Garland Church Should Have Known Youth Ministers Were Child Sex Abusers, Suit Says

Categories: Religion

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Screengrab/Google Maps
The Arapaho Road Baptist Church.
Even before Joshua and Jordan Earls were formally charged with making child pornography and child molestation in 2013, it should have been obvious to the Garland church where they worked that something was awry, one of their victims says.

Josh moved to Texas to work as a youth minister at the Arapaho Road Baptist Church in 2008, and his brother "Jordy" followed him the next year. They quickly fell into favor with the kids in the youth group and their parents. They paid particularly close attention to several teenage girls, attention that would eventually lead to criminal charges.

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Ted Cruz Almost Got It Right on Vaccines Until He Totally Didn't

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Jenny McCarthy at E3 2006 by Gamerscoreblog. Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons.
Ted Cruz joins the list of deep thinkers who don't know when to stop talking about vaccinations. That's him on the left.
As the vaccine "debate" has gained speed in the aftermath of a measles outbreak centered on Disneyland in California, reaction from the libertarian right has been fascinating. Senator Rand Paul stuttered something about vaccines needing to be voluntary and walked up to the thoroughly debunked "vaccines can cause mental disorders" line. New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, who isn't a libertarian but likes to pander to them, insisted that there must be an element of parental choice in whether or not kids get vaccinated from life threatening diseases. DFW's own Glenn Beck, who's really more of an anarchist than anything, stoked the anti-vaccination flames. After rehashing the thoroughly debunked link between certain vaccines and autism, he said that anti-vaxxers were subject to undue persecution.

"Where is anybody saying, 'My gosh, we're living in the days of Galileo!' The church has become the state. And if you don't practice their religion exactly the way they tell you to practice it, you're done. How many people have lost their jobs, have lost their credibility? We have got to unite. We've got to stand together," he said Tuesday on The Blaze, his TV network.

It was only a matter of time before Texas Senator Ted Cruz, who actually thinks he has a legitimate shot at being president, had to weigh in. He started off reasonably.

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Motorcyclists May Bring Guns to Garland Protest Against Religious Violence, Islam

Categories: Religion

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Facebook/Screengrab
This weekend, a religious media company is hosting a huge event in a taxpayer-funded building. Sounds like another day in the life of Texas, but it's not because, in this case, the religious conference is a Muslim one. Just a week after the Charlie Hebdo attacks in Paris, the Chicago-based Muslim organization SoundVision is leasing space from Garland ISD to host "Stand with the Prophet Against Terror & Hate," a conference whose stated mission is to combat Islamophobia:

The fight in defense of our Prophet against the $160 million Islamophobia machine is continuous, and groups like ISIS and Boko Haram only increase the media's ammunition to incriminate Muslims.

The backlash has been swift. The Garland Tea Party is speaking out against the event to local news and conservative blogs, and the so-called American Badass Coalition, a Facebook page run by a motorcyclist named John Harrington, is organizing a protest motorcycle ride "to STOP Islamofascists," or so they say.

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Flower Mound's Year of the Bible Was a Flop

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Bruno Sanchez-Andrade Nuño
The product tie-ins were a disaster.
Twelve months ago, Flower Mound Mayor Tom Hayden left his seat behind the Town Council table, stood before the unusually robust audience and issued a bold call for unity. Flower Moundians -ites residents, regardless of their creed, should set aside their differences and spend the next year carefully studying the Word of God.

And so Flower Mound's Year of the Bible was born, as was the official Year of the Bible website which, to avoid any suggestion that municipal government was unconstitutionally endorsing a particular religion, was run by a local church. "The idea of this," Hayden said at the time, "is to encourage our community to discuss the Bible -- to discuss it with your kids, to discuss it as a family."

So, with a new year approaching and 2014 drawing to a close, we have to wonder: Was it a success? Were old divisions healed? Did scales fall from eyes? (Side question: Did anyone think that, Dear God, maybe this isn't appropriate to discuss with my kids?

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Christian Plaques Midlothian ISD Parents Love So Much Not Coming Down Yet

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WFAA via Twitter
Their life here on Earth is not yet complete.
As they have since Midlothian ISD first received a complaint from the Freedom From Religion Foundation about the overtly Christian plaques that adorn two of its elementary schools, community members at a school board meeting this week supported the plaques with a unified voice.

See also: Midlothian Parents Protest Removal of Hilariously Unconstitutional Plaques

After hearing the speakers, board president Todd Hemphil, said that "the plaques are not covered and we do not plan to take further action to cover them up again," according to The Dallas Morning News reported.

Some might call that a pretty strong sign that Midlothian isn't going to take the plaques down unless someone, a judge perhaps, tells the district it must. The questions is, who's going to get a judge to do it?

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Rowlett Atheists Want to Give City Council Invocation; Mayor Says No "Spaghetti God"

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City of Rowlett
Mayor Todd Gottel is defending a Rowlett policy that says invocation leaders must be religious, but he may soon have to let Metroplex Atheists in on the fun.

Metroplex Atheists, with the legal aid of Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) delivered a letter last week to the Rowlett City Council requesting that they be added to the list of invocation leaders. It's not the first time the group has sought recognition with the City Council, but this latest move may be the closest they get to victory.

In 2010, Metroplex Atheists first requested that the invocation be eliminated altogether. After Metroplex Atheists were denied, the City Council re-evaluated the invocation policy, and began reaching out to local religious institutions to expand the diversity of the invocation list. City policy currently dictates that invocation be led by a religious leader, and that their institution be located in Rowlett.

Rowlett Mayor Todd Gottel is defending the policy, saying the city offers invocation slots to every religious institution in Rowlett. Because there are no synagogues, mosques, temples or other non-Christian religious place of worship in the city, that means a Christian generally delivers the invocation.

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Glenn Beck Spoke at a Christian College, and Evangelicals Are Mad Because He's a Mormon

Categories: Religion

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Via.
There are several thousand reasons one might credibly object to Westlake resident Glenn Beck delivering a university commencement address. One is that he represents the antithesis of facts and learning and reasoned debate, i.e. pretty much everything an institution of higher learning holds dear. Another is that he's a fearmonger who's built a media empire by playing on the most vile racist/xenophobic/Islamophobic/partisan impulses of his audience.

Beck's appearance late last month at ultra-Christian Liberty University in Virginia has become controversial for an entirely different reason: because he's a Mormon.

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With Dallas City Council's Opening Prayers, It's Jesus 96, Allah 0

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Daquella manera
At the beginning of every Dallas City Council meeting, long before most spectators (and many council members) are fully awake, a religious leader of some stripe stands at the podium and offers a brief prayer. A few months ago, we wondered whether the U.S. Supreme Court might declare such displays unconstitutional, but we needn't have. In its decision in Town of Greece v. Galloway, a five-justice majority declared that inviting clergy to pray at city meetings does not violate the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment. So if a city wants to open every single meeting with a Baptist preacher praising Jesus, that's OK basically so long as government officials aren't performing forced baptisms.

Some commentators complained that the decision could make life uncomfortable for religious minorities participating in city government, but Slate editor David Plotz questioned the significance of the decision on last Friday's episode of the Slate Political Gabfest. More than anything, he said, it's a symptom of the national divide between towns (small and homogeneous) and cities (large and diverse).

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Dallas Pastor Facing Discipline Over Gay Wedding Gets Defenders He Doesn't Want

Categories: Religion

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Bill McElvaney
Faithful America -- think Change.org for progressive Christians -- has spent the past several days promoting a petition on the site that calls on the United Methodist Church to go easy on the Reverend Bill McElvaney.

McElvaney, 85, a retired pastor and professor emeritus at SMU, last month presided over the wedding of octogenarians Jack Evans and George Harris, two of his former congregants at Northaven United Methodist Church who decided to finally tie the knot after 53 years together. The denomination, which bars its clergy from performing same-sex weddings, suspended McElvaney and could have him defrocked.

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The Black Hebrew Israelites Do Downtown Dallas

Categories: Religion

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In 1997, back when major metropolitan dailies apparently had enough cash lying around to send staff writers to Israel, The Dallas Morning News profiled the Black Hebrew Israelites, a group of expat African-Americans claiming to be descendents of the tribe of Judah and, therefore, Jews.

It was an unexpected mashup of '60's black nationalism and Old Testament literalism, a tiny but close-knit community stubbornly clinging to the fringes of Israeli society and mainstream religion.

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