Published by the Freedom From Religion Foundation, Inc. FFRF.org

In the News (Sept. 2018)

Vol. 35 No. 7 September 2018

White evangelicals: U.S. diversity a negative

More than half — 52 percent — of white evangelical Protestants say a majority of the U.S. population being nonwhite will be a negative development, according to the Public Religion Research Institute and the Atlantic.

According to the latest census projections, white Americans will be in the minority by 2045, in part due to the aging white population. By that time, Latinos are expected to be about 25 percent of the population, while black Americans will make up just over 13 percent of the population. The Asian population will be nearly 8 percent. Multiracial people will make up nearly 4 percent of the population.

Pompeo to world: Defend religious freedom

On July 26, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo sent out a declaration urging governments around the world to prioritize religious freedom.

The Potomac Declaration and an accompanying plan of action were released at the inaugural Ministerial to Advance Religious Freedom conference in Washington, D.C.

The declaration states that “religious freedom is a far-reaching, universal and profound human right that all peoples and nations of good will must defend around the globe.”

Pomepo touted it as an effort to make good on President Trump’s promise to make religious freedom a “key priority” of his foreign policy. But critics have expressed concern about whether his administration has sought to help certain religious groups over others.

Nuns denounce their abuse by priests

About half a dozen sisters in a small religious congregation in Chile went public on national television with their stories of abuse by priests and other nuns — and how their superiors did nothing to stop it.

The Associated Press has found that cases of Catholic nuns being sexually abused have emerged in Europe, Africa, South America and Asia, demonstrating that the problem is global and pervasive, thanks to the universal tradition of sisters’ second-class status in the Catholic Church and their ingrained subservience to the men who run it.

Some nuns are now finding their voices, buoyed by the #MeToo movement and the growing recognition that adults can be victims of sexual abuse when there is an imbalance of power in a relationship.

Ark park visitors less than projected

Ken Ham’s Ark Encounter park in Kentucky sold about 860,000 tickets between July 2017 and June 2018, according to open records obtained by FFRF’s chapter, FFRF Kentucky. That is significantly less than the initial estimates of 1.4 million to 2.4 million yearly visitors.

A spokesman for the park said the foundation’s figures for ticket sales are accurate but noted that it doesn’t represent how many people actually visited the park. Children, members with lifetime passes or annual memberships do not come up in the final ticket sales, the spokesman said.

The park won more than $18 million in tax incentives from the state, and after its first year, the state of Kentucky sent Ark Encounter a rebate check for $1.8 million.

Study: U.S. the most religious wealthy country

America is the most religious wealthy country in the world, according to a recent Pew survey.

Fifty-five percent of Americans report praying at least once daily, 6 percentage points higher than the international average. America is an extreme statistical outlier when it comes to countries with at least a $30,000 per person GDP. In this category, the global average hovers around 40 percent. In Canada, just 25 percent of people pray daily. In Great Britain, it’s only 6 percent.

The United States was the only country out of the 102 surveyed to score higher-than-average on both religiosity (based on daily prayer) and national wealth (based on GDP per capita). By contrast, countries that report daily prayer rate comparable to the United States tend to be poorer, such as Bolivia (56 percent) and Bangladesh (57 percent).

Catholic hospitals on rise; services down

Because of mergers and consolidations that have been reshaping the U.S. health care system, Catholic hospitals are playing a bigger role in patient care, which can be unfortunate for those who many need reproductive care or contraceptives, or have death with dignity directives. One-sixth of hospital beds nationwide are now in Catholic facilities.

Catholic hospitals are committed to a set of religious guidelines, the Ethical and Religious Directives, which include a blanket ban on abortion and restrictions on contraception, both of which are opposed by the Catholic Church.

However, insurance can push patients into those institutions without informing them about the limitations on the services they can receive.

Atheist firefighter can proceed with lawsuit

Jeffrey Queen, an atheist firefighter, filed a lawsuit against the city of Bowling Green (Ky.) for a long list of anti-atheist comments he was subjected to while working for the fire department.

After his complaints were ignored, he took a leave of absence and then resigned. The lawsuit followed.

The city tried to get the courts to throw it out, claiming “that jokes, pranks, and teasing are all part of the fraternal environment at the Fire Department that Queen enjoyed and participated in,” according to Hemant Mehta in his “Friendly Atheist” blog.

However, a judge ruled that the case can move forward.

Christian nationalism, authoritarianism linked

New research has found a link between Christian nationalism and authoritarian attitudes toward crime.

The study provides evidence that the Christian nationalist ideology — rather than religious commitment or traditional values — is associated with the belief that troublemakers should be harshly punished.

In his study, Joshua Davis of the University of Oklahoma found that people who believed that the federal government should declare the United States a Christian nation and advocate Christian values were more likely to support the death penalty, approve of harsher punishments for criminals, and believe it was necessary to “crack down on troublemakers to save our moral standards.”

Roe v. Wade support has never been higher

Support for Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 Supreme Court decision that decriminalized abortion access, has reached an all-time high in the latest poll from NBC News and the Wall Street Journal.

Seventy-one percent of U.S. voters, including 52 percent of Republicans, do not believe the ruling should be reversed. Only 23 percent of respondents say Roe v. Wade should be overturned. Support for the ruling has risen six percentage points since 2005 and 13 percentage points since 1989.

The increased focus on abortion access follows President Donald Trump’s nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court. Kavanaugh has a history of controversial rulings and remarks about reproductive rights, raising fears that Kavanaugh could join the other four conservative justices to overturn Roe v. Wade if confirmed.

GOP school candidates: Teaching creationism OK

Four out of the five Republican candidates running for state superintendent of public instruction said they believe Arizona students should be taught creationism and intelligent design as part of science learning requirements. The candidates’ comments came during a debate.

Jonathan Gelbart was the sole Republican candidate who opposed teaching students creationism and intelligent design. He is joined by Democrats Kathy Hoffman and David Schapira.

The four others — Bob Branch, Frank Riggs, Tracy Livingston and incumbent Diane Douglas — each said they believed students should be taught those topics in some capacity.

The state will likely decide on new science standards later this year.