We also have a list of religious tolerance news
items for this month.
2001-FEB-2: Turkmenistan: Anti-Christian
discrimination: According to Maranatha Daywatch: 1
"Police raided a Bible study being held by a Protestant
church in the Turkmen capital Ashgabad in the latest in a series of
moves to crush remaining Protestant activity in the Central Asian
state, Keston News Service has learned from sources in Ashgabad.
Reports say one of the worshippers was beaten by the police."
2001-FEB-9: Michigan: Landlord can discriminate
against unmarried couples: According to Focus on the Family:
John Huffius, a landlord in Michigan, disapproves of couples living
together without being married. At first, he rented to unmarried
couples who planned to marry in the future. But later, "Our
kids were getting older and getting up to an age where they realized
what we were doing and, at that point, it was like the Lord convicted
us that, you know, 'We can't do that anymore.' " Focus
explained: "Before long, two cohabiting couples sued John and
his wife for discrimination. But the trial judge ruled that unmarried
couples don't have the same rights as those who are married. On that
basis and under the Michigan constitution, the judge also found that a
religious landlord does not have to rent to an unwed couple if his
religious beliefs conflict with that." 15 Since
most couples in the U.S. live together before marriage, denial of
accommodation might be a major problem, at least in Michigan.
2001-FEB-14: Indiana: Federal marshals seize
church: According to AANEWS:
For the first time in history, U.S. Marshalls seized a church because
of unpaid taxes. Five supporters were carried out on stretchers.
The Indianapolis Baptist Temple of Indianapolis, IN refused to pay
federal employment taxes worth 3.5 million dollars, from 1984 to the
present time. The total debt, with penalties, amounts to six million.
The U.S. Supreme Court rejected the church's appeal in 2001-JAN.
Pastor Greg Dixon said: "God's judgment will be on these
nine justices at the Supreme Court level. They will pay a price,
and God will deal with that in his own time." Ed Chandler, a
member of the congregation, said that the Temple "will have to
go on as an underground church now as soon all true...Christian
churches in America will."
2001-FEB-14: Ontario, Canada: High school mascot
center of controversy. According to The Toronto Star:
Back in the early 1950's, the football team of Mitchell District
High School in Seaforth ON were said to have "played like
devils." From this encounter, came the school's mascot, the
"Blue Devil" -- an impish looking baby with horns.
Five decades passed. Now, some local Christians have complained about
the use of a Devil - a term which they equate to Satan. Over the
objections of the students, the school board is recommending that the
mascot be banished. It may contravene its "anti-racism and
2001-FEB-14: India: Fundamentalist Hindus attack Valentine's Day: According to the Toronto Star:
"Hard-line Hindus, bent on stopping love-struck couples from
celebrating Valentine's Day, went on a rampage...in many parts of the
country, invading gift shops, burning cards and disrupting
festivities." They denounced the holiday as a desecration of
the country's traditional culture.
2001-FEB-15: Pennsylvania: Hate speech code
overturned: According to Focus on the Family:
The 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in
Philadelphia declared the State College Area School District's
"hate speech" code to be unconstitutional. The ruling
applies to schools in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware and the U.S.
Virgin Islands. The code banned "unwelcome verbal, written, or
physical conduct which offends, denigrates or belittles an individual."
Banning denigrating physical conduct is constitutional. Corresponding
verbal or written material is protected under the First Amendment.
Bryan Brown, an attorney with the Fundamentalist Christian American Family Association Center for Law and Policy said:
"Under the code, if a student had said something pleasing
about a religion or about sexual conduct, that wouldn't be a problem.
But let a student say anything negative and 'offend' someone, and they
would be subject to penalties."
2001-FEB-17: New Mexico: Native inmates sue for
religious freedom: According to the Associated Press:
Nine Native American inmates are suing the Wackenhut Corrections
Corporation, Department of Corrections Secretary Rob Perry and five
other prison officials for allegedly denying them the right to
practice their religion while in prison at Hobbs, NM. Lenny Foster, a
spiritual adviser and director of the Navajo Nation Corrections
Project, says that this "sets back the hope, the positive
outlook about life. The trend in this country toward providing or
having spiritual services is becoming very strict and stern toward
Native Americans because of the misunderstanding and ignorance of
Native American practices." The Project provides
spiritual counseling for Indian inmates.
"The nine inmates allege that after they formed a self-help
group in 1998, Warden Joseph Williams began to dismantle the programs
and activities they had set up." 16
2001-FEB-19: Afghanistan: Small-scale
religiously-motivated genocide: According to Reuters: 4
From 2001-JAN-7 to 9, Taleban soldiers allegedly rounded up more
than 500 boys and men ranging in age from early teenage to the elderly
in Yakawlang -- a town in central Afghanistan. Their hands were tied
behind their backs; they were allegedly taken to a compound where each
was shot in the head. Teleban leader Mullah Mohammed Omar has denied
that this took place. However, he banned Journalists from visiting the
area. The victims were members of Hazaras, a Shiite Muslim religious
group. The Taleban are generally Pustun-speaking Sunni Muslims.
2001-FEB-19: Kazakhstan: Proposed law would
restrict religious freedom: According to Keston Institute: 14
Kaxakhstan's law on religion, passed in 1992, is being amended.
The new law will be presented to parliament in early March by the Ministry
of Culture, Information and Public Accord. Apparently, the changes
are motivated by concern over Islamic militancy, and fear by Muslim
and Russian Orthodox religious leaders of the increasing numbers of
Protestants in the country. President Nursultan Nazarbayev commented
recently of the need for "exhaustive measures" to
prevent "the radicalization of the religious consciousness of
Kazakh citizens." The changes are being resisted by the Association
of Religious Organisations of Kazakhstan (AROK) -- a mostly
Protestant Christian group. Birgit Kainz, a human rights officer of
the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE)
stated on FEB-6: "We are very worried - we have been trying to
obtain official texts for a month now."
|2000-FEB-20: Virginia: Pat Robinson attacks charitable choice:
According to the Washington Post: 17|
On his 700 Club television program, Pat Robertson, head of the Christian
Coalition, criticized the faith-based initiative of President
Bush. He expressed concern that groups of which he does not approve
(such as the Hare Krishnas, Church
of Scientology, and Unification
Church) "could all become financial beneficiaries of the
proposal to expand eligibility for government grants to religious
charities...This thing could be a real Pandora's box. And what seems
to be such a great initiative can rise up to bite the organizations as
well as the federal government." [Pat seems to have left out
New Agers, Satanists, and Wiccans]. In response to Pat Robertson's
comment, Rev. Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United,
said: "This means Bush's plan is in enormous political
trouble. When staunch Bush allies like Robertson start jumping ship,
the plan clearly appears to be sinking."
2001-FEB-23: Israel: Death toll from Palestinian
uprising: According to the Toronto Star for FEB-20 and Ha'aretz
News for FEB-22:
After five months of violence, the death toll consists of about 331
Palestinians, 61 Israelis, and 13 Israeli Arabs. Under labor Prime
Minister Ehud Barak, a compromise peace agreement was close to being
settled. Conservative Prime Minister Sharon was elected earlier in the
month by a landslide vote. He has been denounced as a war criminal
within the Arab world for the actions of the Israeli army that he led
in Lebanon. Peace talks have ceased. On FEB-21, the army adopted
a new policy which is forbidden by international law: that of attacking Palestinian residential areas with
tanks if there is a suspicion that Palestinian gunmen may open fire on
the arm in the future.
The U.S. State Department is scheduled to issue a report on FEB-24
that is critical of Israel's violations of human rights
According to Ha'aretz News "The human rights
report criticizes the measures Israel took in response to the
Palestinian uprising in the territories, including assassinating those
suspected of planning terror incidents, imposing sieges on
Palestinians towns and villages, and other abuses such as damaging
Palestinian ambulances. A chapter in the report also deals with the
government's handling of demonstrations by Arab citizens of Israel and
the deaths of 13 of them in October 2000."
2001-FEB-23: Russia: Some Russian Orthodox
believers reject bar code: According to the Boston Globe:
The Russian government is issuing a computer - generated ID to each
taxpayer. The application form contains a standard bar code. "Thousands
of Russian Orthodox priests, monks and believers are refusing to
accept the new taxpayer identification numbers, claiming the bar
code...contains the mark of the Antichrist...Priests have been telling
parishioners that they risk eternal damnation if they apply for the
2001-FEB-24: USA: Presbyterian General
Assembly Council rules on minister's freedom of speech:
According to PCUSA NEWS:
Rev. Dirk Ficca of Chicago, had delivered a paper at the Presbyterian
Peacemaking Conference in Orange, CA, during 2000-Summer. He
discussed the criteria for salvation. The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)'s
statement of faith affirms that salvation is only possible through
belief in Jesus Christ. This implies that four billion humans (two out
of every three human beings), who are non-religious, or who follow
non-Christian religions like Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam, Taoism etc.
will not be saved. i.e they will automatically go to Hell when they
die. According to PCUSA NEWS, Rev. Ficca, the director of the Parliament
of the World's Religions in Chicago IL "suggested that an
omnipotent and merciful God might provide other avenues to salvation
for Jews and Muslims and other non-believers in Christ." This
suggestion ignited a firestorm of protest from conservative elements
within the Presbyterian Church. They regard the suggestion that people
other than Christians can be saved and get to heaven to be a heresy.
21 sessions and one presbytery called for the church's General
Assembly Council (GAC) to violate the church's Book of
Confession and Book of Order by either disciplining Ficca
or disavowing the heretical views he expressed. Peter Pizor,
chairperson of the GAC said that the council lacks authority to take
judicial action against Ficca or to "make theological
statements on behalf of the church." He had surveyed opinion
of many Presbyterians and had determined that "women and men
of good faith disagree on this matter." Neal Presa of the San
Francisco Presbytery asked council members to refrain from "divisive
assertions and vitriol" and to "rise above the fray"
which currently exists between conservative and liberal Presbyterians.
[There exists a split in the church between liberals and conservatives
which has become most visible over the question of equal
rights for gays and lesbians within the denomination]. In a
victory for freedom of thought and speech in the church, the GAC
approved a document that affirms, "the Lordship of Jesus
Christ and our salvation through Christ." However, the GAC
did not comment on the salvation status of the other four billion
humans on earth. They also defended "the propriety of
open dialogue at GAC-sponsored conferences to explore emerging
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- Keston Institute monitors freedom of religion in communist
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- Dave Clark, "Mich. judge affirms rights of religious
landlords," Focus on the Family, 2001-FEB-9, at: http://www.keston.org/
- "Nine N.M. Indian inmates sue for religious freedom,"
Associated Press, 2001-FEB-17, at: http://www.sltrib.com/02172001/nation_w/72043.htm
- Thomas Edsall, "Robertson Joins Liberals in Faulting Bush's
'Faith-Based' Plan," Washington Post, 2001-FEB-22, Page A05
Copyright � 2001 by Ontario Consultants on Religious
Originally written: 2001-FEB-5
Latest update: 2001-FEB-25
Author: B.A. Robinson