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NEWS OF RELIGIOUS INTOLERANCE AND CONFLICT DURING 2001-NOV

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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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bullet2001-NOV-2: USA: Source say Wiccan may be responsible for Anthrax attacks: According to NYPost.com, one theory being circulated at the FBI and Justice Department is that "the anthrax scare is the work of a twisted home-grown menace rather than a terrorist linked to state-sponsored action or Osama bin Laden. Source say investigators are eyeing a number of groups, including radical members of a pagan cult. The Wiccan group fashions itself as modern-day witches seeking religious freedom, but they are not known to be violent. Investigators are probing whether a disturbed member of the group may have taken a bizarre turn and is targeting the media and the government in particular." 12 A Wiccan group has contacted the FBI since NOV-2. They FBI is saying that they have no Pagan groups as suspects and that the the NY Post report is bogus.
bullet2001-NOV-2: VA: Virginia Supreme Court allows cross-burning: A divided court voted 4 to 3 to declare a Virginian law unconstitutional. It prohibits cross burning. Actually, the Ku Klux Klan and similar groups refer to this as "cross lighting." The Court decided that the U.S. Constitution protects free speech, no matter how offensive it might be. The majority opinion said: "Under our system of government, people have the right to use symbols to communicate. They may patriotically wave the flag or burn it in protest; they may reverently worship the cross or burn it as an expression of bigotry." Attorney General, Randolph A. Beales, said that they would ask the U.S. Supreme Court to review the case. He said: "Cross burning with the intent to intimidate is a form of domestic terrorism, which is intolerable in a free society." The New York Times reported: "Although courts in Maryland and South Carolina struck down similar laws in the 1990's, 16 states and the District of Columbia currently have such laws, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures." The Virginia law may be ultimately judged to be constitutional, because it forbids cross burning only when it is used to intimidate someone. 13
bullet2001-NOV-5: UK: Conservative leader refuses to sign tolerance pledge: The Daily Telegraph reported on NOV-6 that Ian Duncan Smith, the leader of the British Conservative party refused to sign a pledge committing his party to religious tolerance of Muslims as part of Islamic Awareness Week. Smith said that he did not want to sign something that might prove divisive and encourage a witch-hunt. The Islamic Society is a cultural body, not officially recognized as being representative of all Muslims in Britain.
bullet2001-NOV-5: CA: A division of The Salvation Army offers Domestic Partner Benefits, then is overruled: The Salvation Army's Western Corporation is one of four divisions of the Army in the U.S. It has decided to extend health-care benefits to domestic partners of its employees. The Army will now comply with a San Francisco ordinance that prohibits companies from doing business with the city if it discriminates against the homosexual and common-law heterosexual partners of its employees. At first, the Army had severed economic ties with the city; they have since reversed that decision. Col. Phillip Needham, chief secretary of the Western Corporation said: "This decision reflects our concern for the health of our employees and those closest to them, and is made on the basis of strong ethical and moral reasoning that reflects the dramatic changes in family structure in recent years." Dr. Dobson, president of the Fundamentalist Christian group Focus on the Family responded: "Needham's statement reveals that the decision to accommodate homosexual employees is based on cultural considerations, rather than on what is right and ethical ó and of course, on the impact of federal money. We are not talking about hatred for individuals; we are talking about policies that will affect generations to come. What is at stake here is an agenda that involves the welfare of children, the definition of marriage, the constitution of the family, and credentials for pastors and priests." Some responses to their decision:
bulletThe gay-positive Human Rights Campaign called it a "prudent decision" and a "welcome development."
bulletDr. James Dobson also said: "The Salvation Army is the first evangelical church, that I am aware of, to cave in on this contentious issue. This decision will have enormous influence on other Christian organizations and entities that have tried to hold the line on moral and family policies. The Salvation Army has (also) confirmed that this policy will apply, not only to the 13 Western states as the media has reported, but also to the entire organization."
bulletEd Vitagliano is a spokesman for the American Family Association, a Fundamentalist Christian group. He said: "I think that all evangelical Christians who love God's Word and who have trusted The Salvation Army to be faithful to the clear indications ... and clear principles of God's Word about same-sex relationships [are] very, very sad that this has happened."
bulletScott Lively, spokesperson for the American Family Association of California, said: "This is driven by the gay-activist movement. It has no other purpose but to legitimize homosexuality in American society."
bulletKaren Holgate, legislative director for the Capitol Resource Institute in Sacramento, CA, said: "Every time another Christian organization falls or bows to this kind of pressure, it just applies that much more to others."
bulletPeter LaBarbera, associate director of the Culture and Family Institute in Washington, D.C. said: "Homosexual activists are keen on seeing everybody embrace homosexuality. If they see that a major Christian organization with a Bible-based mission is willing to swallow the gay agenda, then they will be more encouraged to go after every other Christian organization in this nation." 15,16,17

On NOV-12, The Salvation Army's Commissioners' Conference, the ruling national body, overruled the Western Division's decision. Their national policy "...will not allow for any type of medical benefits for anyone who is not a 'husband, wife or dependent' of an employee." The Salvation Army's national chief secretary, Col. Thomas Lewis, said that the change was motivated as a result of  "comment and opinion" from members of The Salvation Army and others. "We really believe that a lot of people (thought) that we were not acknowledging the husband-wife-child as a family, and (our position is) anything but that, because the Army's moral and religious principles have always been that that is the only family that we recognize. But it certainly was not perceived that way." The Army's Commissioner, Lawrence Moretz, sent a memo to Army officers saying, in part: "In rescinding this policy and in the establishment of a national policy on health-care benefit access to spouse and dependent children, we must stand united in the battle that will undoubtedly follow from those who would now challenge our biblical and traditional position. We will not sign any government contract or any other funding contracts that contain domestic partner benefit requirements." It is not known how many children are going to be placed at risk this decision as a result of the decisions and sexual orientation of their parent(s).

bullet2001-NOV-9: UK: Request to lift curse placed on a stone:  According to telegraph.co.uk, the Archbishop of Glasgow placed a curse against English and Scottish sheep rustlers and robbers in the Cumbria region some 500 years ago. The curse was inscribed on a giant stone. Some local Roman Catholics believe that the curse exerts a malevolent influence and is responsible for the severe foot-and-mouth disease outbreak in the area. The Rt. Rev. Kevin Davis, Roman Catholic Bishop of Carlisle, has invited whoever succeeds the late Cardinal Thomas Winning as the next Roman Catholic Archbishop of Glasgow to bless the stone and lift the curse. Davis is concerned about the "spiritual power" possessed by the stone. He said: "if it has to stay, I would prefer a blessing to offset it."
bullet2001-NOV-9: USA: Conservative Christian Web sites having financial problems:
bulletIbelieve.com failed in 2000-OCT after 268 days of existence, during which time its average loss was more than $111,000 a day.
bulletPat Robertson's web site Christianity.com is the home of Prison Fellowship, The Salvation Army, Jews for Jesus and other Fundamentalist and other Evangelical ministries. The site will close down and will lay off all but a few of their approximately 36 employees on NOV-15. A few employees will continue for a few months so that the ministries can make arrangements to continue elsewhere.
bulletCrosswalk.com allegedly announced: "At September 30, 2001 the Company had cash and invested funds of $801,298 and working capital of $627,840." But it is losing about $255,000 a month. It may go the way of Christianity.com eventuallyy. 14
bulletBeliefnet.com, which appeals to both liberal and conservative Christians as well as followers of other religions, appeared to be in good shape during 2001-NOV. However, it declared Chapter 11 bankruptcy in early 2002.
bullet2001-NOV-15: Egypt: People jailed on religious and homosexual charges: Twenty-nine persons accused of engaging in homosexual behavior were acquitted; twenty-two were found guilty and given sentences ranging from two to five years in prison. Only a few observers were allowed into the courtroom. Police had to drive back a crowd of about 200 relatives, lawyers, journalists and passersby who wanted to observe the sentencing.

Sherif Farahat and Mahmoud Ahmed Allam were found to be ringleaders of the group. Farahat received five years for debauchery, contempt of religion, falsely interpreting the Koran and exploiting Islam to promote deviant ideas. Allam received three years in prison on the religious charges, but was acquitted of debauchery. Amnesty International condemned the trial; they accused Egypt of persecuting people because of their sexual orientation. They also criticized the court itself for not being independent of the state. Scott Long, spokesperson for the U.S.-based "International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission"  condemned the verdicts as "a travesty" of justice. Most traditions within Islam consider homosexual behavior to be a serious sin. 18

bullet2001-NOV-16: USA: Religious hate-speech by Franklin Graham:  MSNBC reported that Franklin Graham, the son of arguably the best know Evangelical Christian preacher Billy Graham, called the entire Islamic religion "wicked, violent and not of the same God." [He presumably meant that the God of Christianity is different from the God if Islam.] He continued: "I donít believe this is a wonderful, peaceful religion. When you read the Koran and you read the verses from the Koran, it instructs the killing of the infidel, for those that are non-Muslim." When asked by NBC News to clarify his statement, Graham repeated his charge that Islam, as a whole, is an evil. "It wasnít Methodists flying into those buildings, it wasnít Lutherans. It was an attack on this country by people of the Islamic faith."  NBC news contacted Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson and other Christian leaders. None would would comment on Grahamís attacks. Ken Woodward, Newsweek religion editor, said: "Obviously, Mr. Graham is tone deaf in this respect. Heís certainly not his fatherís son in terms of discretion." 19

During October, at the dedication of a chapel near Wilkesboro, NC in his parents' name, Graham is quoted as saying: "We're not attacking Islam but Islam has attacked us. The God of Islam is not the same God. He's not the son of God of the Christian or Judeo-Christian faith. It's a different God and I believe it is a very evil and wicked religion." He later issued a statement to the Charlotte Observer saying "It is not my calling to analyze Islam or any other religions, though I recognize that all religions have differences. In the past, I have expressed my concerns about the teachings of Islam regarding the treatment of women and the killing of non-Muslims or infidels." 20
bullet2001-NOV-19: USA: Muslim group asks Franklin Graham for interview: Nihad Awad, executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), sent Franklin Graham a letter stating, in part, "I would therefore respectfully request a meeting during which recognized Muslim scholars may offer you information about Islam, particularly Islam's stance on the rights of women and minorities, that is free of bias and distortions. At this time of national and international crisis, it is imperative that we come together as people of faith to promote inter-religious understanding and mutual respect." As of NOV-22, there is no indication that he has responded to the request. 21
bullet2001-NOV-22: Fundamentalist pastor erects offensive sign: Pastor Jeff Cole of the Crossroads Assembly of God Church in Wilder, ID put up a sign in front of his church which said: "The spirit of Islam is the spirit of the antichrist." Cole said that the message reflects the Gospel, not religious hatred. He based the sign on 1 John, 4:2-3: "This is how you can recognize the Spirit of God: Every Spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ is coming in the flesh is from God, but every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you have heard is coming and even now is already in the world." Pastor Cole said: "It is not a hate crime against Islam. I have received three complaints, but I have also received calls from pastors of churches from all of the Treasure Valley who support the message." Mayor Steve Rhodes has received many complaints. He found the sign offensive, but has no power to censor it. Rhodes said: "It is inappropriate. It doesn't reflect the community, and it sure doesn't reflect myself or my council." 24
bullet2001-NOV-28: KS: County commissioners close religious camp: Six years ago, the owners of the Gaea Retreat Center obtained a county permit to convert an abandoned church camp into a alternative religious center. The center is on a 168-acre (68-hectare) area west of Kansas City, KS. It has sponsored the well-known annual Gaea Goddess Gathering and a Heartland Pagan Spiritual event. The Leavenworth County commissioners denied their license renewal, thus putting it out of business. A petition from the community accused the center of permitting public nudity, pedophilia, illegal drug usage, and devil worship. Caretaker Wanda Roths said: "They say they're afraid of us, what we do here, the sound of drums...They don't know how lucky they are to have us as their neighbors...We're very quiet, very peaceful. There has never been any trouble out here."

 The owners of the center filed a lawsuit suit on NOV-26, claiming that the commissioners' action is illegal, unconstitutional and in violation of laws protecting freedom of religious expression and practice. According to Reuters: "The retreat denies any illegal activity, and county officials say there is no evidence of any." 22
bullet2001-NOV-26: USA: Southern Baptists call for Muslim conversion to Christianity:  Rev. James G. Merritt, head of the Southern Baptist Convention called on fellow Baptists to pray for Muslim conversions on DEC-16, at the end of Ramadan. Merritt called Christianity "the only true religion." He said that "every other religion gives a false hope of having a relationship with God...That's not what I say; that's what Jesus says."

Ibrahim Hooper, a spokesman for the Council on Islamic-American Relations,  responded: "It's a free country. If he wants to have Christians fast and pray, we're hardly in a position to tell people not to." He said that Muslims had objected to Christian actions such as appearing at a mosque to lay hands on it or "going into refugee camps and troubled areas where people are poor and oppressed and using power relationships to push these kinds of beliefs." 23

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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. Newsroom: This service is no longer available
  3. ReligionTodayô 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
  4. Reuters is "the world's leading financial information and news group. Their web page is at: http://www.reuters.com/ 
  5. 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
  6. EWTN News carries Roman Catholic news from Catholic World News, Vatican Information Service, ZENIT, CWNews.com. See: http://www.ewtn.com/news/ 
  7. 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 
  8. 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/ 
  9. 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/ 
  10. AANEWS is distributed by American Atheists.
  11. CNSNews.com -- Cybercast News Service -- is a conservative news source. Their home page is at: http://www.cnsnews.com
  12. Murray Weiss, "Pre-9/11 'Terrorist' mail came from Indy," NYPost.com, 2001-NOV-1, at: http://www.nypost.com/news/
  13. William Glaberson, "Court Voids Law Banning Cross Burning," 2001-NOV-3, New York Times, at: http://www.nytimes.com/2001/11/03/
  14. Ted Olsen, "Weblog: Christianity.com Falls. Is Crosswalk.com Next?," at: http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/
  15. Fred Jackson and Jody Brown, "Salvation Army to Offer 'Domestic Partner' Benefits: Decision Hailed by Pro-Homosexual HRC, Condemned by Pro-Family Groups," Agape Press at: http://headlines.agapepress.org/archive/
  16. Stuart Shepard, "Dobson Laments Salvation Army's Decision," Focus on the Family, at: http://www.family.org/cforum/fnif/
  17. Allie Martin and Jody Brown, "Salvation Army Overrides Policy Change," AgapePress, 2001-NOV-12, at: http://headlines.agapepress.org/archive/
  18. "Court convicts 23 defendants in trial of alleged homosexuals," Jordan Times, at: http://www.jordantimes.com
  19. "Christian leader condemns Islam: Preacher Franklin Graham calls Islam 'wicked, violent,' " MSNBC Nightly News, at: http://www.msnbc.com/news/659057.asp
  20. Ken Garfield, "Graham stands by comments on Islam: But 'evil and wicked' quote doesn't cancel Christian love, he says," The Charlotte Observer, at: http://www.charlotte.com/observer/
  21. "Muslims ask for meeting with evangelist over remarks on Islam," CAIR, news release 2001-NOV-14.
  22. "Kansas camp for nude witches fights closing," Reuters, 2001-NOV-27.
  23. "Baptist Head Urges Prayers for Muslim Conversion," Associated Press, at: http://www.nytimes.com/2001/11/27/
  24. Eryn Curfman, "Anti-Muslim church sign sparks ire; Wilder pastor's message links Islam, antichrist," Idaho Statesman, at: http://www.idahostatesman.com/news/daily/

Copyright © 2001 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally written: 2001-NOV-2
Latest update: 2001-DEC-8
Author: B.A. Robinson

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