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We also have a list of religious tolerance news items for this month.

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MAY-1: USA: U.S. Supreme Court muzzles demonstrators: According to ReligionToday: 3
22 pro-life demonstrators were arrested in front of the U.S. Supreme Court last week, and held for 12 hours before being released. They were carrying a series of four-foot tall drawings which portrayed partial-birth-abortions, and an eight-foot photograph of a late-term decapitated fetus. They had previously received approval from the Supreme Court Police to show these signs. However, a new law "regulation six" had been signed just hours previous to the demonstration. Groups of signs and signs taller than four feet were prohibited from the vicinity of the Court. 


MAY 1: Romania: Neo-fascists target Jews: According to ReligionToday: 3
"Jewish leaders said that a report by the Romanian Intelligence Service, the country's main espionage agency, described the 'Legionaries' [organization] as openly preaching violence and political assassination, Reuters said. The leaders said the Legionaries were seeking support among young people, and have gained a few hundred followers...Nazi swastikas and anti-Semitic slogans can be seen on the walls of buildings in central Bucharest, and community leaders have reported acts of vandalism in Jewish cemeteries, Reuters said. Half of Romania's 800,000 Jews died in the Nazi Holocaust, and most survivors left Romania after World War II. There are about 14,000 Jews, most of them elderly, in Romania."


MAY-02: Sudan, China, Russia: Religious freedom: According to Newsroom: 2
"A panel commissioned by the United States to monitor religious freedom issued its first report on Monday [MAY-1], calling for measures to be taken against China and Sudan if they fail to improve their treatment of religious believers. The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom also warned that religious liberty in Russia is in danger of taking a turn for the worse." The "Reading Room" section of the web site of the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom contains the full report. See: http://www.uscirf.gov/cgi-bin/homeBuilder.pl?scale=800 The Commission has written of religious freedom concerns in China, Egypt, Indonesia, Iran, Sudan, Turkmenistan, and Vietnam. It designated China and Sudan as "countries of particular concern:" 

Sudan: Their 17 year civil war has resulted in the deaths of about 2 million people, "mostly Christians and followers of animist religions. While the conflict has many contributing causes, religious factors are the key." The Commission proposes "a comprehensive 12-month plan to significantly strengthen the United State's response to this crisis." They also suggest that both aid and sanctions be increased.


China: A nation-wide crackdown on the Falun Gong spiritual movement resulted in long prison terms for its leaders, the detaining of thousands of its practitioners and the beating deaths of a few members. Christian, Tibetan Buddhists and Muslim Uighurs have suffered increased repression. The Commission recommends that China be granted permanent normal trade relations only after it makes substantial improvements in the religious freedom of its citizens.

The Commission also expressed its concern over freedom of religion in Russia, and human rights abuses against the Muslim population of Chechnya.


MAY-11: Saudi Arabia: Religious freedom: According to Newsroom: 2
On 2000-MAR-28, Amnesty International issued a report critical of civil liberties in Saudi Arabia. The report is titled "Saudi Arabia: A secret state of suffering." On MAY-9, Saudi Justice Minister Abdullah bin Mohammad al-Sheikh commented: "We all know that those who instigate those doubts are the enemies of God, the enemies of religion, and the enemies of all humanity. Their hearts are full of hatred. They have misled so many people with the fallacies and lies that they spread through the media ... that even some Muslims have believed them." On MAY-10, AI issued a statement saying that "Every day people in Saudi Arabia suffer violations of their basic human rights. Their suffering is perpetrated and hidden by a system based on secrecy and fear, and is largely ignored by the world's governments."


MAY-11: USA: Freedom of religious speech: According to the Salina (KS) Journal:
Kandy Crosby of Salina KS is circulating a petition which states: "We the undersigned do wish to stop the speaking of Hugh Gould on an introduction of the teaching of the practices of Zen Buddhism at the Salina Public Library. We stand against the teaching of Buddhism or any false religion. We stand for the spreading the Gospel of Jesus Christ to everyone of every faith in all parts of the world." Crosby, a Pentecostal,  said: "To Christians, it is a false religion. It is my Christian duty to take a stand." She said she would not object if a Christian made a presentation at the library. "I'm going by the First Commandment, which is to have no other God before me. You stand against all false religions, whether that be Hindu, Islam or Confucianism."

The Spirituality Resource Center of Salina had booked Gould's talk in the local public library. In past years, they have brought at least one well known Christian scholar to town. Speaker Hugh Gould is a visiting Buddhist monk. He said: "As a Buddhist, I do not proselytize. What I'm simply doing is talking about Buddhism at the library. I will be passing on information, because I was invited by a specific group. I am not talking about Buddhism because I want anyone to become a Buddhist."

Ms. Crosby's pastor, Terence Engler of the Faith Assembly of God, commented: "Unfortunately, what I believe to be an unfair implication by association...has left those of us of the Christian faith to be intolerant of anyone who does not believe as we do. That's absolutely not the case. Christ accepted people where they were... His tolerance of where they were in their lives allowed him to minister to their needs. This should be our attitude as well." [We received an Email from Ms. Crosby on 2000-SEP-22 which indicated that she had changed her church affiliation; Terence Engler is no longer her pastor. She has since created a Christian ministry: Coram Deo - "in the eyes of God," or "in the presence of God."


MAY-11: USA: Methodists attack Mormonism: According to ReligionToday: 3
Delegates to the United Methodist Church annual meeting in Cleveland OH approved a resolution which stated that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is not a Christian denomination. It said that Mormonism has "some radically differing doctrine on such matters of belief as the nature and being of God; the nature, origin, and purpose of Jesus Christ; and the nature and way of salvation." This action follows similar resolutions passed previously by the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) and the Southern Baptist Convention.


MAY-11: USA: Southern Baptists to accept only male pastors: According to ReligionToday: 3
The Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) is by far the largest Protestant denomination in the U.S. They have about 1,600 ordained female pastors. In recent years, Fundamentalists have won a power struggle with moderates in the denomination. The SBC released a document on 2000-MAY-18 that states: "While both men and women are gifted for service in the church, the office of pastor is limited to men as qualified by Scripture." The statement cites 1 Timothy 2:9-14, which says in part, "I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man." Fundamentalists accept the validity of the preamble in 1 Timothy which states that Paul is the author of the book; most believe that the book was written by him circa 62 CE. Most religious liberals reject the authorship of Paul. They feel that the book was written by an unknown Christian circa 100 to 150 CE -- some 35 to 85 years after Paul's death. The anonymous author reversed some of Paul's policies, including equal treatment of women.

The statement is consistent with the SBC's 1998 statement that a wife should "submit herself graciously to the servant leadership of her husband." The new decision is expected to be ratified during the SBC annual meeting on JUN-13-14. Existing female pastors will be allowed to continue.


MAY-15: India: Religious oppression: According to Newsroom: 2
"Christian members of India's Parliament have formed a committee to focus attention on growing intolerance of religious minorities throughout the country and demanded that the Bharatiya Janata Party-led government take immediate steps to stop the attacks on Christians. The committee's formation comes in the wake of several incidents in recent weeks that continue a violent trend that began Christmas week 1998 with a series of attacks on Christians and churches in Gujarat."


MAY-16: USA: Conversion of Jewish boy to Christianity: According to Maranatha Christian Journal: 1
A 12 year old Jewish boy from Dallas TX attended a youth rally at a local Southern Baptist church (SBC) in 1999. He made a profession of faith in Jesus Christ, became a Christian, and decided to abandon his Bar Mitzvah. After discussions with his parents and Hebrew school principal, he recanted and has decided to proceed with the ceremony in which he is recognized as a Jewish man. 

ABC aired a segment on its 20/20 program for MAY-12 about this incident. Jim Sibley, a SBC missionary commented on-air: "It's evident our society does not want to hear that the Bible says there is only one way to God," A Jewish rabbi said, "It is our view that there are many paths to God." And another person said, referring to our evangelical beliefs, "That kind of religious exclusivity just doesn't belong in today's society anymore."

Robert E Reccord, president of the SBC's North American Mission Board later commented: "The [ABC] story, I believe, demonstrates the noose that is tightening around the neck of religious freedom in America. In a country founded on religious freedom principles, in which Jewish people have had the greatest freedom of anywhere in the world, it's ironic the response would be so negative...Some people who saw the broadcast thought that although we were given an opportunity to present our beliefs about evangelism, the program seemed heavily weighted to those critical of those beliefs. Some have also questioned ABC's motivation for doing this type of story when their parent company, Disney, has been a target of a Southern Baptist boycott for two years." He later said: "The Scripture tells us we must always be ready to share the hope that is within us. We must be sure we do it in a loving way, but we must always be ready to share without regard to the reaction or consequences."


MAY-16: Pakistan: Blasphemy charges: According to Newsroom: 2
"A Pakistani court sentenced two Christian brothers to 35 years in prison for committing blasphemy against the Prophet Muhammad. The sentences came amid renewed controversy over Pakistan's blasphemy law. The regime of General Pervez Musharraf said May 16 that it would not press for a reform of the law, despite promises previously made to minority religious groups."

The law can carry the death sentence. It forbids anyone who "by words, either spoken or written, or by visible representations, or by any imputation, innuendo, or insinuation, directly or indirectly, defiles the sacred name of the Holy Prophet."

Rasheed Masih and Salem Masih were each fined 1,385 in addition to their sentence. The brothers allegedly made "bad remarks" against Islam and Mohammed after an ice cream vendor refused to serve them with bowls used by Muslims. A mot surrounded the court demanding that the death penalty be given. The blasphemy law has often been used in Pakistan to assign long jail sentences to religious minorities on trumped up charges. The law is vaguely worded, severely restricts religious freedom in the country, and has be applied against a wide range of speech which goes unnoticed in other countries.


MAY-16: Indonesia: Muslim-Christian violence in Ambon: According to Maranatha Christian Journal: 1
Violence erupted in the Moluccas Islands on MAY-16. During the following six days, 40 were killed and over 100 injured. There are allegations that 10,000 Muslims received military training in Indonesia in preparation for the attack, and that the government closed down the military training camp in April. Most Muslim leaders in Indonesia have condemned the violence.  Apparently most of the casualties were caused by the government security forces attempting to disperse the rioters.

bulletMAY-21: USA: Internet censorship companies allow access to hate literature: According to Peacefire: 13
Peacefire is a youth group opposed to Internet censorship. They performed a "bait and switch" experiment in order to determine whether censorship programs treated small and large web sites equally. Censorship programs are used by parents, libraries, schools, etc. to block access to web sites that they consider dangerous. Some blocked sites are sexist; some are racist; others are pornographic. Each company has their own criteria for blocking. Peacefire found that several censorship companies treated conservative Christian sites, such as the Family Research Council, Focus on the Family, the Official Dr. Laura web page and Concerned Women for America quite differently than small, personal web sites. They allow free access to the Christian web sites, even though those sites contain anti-gay material that met the blocking company's own definition of hate speech. 15 Peacefire performed the following test:
bulletThey verified that none of the conservative Christian web sites were currently blocked by censorship programs.
bulletThey copied anti-gay material from the conservative Christian sites to new, personal web sites.
bulletThe new web sites were then submitted for review to six leading censorship companies: Cyber Patrol, Net Nanny,  SmartFilter, SurfWatch, and WebSENSE via anonymous Email accounts.
bulletIn all cases, the blocking companies declared the new web sites to be hate speech; the sites were blocked.
bulletPeacefire then contacted the blocking companies and asked that they apply their criterial equally to those conservative Christian web sites from which the offensive material had been copied. The blocking companies refused the request. [Author's note: This informal experiment appears to show that censorship companies do not block web sites on the basis of their hate content, as is their claim. Some religious sites appear to be immune to blocking. The censorship companies should either block all hate literature, or define in its literature why it allows large, conservative Christian sites to disseminate material that it considers hate literature if published by small, private web sites.]

MAY-22: USA Southern Baptists change Faith and Message: According to Religion Today: 3
A drafting committee is revising the Southern Baptist Convention's (SBC) statement of faith, which is called Baptist Faith and Message. The changes will probably be ratified during its JUN-13-14 meeting in Orlando, FL. It means bad news for the vast majority of humans and for women in the U.S.

There are about 1,600 female pastors in the SBC. The revised statement will say that women are not to be ordained in the future. Their rationale is that this might install a woman as a spiritual leader of a man.


The revised statement will imply that the vast majority of human beings will go to Hell after death for eternal torture without any hope of cessation or mercy. This includes the two thirds of the people on earth who are not Christians. It also includes about 60% of American Christians (and Christians of other countries) who are not saved. The statement will say that people must profess faith in Christ in order to gain salvation.

Adrian Rogers, head of the revision committee said that Baptists "are a people of the Book, who recognize no other authority for faith and practice but God's Word. We are unembarrassed to take our stand upon the solid rock of biblical authority. [The Bible] is  the source of our authority, not merely a support for our historic doctrines." More liberal denominations, when faced with a decision to follow specific verses in the Bible which call for discrimination against women, or adopt the secular standard of equal opportunities regardless of gender, elect to choose the latter.

Baptists have had a centuries-long tradition that individual congregations are not bound by rulings of the denomination. This tradition was broken in the 1990's when the SBC expelled local churches who had welcomed gays and lesbians as members. However, congregations are still granted freedom from central control in matters of doctrine, like eligibility for ordination and believe about Hell.


MAY-22: Canada: Anglican church will probably declare bankruptcy: According to ReligionToday: 3
The Anglican Church of Canada is Canada's second largest Protestant denomination, after the liberal United Church of Canada. It has about 800,000 members and about 7 million dollars in assets. But about 1,600 Native Canadians have pressed claims totaling about 1 billion dollars against the denomination as compensation for physical and sexual abuse at the church's residential schools. The school policies and teaching were designed to crush Native culture and force students' assimilation into white society. Many of the children were forcibly kidnapped from their homes; they were beaten if they spoke their native language. Although the schools closed down during the 1970s, individual natives and native culture continue to suffer the after-effects of brutal and criminal treatment of students in these schools. They were often poorly fed and clothed. The suicide rate among Canadian natives is the highest of any ethnic or cultural group in the world. Some experts attribute its cause to the systematic destruction of native culture by Christian churches and the Government of Canada. The National Synod, the church's parent organization, is expected to be forced to declare bankruptcy before the end of 2001. Anglican Archbishop Michael Peers said: "If bankruptcy becomes inevitable, we really are called to be the body of Christ. Dead. Absolutely dead. And just as absolutely destined to rise.

A total of about 7,000 survivors of these schools are suing the organizations responsible for their inhumane treatment: the Anglican, Roman Catholic, United Church, and Presbyterian denominations, and the Government of Canada.

MAY-26: Greece: Religious affiliation on ID cards: According to ENI: 7
Leaders of minority churches in Greece have expressed support for a government proposal to scrap the obligatory indication of religious affiliation on citizens' identity cards. However, the proposed reform is vigorously opposed by the (Orthodox) Church of Greece and by many politicians and may well prove unpopular with many Greeks. A spokeswoman for the Church of Greece in Athens told ENI that belonging to the Orthodox Church was "part of being Greek". The Church of Greece is about to issue an official statement about the identity card issue. [Author's note: I don't suppose they would agree to religious identification stickers that people could add to their ID cards if they wished.]

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  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 is a service of Worldwide Newsroom Inc. Their articles are written by "a network of journalists, scholars and other professional contacts in country." You can subscribe to their free service from their website at http://www.newsroom.org/ 
  3. 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
  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
  10. Robert Mendick, "Pagan teacher to be disciplined by school," at: http://www.independent.co.uk/advancement/Schools/  
  11. AANEWS is distributed by American Atheists. 
  12. Dave Clark, "Evangelical chaplains sue Navy," at: http://www.family.org/cforum/fnif/news/a0011025.html
  13. A description of Peacefire's experiment is at: http://www.peacefire.org/BaitAndSwitch/
  14. A summary of the hate speech definitions used by various blocking companies is at: http://www.peacefire.org/BaitAndSwitch/definitions.html

Copyright © 2000 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally written: 2000-MAY-1
Latest update: 2000-SEP-22
Author: B.A. Robinson

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