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Archive for the ‘Christianity’ Category

More Hobby Lobby fun

After yesterday’s post, I noticed this article – trying to tell Christians that they’ve done the wrong thing… or something.

Here are the reasons one “Carol Howard Merritt” has.

Christians should always uphold human rights. Jesus taught us a great deal when he healed the woman who had been bleeding. He taught us that women who demand healing ought to find that cure. Jesus restored her to health, even though the established religion deemed that she was unclean. Jesus ignored the men in charge, and he listened to the woman in suffering.

So far, so good.

That medical condition would now be treated with contraception. Birth Control is considered a basic human right, according to the United Nations. It’s important for the health of women. It keeps women and children out of poverty.

Got that?

1. Christians should uphold human rights.

2. Human rights are defined by the UN.

Therefore, we conclude:

3. The UN is the body that decides which rights a Christian should support.

Wait, that seems wrong somehow. Wasn’t the Bible supposed to be in there somewhere?

But that raises a serious concern: how did Christians know what to do before the UN came along? Maybe they had some sort of system of deciding right and wrong before the UN? It’s possible people!

The fact that a corporation would want to deny (yes, I said deny. If you’re making a Hobby Lobby clerk’s salary, it’s very difficult to pay for contraception without insurance coverage) a woman’s basic human right is disgraceful. People of faith should care about the dignity of all humans–particularly those who cannot afford to have children. We should always be willing to walk in the footsteps of Jesus, and see to the dignity, worth, and healing of women, even when the established religious power says that she should be denied.

Jesus healed a woman, so how dare you deny a woman earning well above minimum wage (seriously, google it) the right to have their employer pay for 4 out of 20 mandated birth control methods.

Christians should encourage life-saving science and medicine.

Paging Dr Obvious.

It has been frustrating to watch people say that contraception is an “abortifacient” when the medical and scientific community has said that it is not.

Wait, what? One second we’re talking about life-saving medicine, next we’re abusing people for avoiding something that they think kills.

Uh, ok.

Anyway, having done a bit of reading, it is entirely possible that she’s right on this point – is may well be that at least one of the 4 disputed methods does not work by preventing implantation.

If so, yay! There is no ethical concern here. All we have is a failure to communicate the science properly. That’s a pity.

But on the other, if some of them do in fact prevent implantation then they are considered by Christian ethicists to be abortifacients. In other words, talking about what science has proven misses the point that this is a debate about the ethics.

Here’s a silly analogy. Let’s say Jim refuses to ride in John’s car, because it’s a Honda and Jim believes all Hondas are diesel and he refuses to ride in diesel cars. Now, Jim is wrong about the facts – John’s honda uses petrol. But that mistaken believe about the facts says nothing either way about Jim’s decision to avoid diesel cars.

A religious person’s belief should not trump the facts and take away basic medical care for women, even if it’s sincerely held. Plus, we really should have a faith that is strong enough to endure an eighth grade sex education class.

Here we have a couple of non sequiturs.

  • As just demonstrated, there are no “facts” to “trump”. If in fact these methods do not prevent implantation there is no ethical objection.
  • The contention that contraception is “basic medical care for women” has not been established in even a cursory way.

Given these issues, it’s hard to analyse the first sentence any further.

Finally for this section, she engages in a childish jab about sex education classes. I have no idea where that even came from.

Christians should care about the environment. One of the very first commands in Genesis was when God told us to care for creation. We were to be stewards of the fish, birds, cattle, wild animals, and every creeping thing.

Again, so far so good. Oh, outside of the whole “fall” thing where a very long-term slide into destruction started, ending in God eventually re-creating the whole thing sometime in the future.

In the United States, we use more resources than people in other parts of the world, and we are causing our destruction. Wars are being fought over petroleum. We frack the ground God gave us because we’re hungry for more fuel. Tension is growing over water rights. Because of our overuse of resources, overpopulation can cause us to defy one of God’s first instructions to us. Allowing for birth control helps us care for creation.

So essentially she’s trying to:

a) make the claim that overpopulation is a real thing
b) make the claim that Christians should be doing something about that and
c) make the claim that birth control is the “something” that should be done.

Quite outside the fact she hasn’t proven that any of those things are valid, this case isn’t about whether a woman can buy birth control. It’s about whether an employer has to pay for a method their beliefs say is unethical.

So… yea, a long bow being drawn there.

Christians believe that women and men are made in the image of God.

Again, start with the statement that no one disagrees with.

People are made in the image of God, not corporations.

Two true statements in a row! We’re on a roll people!

Because of that basic theological understanding, we know that corporations should not be considered over individuals. One of the guiding principles of the Supreme Court’s decision is one of “corporate personhood.” Corporations have corrupted our political process as they have given more power and because they have more money than individual people. We have watched as poor and working class people have lost their voice to the will of corporations. Our economy strains with the increased disparity between the rich and poor. Our country is watching that gap become deep and wide with the related disparities in our quality of education.

So to sum up, Corporations are Evil (TM). They’re run by faceless shareholders… oh wait, this decision covers closely-held corporations, where the company is the personal property of a very small number of individuals.

Now, we give corporations even more power, through allowing the greatest stakeholders the right to withhold medical care to women.

Frustrating how the Christian ethic of “not lying” never seems to occur to this author. No such rights have been given, a very limited ethical objection has been respected.

Jesus said that we should always be looking after “the least of these.” Through giving corporations more power, we are taking away a woman’s human rights and we are ensuring more poverty among women and children.

Yet again, an assertion completely unsupported by any of the facts here. Let alone the idea that small families are better, which isn’t something I see supported in scripture – in fact quite the opposite (Psalm 127).

As a Christian, I am profoundly upset by the Supreme Courts’ decision. And I hope that other men and women of faith might stand with individuals, who are made in the image of God, and who have the right to access the medical care they need.

As a Christian, I just wish people would make conclusions from something resembling an argument. Because it’s pretty hard to respect anyone who writes junk as bad as this one does.

The Guardian – “Million-selling reformed killer Tony Anthony exposed as serial fantasist”

Well, the secular media have finally broken the story of Tony Anthony.

The book was a phenomenon. It was translated into 25 languages and won the Christian Booksellers’ Convention Award in 2005.

But now, following a sustained internet campaign by a group of Christians who doubted Anthony’s claims almost from the start, it appears that little of the book is true.

The revelation is acutely embarrassing for the Evangelical Alliance, an influential organisation representing 2 million Christians in the UK, which championed the author. Anthony, who founded his own organisation, Avanti Ministries, was the star speaker during the alliance-backed Global Day of Prayer in 2010, attended by the mayor of London, Boris Johnson.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAfter an independent investigation, a panel appointed by the alliance has concluded that Anthony had, at best, a sketchy relationship with the truth. In a statement on its website the alliance acknowledges that “large sections of the book Taming the Tiger, and associated materials, which claim to tell the true story of Tony Anthony’s life, do not do so”.


Critics of Anthony, who raised suspicions that many of his claims were untrue as far back as 2005, are now asking why it took the alliance until last year to launch an investigation.

In his book Anthony explains how in 2000 he thought he had hit a “small deer or fox” after his car hit Elizabeth Bracewell, 39, the sister of the former England footballer, Paul Bracewell. She died as a result of her injuries.

During his trial after the death, Anthony, from Southend-on-Sea, was described by the judge as a “devious and manipulative man” who had “deliberately embroidered his story” to throw police off the scent. He was given a 15-month sentence after admitting perverting the course of justice.

Again, I make the point that not even basic checking was done on this man. He has a serious history of dishonesty, and was clearly making up large chunks of his story.

Unsurprisingly, the comments are full of people making disparaging remarks about Christianity.

And frankly, not all of them are undeserved.

Aren’t Christians banned from eating shellfish?

In several recent on-line debates I’ve seen/been involved in, when discussing the Biblical approach to sexual matters (i.e. “gay” marriage) the critisim has been thrown around that Christians aren’t consistent because we ignore passages on things such as eating of shellfish.

My reply to such things is pretty simple – read Acts 15. As gentiles entered the church, the Apostles sat down in the very first church council and discussed whether or not the new gentile believers were bound to the Jewish law – all that stuff about shellfish and not shaving you beard etc.

The result is this letter:

The apostles and elders, your brothers,

To the Gentile believers in Antioch, Syria and Cilicia:


24 We have heard that some went out from us without our authorization and disturbed you, troubling your minds by what they said. 25 So we all agreed to choose some men and send them to you with our dear friends Barnabas and Paul— 26 men who have risked their lives for the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. 27 Therefore we are sending Judas and Silas to confirm by word of mouth what we are writing. 28 It seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us not to burden you with anything beyond the following requirements: 29 You are to abstain from food sacrificed to idols, from blood, from the meat of strangled animals and from sexual immorality. You will do well to avoid these things.


Now, this letter is obviously in the Bible itself. So all those guys who are claiming Christians are ignoring stuff written in the bible, are… ignoring stuff written in the Bible.

But I’m not here to give you my version. No, why read what I have to say on the topic when you can read what a trained theologian, who did his masters’s thesis on the subject, has to say.

Next, there are clear indications that food restrictions that were introduced in the Law of Moses were temporary and restricted in scope. They were only intended for Israel, marking Israel out as different from other nations, until the purpose of God’s dealings with Israel was fulfilled when Jesus came into the world as the promised descendant of Abraham. God’s injunction to the Israelites was that these animals would be “unclean to you” (Leviticus 11:8). In Deutreonomy 14:1, all of these restrictions are mandated on the rationale that “You are the sons of the LORD your God.” In fact, for one of the restrictions (an animal that has just died of natural causes), we get another insight into the rationale (Deuteronomy 14:21): “You may give it to the sojourner who is within your towns, that he may eat it, or you may sell it to a foreigner. For you are a people holy to the LORD your God.” Laws against theft, murder or kidnapping were certainly never expressed this way – It’s wrong for an Israelite, but foreigners living among you can murder to their hearts’ content! But food laws were different, applying uniquely to descendants of the twelve patriarchs.

Anyway, go read the whole thing.

One final thought. I recognise that there are people out there that think Christianity is rubbish. I get told this every time I debate moral or theological issues with any atheist. But could someone, somewhere please recognise occasionally that just because you think something is wrong, that doesn’t mean it’s simple and it doesn’t mean that the people who have spent their lives studying it don’t know anything about what they’re talking about.

“Gospel of Jesus’ Wife” – ridiculously fake

Well, for several days the media was full of the “new evidence” that Jesus was married.

Of course, it did nothing of the sort, but it turns out that the fragment in question has even more fundamental problems than that.

Like, being copied from a PDF off the internet. Seriously.

 Not only does the alleged Gospel fragment strongly resemble the Gospel of Thomas in terms of language and content (however brief), but it contains an unusual typo – the very same typo that an online version of the Gospel of Thomas contained.  For more detail, see the analysis over at Mark Goodacre’s NT Blog.

What is especially interesting is that Mike Grondin, who produced the online interlinear translation of the Gospel of Thomas, chimes into the conversation himself, adding:

Having consulted my records, I am now quite sure that anyone copying the mistake at line 50.01 of the pdf version of my interlinear must have done so no earlier than 11 Nov 2002. Prior to that, my website contained a set of gif images, wherein line 50.01 was correct.

Not only can we identify that the composer of this fragment used the Gospel of Thomas, but it appears that we can actually identify exactly which copy they used – a smoking gun that would often be impossible to discover. This is looking like a very recent forgery indeed.

I make 2 predictions:

  1. This will not be circulated at anything like the rate the original story was.
  2. Point (1) will lead to several skeptics being caught not being very skeptical themselves.


New Evidence Suggests that Someone Wrote “Jesus” and “Wife” on the same bit of papyrus in the 4th century

Glenn’s got this one covered. I’ll pull out a few quotes.

In a statement released by Harvard University, Professor Karen King says “Christian tradition has long held that Jesus was not married, even though no reliable historical evidence exists to support that claim,” This appears to be a strange reversal of duty. If anyone wishes to claim that there was a woman who was married to Jesus, surely it is they who would need to provide “reliable historical evidence exists to support that claim.” What is more, the fact that all the biographical material written about Jesus, right up to this scrap in the fourth century, no not include references to him having a wife is a significant fact. Given the reverence shown in many parts of the Christian world, even from an early time, to the mother of Jesus, the natural expectation we should have is that if Jesus had been married, his wife would have been singled out as an especially important person. But the reality is that none of the accounts of the life of Jesus that we have even make reference to such a person existing – until this snippet appeared, dating from the fourth century.

The Gnostic heresy is pretty well documented, so the fact that there’s a bit of papyrus from thte 4th century is one big yawn.

The Huffington Post (no surprises there) called the discovery “shocking,” although who is actually shocked is anyone’s guess. Massaging the notion that Jesus being married is a fairly common suggestion, it throws this wee gem into the mix: “The life of historical Jesus is often a matter of controversy, and this is not the first time it’s been proposed that Jesus was married. Most recently, Dan Brown’s novel “The Da Vinci Code” depicted Jesus as being married to Mary Magdalene.” That may not be the best way to make the claim sound more plausible (but there’s at least a chance the Huff’s writers and editors aren’t aware of that).


But wait, here’s a chance for the media to attack the big, bad Roman Catholic Church.

“Angered” is hardly the word (perhaps the writer is attempting to connect dots to the angry protests over an anti-Islamic film happening as I write this). The film was more of a laughing-stock among early church historians and New Testament scholars. But notice that the idea that Jesus was not married is here presented as the position represented by the Catholic Church. The fact is, quire regardless of church affiliation, Jesus being married is simply not a view taken seriously across the spectrum of New Testament scholars – and churches for that matter. It’s a cute attempt to imply that it’s the Catholic Church in one corner and the rest of us in the other, but such is not reality.

I think some Christians were angered by the The Da Vinci Code, but that is hardly worth writing home about. The movie presented easily verifiable lies about the christian faith, it’s hardly news that some people would be angered by that. But there were (of course) no riots or ambassadors being dragged through the streets and killed.

Update: In case you hadn’t heard, the fragment has now been declared absolutely fake since it contains an error that only occurs in a PDF(yes, really!) of the so-called “Gospel of Thomas”.

A Plea for Christian Common Sense and Healthy Skepticism

What this guy is saying is important:

I have long been of the opinion that Christians need to be led by their spiritual leaders into a default attitude of healthy skepticism regarding wild claims of supernatural occurrences. I think non-Christians also need to be educated to exercise a certain amount of common sense skepticism about things that seem blatantly doubtful such as alien abductions.

There was a very popular book about Satanism by an evangelical Christian who claimed he had become a high priest of a Satanic cult and that Satanism was rampant in America. My students were reading the book and passing it around. When I taught my course the subject of that book always came up. When I spoke in churches about cults I was constantly being pressed to comment on it. I read the book and didn’t believe a word of it. Never did. It had the “ring” of untruth. My internal nonsense detector rang loudly as I read it. I told people about my disbelief in the man and his story and his claims and was called a skeptic (in a bad sense) and unspiritual. It was, as the saying goes, déjà vu all over again. Fortunately for me, the book was exposed as false later. But not one of those people who called me unspiritual for disbelieving it ever came back to tell me “You were right and I was wrong.”

I was given a book a few years ago, by a guy called Tony Anthony. It’s called Taming the Tiger.

He made some claims that are rather easy to verifiy, and I did so. Well, it’s a complete hoax. It’s also doing damage.

Tony Anthony is currently an evangelist, who claims to have won Kung-Fu world championship four times. He has written a book about his past called Taming the Tiger.He claims his grandfather took him to China by the age of 4, and was trained to master all the arts of Kung-Fu. He trained up to the age of 20, became a professional bodyguard for influential people, but when his fiancee died, he began a life of crime in his rage and depression. He beat up and killed several people and ended up in a jail, where a man called Michael Wright, a Christian, visited him and taught him about Jesus and God. Tony became a Christian, and has been an evangelist ever since.

You can listen his story here: Link

I have read the book, and I actually thought his story was true, until I heard his story has no evidence or sources indicating it was true at all. No evidence about him ever being a Kung-Fu world champion, and no evidence of his crimes. We all know that evangelists aren’t really honest people, so it’s obvious that Anthony just fabricated his story just to gain money. I’m pretty sure the liar doesn’t even believe in God.

I guess it makes sense that he lied about his story. He made some pretty ridiculous claims about his Kung-Fu skills in the book. He said that it was possible to kill a person within a second by pinching from certain points in their bodies. I wonder if Anthony could still do this if he was asked? I guess it would be un-Christian if he did, so there’s no use demanding him to show his incredible Kung-Fu skills again…

Anthony’s Wikipedia page has been deleted due to a lack of citation of his claims.

Among my observations:

  • He spoke Cantonese, but in spite of the fact he spoke it every day he only remembers Mandarin words
  • His training read like parts of it had been copped from Bruce Lee’s Wikipedia page
  • His claim to have 3 world titles got gradually modified as people questioned him – the forum I was reading suggested he was now saying they were small, illegal competitions held in a garage somewhere.
  • He repeatedly offers excuses instead of real answers to questions about his background – even months later, his promise to put details on a specific page on his web site was unfilled
  • His parents disappeared while he was in prison and he says nothing more about them. If my parents disappeared in mysterious circumstances, I’d be tearing the country apart!

Here’s another list from a forum that discusses fake martial artists.

1. There are no traces of the organizations under which Tony became World Kung Fu Champion although he names them. When this was pointed out Tony more recently said it he gave incorrect names to protect his identity from his Chinese family although he is publishing the book in China. He also said the organization was small, illegal and unknown and that is why he calls himself a 3 times World Champion. Is this a World Champion?

2. The Publisher and co-author co-operated with questions admit no facts were checked. The publisher, after consulting Tony, said Tony had promised him that he would post a Q&A on Tony’s website www.avantiministries.comwith answers to people’s questions. Years later this has not happened.

3. The impressive teaching materials Tony uses and says he wrote appear to have been plagiarised. Their frustrated author appears on the thread.

4. There are multiple discrepancies. Although the book describes Tony as having a Chinese mother and growing up and training in China Tony, when questioned, speaks almost no Chinese. There has never been a Saudi Ambassador to Cyprus while Tony describes being his bodyguard. Tony avoids questions about these and many others. Martial Arts proponents have followed up a surprising number of facts on an international scale. These can be followed on the thread.

5. Martial Arts proponents note the almost exact similarities in the tests Tony passed to the opening sequences of the ‘Kung Fu’ TV series starring David Caradine.

6. Unusually for a Christian Leader Tony describes his policy to have no contact with his parents for the last fifteen years. This is very unusual. Tony speaks fluent Greek but not Chinese. He was in prison in Cyprus. There is record of an Antonio Anthony, born to a Greek Cypriot mother in North London. No one of his associates gets to meet his mother. This is probably the key place to confirm or disprove Tony’s story – a polite visit to his roots.

7. The Time Line of Tony’s life, which someone on the thread has produced causes major questions – copy below.

8. In the UK, in 2000 Tony was sentenced to 15 months in prison for perverting the course of justice. His car had hit a cyclist at night, killing her, but he had not stayed at the scene and later denied it to police.

2002 released from prison. 2004 published Taming the Tiger. This is a newspaper article at the time:…ut_death_crash. What are the ‘other unrelated charges’ in another Court that the article mentions?

9. Tony has offered a CD that answers people’s misgivings and a Q&A on his website that responds to the questions from non Christian Martial Artists and concerned Christians. He also says he responds to respectful emailed questions. In practice he is evasive and misleading here. The promised Q&A only has questions about God. Tony told a visitor to his offices that, ‘the decision was taken to focus on Jesus rather than myself’. The CD has little on it. You are welcome to see what response you get to emailed questions.

10. Tony describes several incident s where he killed terrorists who attacked the Saudi Arabian Ambassador to the UK and Cyprus. These would have been major International scandals of course (related to which Country was behind them) but there is no record of any such attacks and killings is there?

It does no credit to anyone to have this fraud going around – or to spread stupid stories.

Fake Outrage is Fake

Nasty without any trace of shame

I just read this post on LMC’s blog. The headline material is from here.

I’ve been talking about how Sperling has no shame, how the irony in her posts is laid on in spades. But thinking about that for a few seconds just broke my heart.

Let me hilight part of that:

God’s patience is amazing! In one of the most extraordinary examples of it, He gave Jezebel time to repent. When her wicked husband Ahab humbled himself, God healed and restored him. Humbling yourself before God will turn things around in your life when nothing else will work. James writes: ‘Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He shall lift you up.’ (James 4:10 KJV) Humble yourself- don’t wait for God to do it!

The Bible says: ‘Do not make light of the Lord’s discipline, and do not lose heart when He rebukes you, because the Lord disciplines those He loves, and punishes everyone He accepts as a son.’ (Hebrews 12:5-6 NIV) Notice two important statements in this Scripture:

(1) ‘Do not make light of the Lord’s discipline.’ A ‘nobody’s going to tell me what to do’ attitude cost Jezebel dearly, and it will cost you too!

If I’d done what Jacqueline had done, those words would cut me like a knife. Even as someone who’s not doing what she’s done, those words are still as a Christian very sobering.


I am a sinner. I make no bones about that. The wrath of God falls on me, and I’m not in any position to defend myself as someone “good”. On a day to day basis, that means I have to check my life. Am I going around saying “A ‘nobody’s going to tell me what to do”?

This is the Christian life, you have to stop and think about your actions occasionally and examine your motives carefully. I need to humble myself before God.

Later today or tomorrow, I think I will go through all that I’ve said and reexamine it. I’m beginning to wonder if it really is a good idea to label Jacqueline “Little Miss Crazy” – even if the shoe fits, is it really my right to say that? Am I doing this because of my commitment to the truth, or because taunting someone is fun?

But what’s her response to this, as someone who’s evil harassment has just been made public?

Not a word.

Merely a discussion of her coursework.

Reading that post and observing the disconnect is chilling to me. She’s made a show of talking about “forgiveness” occasionally, but forgiveness is not hers to grant. Now, when talking about repentance, there is not even the slightest hint that the topic has even come up. To me, that is an indication of some serious heart issues*.

God did indeed give Jezebel time to repent. The problem was that Jezebel was not interested in listening.

As a Christian, I can think of few actions with more serious consequences than not listening when God gets in your face and says


* Obviously, that she has heart issues isn’t new. But once in a while you see something you already knew in a new light and it slaps you hard in the face. That’s what’s happening here for me.


This post is about Jacqueline (Jackie) Sperling, and is part of an ongoing series discussing her ongoing campaign of harassment and lies against lawyer Madeleine Flannagan and Ms Brown, and The Narrative – the alternate reality she presents on her blog in which she pretends to be the victim of her targets. You can read a court decision that outlines her campaign and the court’s assessment of The Narrative here.

Please do not place abusive comments on her blog, phone her, or approach her or her family as she will blame this on her victims.

Chuck Colson RIP

I just read on Keeping Stock that Chuck Colson has died.

I read his autobiography a couple of years ago, and I think it should be required reading for all political hacks, title notwithstanding. He was in the thick of the Watergate scandal (though by his reckoning, his alleged contribution was as much due to the fevered imaginations of reporters than anything he’d done) and was the first to plead guilty to related crimes.

Certainly though, his time since has been well spent. After his time in prison, he founded prison fellowship, a ministry that works with prisoners and seeks to reform prisons.

Someone Brian could aspire to

As part of tonight’s update on my previous Destiny post, I had a look a their website.

As one would expect, there’s plenty of donation buttons and Brian appears promoting his book. Modest eh!

I would venture to point out that just perhaps one obvious example of religious and social activism just might come to mind! (I think we can safely dismiss Brian’s contribution to politics as “not helpful”.)

Outside of Christ himself, I would nominate George Muller, a man who spent his life proving that God listens to prayer for our daily needs. His orphanages cared for thousands of orphans (some of who are alive today – I know someone who met one of them), feeding them, clothing them and housing them

In all his life, he did not once even hint at a public appeal – rather temporal needs were always bought to God.

It would be wrong to think that the answers to prayer that George Müller experienced were all easy and quick – his diaries show that his experience was often far from that. Life was tough at times, but he learned to be persistent in and committed to the challenging task that God set him – that of demonstrating the faithfulness of God in prayer, often in the most miraculous of circumstances. His diaries provide documentary evidence of 50,000 answers to prayer, of which 30,000 had been answered in 24 hours or less!

Here was a man who, in want, knew the challenge of waiting and being persistent in prayer; a man who was so thankful that he saw the faithfulness of God in answering those prayers, many of which were miraculous, timely and fairly immediate. It is not surprising that his story spans not just the ages but also the nations, for many seek the intimacy that Müller enjoyed with his God.

Rather than inventing new ways of raising money, he simply asked God for what he needed. Rather than building up his wealth, he placed his needs before his maker.

His work continues today, and their web site doesn’t have a single donation button.

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