I’m A Uniter, Not A Divider, Except When….

May 19, 2006

Jack Cafferty from CNN call out Frist and Specter over Senate committee's constitutional ammendment to ban same-sex marriage:

Jack Cafferty: Wolf, Today's lesson in hypocrisy comes to us courtesy of the Senate Judiciary Committee. They met in a different private room behind closed doors today and approved a Constitutional Amendment banning gay marriage. at one point the thing got pretty ugly. A shouting match, between the Republican Chairman Senator Arlen Spector and Democratic Senator Russ Feingold, who said he was against the Amendment as well as Spector's decision to hold the vote in a private room out of the public's view.

These guys are shameless. Feingold eventually stormed out telling Spector "I've enjoyed your lecture Mr Chairman. See ya."

Senator Spector in a real show of courage, says that he is "totally opposed to the Amendment", but he voted for it anyway saying that it deserves a debate in the Senate. Majority Leader Bill Frist says the full Senate will now debate a Constitutional Amendment which has absolutely no chance of passing. Frist hopes to have a vote by June 5th.

This is all being done by the republican majority in an effort to appeal to Right-wing nuts in the Republican Party ahead of the upcoming mid-term elections. Ignore all of the pressing issues facing the country, and instead go grovel at the feet of the lunatic fringe. Senator Frist should be very proud of himself. That's leadership.  Here's the question: Is now the time for the Senate to consider a constitutional Amendment on gay marriage?


Flying Spaghetti Monster In The News!

April 20, 2006

Note:  We here at Big Brass Balls are proud members of The Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster, which can be found here.  -DS-

From The Wichita Eagle:

Creature's picture irks Board of Ed member

State Board of Education member Connie Morris took exception Wednesday to a picture of a made-up creature that satirizes the state's new science standards hanging on a Stucky Middle School teacher's door.

Fellow board member Sue Gamble told The Eagle that Morris asked for the picture to be removed.

The creature, called the Flying Spaghetti Monster, is the creation of Bobby Henderson of Corvallis, Ore. It looks like a clump of spaghetti with two eyes sticking out of the top and two meatballs flanking the eyes.

Henderson created the entity and an accompanying mythology on the origin of mankind to make fun of Kansas' recent debate over the teaching of criticisms of evolution, including intelligent design.

In November, the board voted 6-4 to allow criticisms of evolution to be taught in Kansas schools.

Morris, who voted for the new science standards, saw the picture during the tour. She did not return phone calls for this report.

Gamble, who voted against the new standards and was also on the tour, said that Morris asked principal Kenneth Jantz to have the picture taken down.

Board members toured Stucky before finishing two days of meetings in Wichita on Wednesday.

Gamble said that when she saw the picture during the tour, she knew that some board members wouldn't approve of it.

"When we went into that classroom, students were looking at rock formations," Gamble said. "Connie stopped to talk to a teacher and I moved on. That was when I was aware of the flyer. I thought 'she's probably going to say something to the teacher.' "

Gamble said that when Morris saw the picture, she asked the principal, who was on the tour, to take it down. Jantz did not comment for this report.

Gamble said she didn't see Morris talk to Randy Mousley, the teacher, or to the principal, but that she later went up to Mousley and asked if Morris said anything to him about the picture.

That's when Gamble learned that Morris had asked the principal to take it down.

The monster's picture has hung on the door since September or October and was put up there as a joke, Mousley said.

"It's a parody," he said. "It's just making fun of anti-evolution."

Mousley said he doesn't teach students about the Flying Spaghetti Monster.

Also on the door is a Doonesbury comic strip about science, said board member Carol Rupe, who represents Wichita. She also voted against the new standards.

"It was two little pieces of paper on the door," she said. "It was poking good fun."

Gamble said she told the principal that it was his decision whether the monster could stick around.

"I advised the principal that Morris has no authority," she said. "I told him to deal with his staff as he saw fit, not by what a state board member says."

Board chairman Steve Abrams, who voted for the new standards, didn't see the picture but said he thinks that the Flying Spaghetti Monster is silly.

"Personally, I think it's juvenile," he said.

The picture was still on the door at the end of the school day Wednesday.

Bush’s IRS Won’t Investigate Conservative Church

April 7, 2006

From The New York Times:

Church Group Calls I.R.S. Unfair on Political Violations of Tax Code

A group of religious leaders accused the Internal Revenue Service yesterday of playing politics by ignoring its complaint that two large churches in Ohio are engaging in what it says are political activities, in violation of the tax code.

In a letter to Commissioner Mark W. Everson, the clergy members cited reports of political events involving Fairfield Christian Church in Fairfield and World Harvest Church in Columbus and groups affiliated with them that have occurred or been disclosed since they raised the issue in January.

The group argues that the churches may be violating prohibitions on political activities by charities and other tax-exempt organizations and has asked the I.R.S. to audit their political activities.

The group often notes that the agency is investigating All Saints Church, a large liberal Episcopal church in Pasadena, Calif., over a sermon in 2004 that imagined a debate among Jesus, President Bush and Senator John Kerry, then the Democratic presidential candidate, and asks why the agency has not begun a similar audit of the two Ohio churches, which are conservative.

All Saints has denied wrongdoing and said the tax agency had not responded to its lawyers' calls.

The Rev. Eric Williams of North Congregational United Church of Christ in Columbus has been coordinating the activities of the critical group and said it was sending a second letter to Mr. Everson because the troublesome activities were continuing. "The I.R.S. really needs to take a more proactive stance if it's truly concerned about the political activities of all churches," Mr. Williams said.

Last year, the inspector general of the Treasury Department said political considerations played no role in selecting charities for reviews.

"For the 2006 electoral season, we are poised to look into allegations quickly and get an agent involved promptly if there is a valid reason for concern," the I.R.S. said in a statement.

A spokesman for World Harvest Church, Giles Hudson, said the tax agency had not contacted his church.

"This latest complaint filed by a group of left-leaning clergy amounts to nothing more than a campaign of harassment, and with the primary election just three weeks away, the timing couldn't be more obvious," the church said in a statement.

No one returned messages seeking comment from Fairfield Christian.

The critics' group says that the two churches' activities continue to support the gubernatorial candidacy of Secretary of State J. Kenneth Blackwell almost exclusively, violating requirements that nonprofit organizations treat all candidates in a race even-handedly.

In 2004, Mr. Blackwell flew to three events on the World Harvest Church plane with its pastor, the Rev. Rodney L. Parsley, to protest same-sex marriages. Mr. Blackwell paid $1,000 for the flights, The Associated Press said, and Mr. Hudson noted that Mr. Blackwell took the trips before he was officially a candidate.

Religious Group Illegally Funds Santorum

March 25, 2006

From The Philadelphia Daily News:

A faith-based Philadelphia group at the center of a flap over whether tax-exempt religious groups are aiding the re-election campaign of U.S. Sen Rick Santorum has won more than $250,000 in federal grant money pushed for by Santorum over the last three years.

The group, the Urban Family Council — founded by well-known local conservative religious activist William Devlin — also has reaped a $10,000 grant from a controversial charity founded by Santorum, the Operation Good Neighbor Foundation.

The news of the financial support linked to Santorum comes just one day after a Washington-based watchdog group — Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, or CREW — sent a letter of complaint to the IRS about the Urban Family Council and three other groups with tax-exempt status.

The controversy centers on a training session held earlier this month in Valley Forge by an ad hoc group calling itself the Pennsylvania Pastors Network, which pushed a church-based get-out-the-vote drive for November. Santorum addressed the group by videotape; he was the only candidate featured.

Several watchdog groups on charities or church-and-state issues say the web between the Urban Family Council and Santorum is a tangled one. The overlapping ties raise questions, they said, about a backdoor way to funnel money to political supporters outside of the closely monitored campaign-finance system.

Barry Lynn, the executive director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, charged that the connections between the senator and the Urban Family Council “creates a gigantic conflict of interest — an inappropriate meshing of the interests of the Urban [Family Council] and the interests of Senator Santorum.?

But Betty Jean Wolfe, the president of the Urban Family Council, said last night that the criticisms of her group are “a reach? — that the Valley Forge session and Santorum’s involvement were merely the result of like-minded views on issues such as stopping gay marriage and abortion.

Wolfe also stressed that the federal grant money earmarked by Santorum and his GOP Senate colleague Arlen Specter for abstinence-based sex education, and the donation from Santorum’s charity, are just a small part of the money that the Urban Family Council gets from foundations and other donors on all sides of the political spectrum.

Santorum’s spokeswoman, Virginia Davis, did not return an e-mail and a cell-phone message seeking a comment. Earlier this week, Santorum aide Robert Traynham told the New York Times that the senator’s involvement was “a generic video greeting,? although it focused on same-sex marriage.

The Urban Family Council is best known locally for its aggressive efforts to try to block city benefits for the gay partners of Philadelphia municipal employees. In an online chat on Washingtonpost.com last year, Santorum cited the Philly group as one he’d worked with on “a variety of programs such as fatherhood programs trying to strengthen the bond between children and fathers.?

In 2003, Santorum and Specter successfully fought to earmark $3.1 million in federal funds for abstinence programs in Pennsylvania, including $126,000 for the Urban Family Council. Wolfe confirmed that the group later received a second grant of approximately the same amount.

Devlin, who didn’t return cell phone calls, was one of several speakers at the Valley Forge conference held on March 6. All of the ministers attending were given a copy of Santorum’s recent book, “It Takes a Family.?

Recently, IRS commissioner Mark W. Everson announced his agency would take an aggressive stance toward tax-exempt groups taking actions that appears to be in support of one candidate.

Rick Cohen, the executive director of the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy, was troubled by the use of charitable funds for a group that appears to offer political support. Unlike political contributions, money given initially to a charity like Santorum’s can come from corporations, has no limits, and is tax deductable.