An Austrian atheist has won the right to be shown on his driving-licence photo wearing a pasta strainer as “religious headgear”.
Niko Alm first applied for the licence three years ago after reading that headgear was allowed in official pictures only for confessional reasons.
Mr Alm said the sieve was a requirement of his religion, pastafarianism.
The Austrian authorities required him to obtain a doctor’s certificate that he was “psychologically fit” to drive.
The idea came into Mr Alm’s noodle three years ago as a way of making a serious, if ironic, point.
A self-confessed atheist, Mr Alm says he belongs to the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster, a light-hearted faith whose members call themselves pastafarians.
The group’s website states that “the only dogma allowed in the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster is the rejection of dogma”.
In response to pressure for American schools to teach the Christian theory known as intelligent design, as an alternative to natural selection, the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster wrote to the Kansas School Board asking for the pastafarian version of intelligent design to be taught to schoolchildren, as an alternative to the Christian theory.
In the same spirit, Mr Alm’s pastafarian-style application for a driving licence was a response to the Austrian recognition of confessional headgear in official photographs.
The licence took three years to come through and, according to Mr Alm, he was asked to submit to a medical interview to check on his mental fitness to drive but – straining credulity – his efforts have finally paid off.
It is the police who issue driving licences in Austria, and they have duly issued a laminated card showing Mr Alm in his unorthodox item of religious headgear.
The next step, Mr Alm told the Austrian news agency APA, is to apply to the Austrian authorities for pastafarianism to become an officially recognised faith.
BOISE – The Idaho House passed far-reaching anti-abortion legislation Tuesday with backers invoking “the hand of the Almighty” and saying they’re prepared to defend the new law in court.
Senate Bill 1165 bans abortion after 20 weeks on grounds of fetal pain. It includes no exceptions for rape, incest, severe fetal abnormality or the mental or psychological health of the mother. Only when the pregnancy threatens the mother’s life or physical health could a post-20-week abortion be performed.
“Is not the child of that rape or incest also a victim?” asked Rep. Shannon McMillan, R-Silverton. “It didn’t ask to be here. It was here under violent circumstances perhaps, but that was through no fault of its own.”
The Idaho legislation is patterned after a Nebraska law passed last year and not yet challenged in court. Similar bills have been proposed in a dozen states this year. Kansas passed one last week, which is awaiting action by the governor there.
The Idaho bill’s House sponsor, state Rep. Brent Crane, R-Nampa, told legislators that the “hand of the Almighty” was at work. “His ways are higher than our ways,” Crane said. “He has the ability to take difficult, tragic, horrific circumstances and then turn them into wonderful examples.”
State Rep. John Rusche, D-Lewiston, said the bill would force parents of infants with severe deformities who won’t survive to carry the pregnancy to term, rather than letting them decide how to react to the situation on their own. “These diagnoses were made right at about 20 weeks,” said Rusche, a pediatrician who has handled three such cases. “To knowingly force someone to carry a baby to term when they know it’s not going to survive I think is cruel.”
The bill passed the House on a 54-14 vote and now heads to the governor’s desk. It includes provisions for a legal defense fund that could accept donations.
Two legal opinions from the Idaho attorney general said the bill is unconstitutional because it violates the Roe v. Wade decision regarding state restrictions on abortions prior to the point of fetal viability.
Idaho spent nearly three-quarters of a million dollars defending unconstitutional anti-abortion state legislation passed in the 1990s, including $380,000 in attorney fees the state was ordered to pay in 2007 to Planned Parenthood of Idaho after that group challenged unconstitutional provisions in a 2005 abortion parental consent law.
All 13 of the Idaho House’s Democrats voted against the bill; they were joined by one Republican, Rep. Tom Trail, R-Moscow.
A bill that would require doctors to determine the viability of an unborn child if a woman seeks an abortion after 20 weeks passed the Ohio Senate on Wednesday.
“Soon, abortionists will no longer be able to perform these brutal late-term abortions when the child can feel pain,” said Mike Gonidakis, executive director of Ohio Right to Life. “That will be a true victory for human rights.”
Gonidakis said a doctor seeking to perform an abortion has to determine viability at 20 weeks and get a second opinion from another doctor, and abortion would not be allowed if the fetus was found capable of surviving outside the womb. Exceptions would be made if the pregnant woman faces death or severe health impairment, Gonidakis said.
The bill passed by a 24-8 vote in the Republican-majority Senate. The Ohio House also has a Republican majority.
NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio executive director Kellie Copeland said the bill’s health exception is “dangerously narrow” and harms women with wanted pregnancies who experience “heart-breaking complications,” such as fetal anomaly or a cancer diagnosis.
“Anti-choice politicians who campaigned on less government are now passing legislation that creates more governmental interference in women’s personal decisions,” said Copeland. “Every woman’s situation is different, and it’s unacceptable for anti-choice lawmakers to think they should make the personal, private decisions that belong to women and their doctors.”
About 16 states are seeking bans on late-term abortions based on research showing that fetuses feel pain at 20 weeks, copying a similar law that passed in Nebraska in 2010. This list does not include Ohio, since it is not specifically a “fetal pain bill” but a viability bill.
Fetal pain bills have passed both chambers of the legislature in Kansas, Idaho and Oklahoma.
TWO GERMAN lawyers have initiated charges against Pope Benedict XVI at the International Criminal Court, alleging crimes against humanity.
Christian Sailer and Gert-Joachim Hetzel, based at Marktheidenfeld in the Pope’s home state of Bavaria, last week submitted a 16,500-word document to the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court at the Hague, Dr Luis Moreno Ocampo.
Their charges concern “three worldwide crimes which until now have not been denounced . . . (as) the traditional reverence toward ‘ecclesiastical authority’ has clouded the sense of right and wrong”.
They claim the Pope “is responsible for the preservation and leadership of a worldwide totalitarian regime of coercion which subjugates its members with terrifying and health-endangering threats”.
They allege he is also responsible for “the adherence to a fatal forbiddance of the use of condoms, even when the danger of HIV-Aids infection exists” and for “the establishment and maintenance of a worldwide system of cover-up of the sexual crimes committed by Catholic priests and their preferential treatment, which aids and abets ever new crimes”.
They claim the Catholic Church “acquires its members through a compulsory act, namely, through the baptism of infants that do not yet have a will of their own”. This act was “irrevocable” and is buttressed by threats of excommunication and the fires of hell.
It was “a grave impairment of the personal freedom of development and of a person’s emotional and mental integrity”. The Pope was “responsible for its preservation and enforcement and, as Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith of his Church, he was jointly responsible” with Pope John Paul II.
Catholics “threatened by HIV-AIDS . . . are faced with a terrible alternative: If they protect themselves with condoms during sexual intercourse, they become grave sinners; if they do not protect themselves out of fear of the punishment of sin threatened by the church, they become candidates for death.”
There was also “strong suspicion that Dr Joseph Ratzinger, as prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith of his church and as Pope, has up to the present day systematically covered up the sexual abuse of children and youths and protected the perpetrators, thereby aiding and abetting further sexual violence toward young people”.
Unlike many other states, Texas does not ban workplace discrimination based on gender identity, sexual orientation, or marital status. But don’t be alarmed; the Lone Star State is working on that whole civil liberties thing. Last week, Republican State Rep. Bill Zedler introduced HB 2454, a bill that would establish new workplace protections for proponents of intelligent design. Here’s the key part:
An institution of higher education may not discriminate against or penalize in any manner, especially with regard to employment or academic support, a faculty member or student based on the faculty member’s or student’s conduct of research relating to the theory of intelligent design or other alternate theories of the origination and development of organisms.
And you thought Berkeley was crazy. On the upside, maybe the University of Texas will be able to help a few of the folks who are falling through Texas’ fraying social safety net. Out of a job? Come up with an elaborate theory about how a flying spaghetti monster created the universe. A tenured professorship awaits.
Don’t forget, it’s atheists that are destroying the country and corrupting our youths….. *cough*
COLUMBIA, S.C. (CBS/AP) A Spartanburg County woman has been charged with felony animal cruelty, accused of hanging her nephew’s pit bull with an electrical cord and burning its body after the dog chewed on her Bible, authorities said Monday.
When questioned by police and animal control officers, Miriam Smith told them the female dog named “Diamond” was a “devil dog” and she feared it might harm neighborhood children, according to an incident report from the county’s Environmental Enforcement Department.
Smith, 65, was arrested Sunday and remains in the Spartanburg County jail. Bond had not been set.
She faces 180 days to five years in prison if convicted.
Authorities said the 1-year-old dog was kept outside on a chain and chewed the Bible that had been left on Smith’s porch. The dog’s remains were found under a pile of dried, cut grass. Part of the orange cord was still around the dog’s neck and a smell of kerosene still hung in the air, the animal control officer wrote in her report.
The dog was killed about two weeks ago when Smith’s nephew was forced to spend several days away from home because of winter weather in the area, authorities said.
Smith is the first person is Spartanburg County to face a felony charge under South Carolina’s tougher animal cruelty law, said Jaime Nelson, director of the county’s Environmental Enforcement Department.
Smith’s mental state will likely affect what kind of penalties she faces, Nelson added. He said he was stunned by how flat the woman’s emotions sounded as she recounted on tape what happened to the dog.
“She just acted like – what’s done has been done,” Nelson said.
On the day of his swearing-in, Alabama Republican Gov. Robert J. Bentley raised concern among the state’s non-Christians by declaring that people who had not accepted Jesus Christ were not his brothers and sisters.
Speaking to a large crowd Monday at Montgomery’s Dexter Avenue King Memorial Baptist Church — where the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. once preached — Bentley said that “if you’re a Christian and you’re saved … it makes you and me brother and sister,” according to a report in the Birmingham News.
“Now I will have to say that, if we don’t have the same daddy, we’re not brothers and sisters,” he added, according to the paper. “So anybody here today who has not accepted Jesus Christ as their savior, I’m telling you, you’re not my brother and you’re not my sister, and I want to be your brother.”
By Tuesday, the comments were reverberating beyond Alabama. David Silverman, president of Cranford, N.J.-based American Atheists, called the remarks “outrageous.”
“He is a governor, not a mullah,” Silverman said. “This is a diverse nation with a secular government. If he doesn’t like it, he shouldn’t be governor.”
Bentley, 67, a retired dermatologist, had been sworn in earlier Monday, replacing two-term Republican Gov. Bob Riley. The new governor is a Sunday school teacher and deacon at Tuscaloosa’s First Baptist Church, which considers “passionately” evangelizing to be a “key core value,” according to its website.
During remarks on the steps of the state Capitol, Bentley declared himself “governor of all of Alabama — Democrat, Republican and independent, young and old, black and white, rich and poor.”
Those initial comments had been heartening to Ashfaq Taufique, president of the Birmingham Islamic Society. But the later comments, he said, were “quite disturbing and contrary to what I read earlier.”
“He was saying that for us to be considered equal, we would have to become Christians in his brand of understanding,” Taufique said. “I’m hoping that he was just in a Baptist church and he wanted to please his congregation, forgetting his earlier comment to be governor of all Alabamians.”
Richard Friedman, executive director of the Birmingham Jewish Federation, said such comments “tend to disenfranchise those of a different religious view.”
“You know, it’s a recurring theme in Alabama,” said Friedman, who said the state, with a population of about 4.7 million, is home to an estimated 10,000 Jews. “One of the things we have to do is continue to sensitize our leaders to the fact that there are non-Christians in this state, and encourage them whenever possible to be sensitive to that.”
Bentley was raised in Columbiana, a small town in rural Shelby County, the son of a sawmill worker. He was first elected to the Alabama state House of Representatives on a platform of fiscal conservatism and family values.
His staff did not return a phone call seeking comment Tuesday.
Gil McKee, senior pastor of Tuscaloosa’s First Baptist Church, said the new governor “was in no way meaning to be offensive to anyone.”
“He was coming strictly from the fact that Scripture talks about how those that know Jesus Christ as their savior are adopted into the family of God, and as we are adopted into God’s family, we are adopted into the family of Christ,” McKee said.
The Birmingham Jewish Federation announced Tuesday that it would assemble a delegation of Jews and Christians that would try to meet with the governor “as soon as possible to initiate a dialogue.”
Friedman, the longtime head of the federation, said the Jewish community was generally comfortable in the Southern state — but that such things happen from time to time, things he characterized as “only in Alabama” moments.
“These folks typically don’t mean any harm at all,” Friedman said. “It never occurs to them that they’re saying anything that would make others uncomfortable. They’re simply motivated by their passion for their own religious faith.”
Tenzen Deshek, a lama at the Losel Maitri Tibetan Buddhist Center in Birmingham, gave a good-natured chuckle Tuesday when asked whether he took offense at the comments. “You know,” Deshek said, “although he’s the governor, he can’t change people’s minds.”
NORTHERN Ireland’s Culture Minister has called on the local Ulster Museum to put on exhibits reflecting the view that the world was made by God only several thousand years ago.
Nelson McCausland, a born-again Christian who believes that Ulster Protestants are one of the lost tribes of Israel, has written to the museum’s board of trustees urging them to reflect creationist and intelligent design theories of the universe’s origins.
The minister, a member of the Democratic Unionist Party, said the inclusion of anti-Darwinian theories in the museum was ”a human rights issue”.
Mr McCausland defended a letter he wrote to the trustees calling for anti-evolution exhibitions at the museum. He claimed around one-third of Northern Ireland’s population believed either in intelligent design or that the universe was created about 6000 years ago.
Mr McCausland denied he was trying to dictate the content of material on the origins of life to the Ulster Museum, saying he was merely calling for the museum to reflect the diversity of views on how the universe was created within the province.
His call was condemned by evolutionary biologist Professor Richard Dawkins. ”If the museum was to go down that road then perhaps they should bring in the stork theory of where babies come from. Or perhaps the museum should introduce the flat Earth theory.”
Mr McCausland’s party colleague and member of the Northern Ireland Assembly for North Antrim, Mervyn Storey, has been at the forefront of a campaign to force museums in Northern Ireland to promote anti-Darwinian theories.
Mr Storey, who has chaired the Northern Ireland Assembly’s education committee, believes in the theory that the world was created several thousand years ago, even though the most famous attraction in his constituency – the Giant’s Causeway – is, according to geological evidence, millions of years old.
Last year Mr Storey objected to notices at the causeway stating that the rock formation was about 550 million years old.
The belief that the Earth was divinely created in 4004 BC originates with the writings of another Ulster-based Protestant, Archbishop of Armagh James Ussher, in 1654.