AN AUSTRALIAN pastor who inspired hundreds of thousands of people with his fight against terminal cancer has admitted he faked his illness to hide an addiction to porn.
Police are now investigating disgraced pastor Michael Guglielmucci over the collection of public donations to his cancer cause.
The alarm is understood to have been raised by the Hillsong Church in Sydney which revealed the pastor’s hoax in an email.
His deception was so great his wife quit work to care for him, he forced himseld to vomit regularly at night and even lost his hair to fool his family and the public about the extent of his illness.
Guglielmucci, whose parents established Edge Church International, an Assemblies of God church, had earlier this year released a hit song, The Healer, which debuted at No. 2 on the ARIA charts and was featured on Sydney Hillsong church’s latest album.
It since has become an anthem of faith for believers, many of whom are suffering their own illness and were praying for a miracle for Guglielmucci – more than 300,000 people have watched one performance on YouTube.
In a frank TV interview, Guglielmucci explained fabricating a terminal cancer battle to hide his 16-year obsession with pornography.
Organizers hope to get 1 million Catholics, Mormons, Jews, Muslims, evangelical Christians, Sikhs and Hindus to post lawn signs supporting Prop. 8 in unison next month.
Early on a late September morning, if all goes according to plan, 1 million Mormons, Catholics, Jews, Muslims, evangelical Christians, Sikhs and Hindus will open their doors, march down their front walks and plant “Yes on Proposition 8″ signs in their yards to show they support repealing same-sex marriage in California.
It is a bold idea, one that may be difficult to pull off. But whether or not 1 million lawn signs are planted in unison, the plan underscores what some observers say is one of the most ambitious interfaith political organizing efforts ever attempted in the state. Moreover, political analysts say, the alliances across religious boundaries could herald new ways of building coalitions around political issues in California.
“Pan-religious, faith-based political action strategies . . . I think we are going to see a lot more of [this] in the future,” said Gaston Espinosa, a professor of religious studies at Claremont McKenna College.
The greatest involvement in the campaign has come from Mormons, Catholics and evangelical Christians, who say they are working together much more closely than they did eight years ago when a similar measure, Proposition 22, was on the ballot.
Mark Jansson, a Mormon who is a member of the Protect Marriage Coalition, said members of his group are also reaching out to Jews, Muslims, Sikhs and Hindus.
Organizers say the groups turned to each other because of the California Supreme Court’s ruling in May allowing same-sex marriages to be performed in the state. Thousands of gay couples have wed in the state since June 17, the first day same-sex marriages became legal.
“This is a rising up over a 5,000-year-old institution that is being hammered right now,” said Jim Garlow, pastor of Skyline Church, an evangelical congregation in La Mesa. Garlow said that, while he supported Proposition 22, he was not nearly as involved as this time around, when he has helped organize 3,400-person conference calls across denominations to coordinate campaign support for the proposed constitutional amendment.
“What binds us together is one common obsession: . . . marriage,” Garlow said.
He added that many people of faith, regardless of their religion, believe that “if Proposition 8 fails, there is an inevitable loss of religious freedom.”
Other religious leaders vehemently disagree with Garlow and are working just as furiously to defeat Proposition 8. But their efforts have not been as carefully orchestrated as those of the initiative’s religious supporters.
A few atheists have their panties in a twist once again, this time fussing that an atheist leader wasn’t invited to speak at an Aug. 24 interfaith service that’s part of the Democratic National Convention.
The service will feature Christian, Muslim, Jewish and Buddhist speakers. The official reason for the interfaith services is “to honor the diverse faith traditions inside the Democratic Party,” which could easily include atheists. If they aren’t welcome, it’s probably because they’re rude.
This column has advocated religious liberties for atheists, citing case law that defines atheism as just another religion – as in just another unproven and forever unprovable belief. This column has applauded a federal court ruling that forced prison wardens to allow prisoners an atheist study session. The court allowed the study session for the same reason wardens allow Bible study meetings: atheism is a religion, therefore subject to protections and restrictions of the First Amendment.
From the objective, legalistic standpoint of government, one belief is no more valid than another. Therefore a belief in creation – or an original intelligence, Jesus, Buddha, or the “Flying Spaghetti Monster” – is no more valid in the eyes of the law than the odd belief that nothing could possibly exist beyond what our embryonic state of scientific discovery has seen in our relatively primitive microscopes and telescopes. The humble and intelligent scientist understands that what we have proven about time and space is a microscopically small body of knowledge relative to the endless size and never-ending expansion of all that exists. To rational thinkers, atheism seems a sad and shallow belief. That’s because great scientists understand that, metaphorically, they’ve discovered little more than the drawings on the walls of a cave. They don’t know what’s beyond the cave or how it began. As Albert Einstein said: “Science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind. … a legitimate conflict between science and religion cannot exist.”
Yet an amazing number of atheists have taken to confronting and insulting believers of other religions. They pretend that atheist beliefs are proven true, while others are proven false. They refer to other religions as “irrational,” and “superstitious.” Their approach to ministry is overbearing and rude. They engage in confrontation, with disregard for persuasion. It’s as if they’ve watched too much “American Idol,” where Simon Cowell briefly made it hip to be the bully.
Consider the righteous indignation of Becky Hale, founder of Freethinkers of Colorado Springs: “By reaching out to people of faith, they have shown the back of their hand to those who do not believe,” Hale told The Gazette.
In other words, if I’m not invited to your party then you’re bad. Even the name of Hale’s group is insulting. It implies that people of other faiths are something other than “free thinkers.”
No, Ms. Hale, nobody gave your group the back of the hand. You simply weren’t invited to a private party for “believers.” While the law considers you nothing other than a “believer” – clinging to a belief that no higher power could exist – those who organized the party don’t likely see you that way.
Hale, by her own admission, fancies her club as something other than a group of believers, calling it a group of “those who do not believe.” So why invite yourself to a party of believers, Ms. Hale?
Boulder atheist Marvin Straus accused Democrats of “pandering” for the religious vote. How dare they reach out to people who believe in God? There oughta be a law!
Hitler imagined a world without Jews. The Freedom From Religion Foundation rented a billboard near the Colorado Convention Center that says: “Imagine No Religion.”
Imagine a world with no religion and one sees a world without the Golden Rule, devoid of most charities, hospitals and great universities. One sees hurricane recovery zones, minus all the chartered planes and buses full of churchgoers giving their time and money to rebuild homes. How many children are fed and clothed by atheist charity organizations? Approximately none.
Imagine no religion and one sees a world ruled by atheist tyrants – Pol Pot, Albania’s Enver Hoxha, Stalin and Mao, to name a few – who have murdered tens of millions in modern efforts to cleanse society of religion.
American Muslims, Baptists, Jews, Christians, Buddhists, Mormons, Quakers, Amish, etc., don’t erect billboards saying “Imagine No Atheists.” They don’t advocate government force to cleanse atheist expressions and teachings from the public square. They don’t imply that atheists are “irrational,” even though atheists claim absolute knowledge. They don’t advocate theft and desecration of atheist property, even though an atheist hero in Minnesota stole and destroyed the Catholic Eucharist.
Democrats will nominate a Christian gentleman who respects others. It’s likely they didn’t invite atheists to their faith service because they didn’t want embarrassing guests. Atheists might bring pseudointellectual proselytizers, who are intolerant, self-aggrandizing and rude. Atheists should fund universities and hospitals. They should feed and clothe starving kids. They should act more like Christians and Jews. If they do some of that – if they contribute to a diverse humanity – they might get better party invites.
WASHINGTON — The Bush administration Thursday announced plans to implement a controversial regulation designed to protect antiabortion healthcare workers from being required to deliver services against their personal beliefs.
The rule empowers federal health officials to pull funding from more than 584,000 hospitals, clinics, health plans, doctors’ offices and other entities that do not accommodate employees who refuse to participate in care they find objectionable on personal, moral or religious grounds.
“People should not be forced to say or do things they believe are morally wrong,” Health and Human Services Secretary Mike Leavitt said. “Healthcare workers should not be forced to provide services that violate their own conscience.”
The proposed regulation, which could go into effect after a 30-day comment period, was welcomed by conservative groups, abortion opponents and others, who said the measure was necessary to safeguard workers from being penalized.
Critics including women’s health advocates, family planning advocates and abortion rights activists said that the regulation could create sweeping obstacles to family planning, end-of-life care and possibly a wide range of scientific research as well as to abortion.
“It’s breathtaking,” said Robyn Shapiro, a bioethicist and lawyer at the Medical College of Wisconsin. “The impact could be enormous.”
The regulation drops a draft version’s most controversial language, which would have explicitly defined an abortion for the first time in a federal law or regulation as anything that interfered with a fertilized egg after conception.
But both supporters and critics said the proposed regulation remained broad enough to protect pharmacists, doctors, nurses and others from having to provide birth control pills, Plan B emergency contraception and other forms of contraception. And both groups said the regulation would explicitly allow workers to withhold information about such services and refuse to refer patients elsewhere.
Leavitt said he requested the new regulation after becoming alarmed by reports that healthcare workers were being pressured to take actions they considered immoral. He cited moves by two doctor organizations that he said might require antiabortion doctors to refer patients to abortion providers.
An early draft of the regulation that leaked in July triggered criticism from women’s health activists, family planning advocates, members of Congress and others who feared that the definition of abortion could be interpreted to include many common forms of contraception.
“Words in that draft led some to misconstrue the department’s intent,” Leavitt said in a telephone news conference Thursday. “This regulation . . . is consistent with my intent to focus squarely on the issue of conscience rights. This specifically goes to the issue of abortion and conscience.”
When pressed about whether the regulation would protect workers who considered birth control pills, Plan B and other forms of contraception to be abortion, Leavitt said: “This regulation does not seek to resolve any ambiguity in that area. It focuses on abortion and focuses on physicians’ conscience in relation to that.”
David Stevens of the Catholic Medical Assn. said: “I think this provides broad application not just to abortion and sterilization but any other type of morally objectionable procedure and research activity. We think it’s badly needed. Our members are facing discrimination every day, and as we get into human cloning and all sorts of possibilities it’s going to become even more important.”
The regulation, which would cost more than $44 million to implement, is aimed at enforcing several federal laws that have been on the books since the 1970s, aimed primarily at protecting doctors and nurses who did not want to perform abortions in the wake of the Supreme Court’s Roe vs. Wade decision, Leavitt said.
But critics said they remained alarmed at the scope of the regulation, which could apply to a wide range of healthcare workers — even those who, for example, were responsible for cleaning instruments used in an abortion.
When Labour cabinet members were asked about their religious allegiances last December, following Tony Blair’s official conversion to Roman Catholicism, it turned out that more than half of them are not believers. The least equivocal about their atheism were the health secretary, Alan Johnson, and foreign secretary David Miliband.
The fact that Miliband is an atheist is a matter of special interest given the likelihood that he may one day, and perhaps soon, occupy No 10. In our present uncomfortable climate of quarrels between pushy religionists and resisting secularists – or attack-dog secularists and defensive religionists: which side you are on determines how you see it – there are many reasons why it would be a great advantage to everyone to have an atheist prime minister.
Atheist leaders are not going to think they are getting messages from Beyond telling them to go to war. They will not cloak themselves in supernaturalistic justifications, as Blair came perilously close to doing when interviewed about the decision to invade Iraq.
Atheist leaders will be sceptical about the claims of religious groups to be more important than other civil society organisations in doing good, getting public funds, meriting special privileges and exemptions from laws, and having seats in the legislature and legal protection from criticism, satire and challenge.
Atheist leaders are going to be more sceptical about inculcating sectarian beliefs into small children ghettoised into publicly funded faith-based schools, risking social divisiveness and possible future conflict. They will be readier to learn Northern Ireland’s bleak lesson in this regard.
Atheist leaders will, by definition, be neutral between the different religious pressure groups in society, and will have no temptation not to be even-handed because of an allegiance to the outlook of just one of those groups.
You don’t have to ask, she did it for religious reasons.
PONCE DE LEON – When a high school senior told her principal that students were taunting her for being a lesbian, he told her homosexuality is wrong, outed her to her parents and ordered her to stay away from children.
He suspended some of her friends who expressed their outrage by wearing gay pride T-shirts and buttons at Ponce de Leon High School, according to court records. And he asked dozens of students whether they were gay or associated with gay students.
The American Civil Liberties Union successfully sued the district on behalf of a girl who protested against Principal David Davis, and a federal judge reprimanded Davis for conducting a “witch hunt” against gays. Davis was demoted, and school employees must now go through sensitivity training.
And despite all that, many in this conservative Panhandle community still wonder what, exactly, Davis did wrong.
“We are a small, rural district in the Bible Belt with strong Christian beliefs and feel like homosexuality is wrong,” said Steve Griffin, Holmes County’s school superintendent, who keeps a Bible on his desk and framed Scriptures on his office walls.
Holmes County, on the Alabama line, has about 20,000 residents. There is some agriculture, but most people are employed either by prisons or schools; some commute to the Gulf Coast to work in tourism. Ponce de Leon, with fewer than 500 residents, has a cafe, a post office and an antique store.
Many in the community support Davis and feel outsiders are forcing their beliefs on them. Griffin, who kicked Davis out of the principal’s office but allowed him to continue teaching at the school, said high schoolers here aren’t exposed to the same things as kids in Atlanta or Chicago.
“I don’t think we are that different from a lot of districts, at least in the Panhandle, that have beliefs that maybe are different from societal changes,” Griffin said.
Gay rights activists said that’s no excuse for what Davis did.
The problems began last fall when Davis, who did not return phone messages from The Associated Press, admonished the senior, who is identified only as “Jane Doe” in court records and whose friends say she doesn’t want to talk about the experience.
The friends donned gay pride T-shirts and rainbow-colored clothing when they found out how Davis had treated her, and he questioned many of them about their sexuality and association with gay students. Some were suspended.
“Davis embarked on what can only be characterized as a ‘witch hunt’ to identify students who were homosexual and their supporters, further adding fuel to the fire,” U.S. District Judge Richard Smoak recounted in his ruling. “He went so far as to lift the shirts of female students to insure the letters ‘GP’ or the words ‘Gay Pride’ were not written on their bodies.”
Heather Gillman, an 11th-grader who took part in the protests, complained to her mother, Ardena, a 40-year-old corrections officer and mother of three. Ardena Gillman called the ACLU, even though she knew people would be angry.
“I just felt like I had to stand up for the kids. Heather wanted to do this, and I had to back her,” she said.
Ardena hoped to protect the students’ freedom of speech – whether it was the freedom to wear Confederate flag T-shirts to show Southern pride or the freedom to wear rainbow T-shirts to support gay rights.
Courts have repeatedly ruled that similar student protests are constitutional as long as they are not disruptive.
“I think a shirt that says ‘I support gays’ is very different from a shirt that says ‘Gays are going to hell,'” said Benjamin Stevenson, an ACLU attorney. “One can be very disruptive for a child’s self-esteem; the other supports other people and their ideas.”
Ardena Gillman also knew some of the students would need to learn to be tolerant.
“What happens when these kids get out in the real world after they leave Ponce de Leon and they have a black, homosexual supervisor at their job?” she said.
The ACLU sued in January, and Smoak ruled this summer that Davis violated Heather Gillman’s rights.
“I emphasize that Davis’s personal and religious views about homosexuality are not issues in this case. Indeed, Davis’s opinions and views are consistent with the beliefs of many in Holmes County, in Florida, and in the country,” Smoak wrote in an opinion released last month. “Where Davis went wrong was when he endeavored to silence the opinions of his dissenters.”
As Ardena Gillman suspected, the lawsuit created hard feelings in town.
A Wal-Mart worker yelled at her, accusing her of trying to “bankrupt” the school district, which was ordered to pay $325,000 in ACLU attorney fees. One of her friends has refused to talk to her because the lawsuit conflicted with the woman’s religious beliefs.
Others flatly hail Davis as a hero.
“David Davis is a fine man and good principal, and we are a gentle, peaceful, Christian, family-oriented community,” said Bill Griffin, 73 and a lifelong Ponce de Leon resident who is no relation to the district superintendent. “We aren’t out to tar and feather anyone.”
The lawsuit could reflect a division between the high school students who have grown up in an era of gay tolerance and the community’s elders, said Gary Scott, a school board member.
“But I think that’s less of an issue here than in Miami or Minnesota,” he said.
The judge’s scathing rebuke left Scott questioning how his community’s beliefs could be so different from the judge’s opinion.
“I guess I didn’t realize we were this bad,” Scott said.
I can’t wait for this movie.
As your Chairman has told you, the subject about which I am going to speak to you tonight is “Why I Am Not a Christian.” Perhaps it would be as well, first of all, to try to make out what one means by the word Christian. It is used these days in a very loose sense by a great many people. Some people mean no more by it than a person who attempts to live a good life. In that sense I suppose there would be Christians in all sects and creeds; but I do not think that that is the proper sense of the word, if only because it would imply that all the people who are not Christians — all the Buddhists, Confucians, Mohammedans, and so on — are not trying to live a good life. I do not mean by a Christian any person who tries to live decently according to his lights. I think that you must have a certain amount of definite belief before you have a right to call yourself a Christian. The word does not have quite such a full-blooded meaning now as it had in the times of St. Augustine and St. Thomas Aquinas. In those days, if a man said that he was a Christian it was known what he meant. You accepted a whole collection of creeds which were set out with great precision, and every single syllable of those creeds you believed with the whole strength of your convictions.
What Is a Christian?
Nowadays it is not quite that. We have to be a little more vague in our meaning of Christianity. I think, however, that there are two different items which are quite essential to anybody calling himself a Christian. The first is one of a dogmatic nature — namely, that you must believe in God and immortality. If you do not believe in those two things, I do not think that you can properly call yourself a Christian. Then, further than that, as the name implies, you must have some kind of belief about Christ. The Mohammedans, for instance, also believe in God and in immortality, and yet they would not call themselves Christians. I think you must have at the very lowest the belief that Christ was, if not divine, at least the best and wisest of men. If you are not going to believe that much about Christ, I do not think you have any right to call yourself a Christian. Of course, there is another sense, which you find in Whitaker’s Almanack and in geography books, where the population of the world is said to be divided into Christians, Mohammedans, Buddhists, fetish worshipers, and so on; and in that sense we are all Christians. The geography books count us all in, but that is a purely geographical sense, which I suppose we can ignore.Therefore I take it that when I tell you why I am not a Christian I have to tell you two different things: first, why I do not believe in God and in immortality; and, secondly, why I do not think that Christ was the best and wisest of men, although I grant him a very high degree of moral goodness.
But for the successful efforts of unbelievers in the past, I could not take so elastic a definition of Christianity as that. As I said before, in olden days it had a much more full-blooded sense. For instance, it included he belief in hell. Belief in eternal hell-fire was an essential item of Christian belief until pretty recent times. In this country, as you know, it ceased to be an essential item because of a decision of the Privy Council, and from that decision the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Archbishop of York dissented; but in this country our religion is settled by Act of Parliament, and therefore the Privy Council was able to override their Graces and hell was no longer necessary to a Christian. Consequently I shall not insist that a Christian must believe in hell.