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NEWS OF RELIGIOUS CONFLICT & INTOLERANCE

2002-JULY

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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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2002-JUL-2: USA: Objections to apparent new appointee to head CDC: The Family Research Council, a Fundamentalist Christian group, expressed regret at the  new appointee who will apparently head the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. They speculate that President Bush will shortly appoint Dr. Julie Gerberding to the post. She has allegedly, in the past, supported safe-sex education so that students who decide to become sexually active will know how to reduce their chances of STD transmission. She has also allegedly supported supplying emergency contraceptives in schools to female students who have had unprotected sex and may otherwise become pregnant. 11 Dr James Dobson of Focus on the Family commented that Dr,. Gerberding "...has no apparent concern about the ineffectiveness of condom usage, nor any stated disagreement with the positions of the homosexual activist movement, or with the provision of free needles to drug users. To the contrary, her writings clearly show that she believes the 'safe sex' lie that has entrapped millions of our teenagers -- many of whom are now fighting incurable sexually transmitted diseases....The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is already the world's largest promoter of homosexuality and 'safe-sex' programs, and now the president has appointed someone whose positions indicate that the organization will continue dishing out more of the same." 12

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2002-JUL-2: Netherlands: A threat, in jest, against women's health ship: Women on Waves has outfitted a in order to provide reproductive health services including provision of contraceptives, general information, counseling, pregnancy tests, sexual education, and "safe and legal abortion services." They plan to go to countries in Asia, Africa and South America where these services are not generally available. They will stay off shore as necessary in international waters. Operation Rescue, an activist pro-life group, has implied, in jest, that it is looking to buy a submarine. According to CCN, "Jeff White, Operation Rescue’s national tactical director stated, 'Rebecca Gomperts of Women on Waves said she came up with the idea after working aboard Greenpeace’s Rainbow Warrior It would be justice to see the Aurora end up with the same fate [at the bottom of the ocean].' " (The Rainbow Warrior was attacked and sunk.) Troy Newman, director of Operation Rescue West stated, "The myth of a floating abortion clinic has been around for years. If some poor pro-abort is foolish enough to invest money in this urban legend, I say 'go for it.' Better to waste his money on the Sea Hag, or whatever they call it, than to give it to Planned Parenthood where they would use every penny they can get their hands on to kill innocent little babies." 14

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2002-JUL-4: WV: Pastor's prayer critical of culture: Prior to a speech before a crowd of 3,000 in Ripley, WV, Rev. Jack Miller gave a passionate invocation. He was critical of those who contribute to ethical and social change, who believe that the Bible is errant, and who promote multiculturalism, pornography, equal rights for homosexuals, lotteries, stem cell research, and abortion access. The prayer was: "Oh, Lord, we admit that over the course of time, we have strayed from Your guiding principles that have made the nation great. ...Yet this is what we have done--losing our spiritual equilibrium and inverting our moral values.  In Your presence, we confess that we have ridiculed the absolute truth of Your word in the name of multiculturalism.  We have endorsed pornography and sexual deviance in the name of freedom of expression and free speech.  We have exploited the poor and our system of education in the name of the lottery.  We have toyed with idea of making human lives a commodity, in the name of medical research.  We have killed our unborn in the name of choice."  Ken Connor of the Family Research Council quoted the prayer in his Washington Update. He added: "As we look for ways to throw off the shackles of political correctness, I can't think of a more appropriate response to Reverend Miller's eloquence than Amen!." 15

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2002-JUL-5: UK: Uproar in the House of Lords: A joint parliamentary committee has been formed of members of the House of Commons, an elected body, and the House of Lords, an appointed body. Its task is to determine the future of the House of Lords. Because the Church of England is the official church of Britain, some of the peers who serve in the House of Lords are bishops of the church. In the selection of the seats on the joint committee, none of the 26 bishops who serve in the House were chosen. The bishops are outraged. The Bishop of Guildford told his peers: "Composition of this house touches on two crucial aspects of our constitution - the nature of our parliamentary democracy and the establishment of the church." There is speculation that the ruling labor (socialist) party is planning to disestablish the Church. 16

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2002-JUL-6: MA: Plebiscite restricting marriage being held up: About 130,000 voters in Massachusetts have signed a petition in favor of a state-wide referendum which would define marriage as "a union of one man and one woman." The Gay and Lesbian Advocates attempted to invalidate the petition on technical grounds, but lost their case in the state Supreme Court. However, before the measure can be placed on the ballot, 25% of the members of the House and Senate, meeting in joint session as a Constitutional Convention, must affirm it. Senate President Thomas Birmingham has twice blocked a vote. The next meeting of the Convention is scheduled for JUL-17. Time is of the essence. The latest polls indicate that about 60% of voters would approve such a plebiscite. This number is dropping fast. Thus, if the plebiscite is delayed too long, it might be rejected by the voters. 17

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2002-JUL-6: Lutheran pastor suspended for praying: The Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod has suspended Rev. David Benke, one of its high-ranking pastors. He is a district president, the equivalent of a bishop. The denomination is requiring him to apologize to all members of the denomination and to all other Christians for an "offense both to God and to all Christians." His offense? After the 9-11 terrorist attack, leaders from many different religions, including Christianity, Hinduism, Islam, Judaism, and Sihkism gathered together in Yankee Stadium in New York, NY, on 2001-SEP- 23 at the Prayer for America interfaith service. It was held less than two weeks after the terrorist attack of 9-11. Rev. Wallace Schulz, second vice-president of the denomination, wrote in the suspension letter: "By President Benke's joining with other pagan clerics in an interfaith service [no matter what the intent might have been], a crystal clear signal was given to others at the event and to thousands more watching by C-Span. The signal was: While there may be differences as to how people worship or pray, in the end, all religions pray to the same God." Washington Post staff writer Alan Cooperman wrote: "The charges against Benke included 'unionism' -- mixing the beliefs of various Christian denominations -- as well as 'syncretism' -- mixing Christian and non-Christian views. Both are forbidden by the 1847 constitution of the Missouri Synod." 18 The denomination has 2.6 million members and is the tenth largest Christian denomination in the U.S. The  more liberal Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), at 5.1 million members, is the largest Lutheran group.

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2002-JUL-9: Israel: Conflict over segregation in Israel: The coalition government in Israel, under Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, has overwhelmingly endorsed a controversial bill, by a vote of 17 to 2, with one abstention. It was introduced by members of an ultra-nationalist right-wing party. It would allow Jewish citizens of Israel to bar Arab citizens of Israel from living or purchasing homes in "Jews-only" towns. Numerous Israeli politicians and human rights groups have criticized the bill, regarding it as discriminatory and racist. Cabinet minister Dan Meridor was one; he said that "Israel is the state of the Jewish people. But because it is a Jewish state, it must not practice against its non-Jewish citizens the kind of discrimination to which Jews were subjected to in the Diaspora." Foreign minister, Shimon Peres said that his labor party would "fight with all its power against the racist decision" even if it means that they might quit the coalition. Right-wing and religious parties in the coalition government praised the bill because they regard it as protecting what they call the essence of Zionism. Education minister Limor Livnat of Sharon's Likud party said that it is an error to consider the bill racist. Its intent is to ensure a Jewish majority in the Galilee which is heavily Arab. "This [bill] does not stem at all from discrimination, rather from the main basis of Zionism -- the return of the Jewish people to its land." Tzipi Livne, another Likud minister said: "If the national interest....is to establish another settlement so that in the future [Arab] populations will be dispersed from each other, and so we will not face demands for territorial autonomy, then this must be weighed against the principle of equality...This is very far away from racism."

A reporter for The Scotsman, Scotland's national newspaper, wrote: "The cabinet move highlights how Israel, stung by terrorism, is increasingly adopting ardent nationalism at the expense of equality and human rights. The result is that the always precarious balance, where the state seeks to protect Jewish interests and yet maintain democracy, is unraveling at the expense of the latter. "

A few weeks earlier, the government approved a budget which pays higher social security allowances to Jews than Arabs. 19,20

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2002-JUL-9: TX: Pastor and brother charged with felony injury to a child: The pastor of an independent fundamentalist church and his twin brother have allegedly been charged with severely beating an 11 year old boy for an hour, with a stick. The boy was reported as having been taken to hospital where he required a blood transfusion, and treatment for his kidneys which had failed. The boy has allegedly stated that he was accused of cheating on some memorized Bible verses. The men's lawyer has said that the church has a strict policy against corporal punishment. 21

bullet2002-JUL-9-11: USA: President Bush accused of breaking promise: According to the American Life League, (ALL) when George W. Bush was running for president, the U.S. conference of Catholic Bishops asked him whether he would oppose research on aborted fetuses. He replied: "I oppose using federal funds to perform fetal tissue research from induced abortions." Again, according to the ALL, he "quietly approved a decision made by members of his administration to endow federal money to a project at Johns Hopkins University involving research on aborted human embryos up to eight weeks old..." Other pro-life groups also attacked the President for this decision. However, Focus on the Family came to his defense. They pointed out that existing legislation does not restrict stem cells taken from aborted embryos at up to eight weeks, which is the purpose of the Johns Hopkins University study that has been funded. Carrie Gordon Earll a  Bioethics Analyst at Focus on the Family said that "With this issue, Bush really doesn't have latitude. He is bound by a 1993 law passed by Congress which allows research. And not only does it allow the research, but it specifically forbids the president from interfering." The only way in which he could have prevented the funding would have been to break his oath of office.

It is worth noting that Bush's promise was to oppose fetal tissue research. An embryo only becomes a fetus after 10 weeks gestation. The study will not go beyond eight weeks, when the product of conception is still an embryo. So the study goes beyond the scope of Bush's promise.

The Citizen Link article said that product of conception becomes a fetus before eight weeks gestation. That is apparently an error. 22,23
bullet2002-JUL-12: ON, Canada: Superior Court unanimously rules current marriage law is discriminatory: The Ontario Superior Court ruled that the Ontario and federal governments must change its marriage laws within two years, in order to allow gays and lesbians to marry. The existing law was ruled to be discriminatory because it prohibits gays and lesbians from marrying. The status of this decision is currently unknown because the Ontario and federal governments have not yet announced whether they will appeal the decision.  More details 24 On 2002-JUL-16, Ernie Eves, the Premier of Ontario, said at a special cabinet meeting in Belleville ON that he agrees that same sex couples should be able to marry. He said that the Government of "Ontario won't stand in their way...If two people decide that they want to be in a union why would I interfere with that; that's my personal point of view." He said that the Province will not appeal the decision; they will leave it up to the Federal government to decide whether to appeal the court decision. 24,26 More details
bullet2002-JUL-16: American Atheists opposed to religious symbols at World Trade Center memorial: Ellen Johnson, President of American Atheists  contacted John C. Whitehead of the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation (LMDC). She wrote: "The presence of any religious monument, symbols, altars, slogans, quotations, motifs or other characteristics in a memorial to the events of September 11, 2001 on property controlled by a government agency, using (directly or indirectly) government funds is a violation of ...  legal strictures protecting the separation of religion and government....a memorial should emphasize that which is common to ALL Americans, like our compassion, love of family, country, our Constitution and our common humanity.  This is what makes both the Vietnam memorial and Washington Monument great memorials. A memorial site which is sectarian will never be accepted by millions of Americans who profess no religious beliefs.  It will only generate anger, protest and resentment and so will not be a symbol of unity. And unity is the goal for all of us, Mr. Whitehead." The LMDC has received two billion dollars in government funding to redevelop the area. Ms. Johnson promised legal action if needed to keep the government site secular. 25
bullet2002-JUL-25: MI: U.S. Secret Service agent writes religious hatred: U.S. Attorney Jeffrey Collins announced that an unnamed agent is on leave with pay after having admitted that he wrote "ISLAM IS EVIL" and "Christ is KING" on an Islamic prayer calendar during a JUL-18 raid at a Dearborn house. At a news conference in Detroit, Collins said: "This type of unprofessional behavior by a federal agent will not be tolerated." Hodan Hassan, spokesperson for the Council on American-Islamic Relations said: "Wow. OK. That's good news. We're pleased with the swift action on this. I think this goes a long way in assuring us that as the FBI conducts their investigation, there will be zero tolerance in regards to such behavior." 27
bullet2002-JUL-18: Canada: Cardinal seems to reject "tolerance": According to Michael Valpy, a reporter for the Globe and Mail, Roman Catholic "Cardinal Aloysius Ambrozic, the Archbishop of Toronto, finished his homily at [the World Youth Day]...opening mass with these words, 'We must refuse to feign the politically correct tolerance which imagines that all religions and convictions and values are equally valid.' " This triggered a series of irate letters to the editor on Toronto newspapers who interpreted his comment as opposing religious tolerance. Actually he seems to have used the wrong word. The concept that all faith groups and moral systems are equally valid is normally called "pluralism." Criticizing pluralism is compatible with the church's statement that it is the only truly legitimate church, and that other faith groups are in various degrees of error. Many other faith groups in the world also feel that they are the only "true" church. 28
bullet2002-JUL-26: Saudi Arabia: Internet censorship: It appears that the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia considers the Internet a threat to their culture. The government has an Internet Services Unit that operates the high-speed links that connect to the Internet in the rest of the world. They do not permit their citizens to access certain web sites. Citing the Qur'an, the government justifies this as needed to preserve "our Islamic values, filtering the Internet content to prevent the materials that contradict with our beliefs or may influence our culture." The Berkman Center for Internet and Society of Harvard Law School has found 2,038 blocked pages. "Such pages contained information about religion, health, education, reference, humor, and entertainment." 29 The Berkman Center listed blocked sites and pages "that are well known or otherwise of particular interest....Specific blocked pages included substantial portions (including the home pages) of religioustolerance.org ('an agency promoting religious tolerance as a human right'), answering-islam.org ('A Christian-Muslim Dialog' [sic.]), and al-bushra.org (a Web site calling for 'brotherhood and love' between religions).30 This is totally to be expected. Saudi Arabia is a closed society, from a religious standpoint. The promotion of religious tolerance, religious dialog, brotherhood and love would be a major threat to their culture.

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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. Ken Connor, "CDC pick strikes sour note," Washington Update, from the Family Research Council, 2002-JUL-2.
  12. "Dr. James Dobson Criticizes Bush Appointment to the CDC; Pro-Family Leader Responds to Administration Pick," U.S. Newswire, at:  http://www.usnewswire.com/topnews/
  13. Women on Waves has a web site at: http://ww.maranatha.tv/_wsn/page3.html
  14. Gary McCullough, "Operation Rescue seeks solution to floating abortion clinic," CCN, 2002-JUL-2, at:  http://ww.maranatha.tv/_wsn/
  15. Ken Connor, "America's Moral Condition: Ripley's Believe It or Not," Family Research Council, Washington Update for 2002-JUL-5
  16. Patrick Wintour, "Bishops furious at exclusion," Guardian Newspaper, at:
     http://politics.guardian.co.uk/lords/
  17. "Defenders of Marriage and Democracy Press On in
    Massachusetts,
    " CultureFacts news release from Family Research Council, 2002-JUL-5
  18. Alan Cooperman, "New York Lutheran Leader Suspended: Synod Seeks Pastor's Apology for Praying With 'Pagans' After Sept. 11 Attacks," Washington Post, 2002-JUL-6, Page A02. See: http://www.washingtonpost.com
  19. Tracy Wilkinson, "Israeli bill called racist: Attempt to legalize "Jews-only" towns swiftly criticized," Toronto Star, Toronto ON, 2002-JUL-9.
  20. Ben Lynfield, "Israeli cabinet rejects racism claims over bill banning Arabs from Jewish towns," The Scotsman, 2002-JUL-9, at: http://www.thescotsman.co.uk/
  21. Jim Vertuno, "Texas pastor, brother charged with severely beating boy for cheating in Bible study," Associated Press, 2002-JUL-9, at: http://www.nj.com/newsflash/national/
  22. "Bush Advances Legacy Of Bad Decisions, Broken Promises And Dead Babies," American Life League National Desk, 2002-JUL-8, at: http://www.usnewswire.com/topnews/first/0709-102.html
  23. Stuart Shepard, "Federally Funded Research Prompts Questions," Citizen Link, Focus on the Family, 2002-JUL-11
  24. Tracy Huffman, Ontario judges say federal law is discriminatory," Toronto Star, 2002-JUL-13, Pages A1 & A23.
  25. "Designs unveiled for WTC reconstruction: Johnson warns 'No religious symbols!' " AANEWS, 202-JUL-16.
  26. Richard Brennan, "Eves supports gay ruling: Ontario won't appeal decision, saying it's up to Ottawa to act," Toronto Star, 2002-JUL-17, Page A4.
  27. Cecil Angel & Jim Schaefer, "Secret Service agent may be charged: He admits he scrawled anti-Islam graffiti in raid," Detroit Free Press, at: http://www.freep.com/news/metro/
  28. Michael Valpy, "Schisms of theology run silent, run deep," The Globe and Mail newspaper, Toronto ON Canada. 2002-JUL-25, at: http://www.globeandmail.com/special
  29. Jonathan Zittrain & Benjamin Edelman, "Documentation of Internet Filtering in Saudi Arabia," at: http://cyber.law.harvard.edu/filtering/saudiarabia/
  30. Jonathan Zittrain & Benjamin Edelman, "URLs blocked in Saudi Arabia - Highlights," at: http://cyber.law.harvard.edu/filtering/

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Copyright © 2002 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally written: 2002-JUL-2
Latest update: 2002-AUG-3
Author: B.A. Robinson

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