Crotchless Panties, Edible Undies, or Leather Thong:
What Would Jesus Wear?

Bishop Backs Panty Parties To Spread Church Message

from Telegraph

Evangelism and erotic underwear are rarely linked outside the tabloid newspapers. But a new book backed by a Church of England bishop urges Christians to spread the message to their friends and neighbours by hosting lingerie parties.

The book, Open the Door, argues that in an age when more people know their zodiac signs than the Ten Commandments, Christians have to use unconventional methods to reverse the decline in churchgoing.

It says: "What a tragedy that we are surrounded daily with television programmes, art, film and even real-life stories sold to magazines and newspapers that champion casual sex and pornography, yet as Christians we often have so little to say about it."

The book, produced by the charity Activate, which is primarily aimed at women, also recommends murder mystery evenings and "pamper" parties as ways to break the ice with non-churchgoers. Other opportunities to spread the faith include knitting groups and book clubs.

The Rev. Jan Harney, a Church of England cleric in Manchester who also works for Activate, said that she wanted Christians to relax, have fun and to get to know people before trying to convert them.

"I have not conducted a lingerie party myself, but when Bridget Jones was all the rage I know that some Christian groups were holding knickers parties," she said. "To be honest, I am not sure what happened at those. Nobody has told me.

"But I have held chocolate parties...I also like pamper parties, when we can enjoy a massage or a manicure or try beauty products. It is a way to get to know people who will never normally go near a church."

The Bishop of Bolton, the Rt Rev David Gillett, said: "They are the modern version of the Tupperware party and they are a natural way for women to meet. They can lead to a discussion of themes such as Adam and Eve and relations between people and God."

The bishop said that he was a devotee of the Big Brother television show because the issues that surfaced during the programme were often more real to ordinary people than those raised in church.

The PlayStation of the Christ

Sony Pulls 'Jesus' Advert for PlayStation

from Reuters

ROME - Sony has apologized for an advertising campaign for its PlayStation game console which featured a young man wearing a crown of thorns with the slogan "Ten years of passion."

Some Catholics were outraged by the adverts, which ran in newspapers and magazines to celebrate the product's tenth anniversary.

"This time they've gone too far," said Antonio Sciortino, editor of Famiglia Cristiana, a mass-circulation Catholic weekly. "If this had concerned Islam there would have been a really strong reaction."

In the Bible, Jesus was forced to wear a crown of thorns by mocking Roman guards before he was crucified. In the advert, a young man smiles cheekily, wearing a crown whose thorns are twisted into the geometric shapes that are PlayStation's logo.

In a statement, Sony Computer Entertainment Italia expressed regret over the reaction to the advert. It acknowledged that the "spirit of the message was misunderstood" and said the campaign would not continue.

Sony's ad is not the first to irk Catholics in recent months.

"There's no religion any more," read a slogan for IKEA in an advert to inform Italians, whose Church attendance is steadily falling, that its furniture stores were open on a Sunday.

And two adapted versions of Leonardo Da Vinci's Last Supper have been used for adverts that caused controversy in other predominantly Catholic countries.

French fashion designer Francois Girbaud featured Jesus as a woman with a table of glamorous disciples, while Irish bookmaker Paddy Power depicted the original Christians gambling, the traitor Judas clutching his 30 pieces of silver.

I See Your Sheckle & Raise Your Dead

Bookmaker Blasted over Last Supper Ad

from Reuters

DUBLIN - Irish bookmaker Paddy Power was fending off the wrath of Christians in overwhelmingly Roman Catholic Ireland on Friday over an advert depicting Jesus and the Apostles gambling at the Last Supper.

The billboard posters, on display in the Irish capital, adapt Leonardo da Vinci's famous painting of the event to show Jesus with a stack of poker chips, Judas with 30 pieces of silver and other apostles clutching hands of cards.

"There's a place for fun and games," says the caption.

Father Micheal MacGreil, Jesuit priest at St Francis Xavier's Church in central Dublin, branded the advert "grossly inappropriate and vulgar."

"To abuse this image, which is central to Christian beliefs, in a vulgar advertising campaign is totally and grossly inappropriate and Paddy Power should apologize to the people." Paddy Power acknowledged it had taken a "load of flak" over the advert.

"We didn't mean to offend anyone so if anyone takes offence apologies for that," said a spokesman for the bookmaker, also called Paddy Power.

"It's a tongue-in-cheek situation - people aren't supposed to take it as seriously as some people seem to be."

There were no plans to withdraw the posters, he added.


Dead Fetus Hidden in Jesus

Fetuses Found at Bogota Airport

from BBC

Colombian police have found the bodies of three human fetuses hidden in statues destined for the United States. The discovery was made by officers searching for contraband at Bogota Airport on Tuesday.

The corpses were wrapped in plastic and concealed inside statues of Christian icons, which were smashed open.

Colombian police chief Gen. Jord Alirio Varon said the four- to five-month-old fetuses could have been intended for use in Satanic rituals.

Gen Varon said the fetuses were found alongside crucifixes and medals.

He said officials are trying to find out who sent the packages, which came from Barranquilla in Colombia and were destined for Miami in the US.

GOP Senator on Katrina: 'The Wages of Sin Is Death'

Alabama State Senator: Hurricanes Were 'Judgment of God' on Sin

from Religion News Service

Hurricane Katrina and other storms that battered the Gulf Coast were God's judgment on sin, according to Alabama state Sen. Hank Erwin, a Republican from Montevallo.

"New Orleans and the Mississippi Gulf Coast have always been known for gambling, sin and wickedness," Erwin wrote this week in a column he distributes to news outlets. "It is the kind of behavior that ultimately brings the judgment of God."

After touring Gulfport and Biloxi, Miss., and Bayou La Batre, Ala., Erwin said he was awed and humbled by the power of the storm. But he wasn't surprised.

"Warnings year after year by godly evangelists and preachers went unheeded. So why were we surprised when finally the hand of judgment fell?" Erwin wrote. "Sadly, innocents suffered along with the guilty. Sin always brings suffering to good people as well as the bad."

William Willimon, bishop of the North Alabama Conference of the United Methodist Church, took exception with the state senator's analysis.

"I have no idea what sort of senator or politician Mr. Erwin is, but he's sure no theologian," Willimon said. "I'm certainly against gambling and its hold on state government in Mississippi, but I expect there is as much sin, of possibly a different order, in Montevallo as on the Gulf Coast. If God punished all of us for our sin, who could stand?"

Erwin, a former conservative talk-radio host and now a media consultant and senator, is not alone in seeing God's wrath at work in the storms.

The al-Qaida in Iraq group hailed the hurricane deaths in America as the "wrath of God," and Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan suggested the devastation caused by Hurricane Katrina was divine punishment for the violence America had inflicted on Iraq.

Televangelist Pat Robertson said Katrina might be linked to God's judgment concerning legalized abortion, and some rabbis suggested Katrina was retribution for supporting the Israeli pullout from Gaza.

Erwin said some hurricane victims were not singled out for harsh punishment but merely in the way of God's judgment.

"If you are a believer and read the Bible, you know sin has judgment," Erwin said. "New Orleans has always been know for sin...The wages of sin is death."

Wifebeating for Allah

An Islamic Guide on How To Beat Your Wife

from London Daily Telegraph

MADRID - An imam who wrote a book on how to beat your wife without leaving marks on her body has been ordered by a judge in Spain to study the country's constitution.

The judge told Mohamed Kamal Mustafa, imam of a mosque in the southern resort of Fuengirola, to spend six months studying three articles of the constitution and the universal declaration of human rights.

Mustafa was sentenced to 15 months in jail and fined about $2,600 last year after being found guilty of inciting violence against women. A judge released him after 22 days in jail on the condition that he undertake a re-education course.

The Spanish government has set up a commission to find ways for the Muslim community to regulate itself. A central recommendation is that imams speak Spanish and have a basic knowledge of human rights and Spanish law.

In his book Women in Islam, published four years ago, Mustafa wrote that verbal warnings followed by a period of sexual inactivity could be used to discipline a disobedient wife.

If that failed, he argued that, according to Islamic law, beatings could be judiciously administered. "The blows should be concentrated on the hands and feet using a rod that is thin and light so that it does not leave scars or bruises on the body," he wrote.

According to La Vanguardia newspaper, he will have to study articles 10, 14 and 15 of the constitution. The first two address "the dignity of a person and inviolable rights" and states "all Spaniards are equal before the law." The third one states "the moral and physical integrity of a person in no case can be submitted to torture nor inhuman or degrading punishments or treatment."

*Sniff* Smell That? *Sniff* *Sniff*
That's Christmas

'B-But Rudolph! I thought you were dead!' 'Braaains! I come for your brains, fat man!'

Santa Gets Compensation After Air Force Kills Rudolph

from AFP

COPENHAGEN - The Danish airforce has paid damages to one of the country's many professional Santa Clauses after a blast from a low-flying fighter jet left Rudolph the reindeer lifeless, reports said.

The Father Christmas, whose real name is Olovi Nikkanoff and who lives on the central Danish island of Fyn, told TV2 station that he was devastated last February when he discovered his reindeer's body.

The veterinarian who examined the dead beast concluded that Rudolph had died from the shock of the deafening noise made by the fighter plane.

Following an official complaint from Nikkanoff, the Danish airforce agreed to pay him $4,840 dollars to buy a new reindeer.


Good Deeds for Cash

FEMA Plans To Reimburse Faith Groups for Aid

from The Washington Post

After weeks of prodding by Republican lawmakers and the American Red Cross, the Federal Emergency Management Agency said Monday that it will use taxpayer money to reimburse churches and other religious organizations that have opened their doors to provide shelter, food, and supplies to survivors of hurricanes Katrina and Rita.

FEMA officials said it would mark the first time that the government has made large-scale payments to religious groups for helping to cope with a domestic natural disaster.

"I believe it's appropriate for the federal government to assist the faith community because of the scale and scope of the effort and how long it's lasting," said Joe Becker, senior vice president for preparedness and response with the Red Cross.

Civil liberties groups called the decision a violation of the traditional boundary between church and state, accusing FEMA of trying to restore its battered reputation by playing to religious conservatives.

"What really frosts me about all this is, here is an administration that didn't do its job and now is trying to dig itself out by making right-wing groups happy," said the Rev. Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State.

For churches, synagogues and mosques that have taken in hurricane survivors, FEMA's decision presents a quandary. Some said they were eager to get the money and had begun tallying their costs, from electric bills to worn carpets. Others said they probably would not apply for the funds, fearing donations would dry up if the public came to believe they were receiving government handouts.

"Volunteer labor is just that: volunteer," said the Rev. Robert E. Reccord, president of the Southern Baptist Convention's North American Mission Board. "We would never ask the government to pay for it."

When Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans and the Gulf Coast, religious charities rushed in to provide emergency services, often acting more quickly and efficiently than the government. Relief workers in the stricken states estimate that 500,000 people have taken refuge in facilities run by religious groups.

Even so, Lynn said that federal reimbursement is inappropriate.

"The good news is that this work is being done now, but I don't think a lot of people realize that a lot of these organizations are actively working to obtain federal funds. That's a strange definition of charity," he said.

Witch Hunt, 2005

Gay Inquisition Begins at Missouri Seminary

from 365Gay.com

St Louis, Missouri - "Are you, or have you ever been, a homosexual?" That is the question that Vatican investigators began asking this week at Aquinas Institute of Theology in St. Louis.

The seminary is the first in the country to face the scrutiny of inquisitors in their investigation of gays in American seminaries. The Vatican ordered the investigation of America's 229 seminaries to identify gays gets in the aftermath of the child sex abuse scandal that has gripped the Church in the US.

The president of Aquinas, Father Charles Bouchard, said he is opposed to the line of questioning but has no choice but to allow the investigators to probe students.

"Some people do feel homosexuality would disqualify a student. I hope we can provide evidence that should not be the case," he told a news conference. He said that the questions being asked should not be about sexuality but "whether they have the ability to live celibate and be effective ministers."

Bouchard said that it is wrong to link homosexuality with pedophilia but he hopes the questioning points that out to the Vatican: "I don't think that link exists, so I'm not afraid of that question," he told reporters.

The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests agrees: "They are mixing apples and oranges. A homosexual is not a pedophile. To make this a homosexual issue is just wrong," said spokesperson Barbara Dorris.

But the outcome of the investigation appears to have been predetermined. Pope Benedict XVI has reportedly already approved a recommendation that gays be barred from the priesthood.

ID Trial Recap: Catholic Biologist & Professed Creationist Blasts Intelligent Design As 'Tremendously Damaging' & 'Not Science'

What I've found more disturbing than the testimony (which is quite disturbing) has been the media bias in the reporting of this very important trial. Most headlines simply read "Expert Says Faith, Science 'Compatible' in Landmark Case," which at a glance certainly sounds like the expert quoted, Kenneth Miller, supports Intelligent Design. He does not - in fact, he testified that it was "tremendously damaging" to science and misleading to students. And he's a creationist! Fox News - whose website I often find myself defending as surprisingly fair (compared to the slander passing for "news" on its channel) - edited out of its reprint of an Associated Press article all of Miller's testimony attacking Intelligent Design - except the word "compatible." The only other quotes included were from the defense team's opening statements. From Fox's "reporting," you'd come away with the distinct impression of Miller and the first day of the trial in exact opposition to reality. That's what I call a lie. Hopefully, and after a few hours of searching and reading and wincing and cursing, I've compiled a more comprehensive recap of the first two days of this trial.

Intelligent Design Tied to Creationism in Dover Trial

from Post-Gazette / The Associated Press via USA Today / The Associated Press via CNN / Reuters

HARRISBURG, Pennsylvania - A school district is undermining science education by raising false doubts about evolution and offering "intelligent design" as an alternative explanation for life's origins, a biologist testified Monday at the start of a landmark trial.

"It's the first movement to try to drive a wedge between students and the scientific process," said Brown University's Kenneth Miller (left), the first witness called by lawyers for eight families suing the Dover Area School District. Dover is believed to be the nation's first school system to require that students be exposed to the intelligent design concept.

Attorneys for the plaintiffs began their case Monday by arguing that intelligent design is a religious concept inserted in the school district's curriculum by the school board.

"They did everything you would do if you wanted to incorporate a religious point of view in science class and cared nothing about its scientific validity," attorney Eric Rothschild said.

In October 2004, the board voted 6-3 to require teachers to read a brief statement about intelligent design to students before classes on evolution. The statement Charles Darwin's says theory is "not a fact" and has inexplicable "gaps." The statement states that "because Darwin's theory is a theory, it continues to be tested as new evidence is discovered. The theory is not a fact." It refers students to an intelligent-design textbook for more information.

Miller testified that the statement is "tremendously damaging" by falsely undermining the scientific status of evolution.

"What that tells students is that science can't be relied upon and certainly is not the kind of profession you want to go into," he said.

"There is no controversy within science over the core proposition of evolutionary theory," he added. On the other hand, he said, "Intelligent design is not a testable theory in any sense and as such it is not accepted by the scientific community."

He testified that "intelligent design is not science" and aimed to refute several core claims made in Of Pandas and People, which is the beginner's manual to intelligent design, and is mentioned in the four-paragraph statement read to students. Miller said the book omits discussion of what causes extinction. Since nearly all original species are extinct, he said, any intelligent design creator would not have been very intelligent.

Before plaintiffs took the stand on Tuesday, Dover's defense team, a firm that litigates for free on behalf of "Christians and time-honored family values," completed their cross-examination of Miller.

Robert Muise, an attorney for the law center, repeatedly asked Miller whether he questioned the completeness of Darwin's theory.

"Would you agree that Darwin's theory is not the absolute truth?" Muise asked. "We don't regard any scientific theory as the absolute truth," Miller said.

The defense team danced through a list of renowned biologists - Richard Dawkins, Stephen Jay Gould, and Francis Crick included - and offered quotes and book snippets from these biologists, showing that they can talk about religion and God without compromising their standing as scientists.

Crick, the Nobel Prize-winning DNA researcher, suggested in a book that life could have been put on Earth by space aliens. That fits neatly into the intelligent design concept, whose supporters try not to identify the designer whom they believe is behind nature's complex machinery.

One "need not be a fundamentalist Christian to believe in intelligent design," said Muise. He also noted that Miller describes himself as a "creationist," in that Miller, a Roman Catholic, believes that "God is the author of nature."

Later, Miller said that "just because a scientist makes a statement, doesn't make it scientific."

Throughout the second day, attorneys for the plaintiffs in Kitzmiller v. Dover Area tried to show that the school board, over a two-year period, had discussed God, religion, and creationism and shown a general antipathy toward evolutionary theory, before ultimately voting to inform ninth-grade biology students that intelligent design "is an explanation of the origin of life that differs from Darwin's view."

Two board members in particular - William Buckingham and Alan Bonsell - were mentioned frequently. Bonsell wanted students to hear about creationism, the Biblical account of the earth's origins, testified Aralene Callahan, a parent and also a former school board member in Dover, York County.

Callahan testified that Bonsell "expressed he did not believe in evolution and if evolution was part of the biology curriculum, creationism had to be shared 50-50."

She said Buckingham told a board meeting, "You can't expect me to believe that I was ever descended from apes and monkeys."

"They were pretty much downplaying evolution as something that was credible," she said.

Bryan Rehm (right), a Dover physics teacher until June 2004, recalled Buckingham making a reference to Jesus' crucifixion: "Two thousand years ago, somebody died on a cross. Can't somebody stand up and do something for him?"

Rehm said that the science faculty had been forced to watch a video explaining why Charles Darwin's theories on evolution were being improperly taught to school students.

Buckingham, according to the testimony, expressed fears that the biology textbooks he'd reviewed were "laced with Darwinism" and too one-sided in their deference to evolution. At a board meeting, he criticized a college student who studied evolution, saying the man had been "brainwashed." His wife, Charlotte, quoted Old Testament verses during public board meetings, one plaintiff testified. Buckingham was further quoted as saying: "This country was founded on Christianity and our students should be taught as such."

In other testimony Tuesday, plaintiff Tammy Kitzmiller (left) said that in January, her younger daughter chose not to hear the intelligent-design statement — an option given all students — putting her in an awkward position.

"My 14-year-old daughter had to make the choice between staying in the classroom and being confused...or she had to be singled out and face the possible ridicule of her friends and classmates," she said.

President George W. Bush has said schools should teach both evolution and intelligent design.

Baby Dinosaurs Rode on Noah's Ark?!
It's Official: I've Heard Everything

Who You Callin' Hillbilly?!: That would be you, Kenneth Ham, President of Answers in Genesis-USA. Hey, if the overalls fit...and is that your banjo?

Biblical Creation Museum To Rise in Kentucky in 2007

from The Washington Post

PETERSBURG, Ky. - The guide, a soft-spoken fellow with a scholarly aspect, walks through the halls of this handsome, half-finished museum and points to the sculpture of a young velociraptor.

"We're placing this one in the hall that explains the post-Flood world," explains the guide. "When dinosaurs lived with man."

A reporter has a question or two about this dinosaur-man business, but Mark Looy - the guide and a vice president at the museum - has walked over to the lifelike head of a T. rex, with its three-inch teeth and carnivore's grin.

"We call him our 'missionary lizard,'" Looy says. "When people realize the T. rex lived in Eden, it will lead us to a discussion of the gospel. The T. rex once was a vegetarian, too."

The nation's largest museum devoted to biblical creation science is rising outside Cincinnati. The $25 million Creation Museum stands much of modern science on its head and might cause a paleontologist or three to rend their garments. It holds that the world and the universe are but 6,000 years old and that baby dinosaurs rode in Noah's ark. Officials expect to attract hundreds of thousands of visitors when the museum opens in early 2007.

"Evolutionary Darwinists need to understand we are taking the dinosaurs back," says Kenneth Ham, president of Answers in Genesis-USA, which is building the museum. "This is a battle cry to recognize the science in the revealed truth of God."

Young Earth Creationism - which holds that the Bible is the literal word of God and that He created the universe in seven days - has a more powerful hold on the beliefs of Americans than evolutionary theory or intelligent design. That grip grows stronger by the year.

Polls taken last year showed that 45 percent of Americans believe that God created humans in their present form 10,000 years ago (or less) and that man shares no common ancestor with the ape. Only 26 percent believe in the central tenet of evolution, that all life descended from a single ancestor. Another poll showed that 65 percent of Americans want creationism taught alongside evolution.


The Root of Society's Ills? Religion, Says Study
Perfect Example? America

Religion Is Society's Biggest Threat: Author

from The Australian

LONDON: Religious belief can cause damage to a society, contributing towards high murder rates, abortion, sexual promiscuity, and suicide, according to research published yesterday.

The study says belief in and worship of God are not only unnecessary for a healthy society, but may actually contribute to social problems.

It counters the view of believers that religion is necessary to provide the moral and ethical foundations of a healthy society.

The research compares the social performance of relatively secular countries, such as Britain, with the US, where the majority believes in a creator rather than the theory of evolution.

Many conservative evangelicals in the US consider Darwinism to be a social evil, believing that it inspires atheism and amorality.

Many liberal Christians and believers of other faiths hold that religious belief is socially beneficial, believing that it helps to lower rates of violent crime, murder, suicide, sexual promiscuity, and abortion.

The benefits of religious belief to a society have been described as its "spiritual capital." But the study claims that the devotion of many in the US may actually contribute to its ills.

Published in the Journal of Religion and Society, a US academic journal, it says: "Many Americans agree that their churchgoing nation is an exceptional, God-blessed, shining city on the hill that stands as an impressive example for an increasingly sceptical world.

"In general, higher rates of belief in and worship of a creator correlate with higher rates of homicide, juvenile and early adult mortality, STD infection rates, teen pregnancy and abortion in the prosperous democracies. The United States is almost always the most dysfunctional of the developing democracies, sometimes spectacularly so."

Study author and social scientist Gregory Paul used data from the International Social Survey Program, Gallup and other research bodies to reach his conclusions. He compared social indicators such as murder rates, abortion, suicide and teenage pregnancy.

Paul finds that the US is the world's only prosperous democracy where murder rates are still high, and that the least devout nations are the least dysfunctional.

He says the rates of gonorrhoea in adolescents in the US are up to 300 times higher than in less devout democratic countries. The US also suffers from "uniquely high" adolescent and adult syphilis infection rates, and adolescent abortion rates.

"The study shows that England, despite the social ills it has, is actually performing a good deal better than the USA in most indicators, even though it is now a much less religious nation than America," Paul says.

The disparity is even greater when the US is compared with France, Japan and the Scandinavian countries, which have been the most successful in reducing murder rates, early mortality, sexually transmitted diseases and abortion.

Paul says the evidence accumulated by several different studies suggests religion may contribute to social ills.

He suggests most Western nations would become more religious only if the theory of evolution could be overturned and the existence of God proved scientifically. Likewise, the theory of evolution would not enjoy majority support in the US unless there were a marked decline in religious belief.

"The non-religious, pro-evolution democracies contradict the dictum that a society cannot enjoy good conditions unless most citizens ardently believe in a moral creator," he says.

"The widely held fear that a godless citizenry must experience societal disaster is therefore refuted."

St. Fyodor: Patron Saint of Mushroom Clouds?

Russian Admiral Named Patron Saint of Nuclear Bomber Force

from AFP

MOSCOW - Historic Russian admiral Fyodor Ushakov - a hero of Russia's wars against Turkey and Napoleon Bonaparte - was designated the patron saint of nuclear-armed, long-distance Russian bombers by the Orthodox Church.

Russian Patriarch Alexei II, head of the Russian Orthodox Church, carried a reliquary and an icon of the admiral, who was canonised in 2004, into the Moscow chapel of the Russian Air Force's 37th Air Army in Moscow, Russia's RIA Novosti news agency said Monday.

"I am sure he will become your intermediary as you fulfil your responsible duties to the fatherland in the long-range air force," the patriarch said.

"His strong faith helped Saint Fyodor Ushakov in all his battles," the religious leader said, reminding his audience that the famous admiral of the 18th and 19th centuries never lost a battle.

Ushakov's canonisation as a saint in 2004 follows a strong tradition in Russia of close relations between the Orthodox Church and the state, which was revived after the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union.


Remember When America Meant Equality & Freedom? And Faith Was a Right Not a Resume or Tax? And Discrimination Illegal? Y'Know, Thursday?

Head Start Vote Splits Over Religion

from The Associated Press

WASHINGTON - The House voted Thursday to let Head Start centers consider religion when hiring workers, overshadowing its moves to strengthen the preschool program's academics and finances.

The Republican-led House approved a bill to renew the Head Start program through 2011. The bill includes a provision that would let churches and other faith-based preschool centers hire only people who share their religion yet still receive federal tax dollars.

Democrats blasted that idea as discriminatory.

Launched in the 1960s, the nearly $7 billion Head Start program provides comprehensive education to more than 900,000 poor children. Though credited with getting children ready for school, Head Start has drawn scrutiny as cases of financial waste and questions about academic quality have surfaced nationwide.

Overall, the House bill would insert more competition into Head Start grants, require greater disclosure of how money is spent and try to improve collaboration among educators in different grades. Yet on Thursday, the dispute over religion eroded the bipartisan support for Head Start's renewal.

The House passed the bill 231-184; only 23 Democrats voted for it.


White Bigot Fence

Evangelical Christians Enter 10th Day Of Vigil Outside Your House

from The Onion

Designer Fashions

The Top 10 Intelligent Designs (or Creation Myths)

from LiveScience

The American Civil Liberties Union recently filed a lawsuit against a Pennsylvania school district that added the controversial theory of "intelligent design" to its curricullum. Unlike the theory of evolution which is taught at most schools as a fact-based science, "intelligent design" - as argued by the ACLU - is nothing more than a philosophy predicated on the Judeo-Christian belief that the logical sequences found in nature are not random happenings or surprising mutations, but deftly managed events created by a greater omniscient and omnipresent intelligence with a specific plan. In short, the work of God.

But therein lies the rub: Which god? When the founding fathers established the Constitution of the United States, they chose to include the separation of church and state. This was to ensure that the state-sanctioned religious persecutions that plagued much of Europe during the 16th century would not despoil the young, yet grand experiment in democracy that was to become this Republic.

Scientific research has come along way since Charles Darwin first posited the concept of "natural selection", an idea as controversial now as it was back in 1859 when it was first published. In the intervening years, humanity has learned much about how we became the dominant species on the planet, how the Earth and the solar system were formed and the ever-changing development of the Universe. Over that time, how we understand the theory of evolution has also changed.

Scientists now believe that there is an intrinsic logic to our reality, that there are absolutes, laws of nature. Much remains a mystery, and as one question is answered, many others arise. The question now facing Pennsylvania's Dover School District is whether or not the imposition of one creation belief on a multi-ethnic, secular student body is in keeping with the law that prohibits the creation of a state religion. If they allow one belief system to be taught, surely they must also teach others?

To help out with this dilemma, LiveScience presents a list of those Creation Myths that helped define civilizations both past and present...

10. Hammer of the Gods: Norse Mythology
9. Zoroastrianism, the Religion of Ancient Persia
8. By the River of Babylon
7. Spirits of Ancient Egypt
6. South of the Border, Down Mexico Way: The Aztecs
5. China, the Middle Kingdom
4. Japan, this Island Earth
3. Hindu Cosmology's Rendezvous with Brahma
2. The Greeks and the Titans
1. The Genesis of the Judeo-Christian and Islamic Faiths

Checking ID at the Door

Mortal Wounding: A dynamic duo debunking Design.

Intelligent Design: 'The Death of Science'

from LiveScience.com

In his highly influential book The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, science philosopher Thomas Kuhn presented the idea that science is not a gradual progression toward truth, but a series of insurgencies, with scientific theories constantly usurping one another.

That is sometimes true. And proponents of intelligent design love Kuhn's argument.

They see intelligent design (often called ID) as a revolutionary new science and themselves as revolutionaries. They envision toppling Darwinian evolution – once a revolutionary idea itself – and erecting in its place a theory about life that allows for supernatural explanations, a theory that makes God, or some entity very much like him, not just possible but necessary.

But in order to attract converts and win over critics, a new scientific theory must be enticing. It must offer something that its competitors lack. That something may be simplicity, which was one of the main reasons the Sun-centered model of the solar system was adopted over the Earth-centered one centuries. Or it could be sheer explanatory power, which was what allowed evolution to become a widely accepted theory with no serious detractors among reputable scientists.

So what does ID offer? What can it explain that evolution can't?

To answer this, it is necessary to examine the two main arguments — irreducible complexity and specified complexity — that ID proponents use to support their claim that a Supreme Being is responsible for many or all aspects of life.

Irreducible Complexity
Irreducible complexity asserts that certain biochemical systems in nature contain parts that are too well matched to be products of evolution.

Every part of an irreducibly complex system is necessary: take away even one, and the entire system will no longer work. Because their parts are so intricate and so interdependent, such systems could not possibly have been the result of evolution, ID supporters argue.

Irreducible complexity's main proponent is Michael Behe, a biochemist at Lehigh University in Pennsylvania. Among the systems that Behe claims are irreducibly complex are the bacterial flagellum, a microscopic whip-like structure that some bacteria use to swim, and the cascade of proteins that make up the human blood-clotting system.

Darwin himself admitted that if an example of irreducible complexity were ever found, his theory of natural selection would crumble.

"If it could be demonstrated that any complex organ existed, which could not possibly have been formed by numerous, successive, slight modifications, my theory would absolutely break down," Darwin wrote.

Yet no true examples of irreducible complexity have ever been found. The concept is rejected by the majority of the scientific community.

To understand why, it is important to remember that Behe's main argument is that in an irreducibly complex system, every part is vital to the system's overall operation.

A necessary — and often unstated — flipside to this is that if an irreducibly complex system contains within it a smaller set of parts that could be used for some other function, then the system was never really irreducibly complex to begin with.

It's like saying in physics that atoms are the fundamental building blocks of matter only to discover, as physicists have, that atoms are themselves made up of even smaller and more fundamental components.

This flipside makes the concept of irreducible complexity testable, giving it a scientific virtue that other aspects of ID lack.

"The logic of their argument is you have these multipart systems, and that the parts within them are useless on their own," said Kenneth Miller, a biologist at Brown University in Rhode Island. "The instant that I or anybody else finds a subset of parts that has a function, that argument is destroyed."

Viewed this way, all of the systems that Behe claims to be irreducibly complex really aren't.

A subset of the bacterial flagellum proteins, for example, are used by other bacteria to inject toxins into other cells and several of the proteins in the human blood-clotting system are believed to be modified forms of proteins found in the digestive system.

Evolution takes pieces and parts and re-uses them.

Specified Complexity
The second major argument for intelligent design comes from William Dembski, a mathematician and philosopher affiliated with the Discovery Institute, a Seattle-based Christian think tank that serves as the nerve center for the ID movement.

Dembski argues that nature is rife with examples of non-random patterns of information that he calls "complex specified information," or CSI for short.

To qualify as CSI, the information must be both complex and specified. The letter "A," for example, is specific but not complex. A string of random letters such as "slfkjwer," on the other hand, is complex but not necessarily specific. A Shakespearean sonnet, however, is both complex and specific.

An example of CSI from nature is DNA, the molecule found in all cells that contains the genetic instructions for life. The human genome is made up of some 3 billion DNA base pairs and contains about 25,000 genes. DNA is obviously complex. The fact that humans always give birth to humans and not chimpanzees or naked mole rats shows that DNA is also specific.

The fact that CSI exists in nature is evidence for design because intelligence is necessary to produce CSI, Dembski says. This is the part of Dembski's argument that many scientists have trouble with.

There is a way to settle this, however, because like Behe's irreducible complexity, the concept of specified complexity can also be tested.

"If Dembski were right, then a new gene with new information conferring a brand new function on an organism could never come into existence without a designer because a new function requires complex specified information," Miller said.

In 1975, Japanese scientists reported the discovery of bacteria that could break down nylon, the material used to make pantyhose and parachutes. Bacteria are known to ingest all sorts of things, everything from crude oil to sulfur, so the discovery of one that could eat nylon would not have been very remarkable if not for one small detail: nylon is synthetic; it didn't exist anywhere in nature until 1935, when it was invented by an organic chemist at the chemical company Dupont.

The discovery of nylon-eating bacteria poses a problem for ID proponents. Where did the CSI for nylonase — the actual protein that the bacteria use to break down the nylon — come from?

There are three possibilities:
1] The nylonase gene was present in the bacterial genome all along.
2] The CSI for nylonase was inserted into the bacteria by a Supreme Being.
3] The ability to digest nylon arose spontaneously as a result of mutation. Because it allowed the bacteria to take advantage of a new resource, the ability stuck and was eventually passed on to future generations.

Apart from simply being the most reasonable explanation, there are two other reasons that most scientists prefer the last option, which is an example of Darwinian natural selection.

First, hauling around a nylonase gene before the invention of nylon is at best useless to the bacteria; at worst, it could be harmful or lethal. Secondly, the nylonase enzyme is less efficient than the precursor protein it's believed to have developed from. Thus, if nylonase really was designed by a Supreme Being, it wasn't done very intelligently.

‘Death of Science'
After examining ID's two main arguments, the answers to the original questions — what does ID offer? And what can ID explain that evolution can't? — is not much and nothing, leading scientists say.

"The most basic problem [with ID] is that it's utterly boring," said William Provine, a science historian at Cornell University in New York. "Everything that's complicated or interesting about biology has a very simple explanation: ID did it."

Evolution was and still is the only scientific theory for life that can explain how we get complexity from simplicity and diversity from uniformity.

ID offers nothing comparable. It begins with complexity — a Supreme Being — and also ends there. The explanations offered by ID are not really explanations at all, scientists say. They're more like last resorts. And, scientists argue, there is a danger in pretending that ID belongs next to evolution in textbooks.

"It doesn't add anything to science to introduce the idea that God did it," Provine told LiveScience. Intelligent design "would become the death of science if it became a part of science."

Christians Expel Cheerleader for Lesbian Moms

Christian School Expels Girl for Having Gay Parents

from WRKO.com

ONTARIO, Calif. — A Christian school expelled a 14-year-old student because her parents are lesbians, the school's superintendent said in a letter.

Shay Clark was expelled from Ontario Christian School on Thursday.

"Your family does not meet the policies of admission," Superintendent Leonard Stob wrote to Tina Clark, Shay's biological mother.

School administrators learned of the parents' relationship this week, according to Clark and her partner, Mitzi Gray. After school officials told Clark that her daughter could no longer attend the school, the mother was ordered to remove Shay from cheerleading practice, collect the girl's belongings and leave the property.

The school's policy states that at least one parent cannot engage in practices "immoral or inconsistent with a positive Christian life style such as cohabitating without marriage or in a homosexual relationship," Stob wrote.

Clark and Gray, who have been together 22 years, have two other daughters aged 9 and 19.

Shay and her parents said they will not fight the ruling. Shay will attend public school next week.

Superintendant Leonard Stobe's Statement:
"The school requires that at least one parent be a confessing Christian and active in the local Christian church. In this case, the parent does not meet the criteria by participating in a homosexual relationship. We regret that this relationship was not disclosed at the time of admission..."

B16: Push Christianity on Secularist Society for Its Own Good

Freedom Needed To Give Religious Sense to State, Says Pope

from Zenit.org

CASTEL GANDOLFO, Italy - In a secular state it is the citizens who, in the exercise of their freedom, give a specific religious sense to social life, says Benedict XVI.

The Pope made that comment this morning when receiving the new Mexican ambassador to the Holy See at the papal summer residence of Castel Gandolfo.

In his address to the diplomat, Benedict XVI reminded his audience that "a secular democratic state...protects the religious practice of its citizens, without preferences or rejections," and he underlined the Church's position, which emphasizes that "in modern and democratic societies there can be and must be full religious freedom."

The Holy Father stressed the duty of a modern state "to serve and protect the freedom of citizens and also the religious practice they choose."

Benedict XVI lamented the "growing secularism, which pretends to relegate the religious life of the citizens to the private sphere, without any social or public manifestation," a phenomenon before which "the Church knows very well that the Christian message reinforces and illuminates the basic principles of all coexistence."

Among these, the Pope mentioned "the sacred gift of life, the dignity of the person together with equality and the inviolability of his rights, the value of marriage and the family which cannot be given up or equated or confused with other forms of human unions."

The Bishop of Rome stressed that the family institution needs special support, because in Mexico, as in other countries, its vitality and fundamental role is being progressively undermined.