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Fundie paper: gays, abortion-rights advocates cause earthquakes

Christopher O’Brien @ Northstate Science uncovered a gem in a local paper, The Lassen County Times. It’s an opinion piece by High Desert State Prison chaplain, Bill Ashmore. It’s an opinion piece called “Signs of the Times, Judgement of America” and it’s off the hook. The op-ed is not online (scan is below), but Christopher tells you all you need to know.

…take three guesses as to what this is all about. In a sentence: major earthquakes and environmental disasters (most notably hurricanes) are increasing because of gays and abortion-rights proponents. In effect, earthquakes are God’s warnings that America is going to hell in a handbasket until we kill all the gays (I guess – he doesn’t really offer a solution) and prevent all women from making any kind of reproductive decision. He cites frequently from John McTernan’s book, God’s Final Warning to America, and basically quotes bible verses supposedly foretelling coming disasters and points to not only increasing numbers of natural disasters but also the exact or close occurrence of these disasters with major abortion rights or gay pride rallies (apparently God’s pissed off at the First Amendment…).

Ashmore then cites the following data to bolster his assertion:

* April 23, 1992 – Supreme Court hears the abortion case, Planned Parenthood vs. Casey – a 6.3 magnitude earthquake shakes southern California;
* April 25, 1992 – during a counter protest in Buffalo, NY against Operation Rescue – a 7.1 magnitude earthquake hits California (God has bad aim);
* June 28, 1992 – during Gay Pride Day the fourth and ninth most powerful earthquakes hit California;

Needless to say, Christopher, an adjunct professor of anthropology at Cal State University, did a little research and wasn’t impressed with Bills “facts.”

Well, if God is angry with gays and abortion rights activists and He’s trying to show it with earthquakes not only is He a bad shot, but He also can’t seem to get the magnitude right. I looked up major earthquakes to see what some of the patterns might be. Ashmore seems to point to somewhere around 1960 as to when everything in American started to go to hell. According to this table, 19 of 26 (73%) of the largest magnitude earthquakes in the US occurred prior to that date. Also interesting, I see that Gay Pride Day is held on the last Sunday in June (didn’t know that Bill Ashmore, so thanks for prompting me to look it up…) – only one of the top 26 actually occurred in June – the one in 1992 cited above. So apparently God doesn’t keep great track of Gay Pride events.

…Also, you would think that if God wanted to make a point about abortion, He’d at least try to strike on the anniversary of Roe V Wade (January 22)…but the God that people like Bill Ashmore believe in once again proves to be a complete ignoramous when He tries to send a message.

Christopher actually wrote a letter to the editor about the above nonsense, which is worth the read. The paper actually ran it and there’s a follow up post. A snippet:

A number of people have suggested to me that Ashmore’s piece has no place in the Lassen County Times. I would disagree. It’s much better to slay ignorance out in the open for all to see. It is, however, unlikely that the Times would allow a decent rebuttal of the same inordinate length as the Ashmore opinion. Fortunately, the “blogosphere” is filling the gap. I would suggest readers look at Scienceblogs.com, or my personal favorite, Northstate Science. Blogs offer an opportunity to bypass the editorial controls of local papers like the Times and provide a chance for coherent rebuttal.

Big hat tip to Eva at Lloydletta.

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Pam Spaulding

Pam Spaulding