As quickly as it opened its doors and our eyes to fraudulent televangelism, Our Lady of Perpetual Exemptions has closed. John Oliver, pastor and host of HBO’s “Last Week Tonight,” announced the end of his church’s mission not because they had to, they were perfectly legal, but because, as his “wife” Wanda Jo put it, “when someone send you jizz in the mail, its time to stop whatever you’re doing..”
Aug 19 2015
We are all familiar with the televangelical preachers that flood the airways telling their believers that they have the cure for everything from cancer to a hang nail if you just send them your money. They prey (pardon the pun) on those who can least afford to send them money while they live in the lap of luxury.They also don’t pay any taxes on their bounty.
To demonstrate the absurdity of these charlatans, John Oliver, host of “Last Week Tonight,” opened his own church with the assistance of a tax lawyer.
To expose the industry’s fraudulent activity, his team got close with leading celebrity televangelist Robert Tilton of Word of Faith Worldwide Church. After mailing Tilton $20, with a request to be added to his church’s mailing list, a correspondence was reportedly struck up, which resulted in the televangelist requesting larger and larger sums of money.
As Oliver said: “As of tonight, I’ve sent him $319 and received 26 letters – that’s almost one a week. And again, this is all hilarious until you imagine these letters being sent to someone who cannot afford what he’s asking for.”
Oliver wrapped up the segment in fitting fashion: he formed his own church. He claims to have filed paperwork for establishing Our Lady of Perpetual Exemption last week, a process he called “disturbingly easy”.
The church is now open to the public and has its own site. On it, Oliver encourages people to send cash, check or money orders to a New York PO box. The fine print states that should the church choose to wind down and dissolve in the future, “any assets belonging to the Church at that time will be distributed to Doctors Without Borders, a non-proﬁt charitable organization that is tax-exempt under § 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code (EIN: 13-3433452) and which provides emergency medical aid in places where it is needed most”.
Bless you, John Oliver
Jul 16 2014
In 1960, the country was set to elect its first Catholic president, John F. Kennedy. Many conservative protestants in Southern states were wary of JFK’s faith and ties to the Vatican, questioning whether as president he would be able to make important national decisions independent of his faith and Vatican influence. In September of 1960, he gave an historic speech in Houston, Texas before a group of Protestant ministers, on the issue of his religion, declaring, “ I am not the Catholic candidate for president. I am the Democratic Party candidate for president who also happens to be a Catholic. I do not speak for my Church on public matters – and the Church does not speak for me.”
Now, fifty-four years after that speech, there is a predominance of Catholics on the Supreme Court, mostly men and mostly very conservative. The five conservative male Catholics are voting in lock step to restrict the use of birth control, a necessary part of women’s health care, and income equality by siding with ant-union groups to limit union representation for some health care workers who are mostly low income women and minorities.
After Hobby Lobby
by Dahlia Lithwick, Slate
watch The Supreme Court term wrapped up nice and neat last week. Unless you are a woman.
For the first time in my memory as a reporter, there was a men’s term and a women’s term at the U.S. Supreme Court. The men’s term ended last Monday, with a pair of split decisions in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby and Harris v. Quinn, and a lot of mumbling on both sides of the political spectrum about the fact that-as Supreme Court terms go-this was a fairly uncontroversial one, marked by high degrees of agreement and consensus-seeking by the justices, and minimalist, incremental changes where there might have been tectonic shifts.
Not so, for women, who-almost a week later-are still reeling over the implications of the Hobby Lobby decision for contraceptive care in America; still parsing the emergency injunction granted in the Wheaton College case only three days after the Hobby Lobby ruling came down; still mulling whether the Hobby Lobby decision may prove a boon for women in the long run; and generally trying to understand how a term that was characterized as minimalist and undramatic by many male commenters, even liberal male commenters, represented a tectonic shift not just for America’s women, but for the three women who actually sit up there and do their jobs at the high court. [..]
It almost doesn’t warrant explaining yet again why the term was such a disaster for women’s rights and freedoms. One need look no further than the trifecta of the abortion buffer-zone case, McCullen v. Coakley; Burwell v. Hobby Lobby; and Harris v. Quinn, which determined that for purposes of the “agency fees” rule, home health care workers – 90 percent of whom are women v] and [minorities – are not really public employees, because the home is not really a workplace. And the fact that the female justices dissented from two of the above cases in the strongest terms is rather remarkable. But looking at the three cases together, it’s difficult not to notice something almost more remarkable: In the majority opinions in all three, there is scant attention paid to real women, their daily lives, or their interests, and great mountainous wads of attention paid elsewhere. It’s almost as if the court chose not to see women this term, or at least not real women, with real challenges, and opted instead to offer extra protections to the delicate women of their imaginary worlds. [..]
All this would be difficult enough, were it not for the fact that the five-justice majority at the court seems determined to offer all this help and chivalry in the face of the strenuous objections of their female colleagues who seem, at the close of this term, to have spent a good deal of energy howling into the wind that women need less delicate handling and more basic freedoms. The final irony is that the quality of “empathy”-the much maligned, squishy solicitude that is so often associated with female justices-is the quality that seemingly drove each of the decisions above. It wasn’t so much a clash of rigorous constitutional values that determined the outcomes in Harris, McCullen, and Hobby Lobby. It was simply a strong identification by the majority justices with the values that were arrayed in opposition to women’s freedoms and economic equality: the poor home-care worker, forced to support the speech of a union; the beleaguered sidewalk counselor denied the opportunity to counsel and persuade; the sympathetic religious employer, forced to pay for something his religion cannot tolerate. Nobody disputes that in each case those values are heartfelt and compelling. But the almost complete erasure of the values on the other side is a constitutional hat trick if ever there was one. It’s bad enough that the term ended so poorly for women. That it happened because of an abundance of empathy-the quality that allegedly makes us women bad judges and justices-is kind of the icing on the cake.
The Supreme Court Has a Favorite Religion, and That’s a Big Problem
by Charles Pierce, Esquire’s Politics Blog
Jesus H. Christ on a three-month bender, if they’d just let Al Smith use his peyote the way he believed his supreme being meant it to be used, we all might have been spared this trainwreck.
Back in the early 1990’s, Smith and another man were denied unemployment benefits by the state of Oregon because they had tested positive for the active ingredient in peyote, which has been a sacrament in various Native American religions since before bread and wine became sacramental in Christianity. Smith pursued his case all the way up to the Nine Wise Souls then sitting on the Most High Bench, who ruled against him. Not yet short-timing his day job, Justice Antonin Scalia who, of a Sunday, takes bread and wine instead of peyote as part of his own religious rituals, wrote the majority opinion in the case, [..]
Almost everyone from the religious right to the ACLU popped their corks over this and, in purported response, the Congress passed the Religious Freedom Restoration Act in 1993. (And yes, you are still entitled to ask, “Restoration? Where’s it been?”) Bill Clinton, just beginning to triangulate himself toward re-election, signed the thing. Since then, a gradual slippage regarding that act has been quietly underway. The RFRA is no longer about peyote. It has become a Trojan Horse, sliding the country toward a de facto kind of established religion, which today’s ruling in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby makes eminently clear. Religious freedom exists in the realm of medicine only to those religions that the Court finds acceptable-and, I would argue, only to those religions to which the members of the Court belong. Much will be written, and rightly so, about the boneheaded social subtext of the following nut paragraph in the 5-4 decision read today by Justice Samuel Alito. It is so obviously discriminatory toward ladies and their ladyparts that no explanation seems necessary.
Charlie up dated that article because of objection by some about his Papist take on Justice Alito’s majority opinion:
UPDATE — If you’re thinking that I’m hitting the whole Papist thing too hard, look at these two passages from different documents:
The belief… implicates a difficult and im-portant question of religion and moral philosophy, namely, the circumstances under which it is immoral for a person to perform an act that is innocent in itself but that has the effect of enabling or facili-tating the commission of an immoral act by another.
Neither is it valid to argue, as a justification for sexual intercourse which is deliberately contraceptive, that a lesser evil is to be preferred to a greater one, or that such intercourse would merge with procreative acts of past and future to form a single entity, and so be qualified by exactly the same moral goodness as these. Though it is true that sometimes it is lawful to tolerate a lesser moral evil in order to avoid a greater evil or in order to promote a greater good,” it is never lawful, even for the gravest reasons, to do evil that good may come of it.
The first is from Alito’s opinion today.
The second is a section of Humanae Vitae, the 1968 encyclical from Pope Paul VI that restated the Church’s opposition to artificial birth control and pretty much blew up the Vatican’s teaching authority among a great percentage of the Catholic laity in the United States. I would guess that the percentage in question does not include Samuel Alito.
This begs to question: is this Supreme Court out of Control?
Supreme Court’s out-of-control spiral: Ideologues rewriting their own laws
by David Dayen, Salon
http://cinziamazzamakeup.com/?x=viagra-generico-200-mg-in-farmacia-senza-ricetta-pagamento-online-a-Napoli It may be incremental, but make no mistake: This court is using absurd eccentricities to legislate from the bench
John Boehner wants to sue the president for pursuing executive authority without congressional input? He may want to file a copycat suit against the Supreme Court, who have executed plenty of extra-legislative rule making of their own.
On Monday, the court established multiple new distinctions in the law, inventing them largely to satisfy ideological whims. If any branch of government is engaging in de facto legislating and overstepping the bounds of authority, it’s the Roberts court.
As you probably know, the court ruled in the Hobby Lobby case that closely held corporations, where the top five shareholders control more than 50 percent of the company, must be given an accommodation for providing birth control in their employer-based insurance coverage, if they say it violates their religious beliefs. The decision, written by Justice Samuel Alito, explicitly argues companies like Hobby Lobby could be granted the same accommodation as churches and religious nonprofits, where the government effectively provides direct access to contraception coverage. (I didn’t know the court’s majority exhibited such [strident support for single-payer v] healthcare!)
But the ruling also makes a number of novel assumptions. First of all, Alito found that, for the purposes of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993, corporations are not just people, but people with religious beliefs, granting them the right to free exercise of that religion, which the contraception mandate “substantially burdens.” But Alito clearly worried about a slippery slope, where suddenly religious corporations would ignore all sorts of laws by invoking their conscience. So he drew a completely arbitrary line. [..]
This has become a familiar pattern for the Roberts court, using an initial ruling to indicate eventual overturning of precedent, and then employing a subsequent case to finish the job. It perhaps makes the court look more moderate and judicious, treading ground carefully to reach their desired end state. But since there’s no real distinction under the law between the initial “signal flare” ruling and the second, deeper one, it amounts to making up the rules as it suits the conservative majority, either for public relations purposes or to better carry out their agenda.
And that’s the real point. The Roberts court has a history, as shown in these recent cases, of basically legislating from the bench, of making idiosyncratic, agenda-driven choices about which parts of laws to uphold and which to strike down.
Linda Greenhouse, a New York Times columnist and Dahlia Lithwick spoke with Bill Moyers about the latest decisions>
Transcript can be read here
The latest session of the US Supreme Court was especially contentious, with important decisions on the separation of church and state, organized labor, campaign finance reform, birth control and women’s health, among others, splitting the court along its 5-4 conservative-liberal divide.
On the other hand, nearly two-thirds of the court’s decisions this term were unanimous – the first time that’s happened in more than 60 years. But there’s more to that seeming unanimity than meets the eye: in some instances, conservative justices went along but expressed their wish that the court had gone even further to the right, and many believe that some of the decisions might simply be a preliminary step toward a more significant breaking of legal precedent in years to come.
One more word on this court and future vacancies, there are those on the so-called left who will say we must vote for Democrats because of, omg, “It’s the Supreme Court.” Yet, Democrats failed to filibuster their nominations and, while only four Democrats voted for Alito, 22 voted for Roberts, Scalia was unanimous (98 – 0) (pdf), as was Kennedy (97 – 0) and 10 voted for Clarence Thomas. Even if the Democrats manage to hold onto their Senate majority, so far the Republicans have successfully used the filibuster to stop the body from dong its job. Unless, the Democrats are willing to ditch filibuster of SCOTUS nominees, I don’t see any Democratic president getting a nominee on the court that is as left as Ginsburg or Breyer
Nov 11 2013
When the term poor is used and when we discuss poverty, there are commonplace definitions that we always rely on. To be poor relates to a lack of money or income. But that is a tautology in many senses; a definition that already presumes that poverty relates solely to income and while commonplace is essentially misleading. A far more useful definition of poverty relates to a broader range of things within a social context. Let’s begin with some definitions of poverty in the context of the modern debate on poverty:
Let’s start with that advanced by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation:
“Relative Poverty – When we talk about poverty in the UK today we rarely mean malnutrition or the levels of squalor of previous centuries or even the hardships of the 1930s before the advent of the welfare state. It is a relative concept. ‘Poor’ people are those who are considerably worse off than the majority of the population – a level of deprivation heavily out of line with the general living standards enjoyed by the by the majority of the population in one of the most affluent countries in the world (http://www.jrf.org.uk/sites/files/jrf/poverty-definitions.pdf).”
Additional definitions address the impact of poverty on ensuring accessing fundamental notions of rights, like the European Commission definition. In its Joint Report on Social Inclusion (2004) the EC defined poverty in the following way:
“People are said to be living in poverty if their income and resources are so inadequate as to preclude them from having a standard of living considered acceptable in the society in which they live. Because of their poverty they may experience multiple disadvantage through unemployment, low income, poor housing, inadequate health care and barriers to lifelong learning, culture, sport and recreation. They are often excluded and marginalised from participating in activities (economic, social and cultural) that are the norm for other people and their access to fundamental rights may be restricted (http://www.jrf.org.uk/sites/files/jrf/poverty-definitions.pdf).”
May 30 2013
The news item is just one of many reports of a far off land that holds some meaning for me.
A fellow Vietnam veteran never quite left Vietnam behind. It’s been years now but I would see him regularly over time at flea markets and antique shows with his primitive artifacts mainly from Myanmar mixed in with the usual commercial trash – er, merchandise from exotic far off lands in Asia.
Sonny gathered his artifacts primarily from the rebel-held areas of Myanmar. I used to josh Sonny saying I expected some day to see his shrunken head on a stick at some flea market. Some of those artifacts were were family heirlooms pressed into Sonny’s hands by desperate people expecting themselves and their entire families to be killed by the government. Their idea was that the family would continue to live symbolically in those pitiful remnants sold in flea markets in America.
Militant Buddhists killing peaceful Muslims?
Isn’t that turning things upside down?
Some Buddhists are even atheists. I have no idea how that can be but I scoff at those proclaiming themselves atheists and then claiming they have no religion. What do they think atheism is then? Do they not know the greatest mass murderers of all time proclaimed themselves atheists, specifically Stalin and Mao Tse Tung killed non-believers just as ruthlessly as any other religious leaders?
My daughter’s wedding to a professed pagan – Wiccan – was presided over by a non-denominational preacher, whatever that is supposed to be.
I liked the preacher, Joker, very much BTW but he was no Unitarian by a long shot. He really seemed to believe the Christian mythology – er, Christian truths.
In a discussion without the slightest sign of rancor, Joker said to me, “You must be an agnostic.”
Heavens no, I told him, I have no religion. Agnostics insist they don’t know and neither do you.
Agnostics can be every bit as frightening as the Gnostic Christian heretics of the first centuries who carried Christianity to its ultimate extreme. Saving the spiritual souls from the corrupt bodies could be accomplished by such measures as poisoning the town water well.
Joker told me that there were militant and non-militant aganostics, “hard” and “soft” agnostics in his words. Seemed the soft variety didn’t care whether you believed or not.
I told Joker I must be a third kind – don’t know and don’t care.
Religion can be a lot of fun. I loved the Cao Dai temple in Vietnam with its open lattice work and decorative serpents crawling through some of the open spaces. In the entry way the three great prophets of the religion are pictured above an open doorway: Jesus Christ, Buddha and Victor Hugo. The Pope and his 7 women cardinals would proclaim their religion completely pacifist while reviewing a military parade of a fierce fighting force that had proven itself more than capable of keeping the peace no matter how many they had to kill.
On leaving we were asked for a donation to the missions.
I asked where these missions might be.
When Los Angeles was named, I quickly made my last donation to any religion over half a century ago.
Los Angeles may be the only place on earth that could use some religion.
Jan 12 2013
I tend not to cover too much on the religion front. There are no doubt deep psychological issues involved with that.
I have written about my own spiritual journey at my pretty much forgotten blogspot site.
One of the reasons I don’t cover religion much, although I do acknowledge that many transpeople find it to be an integral part of their lives, is because writing about religion on the internet tends to be a magnet for disagreement, name-calling, and disrespect. It is my sincere hope that will not be the case with this essay. Adults can disagree without being disagreeable.
And people who can’t participate in an amiable discussion are free to find something else to discuss.
Today I have assembled a compendium of three stories drawn from religious sources for your perusal. It should never be forgotten that every theme of life is tinged with difference by the transgender perspective.
Dec 04 2012
Not much going on here. Sad, in a way but I think we are all weary of politics after the election. We dodged a bullet in a way–the Obama win asserted that the majority of the voters and, I believe, a majority of the people prefer not to end Western Civilization yet which a vote for Romney clearly would indicate. I’m happy for that and feel I can now relax a bit.
Life goes on–nothing substantial changed there will be some different seating arrangements in the halls of power but the same basic actors will be there and the same permanent government is in power. There is an cannot be any significant change in those arrangements as any reasonably thorough examination of our institutions, regs, laws and economic/social arrangements would indicate. We will be the land of the con, the scam the hidden deals and the fine-print and the “gotcha.” We are a chaotic society that keeps getting curiouser and curiouser.
What strikes me is what few on the left want to confront–our political arrangements actually reflect who we are on a personal and community-level in an exaggerated way of course–but the general attitude of incoherence, superstition, and the inability to have dialogue may be even worse in the body-politic than in the actual halls of power.
As I have had discussions both online and verbal over the years I find less and less willingness of people to listen to each other, rather, everyone wants to be right and be justified–I can’t say I am that different other than I try to be observant but I like anyone can get on my high horse and hear nothing.
I see no cultural movement moving us into a more “enlightened” point of view politically though I’m happy that there is more acceptance of sexual minorities, a slight turning away from religious fundamentalism due to a real resurgence of “I’m an atheist and I’m proud” movement which I like even though I am a Christian–you know the old fashioned type that actually has read the Gospels–I’m also influenced by Buddhism and Yoga and Sufism and so on it’s all very similar to me–the Perennial Philosophy as Huxley called it.
We need a dialogue on philosophy and spirituality in this country–politics comes from these larger views. We are diseased as a culture because we have not come to terms with philosophy or theology (the Queen of the Sciences in my view) and I think that movement may slowly roll. Being able to admit I’m a Christian or an Atheist or whatever or just that I don’t know is the new liberation movement we need.
Politics has nothing to offer now–we no longer live in a Constitutional republic so we should stop complaining about a fact that has been a fact for a long time and shows absolutely no sign of changing other than allowing everyone an equal opportunity to kill peasants and so on.
As far as politics and whatever this site is about–we’re running on empty. Sad.
Nov 10 2012
The Great Spirit
For certain this isn’t comprehensive but mindless to boot.
I will ignore all or most syncretic religions and all real polytheisms. No cargo cults, no voudouin, sorry. IMO they are so obviously false that one doesn’t really need to say much about them anyway…
Man, you are sorry in more ways than one. Has to be a man. Even blondes aren’t that dumb unless they are men like me.
This comes from a university blog but it might as well come from the collected wisdom of Rush Limbaugh for scholarship.
From the Deism link:
Historically, many of the Founding Fathers of the United States were deists: Jefferson…
Aww, geez, Washington, and I think Adams, were Deists but Jefferson was a Unitarian.
I kinda like Deism which says there was a Creator but God takes care of God and man can damn well take care of himself. It is one of the remaining things that still allows me to like Washington.
Deism was obviously a handy device to be an atheist without getting hanged.
Me and my ancient bride and the dawgs sit out evenings at the edge of our landing strip waiting for John Frum to arrive in the cargo planes packed with canned spam and other good things. Our Cargo Cult’s a heck of a lot better religion than that stupid Deism that gives you nothing.
Jul 07 2012
I am not ready to start a new, long series about music just yet, so tonight we shall discuss the hate filled, venom spitting comprare viagra generico 200 mg pagamento online American Family Association ( go here AFA). This is one of the most conservative, evangelical groups that exists and qualifies as being termed a drug finasteride 5mg side hate group by the go Southern Poverty Law Center.
I go back a very long time with the AFA. When I lived in Arkansas, their radio stations were everywhere (as they are now) and they had also started a website, afa.net. They also run a radical news organization, onenewsnow.com ( follow url ONN). It is interesting that this could be pronounced either “one news now”, or “one new snow”. I like the latter better because their “articles” are a big snow job for the most part. It is ironic that ONN is also the acronym for acquistare viagra generico 25 mg Onion News Network, and their stories are often more realistic that the AFA ones are. I commented on some of their news articles and drew the wrath of the son of the founder. I wish I still had the emails that he sent me; they were mean spirited and nasty.
Before we get very far into this, let me make my philosophy clear. I am not a believer in any religion, but I am not one of those “evangelical atheists” who want to make it difficult for believers. I just do not think that public funds should be expended to promote any religion, regardless of what the particular religion is. Likewise, I do not think that public funds should be expended to suppress any religion. I am a live and let live sort of person, unless someone threatens me or my loved ones. The AFA, in my estimate, threatens all of us who do not agree with them.
Jul 21 2011
A recent series of posts written by a blogging friend of mine raises some serious questions. In it, he discusses ways in which many of us who mean well go completely wrong. We live in a post-Christian society, but we carry over aspects of religiosity of which we may not even be consciously aware. In seeking to be Good Liberals™, we reveal our indebtedness to the same relative framework, one held also by our ancestors. Before I introduce my larger point, I need to assert here that I am not arguing that anyone ought to hold racist ideas or that doing so is acceptable. Rather, I’m critiquing the means by which we often resort to eradicate them. Here is the first.
Jun 30 2011
My father’s mother was raised in an extremely religious family. Her father, a minister in a Pentecostal church that I would best describe as Holy Roller, believed in demonic possession. Sadly, my Grandmother was stricken with a variety of physical maladies that left her constantly ill and often bedridden. Following the teachings of her upbringing, his mother dragged my father to one church after another, all in the hopes that someone could cure her. Taking the miracles of Jesus as literally true, she was certain that someone out there possessed the ability. This belief was so strong that she sometimes gave money to televangelists who promised to do the very same thing.
Jun 21 2011
NPR is not exactly gung-ho on covering Climate Change but it presented a thoughtful (for NPR) segment on climate change and the fact that Americans are less likely to “believe” in climate change today than a few years ago despite the fact that scientists are more convinced of the reality of human caused climate change than ever; and b) most Americans believe, or claim to, in science and scientific findings. NPR also pointed out that the most significant trend in climate-change denying is in the GOP and its stalwarts; however, NPR did not, as I guessed it would not, go into why this is so because it would have put its own funding at risk.
So I will say why it is so and I’m not going to blame the politicians. First though I want to emphasize how important the issue is. This issue strikes at the heart of what it means to be a responsible human being and even at civilization itself. We are choosing to live a lifestyle that is clearly and unambiguously destructive to the environment and, in my view, destructive to human society and individual morality even more. By persisting in destructive behavior despite the clear facts–and even if there was some doubt that applying any normal risk-analysis system to the problem would come out, overwhelmingly, to taking action. It is, in short, pragmatic to act on the climate change issue. What I’m interested is why we don’t act on it and what that tells us about us.