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Author Topic: Prayer and Religion in Public Life  (Read 20144 times)
Beach Bum
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« Reply #275 on: November 04, 2013, 01:20:17 PM »

I have to assume that the American Atheists that raised the issue brought forth factual evidence concerning why the grief counseling by clergy doesn't help in these circumstances first before requesting evidence that is does, correct?    I also have to assume that the American Atheists also brought forth a throughly planned alternative for the volunteer clergy that causes no additional burden for the taxpayer whatsoever while improving the level of counseling?   Or if the alternative proposed did cause increased burden for taxpayers that definite justification for the alternative was presented?

I can't imagine that the group just capriciously raised the objection, immediately demanded some form of validating study and yet offered no initial support to back their objections while not providing a more efficient, improved alternative for the existing volunteer counseling.  

Is the American Atheist group that raised the objection highly experienced in grief counseling and crime prevention methods?  I have to assume that there was more behind the objection other than their own personal objections to theists in general.

Did the American Atheist group provide data that showed that victims that received counseling were unhappy with the guidance they received?   Did the American Atheists provide data that indicates that the grief counseling was only a thinly veiled attempt to convert victims to the clergy-counseler's particular brand of faith?  Did the American Atheists group provide any studies that indicated that post-incident the victims that received counseling from pastors had their quality of life diminished?  Again, I have to assume that the objections were grounded in some of these kinds of ideas and data before the objections were raised.  

If these preliminary conditions were met (and accompanied the initial objections) then demands for independent studies by the local government in support of the theists' volunteer efforts would seem reasonable.  If not the objections seem like good ole fashioned grandstanding, but really nothing more than prattle.

Oh I doubt they offered any evidence.  I think they are a funny group.  Organized and lobbying based on a belief in nothing. 
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« Reply #276 on: November 04, 2013, 01:21:03 PM »

Texas woman recognized for 80 consecutive years with church
Published November 04, 2013
Associated Press

CHIRENO, TEXAS –  An East Texas woman has been recognized for her 80-year unbroken membership in her church.

Lilly Stone joined the Chireno United Methodist Church in 1933, when she was 8 years old. The Daily Sentinel in Nacogdoches reports that Stone was recently awarded a plaque signed by the church's bishop and district superintendent honoring her longtime membership.

Stone says, "It was a shock. I really didn't know how long I had been a member. I didn't think about it."

Stone joined the church while living with her grandmother, whose house abutted the church's parsonage.

Stone celebrated her 88th birthday on Thursday.

Chireno is a town of about 400 people located about 200 miles southeast of Dallas.

http://www.foxnews.com/us/2013/11/04/texas-woman-recognized-for-80-consecutive-years-with-church/?intcmp=latestnews
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« Reply #277 on: November 04, 2013, 04:32:46 PM »

Great story.

Fox News' Highly Reluctant Jesus Follower
Of all people surprised that I became an evangelical Christian, I'm the most surprised.
Kirsten Powers
posted 10/22/2013

Just seven years ago, if someone had told me that I'd be writing for Christianity Today magazine about how I came to believe in God, I would have laughed out loud. If there was one thing in which I was completely secure, it was that I would never adhere to any religion—especially to evangelical Christianity, which I held in particular contempt.

I grew up in the Episcopal Church in Alaska, but my belief was superficial and flimsy. It was borrowed from my archaeologist father, who was so brilliant he taught himself to speak and read Russian. When I encountered doubt, I would fall back on the fact that he believed.

Leaning on my father's faith got me through high school. But by college it wasn't enough, especially because as I grew older he began to confide in me his own doubts. What little faith I had couldn't withstand this revelation. From my early 20s on, I would waver between atheism and agnosticism, never coming close to considering that God could be real.

After college I worked as an appointee in the Clinton administration from 1992 to 1998. The White House surrounded me with intellectual people who, if they had any deep faith in God, never expressed it. Later, when I moved to New York, where I worked in Democratic politics, my world became aggressively secular. Everyone I knew was politically left-leaning, and my group of friends was overwhelmingly atheist.

I sometimes hear Christians talk about how terrible life must be for atheists. But our lives were not terrible. Life actually seemed pretty wonderful, filled with opportunity and good conversation and privilege. I know now that it was not as wonderful as it could have been. But you don't know what you don't know. How could I have missed something I didn't think existed?

Very Open-Minded

To the extent that I encountered Christians, it was in the news cycle. And inevitably they were saying something about gay people or feminists. I didn't feel I was missing much. So when I began dating a man who was into Jesus, I was not looking for God. In fact, the week before I met him, a friend had asked me if I had any deal breakers in dating. My response: "Just nobody who is religious."

A few months into our relationship, my boyfriend called to say he had something important to talk to me about. I remember exactly where I was sitting in my West Village apartment when he said, "Do you believe Jesus is your Savior?" My stomach sank. I started to panic. Oh no, was my first thought. He's crazy.

When I answered no, he asked, "Do you think you could ever believe it?" He explained that he was at a point in life when he wanted to get married and felt that I could be that person, but he couldn't marry a non-Christian. I said I didn't want to mislead him—that I would never believe in Jesus.

Then he said the magic words for a liberal: "Do you think you could keep an open mind about it?" Well, of course. "I'm very open-minded!" Even though I wasn't at all. I derided Christians as anti-intellectual bigots who were too weak to face the reality that there is no rhyme or reason to the world. I had found this man's church attendance an oddity to overlook, not a point in his favor.

As he talked, I grew conflicted. On the one hand, I was creeped out. On the other hand, I had enormous respect for him. He is smart, educated, and intellectually curious. I remember thinking, What if this is true, and I'm not even willing to consider it?

A few weeks later I went to church with him. I was so clueless about Christianity that I didn't know that some Presbyterians were evangelicals. So when we arrived at the Upper East Side service of Redeemer Presbyterian Church, I was shocked and repelled by what I saw. I was used to the high-church liturgy of my youth. We were meeting in an auditorium with a band playing what I later learned was "praise music." I thought, How am I going to tell him I can never come back?

But then the pastor preached. I was fascinated. I had never heard a pastor talk about the things he did. Tim Keller's sermon was intellectually rigorous, weaving in art and history and philosophy. I decided to come back to hear him again. Soon, hearing Keller speak on Sunday became the highlight of my week. I thought of it as just an interesting lecture—not really church. I just tolerated the rest of it in order to hear him. Any person who is familiar with Keller's preaching knows that he usually brings Jesus in at the end of the sermon to tie his points together. For the first few months, I left feeling frustrated: Why did he have to ruin a perfectly good talk with this Jesus nonsense?

Each week, Keller made the case for Christianity. He also made the case against atheism and agnosticism. He expertly exposed the intellectual weaknesses of a purely secular worldview. I came to realize that even if Christianity wasn't the real thing, neither was atheism.

I began to read the Bible. My boyfriend would pray with me for God to reveal himself to me. After about eight months of going to hear Keller, I concluded that the weight of evidence was on the side of Christianity. But I didn't feel any connection to God, and frankly, I was fine with that. I continued to think that people who talked of hearing from God or experiencing God were either delusional or lying. In my most generous moments, I allowed that they were just imagining things that made them feel good.

Then one night in 2006, on a trip to Taiwan, I woke up in what felt like a strange cross between a dream and reality. Jesus came to me and said, "Here I am." It felt so real. I didn't know what to make of it. I called my boyfriend, but before I had time to tell him about it, he told me he had been praying the night before and felt we were supposed to break up. So we did. Honestly, while I was upset, I was more traumatized by Jesus visiting me.

Completely True

I tried to write off the experience as misfiring synapses, but I couldn't shake it. When I returned to New York a few days later, I was lost. I suddenly felt God everywhere and it was terrifying. More important, it was unwelcome. It felt like an invasion. I started to fear I was going crazy.
I didn't know what to do, so I spoke with writer Eric Metaxas, whom I had met through my boyfriend and who had talked with me quite a bit about God. "You need to be in a Bible study," he said. "And Kathy Keller's Bible study is the one you need to be in." I didn't like the sound of that, but I was desperate. My whole world was imploding. How was I going to tell my family or friends about what had happened? Nobody would understand. I didn't understand. (It says a lot about the family in which I grew up that one of my most pressing concerns was that Christians would try to turn me into a Republican.)

I remember walking into the Bible study. I had a knot in my stomach. In my mind, only weirdoes and zealots went to Bible studies. I don't remember what was said that day. All I know is that when I left, everything had changed. I'll never forget standing outside that apartment on the Upper East Side and saying to myself, "It's true. It's completely true." The world looked entirely different, like a veil had been lifted off it. I had not an iota of doubt. I was filled with indescribable joy.

The horror of the prospect of being a devout Christian crept back in almost immediately. I spent the next few months doing my best to wrestle away from God. It was pointless. Everywhere I turned, there he was. Slowly there was less fear and more joy. The Hound of Heaven had pursued me and caught me—whether I liked it or not.

Kirsten Powers is a contributor to USA Today and a columnist for Newsweek/The Daily Beast. She is a Democratic commentator at Fox News.

http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2013/november/fox-news-highly-reluctant-jesus-follower-kirsten-powers.html?paging=off
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« Reply #278 on: November 06, 2013, 07:49:47 PM »

Supreme Court wrestling with prayer at NY town's meetings
Published November 06, 2013
Associated Press

The Supreme Court is wrestling with the appropriate role for religion in government in a case involving prayers at the start of a New York town's council meetings.

The justices engaged in a lively give-and-take Wednesday that highlighted the sensitive nature of offering religious invocations in public proceedings that don't appeal to everyone and of governments' efforts to police the practice.

The court is weighing a federal appeals court ruling that said the Rochester suburb of Greece, N.Y., violated the Constitution because nearly every prayer in an 11-year span was overtly Christian.

The tenor of the argument indicated the justices would not agree with the appellate ruling. But it was not clear what decision they might come to instead.

Justice Elena Kagan summed up the difficult task before the court when she noted that some people believe that "every time the court gets involved, things get worse instead of better."

Greece is being backed by the Obama administration and many social and religious conservative groups in arguing that the court settled this issue 30 years ago when it held that an opening prayer is part of the nation's fabric and not a violation of the First Amendment. Some of those groups want the court to go further and get rid of legal rules that tend to rein in religious expression in the public sphere.

On the other side are the two town residents who sued over the prayers and the liberal interest groups that support them. Greece residents Susan Galloway and Linda Stephens say they and others who attend the meetings are a captive audience and should not be subjected to sectarian prayers.

At its broadest, the outcome could extend well beyond prayer and also affect holiday displays, aid to religious schools, Ten Commandments markers and memorial crosses. More narrowly, the case could serve as a test of the viability of the decision in Marsh v. Chambers, the 1983 case that said prayer in the Nebraska Legislature did not violate the First Amendment's clause barring laws "respecting an establishment of religion," known as the Establishment Clause.

The potentially decisive vote in the case belongs to Justice Anthony Kennedy, who did not seem satisfied with arguments made by lawyers for Greece and the administration on one side and for the Greece residents on the other.

On the one hand, Kennedy said he did not like the thought that government officials or judges would examine the content of the prayers to make sure they are not sectarian. "That involves the state very heavily in the censorship of prayers," Kennedy said.

On the other hand, he objected to the reliance by the town and the administration on the decision in Marsh.

All the while, Justice Stephen Breyer was trying out potential outcomes that recognized both the tradition of prayer and the rights of religious minorities and non-believers. "If all that was left in the case were questions of making a good-faith effort to include others, would you object to doing it?" Breyer asked Thomas Hungar, the Washington, D.C., lawyer who is representing the town.

Hungar said he did not know, but asserted that the town already has engaged in the outreach Breyer described.

In Greece, every meeting was opened with a Christian-oriented invocation from 1999 through 2007, and again from January 2009 through June 2010. In 2008, after Galloway and Stephens complained, four of 12 meetings were opened by non-Christians, including a Jewish layman, a Wiccan priestess and the chairman of the local Baha'i congregation.

The two residents filed suit and a trial court ruled in the town's favor, finding that the town did not intentionally exclude non-Christians. It also said that the content of the prayer was not an issue because there was no desire to proselytize or demean other faiths.

But a three-judge panel of the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said that even with the high court's 1983 ruling, the practice of having one Christian prayer after another amounted to the town's endorsement of Christianity.

A decision is expected by late June.

http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2013/11/06/supreme-court-wrestling-with-prayer-at-ny-town-meetings/
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« Reply #279 on: March 17, 2014, 08:13:19 PM »

Time to kick those paranoid religious extremists out of public schools.

Buddhist Student, Religious Liberty Prevail In Louisiana


 The American Civil Liberties Union and the ACLU of Louisiana have filed a federal lawsuit against a public school in Sabine Parish that harassed a non-Christian student and has a long history of proselytizing students and promoting religion. The lawsuit was filed on behalf of two parents, Scott and Sharon Lane, and their three children, including their son, C.C., who is a Buddhist of Thai heritage.

According to the complaint filed in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Louisiana, C.C enrolled in Negreet High School, which serves students in kindergarten through twelfth grade, earlier this year as a sixth-grader and quickly became the target of harassment by school staff. His science teacher, Rita Roark, repeatedly taught students that the Earth was created by God 6,000 years ago, that evolution is "impossible," and that the Bible is "100 percent true."

Roark also regularly features religious questions on her tests such as "ISN'T IT AMAZING WHAT THE _____________ HAS MADE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!" When C.C. did not write in Roark's expected answer, "LORD," she belittled him in front of the rest of the class. While studying other religions, Roark has told students that Buddhism is "stupid."

When Plaintiffs objected, Sabine Parish Superintendent, Sara Ebarb, told them that "this is the Bible belt." She suggested that C.C. should "change" his faith or transfer to another district school 25 miles away where, in her words, "there are more Asians." Ultimately, C.L.'s parents did transfer him to another school to protect him, but school officials at that school also unconstitutionally promote religion.

Beyond Roark's classroom, the school also regularly incorporates official Christian prayer into class and school events. School officials display religious iconography through hallways and classrooms, including a large portrait of Jesus Christ, and an electronic marquee in front of the school scrolls Bible verses as students enter the building.

The lawsuit asks the court to issue an order prohibiting the school district from continuing to promote religion or disparage Plaintiffs' faith and to require the district to reimburse the Lanes for the cost of transporting C.C. to another school.

Status: Victory! On March 14, 2014 a federal district court entered an order requiring the school district to refrain from unconstitutionally promoting or denigrating religion. The court’s order also mandates in-service training for school staff regarding their obligations under the First Amendment.

https://www.aclu.org/religion-belief/lane-v-sabine-parish-school-board
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