Freethought NOW!

Arrest the pope?

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First, a personal note. When our litigation attorney Rich Bolton phoned Thursday shortly before lunchtime to give us the happy news that FFRF had won our legal challenge of the National Day of Prayer, the office exploded in whoops. I had to put the phone down so we wouldn’t deafen Rich. I realized I was jumping up and down as I passed on the news to staff. Katie, one of FFRF’s executive assistants, actually did a little dance.

This was a hard-won decision. The case was difficult and time-consuming, and was unusual for involving a lot of staff input, not just attorney’s time. There was onerous discovery by the Obama Administration and we worked very hard to prove the Foundation’s standing to sue, based on years of efforts to deal with the numerous complaints and repercussions of this unconstitutional act of Congress. The case seemed to hinge as much on (bad) history as on (bad) law. Several staff–our staff attorney, Dan, I, interns and clerical staff–spent much of February 2009 doing research on the case, with lots of additional work in the summer (not to mention an all-day videotaped deposition I went through in December!). So this is also a very sweet victory for all involved.

We truly appreciate that a vitally important constitutional question was taken seriously on its merits by the District Court. We knew the Constitution was on our side. We know it is simply wrong for the President to dictate to Americans that they should pray, and set aside an entire day for prayer once a year. But being right doesn’t always mean you can get your foot in the courtroom door these days. We are celebrating the fact that at least for now, reason really has prevailed. Hooray for FFRF, hooray for the judge’s ruling, hooray for our litgation attorney Rich Bolton, hooray for justice!

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In other news of the week, atheism’s eminent spokespersons, Christopher Hitchens and Richard Dawkins, gave the freethought world a chuckle with their eminently sensible suggestion that Pope Benedict XVI be arrested by authorities when he visits the United Kingdom next September. British attorneys have suggested several scenarios. My favorite involves several wealthy Catholic donors who sue the pope for misusing their contributions to defend priests and hush victims.

Dawkins wrote in The Guardian: “Why is anyone surprised, much less shocked, when Christopher Hitchens and I call for the prosecution of the pope, if he goes ahead with his proposed visit to Britain? The only strange thing about our proposal is that it had to come from us: where have the world’s governments been all this time?”

Where indeed? As FFRF keeps asking and has asked since 1988: When will a U.S. prosecutor or district attorney finally charge a bishop for coverup and collusion?

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The Vatican keeps telling us everyone but the pope is to blame for these crimes and coverups. The pope was archbishop of Munich when he permitted a predator priest to be transferred to Munich. But still he isn’t responsible. As head of the latter-day “Inquisition,” the pope, then known as Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, delayed defrocking for two years a convicted molester in Oakland, a molester who had asked to be defrocked. The pope still wasn’t responsible? The Vatican blamed the Oakland bishop, which won’t wash, first because the pope claims when he was archbishop he wasn’t responsible for the above-referenced actions in Munich (slight contradiction there) and second, because it turns out Oakland’s bishop had indeed begged the Vatican to defrock the priest, too. The child rapist went on to be accused of molesting other children in the interim. Why would an employer wait two minutes, much less two years, to remove a convicted child molester from a job working around children?

A case naming the pope as defendant is wending its way through American civil courts. Wouldn’t it be something if the pope couldn’t leave Vatican City because victims and their families worldwide ready warrants to serve the pope if he visits their country?

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