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NEWS OF RELIGIOUS INTOLERANCE AND CONFLICT DURING 2001-DEC

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Sponsored link.


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

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2001-DEC-5: USA: Pat Robertson attacks the Wiccan religion -- maybe: On his "700 club" program, Robertson interviewed Caryl Matrisciana of Jeremiah Films. They were discussing her recent video concerning the Harry Potter books. She is distressed that the books are being read in public schools. She equates the fantasy witchcraft found in these books with an unrelated established Neopagan religion, Wicca. She concluded that schools are violating the principle of separation of church and state. After the interview, Robertson made a list of the main reasons why a country like the U.S. could invoke divine displeasure. He talked "about God lifting his anointing his mantle from the United States of America." The first item on the list was "Witchcraft." It is not known whether Robertson is referring to:
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Fantasy witchcraft (which doesn't exist outside of novels), or

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The religion of Wicca, or

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The hurting or killing people by verbal curses -- sometimes called "witchcraft" in the Bible, or

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Some of the other 14 or so meanings of the word "witchcraft."

Other reasons on his list is the decriminalization of sodomy, the practice of bestiality and incest, and abortion access. ("Sodomy" is a term that is often used by Fundamentalist Christians to refer to homosexual behavior.)

He concluded: "We're doing all the things that God said were so repugnant that the land itself would be repulsed and would vomit its inhabitants out. And, if there was ever a time that we need God's blessing, it's now. We don't need to bring in heathen, pagan practices to the United States of America. We need to call on God and ask him for revival." Some unstable individuals might interpret this as a call to physically attack religious minorities. 23

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2001-DEC-8: WI: Politicians attack Wiccan chaplain: Rev. Jamyi Witch, 43, a Wiccan priestess, started work as a chaplain at the Waupun Correctional Institution in early December. She works alongside the other chaplain: Rev. Francis Paliekara, an Episcopal priest. Although Ms. Witch will conduct rituals with the approximately 30 Wiccan inmates, her main job will be to help provide for the general religious needs of the 1,200 inmates at the Institution. A minority of prisoners there, about 400, regard themselves to be Christians; 100 are Muslim. The other 700 either have no religious affiliation or are members of smaller faith groups. She has impressive qualifications, being a mother, a Girl Scout leader, school volunteer, hospice counselor, crisis counselor. She also volunteered in the prisons for two years and has helped train Corrections Department employees about alternative religions.

Reaction to her hiring was swift, particularly among Republican state legislators:
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State Representative Scott Walker (R-Wauwatosa), a Baptist, heads the assembly committee that regulates prison. He said that he was personally "offended" by Witch's religion. He is studying whether her hiring violated the state's hiring freeze. Walker commented that: "Clearly there are a lot of people who are offended by this...It's a very narrow practice that a lot of people - Christians, Jews, Muslims, - find offensive."

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Representative Mike Huebsch, (R-West Salem), threatened to terminate funding of entire the prison chaplain program. He called Ms. Witch's hiring "hocus-pocus." His press release was headed "Huebsch burns Waupun witch project."

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Deb Tetzlaff manages of religious and other programs at the institution. She was troubled by the reaction. She said: "Religious intolerance really bugs me. We're fighting a war right now over religious intolerance, for gosh sake."

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Selena Fox is the head of Circle Sanctuary in Wisconsin. She is one of the best-known Neopagans in the U.S.  Ms. Witch received her training at the Sanctuary. She called Huebsch's remarks about witch burning "very disappointing." She added: "Would people joke about gassing Jews or lynching blacks?. The genocide that happened in old Europe was a very dark chapter in Western civilization and not a joking matter." She mentioned that there are other Wiccan chaplains in U.S. military and federal prisons. She consults with the U.S. Bureau of Prisons and the Armed Forces Chaplains Board. Fox said: "The trend nationwide is to make sure Wiccans have equal rights as members of a world religion." She categorized the negative reaction as "the same kind of noise that happens whenever any social barrier is broken." 11

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2001-DEC-9: KS: Religious intolerance in Kansas: According to the "This is True" weekly newsletter: "Leavenworth, Kan., have revoked the land use permit for the interdenominational 168-acre Gaea Retreat Center over religious rituals performed there, effectively closing it down. The action was in response to a petition by residents which accused the Center of allowing witches and pagans to dance naked around bonfires at night who "may be weaving magical spells." A spokeswoman for the retreat says the county admits there has been no illegal activity at the facility, and Gaea has filed suit claiming religious discrimination. The Reuters news service noted that "Before its current incarnation, the sprawling site was a church camp." (Reuters) ...It still is."

The Gaea Center once hosted a gay men's retreat. This brought additional accusations -- that the Center allows "pedophilia" and "sodomy." (Kansas has a very inclusive definition of the latter activity.)  16

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2001-DEC-10: Nairobi: Police forcibly take child to hospital: Police in Mombasa are investigating the activities of a religious groups which forbids its members from seeking medical attention for themselves and their children. The police invaded the home of a member of the faith group who allegedly had suffered the death of a 16-year-old daughter on NOV-29 because they refused to take her to the hospital. A second daughter was seized and taken to hospital for evaluation. The mother said that they don't believe in medical treatment, but seek the "miracle" of God who has the power to heal the sick. 12

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2001-DEC-12: USA: Alleged religious-based terrorist attack on Muslims: Several news agencies reported stories of a plot to bomb the King Fahd Mosque in Culver City, CA, the offices of Representative Darrell Issa (R-CA) -- a an Arab-American Christian -- and the Muslim Public Affairs Council. Irv Rubin, 56, chairperson of the Jewish Defense League (JDL) and Earl Krugell, 59, a member of the JDL have allegedly been arrested by the FBI after the last pipe bomb-making component - 2.2 kg (4.8 lbs) of explosive powder --  was delivered to Krugell's home. According to a news release from the Council on American-Islamic Relations: "In court documents, authorities quoted one of those involved in the plot as saying that Arabs 'need a wake-up call.' " 4,13,14 The Anti-Defamation League (ADL), a Jewish group which fights anti-semitism, responded with the statement: "If the current allegations about the JDL are true, ADL abhors and condemns this potential terrorist plot to attack members of the Los Angeles community. This incident is one more example of how organizations expressing hatred often turn to violence. We praise the diligent work of the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the U.S. Attorney's Office that led to the arrest. We have full confidence that this case will be thoroughly investigated and the perpetrators brought to justice." 15

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2001-DEC-12: DC: Southern Baptist Convention threatens to sever support of state body: The SBC has threatened to terminate its 124 year relationship with the D.C. Baptist Convention. About 53% of the congregations in the Convention are predominantly black. The terms of the SBC ultimatum are that the D.C. convention must:
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Add a SBC "strategist" to the D.C. Convention staff to oversee expenditures of SBC funds.

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"...agree not to promote the cultural festivals that include non-Christian religious denominations." This is apparently a reference to the annual interfaith service honoring the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. It is supported by the Convention, and includes non-Christian groups.

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The Capital Baptist newsletter "should not contain any future articles that will denigrate the SBC and its leadership nor any of its agencies." This may be a reference to editorials which criticized the SBC plan to try to convert Mormons during the 2002 Winter Olympics. They had also criticized a Texas pastor who asserted that "Muslims are not our brothers and sisters."

A point of conflict may be that the D.C. Baptist Convention has not taken a stand on abortion access, homosexual rights and other controversial issues. They follow the historical Baptist position of allowing the individual congregations to make their own decisions on these matters.

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2001-DEC-17: Kosovo: British Soldier Killed While Protecting Church: According to ReligionToday: Private James Carl Rogers, 17, a British soldier with the NATO peacekeeping force in Kosovo (K-FOR) died while guarding a Serbian Orthodox Church in Pristina. Since late 1998 when NATO peacekeepers entered Kosovo, about 100 Serbian Orthodox churches have been destroyed. Father Sava (Janjic), secretary of the Orthodox Bishop in Kosovo, said that Christians "are exposed to constant harassment. There are killed people, massacred people; there are rapes, looting and also destruction of churches and religious monuments." Kosovo has an overwhelmingly Muslim population with a small Serbian Orthodox minority.

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2001-DEC-21: CA: Muslims replace Jews as most frequent victims of hate crimes: Rusty Kennedy of the Orange County Human Relations Commission reported that, in Orange County, "There's been an unprecedented number of hate-related incidents in such a short period of time. We're probably only seeing the tip of the iceberg." Hate crimes had steadily declined there since 1998. In the year 2000, Jews were the target of 31 of the county's 122 hate crimes. But in the three months following the SEP-11 terrorist attacks, 92 hate crimes were reported against Middle Easterners, Muslims, and people perceived to be from those groups. 17

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2001-DEC-23: China: Small scale genocide continues: According to the Falun Dafa Information Center, the Chinese government has detained over 100,000 persons for the "crime" of practicing Falun Dafa -- a spiritually-based exercise and belief system. Over 20,000 have been sent to labor camps without trial. "Chinese President Jiang Zemin has called this the 'golden age of human rights' in China, but this 'golden age' has resulted in the deaths of over 1,600 innocent citizens who practice falun Gong...millions have been devastated by this persecution. This is state terrorism." Those who have died appear to have been maltreated or tortured so severely that they either died during captivity, or shortly after having been released. The genocide continues with no indication of slowing down. 18 On DEC-19, 156 Falun Gong practitioners filed a lawsuit in the Superior Court of the Province of Ontario, Canada, against the Sing Tao Daily. This is one of the largest overseas Chinese language newspapers. The Statement of Claim filed with the court states, in part that the Sing Tao: "in publishing the expose did engage in inciting hatred against an identifiable spiritual group which is contrary to the Criminal Code of Canada...[they] are parties and co-conspirators in these hate crimes and crimes against humanity for which civil liability arises." 19 Hate speech in the U.S. is not illegal, and is often heard directed against women, and racial, religious and sexual minorities. But certain types of hate speech are illegal in Canada.

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2001-DEC-27: Russia: The Salvation Army being persecuted by government: The Salvation Army has warned its staff that they may be arrested because the government has decided that their organization as "a paramilitary" force, and thus illegal in Moscow. Members of The Salvation Army  wear uniforms that are not unlike military dress. 20

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2001-DEC-30: China: Religious leader to be executed: In China, all Protestants are expected to worship at a government-approved and government-supervised church. All other Protestant churches are banned. In defiance of the law, Gong Shengliang organized the South China Church, a fundamentalist denomination. The government banned the church as a "cult." He was convicted on charges including "using a cult to undermine the enforcement of the law," and was sentenced to death. A second church leader, Li Ying, a niece of Shengliang was given a death sentence suspended for two years. Such sentences are usually commuted to life in prison.

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2001-DEC-31: Ohio: Continuing attacks against Muslims: An second attack by vandals on the Islamic Center of Columbus has occurred . "The vandals caused severe damage overnight to all three floors of the center. Copies of the Quran, Islam's revealed text, were shredded. Water pipes were ripped out of walls and broken in a way that would cause maximum damage to the center. [The Ohio branch of the Council for American-Islamic Relations] (CAIR-Ohio) has recorded several incidents of anti-Muslim harassment, threats, discrimination, and violence over the past three months.." President Mohammed Share, President of the Islamic Foundation of Central Ohio (IFCO) said: "This attack is not against a mosque, it's an attack against all religions,
against our liberties and against our values
." CAIR-Ohio is calling on Muslims and people of other faiths to help repair the damage done to the mosque. 21

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2001-DEC-31: HI: Public school students required to love God:
The Hawaii Citizens for the Separation of State and Church (HCSSC) is
protesting a public school honor code at McKinley High School. It states, in part, "As a student of McKinley, I stand For Honesty in all I do and say; For Brotherhood Of races all combined; And love For God and all Mankind...The problem is that it is in essence religious. It is a statement of religious belief.  Nothing like that has a place in the public schools....This statement represents a purely monotheistic religious ideology and serves no secular purpose whatsoever." Kahle added that key legal decisions on the role of religion in the public schools (ABINGTON v.  SCHEMPP; STONE v. GRAHAM; SANTA FE v. DOE) all support the notion "that students in public schools must remain free from any school-sanctioned religious activity or exercise." Kahle wrote: "By including 'Love for God,'  "the Code of Honor fails all three prongs of the Lemon Test and thus violates the First Amendment of the Constitution.  The phrase also violates HAR (Hawaii Annotated statutes) Chapter 41, because it discriminates against students who are atheists, agnostics, secular humanists, polytheists (e.g., Hindus), pantheists (e.g., Shintos), and of other non-monotheistic faiths (e.g., Buddhists)." 22

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References:

  1. DayWatch is a daily service of Maranatha Christian Journal. It provides "a daily summary of news headlines with a Christian perspective..." The newsletter is free on request. Their web site is at: http://www.mcjonline.com 
  2. ReligionToday™ provides free newsletters to which you can subscribe at: http://www.ReligionToday.com. These summaries are part of GOSHEN.net, which also includes LiveIt.net, Devotionals.net, ChristianShareware.net, ChristianClassifieds.net, ChristianMessageBoards.net, BibleStudyTools.net, MediaManagement.net, WorldNewsToday.net, WebCastGuide.net, and ChristianCollegeGuide.net
  3. Reuters is "the world's leading financial information and news group. Their web page is at: http://www.reuters.com/ 
  4. Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR): E-mail: cair1@ix.netcom.com
    URL: http://www.cair-net.org To join CAIR-NET, CAIR's read-only mailing list: Send subscribe cair-net in the body of a message to majordomo@cair-net.org
  5. EWTN News carries Roman Catholic news from Catholic World News, Vatican Information Service, ZENIT, CWNews.com. See: http://www.ewtn.com/news/ 
  6. Ecumenical News International (ENI) in Geneva Switzerland distributes news free religious news highlights to subscribers. They can be contacted at PO Box 2100, CH - 1211, Geneva 2, Switzerland. Telephone: (41-22) 791 6087/6515. Fax: (41-22) 788 7244 Email: eni@eni.ch. Their web site is at http://www.eni.ch 
  7. ZENIT.org is "an International News Agency based in Rome. Our mission is to provide objective and professional coverage of events, documents and issues emanating from or concerning the Catholic Church for a worldwide audience, especially the media." Their web site is at: http://www.zenit.org/english/ 
  8. Anglican Communion News Service provides information from an Anglican perspective. See: http://www.anglicancommunion.org/acns/index.html A companion Episcopal News Service is at: http://www.ecusa.anglican.org/ens/ 
  9. AANEWS is distributed by American Atheists.
  10. CNSNews.com -- Cybercast News Service -- is a conservative news source. Their home page is at: http://www.cnsnews.com
  11. Susan Lampert Smith, "Wicca religion of new prison chaplain stirs up concern, outrage and hostile comments," Wisconsin State Journal, at: http://www.wisconsinstatejournal.com/
  12. Mwakera Mwajefa and Richard Chesos, "Religious Group Being Probed," The Nation (Nairobi), 2001-DEC-10, at: http://allafrica.com/stories/200112100020.html
  13. "Foiled bombings incited by anti-Muslim 'Smear Campaign,' " Council on American-Islamic Relations news release, 2001-DEC-12.
  14. The Jewish Defense League (JDL) has a web site at http://www.jdl.org
  15. "ADL applauds FBI for arrest of JDL leader Irv Rubin for alleged acts of terrorism, Anti-Defamation League," 2001-DEC-12 at: http://www.adl.org/presrele/extremism_72/4016_72.asp
  16. "Religious intolerance, American Style," in This is True newsletter for 2001-DEC-9.  You can subscribe to this free service by sending a blank Email message to: join-this-is-true@lyris.net
  17. "Hate Crimes Have Soared Since Sept. 11," LA Times, 2001-DEC-21, at: http://www.latimes.com/editions/ventura/la-000101018dec21.story
  18. " 'Golden Age of Human Rights' in China leaves four more tortured to death by Chinese authorities," Falun Dafa Information Center, 2001-DEC-20. Their web site is at http://www.faluninfo.net
  19. "Lawsuit filed to stop China's state-run media from inciting hatred against Falun Gong in Canada," Falun Dafa Information Center, 2001-DEC-24.
  20. "Salvation Army faces persecution in Moscow," ReligionToday summary for 2001-DEc-27.
  21. Council on American-Islamic Relations newsletter, 2001-DEC-31.
  22. "Separationists call for end to 'Love of God' code in Hawaii public school," AANEWS, American Atheists, 2001-DEC-31.
  23. "Religious Right leaders stick to theme that gays, abortionists, and others invite God's wrath on America," People for the American Way, 2002-JAN-4, at: http://www.pfaw.org/issues/right/

Copyright © 2001 & 2002 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally written: 2001-DEC-8
Latest update: 2002-FEB-6
Author: B.A. Robinson

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