Monthly Archives: June 2008

Like shooting ducks in a barrel

In answer to a question on another forum I stated that one of the reasons Catholics are being ‘picked on’ lately is because they are making themselves such easy targets. What with Catholic World Youth Day (C-WYD)  and all the apologetics saying how wonderful it’s going to be.  Not to mention they are an out-dated, misogynistic, homophobic, power hungry, imaginary sky god worshipping, religious organisation, led by an old authoritarian man in a dress, red shoes and a pointy hat.

 

loaves and fishes A lot of the criticism aimed at C-WYD is the cost to the NSW taxpayers, with the state government spending over $100 million on it. The government has tried to deflect some of the criticism by saying that the event would bring economic benefits to NSW and particularly Sydney. Well it seems that’s not entirely true. It was revealed yesterday that a $3 million contract to provide 800,000 meals for pilgrims has gone to Melbourne. As NSW Greens MP Lee Rhiannon said:

“The Government has boasted this is an event not just about hosting Catholics coming to New South Wales, but bringing economic benefit to New South Wales. We’ve just seen that go over the border.”

 

pope_redshoes

Then there is the report from the Vatican daily Osservatore Romano decrying the media picking on the Pope and his extravagant clothing. Esquire magazine had named the Pope as the “accessoriser of the year” mainly for his bright red shoes supposedly made by Prada. As the ABC reports

The [Vatican daily] article explained that the pope’s shoes, like his range of flamboyant hats, are nothing to do with vanity but all to do with tradition.

“The Pope, in summary, does not wear Prada, but Christ,” it said.

Except Christ doesn’t protect the pope’s delicate little footsies so he wears a nice pair of red loathers.

 

acceptance_mass_sm Did I mention the Pope and his catholic entourage are homophobic?

The group Acceptance was hoping to hold an event to discuss the issues around young Catholics who are gay or lesbian.

C-WYD organisers had already refused an initial request to allow the event to be part of official activities, now they have intervened to stop the forum being sponsored by the Jesuit group MAGis.

… MAGiS was contacted by World Youth Day officials and instructed to withdraw its support.

And some of the C-WYD apologetics say this event is going to be so inclusive. Inclusive if you are a catholic youth who isn’t gay or lesbian.

If you would like to support the gay and lesbian community, and protest the anti-condom stance of the catholic church, then you can get involved in the NoToPope Coalition. Also reported here where they say the protesters plan to hand out free condoms to pilgrims en route to the papal Mass at Randwick Racecourse.

(Though what the heck the Raelians are doing in this coalition, I have no idea. But it is probably in protest to their leader being denied a visa to visit this country.)

 

tip Catholic Church, I have a tip for you. Stop trying to make out the World Youth Day is such a great thing, we all know it’s just a recruiting drive. If you want people to stop ‘picking on you’ or ‘having a go at you’ then shut up. Most of us really aren’t interested in your bizarre rituals, including bringing dead bodies to youth festivals. This is not a catholic country so don’t try and impose your homophobic, misogynist ideals on the rest of us.

 

Richard Ackland reports that today an application is going before the High Court to see if there is a case that the Commonwealth governments expenditure  on Catholic World Youth Day is in breach of the constitution. We await the outcome.

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Teenager arrested for ‘blasphemous’ T-shirt

Blasphemy is a victimless crime.

A 16 year old was arrested, in the Gold Coast, on Monday for wearing an offensive T shirt. The T-shirt in question is a Cradle of Filth band T-shirt. The T-shirt depicts a semi-naked nun masturbating, with the words “Vestal Masturbation”, on one side and the words JESUS IS A C**T on the other.

For those of a sensitive nature the picture of the T-shirt is at the end of this post.

The story has been in several news media, but Ben Dillaway reported at goldcoast.com.au that it was blasphemous. In his article there was also the following quote from a local minister:

The Reverend Matt Hunt of the Helensvale Baptist Church said it was sad people spoke about the Lord in such a way.

“It’s fairly common language these days to express sadness, anger or hurt,” he said. “It’s a degrading word to use and Jesus is anything but that. It’s like calling white black.”

Mr Hunt said using the Lord’s name in vain was a serious sin.

I tend to agree somewhat that the C word can be considered degrading and/or offensive by some. However, the rev will have to get over the fact that a very large number of us don’t believe Jesus exists. Thus it’s no more a ‘sin’ calling Jesus a bad word than it is calling the tooth fairy a bad word.

The goldcoast.com.au article has a comments page which understandably has had a large number of comments. Over 300 at time of writing, perhaps this might beat the Unleashed article which currently has over 1180 (see my post How to get 1000+ Comments).

The comments basically fall into one of three types:

  1. The religious person who thinks it’s blasphemous and evil and the guy should have been charged
  2. The people (religious or not) who think that anything goes, freedom of speech and all that, and the guy should not have been charged.
  3. The people (religious or not) who think that the C word and/or pictures of semi-naked women masturbating is/are offensive.

Then there are all the off topic arguments.

Personally the C word is one of the few swear words I try not to use in the public arena. I have been told by several women they find it the most offensive of all the swear words. However I do use it occasionally, but if someone says to me they don’t like hearing that word, or any other swear word, I will do my best not to use it in front of them. Some call this the “Grandmother Test”, would you use the word in front of your grandmother?

I have no problem with people ‘insulting’ Jesus as a) he isn’t real and b) religion should not be above critique or criticism, just because it’s religion.

However the C word could be considered offensive, as could a picture of a, mostly naked, woman masturbating (the fact she is depicted as a nun should be immaterial).  Especially when displayed in a open public arena.

If the guy has been charged for offensive behaviour then it’s up to the courts to decide if he’s guilty (based on current acceptable standards). Any charge of blasphemy or insulting imaginary beings should be, quite rightly thrown out of court.

Do I find the T-shirt offensive? I think its funny but a bit too rude to be wearing in general public.

Do I think the police should have charged him? I think that unless the police had had complaints, and not from religious people being offended by the supposed blasphemy, they should not have charged him. Don’t the police have more important things to do? The police should not be the sole arbiter of public decency, perhaps they should have just cautioned the guy in the first instance?

Here’s the offending T-shirt,

jesus_is_a_c--t

What do you think?

Offensive? Blasphemous?

Should anyone be charged with offensive behaviour for wearing it?

Would you wear it?

Is Jesus a Cunt? (see I can say the word)

If you read through the comments watch out for the troll that goes by the name of Zac. Zac if you read this, please read FAQ 1 and FAQ 2 before even considering leaving a comment.

I had heard about this on the radio, but hat tip to Nut Watch for bringing the offensive T-shirt story to my attention again.

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Secular and Science Events – Sydney

There are several secular and science events coming up in Sydney (and a few other cities, see links), which I am intending to attend. These include:


AUSTRALIAN NATIONAL SECULAR ASSOCIATION (ANSA)CONFERENCE:  Secular Twins: Australia and New Zealand’s Secular Heritage and its Future

WHERE: NSW Parliamentary Theatrette, Sydney

WHY: To respond to claims that Australia and New Zealand are “Christian nations”.

WHEN: 9am  – 5pm Wednesday 9 July 2008.

More details here


intelligence2 OZ Debate: We’d be better off without religion

WHERE: City Recital Hall, Sydney

WHEN: 6:45pm Tuesday 19 August 2008.

More details here


National Science Week: National Tour, featuring Michael Shermer

Where: Powerhouse Museum, Sydney

When: 6pm – 11pm Friday 22 August 2008.

More details here, bookings not yet available.

Michael Shermer is also debating John Lennox (this guy?) on Friday and Saturday, further details to be announced.


Just thought a few readers may be interested, Shermer is also going to be in Melbourne, Perth and Darwin. I hope to be attending all the above events, if any readers are also attending and want to catch up for a drink, let me know.

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How to get 1000+ Comments on your blog

subtitled: Does Catholic World Youth Day = Tolerance?

So how do you get 1,000+ comments? Write an article expounding how wonderful the Catholic World Youth Day (C-WYD) is going to be, or tell everyone you are an angry atheist, e.g. Greta Christina’s post Atheists and Anger. This post won’t be either.

Thanks to CASE, I’ve spent the last couple of days trawling through the over 1000+ comments in response to Bishop Anthony Fisher’s article titled: World Youth Day = Tolerance.

Fisher opens his article with saying how wonderful our ‘Christian’ country is, then goes on to say

But many of ‘Gen Y’ lack a connection with any church or religion. … They are less involved than they could be in church life or the broader community.

This is possibly due to ‘Gen Y’ being more inquisitive and knowledgeable than any other previous generation. They are not so easily taken in by old time religious dogmas, partly due to an increase in critical thinking. So what’s Fisher’s answer? Hold a World Youth Day. Which may or may not actually get any of the youths to become more active within the church [1]. He then spruiks the line that there is a necessary cost to government but a net benefit in terms of tourism and commerce.

One would have to admit that any event requires some degree of support from government; additional security, transportation, etc. However Fisher’s statement

… and for a much smaller outlay by government than is usual for big events.

is quite probably wrong, and the article Almighty cost of hosting pilgrims states that our government is paying up to four times more than the equivalent events held in Canada and Germany.

Of the $163.9M cost in Germany only $24.59M came out of government coffers. Of the $C120M cost in Canada, government subsidies were only $C18M.

So why of the estimated $200M Sydney’s C-WYD is going to cost, is over $100M coming from State government and $55M from the Federal Government?

Fisher’s next line of attack defence is the old line “but everyone will benefit”, as he puts it

But there is more to WYD than that. When 125,000 young pilgrims from overseas join up to 100,000 young Aussies for the week of celebrations, it will be a magical time for all Sydney, and for all Australia, not just the Catholics, not just the youth. Ordinary people will themselves join the pilgrims in big numbers and will be emotionally and spiritually uplifted.

I think I discredited the “magical time for all” once before. To add to that, from all the negative publicity and responses the C-WYD has been getting, I certainly don’t see too many ‘ordinary’ people being uplifted in any way.

To be a bit facetious, all I can say is; when 125,000 youths join up with 100,000 youths for a week I sure hope they, as my dad once said, “if you can’t behave, be careful” I wonder if the condom manufacturers have been doing overtime lately 😆

I think it’s time for a favourite placard of mine:

jesus-saves

The article then has a go at the “wowsers” as he calls us, and accuses us of being against big celebrations and taking fright they are coming. I for one are not against big celebrations, I enjoyed going to the Olympics in 2000, and whilst never having been to one, the Gay Mardi Gras parades look like a lot of fun. Yes, there is a fair bit of the problem being the cost and the disruption to Sydney, but the bigger concern is the Catholic church trying to garner more recruits. As much as the Catholics would love this to be a christian and preferably catholic, nation; it still is (mostly) a secular nation. One that is (or at least should be) free from religion and free of religion.

But there is something else behind the negativity. We see it at times in public debate. A range of views are welcomed, but as soon as a religious leader or perspective is introduced some seek to exclude it. The three quarters of Australians who believe in God must check their beliefs into the cloakroom before entering the public square.

No, the problem is that religious groups always hold themselves above critique, they expect respect just because they are religious. A range of views are always welcomed but when a view is based on some false dogma then, quite rightly, the view should be, if not outrightly excluded, at least tempered with the knowledge it is based on a particular religious dogma, not necessarily on any rational thought.

Fisher throws in the line “three quarters of Australians who believe in God” as if the argument from numbers holds weight that those beliefs are valid.

For a start in the last census (2006) there were only 64% claiming to be Christians. As we all know the census question on religion is skewed and a percentage of people just tick the box of the religion they were brought up in (cultural or traditional Christians) [2]. So whilst a large percentage of the population might confess to believing in a “God”, how many actual religious people are there? Even the Catholic church itself has stated that of the ‘supposedly’ 5.1 million Catholics in Australia only 14% of those attend church.

I wonder how many of the people who profess a belief in “god” are just apatheists or apagnostics? People who are apathetic in actually thinking about their beliefs. People who’ve just never really bothered to question what they’ve been told from birth.

The state must remain neutral with respect to religion and withhold financial support from anything with a whiff of incense about it. Religious beliefs and practices should be kept out of sight.

Bishop Fisher says that like it’s a bad thing. He says we are not being very tolerant in objecting to C-WYD and religion in general. Since when has religion ever been tolerant of anything? Talk about hypocrisy. Fisher then spouts some more ill-considered rhetoric, but this is quite deceitful

Are we happy with the idea that as long as Catholics (Jews? Muslims? Aborigines? Feminists?) keep to themselves and avoid publicity they will be left alone?

See how he’s lumped Aborigines and Feminists into the mix (note he didn’t put Gays in this list, as we all now how ‘tolerant’ the Catholic church is to gays). As though saying, if we have to shut up Catholics then we have to shut up all discussion. This is very disingenuous, as the debate is with religion in general not with all causes. Religion is based on beliefs for which there is no basis for evidence. Topics such as Feminists are based on equality and real life problems, not about any imaginary sky gods.

Fisher points out that we should be tolerant of religion because

of the good religions do and collaboration by the state with churches on things like education, health, welfare, …

There is great debate on these topics which I won’t go into here (maybe a topic for another post), but we all know how good a tax break they get for doing some of these things.

The final six paragraphs of his sermon, are along the lines that by holding C-WYD and indoctrinating, oops, brainwashing, oops, I mean creating mass hysteria, sorry, “renew[ing] the values and ideals of a new generation?” they “will be laying foundations for a better world.” Cough cough, yeah right.


[1] See also my previous post: God’s Mosh Pit.

[2] See also my previous post: Christianity – a declining population

If, by some chance you are one of the few people who have never read Greta’s Atheists and Anger post, I highly recommend it. Just note, she also discusses sex on her blog and has adverts for sexually oriented products, so her blog comes with a Not Safe For Work (NSFW) rating.

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Atheist 13 Meme

AV at Five Public Opinions has nominated me for Nullifidian’s Atheist Thirteen meme, and I thought I’d managed to elude this one? If you want to play too, just copy the questions below, and nominate three bloggers who you would like to participate.

Q1. How would you define “atheism”?
Atheism is a lack of belief in a god, gods or the supernatural.

Similar to FPO but with the added lack of any evidence in the supernatural.

Q2. Was your upbringing religious? If so, what tradition?
I was raised C of E in England (though don’t remember that) and then Baptist in Australia. My folks were quite active in a particular Baptist church, our family was even interviewed on TV for the opening of the new church. I actually got quite involved in religion for a while in my mid-teens – even got baptised.

Q3. How would you describe “Intelligent Design”, using only one word?
Deceitful

Q4. What scientific endeavour really excites you?
I think nanotechnology is pretty cool, but I’ve always been fascinated with space. So any scientific endeavour that gets us further towards putting people on other planets gets my attention.

Q5. If you could change one thing about the “atheist community”, what would it be and why?
Getting them to join.

Religion’s biggest trick is getting lots of people to join. Here in Australia there is a political party which, whilst not strictly atheist based, is secular. They can’t even get 500 people to join so they can be classed as an official political party! 

To seriously make an impact on society atheists need to be identified within some sort of group(s). Which sort of goes against the whole atheist thing as they only thing we really have in common is a lack of belief in god(s).

Q6. If your child came up to you and said “I’m joining the clergy”, what would be your first response?
I’d be like, child? What Child?

Hypothetically speaking, I’d be astonished.

Q7. What’s your favourite theistic argument, and how do you usually refute it?
It would have to be the one about morals. “God is the absolute moral authority.”

I ask them, if God didn’t exist would they suddenly rape, steal, lie, and murder? (if they answer yes, I quickly back away) Then I tell them to read my FAQ 1

Q8. What’s your most “controversial” (as far as general attitudes amongst other atheists goes) viewpoint?
I guess my most controversial viewpoint is that religious schools should not exist. However I usually temper this argument and say that they can exist but they shouldn’t get any money off Government. I also think religion should not be tax exempt.

disagreement-hierarchy

Not so much a view point, but one of the other controversial  things I sometimes do is go for the lower end of the hierarchy of disagreement.

 

 

 

Q9. Of the “Four Horsemen” (Dawkins, Dennett, Hitchens and Harris) who is your favourite, and why?
Dawkins. Apart from being quite an amazing scientist I like his calm manner in interviews. It was his video “the root of all evil?” and book “The God Delusion” that really opened my eyes, and part of the reasons I know blog.

Q10. If you could convince just one theistic person to abandon their beliefs, who would it be?
Like someone else who’s done this meme (forget who I’ve seen so many the last several days): The Pope. He is so influential to so many people, imagine if he turned around and said it was all bunk, there is no god, no one needs to be a Catholic.

Now name three other atheist blogs that you’d like to see take up the Atheist Thirteen gauntlet:

I don’t know if there are any of my usual suspects left who haven’t been tagged, so I’ll tag:

CASE

ozfreethinker

Summer Squirrel

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Crimen Sollicitationis

On Soliciting for Sex within the Catholic Church

Crimen Sollicitationis (Latin for crime of soliciting) is a document that was issued by the Vatican in 1962 to all Catholic Bishops.

The document is essentially a set of procedural norms for processing cases of accusations against priests for soliciting sex while in the act of sacramental confession.

In other words, using their status, power and authority to obtain sex whilst offering confession to one of their parishioners. The document doesn’t just cover acts perpetrated via soliciting in the confessional, it also covers acts, which it deems “the worst crime”, as follows:

To have the worst crime, for the penal effects, one must do the equivalent of the following: any obscene, external act, gravely sinful, perpetrated in any way by a cleric or attempted by him with youths of either sex or with brute animals (bestiality).

One has to wonder what was happening in the Catholic church that the Vatican had to release a special document covering solicitation, pedophilia and bestiality! (I think a WTF! is appropriate here)

The Catholic Crimen Sollicitationis Instruction was issued in the strictest confidentiality and urged the utmost secrecy in dealing with any sexual abuse claims. (see below)

As Doyle (see References) points out, these sorts of cases had been dealt with by the 1917 Code of Canon Law. The fact that an additional document was released in 1962 doesn’t necessarily

indicate a rise in cases of clergy sex crimes but could indicate a heightened concern over the incidence of clergy crimes

The document, or Instruction to give it the more accurate term, was purportedly also aimed at providing a greater degree of confidentiality than that covered under the existing Code of Canon Law.

The Crimen Sollicitationis instruction was released to Bishops world wide in 1962 but was supposedly not very widely known of. The document appears to have only come to the general publics attention sometime between 2001 and 2003 (as much as I tried, I couldn’t find an exact date when this document came into the media and the civil legal system’s general knowledge, but in 2003 it was definitely known about).

The document has been used in evidence by sexual abuse victims (of the catholic clergy) to show that, despite some protestations, the church knew that sexual abuse was occurring before 1984. Such that they deemed it necessary to issue an additional instruction in 1962 specifically covering solicitation and sexual abuse.

Secrecy

The secrecy could be seen as a way to cover up the sexual abuse, or as a method to protect the victims and accused until guilt is established.  I can see a need for a certain amount of secrecy in a sexual abuse claim. Victims, and witnesses, are more likely to come forward in the first instance and accused are more likely to allow an investigation if they know their name is to be withheld if they are innocent. I’m sure this level of secrecy is not common to the Catholic church alone.

However, it can be argued that the overriding level of secrecy within the church leads to a culture of secrecy such that no one ever admits to anything. Even though the Crimen Sollicitationis doesn’t expressly prevent a victim, witness or accused taking direct civil legal action, it does assist the church in preventing abuse cases being discussed outside the church’s legal system. (luckily it appears that the lack of general knowledge of the instruction actually enabled some victims to come forward who otherwise may not of)

As Doyle says:

The almost paranoid insistence on secrecy throughout the document is probably related to two issues: the first is the scandal that would arise were the public to hear stories of priests committing such terrible crimes. The second reason is the protection of the inviolability of the sacrament of penance.

Neither of which excuse sound very good to me. They both seem to be more worried about protecting the Catholic Church’s reputation rather than supporting the victims.

To be fair, Doyle also points out that:

It seems to be stretching a bit too far to conclude that this process is a substitute for civil law action or is an attempt to coddle or hide clergy who perpetrate sex crimes.

Even though, in many instances, the Catholic church did just that.

One final word from Doyle’s article

… the obsession with secrecy through the years has been instrumental in preventing both justice and compassionate care for victims. It has enabled the widespread spirit of denial among clergy, hierarchy and laity. The secrecy has been justified to avoid scandal when in fact it has enabled even more scandal.

Couldn’t have said it better myself, and this comes from a Catholic Reverend and canon lawyer! Reverend Doyle received a Priest of Integrity Award for his work in addressing sexual abuse by the Catholic clergy. The award also recognised his attempt to alert bishops within the Catholic Church that sexual abuse should be reported and warning of the effects on victims.

Excommunication

The ultimate penalty for anyone being convicted (within the church legal system) of the crimes within the document is excommunication. Catholic officials were threatened with automatic excommunication if they even discussed abuse cases outside the church’s legal system. Even victims and witnesses were threatened with excommunication if they broke the oath of secrecy they made at the time of making a complaint. I wouldn’t be surprised to find that Excommunication is worse than death for some/most Catholics. So what incentive is there for any church official or witness to ‘dob in a mate’ they suspect of abuses?

Richard Sipe, a former Catholic priest and national expert on the church sex abuse scandal, said this about the document, “It’s a straight jacket, a religious straight jacket.” He calls the 1962 Vatican document a blueprint for cover-up and says it’s a document that demands even victims remain silent.

Conspiracy

I don’t buy in to the whole conspiracy theory that the Crimen Sollicitationis document was specifically designed to systematically cover up sexual abuses by the Catholic clergy. As Doyle puts it, it’s more: “a policy of secrecy rather than a conspiracy of cover up“. But it certainly demonstrates that the Catholic church was aware of these sexual abuses, and the mantle of secrecy would have made it more difficult for people to discuss the issue. The document isn’t the cause of clergy sexual abuse, but surely reflects the underlying culture of secrecy within the Catholic Church, which possibly led to these abuses continuing for so many years.

Relevancy

Claims the document was no longer in force after the release of the 1983 Code of Canon Law have shown to be false when in 2001, the then Cardinal, Ratzinger sent a letter to Bishops invoking the 1962 document. The fact was also brought out in a court case in 2005:

Msgr. Brian Ferme, … stated in an affidavit submitted in a California civil case in 2005 that “technically the 1962 Instruction was in force until the publication of the 2001 document by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.”

Why?

So what piqued my interest in this now redundant document? I came across this whilst watching an episode of Silent Witness (ABC Fridays at 8:30pm) titled “Suffer the Children” in which several men are murdered and a priest commits suicide (the other part of this show dealt with young boys seemingly being ritually sacrificed). The head of the Catholic boys boarding school (I bet those four words conjure up horrible memories for some?) asks the pathologist if they had ever heard of Crimen Sollicitationis, he then goes on to explain it. The gist of the document is that the worst crimes were to be dealt with in secrecy lest the perpetrators and victims become excommunicated. Not to give too much away about the show, but the murders and suicide were linked to the priest using Crimen Sollicitationis as part of the reason for not reporting a case of sexual abuse.

So I got in the net and started researching, I was a little surprised by what I found.

Old News to Some

I understand that this story may be old news to some, a lot of the news reports I read date back to 2003. However, as I’d never heard of it, and it was featured recently on a TV show, I thought others may also not know, and be interested. Also the recent visit of the Pope to America and the impending visit to Australia has again raised the issue of sexual abuse within the church. However, to-date, most media are either unaware of this document or are ‘too polite’ to mention it.

PS. I hope the Pope has the fortitude to formerly apologise to all the Australian victims of Catholic clergy sexual abuse when he visits here for Catholic WYD.

 

References

I’d like to thank Jay at Renegade Catholic for access to documents referenced in this article, namely:

THE 1962 VATICAN INSTRUCTION 
“CRIMEN SOLLICITATIONIS,” PROMULGATED ON MARCH 16, 1962
Observations by Thomas Doyle, O.P., J.C.D.
November 1, 2006

INSTRUCTION
ON THE MANNER OF PROCEEDING IN CASES OF SOLICITATION
The Decree 
CRIMEN SOLLICITATIONIS
The Vatican Press, 
March 16, 1962
(edited translation)

Further information was obtained from the Wiki entry Crimen sollicitationis and reports in the National Catholic Reporter and FAIR on-line, as follows:

Explaining Crimen Sollicitationis
Many bishops unaware obscure missive was in their archives
Pope Gets Pass on Church Abuse History
Catholic League’s Inaccurate Critique of FAIR

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Firefox Download Day 2008

Firefox 3 is about to be released and they want to set a Guinness World Record for the most  software downloaded in 24 hours.

Download Day

Want to get the latest Firefox browser and help set a world record? Then register at the Download Day site Now!

 

 

 

 

The site states the release date is the 17th June 2008 (today), but at 16:30 EST it hasn’t been released, so get in now before it’s too late.

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