29 Apr 2011

Prominent Christian theologist says killing children okay if God commands it, an atheist responds to the immorality

Note from Perry Bulwer:

This post features two articles. The first is by William Lane Craig, a Christian apologist who defends religiously motivated infanticide and genocide. The second is by Greta Christina, an atheist blogger who provides an excellent response to Craig's immoral nonsense.  Craig's position goes a long way to explaining the motives behind much of the child abuse documented in the news articles in this blog. Christina's position shows how the irreligious are often more ethical than those claiming moral superiority based on dogma.

"A growing body of social science research reveals that atheists, and non-religious people in general, are far from the unsavory beings many assume them to be. On basic questions of morality and human decency— issues such as governmental use of torture, the death penalty, punitive hitting of children, racism, sexism, homophobia, anti-Semitism, environmental degradation or human rights — the irreligious tend to be more ethical than their religious peers, particularly compared with those who describe themselves as very religious."


Reasonable Faith (undated)

Slaughter of the Canaanites

by William Lane Craig

Question 1:

In the forums, there has been some good questions raised on the issue of God commanding the Jews to commit “genocide” on the people in the promise land. As you have pointed out in some of your written work that this act does not fit with the Western concept of God being the big sugar daddy in the sky. Now we can certainly find justification for those people coming under God judgement because of their sins, idolatry, sacrificing their children, etc... But a harder question is the killing of the children and infants. If the children are young enough along with the infants are innocent of the sins that their society has committed. How do we reconcile this command of God to kill the children with the concept of his holiness?

Thank you,
Steven Shea

Question 2:

I have heard you justify Old Testament violence on the basis that God had used Israelite army to judge the cananites and their elimination by Israelites is morally right as they were obeying God’s command (iif would be wrong if tey did not obey God in eliminating the cannanites) . This resembles a bit on how Muslims define morality and justify the violence of Muhammad and other morally questionable actions (muslims define morality as doing the will of God). Do you see any difference between your justification of OT violence and Islamic justification of Muhammand and violent verses of the Quran? Is the violence and morally questionable actions and verses of the Quran, a good arugument while talking to Muslims?


Dr. Craig responds:

According to the Pentateuch (the first five books of the Old Testament), when God called forth his people out of slavery in Egypt and back to the land of their forefathers, he directed them to kill all the Canaanite clans who were living in the land (Deut. 7.1-2; 20.16-18). The destruction was to be complete: every man, woman, and child was to be killed. The book of Joshua tells the story of Israel’s carrying out God’s command in city after city throughout Canaan.

These stories offend our moral sensibilities. Ironically, however, our moral sensibilities in the West have been largely, and for many people unconsciously, shaped by our Judaeo-Christian heritage, which has taught us the intrinsic value of human beings, the importance of dealing justly rather than capriciously, and the necessity of the punishment’s fitting the crime. The Bible itself inculcates the values which these stories seem to violate.

The command to kill all the Canaanite peoples is jarring precisely because it seems so at odds with the portrait of Yahweh, Israel’s God, which is painted in the Hebrew Scriptures. Contrary to the vituperative rhetoric of someone like Richard Dawkins, the God of the Hebrew Bible is a God of justice, long-suffering, and compassion.

You can’t read the Old Testament prophets without a sense of God’s profound care for the poor, the oppressed, the down-trodden, the orphaned, and so on. God demands just laws and just rulers. He literally pleads with people to repent of their unjust ways that He might not judge them. “As I live, says the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live” (Ez. 33.11).

He sends a prophet even to the pagan city of Nineveh because of his pity for its inhabitants, “who do not know their right hand from their left” (Jon. 4.11). The Pentateuch itself contains the Ten Commandments, one of the greatest of ancient moral codes, which has shaped Western society. Even the stricture “an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth” was not a prescription of vengeance but a check on excessive punishment for any crime, serving to moderate violence.

God’s judgement is anything but capricious. When the Lord announces His intention to judge Sodom and Gomorrah for their sins, Abraham boldly asks,

“Will you indeed sweep away the righteous with the wicked? Suppose there are fifty righteous within the city. Will you then sweep away the place and not spare it for the fifty righteous who are in it? Far be it from you to do such a thing, to put the righteous to death with the wicked, so that the righteous fare as the wicked! Far be that from you! Shall not the Judge of all the earth do what is just?” (Gen. 18.25).

Like a Middle Eastern merchant haggling for a bargain, Abraham continually lowers his price, and each time God meets it without hesitation, assuring Abraham that if there are even ten righteous persons in the city, He will not destroy it for their sake.

So then what is Yahweh doing in commanding Israel’s armies to exterminate the Canaanite peoples? It is precisely because we have come to expect Yahweh to act justly and with compassion that we find these stories so difficult to understand. How can He command soldiers to slaughter children?

Now before attempting to say something by way of answer to this difficult question, we should do well first to pause and ask ourselves what is at stake here. Suppose we agree that if God (who is perfectly good) exists, He could not have issued such a command. What follows? That Jesus didn’t rise from the dead? That God does not exist? Hardly! So what is the problem supposed to be?

I’ve often heard popularizers raise this issue as a refutation of the moral argument for God’s existence. But that’s plainly incorrect. The claim that God could not have issued such a command doesn’t falsify or undercut either of the two premises in the moral argument as I have defended it:

1. If God does not exist, objective moral values do not exist.

2. Objective moral values do exist.

3. Therefore, God exists.

In fact, insofar as the atheist thinks that God did something morally wrong in commanding the extermination of the Canaanites, he affirms premise (2). So what is the problem supposed to be?

The problem, it seems to me, is that if God could not have issued such a command, then the biblical stories must be false. Either the incidents never really happened but are just Israeli folklore; or else, if they did, then Israel, carried away in a fit of nationalistic fervor, thinking that God was on their side, claimed that God had commanded them to commit these atrocities, when in fact He had not. In other words, this problem is really an objection to biblical inerrancy.

In fact, ironically, many Old Testament critics are sceptical that the events of the conquest of Canaan ever occurred. They take these stories to be part of the legends of the founding of Israel, akin to the myths of Romulus and Remus and the founding of Rome. For such critics the problem of God’s issuing such a command evaporates.

Now that puts the issue in quite a different perspective! The question of biblical inerrancy is an important one, but it’s not like the existence of God or the deity of Christ! If we Christians can’t find a good answer to the question before us and are, moreover, persuaded that such a command is inconsistent with God’s nature, then we’ll have to give up biblical inerrancy. But we shouldn’t let the unbeliever raising this question get away with thinking that it implies more than it does.

I think that a good start at this problem is to enunciate our ethical theory that underlies our moral judgements. According to the version of divine command ethics which I’ve defended, our moral duties are constituted by the commands of a holy and loving God. Since God doesn’t issue commands to Himself, He has no moral duties to fulfill. He is certainly not subject to the same moral obligations and prohibitions that we are. For example, I have no right to take an innocent life. For me to do so would be murder. But God has no such prohibition. He can give and take life as He chooses. We all recognize this when we accuse some authority who presumes to take life as “playing God.” Human authorities arrogate to themselves rights which belong only to God. God is under no obligation whatsoever to extend my life for another second. If He wanted to strike me dead right now, that’s His prerogative.

What that implies is that God has the right to take the lives of the Canaanites when He sees fit. How long they live and when they die is up to Him.

So the problem isn’t that God ended the Canaanites’ lives. The problem is that He commanded the Israeli soldiers to end them. Isn’t that like commanding someone to commit murder? No, it’s not. Rather, since our moral duties are determined by God’s commands, it is commanding someone to do something which, in the absence of a divine command, would have been murder. The act was morally obligatory for the Israeli soldiers in virtue of God’s command, even though, had they undertaken it on their on initiative, it would have been wrong.

On divine command theory, then, God has the right to command an act, which, in the absence of a divine command, would have been sin, but which is now morally obligatory in virtue of that command.

All right; but isn’t such a command contrary to God’s nature? Well, let’s look at the case more closely. It is perhaps significant that the story of Yahweh’s destruction of Sodom--along with his solemn assurances to Abraham that were there as many as ten righteous persons in Sodom, the city would not have been destroyed--forms part of the background to the conquest of Canaan and Yahweh’s command to destroy the cities there. The implication is that the Canaanites are not righteous people but have come under God’s judgement.

In fact, prior to Israel’s bondage in Egypt, God tells Abraham,

“Know for certain that your offspring will be sojourners in a land that is not theirs and will be servants there, and they will be afflicted for four hundred years. . . . And they shall come back here in the fourth generation, for the iniquity of the Amorites [one of the Canaanite clans] is not yet complete” (Gen. 15. 13, 16).

Think of it! God stays His judgement of the Canaanite clans 400 years because their wickedness had not reached the point of intolerability! This is the long-suffering God we know in the Hebrew Scriptures. He even allows his own chosen people to languish in slavery for four centuries before determining that the Canaanite peoples are ripe for judgement and calling His people forth from Egypt.

By the time of their destruction, Canaanite culture was, in fact, debauched and cruel, embracing such practices as ritual prostitution and even child sacrifice. The Canaanites are to be destroyed “that they may not teach you to do according to all their abominable practices that they have done for their gods, and so you sin against the Lord your God” (Deut. 20.18). God had morally sufficient reasons for His judgement upon Canaan, and Israel was merely the instrument of His justice, just as centuries later God would use the pagan nations of Assyria and Babylon to judge Israel.

But why take the lives of innocent children? The terrible totality of the destruction was undoubtedly related to the prohibition of assimilation to pagan nations on Israel’s part. In commanding complete destruction of the Canaanites, the Lord says, “You shall not intermarry with them, giving your daughters to their sons, or taking their daughters for your sons, for they would turn away your sons from following me, to serve other gods” (Deut 7.3-4). This command is part and parcel of the whole fabric of complex Jewish ritual law distinguishing clean and unclean practices. To the contemporary Western mind many of the regulations in Old Testament law seem absolutely bizarre and pointless: not to mix linen with wool, not to use the same vessels for meat and for milk products, etc. The overriding thrust of these regulations is to prohibit various kinds of mixing. Clear lines of distinction are being drawn: this and not that. These serve as daily, tangible reminders that Israel is a special people set apart for God Himself.

I spoke once with an Indian missionary who told me that the Eastern mind has an inveterate tendency toward amalgamation. He said Hindus upon hearing the Gospel would smile and say, “Sub ehki eh, sahib, sub ehki eh!” (“All is One, sahib, All is One!” [Hindustani speakers forgive my transliteration!]). It made it almost impossible to reach them because even logical contradictions were subsumed in the whole. He said that he thought the reason God gave Israel so many arbitrary commands about clean and unclean was to teach them the Law of Contradiction!

By setting such strong, harsh dichotomies God taught Israel that any assimilation to pagan idolatry is intolerable. It was His way of preserving Israel’s spiritual health and posterity. God knew that if these Canaanite children were allowed to live, they would spell the undoing of Israel. The killing of the Canaanite children not only served to prevent assimilation to Canaanite identity but also served as a shattering, tangible illustration of Israel’s being set exclusively apart for God.

Moreover, if we believe, as I do, that God’s grace is extended to those who die in infancy or as small children, the death of these children was actually their salvation. We are so wedded to an earthly, naturalistic perspective that we forget that those who die are happy to quit this earth for heaven’s incomparable joy. Therefore, God does these children no wrong in taking their lives.

So whom does God wrong in commanding the destruction of the Canaanites? Not the Canaanite adults, for they were corrupt and deserving of judgement. Not the children, for they inherit eternal life. So who is wronged? Ironically, I think the most difficult part of this whole debate is the apparent wrong done to the Israeli soldiers themselves. Can you imagine what it would be like to have to break into some house and kill a terrified woman and her children? The brutalizing effect on these Israeli soldiers is disturbing.

But then, again, we’re thinking of this from a Christianized, Western standpoint. For people in the ancient world, life was already brutal. Violence and war were a fact of life for people living in the ancient Near East. Evidence of this fact is that the people who told these stories apparently thought nothing of what the Israeli soldiers were commanded to do (especially if these are founding legends of the nation). No one was wringing his hands over the soldiers’ having to kill the Canaanites; those who did so were national heroes.

Moreover, my point above returns. Nothing could so illustrate to the Israelis the seriousness of their calling as a people set apart for God alone. Yahweh is not to be trifled with. He means business, and if Israel apostasizes the same could happen to her. As C. S. Lewis puts it, “Aslan is not a tame lion.”

Now how does all this relate to Islamic jihad? Islam sees violence as a means of propagating the Muslim faith. Islam divides the world into two camps: the dar al-Islam (House of Submission) and the dar al-harb (House of War). The former are those lands which have been brought into submission to Islam; the latter are those nations which have not yet been brought into submission. This is how Islam actually views the world!

By contrast, the conquest of Canaan represented God’s just judgement upon those peoples. The purpose was not at all to get them to convert to Judaism! War was not being used as an instrument of propagating the Jewish faith. Moreover, the slaughter of the Canaanites represented an unusual historical circumstance, not a regular means of behavior.

The problem with Islam, then, is not that it has got the wrong moral theory; it’s that it has got the wrong God. If the Muslim thinks that our moral duties are constituted by God’s commands, then I agree with him. But Muslims and Christians differ radically over God’s nature. Christians believe that God is all-loving, while Muslims believe that God loves only Muslims. Allah has no love for unbelievers and sinners. Therefore, they can be killed indiscriminately. Moreover, in Islam God’s omnipotence trumps everything, even His own nature. He is therefore utterly arbitrary in His dealing with mankind. By contrast Christians hold that God’s holy and loving nature determines what He commands.

The question, then, is not whose moral theory is correct, but which is the true God? 

This article was found at:

AlterNet  -  April 25, 2011

One More Reason Religion Is So Messed Up: Respected Theologian Defends Genocide and Infanticide

By Greta Christina, AlterNet

"Respected Theologian Defends Infanticide."

Why did this story not make headlines?

In a recent post [see above] on his Reasonable Faith site, famed Christian apologist and debater William Lane Craig published an explanation for why the genocide and infanticide ordered by God against the Canaanites in the Old Testament was morally defensible. For God, at any rate -- and for people following God's orders. Short version: When guilty people got killed, they deserved it because they were guilty and bad... and when innocent people got killed, even when innocent babies were killed, they went to Heaven, and it was all hunky dory in the end.

No, really.

Here are some choice excerpts:

God had morally sufficient reasons for His judgement upon Canaan, and Israel was merely the instrument of His justice, just as centuries later God would use the pagan nations of Assyria and Babylon to judge Israel.

Moreover, if we believe, as I do, that God's grace is extended to those who die in infancy or as small children, the death of these children was actually their salvation. We are so wedded to an earthly, naturalistic perspective that we forget that those who die are happy to quit this earth for heaven's incomparable joy. Therefore, God does these children no wrong in taking their lives.

So whom does God wrong in commanding the destruction of the Canaanites? Not the Canaanite adults, for they were corrupt and deserving of judgement. Not the children, for they inherit eternal life.

I want to make something very clear before I go on: William Lane Craig is not some drooling wingnut. He's not some extremist Fred Phelps type, ranting about how God's hateful vengeance is upon us for tolerating homosexuality. He's not some itinerant street preacher, railing on college campuses about premarital holding hands. He's an extensively educated, widely published, widely read theological scholar and debater. When believers accuse atheists of ignoring sophisticated modern theology, Craig is one of the people they're talking about.

And he said that as long as God gives the thumbs-up, it's okay to kill pretty much anybody. It's okay to kill bad people, because they're bad and they deserve it... and it's okay to kill good people, because they wind up in Heaven. As long as God gives the thumbs-up, it's okay to systematically wipe out entire races. As long as God gives the thumbs-up, it's okay to slaughter babies and children. Craig said -- not essentially, not as a paraphrase, but literally, in quotable words -- "the death of these children was actually their salvation."

So why did this story not make headlines? Why was there not an appalled outcry from the Christian world? Why didn't Christian leaders from all sects take to the pulpits to disavow Craig, and to express their utter repugnance with his views, and to explain in no uncertain terms that their religion does not, and will not, defend the extermination of races or the slaughter of children?

Because the things he said are not that unusual.

Because lots of people share his views.

Because these kinds of contortions are far too common in religious morality. Because all too often, religion twists even the most fundamental human morality into positions that, in any other circumstance, most people would see as repulsive, monstrous, and entirely indefensible.

Step One: Admit Your Mistakes

See, here's the thing. When faced with horrors in our past -- our personal history, or our human history -- non-believers don't have any need to defend them. When non-believers look at a human history full of genocide, infanticide, slavery, forced marriage, etc. etc. etc., we're entirely free to say, "Damn. That was terrible. That was some seriously screwed-up shit we did. We were wrong to do that. Let's not ever do that again."

But for people who believe in a holy book, it's not that simple. When faced with horrors in their religion's history -- horrors that their holy book defends, and even praises -- believers have to do one of two things. They have to either a) cherry-pick the bits they like and ignore the bits they don't; or b) come up with contorted rationalizations for why the most blatant, grotesque, black-and-white evil really isn't all that bad.

Now, progressive and moderate believers usually go the cherry-picking route. But that requires its own contortions. Once you acknowledge that your holy books really aren't that holy, once you admit that they have moral as well as factual errors, then you have to start asking why any of it is special, why any of it should be treated any differently from any other flawed books of history or philosophy. You have to start asking why -- since your religion's holy books are just as screwed-up as every other religion's -- your religion is still somehow the right one, and all other religions are mistaken. You have to start asking how you know which parts of your holy book are right and which parts are wrong -- and how you know that people who disagree with you, who've picked the exact opposite cherries from the ones you've picked, who feel their faith in their hearts exactly as much as you do, have somehow gotten it terribly wrong. You have to start asking how you know the things you know. And to do that, and still maintain religious faith, requires its own contorted thinking, its own denial of reality, its own sticking of one's fingers in one's ears and chanting, "I can't hear you! I can't hear you!"

And when you don't go the cherry-picking route? When you insist -- as Craig apparently does -- that your holy book is special and perfect, that the events and motivations in the text all took place exactly as described, and that the actions of God described in it are right and good by their very definition?

You put yourself in the position of defending the indefensible.

When your holy book says that God ordered his chosen people to slaughter an entire race, down to the babies and children -- and you insist that this book is special and perfect -- you put yourself in the position of defending genocide. You put yourself in the position of defending infanticide. You put yourself in the position of defending slavery, rape, forced marriage, ethnic hatred, the systematic subjugation of women, human sacrifice, and any number of moral grotesqueries that your holy book not only defends, but praises to the skies and offers as models of exemplary behavior.

And you can't cut the Gordian knot. You can't simply say, "This is wrong. This is vile and indefensible. This kind of behavior comes from a tribal morality that humanity has evolved beyond, and we should repudiate it without reservation."

Not without relinquishing your faith.

And if you refuse to relinquish your faith? If you cling to the assumption that your faith, by definition, is the highest good there is, and that by definition it trumps all other moral considerations?

Then you cut yourself off from your own moral compass.

I've made this point before, and I'm sure I'll make it again: Religion, by its very nature as an untestable belief in undetectable beings and an unknowable afterlife, disables our reality checks. It ends the conversation. It cuts off inquiry: not only factual inquiry, but moral inquiry. Because God's law trumps human law, people who think they're obeying God can easily get cut off from their own moral instincts. And these moral contortions don't always lie in the realm of theological game-playing. They can have real-world consequences: from genocide to infanticide, from honor killings to abandoned gay children, from burned witches to battered wives to blown-up buildings.

As just one example among so very many: Look at the Lafferty brothers, Mormon fundamentalists who murdered an innocent woman and her 15-month-old daughter because they thought God had commanded them to do it. At many points in theirjourney across the continent on their way to the killings, they questioned whether brutally slaughtering their brother's wife and her infant child was really the right thing to do. But they always came to the same answer: Yes. It was right. They thought God had commanded it -- and that settled the question. It ended the conversation. It stopped their moral query dead in its tracks.

But don't just look at sociopathic murderers from a bonkers religious cult. That's too easy. Look at Mr. Theological Scholar himself, William Lane Craig. In this piece, Craig says that the Canaanites were evil, and deserving of genocide, because (among other things) they practiced infanticide. The very crime that God ordered the Israelites to commit. I shit you not. Quote: "By the time of their destruction, Canaanite culture was, in fact, debauched and cruel, embracing such practices as ritual prostitutionand even child sacrifice." (Emphasis -- and dumbstruck bafflement -- mine.) And he says the infanticide of the Canaanite children was defensible and necessary because the Israelites needed to keep their tribal identity pure, and keep their God-given morality untainted by the Canaanite wickedness. Again, I shit you not. Again, quote: "By setting such strong, harsh dichotomies God taught Israel that any assimilation to pagan idolatry is intolerable." As if an all-powerful, all-knowing, all-good god couldn't come up with a better way to teach a lesson about assimilation to pagan idolatry than murdering children.

I could sit here all day and pick apart everything that's intellectually wrong with Craig's arguments. But it seems that a far more appropriate response would be, "Are you fucking kidding me? Do you hear what you're saying? Can you really not hear how grotesque, repulsive, flatly evil, totally batshit insane that sounds? Yeah, sure, if you start with your assumptions, then genocide and infanticide are morally defensible. Doesn't that tell you that there is something monstrously, ludicrously wrong with your assumptions?"

If I were trying to make up a more blatant example of ethical contortionism, of morality so twisted by its need to defend the indefensible that it has blinded itself to its own contradictions and grotesqueries, I couldn't have done a better job. Craig, like so many believers before him, has made my best arguments for me.

What's Sauce for the Creation Is Sauce for the Creator

Now. Some people might argue that the rules of morality aren't the same for God as they are for people. They might argue that, while it would certainly be wrong for people to kill babies and eradicate entire races on their own initiative, it's not wrong for God to do it. Craig himself makes that argument in this piece. Quote:
According to the version of divine command ethics which I've defended, our moral duties are constituted by the commands of a holy and loving God. Since God doesn't issue commands to Himself, He has no moral duties to fulfill. (emphasis mine) He is certainly not subject to the same moral obligations and prohibitions that we are. For example, I have no right to take an innocent life. For me to do so would be murder. But God has no such prohibition. He can give and take life as He chooses. We all recognize this when we accuse some authority who presumes to take life as "playing God." Human authorities arrogate to themselves rights which belong only to God. God is under no obligation whatsoever to extend my life for another second. If He wanted to strike me dead right now, that's His prerogative.

Yeah. See, here's the problem with that. If the moral rules for God are different from the moral rules for people? If the very definitions of good and evil are different for God than they are for us?

Then what does it even mean to say that God is good?

If you say that what "good" means for God is totally different from what "good" means for people -- if you say that murdering infants and systematically eradicating entire races is evil for people but good for God -- then you're pretty much saying that what it means for God to be "good," and what it means for us to be "good," are such radically different concepts that the one has virtually nothing to do with the other. You have rendered the entire concept of "good and evil" meaningless.

And I, for one, don't want the entire concept of good and evil to be rendered meaningless.

Of course, if you're a progressive/ moderate/ non-literalist believer, you're not stuck with defending every tenet of your holy book. You can say, "No, no, God didn't command these horrors. He couldn't have. The Bible is an inspired but flawed document, and it must be mistaken here when it says this command came from God. The Israelites wanted to slaughter the Canaanites, so they went ahead with it and told themselves the order came from God. But my God is good, and my God would never tell anyone to do any such a thing."

But then we're back to the cherry-picking problem: How do you know? How do you know which parts of your holy book are the ones that God meant? The Bible, and indeed most other religious texts, is loaded with instances of God commanding his followers to commit murder or worse. How do you know that God really wasn't giving those orders... but he really was giving the orders to love our neighbors and give to the poor? No two Christian sects agree on which bits of the Bible are God's true word and which bits are the "Just kidding" bits. And every sect has just as much "feeling in their heart" about their interpretation as you do.

So in order to pick those cherries, you have to twist yourself into just as many contortions as the fundies do.

Irony Meter Goes Off the Scale

It's funny. One of the most common pieces of bigotry aimed at atheism is that it doesn't provide any basis for morality. It's widely assumed that without religion -- without moral teachings from religious traditions, and without fear of eternal punishment and desire for eternal reward -- people would behave entirely selfishly, with no concern for others. And atheists are commonly accused of moral relativism: of thinking that there are no fundamental moral principles, and that all morality can be adapted to suit the needs of the moment.

But it isn't atheists who are saying, "Well, sure, genocide seems wrong... but under some circumstances, it actually makes a certain amount of sense." It isn't atheists who are saying, "Well, sure, infanticide seems wrong... but looked at in a certain light, it really isn't all that bad." It isn't atheists who are prioritizing an attachment to an ancient ideology over the clearest moral principles one can imagine: the principle that entire races ought not to be systematically exterminated, and the principle that children ought not to be slaughtered.

Human beings have intrinsic compassion. We have a sense of justice. We have feelings of revulsion and rage when we see others harmed. We have a desire to help create a livable world. We have a willingness to make personal sacrifices -- sometimes great sacrifices -- to help others in need. And contrary to what Craig and many other Christians think, these moral emotions don't derive from the Bible, and don't require belief in God. They're taught by virtually every religion and every society, and atheists feel them every bit as much as believers. Humans are a social species, and these emotions and principles evolved because they help members of a social species survive and reproduce. (Other social species seem to have some or all of these moral emotions as well.)

But our compassion and justice, our altruism and moral revulsion, can be twisted. They can be stunted. They can be denied, ignored, shoved to the back burner, rationalized away. They can be contorted to the point where we're saying that black is white, war is peace, and the most blatant evil is actually goodness if you squint your eyes just right. They can be contorted to the point where we're saying that genocide is okay because everyone gets what they deserve in the afterlife, and that infanticide is morally necessary to teach a lesson about the evils of murdering children.

And religion is Exhibit A in how this can happen.

This article was found at:


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Religious fanatics Phillip Garrido and wife plead guilty to kidnapping, raping and confining Jaycee Dugard

Los Angeles Times   -  April 29, 2011

Couple take plea deal in Jaycee Dugard kidnapping

Phillip Garrido will get 431 years to life in prison. His wife, Nancy, will get 25 years to life, plus 11 more years. The Northern California couple pleaded guilty to kidnapping, raping and holding Jaycee Dugard captive for 18 years.

By Maura Dolan, Los Angeles Times

A married couple in Northern California pleaded guilty Thursday to kidnapping Jaycee Dugard when she was 11, raping her and confining her in a hidden backyard encampment for 18 years in a plea deal that will spare the victim from having to testify at a trial.

Phillip Garrido, 60, and his wife, Nancy, 55, entered their pleas in an El Dorado County courtroom in a case that drew international headlines after Dugard and two daughters she bore with Phillip Garrido were discovered in August 2009. The Garridos faced 29 charges of kidnapping and sexual assault.

Under the plea deal, Phillip Garrido will receive a maximum possible sentence of 431 years to life in prison. He pleaded guilty to kidnapping and 13 counts of sexual assault.

Nancy Garrido, who snatched Dugard in 1991 and later helped deliver her babies, pleaded guilty to kidnapping, one count of rape by force for aiding and abetting, and other charges in exchange for a sentence of 25 years to life, in addition to 11 more years.

She will be eligible for parole in 31 years, but El Dorado Dist. Atty. Vern Pierson said he was "confident she will spend the rest of her life in prison." He said she agreed to the plea only because her husband also pleaded guilty and waived his right to appeal.

"The enormity of the defendants' actions has caused tremendous pain and suffering to Jaycee, her mother Terry Probyn and their family," Pierson said in a written statement. "With a guilty plea by both defendants, Terry, Jaycee and her children can now be spared the grief and trauma of having to be dragged into the court process to testify at a jury trial."

Pierson praised Dugard's "strong cooperation" in the prosecution of the couple and said her "courage and willingness to confront her abductors in court directly led" to the plea agreement.

Both Garridos are scheduled to be sentenced June 2. They waived their rights to appeal.

Dugard, now 30, and her family received a $20-million settlement from the state after filing a claim that charged authorities with failing to supervise Phillip Garrido, who was on parole for rape when he and his wife kidnapped Dugard while she was waiting for a school bus in view of her South Lake Tahoe home.

A state investigation found that parole agents missed opportunities to rescue Dugard during visits to the Garrido home. At least three parole agents spotted Dugard but failed to determine her identity, the state said.

Even after receiving a tip that children were living with the Garridos, authorities did not search the backyard, where Dugard and her daughters lived behind a fence in tents and soundproof sheds.

Dugard and her daughters never attended school or visited a doctor or a dentist while in captivity. She took the name "Alyssa" and pretended to be the eldest daughter of the Garridos. Her own daughters thought she was an elder sister before the Garridos' arrest, authorities said.

They were rescued after UC Berkeley police officers became suspicious when Phillip Garrido brought the two girls to campus to distribute religious fliers. The girls called Garrido "Daddy" and mentioned they had an older sister.

When first questioned by parole agents, Dugard tried to protect Garrido and refused to reveal her true identity. She reportedly has been receiving therapy and lives with her family in Northern California.

In a written statement, Pierson pointed out that the law does not permit the death penalty or life without possibility of parole for the Garridos' crimes.

Thursday's actions "can finally bring certainty and closure to Jaycee and her family who have waited almost 20 years for justice in this case," Pierson said.

Attorneys for the Garridos did not respond to requests for comment.

This article was found at:


Garrido "talked a lot about Jesus" to his 1976 victim after raping her repeatedly over 5 hours

Child sexual abusers commonly turn to religion to rationalize their behavior

Self-proclaimed prophets: Phillip Garrido, David Berg and Joseph Smith

Kidnap victim kept in backyard compound of religious fanatic for 18 years

Arkansas Supreme Court upholds lower court ruling that removed parental rights from Tony Alamo cult members

MySanAntonio   -  Texas April 28, 2011

Alamo followers lose bid for parental right

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — The Arkansas Supreme Court said Thursday that the seizure of 16 children from a religious compound was based on worries about their safety — not an infringement upon their parents' constitutional right to worship freely.

Seven followers of evangelist Tony Alamo sued the Arkansas Department of Human Services after the agency took their children away in 2008. Prosecutors said Alamo had "married" underage girls and won sexual abuse convictions against him in 2009.

State social workers took the children fearing they might someday be abused, and told the parents that if they wanted them back, the parents had to break their financial dependence on Alamo's ministry. The parents refused.

"The parents were totally dependent upon an organization headed by a convicted sex offender, and ... they refused to believe that child abuse had occurred within the confines" of Alamo's compound near Fouke in southwestern Arkansas," Justice Karen R. Baker noted in ruling against two parents who had six children taken away after they were deemed neglected.

In that case, the father said the Bible permitted marriages between older men and underage girls, and said "he believed his eternal soul would be condemned to damnation if he were to leave the ministry," Baker wrote.

The Department of Human Services said its intent in seizing the children was to protect them from danger, not prohibit their parents from attending Alamo's church. Justices agreed.

"The target of the requirements was not any religious activity or exercise; instead, the goal was to provide a safe environment" apart from Alamo's property, Associate Justice Jim Gunter wrote in a different opinion.

Justices made similar rulings on similar issues in three other cases involving children at the compound. [see links to court documents below]

Attorney John Wesley Hall Jr. said he was "flabbergasted" that Alamo could be considered a threat to the children, given that he was in custody when Miller County Circuit Judge Joe E. Griffin was pondering the children's future.

"The way the order was drafted, the conditions put on the parents violated their rights" to worship as they see fit, Hall said. He said he is considering an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.

A man who answered the telephone at Alamo's compound Thursday declined comment. He did not give a name.

This article was found at:

Arkansas News  -  April 28, 2011

Court upholds decision to strip Alamo followers of parental rights

By Rob Moritz  |  Arkansas News Bureau

LITTLE ROCK — A Miller County circuit judge’s decision to terminate the parental rights of seven followers of Tony Alamo was upheld today by the Arkansas Supreme Court.

State human services officials removed the 16 minor children from the Tony Alamo Christian Ministries compound in Fouke in 2008. The state Court of Appeals in 2009 upheld their removal.

Miller County Circuit Judge Joe Griffin in 2009 ruled in five separate cases that the 16 children had been neglected and terminated their parents’ parental rights.

The judge concluded that, among other things, the children faced danger of beatings and forced fasts ordered by the evangelist who was convicted in 2009 of transporting underage girls across state lines for sex and sentenced to 175 years in prisons.

In five separate opinions today, the state Supreme Court upheld Griffin’s rulings against Miriam and Albert Krantz, parents of six; Carlos and Sophia Parrish, parents of four; Greg Seago, father of three; Bethany Myers, mother of two, and Alphonzo Reid, father of one.

In each decision, the high court said that the parents lived with their children on Alamo’s compound and that state human services officials told the parents when they removed the children from the compound in 2008 that if they moved away and found jobs outside the Alamo Ministries, they would be able to get custody of their children.

In each case, however, the parents refused to comply.

Justice Paul Danielson, who wrote the opinion involving Seago, said the father of three “failed to remedy the conditions that caused removal by failing to obtain housing and employment separate and apart from (Tony Alamo Christian Ministries), despite DHS’ meaningful efforts.”


The cases are:

This article was found at:


Children’s rights treaty stirs debate in U.S.

Parental rights: The new wedge issue

Trial in death of infant raises questions of parental rights, religious freedom

Parental rights vs children's rights: debating the role of religious institutions in Irish education system

Conflict between parental and children's rights at center of Zimbabwean debate over forced vaccinations of sect children

Court suspended parental rights for one day to save boy's life with transfusion

Tony Alamo Cult

How can Pope John Paul II be a saint when thousands of children were raped or molested by priests under his leadership?

Time - April 28, 2011

Pope John Paul's Path to Sainthood: A Rush to Judgment?

By Stephan Faris

When hundreds of thousands of Catholics gather in Rome Sunday for the beatification of Pope John Paul II, not everyone will be celebrating. For the victims of sexual abuse by predatory priests, the ceremony — a major step towards sainthood — is too much too soon for a Pontiff they say failed to adequately confront the crimes committed by members of his church. "It's the rubbing of salt into the already deep and still fresh wounds of thousands of victims," says David Clohessy, national director of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests. "The signal that his beatification basically sends to church employees across the globe is that no matter how many children are harmed because of your inaction, your clerical career won't suffer."

Nobody denies the accomplishments of the famously charismatic pope, who died in 2005: his confrontation of the Soviet Union, his travels in the name of evangelism, and his courage under the ravages of Parkinson's diseases. But when it came to confronting the rot within his own institution, says Clohessy, the late pope was all but absent: "In his more than 25 years as the world's most powerful religious figure, we can't think of a single predatory priest or complicit bishop who experienced any consequences whatsoever for committing or concealing heinous child sex crimes."

For much of John Paul's papacy, the church's sex abuse crisis bubbled mostly underground. But when it did break through the surface, the pope's response was most noticeable for its absence. Hans Hermann Groer, an Austrian cardinal accused of abusing more than 2,000 boys over several decades, was made to retire as bishop of Vienna when the scandal broke in 1995, but was never punished or forced to apologize. (Groer died in 2003.) The Mexican priest Marcial Maciel Degollado continued to receive John Paul's support after allegations emerged in the late 1990s that he had abused seminarians. [see related articles below]

"Time and again, John Paul simply refused to take the hard decisive steps that a visionary leader would take," says Jason Berry, author of Render unto Rome: The Secret Life of Money in the Catholic Church, and two books on the sex abuse scandal. "The way he responded to the accusations against Father Maciel by basically ignoring them, acting as if they didn't even exist, is not only a sign of a terrible denial on his part, but also an unwillingness to confront the full impact of evil." Maciel remained unpunished until after the John Paul's death in 2005, when Benedict XVI ordered him to leave the ministry for "a life of penitence and prayer." Maciel died in 2008.

John Paul's admirers acknowledge that the pope could have done more, but they say that his failings during the sex abuse scandal fail to blot out his greater virtues. "Do I think he could have done better?" says Phil Lawler editor of CatholicCulture.org. "Yes. But the idea that all of it comes home to roost at the Vatican is an idea that I've never found persuasive. He was in a position where he had limited options and limited power. If you consider the man's whole life as a body, that's in the negative column, and there's so much in the positive column."

John Paul II's accelerated path to sainthood — beatification usually takes decades — means that the late pope is being honored even as his legacy regarding his handling of the sex abuse case continues to be examined. A report by the Irish government is expected next month on recent failures by the church to confront sexual abuse in the rural diocese of Cloyne. The bishop in charge during the period under examination previously served as a private secretary to three popes, including John Paul II.

The Polish pope's ascent toward canonization can be compared to another papal candidacy for sainthood. Pope Pius XII was also revered during his lifetime, but has since become a much more controversial figure for his public silence in the face of the Holocaust. More than 50 years after his death, he remains on the path towards sainthood, but his case the process faces increasing opposition and he has not yet been beatified. "I don't think that John Paul was ever taken to full account by the news media during the last decade of his life," says Berry. "Hagiography at this point is premature at best and at worst an insult to the many people who have been harmed. There's a good chance it could backfire."

This article was found at:


The Independent  -  Ireland    May 2, 2011

'He didn't do enough to help victims of clerical sex abuse'

By John Cooney Religion Correspondent

A PROMINENT survivor of clerical child sexual abuse last night said many victims would not still be suffering if Pope John Paul II and Cardinal Sean Brady had done their jobs properly.

Dubliner Andrew Madden was responding to comments made in Rome at the beatification ceremony which defended the late Pontiff from criticisms that he did not deal quickly and adequately with paedophile priest scandals that came to light during his reign.

Entering the controversy, the Primate of All-Ireland Cardinal Sean Brady said: "I don't know how much he knew about the abuse. Perhaps he should have done more. I don't know."

But Dr Brady, who last year resisted calls for his resignation over his role in pledging to secrecy young victims of paedophile monk Brendan Smyth, insisted that if Pope John Paul "felt that he should have done more, he would have done it".

Dr Brady added: "So I think we will just have to leave that to the mercy of God."

But Mr Madden, who was the first Irish victim to make public his abuse by the notorious former priest Ivan Payne, said he had spent the day thinking of the victims who suffered from the ''cover-ups'' of Pope John Paul and Dr Brady.

"It was a day when it came into my mind the welfare of all clerical sex abuse victims which need not have happened if John Paul and Cardinal Brady had done the right thing," he told the Irish Independent.

Meanwhile, last night at a special Mass in Dublin's Pro-Cathedral in celebration of Pope John Paul, Archbishop Diarmuid Martin prayed for renewal in the church.

This article was found at:



The Bay Citizen   -   San Francisco     May 1, 2011

Amid Celebration, Abuse Victims March on SF Mass


As the Catholic church moved closer to declaring Pope John Paul II a saint, a handful of Bay Area residents who were sexually abused by priests gathered Sunday outside St. Mary’s Cathedral in San Francisco. They came to tell church members that there is still a crisis in the Catholic Church.

“Our message today is to remind people of the importance of protecting children in light of the speeded-up beatification of the pope,” said Tim Lennon, a victim of clergy abuse and the San Francisco leader of SNAP, the Survivor’s Network of those Abused by Priests. “The speeded-up sainthood of the pope, to us, is merely a publicity action to regain some of their good name that they’ve lost because of all the thousands -- maybe tens of thousands -- of victims of clergy abuse.”

After John Paul II died in 2005, his successor, Pope Benedict XVI waived the traditional five-year wait before beginning the late pope’s canonization process. Sunday’s beatification marked a major step toward sainthood.

But critics of the church’s handling of the global sex-abuse crisis, which broke open during John Paul II’s tenure, say he was complicit in the long-suspected church practice of covering up instances of abuse and reassigning rather than punishing predatory priests.

“If nothing else, he failed in the absence of doing anything,” Lennon said.

The demonstration was part of a worldwide action over the weekend that took place in 60 cities in seven countries. It was a quiet gathering in San Francisco, not so much a protest as a solemn statement to church members in the midst of their celebration.

Lennon, some of his relatives and four other abuse survivors stood on the sidewalk near the church during Sunday’s 11 o’clock mass, handing out flyers asking parishioners to pledge that they will report suspected child abuse in the church or anywhere else they find it.

Halfway through Sunday’s mass, George Wesolek, communications director for the Archdiocese of San Francisco, stepped outside and strolled across the empty sun-washed plaza that separates the cathedral from the sidewalk along Geary Blvd., and introduced himself to Lennon. Both commented on the lovely spring weather before Lennon traded a flyer for one of Wesolek’s business cards.

As he walked back across the empty plaza, Wesolek read over the pledge.

“We’re supportive of the concept, definitely,” he said, nodding his head and reading on. “It’s great. It’s most worthy that they’re doing this.

Lennon and more than a dozen Bay Area abuse survivors have been meeting with the Archdiocese of San Francisco in recent months to demand the church improve its policies around sex abuse of children. Local bishops have taken the group’s proposals under advisement but have yet to decide whether they will take any action.

This article was found at:


Jesuit priest being considered for sainthood among order's leaders who protected "the Hannibal Lecter of the clerical world"

Canada's newest Catholic saint belonged to order under investigation for widespread sexual crimes against students

Best city in the world honours man who protected notorious Catholic child abuser

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Mexican Legionaries damage families, take away children in order to brainwash and control them

Son of priest-founder of Catholic Legionaries sues order for fraud and negligence, says his father sexually abused him

Vatican finally decides to reform Legionaries years after founder exposed as immoral religious fake

Conservative Catholic order admits 5 years after investigation that founder, who fathered 3 children, was abusive pedophile

TV report from 1990s shows then Cardinal Ratzinger slapping reporter for asking awkward questions about evil child abuser Marciel Maciel

On Sex Abuse: The Pope, the Bishop and the Mexican Priest

Mexican reports reveal more children sired by founder of conservative Catholic cult Legionaries of Christ

Corrupt Legionaries exposed

Founder of influential, conservative Catholic order fathered a child and molested seminarians

Catholic Legionaries founder praised by Pope John Paul II sexually abused seminarians and raped his own children

Vatican investigates sexual abuses by founder of conservative Catholic cult, Legionaries of Christ

Vatican names Spanish archbishop to investigate cult of consecrated women associated with disgraced Order

Former members of Catholic women's group Regnum Christi allege cult-like practices of psychological and spiritual abuse

Pope's promise to restore the purity of Catholicism almost impossible with scandals implicating entire church hierarchy

Hundreds of people in U.K. are abandoned, secret children of Catholic priests

27 Apr 2011

Best city in the world honours man who protected notorious Catholic child abuser

Chain The Dogma    April 27, 2011

Why is the best city in the world honouring a man who protected one of the most notorious child abusers in the Catholic Church?

by Perry Bulwer

The fast-tracked beatification of Pope John Paul II takes place May 1, 2011 and at the request of the Archbishop of Vancouver the City of Vancouver proclaimed that day “Blessed John Paul II Day in Vancouver”. The four reasons given for that proclamation are: 1) that is the day the Catholic Church will beatify him; 2) he played an unprecedented role in promoting peace and justice around the world; 3) he visited Vancouver once in 1984 and spoke to hundreds of thousands of people; 4) Catholics in Vancouver revere him.

Regarding the fast-tracking of that beatification, which will place John Paul II one step from sainthood, Cardinal Angelo Amato, prefect of the Congregation for Saints' Causes, stated at a conference in Rome: "Clearly his cause was put on the fast track, but the process was done carefully and meticulously, following the rules Pope John Paul himself issued in 1983". How convenient. Beatified according to his own rules. But that is not the only ethical lapse in this process. Pope Benedict, who revered John Paul II, will be the first Pope in many centuries to bestow that honour on his immediate predecessor. It is also the fastest trip towards sainthood a Pope has ever taken.

Retired Bishop Geoffrey Robinson of Sydney, Australia has a different take on that fast-track. He headed an Australian bishops’ commission on clerical sexual abuse from 1994-2003 and is the author of the book “Confronting Power and Sex in the Catholic Church.” In June 2008 at the University of California at San Diego he stated: “If sainthood for John Paul II is placed on the fast track, those in charge should take note of the cases of priestly sexual abuse he ignored, especially that of Father Marcial Maciel Degollado.”

Cardinal Amato explained that “Pope John Paul II is being beatified not because of his impact on history [so much for point 2 in Vancouver's proclamation] or on the Catholic Church [there go points 3 and 4], but because of the way he lived the Christian virtues of faith, hope and love....” He added, candidates must have “... lived the Christian virtues in a truly extraordinary way and ... must be perceived 'as an image of Christ'.” And Joaquin Navarro-Valls, who served as Vatican spokesman under Pope John Paul, explained further that “beatification is not a judgment on a pontificate, but on the personal holiness of the candidate”.

According to those criteria, Pope John Paul II was a virtuous, holy, image of Christ to be imitated by others. But was he? His friendship with and protection of one of the most notorious sexual abusers and pedophiles in the Catholic Church, Marcial Maciel Degollado, founder of the influential Legionnaires of Christ, suggests otherwise. Bishop Robinson

... described Pope John Paul II’s non-response in the matter of Father Maciel Degollado, head of the traditionalist Legionnaires of Christ, as “a failure of moral leadership on a massive scale.” The late pontiff had access to extensive documentation that Maciel Degollado had sexually abused 30 seminarians from the 1940’s to the 1970s, mostly in Spain and Italy. Some believe the true figure to be much higher.

But John Paul II, a close friend of Maciel Degollado, remained silent. The latter stood at the pope’s right hand during three papal visits to Mexico. Later, John Paul referred to him as “an efficacious guide to youth” and he heaped praise on Maciel Degollado on the 60th anniversary of his ordination to the priesthood in 2004.

In her New York Times column, Maureen Dowd recently wrote:

Santo non subito! How can you be a saint if you fail to protect innocent children?

For years after the Rev. Marcial Maciel Degollado, the founder of the Legion of Christ, was formally accused of pedophilia in a Vatican proceeding, he remained John Paul’s pet. The ultra-orthodox Legion of Christ and Opus Dei were the shock troops in John Paul’s war on Jesuits and other progressive theologians.
There was another reason, according to Jason Berry, who has written two books on the abuse crisis and is the author of the forthcoming “Render Unto Rome: The Secret Life of Money in the Catholic Church.”
“For John Paul,” Berry told me just after returning from Good Friday services, “the priesthood had a romantic, chivalrous cast, and he could not bring himself to do a fearless investigation of the clerical culture itself.
“He was duped by Maciel, but he let himself be duped. When nine people accuse the guy of abusing them as kids, the least you can do is investigate.
“Cardinals and bishops had told him about the larger abuse crisis for years. And he was passive to an absolute fault. He failed in mountainous terms.”

Marcial Maciel did not just sexually abuse seminarians. He is alleged to have fathered at least six illegitimate children and sexually molested at least two of them. Legion of Christ officials, after decades of denial, recently acknowledged their founder had abused seminarians and had sired at least one child. So far, however, the Vatican under Benedict's lead is only interested in reforming the Legion, not shutting down that corrupt order that John Paul II promoted and protected.

If Pope John Paul II was so holy why did he protect a monster like Marcial Maciel, but failed to protect the thousands of children abused by predator priests while he was the head of the church? And as Maureen Dowd asked, “How can you be a saint if you fail to protect innocent children?” That would have been a good question for the bureaucrats at Vancouver City Hall to ask before acquiescing to the archbishop of Vancouver's request for a special day to honour a man who failed to protect innocent children. Perhaps it should have been the survivors and exposers of Catholic clergy abuse who got the special day of honour instead.

This article was found at:


Related Articles:

Vatican refuses to shut down corrupt Legionaries order for fear of imposing ideas on others, yet indoctrinating kids ok

Vatican names Spanish archbishop to investigate cult of consecrated women associated with disgraced Order

UK Catholic adoption agency loses legal fight to discriminate against gay and lesbian couples

The Guardian - UK April 26, 2011

Catholic adoption agency loses gay adoption fight

Leeds-based agency Catholic Care told it must consider gay and lesbian couples as prospective parents

Riazat Butt, religious affairs correspondent

A Catholic adoption agency has lost a two-year battle to be excluded from laws that ban discrimination against homosexuals.

Leeds-based Catholic Care wanted exemption from the 2007 Sexual Orientation Regulations, which require it to consider gay and lesbian couples as prospective parents.

But a ruling on Tuesday by the Charity Tribunal upheld an earlier decision from the Charity Commission. The bishop of Leeds, the Right Rev Arthur Roche, said he was disappointed with the tribunal's ruling. He said: "It is unfortunate that those who will suffer as a consequence of this ruling will be the most vulnerable children, for whom Catholic Care has provided an excellent service for many years.It is an important point of principle that the charity should be able to prepare potential adoptive parents according to the tenets of the Catholic faith."

Roche had told the Charity Tribunal the agency would suffer financially if it was forced to accept applications from homosexual couples because donations would dry up.

But the tribunal said it was "impossible" to conclude that Catholic Care's income would suffer it were to operate an open adoption service.

It said: "There was evidence before the tribunal that some Catholics do offer financial support to adoption agencies which provide services to same-sex adopters but no evidence from the charity that it had considered how it might attract alternative financial supporters if it did not discriminate."

It conceded there would be "a loss to society if the charity's skilled staff were no longer engaged in the task of preparing potential adopters to offer families to children awaiting an adoption placement", but said it had to balance the risk of closure of the charity's adoption service against the "detriment to same-sex couples and the detriment to society generally of permitting the discrimination proposed".

Gay rights group Stonewall welcomed the tribunal's decision, saying there should be "no question" of publicly funded services being allowed to "pick and choose their service users on the basis of individual prejudice".

The row over exemptions for faith-based adoption agencies dates back to 2007, when the regulations were introduced. At the time, the then Archbishop of Westminster, Cardinal Cormac Murphy O'Connor, warned that the 11 Catholic adoption agencies would close rather than place children with gay couples.

But the then prime minister, Tony Blair, said there was "no place" for discrimination in British society.

The Tory leader David Cameron called for a compromise solution because Catholic adoption agencies did a "fantastic job in placing hard-to-place children".

While some agencies have closed, others have severed their links with the church in order to stay open.

This article was found at:


Secular News Daily  -  April 25, 2011

No ‘opt out’ from equality law: Catholic adoption agency will not be able to discriminate against same-sex couples

by British Humanist Association

No ‘opt out’ from equality law: Catholic adoption agency will not be able to discriminate against same-sex couples

Humanists have welcomed today’s unanimous Charity Tribunal decision to throw out the Catholic Care case, following a number of attempts by the adoption agency to gain permission to discriminate against same-sex couples. The British Humanist Association (BHA) has said the decision makes clear that religious organisations may not simply ‘opt themselves out’ of abiding by equality law that binds all other groups providing public services.

The BHA, an equalities and human rights organisation, campaigned vigorously in support of the Equality Act (Sexual Orientation Regulations) 2007 (SORs), which prevent discrimination by religious organisations on grounds of sexual orientation in the provision of goods, facilities and services, including in adoption services. These provisions are now part of the Equality Act 2010, and that is the law which this Charity Tribunal was making its assessments in light of.

Leeds based Catholic Care originally appealed to the Charity Commission in 2007 in light of the SORs, and in the High Court challenged the Charity Commission’s original refusal to allow the organisation to restrict their services to heterosexuals. In March 2010, the presiding Judge, Mr Justice Briggs, instructed the Commission to reconsider the request, which was refused in August. Catholic Care took their case to the Charity Tribunal and lost their appeal today.

BHA Head of Public Affairs Naomi Phillips commented, ‘Today’s decision sends a clear signal that religious organisations, including religious charities, providing public services may not simply opt themselves out of a law which prevents discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation. When groups are providing public services, not least vital services such as adoption, it is legitimate to prevent unjustified discrimination, as the law seeks to do, in order to ensure that those services are equal, accessible and operate in the interests of those they are helping. Equality of individuals before the law is a cornerstone of a fair and good society, and a principle which has been upheld by today’s decision not to allow Catholic Care to discriminate against gay couples seeking to adopt.

‘Catholic Care has failed to make a convincing case to allow them to breach equality law and discriminate in the provision of adoption services, and the Charity Tribunal decision to throw out the case is to be welcomed. To have permitted an opt out from the law to allow discrimination on grounds of the organisation’s religious ethos and prejudices would be a failure to serve the children who need loving homes, as well as failing to uphold the rights of lesbian, gay and bisexual people to be treated equally and with respect in the provision of services.’

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