Space Rocks Contain
by Chuck Shepherd
sources: Edmonton Journal; Ottawa Citizen
August 15, 1994
Ottawa biologist David Brez Carlisle told a meeting of geologists in Waterloo, Ontario, that the exotic amino acids found in several rocks from space, which are considered evidence that extraterrestrial life exists, are not what they seem.
Carlisle said that the space rocks he has examined contain not the exotic amino acids but flakes of human dandruff, which have a similar chemical makeup to the amino acids. Carlisle said he knows a lot about dandruff because he has a lifelong, severe case.
Books on Dark Ages,
by Cliff Walker
The West Valley School District in Kalispell, Montana, must pay $35,000 to the library aide it fired for lending her personal books to two seventh-grade students.
The girls were doing research on witchcraft and the Middle Ages and had no luck finding helpful titles in the library. Debbie Denzer offered books from her home -- two academically respected volumes on the occult and women in history.
The girls' Christian parents complained to school authorities, and the school sacked the librarian for "exposing the students to Satanism and feminism."
Catholic Charities Admits
by Conrad Goeringer
September 23, 1996
Religious partisans have often argued that "faith based charity" is proof of the good work done by churches. But increasingly, religious charity has turned out to be a government (i.e. taxpayer) funded program which churches often take credit for. That fact was underscored in a new report released yesterday during the annual gathering of Catholic Charities USA, described as "the nation's largest network of independent social service organizations."
Even the president of the group, Rev. Fred Kammer, admitted that "While Catholic organizations should be commended for spearheading the development of housing, let's remember that partnership with the private sector and government at all levels make most of these projects possible." The report admitted, for instance, that of the 47,594 housing units built by church affiliated outreaches, 47% were "assisted" by monies from the Department of Housing and Urban Development. Other revelations include:
The percentage figures may actually be higher, though. Catholic Charities has admitted that over 63% of its revenues come from government grants, not the crumpled dollars bills deposited in Sunday's collection plate. It becomes nearly impossible to trace some of the money flowing through "faith based" charities, especially since it often originates in so-called Community Development Block Grants where public funds are turned over to private (often religious) social service groups.
The involvement of religious group in the administration and creation of social service projects will probably grow in the near future, in part due to the Welfare Reform Act. That legislation included a provision known as the "charitable choice clause" that allows individual states "to contract with religious organizations" to provide welfare services. Rev. Stephen Burger, executive director of the International Union of Gospel Missions, a coalition of 245 different "faith-based" missions, told USA TODAY earlier this month that the plan was a good idea.
"By agreeing to this welfare-reform plan, Congress and President Clinton are finally acknowledging our success in transforming lives by providing the type of help the government does not, and cannot, provide -- spritual guidance."
"Material" and "Spiritual" Help
One problem with government subsidies for "faith based" charity (a favorite slogan of Christian Coalition Director Ralph Reed) has been the intrusion of religious ritual into those taxpayer-funded social programs. Religious groups gain considerable notoriety for "their" charitable works which are, in reality, funded by the public. And religious proselytization is often a feature of such "faith based" projects. Rev. Burger, for instance, points out one shelter known as Harvest Home which provides shelter, food and clothing to homeless women and children. "It also provides rehabilitative services that include education classes, life-skills training and Bible study."
The Welfare Reform Act -- until challenged in court -- will make it easier for government funds to flow into the coffers of religious groups, minus the traditional caveates about state-church separation. Meanwhile, the public will continue to subsidize a reputation enjoyed by religious groups that their "charitable" outreaches are beneficial to society.
Aid to Church
by Conrad Goeringer
May 12, 1996
When a fire destroyed a Mormon seminary building in West Jordan, Utah last Wednesday, local School District Officials promptly offered the 1,500 theology students temporary use of the West Jordan High School. And that action has now brought opposition from American Atheists and its parent organization, the Society of Separationists.
According to Utah State AA Director Chris Allen, government officials had no business in making the public facility available for a religious exercise. He quoted the Utah Constitution, which clearly states that: "Religious classes shall not be held in school buildings or on school property in any way that permits public money or property to be applied to, or that requires public employees to be entangled with, any religious worship, exercise, or instruction."
Allen's statement, released immediately after the actions of District officials were uncovered, sent state officials running for cover. A lawyer for the State Office of Higher Education told the news media that there was nothing to worry about. Doug Bates insisted that "It's not illegal as long as it's a temporary accommodation." But Allen countered: "State officials are consciously trying to circumvent the law because they're only doing it for a day or two. It's indicative of their respect for the law regarding church and state regulation. They'll look for any excuse to get around it."
Allen, a frequent critic of state-church entanglement in the Mormon-dominated state, was once again successful. By Thursday, LDS officials caved in, and began busing their seminary students 10 blocks to a church facility.
|Christian Group Says
LDS Is Polytheistic
Mormon Student Loses
Christian Athlete Award
by Conrad Goeringer
May 12, 1996
Despite all the trendy talk about religious ecumenism and the positive role religious ideology plays, there's still plenty of infighting over which "god" happens to top all others. The latest victim in the squabble is a Franklin, Tennessee high school athlete named Aaron Walker, who was named as his high school's Male Christian Athlete of the Year.
But now, the organization which hands out the honor is refusing to recognize the 18-year-old graduating senior at its annual banquet.
Walker is a member of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, a nationwide evangelical organization with over 5,000 chapters called "huddles" in high schools throughout the country. The group describes itself as interdenominational, and insists that its focus "has always been on the person of Jesus Christ and not on traditions or denominational labels." Even so, FCA now refused to recognize Walker's achievement because he is a member of the Mormon (LDS) Church.
A spokesman for FCA told the news media "We believe there is one God, eternally existent in three persons, whereas the teachings of the church (sic) of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints believe in a polytheistic view in which there are many gods."
Fellowship of Christian Athletes was organized in 1954 by a group of Pittsburgh businessmen. Beginning in 1956, the group held summer camps which mixed athletic events with religious instructions. It now boasts 320 staff members, and has some 250,000 school athletes and coaches as members. A statement from FCA declares that "To further focus the ministry, we have determined that the junior and senior high schools and college campuses in the U.S. provide the best arena to reach coaches and athletes. Every sanctioned FCA Huddle will be identified with either a junior or senior high or a college/university."
The Problematic Status of the LDS
The incident between a member of the Mormon Church and a "mainstream" Christian evangelical group merely highlights the problematic status of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. LDS is an authentic American phenomenon, based on the teachings of Joseph Smith (1805-1844). Smith claimed that he began to have "visions" at the age of 15 informing him that the "true religion" had vanished from the earth and that he had been selected to re-establish it. What followed, in the opinion of critics, was a life filled with either duplicitous manipulation or credulous followers, or hallucinatory rantings -- or perhaps a combination of both. In September of 1827, Smith claimed that he had received instructions from an angel written on golden tablets. These supposedly revealed a secret history of the "true church" in America. As a child, Smith was known as to be highly imaginative, and was fascinated by folk tales and speculation concerning lost civilizations and invisible entities.
In 1830, the Book of Mormon was published, and Smith established a small congregation which he then moved to Ohio in 1831, then to Missouri seven years later. Eventually, the sect ended up in Commerce, Illinois, where Smith and his select advisers governed the religious colony with a heavy hand. Mormon practices like polygamy soon attracted hostility from neighbors, and following a schism within the cult, Smith was arrested and jailed by non-Mormons in Carthage, Illinois and was later shot by vigilantes.
One of Smith's sons opposed the teaching on polygamy, and established a Reorganized Church of Latter Day Saints. Meanwhile, Smith sidekick Brigham Young (1801-1877) became head of the Mormon sect, and eventually oversaw the migration of Church members to the Great Salt Lake Valley in Utah.
Young's own talent for organizational genius and despotism made him the first governor of the Territory (1849-1857); but Mormon teaching eventually collided with cultural sensibilities over the issue of polygamy. The Church finally "changed" its doctrinal view in order to bring Utah into the United States.
While Mormon teaching accepted the divinity of the Judaean messiah, it told a tale about the exploits of Jesus in "the new world." Today, Mormons promote their Book of Mormon as "another testament" to be accepted along with the Old and New Testament writings of mainstream, Christian religions. As a result, and because of other bizarre church doctrines, theologians outside of the Mormon church often consider the LDS a strange sect which is "not entirely" Christian.
In Utah, the LDS has built up enormous financial holdings and considerable political power. Mormon legislators often act as "mouthpieces" for the LDS on political issues. It has been estimated that the Mormon Church is the wealthiest religious organization throughout the entire Rocky Mountain region.
It is also one of the fastest growing religions, with over 6,000,000 members, and has active outreaches across the world, and particularly in Latin America. There, the Roman Catholic Church, which for centuries has enjoyed a near-monopoly on religious belief and government sanction, considers the LDS an upstart, "new religion."
Politically, the Church reflects a social conservatism which echoes much of the fundamentalist or evangelical Protestant new right agenda. It also agrees with religions like Catholicism in its support for an across the board ban on abortion. And while Mormon luminaries like Utah Senator Orrin Hatch are considered reliable allies of the Christian Coalition, many evangelicals -- including the Fellowship of Christian Athletes -- still have serious doctrinal problems with Mormonism and its members.
by Conrad Goeringer
October 22, 1996
It is no longer just a small band of nutty fundamentalist who are worried about scientific inquiries into the origins of life and human society. For decades, especially in the United States, Christian literalists who believe in the infallibility and literal truth of biblical stories of how the universe and life came into existence, have been fighting a determined, rear-guard action against the growing body of evidence mustered by evolutionary biologists, anthropologists and other scientists. While so-called "scientific creationism" has not been accepted by the bulk of the scientific community, it has managed to captivate the interest of certain religious leaders -- and a shockingly high percentage of the American population -- who reject the thesis that life as we know it today arose from less complex biological forms through a process of evolution.
In school board elections and political contests, creationists have demanded that schools teach evolution as "just another theory," include creationist materials in the science curriculum, or do away with any hint of evolution altogether.
But there is growing evidence that "scientific creationism," a view designed to support the fundamentalist religious view based on a literal interpretation of biblical texts such as Genesis, reflects a wider revolt against scientific method and intellectual inquiry going on throughout global society. Ethnic and tribal jingoism now threaten archeological investigations; increasingly, certain groups see scientific excavation of burial sites as a threat to religious or mystical beliefs, and a "desecration."
Orthodox religious leaders also talk about overhauling the nation's Antiquity Law. One proposal would mandate that any bones discovered by scientists be turned over to the Ministry of Religious Affairs for immediate burial. The Director of Hebrew University's respected Archaeological Institute has described the new proposals as "absurd," and warns the implementing such regulations would "put an end to any serious anthropological study" in the country.
But Israel is not the only place where religious and ethnic nationalism are beginning to interfere with scientific inquiry into human origins ...
Johnson observes that "In case after case, Indian creationism is being used to forbid the study of prehistoric skeletons so old that it would be impossible to establish a direct tribal affiliation." He notes that under the repatriation act enacted by Congress in 1990, "who gets the bones is often determined not by scientific inquiry but by negotiation between local tribes and the federal agencies that administer the land where the remains are found."
The article notes that "American Indian creationism, which rejects the theory of evolution and other scientific explanations of human origins in favor of the Indian's own religious beliefs, has been steadily gaining in political momentum." Dr. Clement Meighan of the University of California observed that present-day archeology was threatened by a "strong anti-intellectual undercurrent."
Findings in Paleo-American archeology are increasingly at odds with traditional native American Indian beliefs, including the creation mythology that their ancestors have always lived on the continent. But part of the resentment stems from years of abuse when bones and other artifacts were routinely looted by museums, scientists and collectors from burial sites without permission of the residents. The issue of ancestral remains quickly becomes linked to other issues as well, from economic exploitation to government policies on land use.
Both sides may end up losing if creation mythology steam rolls into a powerful political tool used by ethnic groups. Whether it is Jewish or Native American burial sites, or promoting ethnic pseudoscience and bogus historical revisionism, closing off the treasures of the past to open and rigorous scientific inquiry may prove an obstacle to someday knowing more about our common ancestral heritage.