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Religious change, conflict and/or intolerance

News items during 2007-October

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We also have a list of religious tolerance & information news for this month.
Sad to say, these are usually much shorter lists.

Events:

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2007-OCT-01: CA: U.S. Supreme Court refuses to hear religious freedom case: The Contra Costa library system in the San Francisco Bay area makes its rooms available for use by educational, cultural and community-related activities by outside groups. But it refused to allow Faith Center Church Evangelistic Ministries to hold worship services there. The Alliance Defense Fund (ADF), a Fundamentalist Christian legal orgainization, took on the case. They lost before the 9th U.S. Circuit of Appeals. The Supreme Court refused to take up the case. 8
 

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2007-OCT-01: OH: Radio show host allegedly insulted Muslims: The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) stated that:

"WLW-AM host Bill 'Willie' Cunningham said on air: 'The great war of this generation's time is the war against Islamic fascists. . .They do not live for life, they live for death. Only through death can they believe they can be with those 72 virgins in heaven and have sex with children for eternity, which is the goal of that religion'."

He is apparently referring to Muslim extremists who are terrorists. There is debate within Muslim circles whether Muslims who die martyrs in the cause of Islam are rewarded with 72 virgins or with 72 fruit. We have not been able to find any link between between Muslim terrorists and pedophilia. Sexually abusing children is certainly not a goal of Islam. In some predominately Muslim countries, sexual abuse of children is a capital crime. 1

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2007-OCT-01: UK: Religious hate law comes into effect: A new law that criminalizes attempts to incite religious hatred has taken effect. Sentences of up to seven years in jail are possible. The government believes that there is a sufficiently high threshold built into the law so that free speech is protected. The law only affects threatening words or behavior. The prosecution must prove the intention of the accused to stir up religious hatred. 2
 

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2007-OCT-02: North America: "House" TV program discusses Mormon Church: House, he program, is about a doctor of the same name who diagnoses obscure medical ailments. On this week's episode, he discussed The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints with another physician who is both Black and a Mormon. The latter explained that the LDS church encourages its members to think for themselves and that the church does not dictate their behavior. He also said that the church has progressive views towards African Americans.
 

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2007-OCT-02: IL: Ramadan to be celebrated in public school: Elizabeth Zahdan, a Muslim mother with three children in Ridgeland School District 122 near Chicago asked the superintendent, Tom Smyth, for permission to decorate a part of a wall of a school hall for Ramadan -- the main Muslim religious observance that celebrates the giving of Islam's holy book, the Qur'an, to humanity by God. She was denied permission and told that the schools cannot engage in religious celebrations. However, the school has traditionally celebrated Christmas and Halloween yearly. Some parents of unknown religious affiliation asked the school board to ban any recognition of Ramadan, even though Muslim children make up about 30% of the district's pupils. Smyth suggested that the school cancel recognition of all holidays and replace them with generic fall and winter festivals.

After meeting in a closed session for 2' hours, the board decided to retain Christmas and Halloween parties and add an annual Ramadan celebration. 3
 

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2007-OCT-03: OK: Teachers at Oral Roberts University sue: Three former professors, professors John Swails, Tim Brooker and Paulita Brooker claim that they were wrongfully terminated and defamed because they communicated serious concerns about the legality of some university actions to its board of regents. They allege that Oral Roberts University (ORU) president Richard Roberts insisted that they become actively involved in supporting Randi Miller's candidacy for mayor of Tulsa. Tim Brooker objected, stating that ORU's tax exempt status would be in danger of being cancelled under existing state and federal law concerning non-profit organizations. The group went to the ORU regents and expressed concerns about an internal ORU report that allegedly listed dozens of instances of misconduct in accounting and management of the university. 4
 

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2007-OCT-04: UT: Conservatives may support third party candidate for president: Dr. James Dobson discussed the results of a meeting in Salt Lake City on 2007-SEP-30 attended by over 50 "pro-family" leaders. Pro-family is a term frequently used by religious and social conservatives to refer to opposition to same-sex marriage; opposition to equal rights for gays, lesbians, and transsexuals; opposition to abortion access; opposition to physician assisted suicide, stem cell research, opposition to comprehensive sex education, etc.

By a near unanimous vote, the attendees decided that if neither the Republican nor the Democratic party nominates a presidential candidate who "pledges himself or herself to the sanctity of human life, we will join others in voting for a minor-party candidate." There was no consensus reached on whether to create a third party in that event. Dobson writes: "Winning the presidential election is vitally important, but not at the expense of what we hold most dear." 5
 

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2007-OCT-04: Papua New Guinea: Two men to be executed for murdering a "witch:" Sedoki Lota, 22, and Fred Abenko, 20, of Papua New Guinea's Milne Bay province were sentenced to be hanged by the National Court after they pleaded guilty to murdering a woman. Marcia Kedarossi, who they believed had killed their fathers by witchcraft.
The defense lawyers asked that the accused be given a jail sentence. Justice Mark Sevua refused, saying:

"It is my view that the degree of criminal culpability and cruelty exhibited by the prisoners is so enormous that imposing a determinate (jail) term is inadequate and will not fit the crime." 9

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2007-OCT-04: NY: U.S. Supreme Court refuses to review court decision: In 2002, then Governor George Pataki (R-NY) signed the Women's Health and Wellness Act into law. It requires all health insurance policies that include prescription drug coverage to include prescribed contraceptives. It also requires coverage of mammography, cervical cancer screenings, bone density exams and other services for women. Churches and other employers primarily concerned with religion were exempted. However, groups like Catholic Charities which discriminate neither in hiring nor serving people on the basis of religion have to follow the law. Catholic Charities and several other Roman Catholic and Baptist groups challenged the constitutionality of the law. They claimed that the state of New York was trying to force them to pay for private conduct that the churches teach is morally wrong. The bishops of the New York State Catholic Conference predict that insurance coverage for elective abortions will come next. The plaintiffs attempted to appeal their case to the Supreme Court but were rejected. So, the law remains constitutional. Some may not have expected this response from the court because most of its Justices are Roman Catholic. 6
 

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Date uncertain: Jack Van Impe raises fears of alien invasion: On a recent episode of his end-times program, Jack Van Impe promoted his new video: "Extraterrestrial Global Invasion Approaching." He suggests that the Devil is controlling millions of his angels -- extraterrestrials -- who are coming to Earth every day to create tornados, hurricanes, floods, earthquakes, and blizzards. They dwell among the stars and travel faster than the speed of light. They depress, possess and oppress their human victims. 7

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2007-OCT-05: India: Quota for Muslims not religion based: In an amazing feat of logic, the government of India stated before the country's Supreme Court that a law reserving 4% of the spots in professional and educational institutions for Muslims was not based on religious criteria but was based on careful identification of Socially and Educationally Backward Classes (SEBC) within the community.
 

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2007-OCT-09: Argentina: Roman Catholic Priest sentenced: Fr. Christian von Wernick was convicted of being a co-participant in seven counts of homicide, 31 counts of torture and 42 counts of kidnapping. They occurred during the 1976-1983 military rule that critics say the church did little to oppose. He was a chaplain to the police in Argentina. He received a sentence of life in prison.
 

bullet2007-OCT-09: Boston Legal episode "The Chicken and the Leg:" Season 4; Episode 71: This episode included two interesting sub-plots:
bulletOne was passing a reference to recovered memories the therapeutic concept that destroyed many tens of thousands of families due to false memories of child sexual abuse: A widow hired a team of lawyers (Katie Lloyd and Jerry Espensonat) at the Boston legal firm to represent her. She wanted to sue her late husband's psychiatrist. It seems that he "recovered" repressed "memories" during therapy. The "memories" were responsible for the man's depression and triggered his suicide. She asserted that the psychiatrist did not inform the husband of the high failure rate of this type of therapy and therefore neglected to obtain informed consent. The lawyers were able to negotiate a large sum of money and settle the case out of court.
bulletA fifteen-year-old girl sued her public school because their sex education classes included only abstinence instruction, and no information on how to avoid sexually transmitted diseases. She had sex with her boyfriend, and contracted HIV. The school's position is that they absolutely had to have the federal grant which required them to remain silent on prevention methods. She won a sizeable settlement. 10
 
bullet2007-OCT-17: OK: Richard Roberts granted a leave of absence: Richard Roberts, 58, president of Oral Roberts university, asked for and was granted a leave of absence. The Associated Press reports that:

"The amended complaint also included an internal ministry report, titled 'Scandal Vulnerability Assessment,' documenting allegations of misconduct by the university and the Roberts family. Only a partial report was included in the Oct. 2 lawsuit."

"The more detailed account alleges Richard Roberts' wife, Lindsay, spent the night in the ORU guest house with an underage male 'on nine separate occasions,' and was photographed 29 times with an underage male in her sports car, among other allegations. ..."

" 'The last three weeks have taken a serious toll on me and my family,' Richard Roberts said in the news release Wednesday. 'The untrue allegations have struck a terrible blow in my heart. The untrue allegations of sexual misconduct by my wife have hurt the most'."

Richard Roberts told a chapel service that God considers the lawsuit invalid. According to Roberts, God told him that "We live in a litigious society. Anyone can get mad and file a lawsuit against another person whether they have a legitimate case or not. This lawsuit ... is about intimidation, blackmail and extortion." 11

bullet2007-OCT-29: AR: DNA data proves innocence of West Memphis Three:  Damien Echols, Jessie Misskelley or Jason Baldwin were convicted of the Satanic ritual killing of three six-year-olds in West Memphis, AR in 1994. They have since spent most of their lives in jail. Recent DNA testing showed that none of the DNA from the alleged murderers was present at the crime scene. However, DNA from the step-father of one of the victims was reported present. The West Memphis Three's (WM3) defense team issued a "Second Amended Petition for Writ of Habeus Corpus" on behalf of Damien Echols on 2007-OCT-29. They are arguing that new evidence, including the testimony of several prominent forensic pathologists, would convince any reasonable juror of the innocence of the WM3. The investigators also concluded that the cuts on the bodies of the victims were caused by animals -- not by a knife as claimed by the prosecution. 1,2 More information.
 
bullet2007-OCT-31: KS & PA: Westboro Baptist Church loses court case: ABC News reported that a jury found that the Westboro Baptist Church of Topeka KS had intentionally inflicted emotional distress on the family of Lance Corporal Matthew Snyder when it demonstrated at his funeral in 2006. The Church protestors had carried signs with messages like "God hates fags" and "Thank God for dead soldiers." Their point is that deaths in the U.S. military are caused by God punishing the country because it tolerates homosexuality. The family was awarded $2.9 million in compensatory damages and $8 million in punitive damages. The awards total many times the total assets of the church. 14

Links to religious news sources:

bulletLinks to general religious, conservative Christian, other Christian, and non-Christian news sources is available elsewhere on this web site.

References used:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. "Ohio Radio Host Says Islam's 'Goal' Is 'Sex with Children'," Council on American-Islamic Relations, 2007-OCT-03, at: http://www.cair.com
  2. "Religious hared law in force," WorldWide Religious News, 2007-OCT-01, at: http://wwrn.org/
  3. "IL: Ramadan added to schoo's holidays" Council on American-Islamic Relations, 2007-OCT-03, at: http://www.cair.com/
  4. "Three Former Professors Sue School," KOTV, Tulsa OK, 2007-OCT-03, at: http://kotv.com/
  5. James Dobson, "The Values Test," CitizenLink. 2007-OCT-04, at: http://www.citizenlink.org/
  6. "A win for women's health," Editorial: Knight Ridder Tribune Business News, 2007-OCT-04, at: http://www.romingerlegal.com/
  7. "Jack Van Impe Extra Terrestrials Global Invasion," YouTube, at: http://www.youtube.com/
  8. Jennifer Mesko, "Supreme Court won't her religious freedom case," CitizenLink, 2007-OCT-01, at: http://www.citizenlink.org/
  9. "2 Papua New Guinean men sentenced to death for beheading 'witch'," Associated Press, 2007-OCT-04, at: http://wwrn.org/
  10. "The Chicken and the Leg," Boston Legal, 2007-OCT-09, at: http://abc.go.com/
  11. Justin Juozapavicius, "Richard Roberts asks ORU board for leave." Associated Press, 2007-OCT-17, at: http://news.yahoo.com/
  12. Alice Whitman Leeds, "Free the West Memphis Three," at: http://www.wm3.org/splash.php
  13. "WM3.org - Damien Echols - Defense Press Conference," YouTube, 2007-OCT, at: http://www.youtube.com/
  14. "Jury orders Westboro Baptist Church to pay millions to father of fallen Marine," 2007-OCT-31, ABC News, at: http://www.religionnewsblog.com/

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Copyright ' 2007 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally written: 2007-OCT-04
Latest update: 2007-NOV-18
Author: B.A. Robinson

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