Morality

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  Hate Crime Rate Up, Fbi SaysNovember 20, 2007 12:32 Hate crimes crept up slightly in the Bay State last year but shot up nearly 8 percent nationwide, with more than half the victims targeted because of their race, according to a new FBI report.

Massachusetts law enforcement officials reported 379 hate crime incidents last year, a slight increase from the 372 the year before.

The report comes amid escalating racial tension at the MBTA, the state’s largest transit authority. The Herald last week reported two incidents involving nooses, including one in which a black train conductor found a hangman’s rope on the floor of his cab.

The Herald also reported last week that the T has been the subject of more than a dozen racial discrimination complaints in the past two years, including one from a Kenyan woman who said a bus driver did nothing as she was attacked by two women, called the N-word and told to sit in the back of the bus.

 
  Sex Scandal Rocks Atlanta-Area MegachurchNovember 20, 2007 07:46 The 80-year-old leader of a suburban Atlanta megachurch is at the center of a sex scandal of biblical dimensions: He slept with his brother's wife and fathered a child by her.

Members of Archbishop Earl Paulk's family stood at the pulpit of the Cathedral of the Holy Spirit at Chapel Hill Harvester Church a few Sundays ago and revealed the secret exposed by a recent court-ordered paternity test.

In truth, this is not the first — or even the second — sex scandal to engulf Paulk and the independent, charismatic church. But this time, he could be in trouble with the law for lying under oath about the affair.

The living proof of that lie is 34-year-old D.E. Paulk, who for years was known publicly as Earl Paulk's nephew.

"I am so very sorry for the collateral damage it's caused our family and the families hurt by the removing of the veil that hid our humanity and our sinfulness," said D.E. Paulk, who received the mantle of head pastor a year and a half ago.

D.E. Paulk said he did not learn the secret of his parentage until the paternity test. "I was disappointed, and I was surprised," he said.

Earl Paulk, his brother, Don, and his sister-in-law, Clariece, did not return calls for comment.

A judge ordered the test at the request of the Cobb County district attorney's office and the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, which are investigating Earl Paulk for possible perjury and false-swearing charges stemming from a lawsuit.

The archbishop, his brother and the church are being sued by former church employee Mona Brewer, who says Earl Paulk manipulated her into an affair from 1989 to 2003 by telling her it was her only path to salvation. Earl Paulk admitted to the affair in front of the church last January.

In a 2006 deposition stemming from the lawsuit, the archbishop said under oath that the only woman he had ever had sex with outside of his marriage was Brewer. But the paternity test said otherwise.

So far no charges have been filed against Earl Paulk. District Attorney Pat Head and GBI spokesman John Bankhead would not comment.

The shocking results of the paternity test are speeding up a transformation already under way in the church after more than a decade of sex scandals and lawsuits involving the Paulks, D.E. Paulk said.

"It was a necessary evil to bring us back to a God-consciousness," said the younger Paulk, explaining that the church had become too personality-driven and prone to pastor worship.

The flashy megachurch began in 1960 with just a few dozen members in the Little Five Points neighborhood of Atlanta. Now, it is in the suburbs on a 100-acre expanse, a collection of buildings surrounding a neo-Gothic cathedral.

For years the church was at the forefront of many social movements — admitting black members in the 1960s, ordaining women and opening its doors to gays.

At its peak in the early 1990s, it claimed about 10,000 members and 24 pastors and was a media powerhouse. By soliciting tithes of 10 percent from each member's income, the church was able to build a Bible college, two schools, a worldwide TV ministry and a $12 million sanctuary the size of a fortress.

Today, though, membership is down to about 1,500, the church has 18 pastors, most of them volunteers, and the Bible college and TV ministry have shuttered — a downturn blamed largely on complaints about the alleged sexual transgressions of the elder Paulks.

In 1992, a church member claimed she was pressured into a sexual relationship with Don Paulk. Other women also claimed they had been coerced into sex with Earl Paulk and other members of the church's administration.

The church countered with a $24 million libel suit against seven former church members. The lawsuit was later dropped.

Jan Royston, who left the church in 1992, started an online support group for former members to discuss their crushed faith and hurt feelings.

"This is a cult. And you escape from a cult," she said. "We all escaped."

These days, Earl Paulk has a much-reduced role at the cathedral, giving 10-minute lectures as part of Sunday morning worship each week.

"My uncle is 100 percent guilty, but his accusers are guilty as well," D.E. Paulk said, declining to talk further about the lawsuits.
  Thompson: Overturning Roe V Wade Is The GoalNovember 12, 2007 13:53 Republican presidential candidate Fred Thompson today defended his opposition to a federal constitutional amendment to ban abortion and contended it was more realistic to appoint conservative judges to outlaw abortion or let the states decide whether the procedure should be legal.

Thompson's comments, made during a swing through Iowa, where his campaign has languished in its early stages, also came on the eve of his candidacy's expected endorsement by the National Right to Life Committee.

"What I have concentrated on is a way to get to the same goal (to ban abortion) that's achievable. We could not get to first base on an amendment when we controlled both houses and the presidency," Thompson told reporters after a coffeehouse meet-and-greet.

"Now the question is, what do you do about that? Well I think the answer is to get better judges and to appoint people to the Supreme Court and hopefully someday Roe vs. Wade will be overturned. That's my goal. That's my priority," he said.

Thompson acknowledged that prior to the Supreme Court's landmark decision that allowed women to seek an abortion, the individual states had rights to outlaw or legalize the procedure.

"And as I like to say, sometimes states have a right to do things that even Fred Thompson disagrees with," the former Tennessee senator said.
  No Matter The War, America Mustn'T Stoop To Terror, TortureNovember 03, 2007 01:05 Does it matter what the rest of the world thinks of the United States of America? Does it matter that our recent foreign policy has frayed old alliances and created new enemies? Since we remain the world's only superpower, with the biggest and best military, should we care about our reputation?

Yes, we should. Despite what Dick Cheney and nutty neocon Norman Podhoretz think, we can't shoot and bomb our way out of this war. While military force is sometimes an appropriate response to terrorists, the United States also needs to cultivate friends and admirers. Among the weapons at our disposal, soft power and the light touch are still among the most effective for keeping us safe.

That's one of the reasons the Bush administration's tacit support for torture is such foolish policy. (President Bush claims he doesn't condone "torture." However, he does allow abusive techniques of interrogation that most others define as torture.)

By failing to honor our own vaunted ideals, we've lost the respect of much of the world. Over the past six years, a litany of sordid policies and practices have sullied our image — the abuses at Abu-Ghraib; the kidnapping of innocent civilians for torture in other countries, such as Syria; the maintenance of a miserable prison at Guantanamo Bay; and Bush's refusal to disavow waterboarding and other clearly abhorrent forms of "interrogation," among them.

That's why so many leading Democrats have criticized Michael Mukasey, the nominee for attorney general, for refusing to declare waterboarding illegal. But that policy should come from the top. The president ought to step forward and clearly pronounce waterboarding and other forms of torture off-limits.

After the terrorist atrocities of Sept. 11, many Americans became convinced that we were vulnerable because we'd grown too soft, too nice, too weak. They believed the Bush administration when its spokesmen told us that we'd have to man up if we wanted to win this war on terror, that we couldn't play by the old rules. After all, Islamic jihadists capture the innocent and behead them on camera, bragging about their bloodlust.

Of course, that's just the point: We don't behave as the suicide bombers do. The United States holds itself up to the world as a model of decency and humanity. We're the "shining city on a hill," the guarantor of basic rights, the protector of civil liberties. We don't act like the bad guys.

And as recently as a decade ago, our steady adherence to our constitutional values — our struggles to stick to our righteous principles — stood us in good stead, giving us the moral authority to lead the world.

But now we've lost our moral authority. When the terrorists struck six years ago, the vast majority of the world's people mourned with us. But we've managed to squander the world's goodwill, partly by ignoring our own revered principles.

There is another good reason to disavow torture: It doesn't work very well.

Writing in the Oct. 22 issue of The New Republic, Peter Bergen quotes former intelligence officers who disputed the idea that valuable information has been gained through abusive techniques. Former FBI agent Daniel Coleman, an al-Qaida expert, told Bergen that most of the information coming out of Guantanamo until his retirement in 2004 "was of no particular value."
  Kansas Church Liable In Marine Funeral ProtestNovember 01, 2007 14:53 Another win for the Jury system...

A jury on Wednesday ordered an anti-gay Kansas church to pay $10.9 million in damages to relatives of a U.S. Marine who died in Iraq after church members cheered his death at his funeral.

Church members said Marine Lance Cpl. Matthew Snyder's death was God's punishment of America for tolerating homosexuality, and they attended his 2006 funeral in Maryland with signs saying "You're going to hell" and "God hates you."

The federal jury determined the Westboro Baptist Church, based in Topeka, and three of its principals invaded the privacy of the dead man's family and inflicted emotional distress.

Albert Snyder, the Marine's father, testified that his son was not gay, but the church targeted the military as a symbol of America's tolerance of gays. Matthew Snyder died in combat in Iraq in March 2006.

The jury awarded Snyder's family $2.9 million in compensatory damages plus $8 million in punitive damages in the first civil suit against the church, which has demonstrated at some 300 military funerals the past two years.

The lawsuit said church Web sites vilified U.S. soldiers, accusing them of being indoctrinated by "fag propaganda."