgoing District Attorney General, Lisa Madigan is to be believed.

An investigation into sexual abuse by Catholic priest in the state of Illinois, launched last August following the shocking Pennsylvania Grand Jury report showing that 300 paedophile Catholic priests had abused over 1000 children, has already uncovered evidence that about 500 priests have had credible accusations of sexual abuse made against them although the Illinois dioceses have only named 185.

Thursday, 13 December 2018

Catholic Abuse News - Cardinal Pell "Convicted"

Cardinal Pell convicted of sexual abuse in Australia | Catholic News Agency

Despite a gagging order preventing any reporting of the trial, the Catholic News Agency (CNA) is reporting that Cardinal Pell has been convicted unanimously by an Australian court of the historical sexual abuse of two altar servers in the late 1990s when he was Archbishop of Melbourne.

This has not yet been confirmed by the Australian judiciary, which remains under the gagging order. The same source which reported this conviction the CNA is the same source which reported that a mistrial had been declared last October when the jury was deadlocked at 10-2 in Pell's favour.

The reason for the gagging order is that there is a second trial scheduled for early 2019 concerning allegations of other abuse of minors when he was a priest in Ballarat in the 1970s. The judge decided this trial might be influenced by the Melbourne trial making a fair trial impossible.

Cardinal Pell is the highest ranking Catholic cleric to stand trial on sex-abuse charges, being effectively number three in the Vatican, as prefect of the Holy See’s Secretariat for the Economy.

Christian Sexual Abuse News - Others Do It Too!

They were terrorized, trapped and even sexually abused. Now, these former members of independent fundamental Baptist churches share how their experiences will affect the rest of their lives.
Fundamental Baptist church pastors cover up sex abuse, rape | Fort Worth Star-Telegram

In the spirit of Christmas when Christians purport to feel goodwill to all, it seems only fair to Catholics to bring news that shows their priests, bishops and cardinals are not the only Christian clergy who take advantage of their position to sexually abuse children and vulnerable adults. As these two reports show, the clergy of other Christian churches do the same when the opportunity arises.

First, a report in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram revealing how the practice of sexually abusing vulnerable people by pastors in Independent Baptist churches is commonplace, as is the practice of cover-up and moving priests to other locations where they can continue abusing an unsuspecting congregation, just like the Catholic Church does:

Tuesday, 4 December 2018

Earliest Primates Were From North America

The unusual tooth sockets in UF specimen 333700 upended the hypothesis that Teilhardina brandti was a younger species in the genus. The sockets closely resemble those in Teilhardina asiatica, thought to be the most primitive Teilhardina species.

Credit: Florida Museum image by Paul Morse
Oldest-known ancestor of modern primates may have come from North America, not Asia – #FloridaMuseumScience

The earliest known primate may have come from North America!

But! Creationists should calm down! This is not another opportunity for a 'Nebraska Man'-style hoax*. It is from a time when Eurasia and North America were part of the same landmass about 56 million years ago. At that time, Earth was warm enough for palm trees to grow around the Arctic Circle.

This discovery by scientists from Florida University suggests the earliest known example of basal primates, a genus named Teilhardina did not come from Asia as was once thought. A detailed analysis of 163 teeth and jaw fragments recovered from Wyoming’s Bighorn Basin, showed that specimens found in North America which had been classified as Teilhardina asiatica were more primitive and were those of an earlier species, now named T. brandti.

Thursday, 29 November 2018

Malevolent Designer News - Getting Ready to Hit Back

Staphylococcus epidermidis
The potentially deadly bacterium that’s on everyone’s skin.

You may not have heard of Staphylococcus epidermidis but you have almost certainly heard of its close cousin, S. aureus, that in its antibiotic resistant form (MRSA) has become such a problem in hospitals, causing life-threatening infections in wound sites. Now, scientists have warned that S. epidermidis, an abundant, commensal bacterium on human skin, has the potential to become a serious health risk.

If you subscribe to the intelligent design notion, the only possible interpretation of this news is that a designer with malevolent intent has prepared for the eventuality of human medical science overcoming its current favourite harmful pathogens, like MRSA and Escherichia coli.

S. epidermidis is a close relative of S. aureus, the antibiotic-resistant form of which (MRSA) is a major health risk, especially in hospitals, following surgery. S. epidermidis is a normal, commensal bacterial species found on the skin of every human being. Normally, it is harmless but, in the right circumstances, it is also a serious health risk following surgery when it infects operation sites.

Saturday, 24 November 2018

Catholic Abuse News - Bash the Gays

Cardinal Müller. Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (2012-2017)
"Nobody told me!"
Catholic Cardinal: LGBTQ People Are to Blame for Sex Abuse Scandal

The latest senior Catholic cleric to jump on the bandwagon and join the growing tendency to externalise the child sex abuse scandal by blaming it all on others, is Cardinal Gerhard Müller.

Cardinal Müller is the former Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. In other words, the Pope's enforcer who job it is to make sure the church's dogma and Papal diktats are complied with. He joins a growing list of senior Catholics and Catholic apologists who have formed an alliance with the extreme right and are taking the opportunity to simultaneously try to dissociate the Catholic Church from culpability in the world-wide clerical sex abuse scandals and victimise and stigmatise the LGBT community.

Friday, 23 November 2018

Christianity News - Abusing the Gullible in South Korea

Lee Jae-rock. 15 years for "habitually" raping his followers.
South Korean Church Leader Sentenced to Prison in #MeToo Case - The New York Times

Continuing the tradition of Christian cult leaders exploiting the gullibility of their followers for sexual gratification, one such leader of a Christian cult in South Korea has been convicted of "habitually" raping his female followers and sentenced to 15 years in prison.

75 year-old Lee Jae-rock, who founded the mega-church, Manmin Central Church in Seoul, South Korea, has been the subject of allegations of corruption such as extortion, faud and sexal abuse for several years but it was only when the #MeToo movement caught on in South Korea that eight former members of his cult came forward with specific allegations. Some of them alleged that he had lured them to his apartment and ordered them to strip off "as Adam and Eve did in the Garden of Eden", then he raped them.
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