PLEASE JOIN US!   We meet on the first Sunday of each month in downtown Duluth at the Radisson Hotel (Location Map)
            Socializing begins at 9:00 am.
            Optional breakfast buffet at 9:30 am.
            Presentation from 10:00 until about 11:30.

            Co-Host: David Broman - (218) 349-7455
            Co-Host: Jim Lyttle - (218) 464-1652
             Videographer - Jan Resberg


January 2015 Newsletter

January, 2015 Newsletter of the Lake Superior Freethinkers

Facilitators: David Broman - 218-349-7455, Bill Guse - 834-4583, 343-4806

First Sunday -Radisson – 9:00 AM Social – 9:30 Breakfast - 10:00 Presentation

George Erickson, editor, tundracub@mchsi.com


Roy Hagen, "The Human Predicament: Evolutionary (Genetic) Constraints to Critical Thinking”.

Roy’s presentation is partly based on “Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors” by Carl Sagan – the idea that we are orphans left on the doorsteps of time – with only the foggiest of ideas of who we are, who are ancestors were and how we came to be what we are today. We have only recently discovered that we are the product of evolution, but we’re just beginning to work through what that means. That includes what we know about how our brains evolved.

Roy will also develop a major theme from “The Spirit in the Gene” by Australian photo-journalist Reg Morrison. To paraphrase him, “Evolution has given us a brain with the amazing capacity for reasoned, logical thought – which we rarely employ when making some of the most important decisions in life.”

Atheist jailed for denying ‘higher power’ in Calif. drug rehab gets $2M
by Marisa Taylor

An atheist in California was awarded $1.95 million in a settlement with the state and a drug rehab organization for violating his religious liberty by sending him to jail for refusing to submit to a “higher power” as part of a treatment program, local news outlets reported.

After serving a year behind bars for methamphetamine possession, 46-year-old Barry Hazle Jr. of Shasta County was ordered to join a residential drug treatment program. When he arrived at the Empire Recovery Center, he was told that the center’s 12-step program, which is modeled on AA, involved submitting to a “higher power” through prayer.

When Hazle asked about secular drug rehab, he was told that Empire was the only state-approved facility in the County, which wasn’t picky about whom that higher power could be. But when Hazle objected — the program included prayer and talk of God -- he was sent to jail at the California Rehabilitation Center for 100 days. Probation officials said they did so because Hazle was allegedly being "disruptive, though in a congenial way ... sort of passive-aggressive.”

In 2007, Hazle sued the Dept.of Corrections and Rehab. (CDCR) and a substance abuse treatment firm contracted by CDCR to coordinate rehab for parolees. Six weeks later the CDCR ruled that parole agents can’t compel a parolee to participate in religious-oriented programs, and that they must offer a nonreligious alternative if they object.

A U.S. district court judge ruled in 2010 that that Hazle’s right for religious freedom had been violated, but the jury declined to award damages. The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in 2013 that he was entitled to compensation and ordered a retrial, which resulted in a $1.95 million settlement that he will receive from the state and WestCare California.

"I’m thrilled to finally have this case settled," Hazle told the Record Searchlight. "It sends a clear message to people in a position of authority, like my parole agent, for example, that they not mandate religious programming for their parolees, and for anyone else, for that matter."

Rogue pastors endorse candidates - IRS looks away politico.com
by Rachael Bade

A record number of Christian pastors endorsed candidates from the pulpit this election cycle, using Sunday sermons to flout tax rules. Their message to the IRS: Sue me.

Although the IRS was sued for not enforcing the law and admitted about 100 churches may be breaking the rules, the pastors and their critics alike say the agency is looking the other way.

The number of pastors endorsing candidates in “Pulpit Freedom Sunday” jumped from 33 in 2008 to more than 1,600 this year, according to Alliance Defending Freedom….

At issue is the churches’ status as tax-exempt 501(c)(3) organizations. They don’t pay taxes, and donations to them can be deducted from contributors’ taxable income. But with that break comes limits on political endorsements. Charities are barred from engaging in political campaigns….

“You can’t have a tax-exempt entity engaged in politics because that involves using tax-exempt money for political purposes, so it’s an unfair playing field,” said Annie Laurie Gaylor, co-founder of the Freedom From Religion Foundation, the organization that sued the IRS in 2012 for failing to enforce electioneering restrictions on churches. The group settled this summer with an understanding that the IRS would eventually take action. So far there’s no evidence they have.

IRS Commissioner John Koskinen in an interview last month with Tax Analysts suggested the IRS isn’t planning to crack down on churches anytime soon….

The law was written in 1954 by then-Sen. Lyndon B. Johnson (D-Texas), who was facing a contentious reelection challenge where several 501(c)(3)s endorsed his opponent, labeling him soft on communism.

The pastors, who make it easy for the IRS by often taping their sermons and mailing them to the tax agency, argue that it infringes on their First Amendment rights. “The church is God’s organization — what right does the government have to control this?” said Rev. Kevin Baird of Legacy Church in Charleston, S.C.

“If a member of the IRS gets this sermon and is listening, sue me,” said pastor Jim Garlow of the San Diego-based Skyline Church, after backing Democratic Rep. Scott Peters for reelection. His Republican challenger, Carl DeMaio, is gay, and could advance a “radical homosexual agenda,” Garlow warned.

Years ago the IRS was bolder. The Church at Pierce Creek in Binghamton, N.Y., lost its tax-exempt status in the 1990s after printing an ad claiming a vote for President Clinton was a sin.

Most of the pastors interviewed said they’re not interested in spending church money on campaigns, just advising their congregations to, as they say, “vote biblically….”

Gaylor noted that churches don’t have to file the annual Form 990 to the IRS, as other nonprofits do to disclose their finances. In that regard, she argues, people could easily “turn churches into money-laundering congregations for political purposes” — and no one would know.

IRS’s timid approach to enforcing rules is likely linked to a lawsuit it lost in 2009. The agency in 2007 began auditing Living Word Christian Center for endorsing Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.). And when the church wouldn’t hand over records, the government filed suit.

But the judge tossed the case because of a technical matter. It pointed to IRS rules requiring regional agency commissioners or a higher-ranking official to approve church audits. Since the regional commissioner position had been eliminated in the late 1990s, the IRS had allowed lower-level agents to open the investigations. The judge said that wasn’t allowed.

But both the pastors and their critics have been disappointed at the lack of IRS action since then. Owens suggested the IRS’s merely told the court the churches are on their radar — not that they’re actually doing anything about it. Most doubt they are. In the meantime, the sermon organizers predict their numbers to grow…

Germany’s Pay to Pray Scheme
from the Wall Street Journal

German church members must pay an additional 8% to 9% of their gross annual income tax and capital gains tax bills to the church….

That’s stunning. Now, the German government is closing a loophole having to do with capital gains, which means an effective tax increase for its officially registered Christian believers:

“After we paid income taxes to the church all of these years, to now face another tax is a bit audacious,” said Renate Müller, a retiree from Frankfurt.

Ms. Müller said she left the church this spring after their bank said they would have to reveal their religious affiliation and begin paying the church tax on income from their retirement fund.

The church tax had always been due on capital gains, but it had never been properly enforced. Under the new rules, which the churches lobbied for, banks will be required to report their customers’ religious affiliations, rather than wait for customers to volunteer the information.

“We’re not doing it for the additional revenue,” said Thomas Begrich, finance chief for the Protestant Churches of Germany. “The wealthy need to pay their fair share.”

Surprise! The Catholic Church is corrupt.
For evidence, see http://www.cbc.ca/passionateeye/episodes/holy-money

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