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Religious Tolerance logo


News items during 2006-November

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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.

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This is the time of the year when the "Christmas wars" heat up. As Chris Ortiz posted to the Chalcedon Blog: "I used to know Christmas was around the corner when stores put up their holiday decorations. Now I know it's Christmas when everyone starts fighting about it." 22 See our " 'Tis the season to be' in conflict" section.

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bullet2006-NOV-01: Turkey: Author acquitted of insulting Islam: Muazzez Ilmiye Cig, 92, an archaeologist specializing in the ancient Sumerian civilization, 1 wrote in her book "My reactions as a citizen" that head scarves similar to the hijabs currently worn by some Muslim women, were first worn circa 3000 BCE by priestesses who initiated male youths into sex. They wore the scarves in order to distinguish themselves from regular priestesses in the temple.

She and her publisher were charged under
bulletArticle 125 of the TCK covers offences committed by "insulting values that are regarded as sacred by an individual's religion" and
bulletArticle 216, covers the offence of "incitement to hatred and enmity as well as denigration". 2

They faced up to three year jail sentences if found guilty. She had said in court: "I am a woman of science. I never insulted anyone." After a one hour hearing, a panel of three judges ruled that Cig's statements did not constitute the crime of inciting hared or insulting people based on their religion. Twenty five lawyers were present in the small court room to defend her. 3

Similar cases were recently brought against writers, academics, and others including this year's Nobel prize-winner Orhan Pamuk and novelist Elif Shafak. They were charged under Article 301 which criminalizes insults to the Turkish Republic, its officials or "Turkishness." Parmak's charges were dismissed on a technicality; Shafak was acquitted.

BiaNet reports that:

"The Monitoring Desk of the 'Establishing a Countrywide Network for Monitoring and Covering for Media Freedom and Independent Journalism-BİA' project has disclosed that according to its data from news reports covered, a total of 68 people have been charged in Turkey under articles 301 and 159 of the Turkish Penal Code in 18 months."

"While article 301 went into force on June 1, 2005, in instances where it has been favorable for the defendants, article 159 has been imposed."

"Those who have been charged under both articles are journalists, writers, publishers, activists, unionists and, in some instance, ordinary citizens." 4

bullet2006-NOV-01: USA: Male prostitute claims business relationship with Ted Haggard: Evangelical Right, who bill themselves as "the Internet home for sinners destined to be left behind" wrote:

"A gay man and admitted male escort claims he has had an ongoing sexual relationship with a well-known Evangelical pastor from Colorado Springs. Mike Jones told 9 Wants to Know Investigative Reporter Paula Woodward he has had a 'sexual business' relationship with Pastor Ted Haggard for the past three years. Haggard is married with five children and an outspoken critic of gay marriage."

"People may look at me and think what I've done is immoral, but I think I had to do the moral thing in my mind and that is expose someone who is preaching one thing and doing the opposite behind everybody's back," said Jones.

Ted Haggard is president of the National Association of Evangelicals (NEA). He also heads the 14,000 member New Life Church in Colorado City, CO, and was named by Time Magazine as one of the 25 most influential Evangelicals in the U.S. 5,6

On the evening of NOV-01, Haggard denied the claims, and said that he is prepared for his own church to undertake an investigation. He allegedly said:

"I did not have a homosexual relationship with a man in Denver. I am steady with my wife. I'm faithful to my wife. I don't know if this is election year politics or if this has to do with the marriage amendment or what it is, but I'm not even the guy who will investigate it or question it. I don't know what the dynamics are, but this independent group will come in and do that."

It may be important to realize that this disclosure happened less than a week before the mid-term elections.

bullet2006-NOV-02: USA: Ted Haggard denies allegations of same-sex behavior: CNN reported this evening that Ted Haggard as stepped down as president of the NEA and as head of the New Life Church. 6 Associated Press reported that:

"In a written statement, Haggard said: 'I am voluntarily stepping aside from leadership so that the overseer process can be allowed to proceed with integrity. I hope to be able to discuss this matter in more detail at a later date. In the interim, I will seek both spiritual advice and guidance.' ..."

"Jones said he has voice mail messages from Haggard, as well as an envelope he said Haggard used to mail him cash, though he declined to make any of it available to the AP. 'There's some stuff on there (the voice mails) that's pretty damning,' he said."

"Richard Cizik, vice president for government affairs for the evangelicals association, expressed shock. 'Is this something I can imagine of Ted Haggard? No,' he said." 7

Haggard went public on the evening of NOV-02 denying allegations of a same-sex affair. 8

bullet2006-NOV-02: USA: Ted Haggard admits some allegations of same-sex behavior are true: KTTV reported:

"After Pastor Ted Haggard went public Wednesday night denying allegations of a homosexual affair, senior church officials told KKTV 11News Thursday evening, Pastor Ted Haggard has admitted to some of the claims made by a former male escort. The church's Acting Senior Pastor, Ross Parsley, tells KKTV 11 News that Pastor Haggard has admitted to some of the indiscretions claimed by Mike Jones, but not all of them." Thursday morning, Jones went on a Denver radio talk show and said Pastor Haggard paid him for sex over the past 3 years. Jones also claims Haggard used drugs with him. Right now, the situation is under investigation by an independent panel of leaders from four outside churches. The leaders are from Colorado Springs, Larkspur, Westminster and Louisiana. The panel's role is to decide if Haggard will be exonerated, released from his duties, or restored to his pastorship. 8

bullet2006-NOV-04: USA: Ted Haggard dismissed: The Overseer Board of New Life Church in Colorado Springs, CO reported that their
bullet"... investigation and Pastor Haggard's public statements have proven without a doubt that he has committed sexually immoral conduct. ... [After discussing the matter with]... leading evangelicals and experts familiar with the type of behavior Pastor Haggard has demonstrated [they] ... decided that the most positive and productive direction for our church is his dismissal and removal."

Their investigation would continue in order to determine the extent of Haggard's misconduct. 9

bullet2006-NOV: World: Jack Chick issues anti-Masonic gospel tract: The latest in a series of Fundamentalist gospel tract deals with the Masonic order. The tract states or implies many beliefs that Masons would probably strongly disagree with:
bulletMembership in the Masons will destroy one's marriage.
bulletThe Masons are an occultic group.
bulletThe "god of Masonry" enters a person's body when they become a member.
bulletThe indwelling spirit can be removed through exorcism.
bullet"Masonry is a dark, spiritual force, blending all ungodly religions."
bulletWhen a Christian joins this form of Baal worship, he brings spiritual death to his church and family.
bulletWhen Muslims pray to Allah, the God of the Universe, they are praying to a devil.
bulletMasonry is a form of witchcraft.
bulletAll Masons will spend eternity in Hell. 10
bullet2006-NOV-10: Israel: Riots in Jerusalem in protest against a gay pride parade: Jerusalem's first gay pride parade was scheduled for a weekend earlier in the year. However, it was delayed because of the warfare in Lebanon. It is scheduled for the weekend of NOV-11. In an almost unprecedented show of unity, conservative leaders of the three main religions in the area, Judaism, Christianity and Islam, jointly condemned the parade. Almost two weeks of rioting have disturbed Jerusalem's Orthodox Jewish neighborhoods. Police and motorists have been showered with stones; trash cans have been set on fire. Dozens of police have been injured. At least 60 Orthodox protestors have been arrested. According to the Jewish daily Forward:

 "Violent protests were also reported in Hadera, Bet Shemesh and the Tel Aviv suburb of Bínei Brak, where protesters burned tires and blocked a main highway. ... Israelís chief rabbinate issued a statement Monday calling Israelís homosexuals the 'lowest of people,' and urging the public to assemble for a countrywide prayer rally as gay rights marchers gathered in Jerusalem."

" 'We were horrified to hear of the threatening plot that an abominated minority of our brothers is planning, convening to carry out abominations that make them the lowest of people,' the countryís two chief rabbis wrote in a statement. 'Everyone from toddlers to the elderly will join in the streets and bitterly protest this awful abomination that is desecrating Israelís name throughout the nations. Of course they will do this in the appropriate way, without violence or harm to property'." 11

bullet2006-NOV: MN: University of Minnesota plans play critical of Roman Catholicism: The Department of Theatre, Arts and Dance at the University of Minnesota plans to open a production of a play -- The Pope and the Witch -- on 2007-MAR-01. The play involves a witch, in a nuns habit, assisting a physician who is treating the pope for a paralytic affliction. The play allegedly discusses world overpopulation as a cause of poverty and hunger, and the contribution of the Church's policies on contraception and abortion to overpopulation. Catholic bishops of Minnesota have asked the universityís president to close down the production. 12
bullet2006-NOV-14: DC: New think tank formed to promote rationalism: The Center for Inquiry-Transnational, a nonprofit organization, has opened an office to promote rationalism as the basis of public policy. It will lobby on behalf of science-based decision making and against the federal government making religiously-based policy in areas such as stem-cell research, abstinence-only education, etc. The Center released a "Declaration in Defense of Science and Secularism." It says in part:

"This disdain for science is aggravated by the excessive influence of religious doctrine on our public policies. We cannot hope to convince those in other countries of the dangers of religious fundamentalism when religious fundamentalists influence our policies at home. ... Unfortunately, not only do too many well-meaning people base their conceptions of the universe on ancient books -- such as the Bible and the Koran -- rather than scientific inquiry, but politicians of all parties encourage and abet this scientific ignorance."

At the opening of the office, Nobel Prize in chemistry laureate Paul Boyer, Ph.D., said that the establishment of the Center for Inquiry and its Office of Public Policy was one step toward a better, and better-informed, future for all Americans. He said:

"That goal is an enlightenment that would lead our citizens to base their actions and beliefs on the results of rational inquiry. Such enlightenment would mean the acceptance of the truth of evolution and would promote changes for better separation of church and state." 13,14

bullet 2006-NOV-16: VA, CA: Episcopal congregations and a diocese moving towards schism: Two historic congregations in the diocese of Virginia are tending towards separating from the Episcopal Church, USA. The vestries of Truro Church in Fairfax, VA, and in the Falls Church in Falls Church, VA, have voted to recommend the split. The membership will vote between DEC-10 and DEC-16 whether to approve the break.

As noted above, San Joaquin diocese in Fresno, CA, is also moving towards a break. The membership will vote on DEC-01/02 whether to fully remove links to the denomination. If they approve the measure, they will be the first diocese to do so. San Joaquin is one of the very few diocese who refuses to ordain women.

Between 2003 and 2005, the Episcopal Church, USA has lost about 5% of its membership. Speculation is that a main reason is disagreement with equality for women and homosexuals. They now have about 2.21 million members. 15

bullet2006-NOV-22: Norwegian state church votes for separation of church and state: After 469 years of Lutheranism being the official religion of Norway, the general synod of the Church of Norway has voted in favor of separation of church and state. The vote was 63 to 19. The government will now have to alter the constitution and pass legislation to transfer powers to the Lutheran church, including the authority to appoint clergy. The changes will take at least until 2013. Jens Petter Johnsen, director of the Church of Norway national council, said:

"The synod's decision is historic. What matters is the relation between church and people, not between church and state."

Among the other Scandanavian countries, Sweden separated their church-state arrangement on 2000-JAN-01. Denmark still has a Lutheran state church. 18

bullet2006-NOV-23: USA: President elect of Christian Coalition resigns: The Rev. Joel Hunter, president elect of the Christian Coalition -- founded by Jerry Falwell -- resigned his post over a dispute concerning priorities. He wanted to promote concern over poverty and environmental matters. The Christian Coalition board wanted to confine their activities to opposing abortion access and opposing equal marriage for persons of all sexual orientations. The Orlando Sentinel reported:

Hunter's move signals more tumult for a group that has fallen on hard times. Members have complained the coalition's agenda has become too liberal and diffuse. State chapters in Georgia, Alabama and elsewhere left the organization this year, and its budget has shrunk from $26 million to less than $5 million. ... Hunter hoped to revive the group by expanding its agenda to include what he called 'compassion issues.' He also planned to teach evangelicals how to 'vote with their life,' or integrate and apply their Christian values to public life. ... The coalition's rejection of Hunter's approach means it is unwilling to part with its partisan, Republican roots, Hunter said. "To tell you the truth, I feel like there are literally millions of evangelical Christians that don't have a home right now," Hunter said. 16

Rev. Hunter is reported as saying:

"My position is, unless we are caring as much for the vulnerable outside the womb as inside the womb, we're not carrying out the full message of Jesus. ... They began to think this might threaten their base or evaporate some of their support, and they said they just couldn't go there." 17

bullet2006-NOV-24: Egypt: Muslim conference ends with condemnation of female circumcision: TARGET, a German human rights group, sponsored a conference on female genital mutilation (FGM) in Cairo, Egypt. Muslim scholars from many nations attended. At the conclusion of the conference they issued a statement declared FGM to be contrary to Islam, an attack on women, and a practice that should be criminalized:

"The conference appeals to all Muslims to stop practicing this habit, according to Islam's teachings which prohibit inflicting harm on any human being. ... The conference reminds all teaching and media institutions of their role to explain to the people the harmful effects of this habit in order to eliminate it. ... The conference calls on judicial institutions to issue laws that prohibit and criminalize this habit ... which appeared in several societies and was adopted by some Muslims although it is not sanctioned by the Qur'an or the Sunna."

According to The Age online news source:

"Egypt's two top Islamic clerics, Mohammed Sayed Tantawi, the Grand Sheik of Al-Azhar, the foremost theological institute in the Sunni Muslim world, and Grand Mufti Ali Gomaa, attended the conference, which drew scholars from as far afield as Russia. Tantawi's and Gomaa's edicts are considered binding. 18

bullet2006-NOV: CA: Controversy over Barak Obama invitation to AIDS conference: The Saddleback Valley Community Church in Lake Forest, CA, is sponsoring the second annual Global Summit on AIDS and the Church conference during the weekend starting 2006-NOV-02. The senior pastor of Saddleback is well known author Rick Warren, author of "A Purpose-driven Life." Almost 60 people will deliver papers, including U.S. Senators who are two potential candidates for the presidency in 2008: Barak Obama (D-IL) and Sam Brownback of (R-KS).

Some conservative Protestants object to Obama's presence at the summit. A statement issued by the Church states:

"Our goal has been to put people together who normally won't even speak to each other. We do not expect all participants in the summit discussion to agree with all of our evangelical beliefs. However, the HIV/AIDS pandemic cannot be fought by evangelicals alone. It will take the cooperation of all ó government, business, NGOs (nongovernmental organizations) and the church. ... To be truly pro-life means far more than opposing abortion. It also means doing everything in our power to keep people alive, so they might respond to the grace of Jesus Christ. Sometimes that means working with people you disagree with. With AIDS killing 8,000 people a day, saving lives is more important to us than political alignment." 19

Obama issued a statement saying that he respects differences of beliefs on abortion and other controversial topics, but hopes for unity:

"... to honor the entirety of Christ's teachings by working to eradicate the scourge of AIDS, poverty and other challenges we all can agree must be met."

"It is that spirit which has allowed me to work together ó and pray together ó with some of my conservative colleagues in the Senate to make progress on a range of key issues facing America".

Brownback, who has close ties to conservative Christians, responded to the dispute with a statement also calling for unity. He wrote:

"To win the fight against AIDS we must each set aside our differences and join together as human beings from all political, religious, and nonreligious walks of life, fighting for the lives of people who are suffering and dying."

Obama's presence at the AIDS conference met a wall of opposition from leading fundamentalist and other evangelical Christian leaders. Their objection had nothing to do with the topic of the conference: AIDS, or with Senator Obama's beliefs about the disease. It was because Obama believes that abortions should be "safe and legal." 20,21

bulletRob Schenck, president of the National Clergy Council, a conservative evangelical group, wrote: "Senator Obama's policies represent the antithesis of [the conservative Protestant interpretation of] biblical ethics and morality, not to mention supreme American values."
bulletPhyllis Schlafly of the Eagle Forum, Judie Brown of the American Life League and Tim Wildmon of the American Family Association and 15 additional pro-life leaders signed a joint statement which said, in part:"
"In the strongest possible terms, we oppose Rick Warren's decision to ignore Senator Obama's clear pro-death stance and invite him to Saddleback Church anyway. If Senator Obama cannot defend the most helpless citizens in our country, he has nothing to say to the AIDS crisis. You cannot fight one evil while justifying another. The evangelical church can provide no genuine help for those who suffer from AIDS if those involved do not first have their ethic of life firmly rooted in the Word of God." 23
bullet2006-NOV-25: MI, WI, OH, etc: Father and daughter picket Wal-Mart: Cal Zastrow and his 13-year-old daughter Corrie, protested at the Midland MI Wal-Mart because of the company's membership in the National Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce, and their decision to sell Plan B, often called the "morning-after pill." Zastrow also alleges that Wal-Mart supports Planned Parenthood. OurMidland.com explained that:

"Area Wal-Mart stores were targeted by protesters Friday, part of a nationwide effort of Operation Save Wal-Mart to return the giant retailer to its 'godly roots' and stop its alleged support of abortion and homosexuality. 'Our motivation is to encourage Wal-Mart to stop funding abortion and homosexuality,' Zastrow said. 'And we are to lift up the Lord Jesus Christ'. 'Our motivation is to encourage Wal-Mart to stop funding abortion and homosexuality,' Zastrow said. 'And we are to lift up the Lord Jesus Christ.' "

Corrie held a sign that stated: "Wal-Mart funds murder and perversion." Cal held signs that showed two aborted fetuses with torn body parts. He shouted at passing motorists:

"This is what choice looks like. Dead babies. ... Iím out here to first proclaim Christ, and to reprove the deeds of darkness."

Mark Gabriel of Appleton, WI, posted a comment to the news article. He said that he held similar signs outside his local Wal-Mart on NOV-22. Another posting said that "... Spice of Life Ministries was involved with four Walmart [sic] locations in Ohio." 24

bullet2006-NOV-26: USA: Seeds of Tolerance Contest: Joe Wilson, a former high school student from rural Pennsylvania, has produced a video called We Belong. It is a "short documentary video about two small town gay teens who had the courage to stand up to bigotry and discrimination in their schools, and the determination to tell their stories to the world." It is well worth watching. See the Seeds of Tolerance contest at: http://www.current.tv/ Wilson won a $10,000 cash prize as one of two finalists. The grand prize winner was Lucas Krost who produced "One Nation Under Guard." It deals with the prison culture of the U.S.

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Links to religious news sources:

bulletLinks to general religious, conservative Christian, other Christian, and non-Christian news sources is available elsewhere on this web site.

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References used:

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

  1. "«IĞ, Muazzez İlmiye," Ministry of Culture and Tourism, at: http://goturkey.kulturturizm.gov.tr/
  2. "92 Year Old Women Researcher On Trial," BiaNet, at: 2006-OCT-01, http://www.bianet.org/
  3. Suzan Fraser, "Author acquitted of insulting Islam," Associated Press, 2006-NOV-01.
  4. "Three More Journalists Charged Under 301," BIA News Center, 2006-OCT-27, at: http://www.bianet.org/
  5. "BREAKING ALLEGATIONS: Head of National Association of Evangelicals, Ted Haggard, Is Gay!," Evangelical Right, 2006-NOV-02, at: http://www.evangelicalright.com/
  6. Wolf Blitzer, Situation Room program, CNN, 2006-NOV-02.
  7. Catherine Tsai, "Key Evangelical quite amid gay sex claim," Associated Press, 2006-NOV-02, at: http://news.yahoo.com/
  8. "Church leader says Haggard admits to some indiscretions," KKTV, 2006-NOV-03, at: http://www.kktv.com/
  9. Press release, New Life Church, 2006-NOV-04 at: http://www.9news.com/
  10. "The unwelcome guest," Chick Publications, at: http://www.chick.com/
  11. "Riots Rock Jerusalem Before Gay Pride Parade," Forward, 2006-NOV-10, at: http://www.forward.com/
  12. "University of Minnesota Set to Bash Catholicism," American TFP, at: http://www.tfp.org/
  13. "Office of Public Policy Opens with Declaration in Defense of Science and Secularism," News release, Center for Inquiry-Transnational, 2006-NOV-17.
  14. Marc Kaufman, "Think Tank Will Promote Thinking. Advocates Want Science, Not Faith, at Core of Public Policy," Washington Post, 2006-NOV-15, Page A19. Online at: http://www.washingtonpost.com/
  15. "Conservative Episcopal parishes, diocese moving toward break with church," Townhall, 2006-NOV-16, at: http://www.townhall.com/
  16. "Longwood pastor quits as coalition president. The Rev. Joel Hunter was set to take the reins of the national Christian Coalition," Orlando, FL, Sentinel, 2006-NOV-23, at: http://www.orlandosentinel.com/
  17. "SojoMail" Quote of the Week," weekly email-zine from Sojourners, 2006-NOV-29.
  18. "Muslim scholars rule female circumcision un-Islamic," The Age, 2006-NOV-24, at: http://www.theage.com.au/
  19. The text of the statement has been posted at: "Statement by Saddleback Valley Community Church regarding Senator Barack Obama as one of nearly 60 featured speakers at the second annual Global Summit on AIDS and the Church," Illinois Review, 2006-NOV-29, at: http://illinoisreview.typepad.com/
  20. Alan Cooperman, "Church is urged to disinvite Obama," Washington Post, 2006-NOV-30, at: http://www.washingtonpost.com/
  21. Nedra Pickler, "Famed pastor defends invitation to Obama," Associated Press, 2006-NOV-29, at: http://news.yahoo.com/
  22. Chris Ortiz, "Grow Up, America!," Chalcedon Blog, 2006-NOV-28, at: http://www.chalcedon.edu/
  23. The text of the statement has been posted at: "Rick Warren/Parack Obama AIDS partnership must end, say pro-life groups," Illinois Review, 2006-NOV-28, at: http://illinoisreview.typepad.com/
  24. Angela Lackey, "Group targets Midland Wal-Mart," OurMidland.com, 2006-NOV-25, at: http://www.ourmidland.com/

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Copyright © 2006 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally written: 2006-NOV-02
Latest update: 2006-DEC-18
Author: B.A. Robinson

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