April 2008

“Florida offers Christian license plates. They’ll look great with your Shroud of Turin mud flaps.”

From Herald-Tribune:

NORTH MANATEE — A Washington-based group that advocates the separation of church and state claims that teachers and the principal at a Manatee County school regularly take part in prayer meetings on the school grounds.

Americans United for Separation of Church and State is preparing to file a complaint with the school district stating that school staff at Mills Elementary School regularly participate in prayer meetings and that school principal Mike Rio has announced the meetings over the public address system.

The complaint states that Rio took part in one meeting held at the back of the school on National Day of Prayer.

School employees taking part in on-campus prayer meetings with students violates the separation of church and state enshrined in the Constitution, said Joe Conn, a spokesman for the group.

“The courts have been very strict when it comes to kids: School officials and teachers are not allowed to influence kids,” Conn said. “It’s definitely a violation of the Constitution to pressure kids to pray or to make a decision about prayer.”

The group’s complaint echoes that of fired Mills teacher Mary Cropsey, who said Rio placed Christian items around the flagpole at the school in Parrish and joined others there for prayer.

The claim was made after Cropsey was accused of helping a student cheat on the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test and placed on administrative leave. Manatee County School Board members ruled later that the evidence did not support the cheating claims, but Cropsey was fired because she did not cooperate with the investigation.

Rio, the Mills principal, could not be reached for comment Monday.

For decades, youth ministries in the United States have organized “Meet Me at the Pole” gatherings as a way to have group prayer before school starts. In fact, the movement has grown so large that the National Network of Youth Ministries, which organizes an event each September, has its own Web site and asks thousands of students to report on their experience online.

“If they’re talking about ‘Meet Me at the Pole,’ that goes on everywhere across the country,” said John Bowen, the School Board attorney, who said he has not received the complaint. “That activity is within grounds of the First Amendment as long as school personnel do not participate and only are present for supervision.”

Bowen also said schools are permitted to publicize prayer events if requested to by students.

“Just as any other student events might be announced over the intercom, principals are free to announce that,” Bowen said.

Here is a 5 minute clip from Richard Dawkins’ appearance on The Alan Colmes Show in March 2008. This clip contains two very ignorant callers into the show.

Get the Flash Player to see the wordTube Media Player.

To listen to the whole show you can go here.

From Yahoo News:

Wis. parents who prayed as diabetic daughter died charged (AP)

AP – Two parents who prayed as their 11-year-old daughter died of untreated diabetes were charged Monday with second-degree reckless homicide.

Family and friends had urged Dale and Leilani Neumann to get help for their daughter, but the father considered the illness “a test of faith” and the mother never considered taking the girl to the doctor because she thought her daughter was under a “spiritual attack,” the criminal complaint said.

“It is very surprising, shocking that she wasn’t allowed medical intervention,” Marathon County District Attorney Jill Falstad said. “Her death could have been prevented.”

Madeline Neumann died March 23 — Easter Sunday — at her family’s rural Weston home. Her parents were told the body would be taken to Madison for an autopsy the next day.

“They responded, ‘You won’t need to do that. She will be alive by then,'” the medical examiner wrote in a report.

An autopsy determined that Madeline died from undiagnosed diabetic ketoacidosis, which left her with too little insulin in her body. Court records said she likely had some symptoms of the disease for months.

The Neumanns each face up to 25 years in prison if convicted. The couple and their attorney did not immediately return messages left Monday by The Associated Press.

Falstad said the Neumanns have cooperated with investigators and are not under arrest. They have agreed to make an initial court appearance Wednesday, she said.

Randall Wormgoor, a friend of the Neumanns, told police that Dale Neumann led Bible studies at his business, Monkey Mo Coffee Shop, and believed physical illness was due to sin, curable by prayer and by asking for forgiveness from God, the complaint said.

Wormgoor said he and his wife, Althea, were at the Neumann home when Madeline — — called Kara by her parents — died. Wormgoor said he had urged the father to seek medical help and was told the illness “was a test of faith for the Neumann family and asked the Wormgoors to join them in praying for Kara to get well,” the complaint said.

Althea Wormgoor said she “implored” the parents to seek medical help for the girl, the complaint said.

Leilani Neumann, 40, told the AP previously she never expected her daughter to die. The family believes in the Bible, which says healing comes from God, but they have nothing against doctors, she said.

Dale Neumann, 46, a former police officer, has said he has friends who are doctors and started CPR “as soon as the breath of life left” his daughter’s body.

According to court documents, Leilani Neumann said in a written statement to police that she never considered taking the girl, who was being home-schooled, to a doctor.

“We just thought it was a spiritual attack and we prayed for her. My husband Dale was crying and mentioned taking Kara to the doctor and I said, ‘The Lord’s going to heal her,’ and we continued to pray,” she wrote.

The father told investigators he noticed his daughter was weak and slower for about two weeks but he attributed it to symptoms of the girl reaching puberty, the complaint said.

A day before Madeline died, according to the criminal complaint, the father wrote an e-mail with the headline, “Help our daughter needs emergency prayer!!!!.” It said his daughter was “very weak and pale at the moment with hardly any strength.”

The girl’s grandmother, Evalani Gordon, told police that she learned her granddaughter could not walk or talk on March 22 and advised Leilani Neumann to take the girl to a doctor.

Gordon eventually contacted a daughter-in-law in California who called police on a non-emergency line to report the girl was in a coma and needed medical help. An ambulance was dispatched shortly before some friends in the home called 911 to report the girl had stopped breathing, authorities said.

One relative told police that the girl’s mother believed she “died because the devil is trying to stop Leilani from starting her own ministry,” the complaint said.

The Neumanns said they moved to Weston, a suburb of Wausau in central Wisconsin, from California about two years ago to open the coffee shop and be closer to other relatives. The couple has three other children, ages 13 to 16; they are living with relatives.

The family does not belong to an organized religion or faith, Leilani Neumann has said.

Everest Metro Police Chief Dan Vergin said the parents once belonged to the Lighthouse Pentecostal Church but later became what he called religious “isolationists” involved in a prayer group of five people.

“They have gone out on their own,” he said. “… They have a very narrow view of Scripture and I would say not many people hold to that narrow of view.”

In March, an Oregon couple who belong to a church that preaches against medical care and believes in treating illness with prayer were charged with manslaughter and criminal mistreatment in the death of their 15-month-old daughter. The toddler died March 2 of bronchial pneumonia and a blood infection that could have been treated with antibiotics, the state medical examiner’s office said.

With Christian license plates being considered in Florida, the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster wants to get plates of their own.

Read more about it here.

From the New York Times:

FORT RILEY, Kan. — When Specialist Jeremy Hall held a meeting last July for atheists and freethinkers at Camp Speicher in Iraq, he was excited, he said, to see an officer attending.

But minutes into the talk, the officer, Maj. Freddy J. Welborn, began to berate Specialist Hall and another soldier about atheism, Specialist Hall wrote in a sworn statement. “People like you are not holding up the Constitution and are going against what the founding fathers, who were Christians, wanted for America!” Major Welborn said, according to the statement.

Major Welborn told the soldiers he might bar them from re-enlistment and bring charges against them, according to the statement.

Last month, Specialist Hall and the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, an advocacy group, filed suit in federal court in Kansas, alleging that Specialist Hall’s right to be free from state endorsement of religion under the First Amendment had been violated and that he had faced retaliation for his views. In November, he was sent home early from Iraq because of threats from fellow soldiers.

Read the rest of the article here.

Some good ones:

Proving the Power of Prayer


Tonight on NIGHTLINE (April 24, 2008):

Growing Up Scientologist

The Church of Scientology is opening lavish new facilities around the globe, and it claims its membership ranks have grown to the millions — helped no doubt by the very high profile of believers like Tom Cruise and Kirstie Alley. But this expansion is in the face of a mounting wave of criticism — in online videos, and in protests across the country. Tonight on Nightline, we hear from a woman who is part of that wave. Yet her criticisms of the church are even more surprising, perhaps, given her family tree. Not only was she raised in the church — she is a niece of the church’s leader. She tells us her story of her life in the church — including how she grew disillusioned, and how she reached the point when she finally left. ABC’s Lisa Fletcher reports. Read more here.


Part 1:

Part 2:

From NPR:

Morning Edition, April 24, 2008 · Lawmakers in the nation’s capital may be wringing their hands about record high gasoline prices. Others are putting their hands together — praying for help from a higher authority. Volunteers from a Washington, D.C., church soup kitchen launch a movement called Pray at the Pump.

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