Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Fraud in Defense of Prayer

Stopping the practice of defending prayer with fraud and sin would seem to me one way of overcoming the past and adding something better to the present.

Who would support religion by committing fraud and sin? I don’t know the “who” but I know the “what.” The “what” is an email that purports to be 60 Minute commentator Andy Rooney’s comments on public prayer. Fraud is the crime of obtaining money or some other benefit by deliberate deception. The last time I checked, one of the Ten Commandments has to do with bearing false witness. I think that writer of the email is guilty of both.

The one I received a couple of weeks ago had a catchy opening line above the article itself: “CBS and Katie Couric et al must be in a panic and rushing to reassure the White House that this is not network policy.” Over the years you’ve probably received it in one of its several forms, perhaps without the opening line, beginning like this:

I don't believe in Santa Claus, but I'm not going to sue somebody for singing a Ho-Ho-Ho song in December. I don't agree with Darwin, but I didn't go out and hire a lawyer when my high school teacher taught his Theory of Evolution.

Life, liberty or your pursuit of happiness will not be endangered because someone says a 30-second prayer before a football game. So what's the big deal? It's not like somebody is up there reading the entire Book of Acts. They're just talking to a God they believe in and asking him to grant safety to the players on the field and the fans going home from the game.
The email goes on for nine or ten paragraphs and usually concludes with this:
The silent majority has been silent too long. It's time we tell that one or two who scream loud enough to be heard that the vast majority doesn't care what they want. It is time that the majority rules! It's time we tell them, "You don't have to pray; you don't have to say the Pledge of Allegiance; you don't have to believe in God or attend services that honour [sic] Him. That is your right, and we will honour [sic] your right; but by golly, you are no longer going to take our rights away. We are fighting back, and we WILL WIN!"
We could have an interesting discussion about the substance of the email but that would get us away from the subjects at hand: “fraud” and “sin.”

If you didn’t already know, by now you’ve probably guessed that Andy Rooney is not really the author. You would have guessed right. And not only did Andy Rooney not write it, neither did Paul Harvey, who was credited with writing it, all the way back in 2004. The one who actually wrote it was Nick Gholson, a sports writer for the Times Record News in Wichita Falls, Texas on September 5, 1999.

I don’t know why the creator of this email didn’t credit it to Nick, but I suspect it could have had something to do with “Who?” and “Where?” I know about the “where” question because I went to high school in Iowa Park, ten miles away from Wichita Falls. For some reason, the creator decided that Paul Harvey’s name would have carried more weight than Nick’s. And then some years later, someone decided that the name of Andy Rooney would even be better. Rooney is reputed to be an agnostic. I don't know that, but I do know that some believers love nothing better than to receive words of affirmation for whatever horse they are riding from someone other than themselves because it gives their cause more credibility.

The problem is that fraud, as I said above, is a crime of obtaining money or some other benefit by deliberate deception. I assume the benefit being sought by the creator of this email was credibility that could only be supplied by the use of someone’s name without their permission. I think in the eyes of the law would be considered “deliberate deception.”

And, then, there is the matter of “sin,” which from the language of the email is probably a relevant concept to the perpetrator. I don’t know but I’m guessing that the he or she would be one wanting to have the Ten Commandments prominently displayed on public buildings.

If you are interested in the real Andy Rooney’s sentiments on religion, here’s one:

“Houses of worship don’t pay taxes. There are more than 6,000 churches in New York City alone and many occupy prime real estate. All of us from different religions essentially subsidize houses of worship, and I don’t think that’s right. The people who run any church should pay taxes on the property they occupy like everyone else. There’s nothing sacrilegious about that.”
I haven’t seen any forwards from Andy Rooney fans in the religious community about that.

The next time you receive this fraudulent email, feel free to copy this article and send it to everyone on their distribution list. I don’t know what the law says about forwarding a fraudulent email, but I’ve heard something about ignorance of the law not being an excuse.

- Milo


Richard said...


i figured quite quickly that the quotation was not properly identified when it referred to the "silent majority."
I think there is even a bigger problem. what about all the actors and models who claim they have drunk a featured beer, brushed their teeth with a revolutionary whitening toothpaste, or lost hundreds of pounds of baby fat? We have false testimony in many places. it is endemic. When I was chair of my department in college, I checked on appoicant's resumes. I regularly found outright lies or exaggerations. In a couple of cases, the references were written by the applicant under another name. When I investigated one obvious questionalble resume, the applicant threatened to sue me.

I take the issue you are dealing with as just part of the practice of selling onself or one's belief. For the person who believes, it does not matter what the truth, logic, facts, or manipulation of the argument entails. This is the sad part of it.

We live in a world where a large percentage of people believe obama is not a U.S. citizen, that we are heading to socialism and that there are death panels.

I am now subbing in K-12 classes and will probably begin teaching next month. It is terrifying what little is believed and how much is blind faith. One of my students bragged that he was an independent thinkiner. I asked him who were his heroes. Stalin and Hitler.

to end on a tone of levity: Do you know why the Unitarians do not believe in Heaven? Because they are against gated communities. LOL

Milo Thornberry said...

Sad but true!

I love the joke!

OhioTex said...

Excellent points! I'm bookmarking this so I can send the link to the next person who sends me a similar email.