Not the ‘Illuminati’: How Fundamentalist Christians Are Infiltrating State and Federal Government

by Sofia Resnick, Investigative Reporting Fellow, RH Reality Check and Sharona Coutts, Director of Investigations and Research, RH Reality Check

Imagine that a little-known but increasingly powerful group of ideologues had hatched a plan to transform the United States into a Christian theocracy harkening back to the Dark Ages of Europe, a time when society was governed by the laws and officials of the Catholic Church.

Suppose further that this plan had a scary simple strategy: Recruit bright, young law students; put them through an intensive indoctrination program; place them in plum internships across the country; and watch as they swim upstream until they reach the top of the legal system, where they can create, enforce, and interpret laws according to a legal philosophy infused withfundamentalist Christian theology.

Welcome to the world of the Blackstone Legal Fellowship, an annual program established in 2000 by the Alliance Defending Freedom, an Arizona-based nonprofit that is swiftly emerging as a major behind-the-scenes player in many of the nation’s most controversial legal cases involving reproductive rights, sexual justice, and a vast range of other moral and social disputes.

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Abu Hamza was 'mouthpiece' for 1998 Yemen kidnappings group

Radical Muslim cleric Abu Hamza al-Masri has denied being involved in the 1998 abduction of 16 Western tourists in Yemen, telling a jury he acted as "a mouthpiece" for the kidnap group.

Giving evidence for a third day in New York, Abu Hamza said he had provided the kidnappers with a satellite phone but said he had not known of the plot.

Abu Hamza, 56, likened himself to Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams.

He denies 11 kidnapping and terror counts, including the 1998 abductions.

The Egyptian-born preacher was asked about his alleged involvement in the December 1998 abduction of 12 Britons, two Americans and two Australians in southern Yemen.

Four of the tourists were killed by the captors.

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FFAF is on the warpath against ‘hateful’ atheists

ESTABLISHED in 2012, is the Freedom From Atheism Foundation (FFAF) has announced its intention to step up its battle against godless Americans after the Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) posted another “offensive, and historically inaccurate, sign touting Jesus as a myth.

Writing for the Christian Post, one Mike Dobbins drew readers attention to the FFAFF:

Did you know an organisation exists to counter the FFRF and other intolerant atheists? If you or someone you know has been the victim of militant, confrontational atheism then the place to turn is the Freedom From Atheism Foundation (FFAF).

He added:

Created in 2012 as a response to intolerant atheists seeking the removal of a Veterans Memorial that displayed religious symbols, the FFAF has grown leaps and bounds and boasts over 120,000 followers on their Facebook page as of this writing.

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Stop making excuses for Islamist extremist monsters

When it comes to fanatical Islam, we’re entranced by the symptoms but refuse to name the disease.

The extremes to which Western elites will go to avoid blaming radical Islam for terrorism cripples our efforts to protect innocent Muslims. Terrified of offending butchers, we insist that we’re the bigots, not them. We make excuses for monsters.

Boko Haram, whose name means “Western learning is forbidden,” kidnaps 200 schoolgirls, and the world rightly takes notice.

But what about the thousands of peaceful civilians, both Christian and Muslim, Boko Haram has killed, purportedly to install an Islamist state? What about the medical workers, pious volunteers, who are murdered in a faith’s name?

Hollywood suddenly woke up to Islamic fundamentalism last week in the strangest possible way, boycotting the Beverly Hills Hotel because it’s owned by the Sultan of Brunei, who plans to impose the cruelest provisions of Sharia law on his fiefdom’s women.

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Appeals court rules Texas cheerleaders allowed to display Bible verse banners at football games

An appeals court ruled Thursday that a Texas school district had already corrected itself, and a lawsuit regarding Bible verses on football banners was moot.

Kountze Independent School District allowed the cheerleaders' Christian banners last year, but retained the right to censor the banners for vulgar or offensive speech.

The district has been embroiled in a legal battle since 2012, when an atheist group, the Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF), complained about the Christian messages at Kountze High School football games.

The cheerleaders created banners that read, "If God is for us, who can be against us? Romans 8:31," and other scriptures for the football players to run through as they entered the field.

After FFRF complained, the district banned religious messages from the banners.

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Major New Survey Explores the Shifting Religious Identity of Latinos in the United States

Washington, May 7, 2014 — Although most Hispanics in the United States continue to belong to the Roman Catholic Church, the Catholic share of the Hispanic population is declining, while rising numbers of Hispanics say they are Protestant or unaffiliated with any religion. Indeed, nearly one-in-four Hispanic adults (24%) are now former Catholics, according to a major, nationwide survey of more than 5,000 Hispanics by the Pew Research Center.

Together, these trends suggest that some religious polarization is taking place among U.S. Latinos – the nation’s largest minority group – with the shrinking majority of Hispanic Catholics holding the middle ground between two growing groups, evangelical Protestants and the unaffiliated, that are at opposite ends of the U.S. religious spectrum.

The Pew Research Center’s 2013 National Survey of Latinos and Religion finds that a majority (55%) of the nation’s estimated 35.4 million Latino adults – or about 19.6 million Latinos – identify as Catholic today.  About 22% are Protestant (including 16% who describe themselves as born-again or evangelical) and 18% are religiously unaffiliated.

The share of Hispanics who are Catholic likely has been in decline for at least the last few decades. But as recently as 2010, Pew Research polling found that fully two-thirds of Hispanics (67%) were Catholic. That means the Catholic share has dropped by 12 percentage points in just the last four years.

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Abu Hamza trial: Injured hostage gives evidence

The trial of radical Muslim cleric Abu Hamza has heard evidence from a woman who was among 16 westerners taken hostage in Yemen in 1998.

Margaret Thompson told the court in New York that she was used as a human shield during an attempt by the Yemeni army to rescue those kidnapped.

Ms Thompson was shot and three British tourists and an Australian died in the December 1998 attack.

Abu Hamza is accused of assisting the kidnappers, but he denies all charges.

US prosecutors allege that the Muslim cleric provided a satellite phone and £500 worth of call time to help the kidnappers.

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The Phobia of Being Called Islamophobic

By: Ali A. Rizvi  Pakistani-Canadian writer, physician and musician

As of this writing, the National September 11 Memorial Museum still hasn't caved in. But the pressure is building, and it feels very familiar.

The problem is a seven-minute film being shown at the soon-to-open museum calledThe Rise of Al Qaeda. Narrated by NBC's Brian Williams, it uses words like "Islamist," "Islamic," and "jihad" in reference to the 9/11 hijackers and their motives.

Some Muslim groups, and others like the Interfaith Center of New York, want the film edited to remove those terms. They don't want the public to think that Islamism or jihad had anything to do with Al Qaeda or the 9/11 attacks, because that could foster "Islamophobia." We've so been down this road before.

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Beverly Hills Hotel’s Sultan of Brunei Imposing Drastic Rules

The Feminist Majority Foundation (FMF) announced it is pulling its annual Global Women’s Rights Awards, co-chaired by Jay and Mavis Leno, from the Beverly Hills Hotel because the hotel’s owner, the Sultan of Brunei, Hassanal Bolkiah, is imposing a Taliban-like Brunei penal code, set to go into effect in three stages beginning on May 1, that includes the stoning to death of gay men and lesbians and the public flogging of women who have abortions.

Instead of holding its annual event at the hotel on May 5, FMF has joined with gay and lesbian groups in protesting this gross violation of human rights and will hold a rally at noon on May 5 across from the hotel, in the park on Sunset Boulevard, urging the Sultan to rescind the new penal code which has been condemned by human rights groups and the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights. FMF will hold the Global Awards event on the evening of May 5 at the Hammer Museum in Westwood, Los Angeles.

“We cannot hold a human rights and women’s rights event at a hotel whose owner would institute a penal code that fundamentally violates women’s rights and human rights,” said Feminist Majority Foundation President Eleanor Smeal.

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Supreme Court Disaster: In a 5-4 Ruling, Justices Approve of Christian Prayers in Greece, New York

The conservatives on the court, along with Justice Anthony Kennedy voted to keep the prayers while the reliably liberal justices offered a dissent.

One silver lining in all of this is that the conservatives did not say that this means Christian prayers are okay everywhere. Their ruling appears to be limited in scope only to the town of Greece:

The conservative majority offered varying interpretations of when such “ceremonial” prayers would be permissible. Kennedy, along with Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Samuel Alito, focused on the specifics of the Greece case and did not offer a broad expansion of legislative prayer.

It’s still early and organizations involved with the case will be chiming in soon, but here are some key excerpts from the decision.

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Religion declines in well-run, trusting societies

John Lennon was a dreamer. But he was not the only one.

In his famous song, Imagine, Lennon was not alone in being convinced institutional religions – and nations – are the key causes of war and impediments to universal peace.

But was Lennon’s refrain accurate? Evolutionary psychologists, including at the University of B.C., have probed just these questions through innovative experiments with subjects from Canada to Africa, Europe to South Asia.

They are concluding Lennon may have been half right – that humans can build fair and peaceful societies in which there is “no religion,” or at least in which spirituality shifts to a more private realm.

But UBC’s Ara Norenzayan and a team of researchers are finding the path to peace and cooperation definitely does not lie in imagining “there’s no countries.” Instead, they place high value on stable national governments that citizens can actually trust.

In his new book, Big Gods: How Religion Transformed Cooperation and Conflict (Princeton University Press), Norenzayan describes how Western Europe and Scandinavia have created strong and fair societies – in which the vast majority are not actively involved in religion.

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