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Sunday, October 26, 2008                                                                                       View Comments

In the Land of Queen Esther: The Unauthorized Sarah Palin Story (Part One)

Max Blumenthal heads deep into the land of Sarah Palin, reporting from inside her longtime church, interviewing her friends and enemies, and putting her spokespeople on the defensive about the theology behind her extreme conservatism.

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Saturday, October 25, 2008                                                                                       View Comments

Conservatives for Change

"Conservatives for Change" is a documentary project featuring Republicans and Conservatives voting for Obama. These are real people, speaking in their own words. Pass it on.

Friday, October 24, 2008                                                                                       View Comments

Palin, Dobson and GOP GOD

"I know at the end of the day putting this in God's hands, the right thing for America will be done, at the end of the day on Nov. 4."

"I can feel the power of prayer, and that strength that is provided through our prayer warriors across this nation. And I so appreciate it."

"When we hear along the rope lines that people are interceding for us and praying for us, it's our reminder to do the same, to put this all in God's hands, to seek his perfect will for this nation, and to of course seek his wisdom and guidance in putting this nation back on the right track."

-- Sarah Palin speaking with James Dobson on Focus with the Family earlier this week.

Sarah Palin's 20-minute conversation with Christian Right leader James Dobson shed little light on the campaign, but it did remove any doubts about how Dobson's God will be voting on Election Day.

During the interview, broadcast Wednesday, Palin took another shot at the "mainstream media" -- which apparently in her mind doesn't include Fox News, Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, James Dobson, et. al. "I have to have that faith that God's going to help us get that message out there," Palin said.

Dobson gushed: "My goodness, if our audience is any indication, they're getting it. There are millions of people praying for you and for Sen. McCain. It's always risky to kind of politicize your prayer life, but there are issues here that are more important to me than my life."

After the interview, Dobson continued talking to his audience about the "hatred" Palin has encountered, especially "in the newspapers up there." He didn't specify what he meant by "up there," although cities north of Dobson's Focus on the Family headquarters include Denver, Cheyenne, Wyo., and Billings, Mont.

Dobson recalled the moment in 2000 when presidential candidate George W. Bush named Jesus Christ as his favorite political philosopher. "That created hatred for him (Bush, not Jesus) for months and months and it's one of the reasons they despise him so much today because he had the courage to speak the name of Christ," Dobson said.

"It's the offense of the cross and it's one of the reasons there's such hostility tor Sarah Palin, because she is an unabashed Christian."

Last time I checked, Dr. Dobson, all four candidates on the major party presidential tickets are unabashed Christians. All four have had the "courage" to speak the name of Christ. Aren't all four deserving of our Christian prayers and appreciation?


Listen to the broadcast:   


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Wednesday, October 22, 2008                                                                                       View Comments

This is Why America is Broken

Suggested by Valerie Tarico

A clip from "Now on PBS". A right wing religiholic woman and her reasons for disliking Barack Obama.

The kind of smug, self-righteous ignorance and bigotry this woman displays is frighteningly common.

A related video:

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Tuesday, October 21, 2008                                                                                       View Comments

'No God' slogans for city's buses

Bendy-buses with the slogan "There's probably no God" could soon be running on the streets of London.

The atheist posters are the idea of the British Humanist Association (BHA) and have been supported by prominent atheist Professor Richard Dawkins.

The BHA planned only to raise £5,500, which was to be matched by Professor Dawkins, but it has now raised more than £36,000 of its own accord.

It aims to have two sets of 30 buses carrying the signs for four weeks.

The complete slogan reads: "There's probably no God. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life."

As the campaign has raised more than anticipated, it will also have posters on the inside of buses as well.

The BHA is also considering extending the campaign to cities including Birmingham, Manchester and Edinburgh.

Professor Dawkins said: "Religion is accustomed to getting a free ride - automatic tax breaks, unearned respect and the right not to be offended, the right to brainwash children.
This campaign to put alternative slogans on London buses will make people think - and thinking is anathema to religion.
Professor Richard Dawkins

"Even on the buses, nobody thinks twice when they see a religious slogan plastered across the side.

"This campaign to put alternative slogans on London buses will make people think - and thinking is anathema to religion."

Hanne Stinson, chief executive of the BHA, said: "We see so many posters advertising salvation through Jesus or threatening us with eternal damnation, that I feel sure that a bus advert like this will be welcomed as a breath of fresh air.

"If it raises a smile as well as making people think, so much the better."

Stephen Green (Christian Voice)Image via WikipediaBut Stephen Green of pressure group Christian Voice said: "Bendy-buses, like atheism, are a danger to the public at large.

"I should be surprised if a quasi-religious advertising campaign like this did not attract graffiti.

"People don't like being preached at. Sometimes it does them good, but they still don't like it."

However the Methodist Church said it thanked Professor Dawkins for encouraging a "continued interest in God".

Bendy-buses, like atheism, are a danger to the public at large.
Stephen Green of pressure group Christian Voice
Spirituality and discipleship officer Rev Jenny Ellis said: "This campaign will be a good thing if it gets people to engage with the deepest questions of life."

She added: "Christianity is for people who aren't afraid to think about life and meaning."

The buses with the slogans will run in Westminster from January.


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Thursday, October 16, 2008                                                                                       View Comments

Pastor accused of molesting girl

A Moberly principal and pastor has been charged with second-degree child molestation after allegedly taking a 16-year-old female student to a Columbia motel and fondling her in May.

The misdemeanor charge against James M. Wilson, 42, was filed Oct. 9 in Boone County Circuit Court. Wilson is the principal of Terrill Road Christian Academy and also a pastor, according to probable cause statement prepared by Columbia police Detective Latisha Stroer.

The 16-year-old girl reported on Sept. 10 that in May, her mother dropped her off at a gas station down the street from the school, where Wilson picked her up. Wilson brought her to Motel 6 at 1800 I-70 Drive S.W. in Columbia, the court documents says.

The girl said Wilson checked into a motel room and he and the girl stayed in the room watching cartoons, according to the probable cause statement. Wilson allegedly threw the girl down on the bed, unbuttoned her shirt, kissed her and touched her breasts.

The victim then told Wilson to stop because he was married, and Wilson stopped and apologized, according to the statement.

The girl reported they were in the motel room for about 20 minutes before Wilson took her back to Moberly and dropped her off at the gas station, the court document said.

A search of registration records by police confirmed that Wilson checked into a room at the Motel 6 in Columbia on May 6.

When interviewed by police on Oct. 9, Wilson denied taking the girl to a Columbia motel or staying in a motel room until confronted with the registration form, according to the statement. Wilson then invoked his right to counsel.


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Tuesday, October 14, 2008                                                                                       View Comments

Witches beware!

The pastor whose prayer Sarah Palin says helped her to become governor of Alaska founded his ministry with a witch hunt against a Kenyan woman whom he accused of causing car accidents through demonic spells.

At a speech at the Wasilla Assembly of God on June 8 this year, Palin described how Thomas Muthee had laid his hands on her when he visited the church as a guest preacher in late 2005, prior to her successful gubernatorial bid.

In video footage of the speech, she is seen saying: "As I was mayor and Pastor Muthee was here and he was praying over me, and you know how he speaks and he's so bold. And he was praying "Lord make a way, Lord make a way."

"And I'm thinking, this guy's really bold, he doesn't even know what I'm going to do, he doesn't know what my plans are. And he's praying not "Oh Lord, if it be your will may she become governor," no, he just prayed for it. He said, "Lord make a way and let her do this next step. And that's exactly what happened."

She then adds: "So, again, very, very powerful, coming from this church," before the presiding pastor comments on the "prophetic power" of the event.

An African evangelist, Muthee has given guest sermons at the Wasilla Assembly of God on at least 10 occasions in his role as the founder of the Word of Faith Church, also known as the Prayer Cave.

Muthee founded the Prayer Cave in 1989 in Kiambu, Kenya, after "God spoke" to him and his late wife, Margaret, and called him to the country, according to the church's Web site.

The pastor speaks of his offensive against a demonic presence in the town in a trailer for the evangelical video "Transformations," made by Sentinel Group, a Christian research and information agency.

"We prayed, we fasted, the Lord showed us a spirit of witchcraft resting over the place," Muthee says.

After the spirit was broken, the crime rate dropped to almost zero and there was "explosive church growth" while almost every bar in the town closed down, the video says.

The full "Transformations" video featuring Muthee's story has recently been removed from YouTube, but the rest of the story is detailed in a 1999 article in the Christian Science Monitor, as well as on numerous evangelical Web sites.

According to the Christian Science Monitor, six months of fervent prayer and research identified the source of the witchcraft as a local woman called Mama Jane, who ran a "divination" center called the Emmanuel Clinic.

Her alleged involvement in fortune-telling and the fact that she lived near the site of a number of fatal car accidents led Muthee to publicly declare her a witch responsible for the town's ills and order her to offer her up her soul for salvation or leave Kiambu.

Says the Monitor, "Muthee held a crusade that 'brought about 200 people to Christ.'" They set up around-the-clock prayer intercession in the basement of a grocery store and eventually, says the pastor, "the demonic influence -- the 'principality' over Kiambu -- was broken," and Mama Jane fled the town.

According to accounts of the witch hunt that circulated on evangelical Web sites such as Prayer Links Ministries, after Muthee declared Mama Jane a witch, the townspeople became suspicious and began to turn on her, demanding that she be stoned. Public outrage eventually led the police to raid her home, where they fired gunshots, killing a pet python they believed to be a demon.

After Mama Jane was questioned by police -- and released -- she decided it was time to leave town, the account says.

Muthee has frequently referred to this witch hunt in his sermons as an example of the power of "spiritual warfare." In October 2005, he delivered 10 sermons at the Wasilla Assembly of God, the audio of which was available on the church's Web site until it was removed around the time Palin's candidacy was announced. The blog Irregular Times has listings and screen grabs of the sermons.

It was during these sermons that Palin, who was then preparing for her gubernatorial run, was anointed by Muthee. His intercession, she says, was "awesome."

Her June 8 speech was to mark the graduation of students from the Wasilla Assembly of God's Masters' Commission, which, as Pastor Ed Kalins explains, believes Alaska will be the refuge for American evangelicals upon the coming "End of Days." After her speech, Palin was presented with an honorary Masters' Commission diploma.


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Monday, October 13, 2008                                                                                       View Comments

Country First!

Rev. Arnold Conrad, in delivering an invocation at a rally recently for John McCain in Davenport, Iowa, apparently didn't get the word from the candidate about elevating the tone at such gatherings.

Conrad, who appeared before the crowd before McCain had arrived, offered a prayer that seemed to urge divine intervention to prevent Barack Obama from winning the presidential election -- and cast the outcome as a referendum on differing religions.

The Times' Maeve Reston was at the event, and she passed along the key passage from Conrad's words:

I would also pray Lord that your reputation is involved in all that happens between now and November, because there are millions of people around this world praying to their God -- whether it's Hindu, Buddha, Allah -- that his [McCain’s] opponent wins for a variety of reasons.

And Lord I pray that you would guard your own reputation, because they’re going to think that their god is bigger than you, if that happens. So I pray that you would step forward and honor your own name in all that happens between now and Election Day.

Oh Lord, we just commit this time to you, move among us, make your presence very well felt as we are gathered here today in Jesus's name I pray.

Some in the crowd greeted the prayer with applause.

Story Link

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Gov Palin blurs lines between church and state

The camera closes in on Sarah Palin speaking to young missionaries, vowing from the pulpit to do her part to implement God's will from the governor's office.

What she didn't tell worshipers gathered at the Wasilla Assembly of God church in her hometown was that her appearance that day came courtesy of Alaskan taxpayers, who picked up the $639.50 tab for her airplane tickets and per diem fees.

An Associated Press review of the Republican vice presidential candidate's record as mayor and governor reveals her use of elected office to promote religious causes, sometimes at taxpayer expense and in ways that blur the line between church and state.

Since she took state office in late 2006, the governor and her family have spent more than $13,000 in taxpayer funds to attend at least 10 religious events and meetings with Christian pastors, including Franklin Graham, the son of evangelical preacher Billy Graham, records show.

Palin was baptized Roman Catholic as a newborn and baptized again in a Pentecostal Assemblies of God church when she was a teenager. She has worshipped at a nondenominational Bible church since 2002, opposes abortion even in cases of rape and incest and supports classroom discussions about creationism.

Since she was named as John McCain's running mate, Palin's deep faith and support for traditional moral values have rallied conservative voters who initially appeared reluctant to back his campaign.

On a weekend trip from the capital in June, a minister from the Wasilla Assembly of God blessed Palin and Lt. Gov Sean Parnell before a crowd gathered for the "One Lord Sunday" event at the town's hockey rink. Later in the day, she addressed the budding missionaries at her former church.

"As I'm doing my job, let's strike this deal. Your job is going be to be out there, reaching the people — (the) hurting people — throughout Alaska," she told students graduating from the church's Masters Commission program. "We can work together to make sure God's will be done here."

A spokeswoman for the McCain-Palin campaign, Maria Comella, said the state paid for Palin's travel and meals on that trip, and for other meetings with Christian groups, because she and her family were invited in their official capacity as Alaska's first family. Parnell did not charge the state a per diem or ask to be reimbursed for travel expenses that day.

"I understand the per diem policy is, I can claim it if I am away from my residence for 12 hours or more. And Anchorage is where my residence is and I'm based from. And this trip took about four hours of driving time and time at the event, so I did not claim per diem for this one," Parnell told the AP.

Palin and her family billed the state $3,022 for the cost of attending Christian gatherings exclusively, including visits to the Assembly of God here and to the congregation they attend in Juneau, according to expense reports reviewed by the AP.

Experts say those trips fall into an ethically gray area, since Democrats and Republicans alike often visit religious venues for personal and official reasons.

J. Brent Walker, who runs a Washington, D.C.-based group that advocates for church-state separation, said based on a reporter's account, Palin's June excursion raised questions.

"Politicians are entitled to freely exercise their religion while in office, but ethically if not legally that part of her trip ought to not be charged to taxpayers," said Walker, executive director of the Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty. "It's still fundamentally a religious and spiritual experience she is having."

The Palins billed the state an additional $10,094 in expenses for other multi-day trips that included worship services or religiously themed events, but also involved substantial state business, including the governor's inaugural ball and an oil and gas conference in New Orleans.

Palin also submitted $998 in expenses for a June trip to Anchorage that included a bill signing at Congregation Beth Shalom synagogue, the only non-Christian house of worship she has visited since taking office, according to the McCain campaign.

In response to an AP request, Comella provided a list showing that since January 2007 the governor had attended 25 "faith-based events," including funerals and community meetings held at churches. Many did not appear on the governor's schedule or her travel records.

Palin has said publicly her personal opinions don't "bleed on over into policies."

Still, after the AP reported the governor had accepted tainted donations during her 2006 campaign, she announced she would donate the $2,100 to three charities, including an Anchorage nonprofit aimed at "sharing God's love" to dissuade young women from having abortions.

An AP review of her time as mayor, from late 1996 to 2002, also reveals a commingling of church and state.

Records of her mayoral correspondence show that Palin worked arduously to organize a day of prayer at city hall. She said that with local ministers' help, Wasilla — a city of 7,000 an hour's drive north of Anchorage — could become "a light, or a refuge for others in Alaska and America."

"What a blessing that the Lord has already put into place the Christian leaders, even though I know it's all through the grace of God," she wrote in March 2000 to her former pastor. She thanked him for the loan of a video featuring a Kenyan preacher who later would pray for her protection from witchcraft as she sought higher office.

In that same period, she also joined a grass-roots, faith-based movement to stop the local hospital from performing abortions, a fight that ultimately lost before the Alaska Supreme Court.

Palin's former church and other evangelical denominations were instrumental in ousting members of Valley Hospital's board who supported abortion rights — including the governor's mother-in-law, Faye Palin.

Alaska Right to Life Director Karen Lewis, who led the campaign, said Palin wasn't a leader in the movement initially. But by 1997, after she had been elected mayor, Palin joined a hospital board to make sure the abortion ban held while the courts considered whether the ban was legal, Lewis said.

"We kept pro-life people like Sarah on the association board to ensure children of the womb would be protected," Lewis said. "She's made up of this great fiber of high morals and godly character, and yet she's fearless. She's someone you can depend on to carry the water."

In November 2007, the Alaska Supreme Court ruled that because the hospital received more than $10 million in public funds it was "quasi-public" and couldn't forbid legal abortions.

Comella said Palin joined the hospital's broader association in the mid-1990s. Records show she was elected to the nonprofit's board in 2000.

Ties among those active at the time still run deep: In November, Palin was a keynote speaker at Lewis' "Proudly Pro-Life Dinner" in Anchorage, and the governor billed taxpayers a $60 per diem fee for her work that day.

Palin also is one of just two governors who channeled federal money to support religious groups through a state agency, Alaska's Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives. Palin has made it a priority to unite faith communities, local nonprofits and government to serve the needy, bringing her high marks — and $500,000 — from the Bush administration.

In fiscal year 2008, Alaska was one of only four states to receive $500,000 in federal grant money from the national initiative.

"The governor has a healthy appreciation for faith-based groups that serve Alaskans in need," said Jay Hein, who until recently directed national faith-based initiatives at the White House. "The grant speaks to their organizational strength, and the dynamism of Alaska's operation."

Several Catholic and Christian charities received funding, including $20,000 for a Fairbanks homeless shelter that views itself as a "stable door of evangelism and Christian service" and $36,000 for a drop-in center at an Anchorage mall that seeks to demonstrate "the unconditional love of Jesus to teenagers."

The state ensures all faith-based groups keep a strict separation between their work in the community and their prayer services to ensure recipients don't feel coerced, said Tara Horton, a special assistant to the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services. Though staffers reached out to nonprofits and religious groups of many faiths, mostly Christian organizations applied for funding, she said.

In June, when Alaska legislators decided to cut $712,000 in state support for the office, Parnell sent lawmakers an urgent letter asking them to put it back in the budget. A small portion of state funding was later restored.

"Gov. Palin is motivated by the needs out there, and faith-based and community initiatives are a great way to do that," Parnell said. "It matters not to state government what religion people belong to, so long as they are serving the public and the money they receive is used appropriately."

Still, a state worker who directs an Anchorage-based group that advocates for church-state separation, Lloyd Eggan, said Palin's administration hasn't done enough to assure voters that government money doesn't support ministry.

"That sort of thing is exactly what courts have said is barred by the First Amendment," Eggan said.


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Saturday, October 04, 2008                                                                                       View Comments

Righteousness lines my path to atheism

By Be-Asia McKerracher who writes for the Kansas City Star

When I was an 11-year-old girl with frizzy hair and oak-brown skin, I got on bended knees by my bed and told God that I never wanted to speak to him again.

And then I panicked.

“Wait!” I said. “I’m sorry! I didn’t mean it! It’s just that I’m confused. I’m a good girl. I do well in school. I never cuss. I read all the time. I pray every night at home and every Sunday in church. So why does Grandma still drink all the time? And why do I have to live with my aunt instead of my mom and dad?”

By college I had become an agnostic. Though no longer certain that my Baptist upbringing provided the answer to life’s mysteries, I wasn’t willing to completely forget about God.

But something happened in college. First, there was my philosophy of religion class — who knew that the Buddha had said the same things Jesus did, only hundreds of years before Jesus was born — what does that mean? Next came mythology class — can you believe that many communities throughout history have had a creation story that is similar to Genesis?

So how did I become an atheist? I remember sitting in class one morning when a thought popped into my head: I had never read the Bible. How could that be? How could I — born and raised a Christian — never have read the Bible? Sure, I’d heard bits and pieces of it in church all the time, but, like most Americans, that’s where my knowledge ended.

And so the Good Book and I spent some much needed time together. What a shock! The Bible I had heard as a little girl was so different from the Bible I read as a young woman. The Scriptures that once sounded so beautiful, kind and perfect to my ears now seemed mean and sad and — to me, a young woman of 23 — deeply unfair.

Reading the Bible left a hole in my heart. What filled it would become a guiding philosophy of my life.

Twenty years after I begged God to forgive me for my lack of faith, I reflected on my life: I’d graduated from high school, took a train from Seattle to Missouri with my two daughters, graduated cum laude from college and married a superb man.

These were my accomplishments, my good choices, and I’d made them on my own. After years of struggle, I had decided that being a righteous person did not require a belief in God.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008                                                                                       View Comments

Priest faces 37 more child sex charges

A CATHOLIC priest accused of sexually abusing boys aged as young as 11 in the New South Wales Hunter region will face 37 additional charges.

John Sidney Denham, 66, now faces a total of 67 child sex-related charges, relating to alleged offences dating from the late 1960s to the mid 1980s, after police today added to his alleged crimes.

He appeared today in Newcastle Local Court via videolink before Magistrate Michael Morahan.

Mr Denham was first charged in August with 28 counts of indecent assault of a male, a charge of buggery and one charge of attempted indecent assault of a male, relating to 18 boys at various Catholic parishes in the region.

The new charges allegedly involve 13 other boys, and include sexual assault, indecent assault and solicit male or incite male to commit an indecent act.

The white-haired Mr Denham, who has been in custody since his arrest, expressed no emotion during his brief court appearance.

He did not apply for bail and Mr Morahan adjourned the matter until November 12 in the same court.

"Thirty-seven charges is a lot of charges," Mr Morahan noted.

Police allege the assaults took place at St Pius X High School at Adamstown in the late 1970s. Further assaults allegedly occurred in the Charlestown parish in 1980 and the Taree parish in 1981.

The new charges against Mr Denham, which involve 13 additional boys, allegedly happened during the same years at the same locations. But one boy was allegedly assaulted from 1968 to 1971 at Granville, while another boy was allegedly assaulted at Taree in 1986.

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