This Week in God

THIS WEEK IN GOD…. First up from the God Machine this week is a controversial association between a sitting U.S. senator and a scandalous pastor.

The preacher’s name is Lou Engle, whose name may or may not be familiar, though you’ve probably heard of his work. Engle is perhaps best known for working with lawmakers in Uganda on legislation allowing the execution of gays and lesbians, but he’s also argued publicly that President Obama is responsible for unleashing “demons” upon the United States, and that Satan has gained control over the American government.

This week, reports surfaced that Sen. Sam Brownback (R), currently the frontrunner in Kansas’ gubernatorial race, has not only worked closely with the radical cleric, but the two even lived together for several months. After initially refusing to discuss his relationship with the extremist religious leader, Brownback finally addressed the matter on Wednesday, expressing “uneasiness” with some of Engle’s work.

The Kansas Democratic Party raised questions about ties between the Republican Party’s nominee for governor and the minister with headquarters in Kansas City, Mo. Brownback has participated in religious rallies in Tennessee and elsewhere hosted by Engle, who says Christians may need to martyr themselves in the campaign against abortion and homosexuality.

Engle and Brownback were together as recently as December 2009 when they appeared on the Internet broadcast of a prayer service seeking God’s intervention to block Senate passage of health reform.

Brownback, interviewed following a TV appearance in Topeka, said Kansas voters should understand he doesn’t agree with all positions expressed by Engle.

The senator/gubernatorial frontrunner did not specify which positions espoused by the radical cleric Brownback found disagreeable.

Brownback is under increasing pressure to formally denounce Engle once and for all, but as of now, the far-right Republican has refused.

Also from the God Machine this week:

* This week, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints scrambled to denounce bullying, including for reasons of sexual orientation, after a senior Mormon leader made anti-gay remarks against a backdrop of bullying and suicides of numerous gay teenagers. (thanks to D.J. for the tip)

* Glenn Beck has been using his Fox News program to urge Christians to reject climate science, and is relying on a religious group funded by ExxonMobil to do it.

* A poll in Tennessee this week found that two-thirds of Tennesseans “agree” or “strongly agree” that Muslims should have the same religious rights as other Americans. The same poll found that 14% of people in the state disagreed.

* In Los Angeles this week, an atheist conference sponsored by the Council for Secular Humanism brought together some notable non-believers. The NYT noted, “They agreed on two things: People can be good without religion, and religion has too much influence. But they disagreed about how stridently to make those claims.”

* And Media Matters noted this week that a variety of Fox News personalities are using their media platform to “promote theories about Biblical Armageddon.” Seriously.