Today, the Supreme Court of the United States ruled 5-4 in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc. to uphold that the Religious Freedom Restoration Act can exempt a family-owned, or closely-held company, from a federal regulation requiring that employers provide coverage to their female employees for certain types of birth control deemed, in the religious opinion of employers, capable of facilitating an abortion.

Fred Phelps, the founder of a Kansas-based group known for its anti-gay protests and picketing of military funerals, died of natural causes on Wednesday night at the age of 84. Westboro Baptist Church, a small but vocal congregation, was founded in 1955 to warn the world of God’s wrath toward our “deeply corrupted nation and world.” Since the 1990s, they have staged protests meant to disrupt and cause emotional distress to a number of people in the U.S. and elsewhere.

James David Manning is the pastor of the ATLAH World Church in Harlem, New York. Last week, his website posted a video through which the pastor educated his community about the dangers of the “white homo,” a demon Manning believes is coming to take black men. This is fear-mongering at a level you’ve never seen it before.

Conservative Christians around the nation have been clamoring for increased religious protections to match the advances made by by gay rights groups. The latest attempt fell flat yesterday in Arizona when Republican Governor Jan Brewer vetoed Senate Bill 1062, which would have effectively sanctioned discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people by businesses in the state.

The United Nations called on the Vatican today to immediately remove all clergy known or suspected of child abuse, and turn them over to their respective local authorities. Their Committee on the Rights of the Child accused the Catholic Church of forcing victims into silence, preventing clerics from reporting crimes and moving abusers around in efforts to cover up their crimes. They’re also demanding that the Holy See make their archives documenting the abuse available.

Everyone is currently reporting that Pope Francis blessed a parrot belonging to a porn star. I’m trying to understand what is so newsworthy about that. Is it surprising that people of Catholic faith come to the head of their church to have things blessed? Is it surprising that a sex worker would have a pet? Or that a sex worker would have faith? Is it surprising that a sex worker would be able to approach the Pope without being smote by a vengeful deity?

The debate about marriage equality always comes back to the Bible. Opponents state, unequivocally, that the Bible says that marriage is only possible between one man and one woman. Scholars Hector Avalos, Robert R. Cargill and Kenneth Atkinson are baffled by the lack of accuracy in such statements. “Such appeals often reflect a lack of biblical literacy on the part of those who use that complex collection of texts as an authority to enact modern social policy,” they write in a recent editorial, laying it all out.

Pope Francis, the leader of the Roman Catholic Church, said that it was not for him to judge gay people. “If someone is gay, who searches for the Lord and has goodwill, who am I to judge? The Catechism of the Catholic Church explains this very well. It says they should not be marginalized because of this (orientation) but that they must be integrated into society.” Despite what seems like a revolutionary reversal in doctrine, the pontiff aligns with the Catholic Church’s belief that while homosexual orientation is not a sin, homosexual acts are.

Asceticism, however, contorts desire from its essential nature into a strange and unrecognizable beast. It bends desire so far around that desire turns back onto itself and consumes its own tail. By advocating for desire only towards an unknowable abstraction, theology denies desire in its very essence, which is as an immediate and bodily drive. This is how the apologists for ascenticism argue that practicing death is in fact an attenuation of desire: they refuse to acknowledge that the essence of desire is a bodily drive.

Ironically, the satisfaction of the closed desire’s object is actually more enjoyable when approached through open desires. Sex is the best case in point: if the sexual act itself is the desire, then permission to accomplish the act or perhaps the lead-in to the act become the actual climax of the desire. Everything after the point where sex is “acquired” — that is, the sexual act itself — is an unnecessary afterthought and fundamentally empty.