FFrF Radio: Growing Unaffiliated & Fraudulent Prayer Studies

Podcast Link.

March 1, 2008 - Religiously Unaffiliated Grow to 16%!

The Beware of Dogma billboard won an addy for design. Which gives me an excuse to post the image again. Too cool.

March is Women's History Month. In honor of that, there was a brief discussion of the linkage between the women's rights movement and freethought, as well as a discussion of Women Without Superstition the Collected Writings of Women Freethinkers of Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries, edited by Annie Laurie Gaylor. The dogmatic suppression of women's rights by religious organizations is one amongst many reasons I'm no longer religious myself.

The guest this week, Greg Smith of the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, discusses the results of the latest U.S. Religious Landscape Survey, which shows that there is a net decline in religious affiliation within the US, especially amongst the young.

The frightening thing about looking at the map is the band of greater than 50% fundamentalist belief directly above Texas. I'm hoping that's shrinking rather than growing, but cancers tend to grow unless treated or removed; so is fundamentalism cancerous, or benign?

This is the first of three reports that will be based on the survey data.


"Heaven for climate, Hell for company" -Mark Twain


2007 Archive episode.

March 3, 2007 - Supreme Court Post-Mortem, and Fraudulent Prayer Studies

This episode dealt largely with the visit by CBS news to the studio the previous week, and the supreme court hearing of Hein v. Freedom From Religion Foundation, which has pretty much run it's course now. Since the faith based initiatives remain in place, the challenge was obviously not successful. Here's hoping the next president does the right thing and ends the practice of giving money to religious groups to proselytize to those most in need of something more than empty words.

The track record for bureaucracies ending once established, leads me to believe that this will not be the case. Who knows, maybe Hillary or Obama will use the direct link to the fundamentalists to weaken their message. Every cloud should have a silver lining.

Dan ended the segment by reading this article in the Times:
Government by Law, Not Faith
Published: February 28, 2007

The Supreme Court hears arguments today in a case that could have a broad impact on whether the courthouse door remains open to ordinary Americans who believe that the government is undermining the separation of church and state.

The question before the court is whether a group seeking to preserve the separation of church and state can mount a First Amendment challenge to the Bush administration’s “faith based” initiatives. The arguments turn on a technical question of whether taxpayers have standing, or the right to initiate this kind of suit, but the real-world implications are serious. If the court rules that the group does not have standing, it will be much harder to stop government from giving unconstitutional aid to religion.

Soon after taking office, President Bush established the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives, and faith-based offices in departments like Justice and Education. They were intended to increase the federal grant money going to religious organizations, and they seem to have been highly effective. The plaintiffs cited figures showing that from 2003 to 2005, the number of federal grants to religious groups increased 38 percent. The Freedom From Religion Foundation and several of its members sued. They say that because the faith-based initiatives favor religious applicants for grants over secular applicants, they violate the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment, which prohibits government support for religion.

These are profound issues, but because the administration challenged the right of the foundation and its members to sue, the courts must decide whether the plaintiffs have the right to sue in this case before they can consider the constitutionality of the faith-based programs. An appeals court has ruled, correctly, that the plaintiffs have standing.

In many cases, taxpayers are not in fact allowed to sue to challenge government actions, but the Supreme Court has long held that they have standing to allege violations of the Establishment Clause. Without this sort of broad standing, many entanglements between church and state would never make it to court.

The Bush administration is pushing an incorrect view of standing as it tries to stop the courts from reaching the First Amendment issue. Taxpayers can challenge the financing of religious activity, the administration claims, only when a Congressional statute expressly authorizes the spending. There is no statute behind the faith-based initiative.

In his decision for the appeals court, Judge Richard Posner of the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, in Chicago, convincingly explained why this argument is inconsistent with the Supreme Court’s precedents on the Establishment Clause.

Procedural issues like standing can have an enormous impact on the administration of justice if they close the courthouse door on people with valid legal claims. The Supreme Court has made it clear that taxpayers may challenge government assistance to religion. The justices should affirm Judge Posner’s ruling so the courts can move on to the important question: Do the Bush administration’s faith-based policies violate the Constitution?

Which I think warrants reprinting here because the question it asks remains valid, especially in light of the capitulation of the Supreme Court on the subject.

The guest, Dr. Bruce Flamm was on to discuss his debunking of prayer studies, specifically a prayer study conducted in the US and Korea, and detailed in this article in Skeptical Inquirer. Another interesting guest with another seemingly unbelievable story to tell. Unfortunately, it seems to be true. Those of us who rely on good science and proper peer review of findings should be outraged that these types of bogus studies are even published; much less published and never corrected.

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