This Week in Religion: Pope Francis Tells His Flock to Stop Breeding Like Rabbits

Pope Francis remains as busy as ever. This week he announced it was time for his flock to stop the rapid-fire procreation Catholics are known for. During a news conference the Pope said, “Some think, excuse me if I use the word, that in order to be good Catholics, we have to be like rabbits — but no.” He added that the Church should instead be promoting “responsible parenthood.”

However, the Pope stopped well short of suggesting that Catholics use contraception for family planning, something the church still frowns on. Instead the Pope reiterated that the Church only approves of natural methods of birth control, principally abstinence from sex during a woman’s fertile period (the rhythm method).

But the Pope may have raised more eyebrows when he compared ridiculing a person's religion to cursing someone's mother. He said anyone who makes such an insult can "expect a punch" in return.

The comments were made in response to questions regarding Charlie Hebdo’s cartoons, which were not only insulting to Muslims, but to Christians as well.

"You cannot provoke. You cannot insult the faith of others. You cannot make fun of the faith of others," the Pope said. “There are so many people who speak badly about religions or other religions, who make fun of them, who make a game out of the religions of others. They are provocateurs. And what happens to them is what would happen to [someone] if he says a curse word against my mother. There is a limit.”

The Pope said his comments were not meant to condone the actions of the terrorists in France, though many saw his statement as insulting to the memory of the slain Charlie Hebdo staff members.

Creation Museum founder Ken Ham’s year ended on a sour note and bad fortune seems to be following him into the new year. Last year, the Answers in Genesis founder took on "Science Guy” Bill Nye in a debate and lost miserably. This was followed by his proposed Noah’s Ark theme park losing $18 million in tax incentives after the Commonwealth of Kentucky determined it was engaging in discriminatory hiring practices. And this week, a report was released projecting that the park won’t be that big of a draw.

Ark Encounter officials had said attendance to the theme park should be between 1.2 to 2 million visitors per year, but a new study by a respected real-estate consultancy says otherwise. Hunden Strategic estimates the park will likely only draw some 325,000 in its first year, with peak attendance coming two years later at only 425,000 visitors. It gets worse: Hunden Strategic forecasts attendance will drop down to 275,000 visitors per year shortly thereafter.

The study, reports the Kentucky Courier-Journal, was commissioned by the commonwealth’s Tourism, Arts and Heritage Cabinet as part of its review of Ark Encounter’s application for up to $18.25 million in state tax incentives.

Before losing the tax incentives, park officials had hired America's Research Group to conduct their own estimates, hoping to convince the commonwealth of the park's profitability. But Kentucky may have looked at those numbers with some doubt, as ARG founder and CEO Britt Beemer might not be an objective source. He previously co-authored a religious book with Ham.

Still, Ham and Beemer are sticking by the ARG findings. "That's pretty good research," Ham said. "And the ark has a much wider appeal [than the Creation Museum]. If we can get 400,000 for the Creation Museum, you know that ark is going to get a lot more than that."

But Hunden Strategic’s report casts some doubts on that figure for the Creation Museum. It says the museum has failed to meet attendance goals since opening in 2007, and attendance is declining.

Ark Encounter attorneys are contemplating a suit against the commonwealth over the decision to cancel the tax incentives, but it looks like these findings are yet another roadblock to getting the funds.

“The Hunden report adds more evidence that the Commonwealth of Kentucky made the correct decision in rejecting the Ark Encounter application for tax incentives,” said Ed Hensley, treasurer of the Kentucky Secular Society. “We should consider the contrasting claims of the Hunden report while evaluating their threats.”

Are miracles not part of your routine? Perhaps it’s because you’re too educated, according to America’s favorite televangelist, Pat Robertson. On his show, “The 700 Club,” Robertson pointed out that miracles, such as people rising from the dead and the blind regaining their sight happen with great frequency in Africa because “people overseas don’t go to Ivy League schools.”

Robertson went on to mock secularism in the U.S., saying: “We’re so sophisticated, we think we’ve got everything figured out. We know about evolution, we know about Darwin, we know about all these things that says God isn’t real.”

“Overseas, they’re simple, humble,” said Roberston. “You tell ‘em God loves ‘em and they say, ‘Okay, he loves me.’ You say God will do miracles and they say, ‘Okay, we believe him.’”

The Freedom From Religion Foundation discovered that the city of Orlando, Florida has spent nearly $25,000 on its police chaplain program over the last two years. Some $15,000 of those funds were used to buy a new Ford Focus and another $1,400 were used to have the car emblazoned with "Orlando Police Chaplain" decals. Other expenses included “appreciation dinners” for the chaplains and their wives. The dinners rang up a bill of nearly $1,000.

"It's appalling that taxpayers are footing this bill," said FFRF staff attorney Andrew Seidel, who is investigating this church/state entanglement after receiving local complaints about the program. "Surely that money could be better spent; perhaps organizing actual qualified counselors for OPD employees.”

Florida’s constitution states that government revenue cannot be used "directly or indirectly in aid of any church, sect, or religious denomination or in aid of any sectarian institution." The program also appears to be in direct violation of federal laws.

"A U.S. police department, which exists to enforce our secular laws, should take great care not to appear to be sending a message that the police force is Christian in nature, or exists to serve Christians over other citizens, or Christian police officers over non-Christian police officers," said FFRF co-president Annie Laurie Gaylor.

FFRF is considering possible legal action over the chaplain program.

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