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News of religious/ethical change, conflict and/or intolerance

2008-February

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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:

bullet2008-FEB-04: USA: Are Mormons considered Christians? A 2008-JAN survey by Barna Research -- the largest and most respected religious polling group in the U.S. -- was triggered by Mitt Romney's candidacy for president. Romney is a Mormon. The data showed that:
bullet27% of American adults believe that Mormons are not Christians.
bullet32% of political conservatives agree.
bullet36% of adults under the age of 40 agree.
bullet37% of born-again adults agree.
bullet57% of Evangelicals agree.

The margin of error is ±4 percentage points.

George Barna commented:

"While that would not be a central factor in most people’s voting decision, it would be a sufficiently significant factor in the minds of millions of voters to affect the race if he proves to be the Republican nominee." 1

As the U.S. heads into "Super Tuesday" when 24 states will hold caucuses or primary elections to select delegates to national conventions, both the Democratic and Republican parties have two main viable candidates; in both cases they are fairly evenly matched.

bullet2008-FEB-04: USA: Born-again Christians are abandoning the Republican Party: In the same poll, Barna found that if the election were to be held in January, 40% of those born-again Christians who are likely to vote in 2008-NOV would vote for the Democratic candidate for president whereas 29% would vote Republican. The remaining 29% are unsure. This is a dramatic reversal from historical voting patterns. 1
bullet2008-FEB-01: NY: Same-sex marriages recognized in New York state, sort of: An appellate court in New York state ruled that same-sex marriages legally solemnized elsewhere must be recognized as valid marriages in New York state. More details.
bullet2008-FEB-07: OK: Lawsuit claims that over one billion dollars funneled through Oral Roberts University: Trent Huddleston has claimed in a lawsuit filed on 2008-FEB-07 that he was fired from ORU because school officials thought he might reveal the existence of an unrestricted account that was used to funnel "unusually large" sums of money through the university -- amounts that would exceed a billion dollars a year. University spokesman Jeremy Burton said that the claims had no basis in fact. 2
bullet2008-FEB-08: IL: Protests against abstinence only education: Condoms appear to have become a hot topic in Wood River, IL, where the Wood River-East Alton Elementary School's sex-education program consists of a guest speaker who visits the school once a year. One female student was suspended for having a condom pinned to her arm, apparently as a silent protest of the lack of safer-sex education in the school. Another female student was suspended for having a condom in her purse.Two eight grade students, Cheyenne Byrd and Victoria Schoemaker then came to school wearing white tank tops displaying a "Safe Sex or No Sex" hand written message, along with condom passages pinned to the fabric. They were asked to change their shirts. They refused, saying that the abstinence-only sex education program was insufficient; it should be expanded to teach students that they can choose between abstinence and safe sex. The student were suspended for two days.  Victoria said:

"Most of the students are on our side. They saw me on the news and they all applauded me. They're happy someone actually decided to take a stand."

Meanwhile, Kaskaskia College and Southwestern Illinois College in the same area have decided to abstain from any involvement in the distribution of over 6,000 condoms at area colleges during Condom Awareness Week starting FEB-11.

BND.com reports that:

"According to a 2002 [national] study by the Guttmacher Institute, birth control discussion in sex education has dropped significantly in the past seven years -- from 81 percent to 66 percent for boys, 87 percent to 70 percent for girls. Of teenagers who had sex, only 62 percent of girls and 54 percent of boys had received any instruction about birth control before their first experience." 3

bullet2008-FEB-10: Saudi Arabia: Commission for the Promotion of Virtue. etc. sees red again this year: The country's Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice is once again clamping down on the display of red merchandise throughout Saudi Arabia for a few days before FEB-14: Valentine's Day. On FEB-13 they are expected to raid flower and gift shops and instruct them to remove all red items, such as red roses, wrapping paper, boxes, teddy bears, etc. One result is a black market in red roses. Rob Wagner at 13 Martyrs comments:
"The reasons why the mutawwa ban the celebration of Valentine's Day are a little vague. There's some speculation that Muslims should not celebrate St. Valentine, the martyred Christian saint of ancient Rome. That's pretty much nonsense. Saudi religious authorities are nervous about unmarried men and women mingling and dating, which is illegal in the Kingdom."

"While the religious police have kept a low profile in Jeddah for some time now, they are generally out in force on Feb. 14. They will admonish women wearing red socks or blouses (if they can spot them under the abaya), and even bright red fingernail polish. Couples dumb enough to go out on a dinner date and have a present wrapped in bright red paper sitting on the table can expect a lot of trouble. So the women defiantly wear something red without being obvious and exchange gifts in restaurants under the table. And every couple can expect the restaurant staff to look the other way.""Saudi Arabia is probably the only country where couples celebrate the day of romance in a subversive manner." 4

Saudi Arabia seems also to be the only country in the world that does not allow its citizens to access this web site. The concepts of religious tolerance and diversity appear to be abhorrent to the government.

bullet2008-FEB-12: Denmark: Three people allegedly tried to assassinate cartoonist: Three people were arrested on suspicion of plotting the assassination of Kurt Westergaard, the cartoonist at the Jyllands-Posten newspaper. Two years ago, he drew a cartoon showing the Prophet Muhammad wearing a bomb-shaped turban. It triggered riots in many places in the Middle East and elsewhere. 5 Some Danish newspapers have re-published the cartoons.
bullet2008-FEB-13: UK: Archbishop of Canterbury criticized for comments on sharia law: BBC News states that:

"The Archbishop of Canterbury says the adoption of certain aspects of Sharia law in the UK 'seems unavoidable.' Dr Rowan Williams told Radio 4's World at One that the UK has to 'face up to the fact' that some of its citizens do not relate to the British legal system.

This triggered a firestorm of criticism. More info.

bullet2008-FEB-13: China: Spielberg withdraws as an artistic advisor for 2008 Olympics: Steven Spielberg has withdrawn as an artistic advisor to the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, China. In a statement he accused the country of not pressuring Sudan sufficiently to end the "continuing human suffering" in western Darfur.

The death toll there has exceeded 200,000. Two million people have been forced from their homes. Sudan has massive oil reserves and sells about two-thirds of its oil to China. China, in return, supplies weapons to the government of Sudan to facilitate the genocide of its own citizens.

He wrote:

"I find that my conscience will not allow me to continue business as usual. ... At this point, my time and energy must be spent not on Olympic ceremonies, but on doing all I can to help bring an end to the unspeakable crimes against humanity that continue to be committed in Darfur. ... Sudan's government bears the bulk of the responsibility for these on-going crimes, but the international community, and particularly China, should be doing more."

Sudan Liberation Movement (SLM) leader Abdul Wahid Mohammad Ahmed al-Nur said:

"This is a noble move by Spielberg. ... He will certainly go down in history as someone who gave human lives precedence over fame and money." 6

bullet2008-FEB-14: Saudi Arabia: Saudi "Witch" sentenced to be executed: Fawza Falih is an illiterate woman in Saudi Arabia who was accused by a man of causing his impotence. She was arrested by religious police, and allegedly mistreated. She was forced to mark a confession written by the police with her fingerprint. The confession was not read to her in advance. A number of witnesses said that she had bewitched them as well, and provided written statements to the court. She and her representatives were not allowed to attend most of the hearings. She was sentenced to be executed. The conviction was overturned on appeal appeal court. But the law courts re-imposed the death sentence because they felt it would be in the public interest. Human Rights Watch has appealed to the King Abdullah who alone has the power to cancel the execution. 10
bullet2008-FEB-15: USA: Sam's Club drops "Savage Nation" radio ads: The Hate Hurts America Community and Interfaith Coalition (HHA) today announced that Sam's Club, a division of Wal-Mart and one of the nation's largest warehouse clubs, has joined a growing list of companies that have stopped advertising or refuse to place their ads on Michael Savage's "Savage Nation" radio program.

HHA, a group of religious and civic organizations seeking to challenge hate speech on talk radio, was formed as a result of Savage's rhetorical attacks on religious and ethnic minorities. Coalition members are calling on advertisers nationwide to stop airing commercials on his nationally-syndicated program. 7
bullet2008-FEB-17: Kosovo: Country declares independence from Serbia:  The Kosovo parliament gave unanimous approval to a unilateral declaration of independence. Prime Minister Hashim Thaci declared Kosovo to be "proud, independent and free."  He described it also as "democratic, secular and multi-cultural." Serbia has instructed Serbs in Kosovo to reject succession, and has enacted countermeasures against the new state. The U.S., Canada, and most European countries are expected to recognize Kosovo's independence.

Russia opposes the development, probably for two reasons: it might motivate independence-minded movements in their country to demand independence. Also Russia and Serbia are linked by a common Orthodox Christian faith.

Iran also announced its opposition, perhaps because Kosovo intends to be a predominately Muslim but secular state.

Serbian Orthodox Bishop Artemije, head of the Serbian Orthodox Church in Kosovo called for violence. He said:

"Serbia should buy stare-of-the=art weapons from Russia and other countries and call on Russia to send volunteers and establish a military presence in Serbia."

Times Online in the UK reported:

"Olli Rehn, the European Enlargement Commissioner, maintained that Kosovo was a unique case that would not set a precedent for other breakaway regions in the world. He praised Kosovan leaders for agreeing to respect minority rights in line with the plan drafted by Martti Ahtisaari, the UN special envoy to Kosovo and former Prime Minister of Finland."

For the immediate future, Kosovo will be under the control of UN administrators and 16,000 NATO troops. Control will transition to a 1,800 member European Union-led mission by mid 2008. 8,9

bullet2008-FEB-18: Canada: Schism within the Anglican Church of Canada intensifies: Parishioners in six parishes in Ontario and British Columbia voted over the weekend of 2008-FEB-17 to leave the Anglican Church of Canada, and accept the episcopal oversight of Bishop Donald Harvey, Moderator of the Anglican Network in Canada, under under the Primatial authority of Archbishop Gregory Venables and the Anglican Province of the Southern Cone. This province includes six countries in South America: Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Paraguay, Peru, and Uruguay. More info.
bullet2008-FEB-19: U.S.: Stroke damage repaired by embryonic stem cells --- in rats: Research using adult stem cells had a two decade head start before embryonic stem cell research began. There are currently many practical applications of adult stem cells; however, therapies using embryonic stem cells were not expected for many years in the future. That schedule may have to be modified because of successes achieved by researchers at Stanford University School of Medicine in California.

Researchers caused strokes in ten laboratory rats, causing serious disabilities. They then coaxed human embryonic stem cells to develop into neural stem cells. The latter were transplanted into the rats. The cells migrated to the damaged area of the rats' brains, incorporated themselves into surrounding brain tissue. The cells developed into neurons and two other important types of brain cells. Reuters reports:

"The transplanted cells helped repair the stroke damage and enabled the rats to recover lost function in front legs weakened as a result of the stroke."

Referring to the rats' functioning after treatment, one of the leaders of the research, Dr. Gary Steinberg, said:

"It was not quite back to normal but, at least in the rat, it looks like it's going to be close to normal -- very impressive. ... Now remember, this is a rat, not a human. We still have to make that step. But if we could achieve that kind of recovery in humans, we would have a great therapy."

The researchers hope that this approach will be used on human patients within five years. 11

bullet2008-FEB-22: Canada: Gay civil rights worker receives Order of Canada: Rev. Dr. Brent Hawkes, pastor of the Toronto Metropolitan Community Church for over three decades, has been a leading promoter of equal rights for persons of all sexual orientations and identities. He has received Canada's highest civilian honor: the Order of Canada. His main achievement was his contribution to the same-sex marriage fight. In early 2001, he read the "bans" for two same-sex couples: one gay and the other lesbian. He later married them, but the city refused to register the marriages. This led to Hawkes launching a court battle that eventually led to legalization of same-sex marriage in Ontario in 2003. That was instrumental in prodding the federal government to pass legislation to make same-sex marriage available across Canada. He said during a phone interview: "About 27 years ago, I was fasting to protest the police actions around the bathhouse raids. And to see how far we've come, that Canada is the first country in the world to give its highest award to a gay activist." 12
bullet2008-FEB-22: Canada: Charity being de-registered: MM Outreach -- formerly called MacGregor Ministries is having its charitable status cancelled by the Government of Canada. It is a counter-cult, discernment ministry. More details
bullet2008-FEB-23: Iceland: Cell phone ad condemned by bishop: Siminn ran a TV ad in Iceland advertising their new 3G cell phones. The ad shows Jesus and Judas at the time of the Last Supper. It can be seen at: http://youtube.com/ Reaction on YouTube was mixed: viewers' comments were 5 positive and 3 negative.
bullet2008-FEB-27: Turkey: New interpretation of Hadith about to be published: The Hadith is a collection of thousands of sayings by the Muslim prophet Muhammad of various degrees of authenticity. Next to the Qur'an It is the major source for much of Sharia law and for Muslim beliefs and practices. The government of Turkey's Department of Religious Affairs is concerned that many sayings in the Hadith were not actually stated by Muhammad, and that some of the valid sayings need to be reinterpreted. They have commissioned a team of theologians at Ankara University to revise the Hadith over a three year project. More info.
bullet2008-FEB-29: World: Death threats through Email: A particularly nasty form of Spam Email has surfaced. The coordinator of this website received one. This Email is unrelated to an earlier one threatening to destroy our organization. It has been quite a week for hate messages! The latest Email is allegedly from a killer-for-hire who has accepted a contract to murder the person receiving the Email. However, he/she offers to not kill the recipient if the victim hands over $15,000. The letter begins:

"I am very sorry for you Xxxxxx, is a pity that this is how your life is going to end as soon as you don't comply. As you can see there is no need of introducing myself to you because I don't have any business with you, my duty as I am mailing you now is just to KILL you and I have to do it as
I have already been paid for that. Someone you call a friend wants you Dead by all means, and the person have spent a lot of money on this, the person also came to us and told me that he wanted you dead and he provided us with your name ,picture and other necessary information's we needed about you. So I sent my boys to track you down and they have carried out the necessary investigation needed for the operation on you, and they have done that but I told them not to kill you that I will like to contact you and see if your life is Important to you or not since their findings shows that you are innocent. ..."

It seems that this Email has been circulating since 2006 and originated in Europe. 13

If you receive a strange Email, we recommend that you Google a long phrase from it, and see if it has been already reported on the Internet.

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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. "Born Again Voters No Longer Favor Republican Candidates," The Barna Group, 2008-FEB-04, at: http://www.barna.org/
  2. Justin Juozapavicius, "Lawsuit alleges ORU funneled $1B a year," Associated Press, 2008-FEB-07, at: http://apnews.myway.com/
  3. "Wood River students suspended over 'Safe Sex or No Sex' shirts," BND.com, 2008-FEB-08, at: http://www.bnd.com/
  4. "Saudi morality police see red on Valentine’s Day," Sisyphus blog, 2008-FEB-12, at: http://hoosierinva.blogspot.com/
  5. "Trio arrested in plot to assassinate cartoonist," The Toronto Star, 2007-FEB-13, Page AA3.
  6. "Spielberg in Darfur snub to China," BBC News, 2008-FEB-13, at: http://news.bbc.co.uk/
  7. "CAIR: Hate Hurts America," World Muslim Congress, 2008-FEB-18, at: http://worldmuslimcongress.blogspot.com/
  8. "Raising flags of freedom," The Toronto Star, 2008-FEB-18, Page AA1 & AA4, at: http://www.thestar.com/
  9. Rory Watson, "Serbs vent anger at Kosovo independence declaration," Times Online, 2008-FEB-18, at: http://www.timesonline.co.uk/
  10. Heba Saleh, "Pleas for condemned Saudi 'witch'," BBC News, 2008-FEB-14, at: http://news.bbc.co.uk/
  11. "Stem cells repair stroke damage in rats," Reuters, 2008-FEB-19, at: http://www.theglobeandmail.com
  12. Jenny Yuen, "Gay activist receives Order of Canada: T.O. cleric fought to legalize same-sex marriage," CNews, 2008-FEB-23, at: http://cnews.canoe.ca/
  13. Robert Patrick, "Latest e-mail scam: death threats," St. Louis Post Dispatch, 2008-FEB-08, at: http://www.stltoday.com/

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Copyright © 2008 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally written: 2008-FEB-04
Latest update: 2008-FEB-27
Author: B.A. Robinson

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