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Religious change, conflict and/or intolerance

News items during 2007-September

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Sponsored link:


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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.

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Events:

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2007-SEP-10: CA: Senate approves bill legalizing same-sex marriage: The California Senate approved bill AB-43 by a vote of 22 to 15 to substitute the term "two persons" for "man and wife" in the state's marriage law. This would allow all loving committed couples to marry, whether they are of the opposite-sex or same-sex. All 12 Republicans and three Democrats voted against the bill. The bill will now go to Governor Schwarzenegger for either his signature or his veto.

VoteYesMarriage.com is proposing a marriage amendment to the state constitution that would prohibit same-sex marriage and retain marriage as a special privilege of opposite-sex couples only. 1

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2007-SEP-11: 9/11: This is the sixth anniversary of the attack on the World Trade Center and Pentagon by fanatical Muslim fundamentalists.

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2007-SEP-11: Netherlands: Group of young Muslims promote religious freedom: The Committee for Ex-Muslims launched a campaign to make it easier for Muslims to change their religion. The committee's founder, Ehsan Jami, rejected Islam after the attack on the World Trade Center in 2001-SEP-11. He is currently in hiding, having received a series of death threats. There have been two assassinations in recent years of individuals who have taken a stance against traditional Islam: politician Pim Fortuyn in 2002 and film-maker Theo Van Gogh in 2004. 2 More details.

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2007-SEP-12: Canada: Focus on the Family Canada accepts validity of same-sex marriage: In what may be a first for any fundamentalist or other evangelical group in North America, Focus on the Family Canada appears to have accepted the validity of same-sex marriage (SSM). Focus and other conservative religious groups have always been careful to denigrate same-sex marriage by placing the word marriage or married in quotation marks when it refers to SSM, as in same-sex "marriage." This reinforces their assertion that SSM is not really marriage; they consider it a phony form of quasi-marriage.

However, in their SEP-12 issue of Today's Family News, they mentioned Statistics Canada new report on family structures in Canada. They conclude with the statement: "And for the first time, the number of same-sex married couples will be included." Note the absence of quotation marks! This is believed to be a first for Canada among religious conservative para-church groups; perhaps it is the first in North America. It only took them about 26 months for them to accept SSM as real marriage. We congratulate Focus. 3

Update: 2007-OCT-27: We found out from Focus that the lack of quotation marks was a typographical error by them. Their policy is to continue to denigrate same-sex marriages by enclosing the word "marriage" in quotation marks.

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2007-SEP-13: World: Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples: The United Nations General Assembly approved the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. It was approved by an overwhelming vote after 22 years of intensive debate and negotiation. Only four countries voted against the Declaration: Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the United States. At least three of them -- Australia, Canada and the U.S. have histories of regular and cultural genocide against their own aboriginal people in past centuries. The case of Canada is interesting. The previous Liberal federal government played an active role in negotiating this Declaration. But then it was thrown out of office due to gross financial corruption, and replaced by a Conservative government that reversed Canada's position on the declaration. Meanwhile, 143 nations voted in favor of the declaration and eleven abstained.

Botswana Bushman Jumanda Gakelebone of First People of the Kalahari said: "We would like to say that we are really very happy and thrilled to hear about the adoption of the declaration. It recognizes that governments can no longer treat us as second-class citizens, and it gives protection to tribal peoples so that they will not be thrown off their lands like we were."

Kiplangat Cheruiyot of Kenya’s Ogiek tribe said today, "With the adoption of the declaration, the lives of indigenous peoples will be improved on an equal footing with the rest of world citizens." 10

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2007-SEP-14: NS: Two high school students start a movement: David Shepherd and Travis Price are two senior (Grade 12) students at Central Kings Rural High School in Nova Scotia on Canada's east coast. Reacting to an earlier event at the school when six to ten homophobic bullies harassed and threatened to beat up an anonymous student who wore a pink shirt to school, they organized a "sea of pink" day. About half of the students at the high school wore pink to indicate their opposition to bullying and homophobia. More info.

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2007-SEP-18: TX: Lawsuit against Baptist Seminary to proceed: Dr. Sheri Klouda is suing her former employer, the Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, TX. She alleges breach of contract, fraud and defamation. She had taught biblical Hebrew at Southwestern and believes that she was on track for tenure. She was allegedly dismissed by the seminary because a new administration believes that women should not be allowed to teach male pastors-in-training on theological matters. A federal judge denied the Seminary's request that the lawsuit be dismissed. 4

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2007-SEP-20 & 21: Possible "denial of service" events: Over a two day interval, two fundamentalist Christian web sites reported denial of service (DoS) attacks on their web site. The Apologetic Index and related sites reported three attacks over a three week period ending in SEP-20.  Way of Life at http://www.wayoflife.org reported problems on SEP-21. One common denial of service attack involves many infected computers worldwide. Those computers initiate an enormous number of requests to access a specific home page or file on the victimized website. The owners of the computers are generally unaware that their computers are being used in this way. The victimized server gets overloaded and either slows down or fails completely. 5

Attacks on these two websites may have been a coincidence, or may reflect a larger attack on religiously conservative websites.

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2007-SEP-20: USA: Muslim civil rights groups criticizes representative's remarks on Islam: The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR ) criticized Representative Peter King (R-NY) for saying in a recent interview:

"Unfortunately, we have too many mosques in this country. There are too many people who are sympathetic to radical Islam. We should be looking at them more carefully. We should be finding out how we can infiltrate. . .I think there's been a lack of full cooperation from too many people in the Muslim community. And it's a real threat here in this country."

The Democratic National Committee (DNC) has already condemned Rep. King's statements, calling them "deplorable." 12

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2007-SEP-21: NY: State rejects abstinence funding: New York state officials decided to join at least ten other states and by not reapplying for its annual $3.5 million grant to teach abstinence funding. The funding requires that the state schools keep their students ignorant about safer-sex practices that greatly reduce the chances of pregnancy and sexually transmitted disease (STD) transmission. They claimed that abstinence-only teaching is a "failed" Bush policy based on "ideology rather than on sound scientific-based evidence." Galen Sherwin, director of the Reproductive Rights Project for the New York Civil Liberties Union agreed, saying:

"We think it is a good thing that they are making efforts to close programs that were misinforming adolescents."

Linda Klepacki, sexual health analyst for the fundamentalist Christian group Focus on the Family Action, disagreed with the state's decision, saying:

"It's truly a tragedy to deny teens the safest and healthiest sexual messages in a state with one of the highest numbers of abortions. We must ask ourselves which is safer: teen abortions or teen abstinence? ... Schools exchanging needles or giving information on the safest drug dealer may be next." 6

bullet2006-SEP-24: Freedom of speech and expression: The Toronto Star reported some abbreviated data from the World Bank Institute and the World Bank Development Economics Research Group's annual Worldwide Governance Indicators (WGI). The WGI is available for each of 212 countries and territories. 7 Countries are rated by their percentile rank. That is, Denmark which has the greatest freedom of speech is rated at 100. Myanmar (the former Burma) which is controlled by a military dictatorship has the least freedom of speech; it is  rated at 0.

Data for 2006 includes:
bulletDenmark 100.0
bulletSwitzerland 99.5
bulletNetherlands 99.0
bulletNorway 98.6
bulletGermany 95.7
bulletCanada 94.2
bulletUK 92.8
bulletFrance 92.3
bulletUSA 83.7
bulletIsrael 70.2
bulletIndia 58.2
bulletMexico 52.4
bulletTurkey 43.3
bulletRussia 24.0
bulletVietnam 8.2
bulletIraq 7.7
bulletMyanmar 0.0

On "control of corruption" Canada ranks 94.2, the US 89.3 and Mexico 46.6. On "government effectiveness" Canada ranks 97.2, the US 92.9 and Mexico 60.7. Each rating for each country is typically based on a dozen reports by various groups.

bullet2007-SEP-24: NY: Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad spoke at Columbia University: CNN reported:

"Asked about widely documented government abuse of women and homosexuals in his country, Ahmadinejad said, 'We don't have homosexuals' in Iran. 'I don't know who told you we had it,' he said."

"He also repeatedly said that women have freedoms in Iran and refused to comment on reports that their freedom is severely constrained."

We just thought that you would like to know this. 8

bullet2007-SEP-25: NS: Premier creates "Stand Up Against Bullying Day:" Expanding on a movement against homophobia and bullying in a Nova Scotia high school, the premier of Nova Scotia, Rodney MacDonald declared the second Thursday after the start of each school year as "Stand Up Against Bullying Day." He wore a pink necktie.
bullet2007-SEP-27: USA: The Matthew Shepard act passes the Senate: S. 1105 was passed. A virtually identical House bill was passed on MAY-03 by a bipartisan vote of 237 to 180. It has been attached to the Department of Defense authorization bill that is currently before the Senate. 9

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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.

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References used:

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

  1. Hilary White, "California Senate Votes to Impose Same-Sex 'Marriage' on State," Life Site News, 2007-SEP-11.
  2. David Charter, "Young Muslims Begin Dangerous Fight for the Right to Abandon Faith," Times Online (London, UK), 2007-SEP-11. at: http://www.timesonline.co.uk/
  3. "Canadians still value marriage," Today's Family News, 2007-SEP-12.
  4. Sam Hodges, "Judge denies FW seminary's request to dismiss suit," Knight Ridder Tribune, 2007-SEP-18, at: http://www.romingerlegal.com/
  5. Denial-of-service attack, Wikipedia, at: http://en.wikipedia.org/
  6. "New York Rejects Abstinence Funding," CitizenLink, 2007-SEP-21, at: http://www.citizenlink.org/
  7. "Governance Matters 2007: Worldwide Governance Indicators, 1996-2006," World Bank, at: http://info.worldbank.org/ To extract information, select "voice and accountability" as the indicator and select "World" as the region. Then select up to 20 countries, and click on "Submit Choices." This delivers a histogram. Click on "Table" for an itemized table of results.
  8. "Iranian leader 'petty, cruel dictator,' school president says," CNN.com, 2007-SEP-24, at: http://www.cnn.com/
  9. "Senate passes the Matthew Shepard Act! One step closer to erasing hate," Matthew Shepard Foundation news release, 2007-SEP-27.
  10. "Jubilation as UN approves indigenous peoples declaration," Survival International, 2007-SEP-13, at: http://www.survival-international.org/
  11. Text of the "United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples" is available at: http://www.survival-international.org/ This is a PDF file. You may require software to read it. Software can be obtained free from: 
  12. "NY congressman says 'too many mosques in U.S.' CAIR asks GOP to repudiate remarks, urges Giuliani to drop Rep. King, Daniel Pipes as advisors," News release, CAIR, 2007-SEP-20.

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Copyright © 2007 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally written: 2007-SEP-11
Latest update: 2007-SEP-28
Author: B.A. Robinson

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