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Are Catholic Priests Obligated to Report Confessions Involving Abuse? The Supreme Court May Soon Decide
September 8, 2014 by Sara Lin Wilde

It’s a long-standing tradition: What’s revealed to a priest in the sacrament of confession cannot be repeated or shared with anyone else. They call it the Seal of Confession. Up until recently, the law accepted this as moral and desirable.
But that tradition has now been called into question and the Supreme Court may end up ruling on it.

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Army Recognises ‘Humanism’ As Distinct Religion
JEREMY BENDER | 24 April 2014

Members of the U.S. Army can now proudly and officially list their religion as “Humanist,” after years of not being able to do so, according to the ACLU.

The Army’s faith code allows for designation of Wiccans, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, Jews, and over 100 denominations of Christians, among other faiths, but until now had few offerings for those who follow a non-theistic belief system.

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Anti-gay advocates launch global ‘pro-family’ group
February 21, 2014 | By Michael K. Lavers

Scott Lively, anti-gay, gay news, Washington Blade

Anti-gay activist Scott Lively spoke at the Coalition for Family Values press conference at the National Press Club on Feb. 21. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Two anti-gay advocates on Friday announced a new organization designed to combat the global LGBT rights movement.

Scott Lively of Defend the Family International and Peter LaBarbera of Americans for Truth About Homosexuality unveiled the Coalition for Family Values at the National Press Club in downtown Washington. Greg Quinlan and Diane Gramley of the American Family Association of Pennsylvania spoke at the press conference.

Matt Barber of Liberty Council Action, Oklahoma state Rep. Sally Kern and Brian Camenker of MassResistance are among the more than 70 anti-gay activists and religious leaders from the U.S., Canada, Australia, the U.K. and Brazil who have thus far joined the coalition.

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Youth Groups Driving Christian Teens to Abandon Faith
2:00PM EDT 10/22/2013 ABBY CARR

A new study might reveal why a majority of Christian teens abandon their faith upon high school graduation. Some time ago, Christian pollster George Barna documented that 61 percent of today’s 20-somethings who had been churched at one point during their teen years are now spiritually disengaged. They do not attend church, read their Bible or pray.

According to a new five-week, three-question national survey sponsored by the National Center for Family-Integrated Churches (NCFIC), the youth group itself is the problem. Fifty-five percent of American Christians are concerned with modern youth ministry because it’s too shallow and too entertainment-focused, resulting in an inability to train mature believers. But even if church youth groups had the gravitas of Dallas Theological Seminary, 36 percent of today’s believers are convinced youth groups themselves are not even biblical.

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10 Ways religious groups steal public money

Holy freeloading! Religion is big business, especially with the help of your tax dollars. Have you ever thought about starting a new religion or perhaps a hometown franchise of an old one? Perhaps you’re just looking for a career ladder in a religious enterprise that already exists. No? Maybe you should.

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Uruguay passes bill legalising same-sex marriage – video
The Guardian, Thursday, 11 April 2013

The Uruguayan congress votes overwhelmingly to legalise same-sex marriage on Wednesday. Seventy-one of 92 lawmakers in the lower house of congress voted in favour of the proposal. It is the second Latin American country to pass a bill allowing gay marriage.

View video

FBI: Bias Crimes Against Muslims Remain at High Levels
Southern Poverty Law Centre, Intelligence Report, Spring 2013, Issue Number: 149

Hate crimes against perceived Muslims, which jumped 50% in 2010 largely as a result of anti-Muslim propagandizing, remained at relatively high levels for a second year in 2011, according to the FBI’s new national hate crime statistics.

The bureau reported that there were 157 anti-Muslim hate crimes in 2011, down very slightly from the 160 recorded in 2010. The 2011 crimes occurred during a period when Islam-bashing propaganda, which initially took off in 2010, continued and even intensified.

The actual number of reported anti-Muslim hate crimes is small for a country the size of the United States, but the FBI statistics are known to be notoriously understated, in part because more than half of hate crimes are never reported to police. Two major Department of Justice (DOJ) studies have indicated that the real level of hate crimes in America is some 20 to 30 times higher than the numbers reported over the years by the FBI, which are simply compilations of state statistics.

If the FBI numbers are taken as only an indicator of larger trends, as seems reasonable given the DOJ studies, the real number of anti-Muslim hate crimes during 2011 may have been somewhere between 3,000 and 5,000.

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The Last Word
Leah Nelson, Intelligence Report, Spring 2013, Issue Number:  149

Creeping Shariah. The homosexual agenda. Secular humanism, socialism, and the perennial, odious War on Christmas. The thousand years of darkness said to have begun when Barack Obama was re-elected in November.

Yes, Christian nationalists — those self-appointed stewards of America’s “Judeo-Christian heritage” — have a lot on their plates. But that doesn’t mean they’ve let their guard down.

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Gay marriage push gains momentum
The Age, Nick O’Malley, March 28 2013

James Tolver, a serious-looking 21-year-old in a neat blue suit, sat patiently on the footpath outside the US Supreme Court as the justices inside began hearing arguments over gay marriage.

He had driven 5½ hours from Ohio to wait 36 hours in snow, rain and bright cold sun in the hope he might see some of the second day’s proceedings.

Asked why, he said: ”I am an African-American person and 56 years ago other people waited out here in the cold so they could watch arguments over whether I could marry anyone I wanted.

”If they could do that for me, I can do it for someone else.”

Whatever the outcome in the Supreme Court, there is a feeling that gay marriage is now inevitable.

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Clinton changes tack on gay marriage
March 19, 2013, Sheryl Gay Stolberg

Hillary Clinton has endorsed same-sex marriage, saying “gay rights are human rights”.
“I believe America is at its best when we champion the freedom and dignity of every human being,” the former secretary of state and potential 2016 presidential candidate said in a video posted on the internet by the Human Rights Campaign, a gay rights advocacy group.

“LGBT Americans … are full and equal citizens and deserve the rights of citizenship. That includes marriage.”  Hillary Clinton

Ms Clinton’s announcement represents a switch in position; as a presidential candidate in 2008 she explicitly opposed same-sex marriage, saying she favoured civil unions but that decisions about the legality of marriage should be left to the states. Until last year, President Barack Obama took that position as well; the President now favours a right to marriage for gay couples.

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Colorado approves civil unions for gay couples
Associated Press in Denver,, Wednesday 13 March 2013

Legislators take historic vote in US state where voters banned same-sex marriage seven years ago.

Colorado legislators have taken a historic vote to approve civil unions for gay couples, delivering on a campaign promise from Democrats who have capitalised on the changing political landscape of a state where voters banned same-sex marriage not long ago.

The bill on its way to Democratic governor John Hickenlooper is expected to be signed into law within two weeks, capping a three-year fight over a proposal to grant gay couples rights similar to marriage.

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Atheist cop sues after being demoted to car washer for refusing to pray
By Stephen C. Webster, Friday, March 8, 2013 15:23 EDT

A 14-year veteran police officer from San Juan, Puerto Rico sued his bosses on Friday, alleging that he was reassigned from police work to washing cars and relaying messages when he refused to participate in a compulsory Christian prayer.

The complaint (PDF) alleges that officer Alvin Marrero-Mendez’s superior officers often engaged in religious activities during precinct meetings, including an officially sponsored prayer. Specifically, it alleges that officer Mendez was asked to give a prayer before a group of officers and when he refused, he was told to leave formation and stand in front of his peers while a superior officer mocked him for rejecting Christianity.

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Secularism Destigmatized
By Sarah Posner, February 25, 2013 1:26pm

Is secularism on the brink? Of collapse? Of wild success? Or, more modestly, of at least starting an essential conversation?

That was the subject of a conference last week at Georgetown University, Secularism on the Edge, organized by Jacques Berlinerblau, the director of the university’s Program for Jewish Civilization and author of the book, How to Be Secular. Berlinerblau’s central argument is that secularism has a robust history in the United States, but that it needs to “check into rehab.” As Berlinerblau told me when we discussed his book on Bloggingheads, secularism, as a social movement and political worldview, has been in a downward trajectory over recent decades in the United States. In his book, Berlinerblau offers a “12-step program” for a secularist movement to revitalize itself.

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New Study: Religion Helps Criminals Justify Their Crimes
February 20, 2013 By Hemant Mehta

A new study by Georgia State University criminal justice professor Volkan Topalli says that — wait for it — religion may not actually help criminals.

In fact, they just use Jesus to justify the shit they already do… Making them no different, really, from all other Christians.

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A Woman’s Place? The Dearth of Women in the Secular Movement
by: Susan Jacoby, Published in the September / October 2012 Humanist

The following article is adapted from a speech given at the Women in Secularism Conference sponsored by the Center for Inquiry and held in Washington, DC, in May 2012.

The under-representation of women in the expanding American secular movement is an uncomfortable issue for many secularists and atheists. Many deny that there is a “woman problem” in organizations dedicated to the promotion of secular values. As an author who speaks about secularism—specifically, America’s secular history—to many different kinds of audiences, I can assure you that there is a problem.

When I speak before non-college audiences—that is, audiences in which no one is required to be there to get credit for a college course—75 percent of the people in the seats are men. The good news is that this is a significant improvement over the situation that prevailed eight years ago, when my book Freethinkers: A History of American Secularism was published; at that time, my audiences were about 90 percent male. The bad news is that the gender gap in this movement remains as large as it is, although it’s less striking among people under thirty. The question is why.

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