Southern Religion

Remember the culture wars (they aren’t over)

Frederick Clarkson cogently argues that the so-called Culture Wars not only aren’t over, they’ve been institutionalized. He calls the culture war:

It is a one sided war of aggression against the civil rights advances of women and minorities and the rights of individual conscience that we generally discuss under the rubric of religious pluralism and of separation of church and state. For these political aggressors, war is not merely a metaphor or the equivalent of a sports analogy. It is far more profound and stems from the conflict of “world view,” usually described as a “Biblical World view” against everything else. It is explicitly understood by its proponents as a religious war and waged accordingly on multiple fronts, mostly in terms we have come to define as “cultural.” How the conflict plays out takes on political dimensions and sometimes physical conflict. This war is theocratic in nature, and seeks to roll back decades, and depending on the faction, centuries of democratic advances.

Can you hear in that definition the sound of Richard Land’s unapologetically counterfactual “Obama policies are the end of civilization” argument/screed in Louisiana?


October 15, 2009 Posted by | Cultural, Religion | | Comments Off on Remember the culture wars (they aren’t over)

Ban on GA cheerleaders’ religious signs stands, for the moment

Facing down a packed meeting room to make the right decision, the board for Catoosa County Public Schools still isn’t out of the woods. Don Byrd of the Baptist Joint Committee For Religious Liberty warns:

This protection by the Board makes perfect sense and is not only within their discretion, but likely required by the First Amendment. Sadly, though, now the school district must wait to see if it will be sued from the other side – the cheerleaders – for banning their signs. Sigh.

October 15, 2009 Posted by | Religion | Comments Off on Ban on GA cheerleaders’ religious signs stands, for the moment

SBC ethics czar still counterfactual

Sad to see a prolific author fall on such hard intellectual times. Wednesday, Oxford-educated Richard Land oversimplified C.S. Lewis and misappropriating Reinhold Niebuhr on his way to telling a New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary audience a series of falsehoods about well-known Americans, health reform legislation and the British medical system.

Speaking during the Founder’s Day celebration at his seminary alma mater, the busy Southern Baptist Convention ethics czar could have avoided embarrassing himself merely by doing a little research. According to Paul F. South of Baptist Press:

After age 59 and a half, Land said, British [National Health Service] patients can’t get dialysis or open-heart surgery, because they are not deemed cost-effective within that nation’s health care system.

British Guardian journalists Denis Campbell and Girish Gupta researched that issue and a long list of other assertions by Republicans and “rightwing commentators in the U.S.”

On Land’s points, they wrote:

Untrue, says the Department of Health. “There is no ban on anyone of any age receiving any treatment, ” said a spokesman. “Whether to prescribe drugs or recommend surgery is rightly a clinical decision taken on a case by case basis.”

Growing numbers of patients over 65 with heart conditions are having surgery, including valve repairs and heart bypass surgery, says Professor Peter Weissberg, the British Heart Foundation’s (BHF) medical director. For example, the average age at which people have a bypass operation has risen from 58 in 1991 to 66 in 2008.

“The claim that 40% of cancer patients are never able to see an oncologist comes from a 15-year-old study which is completely out of date. Since then we have had the Nice Improving Outcomes Guidance series and the NHS Cancer Plan for England, which has increased the number of cancer consultants and established specialist multidisciplinary teams,” said Duleep Allirajah of Macmillan Cancer Support. However, “some people with serious kidney failure are unable to obtain dialysis on the NHS and die”, said Tim Statham, chief executive of the National Kidney Federation. “Some parts of the NHS can’t cope, because patient numbers are increasing by 6% a year, which is a huge burden. Of about 100 renal units in the UK, probably 20% are working at 100% capacity or above,” he added. The claim about open heart surgery is not true, said the BHF’s Weissberg. “There’s no explicit rationing. Some people don’t get treatment, but those decisions are made solely on the basis of clinical criteria and their risk of dying. We only operate on people who are likely to benefit and not die.” The three main political parties agree that Britain provides good quality end-of-life care but that access to it can be patchy, depending on location and the patient’s condition. The government is working to improve the situation.

Land also falsely argued, according to South, that the Senate health reform bill authored by Max Baucus, D.-Mont., reinstates the so-called “death panels.” South fails to note that the “death panels” were never there, and so could be reinstated.

A simple reference or two to would have clarified the “death panels” issue, but South was transcribing Land’s claims, not reporting the facts.

Land’s arguments were consistently buttressed with similarly false claims.

Thus he rose on feet of clay to proclaim that “The survival of civilization hangs in the balance.”

October 15, 2009 Posted by | Religion, SBC | | 3 Comments

Children die of faith healing while we debate the law

At Get Religion, E.E. Evans writes:

If parents were sentenced and jailed for stupidity or poor medical care, there wouldn’t be room for most of the other criminals. And, as Terry also pointed out, you can’t stop faith-healing parents from having children.

Children are dying and will continue to die on the field of parental faith and neglect, deprived of any possibility of making an informed and independent decision.

Kara NeumannRemember Madeline Kara Neumann, 11, whose parents allowed her to die from an altogether treatable form of diabetes on March 23, 2008?

They lost one appeal and were sentenced this week. The father, Dale Neumann, and the mother, Leilani Neumann, received one month in prison once a year for six years and ten years probation. And their attorney says plan to appeal the sentence “because state law is not clear on the issue of spiritual treatment.”

Thus the legal debate continues, as does our collective leniency. Shawn Peters, a lecturer at the University of Wisconsin at Madison and an expert on religion and the law, told the New York Times:

The sentences tend to be halfway punishments where you have relatively mild penalties imposed on parents who are found to be legally guilty of having caused a child’s death. It underscores how uneasy we are both politically and culturally when it comes to regulating religious conduct even when the consequences are disastrous.


Regarding humanity and justice, however, Cornell law professor Sherry F. Colb wrote:

. . . There is no justification for child abuse and neglect, no matter how sincere the parent’s religious motivation. To take an example from the Bible, Abraham should not have prepared to kill his son Isaac, no matter what he believed the divine will to be. Though he may have “passed” the test of his faith, in other words, he would plainly fail the test of parenthood and of membership in any civilized modern community.

October 15, 2009 Posted by | Crime, Religion | , | Comments Off on Children die of faith healing while we debate the law

Southern Baptist shape poem for the 2012 cataclysm

Formidable Southern Baptist pastor Wade Burleson has written a shape poem.

October 15, 2009 Posted by | Churches, Religion, SBC | Comments Off on Southern Baptist shape poem for the 2012 cataclysm

Baptist salaries, known and unknown

Although the seven-figure salary of one prominent Baptist evangelist was published this month, Southern Baptist Convention executive salaries remain hidden.

Hat tip to the folks at the forums for bringing to our attention information in the next to last paragraph of a USA Today story on executive salaries among non-profit organizations.

“The biggest compensation gainer among top executives was Franklin Graham of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, whose compensation rose 534% to $633,722, much of the gain because of a $366,000 retirement payment. Graham, 57, son of Billy Graham, also earns $483,000 as CEO of charity Samaritan’s Purse,” the story says.

So, Franklin Graham made more than $1.1 million last year. Not bad money if you can get it. Even without the retirement payment, he still made more than $750,000. Then again, it must be nice to get a hefty six-figure retirement payment when you’re 57.

Of course, we must consider all the great work done by the two organizations Graham leads. One would expect that the head of an organization which delivers Christmas boxes to needy children around the world wouldn’t be living a lifestyle of lavish luxury.

Remember too that the average Southern Baptist pastor’s pay package last year was roughly one tenth of the money Graham pulled in from just his father’s evangelistic association.

Finally, let’s be glad that we know how much Graham makes.

We don’t know how much top Southern Baptist Convention executives are paid. Although we do know that they’re paid very, very well.

The most recent published figures we could find for top SBC leaders’ salaries are from 1990. They’re cited in the book The Conservative Resurgence in the Southern Baptist Convention by James C. Hefley. According to that book, five top SBC executives at the time were paid more than $100,000 a year. Specifically, the book said:


[The Wall Street Journal’s R. Gustav] Neibuhr said the controversy was forcing SBC agencies to cut their staffs and postpone salary increases. salaries and fringes for the top executives of three boards and seven agencies. Five earned well over $100,000. The five, according to [Southern Baptist Advocate Editor Bob] Tenery, were Lloyd Elder, President, Sunday School Board, $157,086; Harold Bennett, President-Treasurer, Executive Committee, $151,079; Larry Lewis, President, Home Mission Board, $113,583; Keith Parks, President, Foreign Mission Board, $113,000. The Annuity Board decline to report renumeration (sic) for its newly-elected president, Paul W. Powell. Tenery further noted that the top six men at the Sunday School Board, where Tenery is a trustee, were paid $715,475 in salary and benefits.
“Does this appear as if Southern Baptist employees have been denied a raise?” Tenery asked. “It is apparent that we take care of our workers quite well.”

Even simple adjustments for inflation for the equivalent positions today result in very comfortable salaries for all. Such adjustments do not consider the implications of the subsequent revelation of extravagance by Bob Reccord while he headed the SBC’s North American Mission Board (a consolidation Brotherhood Commission, the Radio and Television Commission and the Home Mission Board). Reccord funneled $3.3 million to business friends, including current SBC President Johnny Hunt, while NAMB staff was downsized. His severance package of two years’ salary plus benefits reportedly exceeded $500,000.

A 2005 Associated Baptist Press article noted that even members of the SBC’s own Executive Committee must sign a pledge not to reveal employee salaries. Details from Reccord’s rein emerged only because NAMB marketing director Mary Kinney Branson escaped without signing the standard agreement.

Decades roll past and Southern Baptists are systematically kept in the dark about pay for their denomination’s executives. Now, why is that?

October 15, 2009 Posted by | Churches, Religion, SBC | , | 1 Comment

Glo [not an endorsement]

Because it seems interesting, a preview of the Glo Bible:

October 15, 2009 Posted by | Religion | | Comments Off on Glo [not an endorsement]

Network Neutrality is important to people of faith

Three years ago Casting Light warned that Net Neutrality matters to the SBC. Because, if assured, Network Neutrality means network access providers must treat all data equally, without preferential restrictions.

Indeed, Net Neutrality matters to all people of faith, as Jeffrey Rosen illustrated in his keystone example at The New Republic this week:

You might think that a decision to block the King James Bible would violate the First Amendment, or at least raise important constitutional concerns. But, if Comcast, a private company, is blocking a particular technology, rather than discriminating against particular speakers, there’s no state action and no obvious peg for a First Amendment lawsuit. That’s why the FCC is crucial to shaping the future of free speech. (Disclosure: I have known [Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission Julius] Genachowski since we clerked together years ago for a federal judge.) Under the proposed FCC net-neutrality principles, broadband operators like Comcast can’t “discriminate against particular Internet content or applications” and will have to be transparent about their network-management practices.

Although Network Neutrality is the official policy of the Obama Administration, the battle over the details is intense.

Major service providers seek control over the “last mile of the Internet” to their customers so that they can “manage” traffic to enhance profits from their own service offerings. And there is a war over what Net Neutrality will mean for wireless services, with providers predictably seeking exemptions.

As a result, your freedom of digital expression is still at risk.

Casting Light offered examples of oppressive Internet provider practices in 2006, and the list has grown. Rosen offered several, and Comcast blockage of access to the King James Bible was in fact one of them.

He wrote:

Two years ago, Comcast, America’s second-largest high-speed Internet provider, blocked BitTorrent, a popular peer-to-peer file-sharing application that could be used to distribute (among many other things) high-definition TV video that would compete with Comcast’s video services. The obstruction was discovered by an amateur singer who wanted to share public domain performances of barbershop quartets with his fellow aficionados. After initially denying that it was blocking BitTorrent, Comcast, which was literally denying access to the King James Bible, claimed that it wasn’t blocking the file-sharing application, but merely delaying it to conserve bandwidth as part of “reasonable network management.”

As with health reform, the debate is awash with misinformation. FreePress deals with the worst myths and helps elucidate the fundamental issues.

Again, where do you stand?

October 15, 2009 Posted by | Politics, Publications, Religion, WWW | , | Comments Off on Network Neutrality is important to people of faith