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

2009-July

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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:

bullet2009-JUL-02: Vatican: Radical admission of self-criticism: Monsignor Sergio Pagano, head of the Vatican's secret archives, in a startling, unprecedented move, said that today's church should learn from their past mistakes and abandon their diffidence towards science. He compared the Catholic Church's current rejection of scientific research in such fields as stem cells and eugenics to their treatment of Galileo in the 17th century. Galileo was condemned by the Inquisition in 1633 CE for promoting Nicolaus Copernicus' proofs that the earth revolved around the sun. The church waited almost 360 years before admitting that error and rehabilitating Galileo.

Pagano said:

"Can this teach us something today? I certainly think so,... We should be careful, when we read the Sacred Scriptures and have to deal with scientific questions, to not make the same mistake now that was made then. ... I am thinking of stem cells, I am thinking of eugenics, I am thinking of scientific research in these fields. Sometimes I have the impression that they are condemned with the same preconceptions that were used back then for the Copernican theory."

Reuters commented:

"Pagano said it was necessary for today's Church leaders and Vatican officials 'to study more, to be more prudent, evaluate things' when dealing with scientific advances."

"He said that while scientists should not presume they can teach the Church about faith, the Church should not be afraid to approach scientific issues with 'much humility and circumspection'."

"The Catholic Church, other religious groups and anti-abortion advocates oppose embryonic stem cell research -- which scientists hope can lead to cures for diseases such as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's -- because it involves the destruction of embryos."

"But the Church supports adult stem cell research, which has made advances in recent years."

"The relationship between religion and science has been tense and tricky for centuries. For example, Christian Churches were long hostile to the evolutionist theories of Charles Darwin because they conflicted with the literal biblical account of God creating the world in six days." 1

bullet2009-JUL-02: USA: Two Republican "family values" politicians fall: In his Sexual Intelligence® newsletter, Marty Klein comments:

"Two more 'family values' politicians recently bit the dust, as Nevada Senator John Ensign and South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford both admitted to extramarital affairs. Prior to that, both men were known as vociferous critics of "immoral," commercial, and non-traditional sexual expression. Each one had, for example, used the power of the government to punish President Clinton for cheating on his wife." 2

bullet2009-JUL-03: Turkey: TV game show to convert Atheists: A game show on Turkey TV called "Penitents Compete" is scheduled to begin in September. It is to feature a Muslim imam, a Christian priest, a Jewish rabbi and a Buddhist monk with ten Atheists. The goal is to convert Atheists to one of the major world religion. They would win a pilgrimage to their new faith's holy site (Mecca for Muslims, the Vatican for Christians, Jerusalem for Jews and Tibet for Buddhists).

The program has hit a snag: The Religious Affairs Directorate is refusing to provide an imam for the program. Hamza Aktan, Chairperson of the High Board of Religious Affairs said: "Doing something like this for the sake of ratings is disrespectful to all religions. Religion should not be a subject for entertainment programs." 3

The producers of the program appear to be unaware that the vast majority of Buddhists have no belief in a theistic deity, and would thus already qualify as Atheists.
 
bullet2009-JUL-05: American Library Association's top ten challenged books: The ALA compiles a list of the top ten most frequently banned and challenged books each year in the U.S.. We ran across the list for 2008:
  1. And Tango Makes Three, by Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell
  2. His Dark Materials trilogy, by Philip Pullman
  3. TTYL; TTFN; L8R, G8R (series), by Lauren Myracle
  4. Scary Stories (series), by Alvin Schwartz
  5. Bless Me, Ultima, by Rudolfo Anaya
  6. The Perks of Being a Wallflower, by Stephen Chbosky
  7. Gossip Girl (series), by Cecily von Ziegesar
  8. Uncle Bobby's Wedding, by Sarah S. Brannen
  9. The Kite Runner, by Khaled Hosseini
  10. Flashcards of My Life, by Charise Mericle Harper

There were many reasons given: anti-ethnic, anti-family, drugs, homosexuality, nudity, occult/satanism, offensive language, political viewpoint, religious viewpoint, sexually explicit, suicide, unsuited to age group, and violence. 4
 

bullet2009-JUL-09: UT: Gay couple handcuffed by Mormon Church guards: A gay couple, Matt Aune, 28 and his partner, Derek Jones, 25, had attended The Twilight Concert Series at the Gallivan Center in Salt Lake City and were walking home when they crossed Main Street Plaza. This was once a public main street, but the City traded it to the Mormon Church 2003 in a controversial exchange for another piece of land. It remains a popular pedestrian thoroughfare. The held hands and Matt kissed Derek on the cheek -- apparently a common event on the plaza. Couples often pose affectionately there for poses. Two Mormon church guards came over and asked the couple to leave, noting that public displays of affection are not allowed on church property. The couple resisted, and were handcuffed by the church guards. Later, they were given a citation Salt Lake City Police Department. Aune was one of those who protested the land transfer in 2003. He said: "They claimed in 2003 this would never happen, they were never going to arrest anyone. It's clear now they do have an agenda." The article generated 190 pages of comments from readers; very few had anything nice to say about the Mormon church. 5

On JUL-12, about 100 people gathered on public property near the spot where Aune and Jones were handcuffed. The couples staged a protest in the form of a "kiss-in." Both opposite-sex and same-sex couples exchanged pecks on the cheek. Church security was present, although there were no altercations. 6
 
bullet2009-JUL-12: GA: Former-president Jimmy Carter severs ties with SBC: He wrote, in part:

"I have been a practicing Christian all my life and a deacon and Bible teacher for many years. My faith is a source of strength and comfort to me, as religious beliefs are to hundreds of millions of people around the world."

"So my decision to sever my ties with the Southern Baptist Convention, after six decades, was painful and difficult. It was, however, an unavoidable decision when the convention's leaders, quoting a few carefully selected Bible verses and claiming that Eve was created second to Adam and was responsible for original sin, ordained that women must be 'subservient' to their husbands and prohibited from serving as deacons, pastors or chaplains in the military service. This was in conflict with my belief -- confirmed in the holy scriptures -- that we are all equal in the eyes of God."

"This view that women are somehow inferior to men is not restricted to one religion or belief. It is widespread. Women are prevented from playing a full and equal role in many faiths." 11

bullet2009-JUL-14: CO: Marie Osmond makes appearance at evangelical show: Marie Osmond, a Mormon, made an appearance at the International Christian Retail Show ICRS) in Denver, CO to promote her new inspirational music CD. Reaction was mixed, because many evangelicals regard The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to be a Christian cult or even an anti-Christian group.  She had previously regarded her Mormon faith to be a major barrier with evangelical Christians but now hopes that people would realize that "it doesn't matter what denomination (you are) [but that she wanted to bring people to] my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ."

According to Christian Retailing.com:

"Mickey Nuttal, owner of Sonlight Christian Books and Gifts in Grand Junction, Co., told Christian Retailing that 'if she's a Mormon, I probably wouldn't stock it. If you're going to be a Christian store, be a Christian store'."

"Lois Friesen, owner of Faith and Life Bookstore in Newton, Kan., however, said she would judge the CD on its own merits and definitely consider it 'if it's not contradictory' to Scripture."

"In a presentation during CBA's Industry Conference in January, researcher Kelly Gallagher revealed 18% of Catholics and 7% of Mormons shop at Christian stores." 7

bullet2009-JUL-14: DC: Judge Sonia Sotomayor's confirmation hearings: Hearings began before the Senate Judiciary Committee on the president's choice for the next Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court.

The court currently has five conservative and four liberal members. This has resulted in innumerable decisions with a 5 to 4 vote, with strict constructionists Chief Justice Roberts, and Justices Alito, Scalia, and Thomas often voting as a block. Justice David Souter, a liberal, is retiring. If Judge Sotomayor's appointment is confirmed by the Senate, her generally liberal leaning would maintain the court's balance.

The main topic underlying most of the questioning was diversity of the court. If one views the ideal court as reflecting the makeup of the country as a whole, then the court is currently very unrepresentative. A representative court would have:
 
bulletFive females and four males, with a female Chief Justice slightly over 50% of the time.
bulletSeven whites, 1 African American, and one Hispanic,
bulletTwo Roman Catholics, four or five non-Catholic Christians, one or two unaffiliated, and perhaps one non-Christian religious person.

Instead, there the court currently has:
bulletOnly one female.
bulletNo Hispanics,
bulletFive Roman Catholics, two Jews, two Protestants, and zero unaffiliated.
bulletA woman has never been the Chief Justice.

If confirmed, Judge Sotomayor would be only the third woman and third non-white justice to serve during the 200 years of the history of the Supreme Court.

Of course, accepting the principle that the Supreme Court justices' sex, race, and religion should be representative of the country as a whole, recognizes that these factors do influence their decisions. Most of the attacks on Judge Sotomayor by Republicans on the Senate committee concentrated on whether she would be influence by her background. A number of TV commentators have suggested that the Republican racist attacks on Sotomayor were based on a desire to win points among white voters for their party.

During a speech that she gave at Berkeley in 2001, she said:

"America has a deeply confused image of itself that is in perpetual tension. We are a nation that takes pride in our ethnic diversity, recognizing its importance in shaping our society and in adding richness to its existence. Yet we simultaneously insist that we can and must function and live in a race- and color-blind way that ignores these very differences that in other contexts we laud. That tension between "the melting pot and the salad bowl"?a recently popular metaphor used to described New York's diversity?is being hotly debated today in national discussions about affirmative action. Many of us struggle with this tension and attempt to maintain and promote our cultural and ethnic identities in a society that is often ambivalent about how to deal with its differences."

Whether born from experience or inherent physiological or cultural differences, a possibility I abhor less or discount less than my colleague Judge Cedarbaum, our gender and national origins may and will make a difference in our judging. Justice O?Connor has often been cited as saying that a wise old man and wise old woman will reach the same conclusion in deciding cases. I am not so sure Justice O?Connor is the author of that line since Professor Resnik attributes that line to Supreme Court Justice Coyle. I am also not so sure that I agree with the statement. First, as Professor Martha Minnow has noted, there can never be a universal definition of wise. Second, I would hope that a wise Latina woman with the richness of her experiences would more often than not reach a better conclusion than a white male who hasn?t lived that life.

Let us not forget that wise men like Oliver Wendell Holmes and Justice Cardozo voted on cases which upheld both sex and race discrimination in our society. Until 1972, no Supreme Court case ever upheld the claim of a woman in a gender discrimination case. I, like Professor Carter, believe that we should not be so myopic as to believe that others of different experiences or backgrounds are incapable of understanding the values and needs of people from a different group. Many are so capable. As Judge Cedarbaum pointed out to me, nine white men on the Supreme Court in the past have done so on many occasions and on many issues including Brown.

However, to understand takes time and effort, something that not all people are willing to give. For others, their experiences limit their ability to understand the experiences of others. Other simply do not care. Hence, one must accept the proposition that a difference there will be by the presence of women and people of color on the bench. Personal experiences affect the facts that judges choose to see. My hope is that I will take the good from my experiences and extrapolate them further into areas with which I am unfamiliar. I simply do not know exactly what that difference will be in my judging. But I accept there will be some based on my gender and my Latina heritage. 9

bullet2009-JUL-20: HBO aired documentary "Prom Night in Mississippi:" Producer/director Paul Saltzman created a documentary about the first racially integrated prom at Charleston High School in Mississippi. It happened in 2008, almost four decades after the public schools of Mississippi were racially integrated. Since 1997, a Charleston local, Morgan Freeman, had offered to pay for the prom if everyone was allowed to go. The offer was finally accepted 11 years later.

Student Chasidy Buckley said:

"It was just magnificent. That night, when we stepped in that door, everybody just had a good time. We proved ourselves wrong. We proved the community wrong, because they didn't think that it was going to happen. [The prom is] ... going to continue to go on in our school, and if it continues to go on in our school, then our community will continue to improve. It'll impact them, too, because once they see that blacks and whites can come together in school and have fun together, then they'll see that the community can change, too."

Some white parents wouldn't let their children attend; some insisted on having a private whites-only prom. 10
 

bullet2009-JUL-17: World: Episcopal Church, USA adopts Earth Charter: The church adopted a resolution at its 76th General Convention that endorsed the Earth Charter. It urges its dioceses, congregations, agencies and individuals to take action consonant with the Earth Charter locally, nationally and internationally. At their previous convention they passed a resolution stating that:

"...the use of fossil fuels harms air quality and public health and is contributing to changes in the global climate that threaten the lives and livelihoods of our neighbors around the world and be it further that the convention affirmed that our Christian response to global warming is a deeply moral and spiritual issue." 12

bullet2009-JUL-21: Kenya/Canada: The curious case of Suaad Hagi Mohamud: She is a citizen of Canada who left in late April to visit her mother in Kenya. When she was in the Nairobi airport on MAY-17 trying to board a plane to return to her home in Canada, she was allegedly stopped by a police officer who asked to see her passport. It is traditional in Kenya for travelers to give a bribe to policeman at this point. She either didn't have enough money or refused on principle to give a bribe. The police officer concluded that she did not resemble the picture on her passport and on other forms of government photo-ID that she showed. She was arrested and spent eight days in jail. She was released on bail with no travel papers. According to the Toronto Star: "Kenyan officials sent her passport to Canadian consular officials, who said she was an 'imposter,' voided the passport and sent it back to the Kenyans for prosecution." Months then passed without progress while arrangements were made to take her fingerprints and have them compared those taken when she applied to become a citizen of Canada. This is strange because such fingerprints taken by the government are routinely destroyed. Someone got the bright idea to take samples of her DNA and that of her son and her son's father. But this has been delayed until JUL-27 without any explanation. At a court hearing on JUL-22, she told a Toronto Star reporter: "I feel in pain, to be honest, I feel really sick. My country let me down ? that's what really makes me mad." Canadian consular officials who were present at the hearing refused to speak to the Star reporter, to give their names, or even shake hands. In the meantime, her family and and friends have identified her voice during phone calls.

Personal note: As a citizen of Canada, I am outraged at my government's depraved indifference towards Mohamud. I am also personally concerned whether my government would support me any time that I leave the country -- something I do weekly. I would like to think that the Government of Canada's lack of concern towards Mohamud and her 12 year old son is not because of her skin color, gender, religion, country of origin and/or hijab. But as her case drags on month after month, it is increasingly difficult to maintain faith in my government. 13,14

A DNA test finally proved that she was telling the truth.

References used:

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

  1. Philip Pullella, "Vatican should learn from Galileo mess, prelate says," Reuters, 2009-JUL-02, at: http://www.reuters.com/
  2. Marty Klein, "Governor Sanford, Senator Ensign -- Their hypocrisy or ours?," at: http://sexualintelligence.wordpress.com/
  3. Daren Butler, "Turkish TV gameshow looks to convert atheists," Reuters, 2009-JUL-03, at: http://www.reuters.com/
  4. "Top ten most frequently challenged books of 2008," American Library Association, at: http://www.ala.org/
  5. Lindsay Whitehurst, "Trespassing case? Gay couple detained after kiss near LDS temple," Salt Lake Tribune, 2009-JUL-11, at: http://www.sltrib.com/
  6. " 'Kiss-in' Protest Held near Mormon Temple; 100 People Exchange Kisses to Protest Treatment of 2 Gay Men who Were Detained by Police," CBS News, 2009-JUL-14, at: http://www.cbsnews.com/
  7. DeWayne Hamby, "ICRS: Marie Osmond makes appearance, reaction mixed," ICRS, 2009-JUL-14, at: http://www.christianretailing.com
  8. Dahlia Lithwick, "What a waste: The Sotomayor hearings were a mass of missed opportunities for Republicans and Democrats alike," Slate, 2009-JUL-25 http://www.slate.com/
  9. "Sotomayor's Diversity Speech," UC Berkeley News, 2001, at: http://sweetness-light.com/
  10. "Mississippi School Holds First Interracial Prom," NPR, undated, at: http://www.npr.org/
  11. Jimmy Carter, "The Words of God Do Not Justify Cruelty to Women: Discrimination and abuse wrongly backed by doctrine are damaging society, argues the former U.S. president," The Observer, 2009-JUL-12, at: http://www.cartercenter.org/
  12. "Episcopal Church endorses the Earth Charter,"  The Earth Charter Initiative?, at: http://www.earthcharterinaction.org/
  13. Raveena Aukakh, "Ottawa urged to rescue Nairobi detainee," Toronto Star, 2009-JUL-21, at: http://www.thestar.com/
  14. Nick Wadhams & Raveena Aukakh, "Woman's DNA test delayed," Toronto Star, 2009-JUL-25, at: http://www.thestar.com/

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Copyright © 2009 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally written: 2009-JUL-04
Latest update: 2009-AUG-11
Author: B.A. Robinson

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