Category: religion

Cathy Samford Lawsuit

Cathy Samford Lawsuit
Cathy Samford was fired for being pregnant out of wedlock. Photo: WFAA

Cathy Samford was fired by Heritage Christian Academy for being pregnant while single. Ms Samford says that what Heritage has done is against the discrimination laws of our country. Heritage says being able to discriminate against Ms Samford is part of their religious freedom.

Does religious freedom shield organizations from the discrimination laws of our country? Should it?

My Cathy Samford Lawsuit Posts

Other Cathy Samford Lawsuit Sources

Religious Freedom

I think everybody has a basic fundamental right to religious freedom. If a person wants to think wearing magic underwear protects him from the evils of the world then more power to him. I happen to think that religious freedom by definition has to include freedom from religion too. The problem is that some people seem to think that they can use religious freedom as some sort of shield that allows them to do things that would be considered pretty crazy without the context of their religion.

Take for instance the case of 16-year-old Austin Sprout losing his life. Austin died because his parents prayed instead of seeking basic medical care. Thankfully the remaining 6 Bellew children have been taken away and the parents are being charged with manslaughter.

I recently wrote about the case of Cathy Samford being fired for being an unwed mother. The law doesn’t allow for the wholesale discrimination by an employer, religious or otherwise and I hope Ms Samford wins her lawsuit.

One person’s religious freedom ends where another person’s rights begin. If it’s some religion’s view that they’re tasked with God to kill all albino people, there would rightly be outrage and condemnation of those people. I think the same should go for cases like the two I’ve outlined here.

In conclusion, I will fight for your right to think that magic underwear protects you from evil (although I reserve the right to criticize you for it). Part of that fight includes our right to be from religion if we choose.

Cathy Samford Fired For Being Unwed Mother

I’m not sure if you guys have heard but Cathy Samford was fired from Heritage Christian Academy for being pregnant while single. Click the link to read the details but HCA administration says:

“It’s not that she’s pregnant. The issue here is being an unmarried mother,” Taylor said. “Everything that we stand for says that we want our teachers, who we consider to be in the ministry, to model what a Christian man or woman should be.”

While Ms Samford’s attorney disagrees:

“It’s against the law to fire someone for them taking a pregnancy leave and you can’t preventatively fire someone. You can’t contract around anti-discrimination laws,” Walsh told “Just being generally religious or upholding Christian values is not enough to evoke the ministerial exception.”

On behalf of its client Heritage Christian Academy (HCA), Liberty Institute responds

“As the U.S Supreme Court has recognized, the First Amendment grants schools like HCA religious freedom to make decisions on whom to hire and fire based upon religious reasons,” said Jeff Mateer, Liberty Institute general counsel.  “The U.S. Supreme Court’s 9-0 decision from earlier this year in Hosanna-Tabor Evangelical Lutheran Church and School v. EEOC makes clear that the First Amendment bars a school teacher’s wrongful termination action based upon an alleged violation of employment discrimination laws asserted against a Christian school.  Our Constitution protects Christian schools and other religious organizations like HCA from interference with their religious beliefs and practices.”

I looked up Hosanna-Tabor Evangelical Lutheran Church and School v. EEOC and I don’t think the ruling means what Liberty Institute thinks it means:

The court ruled unanimously that federal discrimination laws do not apply to religious organizations’ selection of religious leaders.


The decision explicitly left open the question whether religious organizations could be sued for other reasons with the sentence “We express no view on whether the exception bars other types of suits, including actions by employees alleging breach of contract or tortious conduct.”

As to my personal opinion, I think the school is in the wrong here. I’m no lawyer but I don’t think private schools/organizations can discriminate against women like this then hide behind the shield of religious freedom. I think everybody is free to practice their religion as they see fit but religion freedom stops where the rights of other people starts. I actually think what HCA has done is immoral. They’ve fired an expecting mother who now has no insurance benefits and presumably their family income is now significantly less.

It’ll be interesting to see how this plays out in court and I’ll be following it closely.


Angry Atheists

Last night I got into a “discussion” with an atheist, on the Internet, about religion. I’m sure that my Christian friends are looking at me with their “wow, that was a really stupid fucking thing to do” eyes but sometimes I’m kind of naive.  Eric is a friend of mine… we’re not very close friends as we’ve only met a couple times in person but I thought we had enough common interests and ideas about things that a better friendship could develop. Plus, I don’t actually know many other atheists and I really want to.

Eric says a good way to confront Christians is to ask them hard questions and I couldn’t agree more! He was asking a bunch of questions on Twitter with the same theme but here is the specific one that I was trying to address:

@ericragle: Serious question to Christians: would you kill me if your god told you to? No cop outs. Just answer. #teamjesus

As a fellow outspoken atheist, I thought this was a bad question. I thought it was a bad question based on my conversations and experiences with Christians. To me, this is a strawman question because I don’t know a single Christian who would agree with the premise: That God would ask them to kill a person. It’s a non-starter for all of the Christians I know and probably somewhat offensive.

The question is based on the Old Testament idea that God commands people to be killed. There is plenty of scripture to support this idea in the OT. The problem is that the Christians I know say that since Jesus died for their sins, they no longer have to follow all of the bad bits from the OT. They don’t have to stone their children to death for talking back nor do they have to stone people to death for working on the Sabbath.

The tactic of beating Christians over the head with Old Testament scripture strikes me as Atheist 101; I’ve been there,  done that. I’ve tried to pin Christians down about stuff in the Old Testament but they dismiss my arguments based on the idea of Jesus dying for their sins. It took me a while of asking different Christians about Old Testament atrocities to finally understand that I wasn’t getting anywhere with that line of questions. I was reaching out to Eric with the best of intentions. I felt that I had this experience under my belt and assumed that since Eric was asking this question that maybe he didn’t have that type of experience yet. I was trying to bridge the gap by sharing my own experience and opinions. Hey, I’m an opinionated atheist, what do you expect? 😉

The discussion went off the rails and I’ve been trying to understand why so I don’t make the same mistake in the future. Here is the last tweet in the exchange if you’re interested in trying to follow it. I’m still turning this over in my mind but so far there are 3 main reasons I’ve come with up it as how it went off the rails.

  1. Trying to have a detailed discussion about something as complex and nuanced as religion is very hard in 140 characters. A lot of detail and back ground has to be left out because of that character limitation. I feel that if this discussion could have happened in person, it wouldn’t have ended up where it ended up.
  2. I made the mistake of assuming that most Christians are like my friends and family. My Christian friends and family are all pretty cool and reasonable people… they just have this peculiarity of thinking there is a magic man in the sky. 😛 I think Eric was mostly talking to/about Pat Robertson type Christians. You know, those idiots who think that God sent Katrina to New Orleans because the city was decadent.
  3. I was trying to make my point for too long. I felt like Eric wasn’t understanding me so I kept at it. Looking back, I realize now that he just didn’t agree and I should have just dropped it sooner.

I try real hard to understand Christian logic, such as it is, so that I can pin them down with the questions I’m asking them. Here are the questions that I’m asking Christians when the right opportunity presents itself:

  1. After natural disasters, it’s inevitable that a person is pulled from the rubble of a collapsed building alive and mostly unharmed.  That’s called a miracle by a lot of Christians (i.e., God personally intervened to save this person). If God gets the credit for saving the one person, who gets the blame for the hundreds that perished?
  2. If God loves us, why would he allow so many innocent people to perish in natural disasters like the tornadoes in KY? If he’s unable to effect the weather then he’s not omnipotent. If he chooses not to, does he love us?
  3. The #1 factor in your religion is where you’re born. If you are born in North America, you’ll probably be a Christian. If you’re born in the Middle East, you’re probably going to be Muslim. If you’re born in India, you’ll probably be a Hindu. Why?

Live and learn.

Our Atheist-Christian marriage

I’m an atheist and my wife is a Christian. How can this work you might ask? Well… it’s not always easy. I can’t speak to her perspective or experiences but I can speak to my own.

First and probably most importantly, my wife isn’t a fundamentalist, young earth conservative type Christian. I personally would describe her as spiritual but not terribly religious. I hope she’s not offended by that. I’m way more outspoken about my atheism than she is about her religion. Plus, she’s pretty liberal in her politics so we’re of the same mind on a lot of things. I think that if she were a fundamentalist, young earther, I’m not sure this could work!

I find that I do have to pull punches at home sometimes, especially when I’m feeling especially ranty about religion. In the past, I’ve been going off about something religiousy and I’ve hurt her feelings because I’ve said something too forcefully or I’ve generalized too much.  I’ve always prided myself on being able to disagree with people without being disagreeable but that filter would slip at home. It only took a couple times of that happening before I realized I needed to be as careful at home as I am around religious friends, because after all, I live with a houseful of Christians!

I know for a fact that some Christians wouldn’t even consider an atheist spouse and vice versa.  I’m glad this isn’t the case with us! We’re able to find common ground (our love for each other) and focus on the things we do agree on instead of dwelling on the things that we disagree on. I enjoy discussing this topic quite a bit so being able to exercise that part of my brain is pretty important to me and Jen has gotten pretty good at being able to engage back with me and it’s been a while since feelings have been hurt or we’ve become frustrated with each other. I think that if we were going to have kids together, the difference in religion could be more of a big deal. I would have to insist that our kid(s) are brought up in a secular environment and I have no doubt that she’d want our kid(s) to go to church. I’m glad that isn’t a fight we need to have. Her kids with her ex are their kids. I don’t really get a say in their upbringing; I just get to pay for them. 😉

It’s not too uncommon for her to invite me to church on occasion and I generally will accept unless I have something else planned or the weekly chores have just piled up too much. I don’t think she’s inviting me because she’s hopeful that I’ll convert. My impression is that she invites me because she enjoys my company and just enjoys having her husband with her in that environment. I agree to go because I love her and this is something I’m willing to do for her. Some of our friends go to Jen’s church so it’s also nice to touch base with them too.

In conclusion, I don’t think two people have to agree on everything in order to be a happy couple. In fact, I think there are probably no couples that believe 100% the same. I respect Jen’s right to have her own opinion, even if I don’t agree with it. I love her as herself and I think she loves me as myself (as long as I’m not being a dick about it). I’m not sure if that’s helpful but that’s my take on it.

How We Know the Bible is True part 1

My wife got baptized at church today and she invited me along. It just happened that the topic of the sermon was “how do we know the Bible is true” (paraphrasing). As the preacher, Dennis was giving the sermon, I took a few notes and I wanted to respond to a few of the points that were made.

Claim – The Bible is true because it’s historically accurate

Response – Saying that the Bible is historically accurate because it names some actual places is like saying that Harry Potter is real because some of the story takes place in London.

Claim – 500 people saw the resurrected Jesus!

Response – Dennis didn’t really source this during the sermon but I believe that the source of this of information is from 1 Corinthians 15:6:

6 After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers and sisters at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep.

So, the Bible is true because it’s historically accurate. We know it’s historically accurate because 500 people saw Jesus resurrected, it says so right here in the Bible. 😐 I hope I don’t have to explain how that’s circular logic and why that makes the claim suspect.

Claim – No Archeology digs have falsified the bible.

Response – This is not true. Exodus 12:37-38 says  37And the children of Israel journeyed from Rameses to Succoth, about six hundred thousand on foot that were men, beside children.  Archaeological evidence of the largely indigenous origins of Israel is “overwhelming,” and leaves “no room for an Exodus from Egypt or a 40-year pilgrimage through the Sinai wilderness.” (source). At the very least, there is no evidence in the archaeological record that supports the idea of a mass exodus of 600k+ people from Egypt during that time frame.

Claim – The Bible is scientifically accurate!

Response – No, I don’t think this is right. Here are a couple examples:

Leviticus 11:6 says that rabbits chew their cud when we know that they do not:

 6And the hare, because he cheweth the cud, but divideth not the hoof; he is unclean unto you.

Leviticus 11:13-19 appears to say that bats are a type of bird, when modern science knows them to be a type of mammal:

13 ‘And these you shall regard as an abomination among the birds; they shall not be eaten, they are an abomination: the eagle, the vulture, the buzzard, 14 the kite, and the falcon after its kind; 15 every raven after its kind, 16 the ostrich, the short-eared owl, the sea gull, and the hawk after its kind; 17 the little owl, the fisher owl, and the screech owl; 18 the white owl, the jackdaw, and the carrion vulture; 19 the stork, the heron after its kind, the hoopoe, and the bat.

Claim – Using world is flat argument to support idea that Bible is scientifically accurate.

Response – I believe he supported this idea by quoting Isaiah 40:22:

22 He sits enthroned above the circle of the earth,
and its people are like grasshoppers.
He stretches out the heavens like a canopy,
and spreads them out like a tent to live in.

A circle isn’t a sphere. It’s flat and round like a pancake. In Job 38:14 the earth is described like a clay seal:

14 It takes on form like clay under a seal,
And stands out like a garment.

Check out the image to see what a clay seal looks like.

I find this specific topic a bit frustrating though as it was the church that found Galileo “vehemently suspect of heresy” and then he was forced to recant, and spent the rest of his life under house arrest. So the modern day preacher gets to sit there and say that science was wrong about a flat earth, when in fact Galileo, who was known as ‘father of modern observational astronomy”, the “father of modern physics”, the “father of science”, and “the Father of Modern Science”, was persecuted and tried by. the. church for trying to tell the world what we know now is true today. The irony!

There were more claims but I think I’ve already addressed the low hanging fruit that proves without a doubt that the last claim, There is nothing that isn’t true in the Bible, is flatly false. They weren’t able to finish the sermon this week so I’m pretty tempted to go back next week in order to get the rest of the claims… we’ll see.

I hope you don’t get the wrong idea about what I’m trying to do with this post. People’s personal faith is their business. Believe your beliefs because they make sense to you or it makes you feel good. Think of what the Bible says as analogies or allegories if you want but when somebody stands up and makes verifiably false claims, I’m not one to just sit by and let those go by without comment. All the people at the church want to believe what Dennis is saying. The problem is that what he was saying today is plainly false.

Stick with positive messages, support them with scripture if you must. But you’re not going to convince people like me who care about science that the Bible is scientifically accurate. Your target audience, my wife, doesn’t really care much about the scientific details so what’s the point?

Why I’m an atheist

I enjoy talking about religion in general but a few specific events are prompting this blog post. First, my wife has recently been getting more involved with her church and we’ve been hanging out with her church friends, so church and religion and God has been a topic of conversation around here. Second, my daughter’s boyfriend asked her why I didn’t believe. Finally, one of my friends recently asked me why do I care about religion if I don’t believe it.

My atheism has always been my default mode. I wasn’t raised in a religious family but neither was I purposefully influenced to not believe in a god. The topic of religion was never a topic of conversation in my house. I only knew my dad was an atheist because I overheard him tell the door to door church people so. My dad passed away when I was 11 years old and I moved up to TN to live with my mom but the topic of religion still never really seemed to come up. I remember going to a vacation bible study thing once but that was pretty much it.

There was never some sort of event that caused me to get mad and reject the idea of God. My dad passing away was terrible at 11 years old but I wasn’t sobbing in the rain, shaking my first towards the heavens, angrily telling God that I reject him.

As an adult, my reasoning is pretty standard atheistic fare. AFAIK, there is zero evidence for the existence of gods of any sort. Science, using the powers of observation, logic and reason does a great job of explaining how things work and where they come from. We know from science that the world is 4+ billion years old and life evolved over a long period of time from less complex organism to more complex organisms. Those two things automatically put most people’s standard interpretation of their religion directly at odds with observable and provable facts. It’s true, I can’t prove that God doesn’t exist but neither can anybody prove that the Invisible Pink Unicorn, the Flying Spaghetti Monster or the celestial tea pot doesn’t exist. I do wonder how religious people know they have the right god. Of the thousands that have come before, how do they know they have the right one?

If I may quote Stephen Roberts:

I contend that we are both atheists. I just believe in one fewer god than you do. When you understand why you dismiss all the other possible gods, you will understand why I dismiss yours

On the question of why I care about religion, I care because it’s so pervasive in our society. CJ Werleman says it better than I can so I’ll just quote him:

Specifically, where I care more than an emotionally needy Care Bear is when the religious step outside of their own abodes and thrust their lunacy into social and political discourse. Particularly, it’s the sneaky circumvention of the separation between church and state. Here are some examples of why religious belief grabs my goat:

  • Tax exemption for churches. This increases the overall tax burden for everybody else. Let’s be honest, churches are generally the last institutions that need financial support from the government.
  • Religious ideology blocks critical advances in scientific breakthrough. For instance, George W. Bush’s veto of stem cell research has set back one of the most critical medical advancements against diseases such as Parkinsons’, cancer, and more.
  • The perversion of school curriculum with the sneaky and disingenuous rebranding of Creationism as Intelligent Design.
  • Some states prohibit non-believers from holding positions of elected office.
  • Some organizations prohibit homosexuals and atheists from membership due to religious ideology i.e. the Boy Scouts.
  • Religious belief often influences public policy. One such example is Republican John Shimkus (R-ILL), member of the Energy and Commerce Committee, stated in 2009 that there was no need to concern ourselves with climate change because God promised in the Bible not to destroy the world again.
  • Faith-based initiatives consume  tax dollars that could be otherwise used for more effective or better deserving projects.
  • Religious groups have a great deal of political power.
  • Faith based programs provide false information and individual harm i.e. ‘Abstinence Only’, and Christian Scientists, who deny their children medicine.

That’s why I care too.



My response to Melissa Ellis’s sex post

My friend Melissa Ellis recently wrote a blog post about her experiences navigating the sex issue as she was growing up (The Virgin… Missy?). It’s a pretty funny read so go check it out. Consider this a non-religious, sex positive response.

I was raised to “wait until after marriage”–mainly because it was a sin not to. My own fault for not digging deeper into that at a younger age. But as I covered in a previous blog post, A Father’s Protection, I have finally realized that it’s so much more than that. He has asked us to remain pure to protect our hearts, not because He’s a tyrant and just wants to set up a bunch of needless rules. I am so glad I’ve moved passed that original theory! How imprisoning to feel that way!

If a couple waits until marriage before they have sex, I feel that they’re gambling on the happiness and satisfaction of their relationship. Sex isn’t everything but it’s a pretty big part of a healthy, happy relationship. If you’re not going on a test drive, how do you know it’s going to work for you? What if you and your new partner are not compatible sexually? What if your partner is into BDSM or swinging or cuckolding but you only like missionary, vanilla sex? What if you love oral sex but your partner can’t/won’t go there?

When you’re under the spell of new love, it’s easy to think that anything is possible and that nothing could get in the way of that new love. As that new/crazy/awesome love turns into the long term, lasting love, it’s going to become harder to overlook and work around those differences. When people are unsatisfied, the temptation to step outside the relationship to get that satisfaction is greater.

We don’t buy cars without taking them for a test drive and we only keep them for a few years. Please don’t make a life long commitment without going on the equivalent of a test drive. In fact, don’t just have sex, live together and have a long engagement!

I wish it were just that simple. And maybe it could be if I could figure out some crazy way to close off my fleshy desires.

Few things can induce guilt and shame like religion can. As I said in the comments of her original post, sex is part of the human condition. It makes me a little sad that people feel ashamed of desires that are part of what makes humans human. Be safe, protect yourself, use multiple forms of birth control but have sex and don’t feel guilty about! Protecting yourself also means protecting your emotional self so FFS, try not to fall in love every time you have sex.

Yes, there are risks with sex but there’s risk in lots of things we do. Driving, cycling, bungee jumping, sky diving, hiking, camping, hunting etc. Yet, nobody is suggesting that we abstain from driving because you might get into an accident and DIE. We protect ourselves and mitigate the risk but we still take the risk every time we get behind the wheel and driving doesn’t feel nearly as good. Oops, fleshly desires!

We were having a brief back and forth in the comments of her post.

I also believe that if I hold to His word to remain pure till my next marriage, then my next marriage will be abundantly blessed to withstand many of life’s obstacles. This does not mean that I expect God to “just take care of it”. This means that with my faith in Him, I have become stronger and wise enough to battle through them. I believe He will send me someone who is not only compatible with me on a spiritual and personal level, but also a sexual level.

But then she said:

I am aware that some non-believers have wonderful marriages as well. Maybe even non-believers who had premarital sex. What do I say to that? Luck. Divine intervention. How about “way to go!”…And yes, even Christian couples have divorces too. Does this mean that God didn’t show them favor? No. I think it means he has something better in store for them in the future.

I hope everybody can see the problem with the logic. On one hand, if  she remains pure until her next marriage, then she will be abundantly blessed. On the other hand, if a Christian couple gets divorced, it just means God has a different plan for them. If a secular couple have long fruitful and fulfilling marriage then it’s luck or divine intervention!

So to summarize, if you live good and pure, God sends you good stuff. If you’re not sent good stuff then it’s luck or God has other plans for you. This cognitive disconnect is very interesting to me… I just don’t understand how perfectly intelligent and smart people think this makes sense. God gets all the credit but none of the blame. Non sequitur.

She tried to explain it to me but it just went further and further into religion and the “logic” became fuzzier and fuzzier to my secular brain. Hey, that’s fine… variety is the spice of life so we agree to disagree and we’re still good friends.

In conclusion, sex isn’t this bad terrible thing, just manage the risk. Women shouldn’t allow men to make them feel bad for their sexual desires and religion should be avoided; keys to happiness. 😉