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Free Inquiry Sidelines

The following articles are from Free Inquiry magazine, Volume 20, Number 2.

Laura Schlessinger Flunks Tolerance 101

by Andrea Szalanski

Paramount is meeting with representatives of the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) in the wake of its decision to market a television program hosted by Dr. Laura Schlessinger. The nationally syndicated radio personality has increasingly turned her attention to criticizing homosexuality.

Schlessinger has called homosexuality "deviant" and a "biological error" and has advocated controversial therapies that would change homosexuals into heterosexuals. She says that homosexuality is "against the moral precepts of Judaism."

But Paramount's interest in her is offensive to many in the entertainment industry, which employs many homosexuals. One executive said Schlessinger was not a "happy addition to the family." Of note: she seems to have no objection to working for a company that offers benefits to same-sex domestic partners.


by Matt Cherry

 Modern-day worshippers of the ancient Greek gods have had a row with the followers of one of those younger gods-Jesus. Seems that Christians wanted to have a millennium celebration in the 2,500-year-old Parthenon, but this proposal insulted the adherents of Zeus et al. "The Parthenon, temple to Athena, is a sacred place of Greek religion," said Nikolaos Tziotis, secretary of the Committee for the Recognition of the Greek Religion of the Twelve Gods. "It is the greatest blasphemy for songs of another religion to be heard there and we will not allow it." The celebration went ahead anyway, bringing in much needed revenue to the city of Athens. 


Unemployed New York psychics face an uncertain future. In January 2000, New York City stopped using its welfare-to-work program to recruit telephone psychics for the Psychic Network. In the previous nine-months, 15 people were recruited by the Psychic Network with the aid of public funds. We are shocked to think that the Psychic Network didn't see this misfortune coming. 


Perhaps New York's out-of-work seers could move to New Iberia, Louisiana. After 17 years, the southern Louisiana town of 31,800 has been forced to lift its 1982 ban on palm reading and fortune telling. A federal judge said the ban undermined First Amendment rights. Lawyers for New Iberia argued that the ban protected the public against fraud and unfair trade practices.


In what is believed to be an American concert industry first, Christian rock group Newsboys is touring with its own inflatable arena. The 3,500-seat venue will be set up on fairgrounds or in parking lots during a 66-date trek that began February 18. 

"Playing in arenas is fine, but some fans are uncomfortable coming there," singer Peter Furler said. "Some prefer concerts at large churches, but others refuse to go to a church that's not their denomination." Fans are not encouraged to bring their inflatable girlfriends.


The most coveted (and lucrative) spot in British pop music is the "Christmas Number One." Thanks to a last-minute buying campaign by Christians, the best-selling single for Christmas 1999 through into the new millennium was The Lord's Prayer sung to the tune of "Auld Lang Syne" by veteran British crooner Cliff Richard. 

The song-which struggles to fit the words to the tune-was the subject of much abuse and derision. BBC Radio declared it too awful to play. Pop star George Michael declared it "vile" and "exploitative of people's religion.'' Sir Cliff Richard-one of Britain's most vocal Christian evangelists-conceded the song has some musical limitations: "If someone said to you there was the Lord's Prayer set to 'Auld Lang Syne,' you'd want to puke," he told the Guardian newspaper. 


Grammy 2000 host Rosie O'Donnell had her hands full during the telecast when some winners took issue with her attempt to joke about God's role in their success. O'Donnell later attempted to finish off the debate by noting that, with all the serious problems in the world such as hunger and AIDS, God doesn't care whether Whitney Houston wins a Grammy.


A cyber-confessional has been launched that allows sinners to unburden their souls on the Internet. "This is between you and God and your privacy is totally respected,'' says the introduction to the Internet Web site at: www.theconfessor.co.uk. The site assures cyber-sinners that whatever they say will be erased when the confession is over. No priests see the confessions, and there are no demands for penance. 

The Roman Catholic Church has condemned the idea. "This is not what Catholics would understand as confession. Confession cannot be done by telephone, e-mail or proxy,'' a church spokesman told the Daily Telegraph newspaper.


Nicholas Humphrey reports in the December 25 issue of New Scientist that a famous prayer study may be curiously botched. The study, reported in the Archives of Internal Medicine, Volume 159, had claimed that, of 1,013 randomly picked patients in a Coronary Care Unit, those who were prayed for had better clinical outcomes than those who were not.

But the study also mentioned that several patients were removed from the study because they had spent less than 24 hours in the Unit, and it took at least that long to get the prayers going. However, chi-square tests of the improvement among the two groups were not that different in their results.

Humphrey concludes that either the study was faulty-for example, it was not random and instead assigned less-sick patients to the prayer group-or it produced evidence that prayer works even before it has begun. "Readers should take their pick of these two interesting alternatives," he advises.

Send interesting news items and tidbits to Sidelines, Free Inquiry, P.O. Box 664, Amherst, NY 14226-0644, or e-mail to: aszalanski@centerforinquiry.net.

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