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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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bullet2004-JAN-1: World: Looking ahead to the anticipated news items of 2004: PBS distributes their Religion & Ethics Newsweekly bulletin each week via the Internet. On New Years day, their host, Bob Abernethy, was joined by John Allen, E.J. Dionne and Cathy Grossman, a religious correspondent, columnist, and reporter. They discussed the major news items that they anticipate covering in 2004:
bullet2004-NOV U.S. elections: They note a shift in the allegiance of various religious, racial groups: The Republican Party is hoping to increase votes among a major power base: white, conservative Christians. Catholics (once very Democratic) and white mainline Protestants (once mainly Republican) have become swing groups. Muslim voters were solidly Republican and Jewish voters were solidly Democratic; some shifts may occur this year. The direction of the rapidly growing secular vote is unknown.
bulletVatican: Some will suggest that because of the pope's failing health, the Church "is adrift and needs new leadership." Others say that he is providing an example to the world in bearing suffering with dignity. They speculate that the next pope may come from Latin America where about half of all Roman Catholics live.
bulletEpiscopal Church's liberal/conservative split: There are currently three splits within the Episcopal Church. All are sexual conflicts:
bulletA minor one over whether women should be eligible for ordination or not.
bulletA major one over whether gays and lesbians in committed relationships should be eligible for ordination, or whether priesthood should be confined to heterosexuals and celibate homosexuals.
bulletA major one over whether the church should bless committed homosexual unions in a marriage-like ritual.

There is a move by conservative elements to set up a parallel denomination in the U.S. with a duplicate set of bishops. This may provoke court battles over the ownership of some historical churches.

bulletU.S. Supreme Court: There are two main religious rulings are expected:
bulletA student received a Washington state scholarship, which the state retracted when he applied to study theology. Some 37 states prohibit state money to finance religious education. The constitutionality of such laws is questionable.
bulletThe "under God" addition to the Pledge of Allegiance is under review.
bulletRoman Catholic church's sex scandal: A report is expected on FEB-27 which will document the numbers of priests, victims, cases, and dollar payouts involved in the crisis. Another report on the same day will review the causes and contexts of the sex abuse crisis. The U.S. bishops' "one-strike" policy, which dismisses a priest after the first confirmed case of abuse, may be modified by the Vatican.
bulletEuthanasia: The case of Terri Schaivo, the brain-damaged woman in Florida, will hit the courts again. Her husband wants to take her off life support systems, and let her die naturally. Her parents obtained a special law from the state legislature that restored her life support.
bulletIraq: The state is almost totally Muslim, with a very small Christian minority. The U.S. wants the new constitution to guarantee religious freedom. The overwhelming majority of Iraqis want the state to be built upon an Islamic foundation.
bulletReligious liberals: Many religious liberals feel that their voice is being drowned out by the far more successful conservative Christian public relations efforts. "Various clergy groups have formed to try to represent a progressive point of view to counter the religious right." They may increase in effectiveness during 2004.
bulletSocial issues: Religious groups will probably be influential in promoting federal legislative action that will reduce poverty, help prevent AIDS in Africa, and eliminate trafficking in human beings. 11
bullet2004-JAN-8: ID: U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upholds firing of employee: Rich Peterson had worked for Hewlett-Packard in Boise, ID for 21 years. The company conducted a diversity program supported by posters in the workplace which showed gays and lesbians at work. Peterson made some posters of his own which used Bible verses which, in most English translations of the Bible, appear to condemn all homosexual behavior. Peterson's attorney, Chris Troupis, said: "In response, he was confronted by a supervisor who told him he needed to take the Scripture down"  Peterson offered to remove his posters if the company removed theirs. He was fired. The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the termination of his employment, calling his portrayal of Scripture verses as "demeaning and degrading." Troupis commented: "Either the (court is saying that) Scripture itself is offensive and hurtful and therefore can be prohibited, or (that it) can, if somebody puts up a Scripture, figure out what's in their head and...can be the thought police." [It seems obvious from the Court's comment that the former is the case: that certain verses in the Bible are demeaning and degrading if shown in the workplace. These might include passages that treat women as property, genocidal advocacy, stoning non-virgin brides to death, etc.] Mat Staver, of the Fundamentalist Christian group Liberty Counsel, said that the ruling is an outrage. He said. "The law is that individual employees have the right to be free of religious discrimination in the workplace. You can't be fired simply because you put up a Bible verse." Peterson expects to appeal his case to the U.S. Supreme Court. 12 More details.

This essay continues below.

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bullet2004-JAN-19: Christian watchdog group asks IRS to investigate a televangelist: Wall Watchers is a conservative Christian group that monitors televangelists. According to Christianity Today, Wall Watcher's founder, Rusty Leonard, is speculating that Joyce Meyer, 60, may have been receiving compensation in excess of that allowed by federal law for a private, tax-exempt organization. He said: "There seems to be evidence of private inurement here." The St. Louis Post-Dispatch has reported that her ministry purchased a $2 million home for Joyce and her spouse, a $10 million private jet, and houses worth another $2 million for the couple's children, who are also employees of the ministry. Her total ministry budget allegedly totals $95 million. 15
bullet2004-JAN-22: Law firm to file brief in Pledge of Allegiance case: Ken Pierce of the law firm Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft LLP is preparing an amicus (friend) brief to be submitted to the U.S. Supreme Court on behalf of Buddhist temples and organizations in the U.S.  The firm is handling this matter on a "pro bono" basis (i.e., without charging a fee). 13 They welcome any Buddhist temple, church, congregation or organization to join the brief. 14 He writes:

"The main point that is being asserted on behalf of those Buddhist temples and organizations who join the brief is that Buddhist schoolchildren who wish to say the Pledge and express their patriotism and loyalty to the United States, should not have to say that this is a nation 'under God.' The original version of the Pledge, drafted in 1892, did not include the words 'under God.' Those words were added to the Pledge of Allegiance in 1954 at the urging of various Christian groups who wanted to tie patriotism with the notion that this is a 'Christian country.'  The Amicus Brief argues that the Pledge of Allegiance presents a vision of a monotheistic Judeo-Christian country, and ignores the fact that  there a large number of Buddhist Americans who do not adhere to monotheistic beliefs." 13

The brief is to be finalized on or before 2004-FEB-6.

bullet2004-JAN-29: Azerbaijan: Government expected to attack Mosque: The government of Azerbaijan wants to convert the 1000 year old Juma mosque into a carpet museum. Rafik Aliev, head of the State Committee for Work with Religious Organizations, said that the mosque must be abandoned by its owners, because his committee has not registered the group as a religious entity. However, the only reason why they are not registered is because the committee refuses to review their application. According to Forum 18, a religious rights organization: "Under international human rights conventions that Azerbaijan has signed, the absence of official registration does not give any grounds for this expulsion. The embattled mosque and its religious freedom activist imam, Ilgar Ibrahimoglu, who was jailed after a rigged trial, have received strong support from Azerbaijan's Baptist and Adventist churches, as well as from the International Religious Liberty Association." The leaders of the mosque expect that the government will infiltrate agitators into the mosque during celebrations on JAN-30 and generate a disturbance which will lead to a government attack on the buildings. 16

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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. 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. Religion & Ethics Newsweekly, week of 2004-JAN-2, at: http://www.pbs.org/
  12. Stuart Shepard, "Court Upholds Firing over Bible Verses," Family News in Focus, 2004-JAN-8, at: http://www.family.org/.
  13. "Buddhist school children: required to say 'Under God'," The Pluralism Project Email list, 2004-OCT-21.

  14. Ken Pierce and Paul Grosswald can be reached at Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft LLP, 100 Maiden Lane, New York, NY 10038. Tel: 212.504.6000. Direct: 212.504.6813. Fax: 212.504.6666. Email:  kpierce@cwt.com. Web site:  www.cadwalader.com

  15. Corrie Cutrer, "Joyce Meyer Responds to Critics, Shifts Income Source; Amid cancellation and watchdog's call for IRS investigation, evangelist defends finances," Christianity Today, 2004-JAN-19, at: http://www.christianitytoday.com

  16. "AZERBAIJAN: Authorities plan to storm embattled mosque?," Forum 18, 2004-JAN-29, at: http://www.forum18.org/

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Copyright © 2004 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally written: 2004-JAN-1
Latest update: 2004-JAN-22
Author: B.A. Robinson

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