In the News (September 2019)

‘The Family’ exposes D.C. Christian organization

The Family

A five-part “docuseries” on Netflix takes a close look at “The Family,” the secretive Christian organization that has influence throughout Washington, D.C.

It’s based on the book, The Family: The Secret Fundamentalism at the Heart of American Power, by investigative reporter Jeff Sharlet published more than a decade ago. The Family believes that the separation of church and state is unnecessary. The Family grooms and supports leaders, teaching them that the bible is a story about power, not mercy, and that leaders are chosen by God, not elected.

Members of The Family have notably shunned publicity, preferring backroom deals and secrecy. Their mansion on C Street is the residency of a number of conservative members of Congress, and the only time they really come out in the open was the National Prayer Breakfast.

The series became available on Aug. 9 on Netflix. Listen to Sharlet discussing his book and the Netflix series on FFRF’s Freethought Radio Aug. 8.

Trump’s trade war could turn biblical

The price of bibles could soar because of the trade war President Donald Trump has waged against China.

Trump has vowed to place tariffs on all of America’s imports from China, and book publishers are warning that those tariffs will cause the price of printing the bible to jump and possibly cause shortages.

Most publishers of the bible in the United States print them in China because of the high cost and complexity involved in printing a text with roughly 800,000 words. HarperCollins Christian Publishing says about three-quarters of its bible manufacturing expenses are in China.

Hundreds plan to sue Boy Scouts for sex abuse

Nearly 700 men are coming forward with accusations that they were sexually abused during their time in the Boy Scouts. They plan to sue Boy Scouts of America, a century-old organization that has prohibited atheists from joining. The men are demanding that the Boy Scouts be held accountable for hiding abusers from the criminal justice system and enabling them to keep preying on young men.

The Boy Scouts are facing financial trouble and may file for bankruptcy protection, which would freeze the ability of victims to file claims.

“This organization is so full of child molesters that if you weren’t sexually molested in scouting, you were just lucky,” said Tim Kosnoff, the attorney who gathered the claims. “The Boy Scouts should not exist anymore. . . . You couldn’t design a better place for pedophiles. You’re putting men you know virtually nothing about in close proximity with young boys away from their parents in the woods.”

Foster agency won’t accept Jews or LGBTQ

A federally funded Christian foster agency in South Carolina has decided to open its doors to prospective foster parents and employees who aren’t evangelical Protestants, but the organization’s ban on working with people who are LGBTQ, progressive Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Hindu or from other faiths remains intact.

Greenville’s Miracle Hill Ministries, the state’s largest foster care organization for children who don’t have significant special needs, previously had strict rules about only hiring and working with foster parents and volunteers who subscribe to a set of conservative evangelical principles.

Jews, atheists are more knowledgeable on religion

Jews and atheists know more than every kind of Christian about what different religions teach, a recent survey by the Pew Research Center shows.

The survey, which quizzed more than 11,000 U.S. adults, showed that most Americans are familiar with the basics of Christianity and the bible, but far fewer knew the answers to questions about Judaism, Buddhism, Islam and Hinduism. Also, most Americans do not know what the U.S. Constitution says about religion as it relates to elected officials.

Transubstantiation not believed by most Catholics

The Catholic idea of transubstantiation, that the bread and wine used for communion become the actual body and blood of Jesus Christ, is only believed by less than one-third of the religion’s adherents.

A new Pew Research Center survey finds that 69 percent of self-described Catholics say they believe the bread and wine used in communion are merely symbols of the body and blood of Jesus Christ.” Just 31 percent say they believe that “during Catholic Mass, the bread and wine actually become the body and blood of Jesus.”

Wisconsin Dems want sex abuse loophole closed

Three lawmakers in Wisconsin want to close a loophole in state law that precludes clergy from reporting sexual abuse and they are also calling for changes to the state’s statute of limitations for civil cases involving childhood sexual assault.

State Rep. Chris Taylor, state Sen. Lena Taylor and state Rep. Melissa Sargent, all Democrats, filed the two bills on Aug. 6.

The first bill, known as the Child Victims Act, has been filed before and has failed to pass the legislature at least four times. The second bill, known as the Clergy Mandatory Reporter Act, is being filed for the first time.

Saudi Arabia loosens restrictions on women

Saudi Arabia published new laws that loosen restrictions on women by allowing all citizens, not just men, to apply for a passport and travel freely, ending a long-standing guardianship policy that had controlled women’s freedom of movement.

The new laws were to go into effect by the end of August.

The kingdom’s legal system has long been criticized because it treats adult women as minors, requiring they have a man’s consent to obtain a passport or travel abroad. Often a woman’s male guardian is her father or husband, and in some cases a woman’s son.

Women are now also allowed to be legal guardians of their children, a right previously held only by men.

N.C. bans state funding for conversion therapy

North Carolina became the first Southern state to ban public funding of conversion therapy for minors, the practice often used by religious groups to “cure” individuals of their homosexual  orientations and transgender identities.

On Aug. 2, Gov. Roy Cooper instructed the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services to make sure state-licensed health care providers and organizations that use such techniques are not paid by government agencies.

Eighteen states plus the District of Columbia have laws that ban conversion therapy of minors by licensed health care providers, but Southern states have been unable to muster the votes to pass legislation to ban the practice, even as polls show growing support for such legislation.

Atheism, nonreligion in England growing quickly

In England, the rise of atheism and nonreligion among the younger generations is rising quickly. Just 1 percent of those under age 24 identify with the Church of England, which has a formal constitutional role in the country. More than half of British people now say that they have no religion, and about 40 percent are Christian, while 9 percent are Muslim.

There is a steady rise in the number of “Nones,” people who do not identify with any religion.  The Pew Global Forum suggests there will be 1.3 billion Nones worldwide by 2060.

In the past 10 years, the number proclaiming no faith has risen from 43 percent to 52 percent. And in a strong shift toward atheism, 25 percent of the British now state “I do not believe in God,” compared with 10 percent 20 years ago.

40% of Americans still believe in creationism

Forty percent of adults in the United States believe in a strictly creationist view of human origins, claiming that God created the world in its present form within roughly the past 10,000 years. However, the 22 percent of Americans who do not believe God had any role in human evolution is a record high. This percentage coincides with an increasing number of Americans saying they have no religious identification.