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Archive for the ‘corruption’ Category

The president of Oral Roberts University, an Christian University based in in Tulsa,  is being sued by three former professors charing financial, political, and personal ‘irregularities’ by President Richard Roberts. More specifically the charges include:

Illegally mobilizing students to campaign for a Republican mayoral candidate…that the Roberts house on the campus had been remodeled 11 times in 14 years, that the university jet took family members on trips and that the family’s university-paid cellphones sent text messages to ‘under-age males — often between 1 a.m. and 3 a.m.’

Apparently these aren’t even the most ‘salacious’ of charges–the professors wanted to protect the image of the university the best they could.

Televangelist John Hagee, a member of the Oral Roberts board, had previously assured the press that the board “is conducting a full and thorough investigation.” That is laughable, considering the past allegations against Rev. Hagee that he personally benefited as CEO of the nonprofit Global Evangelism Television.

The case at Oral Roberts, along with the cases of John Hagee and Jim Bakker underscore how easy it is for individuals in positions of power in the church abuse their authority for personal gain. What’s worse in my mind (though not illegal) is how many televangelists are able to guilt money out of their generally poor and/or elderly viewers by promising them salvation. Every time I watch the 700 Club or a like program on the Christian Broadcasting Network, there is a story of a poor couple or individual who donated their money to the network and found themselves ‘blessed by God’ because of it. All the while, these donations fuel the lavished lifestyles of the televangelists.

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Verizon Policy Reversal

As an update to my earlier post, Verizon officials have decided to allow text messages from Naral after all, according to NYT.

Very quick turnaround, seeing as the initial policy was just reported last night.  I’d be willing to be bloggers had a good deal to do with this reversal.

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Or just the FCC? I get confused sometimes, anyway….

Interesting bit from NYT today over Verizon’s refusal to allow customers to receive text updates from NARAL. Verizon has cited their right to block “controversial or unsavory” text messages.  From the article:

The dispute over the Naral messages is a skirmish in the larger battle over the question of “net neutrality” — whether carriers or Internet service providers should have a voice in the content they provide to customers.

“This is right at the heart of the problem,” said Susan Crawford, a visiting professor at the University of Michigan law school, referring to the treatment of text messages. “The fact that wireless companies can choose to discriminate is very troubling.”

In turning down the program, Verizon, one of the nation’s two largest wireless carriers, told Naral that it does not accept programs from any group “that seeks to promote an agenda or distribute content that, in its discretion, may be seen as controversial or unsavory to any of our users.”

Very interesting how Verizon’s status as a private corporation are what allow it to overstep the bounds set for our government with regard to the First Amendment.

Also interesting how I happen to be a Verizon customer who was denied access to both Obama and Mormon ringtones. I guess if one really wanted to be involved in text activism, they could just switch plans.

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Today’s installment of What’s Going on in the Rest of the World comes from FT:

Graft Scandal Hits Kirchner Camp

Efforts by Argentina’s ruling party to launch an upbeat campaign to elect Cristina Fernández as president suffered an early setback on Tuesday as a leading opposition politician called for the resignation of a cabinet heavyweight accused of involvement in an alleged corruption scandal.

Pressure is on Ms Fernández’s husband, president Néstor Kirchner, to take action against Julio de Vido, planning minister, after officials linked to his ministry were implicated in an attempt to bring $800,000 (€586,000, £398,000) illegally into Argentina.

The dollar notes were found by airport customs officials in the suitcase of a Venezuelan businessman, ahead of a state visit by Hugo Chávez, Venezuelan president, last week.

Guido Antonini was entering the country on a government-chartered aircraft in the company of several Argentine officials under Mr de Vido’s charge.

The incident has cost the job of Claudio Uberti, the official responsible for commercial relations with Venezuela and Mr de Vido’s “right hand man”. Alejandro Rodríguez, political spokesperson for Robert Lavagna, the opposition candidate, on Tuesday said that Mr de Vido should follow.

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Emile Steiner blogs on conservative Florida State Representative Bob Allen, who was arrested last month for attempting to solicit oral sex from an undercover (male) police officer in a public restroom.

According to Project Vote Smart, Allen received an over 90% approval rating from the Christian Coalition in 2003-2006. Allen has also been a strong supporter of anti-gay initiatives and was a sponsor of a bill to strengthen Florida’s laws against public sex. And just for additional comical relief, Rep. Allen’s Florida House webpage lists “water sports” as his recreational interest.

Wow, I might almost feel bad for this guy if I could get over the hilarious irony.

update: I thought it couldn’t get any better but then I saw tonight’s Daily Show and learned Rep. Allen is also the state representative for John McCain’s presidential campaign. Stewart was hilarious by the way, still looking for a clip of the show.

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Here’s a fun video clip of the shouting match that occurred last Thursday in the House after a Democratic maneuver that effectively denied the Republicans their win over a procedural motion which would ensure that illegal immigrants would not get benefits from an agriculture spending bill. Full story here.

Looks more like the British House of Commons than the US Congress.

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Yesterday in the House, Representative Todd Akin (R-MO) introduced H.RES.598, supporting the goals of the Ten Commandments Commission and congratulating the Commission and its supporters for their key role in promoting and ensuring recognition of the Ten Commandments as the cornerstone of Western law. It has been referred to the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform.

Where even to begin? First, it is a horrible waste of legislative time to address a purely symbolic resolution, especially with all of the far more pressing issues the country is facing.

Second, even though it is a symbolic resolution that will have no effect on the law if passed, I find it problematic that the legislature would support an organization whose goal is to restore the Ten Commandments in public places in spite of the 1980 Supreme Court Decision Stone v. Graham, which found that the Commandments are “undeniably a sacred text,” and that their public display violates the First Amendment.

Third, the language of the H.RES.598 is facetious. It seeks to congratulate the Ten Commandments Commission for “promoting and ensuring recognition of the Ten Commandments as the cornerstone of Western law.” The Commission is not actually concerned with dubious premise that the Ten Commandments are the base of Western Law, they wish to prop up the Commandments as the Word of God itself, in hopes of giving the Bible greater authority in our laws and daily lives. Their mission statement reads:

As committed people of faith, we have an obligation to stand up together for God. His law is not only a profile of His character, but also a moral mirror to show humans where we have fallen short in both honoring the Creator, and in respecting our fellow man. Therefore, as we witness the degradation of society, we must come together in a spirit of unity, harmony, and reconciliation to bring the Word of God back to the forefront of our national conscience.

Now to address this claim that the Commandments are the foundation of Western law. For starters, the first four are explicitly religious and have nothing to do with secular law.

Further, the first documentation of written law was Hammurabi’s Code, which was written in approximately 1760 BC, 1000 years before the Ten Commandments. The Ten Commandments actually echoes many of the provisions of Hammurabi’s Code.

Then there’s the Magna Carta. Marci Hamilton, professor of law at Yeshiva University writes a nice column on the Ten Commandments, where she writes:

The Magna Carta, which forced the British King John to give up many rights to the aristocracy, was first set down in 1215 A.D. It was the first declaration that the people’s ruler was under the law, the first check on royal power, and it introduced nascent concepts of due process, jury by one’s peers, freedom of religion, and no taxation without representation.

Other monarchs agreed to future Magna Cartas, and it came to be considered central to the law of England. Even though it took a back seat during the 1500s, it was re-discovered and embraced in the 1600s to fight the tyranny of the Stuarts. Parliament used it as a wedge against the monarchs, in effect, creating the beginnings of the separation of powers we now take for granted. It is common
knowledge that the principles of the Magna Carta were carried across the
Atlantic to the New World and the colonies, and bore fruit in the United States
Constitution and state laws.

The most recent copy was recently installed with much pomp and circumstance in a handsome display in Philadelphia’s Independence Visitors’ Center. There is no question that the Magna Carta–which was the first written declaration of rights by landowners against the monarchy–was a strong influence on later rights declarations, including the Declaration of Independence and the Bill of Rights.

The vast majority of American law, including the rules against killing and stealing, was borrowed in whole or in part from the British common law–which itself was viewed either as rising from natural law or from custom, not from the Ten Commandments.

With all of that being said. Americans who support the separation of church and state should reject even symbolic encroachments of religion in the public square. However we should not loose site of the substantive encroachments that the Religious Right continue to push for such as: Bush’s Faith-Based Initiatives, religious school voucher programs, the teaching of Creationism in science classes, and the denial of equal rights to gay Americans.

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