This is a special edition of these nominations. They all have to do with religion. Not included here, however, is the massacre of 175 civilians in the Yazidi community in Iraq. The victims were mostly Kurds, though neither Muslim nor Christian, and are considered by some to be a demonic cult whose members don’t believe in God. But to label the four suicide bombers as “assholes” would somehow trivialize the unspeakable horror and misery that they have caused. Here, then, are the real Assholes of the Week. Amen.
*Officials of the High Point Church in Arlington, Texas, for canceling a memorial service for a Navy veteran the day before it was scheduled, because the deceased man was homosexual. They knew he was gay when they offered to host the service, but after his obituary listed his life partner as one of his survivors, it was called off. Although also offended by a video tribute, which showed men “engaging in clear affection, kissing and embracing,” they refused to turn the other cheek.
*A mob of around 100 Islamic extremists in India, including three elected officials, for breaking into a news conference and assaulting exiled novelist Taslima Nasrin, who has enraged many Muslims with writings that are harshly critical of their religion. She has been the target of numerous death threats–some Muslim clerics have offered a $12,000 reward to anyone who kills her–and two policemen sit constantly outside the door of her apartment. Salman Rushdie has revoked his offer to escort her to the prom.
*The Taliban, for kidnapping several South Korean church volunteers in Afghanistan and killing two of them. The remaining missionaries, who were considered arrogant for trying to convert Muslims, apologized after being freed. The Taliban, incidentally, received $43 million from the U.S. government five months before the 9/11 terrorist attacks. The reason, stated Karl Rove–who has resigned in order to spend more time with the Manson family–was because the Taliban is a faith-based organization.
*Presidential wannabe Tom Tancredo, for asserting that bombing holy Muslim sites would serve as a good “deterrent” to prevent Islamic fundamentalists from attacking the U.S. This notion of a pre-emptive assault made it into a Latino-oriented comic strip, “La Cucaracha” by Lalo Alcaraz: “You’re watching ‘The U.S.’s Greatest Surprise Attacks’ on the Distorted History Channel. Colorado Congressman Tom Tancredo issued a top-secret warning: ‘The U.S. should nuke Islam’s holy places!'” The TV viewer responds, “It is wrong to threaten nations with terror–unless Tom Tancredo does it.” In a previous strip, from a car radio: “President Bush has taken to calling himself the inelegant ‘Commander Guy.’ May we suggest the more graceful ‘Dicatator Dude?'”
*A Mexican priest, Rev. Dagoberto Valle Arriaga, for killing his son. He was afraid that Catholic church officials would remove him from the priesthood if they learned about the child. They suggested that he should’ve used a theologically correct condom with tiny holes in the reservoir tip so that the spermatazoa would have only a fighting chance to impregnate the mother.
*New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Robert Murray, co-owner of Utah’s Crandall Canyon Mine, and singer Sinead O’Connor, for anthropomorphizing the deity. Bloomberg: “I don’t know that God had rush hour in mind when this storm hit.” Murray, when asked if the trapped miners were dead or alive: “Only the Lord knows that.” O’Connor: “In the end of the day, the person who gets brought into the most disrepute is God. I kind of object to that.”
*Members of Decatur, Alabama’s Church of Leaning Christ, who complained about Rev. Billy Lee Halpin’s choice of rock music, which has been used in the church’s services for years. “We started out with The Monkees song ‘I’m a Believer,'” he explained, “but then had to cancel that as many members were upset by the Use of The Monkees. They felt it was a slap in the face to God, you know, with evolution and all. So now we just use Pat Boone again.”
*Norway’s Princess Martha Louise, for claiming not only that she communicates with angels, but also for her involvement in an alternative school that aims to teach people how to get in touch with angels. Sounds like a sitcom in severe need of a laugh track.
*The individual who successfully bid more than $1500 on eBay for a slab of concrete with a smudge of driveway sealant resembling the face of Jesus.
*An unidentified Major in Iraq–a fundamentalist Christian pretending to be a “freethinker”–for attending the first meeting of atheist service members under the umbrella of the Military Association of Atheists and Freethinkers, then verbally berating the other attendees, accusing them of plotting against Christians and disrespecting soldiers who have died protecting the Constitution. He threatened them with punishment, shut down the meeting and said that he would do whatever it took to shut down future meetings. He forced attendees to stand at attention while he yelled, berated and humiliated them. One attendee had fled when the shouting started, and he found a foxhole to hide in.
*China’s atheist leaders, for banning Tibet’s living Buddhas from reincarnation without permission. According to the order, issued by the State Administration for Religious Affairs, “The so-called reincarnated living Buddha without government approval is illegal and invalid.” The regulation is aimed at limiting the influence of the Dalai Lama, who stated in his defense, “I used to believe in reincarnation, but that was in a previous life.”
*Those believers and secularists alike who have waged a battle against the teaching of meditation in publicly funded schools, as if slow, deep breathing is necessarily and automatically a violation of separation of church and state.
*Maritza Tamayo, principal of the Unity Center for Urban Technologies in New York City, for paying a woman to sprinkle chicken blood on the high school in order to cleanse it of negative energy, and to lead several Santeria religious rituals during a vacation break when students weren’t present. Also, the Board of Education, for firing her.
ANTI-ASSHOLES OF THE WEEK
*The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, for at least urging its bishops to refrain from defrocking gay and lesbian ministers who violate a celibacy rule, even though measures that would have permitted ordaining gays churchwide were rejected.
*Hooshang Torabi, an Iranian and a Muslim who lives in the San Fernando Valley in Callifornia, for donating one of his kidneys to Gaston Gonzales, a Cuban, a Catholic and a resident of the San Gabriel Valley.
*Journalist Helen Thomas, for calling attention to the “deafening silence” of the Church in regard to the enormities of the Bush administration.
*Two Roman Catholic priests–Franciscan Louis Vitale, 74, and Jesuit Steve Kelly, 58–who were arrested as they approached the gatehouse at Fort Huachuca in Arizona, headquarters of the U.S. Army Intelligence Center. They intended to deliver a letter to Major General Barbara Fast, stating, “We are here today as concerned U.S. people, veterans and clergy, to speak with enlisted personnel about the illegality and immorality of torture according to international humanitarian law, including he Geneva Conventions. We condemn torture as a dehumanization of both prisoners and interrogators, resulting in humiliation, disability and even death.”
*The so-called Laser Monks in Wisconsin–whose online business selling printer cartridges and other products will gross about $7 million this year–for distributing 15 per cent of their profits (the rest covers the costs of running the company and maintaining the abbey) to several dozen charities, including a Vietnamese school for orphans, a Costa Rican group that helps the children of impoverished farmers, a Minnesota summer camp for children with AIDS, and for funding their own Torchlight Foundation, which helps schools pay for courses that teach socially responsible business practices.
PAUL KRASSNER is the editor of The Realist. His books include: Pot Stories for the Soul, One Hand Jerking and Murder at the Conspiracy Convention. He can be reached through his website: http://paulkrassner.com/