A Rich, Dense Fossil of the Immediate Present

June 28, 2017

The Morning Heresy is your daily digest of news and links relevant to the secular and skeptic communities.

Jay Sekulow, the creepy guy from the religious-right group the American Center for Law and Justice, and now a Trump lawyer, has reportedly directed more than $60 million donated to another nonprofit right into his and his family's bank accounts. Jon Swaine at The Guardian reports:

Telemarketers for the nonprofit, Christian Advocates Serving Evangelism (Case), were instructed in contracts signed by Sekulow to urge people who pleaded poverty or said they were out of work to dig deep for a “sacrificial gift”. ... “I can certainly understand how that would make it difficult for you to share a gift like that right now,” they told retirees who said they were on fixed incomes and had “no extra money” – before asking if they could spare “even $20 within the next three weeks”. 

Outrageous, but not surprising. But hey, playing on poor people's sincerely held beliefs in order to enrich yourself? I think we have a new term for that: Sekulow Humanism, a philosophy that says other humans are just there for you to feed off of.

Raheel Raza represented CFI at the UN Human Rights Council last week, delivering a statement on combating FGM around the world. The video of her statement is here, and she recounts some of her experiences in Geneva at the Clarion Project blog. 

Sarah Palin, who, in a simpler time, was our biggest worry, sues the New York Times for defamation for when the paper ran an editorial connecting the rhetoric of her PAC to the shooting of Gabby Giffords. 

The EPA was going to ban a Dow Chemical pesticide that is incredibly dangerous to the brain development of fetuses and babies, but that was, again, in a simpler time. The "EPA" under Scott Pruitt does things differently. After a meeting with Dow's CEO, Pruitt ended the push for a ban. Michael Biesecker at the AP reports:

“There is a wealth of science demonstrating the detrimental effects of chlorpyrifos exposure to developing fetuses, infants, children, and pregnant women,” the [American Academy of Pediatrics] said in a letter to Pruitt. “The risk to infant and children’s health and development is unambiguous.” 

New Hampshire State Rep. Brandon Phinney, the only Republican atheist legislator in the country, leaves the GOP for the Libertarian Party.

Erwin Chemerinsky, of UC Irvine's law school, writes at SCOTUSblog about the "crumbling" wall of separation resulting from the Trinity Lutheran decision, noting, "the distinction between what an institution is and what it does is inherently arbitrary." 

Amy Harmon at NYT rounds up the responses she got from teachers dealing with the challenge of teaching about climate change to students who doubt the science.

Hey, how will YOU spend your Asteroid Day? I'm not kidding, June 30 is Asteroid Day, when the world, um, "celebrates"(?) the anniversary of the asteroid impact in Tunguska, Siberia in 1908.   

Bertha Vazquez of our TIES program announces three new teacher workshops coming in October. 

Ellen Duffer writes about the Democratic Party's uphill battle to "salvage the votes" of anti-abortion women who don't like Trump, but also feel alienated by the party's increasingly firm pro-choice stance.

A federal court rules that a Florida Catholic school is allowed to deny admission to kids who haven't been vaccinated.

Also in Florida, Gov. Rick Scott (who also played Mr. Homn on Star Trek: The Next Generation) (I'm kidding) signed SB 436, that really awful "Florida Student and School Personnel Religious Liberties Act."  

Given the news that "no religion" is now the largest "religious" group in Australia, according to its census, Hugh Harris writes, "It's high time [Australian] politicians abandoned the fallacy that religious outrage is a vote changer," and that nonbelievers deserve to have representation in government and the media that reflects their numbers. (Always remembering, I think, that "no religion," like "nones," does not necessarily mean "atheist.")

Here we go again. Yet another Ten Commandments monument is placed on the grounds of yet another state capitol, this time in...[checks]...Arkansas. 

Bigfoot Project Investments (sigh) is offering a $1 million bounty for Bigfoot in Crawford County, PA, "dead or alive." 

Oh boy. Rob Lowe is going all ghost-hunters on us

An 80-year-old Buddhist woman throws coins in an airplane engine as a kind of prayer, which of course delayed the flight. Interestingly, the tossed coins represented the first time in decades that an airline turned a profit. (Sick airline industry burn!) 

Quote of the Day:

Apparently, fidget spinners labeled with the Holy Trinity are heretical, according to some in the Catholic Church. Whatever. More to the point, I love this concluding paragraph from Liz Raiss at The Outline:

Ultimately, the fidget spinner is a toy. It does not merit think pieces. It does not merit sermons. It does not merit The Atlantic’s characterization as “a rich, dense fossil of the immediate present.” It will not save the world, cure your ADHD, or explicate confusing theological concepts. A trendy, tactile plastic toy will not lead children to associate Catholicism with coolness, no matter how hard young, trendy priests may push. And it certainly won’t send anyone to hell.   

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