The bible won’t become the state book of Louisiana

Last month, Louisiana state Rep. Thomas Carmody proposed legislation to make the King James Bible the state book.

It was a controversial proposal, even in committee hearings, but not for the obvious reasons.

Rep. Stephen Ortego opposed the bill… because he felt the KJV wasn’t inclusive enough of all Christians. Because, let’s face it, no one else really matters.

Rep. Ebony Woodruff thought it would make far more sense to adopt “all books of faith” as the official state books of Louisiana. She never elaborated on how a decision would be made on which books would be included on that list… so maybe The Gospel of the Flying Spaghetti Monster had a chance?

Carmody didn’t accept either of those amendments… but it wasn’t until last night that he finally pulled his own bill:

Rep. Thomas Carmody… scrapped his proposal to make the Holy Bible the official state book before it could go to a full vote of the state House of Representatives Monday evening. The bill had become a distraction, he said.

Damn right it had. It was unnecessary, divisive, and completely contrary to the point of state books that derive from a shared culture or elevate native-born authors. Carmody created the distraction and it’s about time that he cleaned up his own mess.

That means Alabama is still the only state with the Bible as its state book. That’s already one state too many.

We’re really dumb

According to a new survey by GfK Public Affairs for the Associated Press, we’re dumb. Really, really dumb.

While most Americans understand that smoking causes cancer and that a mental illness affects the brain (real stumper, that one), only 53% are confident about childhood vaccines being safe and effective, 31% confidently accept evolution, and even fewer are confident about the age of the Earth and origin of the universe.

There’s actually a striking contradiction on the list. While only 31% of adults accept human evolution, 65% of them accept microevolution (though not in name) in the sense that overusing antibiotics can lead to drug-resistant bacteria. But what is human evolution but a long series of microevolutions?

That suggests that people are willing to understand and accept the idea of natural selection, but they’re often wrongly told we’re so special that it doesn’t apply to us. That’s the result of indoctrination, pure and simple. (It’s hardly surprising that the items on the list ranked lowest in confidence are ones where ignorance is spread by many religious leaders.)

Confidence in evolution, the Big Bang, the age of the Earth and climate change decline sharply as faith in a supreme being rises, according to the poll. Likewise, those who regularly attend religious services or are evangelical Christians express much greater doubts about scientific concepts they may see as contradictory to their faith.
William Saletan at Slate sees a positive side to this:

From the standpoint of scientific literacy, it would be better if people didn’t believe in fairy tales. But from the standpoint of public health and a well-functioning society, we just need them to lay off the antibiotics.

I’m pretty sure Saletan and I are of the same mind on these issues, but I don’t share his optimism. If so many people can have doubts about the age of the Earth or global warming — likely because religious/right-wing figureheads convince them that certain scientific truths are really part of some godless conspiracy — then the fact that they may be more likely to support, say, childhood vaccines is just hanging by a thread.

What happens when evangelical pastors decide that vaccines or genetic testing are somehow anti-biblical and the next big threats to society? How many believers will change their minds on those issues? If they’re willing to suspend all critical thinking on something as scientifically solid as the origin of the universe, what’s stopping them from falling prey to other faith-based rumors?

This survey only displays symptoms of a much larger problem: Ignorance is in play everywhere, but nowhere is it embraced like it is in some religious communities.

Former Lesbian Police Chief gets support from sane people

WASHINGTON — It’s been a rough week for Crystal Moore. She got fired from her job as the police chief in Latta, S.C., despite a spotless 20-year record with the department, and she’s not alone in believing the town’s new mayor fired her because she’s a lesbian. It’s the first time she hasn’t had a job since she was 9, her health insurance runs out at the end of the month and she doesn’t know where her next paycheck will come from.

But if the firing weren’t enough of a shock, something else unexpected happened: Her community — a tiny conservative town of about 1,410 residents — is rising to her defense and demanding that she get her job back.

Dozens of people have picketed outside town hall and held prayer vigils. Kids she met while patrolling at a school have told her they support her. Members of the town council voted to take action to go around Mayor Earl Bullard and try to reinstate her job. Her former team of officers calls her every day to lend their support. And teachers, preachers and counselors in town have all approached her to tell her she deserves her job back and that her sexual orientation should have nothing to do with her job.

“People call us the Bible Belt in the South, and to have so much support is awesome. I’m going to tell you, it’s amazing,” Moore told The Huffington Post. “The good Lord has really blessed me with a lot of family and friends.”

Even people that Moore threw in jail say they want her back as the police chief.

“We just had a big case with a firearms place broken into, and even the people we investigated came up and hung their necks and said, ‘You did your job. We respect you for that,’” she said. “They’re saying, ‘I’m helping Ms. Crystal to keep her job and she’s the one who locked me up.’”

Moore’s community has also turned to the Internet to build support for her. Residents created the Twitter hashtag #StandWithChiefMoore and launched petitions demanding that Moore get her job back and that Bullard’s actions be investigated. Most notably, her supporters set up an online fundraising site to help Moore with living expenses and potential legal costs as she fights to return to her job. As of Tuesday afternoon, the site had raised $1,935.

“I have always worked. That’s all I want to do is get back to work, support myself and work for my community,” Moore said. “Here I am now, I have no income. I’ve never been in this predicament. One hundred percent of my life has been for my career. And here I am, struggling because one person does not like me personally. He snatched it away.”

A request for comment from Bullard’s office was not returned.

Bullard maintains he fired Moore after giving her seven reprimands on April 15. He alleges that she failed to maintain order and questioned authority, among other offenses. But the reprimands were the first Moore ever received after 20 years on the job. What’s more, members of the town council said Bullard, who became mayor in December, broke with protocol by not giving Moore a verbal or written warning for any wrongdoing and not discussing the matter with the council before taking action. On top of that, a council member produced a recorded phone call he recently had with the mayor in which Bullard went on a homophobic tirade about preferring to leave his children with a raging alcoholic over someone whose “lifestyle is questionable.”

The reality is that even if Bullard said he fired Moore because of her sexual orientation, he would be allowed to do so. It’s currently legal in 29 states — including South Carolina — to fire or harass someone at work for being gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender. There’s legislation in Congress that would ban such treatment of people, but the bill, called the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, has stalled in the House, where Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) has said he won’t let it get a vote. It already passed the Senate with bipartisan support.

President Barack Obama also has the ability to ban such workplace discrimination among federal contractors, though he has yet to do anything on that front. If he did take action, it would extend protections to as many as 16 million workers.

Moore said she doesn’t follow Washington politics much but has heard about ENDA and doesn’t understand why it isn’t moving through Congress.

“Are we back in the 1960s again?” she asked. “I hope something is done. I’d been at the department for 20 years and never had any problems. Then four months of harassment from Bullard. He micromanaged me, caused me so much stress, nitpicking, and there’s nothing in our policy to help me. Not a thing. It’s like, can you just tell him to leave me alone? I’ve got to do my job.”

For now, Moore is holding her breath until June 24, when the town will vote on a referendum to switch its form of government to council-strong, mayor-weak, which is the opposite of its current form. Council members voted unanimously to put the referendum to a vote in response to Moore being fired. If it passes, the council will have the authority to reinstate her job.

Despite feeling “crushed” when hearing the recording of Bullard’s anti-gay comments, Moore said one of the most heartening aspects of the ordeal is that people from all over the country have been leaving supportive messages on her Facebook page. Some have shared stories about being discriminated against at work for being gay and lamented that they didn’t have the courage to fight to get their jobs back.

“It’s just amazing. Some say, ‘I didn’t fight, I didn’t do anything, I gave in and took a severance package.’ They didn’t think they had any options and just gave in,” Moore said. “They want me to fight. That’s what I want.”

The largest Christian population in 25 years will be… China?

Just a few decades ago some wondered whether religion would survive Communist rule at all. However, as of 2010 there were 68 million Christians in China according to Pew Research.

Some experts, like Purdue University sociology professor Fenggang Yang, have no doubt, though, that China is on track to overtake the U.S. as the most Christian country in the world.

“By my calculations China is destined to become the largest Christian country in the world very soon,” Yang told The Telegraph. “It is going to be less than a generation. Not many people are prepared for this dramatic change.”

China has a long way to go to catch up with the U.S.’s Christian population. According to Pew Research, more than 78% of the U.S.’s population of nearly 318 million identifies as Christian.

The People’s Republic of China, which is officially an atheist country, has a population of nearly 1.4 billion. As of 2010, just 5% of China’s population, or roughly 67 million people were Chrisitian, according to Pew Research, making it the seventh largest Christian country.

Professor Yang, who wrote ‘Religion in China: Survival and Revival under Communist Rule’, believes the number of Christians in China will rise to 160 million by 2025 and 247 million by 2030, just as America’s Christian population appears to be waning.

This growth may not go unchallenged by the Chinese government, however, which routinely discriminates against Christians. The Telegraph reports that millions of China’s Protestants worship in illegal ‘house churches,’ and the World Watch List ranks China as the 37th worst country in the world for Christian persecution.

“[The government does] not trust the church, but they have to tolerate or accept it because the growth is there,” one house church leader told The Telegraph. “The number of Christians is growing – they cannot fight it.”

Some Christians in China are coming out into the open, however. In early April thousands of Christians in Wenzhou, China formed a human shield around their church when the government threatened to bulldoze the building.

“A church is a sacred place and we are all brothers and sisters,” protestor Jin Yufu told The Telegraph. “Christianity has made a big contribution to society in many ways.”

A creationist complains about the creationism of a Bible college

You may recall that Bryan College, a Christian school in Dayton, Tennessee, was considering a change last month to its statement of faith that all faculty members have to sign. It would be revised to include a section regarding the origin of man.

“We believe that all humanity is descended from Adam and Eve. They are historical persons created by God in a special formative act, and not from previously existing life forms.”

In other words, you had to be a Creationist. No room for theistic evolution (much less how it actually happened).

Last week, the school’s board of trustees approved the revised statement, a decision that could result in the exodus of several faculty members.

Well, Ken Ham is still not satisfied because the school isn’t promoting Young Earth Creationism, just run-of-the-mill Creationism.

He’s upset because the bullshit has a slightly sweeter stench than he prefers.

To that end, he may have written the best thing I’ve read in a while. After quoting parts of the Bible mentioning Adam and Eve and the rest of the literal Genesis story, he says this:

… the above verses are enough for us to know with 100 percent certainty that Eve was created from Adam (and not through some previously existing animal), and that Adam was made from dust.
100% certainty.

He’s seriously using the argument that the Bible is true because the Bible says it’s true. That’s not just a joke atheists make about fundamentalists — he’s actually doing it.

It’s bad enough that Bryan College is making its professors sign a statement demanding that they close their minds to all available evidence. But it’s so much worse when someone even more out-of-touch with reality complains because the school hasn’t gone far enough in stopping critical thinking.

Mayor who kind of agrees with gunman resigns

Marionville, Mo. Mayor Dan Clevenger resigned from his post Monday after coming under fire for ties to the gunman accused of killing three people outside an Overland Park, Kan. Jewish center last week.

The Springfield News-Leader reported that Clevenger’s decision came after a town hall meeting where residents and local aldermen called for his impeachment. Clevenger faced backlash after telling KSPR-TV last week that he “kind of agreed” with some of alleged shooter Frazier Glenn Cross’ beliefs.

“He was always nice and friendly and respectful of elder people, you know, he respected his elders greatly,” Clevenger told KSPR-TV of Miller, who also went by the name Frazier Glenn Miller. “As long as they were the same color as him,” Clevenger said.

As the AP noted last week, the 73-year-old Miller holds white-supremacist beliefs, and ran for federal office twice on anti-Semitic platforms. The News-Leader added that after the meeting, Clevenger expressed regrets about writing a letter a decade ago in support of Miller’s “warnings.”

More on that letter, via KSPR-TV’s report from last Tuesday:

“I am a friend of Frazier Miller helping to spread his warnings,” wrote Clevenger. “The Jew-run medical industry has succeeded in destroying the United State’s workforce.”
The letter continued.
“Made a few Jews rich by killin’ us off.”
He also spoke of the “Jew-run government backed banking industry turned the U.S into the world’s largest debtor nation.”
After the meeting, Clevenger told the News-Leader he regrets writing an anti-Semitic letter to the editor to the Aurora Advertiser about 10 years ago. He said he was heavily influenced by Miller at the time.

How a stowaway got past security

KAHULUI, Hawaii (AP) — Surveillance cameras at San Jose International Airport successfully captured the teenager on the tarmac, climbing up the landing gear of a jet. But in the end, the cameras failed because no one noticed the security breach until the plane — and the boy — landed in Hawaii.

Although the 15-year-old apparently wanted nothing more than to run away, his success in slipping past layers of security early Sunday morning made it clear that a determined person can still get into a supposedly safe area and sneak onto a plane.

Video surveillance can help catch trespassers. Some airports use not just human eyes watching video screens, but also technology that can be programmed to sound an alert when a camera captures something potentially suspicious. But just because something is caught on camera doesn’t mean it will make an impression.

Despite great promise, “sometimes the actual results are quite underwhelming when it gets to the real world, where people are fatigued, people are preoccupied,” said Richard Bloom, an airport security expert at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Arizona. “There’s no way to guarantee security, even if you had one person per video screen.”

There were no obvious efforts Monday to increase security or the police presence at airports in San Jose or Maui. In San Jose, airport officials said they were reviewing how the boy slipped through security that includes video surveillance, German shepherds and Segway-riding police officers.

While each of those measures can work for certain situations, “the problem is that each layer has its own error factor,” Bloom said.

Nobody monitoring security cameras throughout the 1,050-acre airport saw anyone approaching the Boeing 767 until they reviewed the footage after the boy was discovered in Hawaii, San Jose airport spokeswoman Rosemary Barnes said. The airport, in the heart of Silicon Valley, is surrounded by fences, although many sections do not have barbed wire and could easily be scaled.

Barnes said the boy went onto the tarmac when it was still dark. The flight took off at about 8 a.m. PDT, about 90 minutes after sunrise.

The boy was knocked out most of the 5 1/2-hour flight and didn’t regain consciousness until an hour after the plane landed in Hawaii, FBI spokesman Tom Simon said. When he came to, he climbed out of the wheel well and was immediately seen by Maui airport personnel, Simon said.

Surveillance video at Kahului Airport showed the boy getting out of the wheel well after landing, transportation officials in Hawaii said. The video was not released because of the ongoing investigation.

The boy was not charged with a crime, Simon said.

While the Transportation Security Administration oversees checkpoint security inside airport terminals, airport perimeters are policed by local authorities and federal law enforcement.

Airport police were working with the FBI and TSA to review security.

San Jose police said they will forward the findings of their investigation to the district attorney, who can decide whether to file criminal charges in California. Maui County spokesman Rod Antone said the county was not involved with the incident or investigation because the state runs the airports.

The Hawaii Department of Transportation said they didn’t plan to investigate further after turning the boy over to state human services, where officials were working to reunite the boy with his family.

Isaac Yeffet, a former head of security for the Israeli airline El Al who now runs his own firm, Yeffet Security Consultants, said the breach shows that U.S. airport security still has weaknesses, despite billions of dollars invested.

“Shame on us for doing such a terrible job,” he said. “Perimeters are not well protected. We see it again and again.”

U.S. Rep. Eric Swalwell, D-Calif., who serves on the Homeland Security committee, said on Twitter that the incident demonstrates vulnerabilities that need to be addressed.

The FAA says about one-quarter of the 105 stowaways who have sneaked aboard flights worldwide since 1947 have survived. Some wheel-well stowaways survived deadly cold and a lack of oxygen because their breathing, heart rate and brain activity slow down.

The official website of Ryan James Hite


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