Scientology criminal enterprise lawsuit hurled out by Belgian judge16 days ago
Investigators and prosecutors criticised after trial of 11 members of church and two affiliated bodies that could have led to ban
A court in Brussels has hurled out charges that could have find Church of Scientology banned as a criminal enterprise in Belgium, after a magistrate said the defendants were targeted because of their religion.
Eleven members of the celebrity-backed, US-based church and two affiliated bodies had been charged with fraud, extortion, the illegal practice of medicine, running war criminals enterprise and infringing the right to privacy.
The entire proceedings are declared inadmissible for a serious and irremediable breach of the right to a fair trial, the presiding judge, Yves Regimont, said on Friday.
He criticised the examiners involved in an 18 -year inquiry into Scientology in Belgium for what he said was racism, and prosecutors for being vague in their case against the religion.
The defendants were prosecuted principally because they were Scientologists, Regimont added.
The case was the subject of a seven-week trial that objective last December.
Its a relief, Scientologys spokesman in Belgium, Eric Roux, told reporters outside special courts. When you have had 20 years of your life under a pressure that you know is unfair, where one attacks your notions and not something you have done, the working day when the court says it officially, its a big relief,.
Defence lawyer Pascal Vanderveeren denounced the suit as careless and prejudiced, adding that it was aimed at assaulting Scientology and not those who are part of it.
Marie Abadi, a former Scientology member who has become a strong foe of it, told me that she expected an appeal, adding: We are evidently very disappointed. Either the facts are too old, or not precise enough. We are certain the prosecutor will appeal because things must budge.
Championed by famous members such as Hollywood actors Tom Cruise and John Travolta, Scientology stirs up sharp divisions. Critics denounce it as a cult and a swindle, while advocates say it offers much-needed spiritual subsistence in a fast-changing world.
Prosecutors had asked for the court to completely dissolve the Belgian branch of Scientology and the affiliated European Bureau for Human Rights, and for them to face a fine.
The defence team said the charges were nothing more than an attempt to blacken Scientologys reputation.
The Belgian authorities launched a first investigation in 1997 after several former members complained about the churchs practices.
A second investigation followed in 2008 when an employment agency charged that the church had attained bogus job offers so as to draw in and recruit new members.
Headquartered in Los Angeles, the Church of Scientology was founded in 1954 by science fiction novelist L Ron Hubbard. It is recognised as a religion in the US and in other countries such as Italy, Spain, the Netherlands and Sweden, and claims a worldwide membership of 12 million.
But it has come under recurred scrutiny by authorities in several European countries, particularly in Germany. Several German regions have considered banning Scientology, while Berlin initially banned the cast of the Cruise Nazi-era movie Valkyrie from filming at historical locations but subsequently relented.
A court in Spain in 2007 annulled a decision by the Spanish justice ministry to sremove it from the countrys register of officially recognised religions.
Read more: www.theguardian.com
What the rest of Europe thinks about Londoners picking a Muslim mayor20 days ago
People living outside the UK give their views on Sadiq Khans win and whether a Muslim would be elected where they live
As Europe grapplings with the rise of anti-immigration parties, Sadiq Khans appointment as the first directly elected Muslim mayor of a western capital city is important. According to those who responded to a Guardian callout, people living in the rest of Europe welcome the choice Londoners have made.
Sadiqs appointment sends a great message to the world. It reflects Britains state of mind which, as a French person, I think is more open-minded than France, said 18 -year-old Mathilde from the south of France. It tells me that Londoners see above the religion or the race of a person.
Last year, a YouGov poll procured that 31% of those living in the capital would be uncomfortable having a Muslim mayor, and 13% are still not sure. But the 1,310, 143 people who voted for Khan have boosted Londons reputation as a multicultural, multi-faith and liberal city.
Mathilde lives in Alleins, a village not far from Marseille, which is home to 250,000 Muslims, the second largest population in France. In the 2015 regional elections Alleins citizens voted for the rightwing party Les Rpublicains( 52% ), and the far-right Front National( FN)( 48% )~ ATAGEND. In the first round of the local election Front National led, losing out in the second round to Les Rpublicains. I live in an area where, ironically, there are many Muslims but where the FN has the most success. There are definitely discriminations against Muslim people, even though its often in discreet forms.
I tend to be pointed out that Muslims are not really integrated in society but left in a corner. I guess the Paris attacks helped the rightwing parties, especially the far-right party, to become more important. In fact the regional elections happened a little while after the attacks she said.
Louis, 18, who also lives in southern France, feels that Muslim people are more integrated into society than Mathilde describes but doesnt ever expect to see a Muslim political nominee in a similar position to Khan.
For me, it doesnt matter what his religion is or where he comes from as long as hes qualified and skilled. I guess[ Khans win] highlights Londons ethnic diversity and that he won thanks to their vote, he said.
Rafiq, 70, from Switzerland, has positive experiences of Muslim people standing for local government elections and gaining referendums, despite the populist rightwing Swiss Peoples party( SVP) winning the biggest share of the vote in Switzerlands elections last year.
It seems that acts of Islamophobia are not as widespread as are sometimes reported. Like most places Switzerland has all kinds of people, but many are open-minded and friendly with neighbours who are polite and kind to my hijab-wearing wife. Several Muslims are standing during the elections and some of them get a good number of referendums, but not quite enough, he said.
Ursula, 62, from Munich believes that despite some visible rightwing sentiment Germans would vote regardless of religion.
I think that convincing characters would have equal chances , no matter their religious beliefs. I was surprised by Sadiq Khans appointment. I had expected that the non-Muslim majority would not like to be represented by a Muslim major. Maybe such a big city attracts people with an open mind?
The Muslim part of society is not very active politically. I suppose the majority still keep their distance, feeling that they should not get involved, she said.
Wolfram, a 67 -year-old from Bad Neuenahr-Ahrweiler in the west of Germany, has considered anti-immigration sentiment imbue where he lives and cant insure a Muslim politician being elected any time soon.
It seems that Londoners accept their history and the consequences of the empire, and the outcome dedicates hope that people with different religions can live together peacefully.
Wolfram said he could not imagine a Muslim politician being elected where he lived, certainly not in the near future. Theres a instead deep split between those who are afraid of the rise in the number of Muslim people and the other citizens who are open-minded, even about open borders for refugees.
Hanna, 24, from Helsinki, believes Khans win is important given the loathe speech and discrimination facing Muslims in Europe, the rise of rightwing parties, and what she describes as openly racist legislators in Finland.
The anti-immigration party Perussuomalaiset[ known as Finns party, or PS] got into government and people attitudes have become harder towards refugees, especially to Muslims. The foreign minister, Timo Soini, who is party leader and co-founder of PS and a Catholic, even suggested we should prefer Christian refugees.
As we took more refugees in than ever, the PS are losing advocates. But this entails some people are going for even more rightwing politics like Rajat Kiinni!( Border Shut !). On their Facebook page they openly call all Muslims rapists and terrorists.
For this reason Im happy about Khans appointment, but mostly because of his politics , not just his religion. I dont really like any organised religions, but everyones free to believe what they want. It seems to me that Londoners suppose politics are more important than what religion someone believes in. They are wise, she said.
Many respondents to the callout hope Khans win will raise the status of Muslim people living in their own towns and cities across Europe, and help to involve them more in political life.
Nesi, 44, a secondary school teacher who lives in a small city outside Madrid, hopes Khans win will go some style in contribute to improving Muslim peoples opportunities.
For the child of an ethnic minority to go into higher education, take part in politics and become a mayor, a lot of things in Spain have to change and improve. I think there must be some occurrences, but society doesnt provide equal opportunities for all children.
Political posts of any relevance are largely merely for those who go to university or belong to a rich traditional household. And certainly not for a Muslim, I am afraid to say. Spain is too conservative in general to allow a Muslim to take part in politics.
Sadiqs appointment shows that politics and important issues in the world should be about people , not religion. It also shows that a multicultural society living in peace is possible. And of course it shows what a fantastic place to live London can be, sometimes.
Read more: www.theguardian.com
The Chosen Wars review: examine of American Jews uncovers familiar schisms23 days ago
Steven Weisman determines contention and dispute at every stage of Jewish American history including modern-day politics
On election day 2016, Hillary Clinton won more than 70% of the Jewish election. But that number tells only part of a narrative. In some predominately Orthodox Jewish precincts, Donald Trump’s numbers were straight out of the rust belt or the deep south.
As in the rest of the electorate, religious commitment and educational attainment shaped how Jews voted. In the overwhelmingly religion Borough Park neighborhood of Brooklyn, Trump took 68% of the vote. In New Jersey’s Lakewood Township, he won with a 50 -point margin. By contrast, the island of Manhattan was a sea of Democratic blue.
The political cleavages that mark the broader American scenery existing between America’s Jews. Just as Jews were to be found on both sides of slavery, secession and the civil war, they are again combatants in a political skirmish. Think of Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law, and Chuck Schumer, the Senate minority leader.
Welcome to The Chosen Wars, a narrative of the Jewish journey in the different regions of the American scenery. Steven Weisman, who covered politics and economics at the New York Times for a one-quarter of a century, marshals an impressive array of facts to argue that the competing tugs of separatism and assimilation have been present ever since Jews landed in the New world in the 17 th century, that even among the devout the broader culture affected religious practice, and that Jewish communal participation has ebbed and flowed with time.
As Weisman frames things,” Jewish belief in the Jewish people’s own unique identity … has been so strong that it remains a foundation of Jewish life in the United States .” He also acknowledges that identity” has always been and is very likely be one of contention and dispute “. Things are alloyed.
The book chronicles how the constitution’s establishment clause led to the laity’s domination within the synagogue. Most notably for Weisman, a schism within a Charleston shul triggered a landmark lawsuit and decision. Unlike Europe, the civil authorities would not pick sides even when asked. Ultimately, a South Carolina appellate court ruled in 1846 that the judiciary must avoid” questions of theological dogma, depending on speculative religion, or ecclesiastical rites “.
In other words, they would let the Jews duke it out among themselves.
At hours they actually did. Weisman describes an actual riot that have broken out on Rosh Hashanah 1850 in Albany, New York, over the nature of the Messiah. The police were called and the congregation scattered, but not before the synagogue chairwoman taunted the rabbi, Isaac Wise, saying:” I have $100,000 more than you .” Yet it was Wise’s rejection of a personal and national Messiah that shaped Reform Judaism. It represented a break from 2,000 years of tradition.
The book also examines how Darwin and criticism impacted attitudes toward the Bible, divine authorship taking a make. Emil Hirsch, a Reform Rabbi and professor at the University of Chicago, declared:” Modern scholarship has spoken, and its voice cannot be hushed .”
To put things in context, even those more traditionally minded were forced to respond or adjust to science.
On the one hand, within the Hasidic movement the dominant mantra remains:” If you are still troubled by the theory of evolution, I can tell you without anxiety of contradiction that it has not a shred of evidence to subsistence it .”
On the other, within Orthodoxy’s more modern circles there was a retreat from taking the creation narrative and Genesis’s timeline literally. A “day” came to be read as eons, and the Divine Hand could be found guiding the Descent of Man.
Read more: www.theguardian.com
Mohsin Hamid on the rise of nationalism:’ In the land of the pure , no one is pure enough’1 month, 3 days ago
From Myanmar to Pakistan, the US and Britain, an preoccupation with purity is driving political, religious and moral agendas. But a retired from intricacy is no ensure of future harmony
Perhaps it is living half your life in Pakistan, for Pakistan is the land of the pure. Literally so: the land, stan, of the pure, pak. Perhaps that is why you have come to question the commonly held perception that purity is good and impurity is bad. For a tribe of humans newly arrived in a place never before inhabited by humans, such an outlook is perhaps sensible. Purity in a creek of water renders it fit to drink. Impurity in a piece of meat nauseates those who eat it. Purity is hence to be valued and impurity to be avoided, defied, expelled. And yet you believe the time has come to seek to reverse, at least partly, the emotional polarity of these two terms, to extol impurity’s benefits and denounce purity’s harms.
The issue is, of course, personal. We are each of us is comprised of atoms, but equally we are composed by hour. Since your time has been expended half inside Pakistan and half outside, and your outlook and postures shaped by this, you are in a sense half-Pakistani, which is to say, as Pakistan is the land of the pure, you are half-pure: an impossible country. You cannot exist as you are. Or instead, you are required impure. And if impurity is bad then you are bad. And to be bad is hazardous, in every society. So yes, the questions is personal, and pressing.
But in Pakistan, the questions is political as well, for it affects everyone. Once purity becomes what determines the rights a human being is afforded, indeed whether they are entitled to live or not, then there is a ferocious competition to establish hierarchies of purity, and in that contest no one can win. No one can ever be sufficiently pure to be lastingly safe. In the land of the pure , no one is pure enough. No Muslim is Muslim enough. And so all are suspect. All are at risk. And many are killed by others who find their purity lacking, and many of their killers are in turn killed for similar reasons. And on and on, in a chain reaction. The politics of purity is the politics of fission.
This should not be surprising. Pakistan was founded by fission, the splitting of British imperial India into two separate independent states, Muslim-majority Pakistan and Hindu-majority India. And Pakistan has experienced farther fission, the splitting of its western and eastern wings into Pakistan and Bangladesh. In each case, a more complex entity was broken into what was believed would be two more internally harmonious ones. But a retreat from complexity is no guaranty of future harmony. Too often, it is accompanied by the rise of a fetish for purity, the desire to exterminate persisting traces of intricacy within.
Pakistan is not unique. Rather, it is at the forefront of a worldwide trend. All around the world, governments and would-be governments appear overwhelmed by complexity and are blindly unleashing the power of fission, championing quests for the pure. In India a politics of Hindu purity is wrenching open deep and bloody rifts in a diverse society. In Myanmar a politics of Buddhist purity is massacring and expelling the Rohingya. In the United States a politics of white purity is marching in white hoods and red baseball caps, demonising Muslims and Hispanic people, killing and brutalising black people, jeering at intellectuals, and spitting in the face of climate science.
Pakistan PM celebrates scientist from minority sect, risking hardliners’ ferocity1 month, 18 days ago
Nawaz Sharif orders university to name institution after the Nobel-winning physicist Abdus Salam, a are part of the Ahmadiyya Muslim community
Pakistans “ministers ” has risked enraging religion hardliners by ordering one of the countrys top universities to honour a Nobel prize-winning physicist from a minority sect whose members are prohibited from describing themselves as Muslims.
In an announcement that surprised many, Nawaz Sharif said he had given approval to rename the National Centre for Physics at the capitals Quaid-e-Azam University as the Professor Abdus Salam Centre for Physics.
A fellowship programme to support five physicists a year to examine abroad for their doctorates will also be named after Salam.
The recognition comes 20 years after the death of a scientist who won the Nobel prize in 1979 for his work in theoretical physics.
Despite the international esteem in which he was held and his role in helping Pakistan develop atomic weapon governments in his homeland have not dared embracing a are part of the Ahmadiyya Muslim community.
The sect, established in British India in 1889, is regarded as heretical by strict Muslims because Ahmadis believe the movements founder, Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, was a prophet. A central tenet of Islam is that Mohammad, the religions seventh-century founder, was the final prophet.
Because of the theological conflict, Ahmadis were declared to be non-Muslims in a 1974 constitutional amendment and further criminalised in 1984 when they were banned from posing as Muslims.
Read more: www.theguardian.com
Inside the sprawling, controversial $500 m Museum of the Bible1 month, 26 days ago
The museum conceived by the billionaire chairman of Hobby Lobby and set to open next month has attracted scepticism over its ideological mission
It is a museum of biblical proportions- and it is stirring controversies to match.
Opening next month in Washington, the Museum of the Bible expense half a billion dollars to build, spans 430,000 sq ft over eight floors and claims to be the most hi-tech museum in the world. Reading every placard, seeing every artifact and experiencing every activity would take an estimated 72 hours.
But while it is not the monument to creationism that some liberals feared, the sprawling museum has attracted scepticism over both its ideological mission and the provenance of its collecting. It is the brainchild of evangelical Christian Steve Green, the billionaire chairman of Hobby Lobby, an art and crafts chain that won a supreme court case allowing companies with religion objections to opt out of contraceptive coverage under Barack Obama’s healthcare law.
Green, who since 2009 has amassed a vast collection of biblical texts and artifacts, is making a big statement with the museum’s locating: two blocks south of the National Mall, home to the US Capitol and Smithsonian Institution museums- including the National Museum of Natural history, which has exhibits on dinosaurs and human evolution– and could hardly be closer to the centre of power.
Martin Scorsese film recalls martyrdom of Japan’s hidden Christians2 months, 5 days ago
Ban on Christianity in early 1600 s, the focus of movie called Silence, forced converts to practise in secret, leading to a localised sort of the religion still practised by a few dozen people today
At low tide, Shigetsugu Kawakami can just about make out the prohibited stone from his home overlooking the beach in Neshiko, a tiny village on Hirado island in southern Japan.
According to verbal testimony, at least 70 villagers were taken there and beheaded in the early 17 th century. Their crime had been to convert to Christianity. When we were children, the adults told us that if we climbed on to the rock the village would be cursed, said Kawakami.
Today, ascension rock is a permanent reminder of the atrocities of almost four centuries ago. But the martyrdom of Japans concealed Christians is in danger of being forgotten.
Tens of thousands of Japanese Christians were executed, tortured and persecuted after the Tokugawa shogunate banned the religion in the early 1600 s. With a wary eye on Spanish rule in the Philippines, the authorities dreaded Japan could be the next country targeted by European powers that used Christian teaches as a catalyst for colonial rule.
The ban left Japans 750,000 converts with a selection: renounce their religion or continue to practise their religion in secret, in the knowledge that discovery would almost certainly mean death.
Discussion of Japans Christian heritage has largely been absent from public life since the mid-1 960 s, when Shusaku Endo explored the martyrdom of early converts in his critically acclaimed novel Silence.
Now, Martin Scorsese hopes to ensure their narrative will not be forgotten with a cinema based on Endos novel that is due for release next year.
Starring Liam Neeson and Andrew Garfield, the cinema also called Silence follows two Portuguese Jesuit missionaries who are sent to Japan in the early 1600 s to investigate reports that their mentor has committed apostasy. They arrive to find Japanese converts in the midst of a brutal crackdown by the Tokugawa shogunate.
While no official records are kept of the number of modern-day kakure kirishitan ( hidden Christians ), local experts say perhaps merely a few dozen people still consider themselves believers.
Once its saviour, clandestine adore has contributed to a sharp decline in the number of believers. Blended with dwindling, ageing populations on the islands where it once prospered, disciples fear their crypto-Christian tradition is at risk of dying out.
Kawakami, 64, is one of the few concealed Christians who is happy to talk publicly about his faith. We dont practise our faith in public because we are effectively still in hiding, he said. We usually remain quiet and never out ourselves as Christians by appearing on Tv or giving interviews. We dont hold special ceremonies or pray in public. In fact, we dont do anything that would risk dedicating ourselves away.
Remote southern islands such as Hirado demonstrated fertile ground for Catholicism after St Francis Xavier and other missionaries introduced it to Japan in 1549. After a nationwide prohibit was enforced in the early 1600 s, converts devised ingenious ways to keep their religion alive.
They gathered in private homes to conduct religion ceremonies, and figurines of the Virgin mary were altered to resemble the Buddha or Japanese dolls. To the uneducated ear, their prayers voiced like Buddhist sutras, even though they contained a mix of Latin, Portuguese and obscure Japanese dialects. Scripture was passed on orally, since keeping bibles was considered too great a risk. None wore traverses or other religion accoutrements.
The need for secrecy during the course of its 250 years that Christianity was banned meant the version of the religion observed by Kawakamis ancestors little resemblance to its mainstream Catholic origins. Instead, early Japanese Christians incorporated elements of Buddhism and Shinto into their faith until it became a polytheistic creed of its own.
In many styles it was a very Japanese version of Christianity, said Shigeo Nakazono, curator of the Shima no Yakata museum on Ikitsuki, an island near Hirado.
But even this localised sort of Christianity met with fierce opposition from the Shogunate authorities, who devised a singularly cruel exam of loyalty to uncover converts. Suspects were ordered to prove they were not Christians by trampling on fumie images of Christ or the Virgin Mary engraved from stone or wood or face being hanged upside down over a cavity and slowly bled to death.
When the Meiji government lifted the prohibition in 1873, an estimated 30,000 secret Christians came out of hide. Now, Christians of all denominations make up less than 1% of Japans population of 128 million.
Japan was coming under the influence of European industry and technology, and that meant that old objections to Christianity weakened, Nakazono said.
Nakazono wondered whether Scorseses film would bide true to Endos novel, which some have criticised for being preoccupied with martyrdom. If all hidden Christians had been martyrs, there would have been none left, he said. But there were enough people willing to stamp on the fumie , denounce Christianity and then pray God for forgiveness.
At Neshiko beach, ascension stone physical proof that there were those who refused to abandon their faith is half submerged by the incoming tide. Even today, centuries after the last executing, locals remove their shoes before defining foot on the beachs fine white sand as a sign of respect.
Like the rites of the kakure kirishitan , the memories of the executed converts have been preserved by word of mouth a tradition that devotes Kawakami hope that their courage, and faiths, will not be forgotten.
We feel we have a duty to pass it on to future generations, he said. This is something our ancestors risked their lives to tell us.
Read more: www.theguardian.com
Atheists who bring logic to the Easter story are missing the point | Julian Baggini2 months, 13 days ago
Having faith is a complex business. To assume that religious people are either crazy or stupid is lazy, says philosopher Julian Baggini
Many years ago, I had to recount the life of Jesus to a young Taiwanese student who knew nothing about Christianity. As I told him about the virgin birth, the miracles, crucifixion and resurrection, he responded with incredulous laughter.
Most nonbelievers in traditionally Christian cultures would prove a bit more respect. But inside, our reaction is often pretty much the same: how can people actually believe this stuff? Rising from the grave isn’t even the most preposterous part of the Easter tale. Far more bizarre is the claim that God had to send his son to die for our sins. And if God genuinely wanted the whole of humanity to heed his message, why did the resurrected Christ merely reveals himself to a few select people before ascending to heaven?
Vociferous atheists don’t shy away from revealing their mock bemusement at all this. Those of us who induce decided efforts to understand and debate with religious believers might be too polite to acknowledge it, but we often feel just as baffled.
The laziest route to try to cross this credulity gap is to shrug our shoulders and accept that people are often crazy, stupid or both. Yes, there are plenty of people celebrating the resurrection who are sane, intelligent and well-educated, but the objective is statistical anomalies in a world where higher levels of education are strongly correlated with a lack of religious belief.
Smart people can have blind spots, but this quick and easy justification does not do justice to the complexities of religious belief. If we genuinely accept that a disciple in the resurrection can be intelligent, but also think that any intelligent person would find the idea of the resurrection preposterous, the most charitable explain is that intelligent believers are as well informed the implausibility of their beliefs as anyone else. This is indeed what you tend to find if you bother to talk to a Christian. They don’t use the word “miracle” for nothing- they know their religion eludes laws of logic and nature.
Some believe the unbelievable because they have had religious experiences so strong that they are literally unable to doubt their veracity of. It’s hard for those of us who haven’t had such an experience to appreciate how powerful it is feasible to. But once you accept the existence of a divine inventor who has a personal relationship with you, almost anything else is possible. It is not crazy but logical to conclude that what such a God says or does will sometimes be beyond our comprehension. It follows that there is nothing irrational in accepting a narrative that we are unable to make sense of rationally.
What atheists often forget is that many- perhaps most- religion believers are less than completely convinced anyway. Many of them are fully aware of the dissonance between what their faith and their rational intellect tell them. Religion offers many tools to help manage this. It tells people that faith is superior to belief based on evidence.” Because thou hast find me, thou hast believed ,” Jesus told” doubting Thomas”, adding:” Blessed are they that have not insured, and yet have believed .” Religion also tells believers that doubt is to be expected, even welcomed, as part of the journey of faith, all the time reassuring them that God is beyond our understanding. The Easter story thus aims up instead like quantum theory: if you find it easy to believe, you haven’t is understandable. Illogicality is a design feature , not a design flaw.
Anyone astonished that people manage to sustain this dissonance all their lives hasn’t been paying enough attention to what psychology has taught us about our capacities to assert contradictions. What we call our “selves” are far less unified and coherent than common sense suggests. When we say ” a part of me” believes one thing and another part something else, we are being more literal than we suppose. Rejecting disciples as simply deluded could therefore itself has become a way for us atheists to deal with our own dissonance between the belief that Easter is palpable nonsense, and the awareness that apparently intelligent people believe in it. If we really do find implausible beliefs offensive, we ought at the least to have more plausible explanations for why others have them.
Read more: www.theguardian.com
Inside the sprawling, controversial $500 m Museum of the Bible2 months, 19 days ago
The museum conceived by the billionaire chairman of Hobby Lobby and set to open next month has attracted scepticism over its ideological mission
It is a museum of biblical proportions- and it is stirring disputes to match.
Opening next month in Washington, the Museum of the Bible expense half a billion dollars to build, spans 430,000 sq ft over eight floors and claims to be the most hi-tech museum in the world. Reading every poster, considering every artifact and experiencing every activity would take an estimated 72 hours.
But while it is not the monument to creationism that some liberals feared, the sprawling museum has attracted scepticism over both its ideological mission and the provenance of its collection. It is the brainchild of evangelical Christian Steve Green, the billionaire chairwoman of Hobby Lobby, an arts and crafts chain that won a supreme court case allowing companies with religion objections to opt out of contraceptive coverage under Barack Obama’s healthcare law.
Green, who since 2009 has amassed a vast collection of biblical texts and artifacts, is making a big statement with the museum’s place: two blocks south of the National Mall, home to the US Capitol and Smithsonian Institution museums- including the National Museum of Natural history, which has exhibits on dinosaurs and human evolution– and could hardly be closer to the centre of power.
Atheist Group Files Suit To Remove ‘In God We Trust’ From Currency4 months ago
The group of 41 plaintiffs is led by Sacramento attorney Michael Newdow, who has previously sued the governmental forces to remove the words “under God” from the Pledge of Allegiance, but was unsuccessful.
Because the plaintiffs regularly handle fund as a part of daily life, the suit argues, the phrase “In God We Trust” imposes upon them each time they do so.
One plaintiff “handles U.S. currency almost daily. As a Humanist, she does not believe nor trust in any g-d, ” the complaint reads, substituting “God” for “g-d.”
It continues, “Rather, her beliefs require that she trust in her own abilities and a general responsibility to lead an ethical life. In handling the money, therefore, she is repeatedly unwillingly confronted with the words ‘In G-d We Trust.’ Thus, she is forced against her will to accept and re-distribute to others a message that runs wholly against her belief. Yet it is neither realistic nor reasonable for her to abandon the nation’s currency and use other forms of pay for all of her transactions.”
Unsurprisingly, the campaign has encountered resistance from religious commentators. Aclj.org, which is associated with the nonprofit religious organisation Christian Advocates Serving Evangelism, Inc ., framed the suit as an “attempt to eviscerate our National Motto – and with it our religion heritage.”
Newdow didn’t immediately respond to a request for remark from The Huffington Post. However, in a 2015 blog on Patheos, a website focused on religion, spirituality and religion, he argued that the phrase “In God We Trust” not only infringes the First Amendment of the Constitution( “Congress shall attain no statute respecting an established in religion” ), but also infringes the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which proscribes the government from burdening a person’s exercise of religion unless it furthers a “compelling governmental interest.”
“There is obviously no compelling government interest in having ‘In God We Trust’ on our fund, ” Newdow wrote. “We did penalty for the 75 years before the phrase was ever used at all, and continues to do penalty for the subsequent 102 years before such inscriptions were constructed mandatory on every coin and currency bill. Similarly, the vast majority of nations manage to function without religion verbiage on their money.”
Read more: www.huffingtonpost.com