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Goes the Sun
By RICHARD COHEN, OP-ED CONTRIBUTOR
Author of “Chasing the Sun: The Epic Story
of the Star That Gives Us Life”
The New York Times: December 20, 2010
WHAT is the winter solstice,
and why bother to celebrate it, as so many people around the world
will tomorrow? The word “solstice”
derives from the Latin sol (meaning sun) and statum (stand still),
and reflects what we see on the first days of summer and winter when,
at dawn for two or three days, the sun seems to linger for several
minutes in its passage across the sky, before beginning to double
Indeed, “turnings of the sun”
is an old phrase, used by both Hesiod
left) and Homer (>
right). The novelist Alan
Furst has one of his characters nicely observe, “the
day the sun is said to pause. ... Pleasing, that idea. ... As though
the universe stopped for a moment to reflect, took a day off from
work. One could sense it, time slowing down.”
all cultures have their own way of acknowledging this moment.
The Welsh word for solstice [Byrddydd]
translates as “the point of roughness”
[when Rhiannon (left)
gave birth to the sacred son, Pryderi] while the Talmud
calls it “Tekufat Tevet,”
first day of “the stripping time.”
For the Chinese, winter’s beginning
is “dongzhi,” (>
left) when one tradition is making balls
of glutinous rice, which symbolize family gathering. In Korea,
these balls are mingled with a sweet red bean
called pat jook (>
right). According to local lore, each
winter solstice a ghost comes to haunt villagers.
The red bean in the rice balls repels him.
parts of Scandinavia, the locals
smear their front doors with butter so that Beiwe,
sun goddess of fertility [and sanity] (left),
can lap it up before she continues on her journey. (One wonders who
does all the mopping up afterward.) Later, young
women don candle-embedded helmets, while families go to bed
having placed their shoes all in a row, to ensure peace over the coming
processions are another common feature. In Japan,
young men known as “sun devils,”
their faces daubed to represent their imagined solar ancestry,
still go among the farms to ensure the earth’s
fertility (and their own stocking-up with alcohol). In Ireland,
people called wren-boys take to the roads,
wearing masks or straw suits. The practice
used to involve the killing of a wren, and singing
songs while carrying the corpse from house to house.
is a common thread. In areas of northern
Pakistan, men have cold water poured over their heads in purification,
and are forbidden to sit on any chair till the evening, when their
heads will be sprinkled with goats’ blood. (Unhappy goats.)
Purification is also the main object
for the Zuni and Hopi
tribes of North America, their attempt
to recall the sun from its long winter slumber. It
also marks the beginning of another turning of their “wheel
of the year,” and kivas
(sacred underground ritual chambers, right) are opened
to mark the season.
Yet, for all these symbolisms, this time remains at heart an astronomical
event, and quite a curious one. In summer, the sun is brighter and
reaches higher into the sky, shortening the shadows that it casts;
in winter it rises and sinks closer to the horizon, its light diffuses
more and its shadows lengthen. As the winter hemisphere tilts steadily
further away from the star, daylight becomes shorter and the sun arcs
ever lower. Societies that were organized around agriculture intently
studied the heavens, ensuring that the solstices were well charted.
Despite their best efforts, however, their priests and stargazers
came to realize that it was exceptionally hard to pinpoint the moment
of the sun’s
turning by observation alone — even though they could define
the successive seasons by the advancing and withdrawal of daylight
The earth further complicates matters. Our globe tilts on its axis
like a spinning top, going around the sun at an angle to its orbit
of 23 and a half degrees. Yet the planet’s shape changes minutely
and its axis wobbles, thus its orbit fluctuates. If its axis remained
stable and if its orbit were a true circle, then the equinoxes and
solstices would quarter the year into equal sections. As it is, the
time between the spring and fall equinoxes in the Northern Hemisphere
is slightly greater than that between fall and spring, the earth —
being at that time closer to the sun — moving about 6 percent
faster in January than in July.
apparently supernatural power manifest in solstices to govern the
seasons has been felt as far back as we know, inducing different reactions
from different cultures — fertility rites, fire festivals, offerings
to the gods. Many of the wintertime customs in Western Europe descend
from the ancient Romans, who believed that their god
of the harvest, Saturn, had ruled
the land during an earlier age of abundance, and so celebrated the
winter solstice with the Saturnalia,
a feast of gift-giving, role-reversals (slaves berating their masters)
and general public holiday from Dec. 17 to 24.
The transition from Roman paganism to Christianity,
with its similar rites, took several centuries.
With the Emperor Constantine’s
conversion to Christianity in the fourth century, customs
were quickly appropriated and refashioned, as the sun and God’s
son became inextricably entwined. Thus, although the New Testament
gives no indication of Christ’s actual birthday (early writers
preferring a spring date), in 354 Pope
Liberius declared it to have befallen on Dec. 25.
The advantages of Christmas Day being celebrated then were obvious.
As the Christian commentator Syrus wrote:
“It was a custom of the pagans to celebrate
on the same Dec. 25 the birthday of the sun,
at which they kindled lights in token of festivity .... Accordingly,
when the church authorities perceived that the Christians had a leaning
to this festival, they took counsel and resolved that the true
Nativity should be solemnized on that day.”
In Christendom, the Nativity gradually absorbed
all other winter solstice rites, and the co-opting of solar imagery
was part of the same process. Thus the solar
discs that had once been depicted behind the heads of Asian
rulers became the halos of Christian
the new religion’s apparent supremacy, many of the old customs
survived — so much so that church elders worried that the veneration
of Christ was being lost. In the fifth century, St.
Augustine of Hippo and Pope Leo the Great felt compelled to
remind their flocks that Christ, not the sun, was their proper object
of their worship.
While Roman Christianity was the dominant
culture in Western Europe, it was by
no means the only one. By millennium’s end, the Danes
controlled most of England, bringing with them “Yule,”
their name for winter solstice celebrations, probably derived from
an earlier term for “wheel.” For centuries, the most sacred
Norse symbol had been the
wheel of the heavens, represented by a six-
or eight-spoked wheel or by a cross within
a wheel signifying solar rays [the symbol
adopted by Opus Dei, (right)].
Norse peoples, many of whom settled in what is now Yorkshire,
would construct huge solar wheels and place
them next to hilltop bonfires, while in
the Middle Ages processions bore wheels upon chariots or boats.
In other parts of Europe, where the Vikings
were feared and hated, a taboo on using spinning
wheels during solstices lasted well into the 20th century.
The spinning-wheel on which Sleeping
Beauty pricks her finger may exemplify this sense of menace.
Throughout much of Europe, at least up
until the 16th century, starvation was common from January
to April, a period known as “the famine months.”
Most cattle were slaughtered so they would not have to be fed over
the winter, making the solstice almost the only time of year that
fresh meat was readily available. The boar’s
head at Christmas feasts represents the dying
sun of the old year, while the suckling
pig — with the apple of immortality in its mouth —
turning of the sun was perhaps even more important in the New World
than the Old. The Aztecs, who
believed that the heart harbored elements of
the sun’s power, ensured its continual well-being by
tearing out this vital organ from hunchbacks,
dwarves or prisoners of war, so releasing the “divine
sun fragments” entrapped by the body and its desires.
Incas would celebrate the solar festival of Inti
Raymi by having their priests attempt to tie down the celestial
body. At Machu Picchu, high in the Peruvian
Andes, there is a large stone column called the Intihuatana,
(“hitching post of the sun,”) to which the star
would be symbolically harnessed. It is unclear how the Incas measured
the success of this endeavor, but at least the
sun returned the following day.
Yet above all other rituals, reproducing the
sun’s fire by kindling flame on earth is the commonest solstice
practice, both at midsummer and midwinter. Thomas
Hardy, describing Dorset villagers
around a bonfire in “The Return of the
Native,” offers an explanation for such a worldwide phenomenon:
“To light a fire is the instinctive
and resistant act of men when, at the winter ingress, the curfew is
sounded throughout nature. It indicates a spontaneous, Promethean
rebelliousness against the fiat that this recurrent season shall bring
foul times, cold darkness, misery and death. Black chaos comes, and
the fettered gods of the earth say, ‘Let
there be light.’ ”
So there is good reason to celebrate the winter
solstice — but maybe that celebration is still touched with
a little fear.
The New York Times: December 21, 2010
it, the shortest day of the year, the longest night. Winter,
which begins Tuesday at 6:38 p.m. Eastern time, will get no
darker than this. Slowly, inexorably, the days will begin to yawn
wider and wider, and night will begin to contract. The change is just
a few seconds at first — New Year’s
Eve in Manhattan will be only 28 seconds longer than Christmas Eve.
By mid-March, the days will be growing by some 2 minutes and 40 seconds
apiece, and then the rate of change slows again until late June.
We come to the winter solstice with mixed feelings. It will be lovely
to have more light in the day. But there’s something equally
wonderful about these long hibernal nights. By 4:30 every day —
just as the sun is disappearing — we start to feel a little
ursine, ready to dig a hole and sleep away the winter. How different
our species would be if only we’d learned that one great trick!
We are all deeply habituated, in this northern clime, to the annual
accordioning of the day — so much so that an equatorial place
like Quito, Ecuador, where the length of day changes only by a second
from solstice to solstice, sounds almost like a city out of science
fiction. In some ways, that daily constancy seems more disorienting
here, where the length of day changes by almost six hours, than the
reversal of seasons in the Southern Hemisphere, where Christmas comes
Another important astronomical holiday follows
soon after the winter solstice (which included a lunar eclipse).
At 2 p.m., New York time, on Jan. 3, the Earth
reaches Perihelion — the
closest approach to the Sun in our elliptical orbit, a little more
than 91 million miles away.
For some reason, this is a moment that
goes uncelebrated, entirely unheralded. So we say to you all,
Solstice and have a Happy Perihelion!
Protest march over art 'censor'
By AMBER SUTHERLANwith David K. Lin
The New York Post: December 20, 2010
than 200 protesters hit Fifth Avenue yesterday with fire in their
bellies over the Smithsonian's yanking of a controversial work by
famed gay artist David Wojnarowicz.
The chanting demonstrators clogged the avenue between 81st and 82nd
streets to demand that the Smithsonian's National
Portrait Gallery in Washington, DC, restore the Wojnarowicz
piece, a video called "A Fire in My Belly,"
which showed ants crawling over a crucified Jesus, angering Christian
"We're here to send a very loud message to the Smithsonian. Put
the Wojnarowicz video back now!" said Bill
Dobbs, a protest organizer.
The protesters looped around the entrance to the Metropolitan Museum
of Art before marching up to the Cooper-Hewitt
National Design Museum, a Smithsonian affiliate, at 91st Street.
the group hit 84th Street, members briefly blocked eastbound traffic
before cops restored order.
They waved signs and banners that included slogans such as: "Smithsonian:
Stop the Censorship of Art" and
"Silence = Death."
Demonstrators chanted: "Hey, hey, ho, ho, censorship has got
Wojnarowicz's video was pulled from the portrait gallery's exhibit
"Hide/Seek: Difference and Desire in American
Portraiture" on Nov. 30, after the institution received
heated complaints from the Catholic League and conservative politicians.
"This street demonstration in New York reflects rising anger
in the heart of the art community," Dobbs said. "Almost
every professional art organization has condemned the censorship."
Smithsonian spokeswoman Linda St. Thomas yesterday said curators
had no choice but to pull "Fire," lest the greater exhibit
be overshadowed by the controversy. "It was becoming all about
the video," St. Thomas said. "We tried to avoid removing
it. But it would have been the focal point, and everyone would have
gone straight to that. It was overwhelming everything else. That's
all everyone was talking about."
St. Thomas insisted the greater exhibit is "ground-breaking"
and sheds a historic light on gender and sexuality in art.
President of the Warhol Foundation
G. WAYNE CLOUGH
Secretary of the Smithsonian
Says It’s Ending Smithsonian Support
By KATE TAYLOR
The New York Times: December 14, 2010
Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts
is threatening to stop its financial support of Smithsonian exhibitions
if the institution does not restore a work of art that was removed
from a current show following attacks by the president of the Catholic
League and two Republican Congressmen. The Warhol
Foundation gave $100,000 to the Smithsonian for the exhibition, “Hide/
Seek: Difference and Desire in American Portraiture,” at the
National Portrait Gallery in Washington, one of the Smithsonian
museums. The work was removed on Nov. 30.
In a letter sent on Monday by e-mail and FedEx to G.
Wayne Clough, the secretary of the Smithsonian, Joel
Wachs, the president of the Warhol foundation, said the board
had voted unanimously Friday to demand that the Smithsonian reinstate
the work, an excerpt of a video by the artist David
Wojnarowicz, or the foundation would not finance any future
“I regret that you have put us in this
position, but there is no other course we can take,” Mr.
Wachs wrote in the letter, which the foundation also sent to the news
the arts to flourish, the arts must be free, and the decision to censor
this important work is in stark opposition to our mission to defend
freedom of expression wherever and whenever it is under attack.”
On Monday afternoon Mr. Clough said through a spokeswoman, “While
we regret the foundation’s action, the Smithsonian’s decision
to remove the video was a difficult one, and we stand by it.”
felt it was really necessary to take this strong step, and we are
going to back it,” Mr. Wachs said in a telephone interview,
adding that he hoped that other donors would follow suit. The Smithsonian
“can’t just bow to this kind of bigoted attack,”
he said, “and not feel the consequences.”
Krulwich/The New York Times
Warhol photo: Gagosian Gallery
Undersecretary for art, history and culture
National Museum of American History
REP. JOHN A. BOEHNER
REP. ERIC CANTOR
R - VA
member resigns over crucifix controversy
By Jacqueline Trescott
The Washington Post:12/ 9/2010
staff at the National Museum of American History
met Monday with Richard Kurin, the undersecretary
for art, history and culture, and a member of the senior staff who
decided the excerpt
from David Wojnarowicz's video was what
the Smithsonian called a "distraction" to the overall groundbreaking
One participant at the meeting said Kurin explained Smithsonian officials
moved fast because criticism from Capitol Hill and other critics was
coming so quickly.
"The Secretary had to move quickly because the news cycle moves
so fast now," said the long-time employee. "He also said
the video wasn't an essential part of the show and had been added
Because the objections on Capitol Hill came initially from two powerful
Republicans, John Boehner (R-Ohio) and
Eric Cantor (R-Va.), and the Congress
controls 70 percent of the Smithsonian's budget, employees said they
feared to go public with their viewpoints.
removing the video, which contained an 11-second segment that showed
ants crawling over a crucifix, the Smithsonian has taken steps to
control the damage. The action has also been
criticized by artists, who staged a protest outside the Portrait Gallery
last week, and by the Association of Art Museum Directors, an influential
Last week commissioner JAMES
T. BARTLETT resigned from the advisory panel in protest.
"I believe it is a fundamental right of
museums and their curatorial staffs to make such decisions [about
exhibition content], even if some art is deemed objectionable by external
critics," said Bartlett in an e-mail obtained by The
Washington Post. "I choose firmly
and resolutely not to be part of an institution that is and can be
put ad infinitum in this position."
Chair, Visual Studies Doctoral Program
DAVID C. WARD
National Portrait Gallery
MARTIN E. SULLIVAN
Nationmal Portrait Gallery
Dispute Over Video, Curators to Discuss Smithsonian Show
By KATE TAYLOR
The New York Times: December 9,2010
The curators of a Smithsonian art exhibition
that has sparked a firestorm in the last week — first because
of the inclusion of a video that included an image of ants crawling
on a crucifix, then because of the video’s removal from the
show — will talk about the show at the New
York Public Library next Wednesday [15
The exhibition, at the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, is
titled “Hide/Seek: Difference and Desire
in American Portraiture” and is devoted to representations
of homosexual desire in American art. Early last week, after the head
of the Catholic League and some House Republicans
attacked the show, focusing on a video by the artist David Wojnarowicz
that included the crucifix image, partly as a metaphor for the AIDS
crisis, the Smithsonian decided to remove the video from the exhibition.
That drew accusations of censorship from, among others, one of the
show’s two curators, Jonathan Katz,
a professor at the State University of New York,
Buffalo. Mr. Katz told The Buffalo News that he was outraged
not to have been consulted, and called the Smithsonian’s
decision “incredibly stupid.”
On Wednesday Mr. Katz will discuss the show with the other curator,
David Ward, a historian at the National
Portrait Gallery. The gallery’s
director, Martin Sullivan, will
also be in attendance. The discussion will be moderated by Jason
Baumann, who coordinates the library’s lesbian, gay,
bisexual and transgender collections.
New Tork Times
REP. ERIC CANTOR
R - VA
REP. JACK KINGSTON
R - GA
MARTIN E. SULLIVAN
Nationmal Portrait Gallery
SEN. THAD COCHRAN
SEN. PATRICK LEAHY
Bashing at the Smithsonian
By FRANK RICH
The New York Times: December 12, 2010
EACH Aug. 4, my wife Alex and I visit a church
to light candles for two people we loved who both died tragically
on that day two years apart — my mother, killed at 64 in a car
crash, and Alex’s closest friend from graduate school, killed
by AIDS at half that age. My mother was Jewish
but loved the meditative serenity of vast cathedrals. Alex’s
friend, John, was a Roman Catholic conflicted by a religion that demonized
his sexuality. Our favorite pilgrimage is to an Episcopal
church, Grace Cathedral in San Francisco,
not as some sectarian compromise but because of its AIDS
chapel, a haunting reminder of the plague that ravaged that
city’s population, especially its gay men, some time ago.
What helps give us some solace is the chapel’s mesmerizing altarpiece.
It was the New York artist Keith Haring’s
(left) last completed work in the weeks before his death by
AIDS at age 31 in 1990, titled “The
Life of Christ” (right).... You needn’t
be a believer to be inspired by the beauty of his vision.
every artist struck down by AIDS could hit so generous a note. Such
was the case with David
Wojnarowicz (left), a painter, author and
filmmaker, who, like Haring, was a fixture of the East Village arts
scene in the 1980s. When his mentor and former lover, the photographer
Peter Hujar, fell ill with AIDS in 1987, Wojnarowicz created a video
titled “A Fire in My Belly”
to express both his grief and his fury. As in Haring’s altarpiece,
Christ figures in Wojnarowicz’s response to the plague —
albeit in a cryptic, 11-second cameo. A crucifix is besieged by ants
that evoke frantic souls scurrying in panic as a seemingly impassive
God looked on.
would die at age 37, also of AIDS, in 1992. This is now ancient, half-forgotten
history. When a four-minute excerpt from “A Fire in My Belly”
was included in an exhibit that opened six weeks ago at the National
Portrait Gallery in Washington, it received no attention. That’s
hardly a surprise, given the entirety of this very large show —
a survey of same-sex themes in American portraiture titled “Hide/Seek.”
It’s an exhibit that would have been unimaginable in a mainstream
institution in Wojnarowicz’s lifetime.
The story might end there — like Haring’s altarpiece,
a bittersweet yet uplifting postscript to a time of plague. But it
doesn’t because “Fire in My Belly” was removed from
the exhibit by the National Portrait Gallery some 10 days ago with
the full approval, if not instigation, of its parent institution,
the Smithsonian. (The censored version
of “Hide/Seek” is still scheduled to run through Feb.
13.) The incident is chilling because it suggests that even in a time
of huge progress in gay civil rights, homophobia remains among the
last permissible bigotries in America.
The Smithsonian’s behavior and the ensuing silence in official
Washington are jarring echoes of those days when American political
leaders stood by idly as the epidemic raged on. The incident is also
a throwback to the culture wars we thought we were getting past now
— most eerily the mother of them all, the cancellation of a
[Robert] Mapplethorpe exhibit (after
he died of AIDS) at another Washington museum, the Corcoran,
Like many of its antecedents, the war over Wojnarowicz is a completely
manufactured piece of theater. What triggered the abrupt uproar was
an incendiary Nov. 29 post on a conservative Web site. The post was
immediately and opportunistically seized upon by William
Donohue, of the so-called Catholic League, a right-wing publicity
mill with no official or financial connection to the Catholic Church.
is best known for defending Mel Gibson’s
anti-Semitism by declaring that “Hollywood
is controlled by Jews who hate Christianity in general and Catholicism
in particular.” A perennial critic of all news
media except Fox, he has also accused The Times of anti-Catholicism
because it investigated the church pedophilia scandal. Donohue
maintains the church doesn’t have a “pedophilia crisis”
but a “homosexual crisis.” Such is the bully that
the Smithsonian surrendered to without a fight.
Donohue’s tactic was to label the 11-second
ants-and-crucifix sequence as “anti-Christian” hate
speech. “The irony,” wrote the Washington
Post art critic, Blake Gopnik,
is that the video is merely a tepid variation on the centuries-old
tradition of artists using images of Christ, many of them “hideously
grisly,” to speak of mankind’s suffering. Those images
are staples of all museums — even in Washington, where gory
17th-century sculptures of Christ were featured in a recent show of
Spanish sacred art at the National Gallery.
of course Donohue was just using his “religious” objections
as a perfunctory cover for the homophobia actually driving his complaint.
The truth popped out of the closet as Donohue expanded his indictment
to “pornographic images of gay men.”
His Republican Congressional allies got
into the act. Eric Cantor called
for the entire exhibit to be shut down and threatened to maim the
Smithsonian’s taxpayer funding come January. (The
exhibit was entirely funded by private donors, but such facts
don’t matter in culture wars.) Jack Kingston,
of the House Appropriations Committee,
rattled off his own list of exaggerated gay outrages in “Hide/Seek,”
from “Ellen DeGeneres grabbing her breasts”
(above left) to “naked brothers kissing.”
It took only hours after Donohue’s initial battle cry for the
video to be yanked. “The decision wasn’t caving in,”
the museum’s director, Martin
E. Sullivan, told reporters. Of course it was. The Smithsonian,
in its own official statement, rationalized its censorship by saying
that Wojnarowicz’s video “generated a strong response
from the public.” That’s nonsense. There wasn’t
a strong response from the public — there was no response. As
the museum’s own publicist
told the press, the National Portrait Gallery hadn’t received
a single complaint about “A Fire in the Belly” from the
exhibit’s opening day, Oct. 30, until a full month later, when
a “public” that hadn’t seen the exhibit was mobilized
by Donohue to blast the museum by phone and e-mail.
Post’s Gopnik (left)
has been heroically relentless in calling out the Smithsonian and
the National Portrait Gallery for their capitulation. But few in Washington’s
power circles have joined him, including the Smithsonian’s
Board of Regents — a gilded assembly of bipartisan cowardice
that ranges from Senator Thad Cochran, Republican
of Mississippi, to Senator Patrick Leahy,
Democrat of Vermont.
right: Portrait of the Artist with Donors by Robert Coane, 1990,
attacking censorship at the height of the "culture wars"
of the '80s and depicting Senators Jesse Helms and Alphonse D'Amato
the then self-appointed Senate censors and former Corcoran Gallery
director Christina Orr-Cahall, who cancelled the Robert Maplethorpe
on image to read iconographic description
REP. JOHN A. BOEHNER
(1575 - 1642)
Ants Crawl Over Crucifix, Dead Artist Is Assailed Again
The New York Times: December 11, 2010
In 1989, Donald Wildmon,
founder of the American Family Association,
mailed a pamphlet reproducing details from collages by the New York
artist David Wojnarowicz (1954-1992)
to every member of Congress, to various news media outlets and to
religious leaders across the country.
Mr. Wildmon, a Methodist minister, had prepared the pamphlet himself;
he considered the images pornographic or blasphemous. He had copied
them from the catalog for an exhibition partly supported by the National
Endowment for the Arts, the real object of his protest. Wojnarowicz
(pronounced voy-nah-ROH-vitch), furious at having his work selectively
edited, sued Mr. Wildmon for misrepresenting his art and won the case.
Twenty years later, history is repeating itself, with variations.
Wojnarowicz’s work is under similar attack, this time by Bill
Donohue, president of the Catholic League,
and several members of Congress (most
notably Representative John A. Boehner, R -
OH, future Speaker of the House).
offending material is again a detail of a larger work, an image of
ants crawling over a
crucifix, excerpted from a Wojnarowicz video [“A
Fire in My Belly”] that was included in a large group
show called “Hide/Seek: Difference and
Desire in American Portraiture” at the National
Portrait Gallery in Washington.
On Dec. 1 the gallery, part of the Smithsonian
Institution, took the video off view.
raw, moving, disturbing piece of art ... comes in two sections: one
is 13 minutes; the other is 7 minutes, video of the same title found
on a separate reel after Wojnarowicz’s death from AIDS.
In an added complication, the two tapes were edited down to one that
is roughly 4 minutes for the National Portrait Gallery show.
on images above for related videos)
“A Fire in My Belly” is about spirituality, and about
AIDS, is beyond doubt. To those caught up in the crisis, the worst
years of the epidemic were like an extended Day of the Dead, a time
of skulls and candles, corruption with promise of resurrection. Wojnarowicz
was profoundly angry at a government that barely acknowledged the
epidemic and at political forces that he believed used AIDS, and the
art created in response, to demonize homosexuals.
He felt, with reason, mortally embattled, and the video is filled
with symbols of vulnerability under attack: beggars, slaughtered animals,
displaced bodies and the crucified Jesus. In Wojnarowicz’s nature
symbolism — and this is confirmed in other works — ants
were symbols of a human life mechanically driven by its own needs,
heedless of anything else. Here they blindly swarm over an emblem
of suffering and self-sacrifice.
Am I giving the image too benign a reading? Possibly, but I’m
basing it on what Wojnarowicz had
to say about another image of Jesus that he used in his art, one that
Mr. Wildmon and the American Family Association called blasphemous.
Part of a detail of a 1979 collage called “Untitled
(Genet),” (left) it is an altered version of the familiar
17th-century painting “Christ Crowned
With Thorns,” by Guido Reni
(right). Reni’s Jesus, who looks both agonized and ecstatic,
is here shown with a heroin syringe in his arm.
But the changed image is part of a larger picture. Wojnarowicz has
placed it atop an altar inside what looks like a bombed-out church
swarming with antlike figures of soldiers as a flock of large angels
descends into the church from the sky. In the center of everything
stands a haloed figure, the French homosexual writer Jean
Genet, dubbed “St. Genet”
by Jean-Paul Sartre.
In response to questions during his courtroom testimony against the
American Family Association, Wojnarowicz explained that he made the
piece after returning to New York from a stay
in France, where he had been reading Genet. Back in New York, he was
struck by the rampant and rising use of hard drugs among people he
knew and the self-destruction that resulted. He said that in his own
upbringing as a Roman Catholic he’d been taught that Jesus took
on the sufferings of all people in the world.
“I wanted to make a symbol that would show that he would take
on the suffering of the vast amounts of addiction that I saw on the
streets,” Wojnarowicz testified. “And I did this because
I saw very little treatment available for people who had this illness.”
believe Wojnarowicz was being disingenuous. He was speaking under
oath and, in any case, he was nothing if not passionate about his
belief in the moral purpose of art, as passionate as his religious
accusers have been in questioning his morality. It’s an interesting
thing about passion, how coming from ostensibly opposite beliefs and
directions, it can sometimes end up meeting in the same place.
left: A protest against removing a David Wojnarowicz video from a
National Portrait Gallery show)
on photo of Holland Cotter,
left botom, for his review of “Hide/Seek:
Difference and Desire in American Portraiture"
Catholic League president
JAMES P. MOLINARO
Jesus ousted from St. George Ferry Terminal
SILive.com: Friday, December 10, 2010
STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. -- The Christ is out of
Christmas at the St. George Ferry Terminal.
In what Catholics see as political correctness run amok, the city
Department of Transportation (DOT) has removed a Nativity scene from
the terminal, with an agency spokesman saying that the display was
not authorized to be there. But a menorah, marking the celebration
of Hanukkah, and a Christmas tree remain on display in the terminal.
Catholics said the move was a nightmare before Christmas. "We
take this as a tremendous affront," said Bill
Donohue, president of the Catholic League, a watchdog of religious
and civil rights.
The controversy reflects church-and-state battles that erupt nationwide
each Christmas over the placement of religious symbols in public spaces.
public institutions here balance the religious and secular themes
of the season.
At Borough Hall, for example, a Nativity scene, a menorah, a Christmas
tree and a display for Kwanzaa share space next to each other in the
"They’re all religious symbols," Borough
President James P. Molinaro, a Catholic, said tonight as he
prepared to host a Christmas-tree lighting ceremony at Borough Hall.
"Remove them all, or remove none. My opinion? Leave them all
GENNARO Di VIRGILIO
The New York Post: 9 December 2010
A figure of Wikileaks founder Julian
Assange is placed in a Neapolitan Christmas creche by Gennaro
Di Virgilio depicting the Nativity of Jesus
in Naples. In recent decades, artists and
craftsmen who make Neapolitan creches have used them to portray the
signs of the times. Assange, who is depicted holding his trusty laptop,
was created by Di Virgilio, who each year chooses at least one contemporary
character to sculpt and place near the scenes of the traditional story
of Jesus' birth in a manger.
poll: Dogs are Santa's favorites
By SUE MANNING
Associated Press: December 8, 2010
ANGELES - While fewer than half of those
who attend religious services weekly or more often say they
plan to buy their pets a gift, 60
percent of those who never attend services do.
DOGHOUSE Solstice pitchoors
Coalition of Reason
Fort Worth Transportation Authority Board member
Worth transit bans religious ads on buses
By ANGELA K. BROWN
Associated Press: Dec. 16, 2010
FORT WORTH, Texas — Fort
Worth buses will no longer carry religious advertisements because
of a furor sparked by an atheist group's ads that proclaim, "Millions
of Americans are Good Without God."
The Fort Worth Transportation Authority unanimously
voted Wednesday night to ban religious ads, a decision that many atheists
and church leaders applauded during the packed meeting. Board
member Gary Havener called the atheist
The ads, which were purchased by the Dallas-Fort
Worth Coalition of Reason, will continue until the 30-day contract
expires in early January. The 2.5-by-12-foot ads first appeared on the
sides of four of the fleet of about 150 buses earlier this month, and
are similar to those that have run in other cities nationwide in recent
Terry McDonald, the coalition's organizer,
said Thursday that the group did not initially plan for the ads to run
during the Christmas season but that he hopes the message will bring
comfort to those who feel left out during the holidays. He said the
ads are not intended to undermine anyone's belief in God.
He called the new ban a "secular
victory," because he said churches have been buying ads
on buses for years and the new policy will help keep religion and government
When the controversy erupted two weeks ago, Fort
Worth Transportation Authority spokeswoman Joan
Hunter said the atheist ad had been approved because it was not
inappropriate and "we strive to respect First
The Fort Worth buses typically feature ads for local art museums' exhibits
and events at Texas Christian University,
which is associated with the Christian Church
(Disciples of Christ). The new policy will not prohibit
TCU from buying ads for sporting events but might affect ads
promoting its divinity school or any religious programs, said the transportation
authority's legal counsel Sylvia Hartless.
Other agencies, including Dallas Area Rapid Transit,
already have policies banning religious ads.
Chairman of Metroplex Atheists
National Director of the United Coalition of Reason
KYEV TATUM SR.
Southern Christian Leadership Conference
Ads on Buses Rattle Fort Worth
By JAMES C. McKINLEY Jr.
The New York Times: December 15, 2010
FORT WORTH — Stand on a corner in this
city and you might get a case of theological whiplash.
A public bus rolls by with an atheist message on its side:
of people are good without God.”
Seconds later, a van follows bearing a riposte: “I still love
you. — God,” with another line that says, “2.1 billion
Christians are good with God.”
clash of beliefs has rattled this city ever since atheists bought
ad space on four city buses to reach out to nonbelievers who might
feel isolated during the Christmas season. After all, Fort
Worth is a place where residents commonly ask people they have
just met where they worship and many encounters end with, “Have
a blessed day.”
“We want to tell people they are not alone,”
said Terry McDonald, the chairman of Metroplex
Atheists, part of the Dallas-Fort Worth
Coalition of Reason, which paid for the atheist ads.
“People don’t realize there are
other atheists. All you hear around here is, ‘Where do you go
to church?’ ”
But the reaction from believers has been harsher than anyone in the
nonbeliever’s club expected. Some ministers organized a boycott
of the buses, with limited success. Other clergy members are pressing
the Fort Worth Transportation Authority
to ban all religious advertising on public buses.
And a group of local businessmen paid for the van with the Christian
message to follow the atheist-messaged buses around town.
face-off here follows efforts in other cities by several coalitions
of atheists — American Atheists,
the United Coalition of Reason and the
Freedom From Religion Foundation, to
name a few — that have mounted ad campaigns to encourage nonbelievers
to seek out others of like mind. Some have compared their efforts
to the struggle of gay men and lesbians to “come out”
and win acceptance from society.
Fort Worth group is affiliated with the United Coalition of Reason,
whose local chapters have bought bus ads in Detroit,
northwest Arkansas, Philadelphia and Washington, as well as
billboards in more than a dozen cities, among them Chicago,
Houston, New Orleans, Seattle and St. Louis. Most show a blue
sky with variations on this message:
believe in God? You are not alone.”
ads have incited anger in some places. Vandals
destroyed two bus ads in Detroit, ruined a billboard in Tampa, Fla.,
and defaced 10 billboards in Sacramento. One billboard in Cincinnati
was taken down after the landlord received threats.
And the local rapid transit authority in Des
Moines pulled atheist ads off its buses in August last year
because of complaints from local religious leaders. Four days later,
however, the authority reversed its position
after the local group that had bought the ads threatened legal action
on First Amendment grounds.
But nowhere has the reaction of believers been so forceful as in
Fort Worth, to the delight of Fred Edwords,
the national director of the United Coalition
The coalition’s local chapter spent only $2,400 for four bus
ads, which will run through the month in a city with about 200 buses.
“That’s more brouhaha for the buck
than we have seen anywhere,” Mr. Edwords said.
Some of the fiercest criticism has come from black religious leaders.
The Rev. Kyev Tatum Sr., president of
the local Southern Christian Leadership Conference,
has called for a boycott of the buses, saying the ads are a direct
attack during a sacred time in the Christian
a season to share good will toward all men,” Mr. Tatum said.
“To have this at this time come out with a blatant disrespect
of our faith, we think is unconscionable.”
While Mr. Tatum and about 20 other pastors have urged their congregations
to avoid the buses, a smaller group met recently with the transportation
authority’s president to demand that the policy allowing religious
advertising on buses be reversed Wednesday at a meeting of the authority’s
board. The bus system in nearby Dallas bans
all religious ads.
McDonald, chairman of the local atheist group, said the ad was intended
not to insult Christians, but to console atheists. The
initial plan, he said, was to run the ad on the Fourth of July, which
is why it features dozens of portraits of Texas atheists in an American
can be pretty lonely for a nonbeliever at Christmastime around here.
There is so much religion,” Mr. McDonald said. “We thought,
‘What the heck? Nobody owns December.’ ”
By DAVID K. LI
POST WIRE SERVICES:: December 6, 2010
for Inquiry, an atheist group in Canada, is taking its message
to the streets -- or, at least, to bus stops.
The Extraordinary Claims Campaign wants
to roll out ads on Toronto city buses
saying that Jesus and Allah
are no more authentic than UFOs.
If officials approve the ads, the group hopes to post them later on
buses in Calgary, Vancouver, Ottawa, Saskatoon
the Holidays, an Atheism Billboard
By DANIEL E. SLOTNIK
The New York Times: November 29, 2010
Among the many advertisements lining I-495 in
New Jersey en route to the Lincoln Tunnel is a new one promoting atheism
for the holidays rather than another gift.
The billboard shows three crowned men riding camels toward a humble
manger in which a man and woman kneel beside a straw-filled bassinet,
all silhouetted beneath a prominent six-pointed star. The message
— “You know it’s a myth. This
season, celebrate reason!” — is emblazoned in large
white letters above the nativity scene.
The provocative 14-by-48-foot billboard was rented for $20,000 by
American Atheists, a national atheist
organization, and went up Nov. 22. It is the latest in a series of
campaigns promoting atheism in the city in recent years, most notably
advertisements on city subways and buses. (Those campaigns were the
work of the New York City Coalition of Reason,
an umbrella group of secular organizations, and NYC
Atheists, a local American Atheists affiliate, respectively.)
David Silverman, the president of American Atheists
and the man behind the billboard, said it would remain in place at
least until the winter solstice on Dec. 21 and possibly through Christmas.
He said the billboard was partly inspired by one that American Atheists’
founder, Madalyn Murray O’Hair,
set up in Dallas in the 1970s proclaiming “Atheism:
It’s not what you believe.”
Mr. Silverman said the billboard served two purposes. The first was
to get the many people who do not actually believe in God but practice
religious rituals to “come out,” in his words.
He said the billboard’s location was especially effective because
commuters “drive by this sign very slowly every day for a month,
right in the Christmas season.”
“And when they go into New York to go shopping,” he said,
“they’re going to see it.”
The billboard also stands up to what Mr. Silverman described as a
reactionary assault on atheists driven mainly by the religious right.
“Every year, atheists get blamed for having a
war on Christmas, even if we don’t do anything,” he said.
“This year, we decided to give the religious right a taste of
what war on Christmas looks like.”
REV. KENNY YI
Immigrant Congregations Clash
By SAM DOLNICK
The New York Times: December 29, 2010
Two pastors preach from the same pulpit and
live in the same parsonage next door, but they are barely
on speaking terms and openly criticize each other’s approach
to the faith.
In the church’s social hall, two camps eye each other suspiciously
as one finishes its meal of rice and beans while the other prepares
steaming pans of chicken lo mein.
Two very different congregations share the soaring brick building
on Fourth Avenue: a small cadre of about 30 Spanish-speaking people
who have worshiped there for decades and a fledgling throng of more
than 1,000 Chinese immigrants that expands week by week — the
fastest-growing Methodist congregation
in New York City.
The Latinos say they feel steamrolled and under threat, while their
tenants, the Chinese, say they feel stifled and unappreciated. Mediators
have been sent in, to little effect. This holiday season, there
are even two competing Christmas trees.
“This pastor is very rude to us,” said the Rev.
Zhaodeng Peng, who heads the Chinese
congregation with his wife.
The Rev. Hector Laporta, leader of the
Latino church, responded, “He really
has an anger problem.”
are trying to rely on God to see which direction the Lord is leading
the two congregations,” the
Rev. Kenny Yi, the denomination’s district
coordinator, said. “We will find
out sooner or later.”
Arrest 5 in Danish Terror Plot
By J. DAVID GOODMAN
The New York Times: December 29, 2010
A group of men arrested in Denmark
on Wednesday were about to mount a “Mumbai style” attack
on the Danish newspaper that ignited Muslim fury around the world
by publishing satirical cartoons
of the Prophet Muhammad in 2005, the head of the Danish Security and
Intelligence Service said.
police said the suspects who lived in Sweden did not appear to have
connections to a botched Dec. 11 suicide bombing near a crowded commercial
area of downtown Stockholm. The bomber in that case was a 28-year-old
Swedish citizen of Iraqi origin; in a message, he singled out Lars
Vilks, a Swedish artist who has also been threatened repeatedly
with death since a drawing he made of Muhammad’s
head on the body of a dog was published by a Swedish newspaper
The earlier satirical cartoons of Muhammad were commissioned and published
by Jyllands-Posten as a statement of
freedom of expression. But they were seen as blasphemous and a deliberate
provocation by many Muslims, and prompted rioting in some countries
and repeated attempts at violent retribution. In January, a Somalian
man armed with an ax and a knife attacked the home of one cartoonist,
Kurt Westergaard, in Aarhus, Denmark.
Clashes Flare In Central Nigeria
REUTERS: December 26, 2010
JOS, Nigeria (Reuters) - Clashes broke out between armed Christian and
Muslim groups near the central Nigerian city of Jos on Sunday, a Reuters
witness said, after Christmas Eve bombings in the region killed more
than 30 people.
Buildings were set ablaze and people were seen running for cover as
the police and military arrived on the scene in an effort to disperse
crowds. Injured people covered in blood were being dragged by friends
and family to hospital.
The unrest was triggered by explosions on Christmas Eve in villages
near Jos, capital of Plateau state, that killed at least 32 people and
left 74 critically injured.
Muslims and animists from a patchwork of ethnic groups live peacefully
side by side in most Nigerian cities.
But hundreds of people died in religious and ethnic clashes at the start
of the year in the central Middle Belt and there are fears politicians
could try to stoke such rivalries as the elections approach.
The tensions are rooted in decades of resentment between indigenous
groups, mostly Christian or animist, who are vying for control of fertile
farmlands and for economic and political power with mostly Muslim migrants
and settlers from the north.
SERAPHIM OF PIRAEUS
Bishop Equates Zionism to ‘Satanism’
By ROBERT MACKEY
The New York Times: December 24, 2010
A Greek Orthodox bishop
who was criticized by Jewish groups, the Greek government and some
coreligionists for blaming Greece’s financial problems on a
conspiracy of Jewish bankers and claiming that the Holocaust was orchestrated
by Zionists issued a statement on Thursday in which he denied that
he was anti-Semitic but also equated Zionism
The bishop, known as Metropolitan Seraphim of
Piraeus, said during an interview on Greek television on Monday
that Jews “control the international banking
system.” He added: “Adolf
Hitler was an instrument of world Zionism and was financed from the
renowned Rothschild family with the sole purpose of convincing the
Jews to leave the shores of Europe and go to Israel to establish the
In response to the outrage caused by his remarks, the cleric posted
a statement (in Greek) on his Web site in which he stood by his theories
and described himself as a friend of the Jewish people but an enemy
of Zionism, a Greek newspaper, To Vima,
December 23, 2010
On the occasion of the concerns raised by the European
Jewish Congress with regard to my interview with the MEGA television
channel on December 20, I have to say the following:
1. The things I said during my television
appearance on the show “Society Hour Mega” are strictly
my personal views and opinions, which I have repeatedly expressed…
verbally and in writing.
2. I respect, revere and love the Jewish
people like any other people of our world according to the teaching
of the incarnated Son of God and the true Messiah the Lord Jesus Christ
the Savior and Redeemer, who was heralded by all the Prophets and
was incarnated through the Jewish nation.
3. My public vehement opposition against
International Zionism refers to the organ that is the successor of
the “Sanhedrin” which altered the faith of the Patriarchs,
the Prophets and the Righteous of the Jewish nation through the Talmud,
the Rabbinical writings and the Kabbalah into Satanism, and always
strives vigorously toward an economic empire set up throughout the
world with headquarters in the great land beyond the Atlantic for
the prevalence of world government and pan-religion.
4. I consider like any sane person on
the planet the Nazi regime and the paranoid dictator Adolf Hitler
as horrible criminals against humanity and take a stand with all honor
and respect against the Jewish Holocaust and any other heinous genocide
such as that of the Pontic Greek and Armenian people. Besides, the
Greek nation mourns thousands of martyrs from the criminal Nazi atrocities.
Greek Bishop’s Anti-Semitic Tirade
December 22, 2010
Text of a Bishop’s Semi-Apology
February 27, 2009
REV. JOHANN ROTEN
on the Map to Pray With Mary
By ERIK ECKHOLM
The New York Times: December 24, 2010
Wis. — In France, the shrine at
Lourdes is surrounded by hundreds of
hotels and has received
as many as 45,000 pilgrims in a single day. Our
Lady of Guadalupe, in Mexico,
draws millions of fervent worshipers a year.
Now, a little chapel among the dairy farms here, called Our
Lady of Good Help, has joined that august company in terms
of religious status, if not global fame. This month, it became one
of only about a dozen sites worldwide, and the first in the United
States, where apparitions of the Virgin Mary
have been officially validated by the Roman Catholic Church.
In 1859, the year after Mary is said to have appeared in Lourdes,
a Belgian immigrant here named Adele
Brise said she was visited three times by Mary, who hovered
between two trees in a bright light, clothed in dazzling white with
a yellow sash around her waist and a crown of stars above her flowing
blond locks. As instructed, Ms. Brise devoted her life to teaching
Catholic beliefs to children.
On Dec. 8, after a two-year investigation
by theologians who found no evidence of fraud or heresy and a long
history of shrine-related conversions, cures and other signs of divine
intervention, Bishop David L. Ricken
of Green Bay declared
“with moral certainty” that Ms. Brise did indeed
have encounters “of a supernatural character”
that are “worthy of belief.”
leaders described the decree in Wisconsin as a bolt of joy at a trying
time for the Catholic church, which is troubled by revelations of
“This is a gift to the believers,” said the Rev.
Johann Roten, director of the International
Marian Research Institute at the University of Dayton.
“It would be devious
to say that this was somehow pulled out of the
attic to exorcise the problems of the church today,”
Father Roten said in a telephone interview. “But hopefully this
will have a beneficial impact on the people, showing them that there
are ways of living with faith that are very pure.”
The Diocese of Green Bay is under fire from
lawyers in an abuse-related lawsuit, who charge that it has obstructed
justice by destroying potentially incriminating files on former priests.
Matter of Life or Death
The New York Times: December 23, 2010
St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center
in Phoenix announced on Tuesday that it
will continue to provide life-saving abortion care to patients even
though it means losing its affiliation with the local Roman
This commendable decision by St. Joseph’s and the hospital network
that oversees it, Catholic Healthcare West, upholds important legal
and moral principles. It also underscores the need to ensure that religiously
affiliated hospitals comply with their legal duty to provide emergency
The decision follows a standoff between the hospital and the leader
of the Phoenix diocese, Bishop
Thomas Olmsted. In November 2009, a 27-year-old mother of four
in her third month of pregnancy arrived at St. Joseph’s. She was
diagnosed with pulmonary hypertension, a serious complication that might
well have killed her if she had continued the pregnancy.
The hospital performed an abortion, leading Bishop
Olmsted to declare Sister Margaret McBride,
a member of the hospital’s ethics committee, “automatically
excommunicated” because she had consented to the therapeutic abortion
necessary to save the woman’s life.
Just last month, Bishop Olmsted threatened to remove his endorsement
of the hospital unless he received a written acknowledgement that the
abortion violated Catholic policy and “will never occur again
at St. Joseph’s Hospital.” The hospital refused to bow to
these demands, summing up its position with elegant simplicity:
“Morally, ethically, and legally we simply cannot stand by and
let someone die whose life we might be able to save.”
It is hardly reassuring that following the incident
at St. Joseph’s, the United States Conference
of Catholic Bishops said Sister Margaret was properly punished
and seconded Bishop Olmsted’s stance against providing the abortion,
even to save a woman’s life. No one has suggested that
Catholic hospitals should be required to perform nonemergency abortions.
But as St. Joseph’s recognized, the need to accommodate religious
doctrine does not give health providers serving the general public license
to jeopardize women’s lives.
This is no small matter. Catholic hospitals account for about 15 percent
of the nation’s hospital beds and are the only hospital facilities
in many communities. Months ago, the American
Civil Liberties Union asked the Centers
for Medicaid and Medicare Services to investigate reported instances
where religious doctrine prevailed over the need for emergency reproductive
care, and to issue a formal clarification that denying such treatment
violates federal law.
THOMAS J. OLMSTEAD
Hospital Loses Catholic Affiliation
By LAURIE GOODSTEIN
The New York Times: December 22, 2010
Thomas J. Olmsted of Phoenix announced
on Tuesday that St. Joseph’s Hospital
and Medical Center could no longer identify itself as Roman
Catholic because it violated church teachings by ending a woman’s
pregnancy in 2009. Hospital administrators said
the procedure was necessary to save her life, and stood by their decision
even after Bishop Olmsted excommunicated a nun on the hospital ethics
committee. The hospital, which receives no money from the Phoenix
diocese, can no longer hold Masses. But Catholics can continue to
work and be treated there.
Coach’s Exit From Belmont U. Has Nashville Talking
By CAMPBELL ROBERTSON
The New York Times: December 17, 2010
NASHVILLE — The day before Thanksgiving
break, the members of the Belmont University
women’s soccer team gathered in the locker room after a strength
training session. Their coach, Lisa Howe,
had something to say.
She told them that she was a lesbian, and that she and her partner of
eight years, the team’s former
assistant coach, had decided to have a baby.“She said she wanted
to talk about her personal life one time only and there would never
be a discussion again,” recalled Erica Carter, a senior on the
But the topic was far from finished. It continued the next week when
the players learned that their coach was leaving her job. And it has
swelled into a full-blown existential debate at this fast-growing private
Three years ago, the university severed its 56-year-old ties with the
state Baptist convention after a debate about whether the board could
include non-Baptist trustees. But the university promised to remain
Christian, if nondenominational.
The university will not comment on the circumstances of Ms. Howe’s
departure, nor will Ms. Howe, citing contractual reasons. They refer
to her departure as a “mutual agreement.” Ms. Howe did say
in an interview that her decision to become a mother is what prompted
her to talk to the players, many of whom knew she was a lesbian anyway.
Ms. Howe’s partner, Wendy Holleman,
left Belmont in 2008 to coach at a private high school; she is due with
the couple’s first child in May.
Ms. Carter said most of the players were excited about the baby. But
the Tuesday after Thanksgiving, Ms. Howe called Ms. Carter and told
her that the father of one player had complained over the weekend. Ms.
Howe also said that she had been told by the athletic director that
morning that if she did not resign, she would be fired, Ms. Carter said.
Ms. Howe had led the team to two conference championships, but the 2010
season was a disappointment, and on Dec. 1, Sari Lin, the team captain,
asked the athletic director, Mike Strickland,
if that was the cause for Ms. Howe’s departure.
Mr. Strickland told her that team performance
was not the issue, Ms. Lin said, but that the baby “was going
to be a problem” and would conflict with the university’s
“don’t ask, don’t tell” approach.
story has dominated headlines in Nashville, though the facts remain
unclear. Students staged protests on campus. Members of the faculty
passed a resolution of support for gay faculty members and students.
Nashville metro council members introduced a bill to rescind an agreement
that allowed Belmont to use a city park for a soccer field. The
state Baptist convention commended Belmont officials for appearing to
take a stand that “respected their Christian mission as well as
“We’ve always had gay faculty as long as I’ve been
here,” said Michael Awalt, a professor of philosophy who has been
at Belmont since 1970. But, he said, “it’s been a ‘don’t
ask, don’t tell’ kind of mentality.”
Asked if having openly gay faculty and staff members could create a
conflict with the university’s Christian character,
Marty Dickens, the chairman of the board, said, “there
Swedish Prime Minister
The New York Times: December 14, 2010
No country is immune from terrorism in today’s
world, not even Sweden, with its unusually
open society, traditional commitment to peace and wariness of military
On Saturday night, Stockholm had a narrow brush with catastrophe when
a man tentatively identified as an Iraqi-born Swede (who had studied
in Britain) detonated an explosives-laden car on a busy downtown street
at the height of the Christmas shopping season. As in New York City’s
Times Square seven months ago, hundreds of innocent bystanders might
have been killed. Fortunately, the would-be terrorist was the only
The bomber appears to have acted alone, incensed
by the publication of Swedish cartoons he considered blasphemous
and the sufferings of fellow Muslims in Afghanistan, where 500 Swedish
soldiers serve under NATO command.
Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt has
responded in keeping with Sweden’s finest traditions. Denouncing
the attacks as “unacceptable,” he urged
Swedes to “stand up for tolerance,” not jump to
premature conclusions and “let the justice system do its job.”
Mr. Reinfeldt’s firm and timely championing of traditional Swedish
tolerance showed political courage. In elections three months ago,
his center-right coalition fell short of an absolute majority as a
result of alarming gains by the misleadingly named Sweden
Democrats, an anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim party of the extreme right.
Center-right politicians elsewhere in Europe — France and the
Netherlands, for example — have been quick to pander to similar
xenophobic parties and their supporters. Mr.
Reinfeldt declared defiantly on Monday that Sweden’s open society
is worth defending. We couldn’t agree more.
The first month of the Islamic calendar
Kashmiri Shiite Muslim boy bleeds as
he flagellates himself during a Muharram procession in Srinagar, India.
December 14, 2010
MALCOLM A. KING
Holiday When Needed
THE ASSOCIATED PRESS: December 13, 2010
California: An Orange
County inmate who disliked salami was able to receive kosher
meals in jail
after his lawyer cited the “Seinfeld”
holiday Festivus [December 23]
as his religious belief. The Orange County
Register reported Monday that Malcolm A. King,
38, a convicted drug dealer, asked for kosher
meals at the Theo Lacy jail in
Orange to maintain his physique. County sheriff’s officials
reserve such meals for inmates with religious needs, so a judge demanded
a religious reason for Mr. King to get the meals. Mr. King’s
lawyer, Fred Thiagarajah, cited his client’s
devotion to Festivus, the holiday celebrated
on the “Seinfeld” series. A sheriff’s spokesman,
Ryan Burris, said Mr. King got salami-free meals for two months before
the county got the order thrown out in court.
MARIE THORNTON |
charged with embezzling $1.2M from Iona
By BRUCE GOLDING
December 10, 2010
Talk about a really bad habit.
A nun known as Sister Susie was charged yesterday with embezzling more
than $1.2 million from a Catholic college in Westchester County. Sister
Marie Thornton, 62, allegedly stole the money over the course of a decade
while serving as vice president of finance at Iona College in New Rochelle.
Court papers say her unholy scam included getting reimbursed for phony
vendor invoices and having the college pay "credit-card bills for
Officials wouldn't say where the money went, but a former men's basketball
coach at the school has hinted on the radio that Thornton may have gambled
away at least some of it. "I think she absconded with some funds
or something down to Atlantic City," Jeff Ruland, who was fired
in 2007, said on WFAN-AM in March.
The New York Times: December 7, 2010
research has suggested that the more people doubt their own beliefs
the more, paradoxically, they are inclined to proselytize in favor
of them. David Gal and Derek
Rucker published a study in Psychological
Science in which they presented some research subjects with
evidence that undermined their core convictions. The subjects who
were forced to confront the counterevidence went on to more forcefully
advocate their original beliefs, thus confirming the earlier findings.
RABBI DENNIS TOBIN
REV. ROBERT CHODO
Blessing of the Burger to End a Restaurant Jinx
By DIANE CARDWELL
The New York Times: December 6, 2010
The three holy men made their pilgrimages to
Chelsea, braving snow and frigid winds, from as far
away as New Jersey and the Bronx.
But they had not come on Monday to tend to the sick or minister to
the poor. They had come bearing the prayers and totems of their various
faiths — Catholic, Jewish, Buddhist
— to cleanse any lurking evil from that most hallowed of American
institutions: a burger joint. There was
to be a private Native American ceremony
at some point; an Episcopalian minister,
running late, would officiate later in the day.
“This is the first time I blessed hamburger,” said the
Rev. Ed Sombilon of Holy Trinity Roman Catholic
Church in Fort Lee, N.J. “But God
works in mysterious ways, even crooked ways.”
The operators of a new outpost of New York Burger
Company, scheduled to open next week at 470 West 23rd Street,
cooked up the ceremony along with their publicist in the hopes that
the blessings — or at least the media attention they would draw
— would help the restaurant succeed in a spot where so many
painting by Jimmy Ovadia
Holy Burgers photo by William Hundley
STEVEN L. BESHEAR
Kentucky, Noah’s Ark Theme Park Is Planned
By LAURIE GOODSTEIN
The New York Times: December 6, 2010
Facing a rising tide of joblessness, the governor
of Kentucky has found one solution: build an
The state has promised generous tax incentives to a group of entrepreneurs
who plan to construct
a full-size replica of Noah’s ark, load it with animals and
actors, and make it the centerpiece of a Bible-based tourist attraction
called Ark Encounter.
Since Gov. Steven L. Beshear announced
the plan on Wednesday, some constitutional experts have raised alarms
over whether government backing for an enterprise that promotes religion
violates the First Amendment’s requirement of separation of
church and state. But Mr. Beshear, a Democrat, said the arrangement
posed no constitutional problem, and brushed off questions about his
stand on creationism.
“The people of Kentucky didn’t elect me governor to debate
religion,” he said at a news conference. “They elected
me governor to create jobs.”
The theme park was conceived by the same Christian
ministry that built the Creation Museum
in Petersburg, Ky., where dioramas designed to debunk evolution
show humans and dinosaurs coexisting peacefully on an earth created
by God in six days. The ministry, Answers in
Genesis, believes that the earth is only
6,000 years old — a controversial assertion even among
many Bible-believing Christians.
Although the Creation Museum has been a target of ridicule by some,
it has drawn 1.2 million visitors in its first three years —
proving that there is a sizable paying audience for entertainment
rooted in a literal interpretation of the Bible.
On Friday, The Lexington Herald-Leader,
Kentucky’s second-largest newspaper, criticized Mr. Beshear
in an editorial for a plan that it said would result in low-wage jobs
and a poor image for the state.
“Anyone who wants to believe in a literal interpretation of
the Bible has that right,” the editorial said. “However,
the way the Beshear administration handled this makes it appear Kentucky
either embraces such thinking or is desperate to take advantage of
those who do.
• • •
incentives: cheap jobs, poor state image
Opinion - Editorial
The Lexington Herald-Leader: Friday, Dec. 03, 2010
The wall of separation between church and state
will unlikely be breached if a private company planning an Ark
Encounter theme park in Grant County qualifies for tax incentives
under the Kentucky Tourism Development Act.
If a church or a religious organization sought the same incentives
for the same purpose, there would be clear reason to object on constitutional
Ark Encounters is a private company seeking to make a profit off of
a biblical theme.
As such, it seems as entitled to apply for incentives from promised
profits as any other private, for-profit company in Kentucky. Yet,
there are legitimate reasons to be concerned about the announcement.
Despite some progress in economic development, Kentucky continues
to use tax incentives in pursuit of mostly low-paying, part-time seasonal
jobs that would further lower the state's average wage and do little
to increase the demand of higher education. This is similar to past
shortsighted subsidies of chicken processing plants and customer call
We understand that even low-paying jobs are welcome while rebounding
from a recession and heading into an election year.
But these incentives could have been awarded
without Gov. Steve Beshear's public embrace of an expansion of the
Creation Museum — a project rooted in outright opposition to
Hostility to science, knowledge and education does little to attract
the kind of employers that will provide good-paying jobs with a future.
Anyone who wants to believe in a literal interpretation of the Bible
has that right. However, the way the Beshear administration handled
this makes it appear Kentucky either embraces such thinking or is
desperate to take advantage of those who do.
Prayer Caucus Off Base With Attack On Obama
Church-State Watchdog Group Urges President
To Ignore Missive Whining About National Motto
Americans United for Separation of Church and State:
December 6, 2010
Members of the Congressional
Prayer Caucus have criticized President
Barack Obama for telling an
audience in Indonesia last month that the phrase “E
Pluribus Unum” is a good summary of the American experience.
The Prayer Caucus, led by U.S. Rep. Randy Forbes
(R-Va.), wrote to Obama today complaining that he called “E
Pluribus Unum” the national motto during a Nov. 10 speech at
a university in Jakarta. The national motto, the caucus insists, is
actually “In God We Trust.”
Americans United for Separation of Church and
State says members of the Prayer Caucus should reconsider if
they think this is an important issue.
“Given the state of the economy, the unemployment rate and the
precarious state of world affairs, the president has a lot to do,”
the Rev. Barry W. Lynn, executive director
of Americans United. “Members of the Congressional Prayer Caucus,
by contrast, appear to have a lot of time on their hands.”
AU pointed out that “E Pluribus Unum”
appears on the Great Seal of the United States,
which was codified in 1782, and the phrase is still used on coinage.
In citing it, Obama was trying to make the point that even though
Americans are of diverse backgrounds, they have joined together as
The caucus also complained about Obama omitting the word “Creator”
when quoting passages from the Declaration of Independence and offered
to meet with him about these issues.
“The Prayer Caucus should just admit that it is looking for
any opportunity to bash the president,” Lynn remarked. “It’s
not very Christian of them, but I expect nothing less from a body
that takes its marching orders from the Religious
Added Lynn, “This is one of the silliest manufactured controversies
I’ve ever seen, and I would advise the president to deal with
it by tossing the caucus’ letter into the nearest wastebasket.”
Loses in Soccer, but Scores a P.R. Victory
Reuters: December 5, 2010
Saudi Arabian fans in Aden, Yemen, on Sunday
for the Gulf Cup finals.
“The games are great!,” a critic of the Yemeni government
said. “We are all Arabs!”
pay for LI 'psychic'
Afterlife peek for the dying
By GINGER ADAMS OTIS
The New York Post: December 5, 2010
Paging Dr. Psychic -- the afterlife is calling.
A self-proclaimed clairvoyant from Long Island says she can help sick
patients find out who's waiting to greet them on "the other side."
Penelope Zannikos, 44, charges $125 for
hospital "transition sessions" with seriously ill people
who want to know who's behind the white light.
"Sometimes the information surprises people -- it's not always
who you think will be waiting for you," said Zannikos, who believes
she inherited her gift from her Puerto Rican mother -- although it
could also be from her dad, who was born in Romania to Greek parents.
She says she once visited an elderly woman battling cancer who wanted
a sneak peek at her guide to the Pearly Gates. The name that came
to Zannikos' lips was William. William was the old woman's former
flame -- and she'd spurned him, Zannikos learned.
"She said, 'Oh, my ex-boyfriend. I had to choose between him
and my husband when I was young,' " the so-called seer said.
"I told her he was waiting for her. And she responded, 'Well,
I'm not going anywhere yet!' Some people get like that -- nervous."
Zannikos swears her gift is legit, but the hospitals she visits probably
think differently, said one hospital executive. "It's certainly
neither medicine nor patient care," said the exec, who works
with several leading NYC facilities.
Zannikos admits she keeps the true purpose of her visits a secret
from hospital staffers. "Sometimes a nurse will understand what
I'm doing -- many of the Caribbean nurses seem to get it right away,"
she said. "They don't say anything."
Junkie and the Atheist
By TIMOTHY EGAN
The New York Times: December 4, 2010
As an Irish-American, I don’t usually
trumpet the work of a nation that kept my ancestors under its boot
heel for nearly 300 years. But having just finished the memoirs of
two great exports of Britain, I rise to praise a pair of Brits in
the season of book-buying.
Hitchens, the polemical polymath, is to modern American discourse
what Lenny Bruce was to comedy. He changed the game, and in so doing
forced us to examine our core beliefs. His story, “Hitch-22,”
was hitting the best-seller lists this year just as he was diagnosed
with a killer type of esophageal cancer. He has vowed to go to his
grave as an intellectually curious atheist.
The beautiful ruin that is Keith Richards,
guitarist and guiding musical force behind the Rolling Stones, is
best known for being a living cadaver. A heroin addict during his
most productive years, Richards the author is now competing with former
President George W. Bush for bragging rights to the most popular nonfiction
book in this country. In his story, “Life,” the United
States and its black music saved him as a man and an artist.
The atheist poked the most religious of Western democracies, assailing
us for flabbiness of spirit and outright ignorance. The junkie found
the best of Chicago blues lost in the back alley of American pop culture,
and made those soul-stirring chords mainstream forever.
men, on paper at least, are hard to love, but impossible to dislike.
In the United States, they got what so many from other shores have
obtained — renewal.
“Life in Britain had seemed like one long antechamber to a room
that had too many barriers to entry,” Hitchens writes of his
move across the Atlantic in 1981, becoming a citizen 26 years later.
A product of Oxford, he displays none of the educated English habit
of using unnecessary modifiers and disclaimers — no “bit
of cancer” or “spot of bad luck” from him. He greeted
one reporter in August with, “How am I? I’m dying.”
In his words, Sarah Palin is “a disgraceful
opportunist and real moral coward.” The jihadists who attacked
the United States represent “the mirthless, medieval, death-obsessed
barbarism of Islamic fundamentalism.” And recreational drugs
— Keith Richards’s nutrients — are a form of “weak-minded
escapism almost as contemptible as religion.”
Of course, he does share his countrymen’s taste for the grape
and grain, describing his daily intake
as at least one bottle of wine and two drinks of “Mr. Walker’s
amber restorative.” And as with any English bad boy, he fell
in with the wrong crowd for a time, finding common cause with President
Bush in a dishonest war of choice against Iraq.
That was his one-off, and it was a big one. His lasting contribution
will be his challenge to religion. Once, while waiting in line for
coffee with Hitchens, I asked him why his book “God
Is Not Great” was such a big hit in a nation with so
many believers. He said it was because many of those believers are
And, indeed, after reading his provocative but not entirely convincing
tract against faith, I kept hearing the voice of a Jesuit teacher
from my high school, who urged us to “be in constant search
of your God and yourself.”
Hitchens may not have long to live. But he will not go gently. A few
days ago he debated religion with Tony Blair, comparing God to “a
kind of benign North Korea.” By audience consensus, Hitchens
handily won the match with the former British prime minister.
busted in cop 'hit'
By JOHN DOYLE
The New York Post: December 3, 2010
A Brooklyn rabbi was charged yesterday in the
contract killing of a former suburban police officer and his nephew,
Victor Koltun, 41 -- whose rap sheet
includes mortgage-fraud allegations -- is accused of hiring two ex-cons
to kill Frank Piscopo, 49, and Gerald Piscopo, 28, in Newburgh, Orange
County. Both Piscopos were found dead Nov. 4.
Frank had been a police sergeant in the Ulster County town of Lloyd
before he quit in 1990 amid allegations he stole items from the department.He
had a criminal record that included arrests for theft and drug selling,
the Times Herald-Record of Middletown reported.
Gerald had been deep in credit-card debt and emerged from personal
bankruptcy in March. He had spent 21⁄2 years in state prison
from 2003 to 2005 on burglary charges.
Koltun, of Sheepshead Bay, already faces a possible 15-year prison
term on separate charges that he pocketed proceeds of a $225,000 mortgage
on several Brooklyn houses he did not own.
Newburgh cops also busted Frank Lewis, 56, of Manhattan, and Craig
Fennell, 51, of Brooklyn, for allegedly carrying out the killings.
Both Lewis and Fennell are parolees with convictions for violent crimes.
All three suspects were arraigned yesterday in Newburgh city court
and ordered jailed without bail.
Fire Back At Atheists In Billboard Battle
Catholic League Takes $18,500 Shot
At 'Militant Atheism'
NEW YORK (CBS 2 / 1010 WINS: December 2, 2010
An atheist group struck first. Now the Catholic
League is counterpunching.
Approach the tunnel from the Jersey side and you’ll see it –
a billboard from an atheist group saying of Christmas: “You
know it’s a myth — this season, celebrate reason.”
On the other side of the tunnel sits the other side of the yuletide
tussle — a Catholic League billboard proclaiming “You
know it’s real — this season celebrate Jesus.”
“Ninety-six percent of Americans celebrate
Christmas. Somebody on our side needs to put down a cultural
marker, and that’s what we’ve done,” Catholic
League President Bill Donohue told CBS
Donohue said the billboard is a “counterpunch” against
what he calls militant atheism. The big
billboard cost some pretty big cash — $18,500.
The Catholic League said it came from an anonymous donor who put up
the cash because he was offended by the atheists’ message.
The atheists said they did not intend to offend — but to provoke
debate about religious beliefs.
“Bringing the differences out is what’s important, and
that’s why we put the billboard up in the
first place, to get people talking to each other,” said David
Silverman, President of American Atheists.
In the shadow of the Catholic billboard people were talking. “If
it wasn’t for Jesus Christ, I wouldn’t be here! I love
[the billboard],” James Bennett said.
“I’m scared of most organized religion
and I think a lot of it is based on myth,” Mike Flannery said.
“I support what the Catholic people are doing, and kind of,
the atheists, eh …” Joe Cippolone added.
The billboards, part of a Christmas culture clash, will stay up through
December. American atheists also paid big money to make their billboard
statement — $20,000.
Bad copy, fake beard, no reason, no rhyme
billboards claim Jesus will return May 21, 2011
BY BOB SMIETANA
THE TENNESSEAN: DECEMBER 1, 2010
are 24 shopping days left till Christmas.
171 days left until Jesus' second coming.
That's the message on 40 billboards around Nashville, proclaiming
May 21, 2011, as the date of the
Rapture. Billboards are up in eight other U.S. cities, too.
Fans of Family Radio Inc., a nationwide
Christian network, paid for the billboards. Family
Radio's founder, Harold Camping, predicted the May date for
Their message is simple — "He Is
Coming Again" — and their aim is to get unbelievers
to turn around quickly. But critics say the billboards are a waste
of time, one more failed attempt to predict the end of the world.
The Rapture is going to be a great day for God's people but awful
for everyone else, said Allison Warden,
29, who orchestrated Nashville's billboard campaign. She's a volunteer
with WeCanKnow.com, a website set up
by followers of Family Radio. She and other fans designed the billboards,
along with T-shirts, bumper stickers and postcards to get Camping's
Warden traveled from her home in Raleigh, N.C., to Nashville last
week to check out the billboards, purchased through the end of the
year. She wouldn't say how much they cost or name who paid for them.
She is absolutely sure that Camping's prediction is right.
"It's a certainty," she said.
W. CLEON SKOUSEN
By JEFFREY ROSEN
The New York Times: November 28, 2010
Of the newly elected Tea
Party senators, Mike Lee, a 39-year-old
Republican from Utah, has the most impeccable establishment legal
credentials: the son of Rex Lee, a solicitor general under President
Reagan, he attended law school at Brigham Young and later clerked
for Samuel Alito on the U.S. Court of Appeals and then the Supreme
Court. But on the campaign trail, especially during his heated primary
battle with the three-term Republican incumbent Bob Bennett, Lee offered
glimpses of a truly radical vision of the U.S. Constitution, one that
sees the document as divinely inspired and views much of what the
federal government currently does as unconstitutional.
who is a Mormon and a social conservative,
also has equated the founding fathers’
invocations of a deist God with the moral values of the Mormon Church.
the Tea Party movement itself, Lee’s constitutional vision may
appear to be an incohesive mixture of libertarianism and social conservatism,
of opposition to federal power and support for
tearing down the wall of separation between church and state....
Much of the Tea Party movement’s more-strident
rhetoric, seen in light of this constitutional vision, may be best
understood not as scattershot right-wing hostility to government but
as a comprehensive, if startling, worldview about the proper roles
of government and faith in American life.
of the positions Lee outlined on the campaign trail appear to be inspired
by the constitutional guru of the Tea Party movement, W.
Cleon Skousen, whose 1981 book, “The
5,000-Year Leap,” argued that the
founding fathers rejected collectivist “European” philosophies
and instead derived their divinely inspired principles of
limited government from fifth-century Anglo-Saxon chieftains, who
in turn modeled themselves on the Biblical tribes of ancient Israel.
wrote several volumes about the providential
view of the U.S. Constitution set out in Mormon scripture, which sees
the Constitution as divinely inspired and on the verge of
destruction and the Mormon Church as its salvation.
Skousen saw limited government as not only an ethnic idea, rooted
in the Anglo-Saxons, but also as a Christian one,
embodied in the idea of unalienable rights and
duties that derive from God, and he insisted that
the founders’ “religious precepts
turned out to be the heart and soul of the entire American political
Norton, a contractor from Arizona who was mentored by Skousen],
explained Skousen’s salvation narrative..., the
founding fathers “unleashed the mind of man” by codifying
religiously based free-market principles in a written constitution....
of Skousen’s 28 principles stress the role of religious virtue.
The fourth principle, “Without religion
the government of a free people cannot be maintained,” criticizes
the Supreme Court for having misinterpreted Thomas Jefferson’s
metaphor of a “wall” separating church and state.”
Skousen argued that the First Amendment’s
prohibition on a federal establishment of religion wasn’t intended
to separate church and state but to prevent the federal government
from disestablishing religion in the seven states that had
officially established denominations during the founding
Skousen’s view, the implications of this history are radical:
Skousen would encourage the states today to
require “universally accepted” religious teachings
in public schools, as long as they don’t favor one denomination
over another. Justice Clarence Thomas
— whose wife, Virginia Thomas, stumped at Tea Party rallies
and helped create the Tea Party organization Liberty Central —
has argued in a similar vein that the founders
intended to prevent the federal government from disestablishing state
churches, not from promoting religion. “Congress need not observe
strict separation between church and state, or steer clear of the
subject of religion,” Thomas wrote in a 2005 concurring
opinion. (Embracing religious conservatism, states’ rights and
opposition to elites, Thomas can be seen as the model of a Tea Party
justice avant la lettre.) This kind of thinking may help to make sense
of the otherwise perplexing constitutional views of the unsuccessful
Tea Party candidate Christine O’Donnell,
who famously asked in a debate, “Where
in the Constitution is the separation of church and state?”
Group Stirs a Debate Over Yoga’s Soul
By PAUL VITELLO
The New York Times: November 28, 2010
Yoga is practiced by about 15 million people in
the United States, for reasons almost as numerous — from the physical
benefits mapped in brain scans to the less tangible rewards that New
Age journals call spiritual centering. Religion, for the most part,
has nothing to do with it.
But a group of Indian-Americans has ignited a surprisingly fierce debate
in the gentle world of yoga by mounting a campaign to acquaint Westerners
with the faith that it says underlies every single yoga style followed
in gyms, ashrams and spas: Hinduism.
The campaign, labeled “Take Back Yoga,” does not ask yoga
devotees to become Hindu, or instructors to teach more about Hinduism.
The small but increasingly influential group behind it, the Hindu American
Foundation, suggests only that people become more aware of yoga’s
debt to the faith’s ancient traditions.
That suggestion, modest though it may seem, has drawn a flurry of strong
reactions from figures far apart on the religious spectrum. Dr. Deepak
Chopra, the New Age writer, has dismissed the campaign as a jumble of
faulty history and Hindu nationalism. R. Albert Mohler Jr., president
of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, has said he agrees that
yoga is Hindu — and cited that as evidence that the practice imperiled
the souls of Christians who engage in it.
The question at the core of the debate — who owns yoga?
Kenneth William Storheim
Orthodox Church Leader is Charged With Sexual Assault
By IAN AUSTEN
The New York Times: November 26, 2010
The archbishop for Canada of the Orthodox
Church in America was charged with two counts of sexual assault,
the police in Winnipeg, Manitoba, said on Thursday. The allegations
against the archbishop, Kenneth William Storheim,
who is known as Archbishop Seraphim within
the church, date back 30 years, according to a statement issued last
month by the church. The police declined to give any details about
the charges, citing a publication ban.
Wall Feud Heightens Israeli-Palestinian Tensions
By ISABEL KERSHNER
The New York Times: November 25, 2010
JERUSALEM — The prime minister of Israel,
Benjamin Netanyahu, on Thursday strongly
a Palestinian Authority paper that denies
any Jewish connection to the Western Wall,
the iconic holy site and place of Jewish worship in the Old
City of Jerusalem, describing the report as “reprehensible
The episode appeared to signal a worsening atmosphere after a two-month
hiatus in peace talks.
Jerusalem and its holy sites are one of the most intractable and emotional
issues of the Israeli-Arab conflict. Israel conquered the eastern part
of Jerusalem, including the Old City, from Jordan in the 1967 war, and
annexed it in a move that was never internationally recognized. About
200,000 Jews live in areas of East Jerusalem
that have been developed since 1967, among about a quarter-million Palestinians.
The Palestinians claim East Jerusalem as the capital of a future Palestinian
The Western Wall is a remnant of the retaining
wall of a plateau revered by Jews as the Temple
Mount, the site where their ancient temples once stood. The plateau
is also the third holiest site in Islam. Known to Muslims as the Haram
al-Sharif, or Noble Sanctuary, the
compound now includes Al Aksa Mosque and the golden Dome of the Rock.
In Muslim tradition, the wall is the place where
the Prophet Muhammad tethered his winged steed, Buraq, during his miraculous
overnight journey from Mecca to Jerusalem in the seventh century.
The Palestinian paper denying any Jewish historical connection with
the site was written by Al-Mutawakel Taha,
an Information Ministry official. In it, he stated that “the Al
Buraq Wall is the western wall of Al Aksa, which the Zionist
occupation falsely claims ownership of and calls the Wailing
Wall or Kotel.”
Palestinian officials have often denied claims
of Jewish heritage in Jerusalem, arguing that there is no evidence that
the plateau was the site of ancient temples.
CEDRIC MILLER |
Pastor Taking Leave
CBS New York: November 24, 2010
NEPTUNE TOWNSHIP, N.J. (AP) — A New Jersey pastor who barred
church officials from using Facebook,
saying it can lead to adultery, is temporarily stepping down from
the pulpit following his admission that he engaged in a three-way
sexual relationship a decade ago.
The Rev. Cedric Miller made worldwide
headlines last week when he urged congregants at his Living
Word Christian Fellowship Church in Neptune, N.J., to drop
their Facebook accounts because he believes the social networking
site facilitates affairs.
Days later, Miller offered to step down after The
Asbury Park Press reported on a 10-year-old affair of his own
involving a three-way sexual relationship with his wife and a male
On Wednesday, Miller told The Associated Press that he would be “taking
some time off” following a church vote Tuesday night on his
status as senior pastor. He said he will resume his pastorate “eventually.”
He says church members gave him a vote of confidence, subject to some
restrictions he wouldn’t list.
any pain that my past mistakes has caused you, I again ask for your
forgiveness,” the pastor said from the pulpit.
The church had no immediate comment.
ROBERT ROBINSON |
Haitians Turn to Charismatic Prayer
By ANNE BARNARD
The New York Times: November 24, 2010
pastor, the Rev. Robert Robinson,
likes to sing in tongues on his daily walk around the park.
Certain women in his parish say so many Hail Marys on their
own that he no longer assigns them the prayers as penance for
sins; instead, he may prescribe a pedicure. On a Saturday night
in the basement of his mostly Haitian church in Queens, in a
bare white room vibrating with hymns and exclamations, a young
woman may find herself channeling the Holy Spirit to reveal
news from Haiti.
The earthquake that killed an estimated quarter-million Haitians
10 months ago has made the noisy devotion of the parish, SS.
Joachim and Anne, even more exuberant. On Jan. 12, barely
two hours after the quake visited devastation on their homeland,
Haitian immigrants flooded the church, dancing, singing, waving
their arms above their heads — and praising God. Amid
the lamentations and the laying on of hands and the surprising
deluge of thanksgiving from people who did not yet know if their
relatives were alive or dead, they ran out of tissues.
The pain continued into the spring. The church overflowed as
more and more survivors turned for solace to charismatic
prayer, the growing, fervent brand of worship that is
reinvigorating the parish and infuses much of Haitian Catholicism.
both Catholic and Protestant, seek an ecstatic state open to
unmediated communion with God. They dance, sing, speak in tongues,
issue prophecies and even, they believe, heal the sick. They
call these spontaneous acts gifts — charismata in Greek
— from the Holy Spirit. Catholic charismatics holler and
weep beneath their stained glass like Pentecostals in their
storefronts, but they begin and end with rosaries and Hail Marys.
October, people packed into SS. Joachim and Anne, chanting and
dancing and holding sick relatives’ pictures heavenward
for healing as a revered nun visiting from Haiti invoked the
Ozier Muhammad/The New York Times
'Ugly Betty' actor Michael Brea slays mother for being 'sinner,' police
BY MATTHEW LYSIAK, ALISON GENDAR AND LARRY MCSHANE
The New York Daily News: Wednesday, November 24th , 2010
his church-going mom was possessed by Satan, a Scripture-spouting killer
hacked her to death with a 3-foot sword as she knelt in their apartment,
police sources said.
Deranged killer Michael Brea "told
the doctors that he saw the Devil, and that the Devil was somehow in
his mother," a police source told the Daily News after the
Neighbors insisted the brutal killing of Yannick
Brea early Tuesday occurred as police ignored their desperate
demands to kick in the dying woman's front door.
Yannick Brea, 55, was found kneeling - as if offering
a final prayer - after she was butchered during her son's demented
diatribe about repentance, police said.
"Sinner! Sinner!" howled Michael
Brea, a bit-part actor who once appeared on "Ugly Betty,"
neighbors and police sources said. "You never
The suspect, still in full "fire and brimstone" babble when
carried out on a stretcher, was clutching his
Bible and a Masonic ceremonial sword when cops busted into a
bedroom, police sources said.
"He yelled, 'The greatest architect in the
universe!' " - a term sometimes used by Masons for God -
while he was being taken away.
A History of the Illuminati and Freemasonry
on the Dollar
Center Seeks 9/11 Recovery Grants for Lower Manhattan
By KAREEM FAHIM
The New York Times: November 23, 2010
The directors of the planned Islamic community
center and mosque near ground zero have applied for grants from an agency
tasked with helping Lower Manhattan recover from the attacks of Sept.
11, 2001. The request was for about $5 million, said a person with knowledge
of the grant application.
In a statement, the developer, Sharif el-Gamal,
said that the board of Park51, as the center is known, asked for the
financing from the Lower Manhattan Development
Corporation about two weeks ago. The money, which would come
from a pool of $2 billion in
FEDERAL FINANCING administered
by the corporation....
ASIF ALI ZARDARI
Sentenced to Death May Get a Pardon
By JANE PERLEZ
The New York Times: November 23, 2010
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — A Christian woman
who was sentenced to death by a municipal court for blasphemy against
Islam could be pardoned by the president in the next few days, a senior
government official said Monday.
Asia Bibi, 45, an agricultural worker
and mother of five, is the first woman to be sentenced to death for
blasphemy, according to human rights groups.
The governor of Punjab Province, Salmaan Taseer,
where Ms. Bibi has been in jail for more than a year, said he had
forwarded a petition presenting the facts of the case to President
Asif Ali Zardari on Monday.
Mr. Taseer, a political ally of Mr. Zardari, said he believed that
Ms. Bibi had been unfairly treated since she was arrested last year.
“I hope the president will pardon Asia in a day or two,”
Mr. Taseer said.
The case against Ms. Bibi began in the fields of Ittan Wali, a village
60 miles west of Lahore, when agricultural workers picking berries
with her protested that she had been asked by a landlord to fetch
water for them to drink. The other workers declined to touch the water
bowl because Ms. Bibi had carried the container, according to accounts
by her husband, Ashiq Masih, and others.
“Suddenly she saw men and women walking towards her with angry
gestures,” Mr. Masih, a laborer, said in a telephone interview.
“They started beating her and shouting that she had made derogatory
remarks against the Prophet Muhammad,” he said.
A mob dragged Ms. Bibi to a local police station, where she was jailed
and charged with blasphemy, Mr. Masih said.
Announcing the guilty verdict this month, Judge
Naveed Iqbal ruled in a Punjab municipal court that Ms. Bibi
had not been wrongly accused, saying that “the chances of false
implication of the accused are totally ruled out.”
if Ms. Bibi is pardoned or the Lahore High Court overturns the sentence,
there are concerns about her safety. Many people acquitted on blasphemy
charges continue to be hounded and are forced to move, change their
identity or hide.
of Hate at Islamic Schools in Britain
By JOHN F. BURNS
The New York Times: November 23, 2010
— A British network of more than 40 part-time Islamic schools
and clubs with 5,000 students has been teaching from a Saudi Arabian
government curriculum that contains anti-Semitic and homophobic views,
including a textbook that asks children to list the “reprehensible”
qualities of Jews, according to a BBC documentary broadcast on Monday.
On the BBC TV program, a book (right) used in Islamic schools in Britain
showed where to amputate hands and feet as a punishment.
The 30-minute “Panorama” program quoted the Saudi government-supplied
textbook as saying that Jews “looked like monkeys and pigs,”
and that Zionists set out to achieve “world domination.”
The program quoted a separate part of the curriculum — for children
as young as 6 — saying that someone who is not a believer in Islam
at death would be condemned to “hellfire.”
On Monday, the embassy did not respond to requests for comment, but
Saudi officials quoted by the BBC disavowed direct responsibility for
the schools and clubs and described the teachings cited in the program
as having been “taken out of their historical context.”
One of the textbooks, according to the BBC program, prescribed execution
as the penalty for gay sex, and outlined differing viewpoints as to
whether death should be by stoning, immolation by fire or throwing offenders
off a cliff. Another set out the punishments prescribed by Shariah law
for theft, including amputation of hands and feet. A BBC video accompanying
an article on the program’s Web site showed a textbook illustration
of a hand and a foot marked to show where amputations should be made.
Flawed Faith-Based Fix
The New York Times: November 22, 2010
President Obama has issued an executive order
revamping the rules covering religious-based and neighborhood programs
receiving federal dollars. It makes some good changes to better ensure
that the faith-based initiative begun by George W. Bush and extended
by Mr. Obama respects religious liberty.
Most notably, last Wednesday’s order requires that government
grants to religious organizations and other groups providing social
services be listed on federal Web sites. The order also requires that
agencies offer referrals to alternative service providers when individuals
object to receiving services at a religious charity.
But the revisions have a glaring omission. Ignoring one of Mr. Obama’s
own important campaign promises, and a large coalition of religious,
education and civil rights groups, the new decree fails to draw a
firm line barring employment discrimination on the basis of religion.
The order leaves untouched a 2007 Justice Department memo that dubiously
concluded that the government cannot order religious groups not to
discriminate as a condition of federal financing. That memo should
have been withdrawn long ago by this administration.
Missing, too, from the new decree are any standards to govern the
Justice Department’s promised
“case-by-case” review of employment practices by religiously
affiliated grantees. It remains unclear how many such reviews have
been conducted since Mr. Obama took office, and whether groups that
engage in religion-based discrimination are in any real jeopardy of
What is needed is a careful constitutional balance. Groups running
worthy social service programs should not be disqualified from receiving
federal financing simply because they have a religious affiliation.
But they should get no special exemption from antidiscrimination laws.
Public money should not be used to underwrite discrimination.
President Obama firmly asserted that principle on the campaign trail
in 2008. He seems to have forgotten.
Relies on Islam to Fight for Animal Rights
By ROBERT F. WORTH
The New York Times: November 21, 2010
— It is never easy to be an animal rights activist in the Arab
world. But on
Id al-Adha, the annual Muslim religious
holiday when the streets run red with the blood of slaughtered sheep,
cows and camels, it is a nightmare.
“Ah, I can’t stand it!” wailed Amina
Abaza, wincing as she drove through a gantlet of hanging carcasses
and entrails, with doomed sheep bleating all around her. “Islam
is all about compassion, but we don’t practice it!”
An ebullient 55-year-old with a big mane of blond hair, Ms. Abaza
has spent a decade campaigning to spare the animals, or at least require
more humane slaughtering methods. She has a long way to go.
The scene in Cairo’s working-class Sayyida Zeinab neighborhood
Tuesday morning was fairly typical: camels bellowed as blood-soaked
butchers wrestled dozens of animals to the ground and slashed their
throats for an admiring crowd.
Neighbors leaned out their windows to watch and cheer, or snap cellphone
pictures. Little boys daubed their hands in the blood and spattered
one another, and teenagers helped remove steaming entrails from the
carcasses. Scores of people pressed forward to buy fresh meat for
the ritual holiday meal, standing in puddles of clotted gore.
bothers Ms. Abaza and other activists is not the principle of Id al-Adha
— the Feast of Sacrifice —
which commemorates the biblical story (right:
Caravaggio, The Sacrifice of Isaac)
in which God allows Abraham to slaughter
a ram instead of his own son (Isaac).
slaughter their own sheep at home in many Arab countries, with no
special training on how to spare the animals pain. It is common to
see men hurling terrified sheep into the backs of trucks, and beating
the animals as they herd them to the killing grounds. In abattoirs,
some workers sodomize the beasts with knives to drive them into the
pens, Ms. Abaza and other activists said.
“If you want to give a good image of Muslims and the Koran,
why do you do this?” Ms. Abaza said, her operatic voice rising
in indignation. “Why are we Muslims the ones known for this
kind of behavior?”
gather to watch bulls be slaughtered in accordance with Eid al-Adha
tradition at a streetside butchery
in the Sayeda Zeinab district of Cairo, Egypt.
Scott Nelson for The New York Times
Rutherford County Chancellor
Bid to Stop Mosque Fails
THE ASSOCIATED PRESS : November 18, 2010
judge refused Wednesday to stop construction of a proposed mosque
in Murfreesboro that was opposed by some local residents who tried
to argue that there was a conspiracy by Muslims to impose extremist
law on the United States. Rutherford County Chancellor Robert
Corlew ruled that he could not find that the “county
acted illegally, arbitrarily or capriciously” in approving the
BARRY W. LYNN
Director of the White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood
Executive Order On ‘Faith-Based’ Initiative Is Disappointing,
Americans United: November 17, 2010
Today’s White House executive order on
“faith-based” funding fails
to correct significant constitutional problems and leaves important
civil rights issues unresolved, says Americans
United for Separation of Church and State.
Americans United applauded President Barack
Obama’s decision to require federal agencies to provide
alternatives for people who do not want to receive social services
at religious charities and also welcomed a process to create greater
transparency in the program by requiring that recipient organizations
be listed on government Web sites.
But AU is disappointed that the order allows public funds to go directly
to houses of worship, allows publicly funded faith-based charities
to display religious signs and scriptures and entirely dodges the
issue of religious hiring bias by faith-based charities that receive
“I’m disappointed,” said the Rev.
Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United. “This
leaves much of George W. Bush’s faith-based initiative in place.
That’s not the change many Americans hoped for when President
Obama took office.
“I am particularly frustrated that President Obama still has
done nothing to ban hiring bias by publicly funded religious charities,”
continued Lynn. “That’s the 800-pound gorilla in the room.
No American should be denied a government-funded job because he or
she holds the ‘wrong’ views about religion.”
Lynn noted that Obama, as a candidate, vowed to repeal this policy.
Today’s order, however, leaves the Bush-era rules in places.
A wide array of religious, civil rights and civil liberties organizations
have appealed to the president to take action on the issue, and polls
show that Americans overwhelmingly oppose faith-based employment bias.
Lynn said he is still hopeful Obama will see the basic unfairness
of publicly funded job discrimination and rescind the Bush policy.
“I don’t believe Barack Obama wants to go down in history
as the president who helped George W. Bush roll back civil rights
and religious liberty,” Lynn said. “At a time when jobs
are scarce, it is especially troubling that qualified applicants can
be rejected from government-funded positions because they don’t
go to the ‘right’ church.
“Taxpayer money should never be used to underwrite religion
or religious bias,” Lynn concluded. ”That’s a fundamental
constitutional principle, and it needs to be observed.” Americans
United has been wary of the faith-based initiative since the concept
was first introduced in the 1990s by then-Sen. John Ashcroft. AU maintains
that a special government program that looks for ways to funnel public
funds to religious entities is inherently problematic under the First
of Coptic-Muslim Affair Leads to
Burning of Christians’ Homes
THE ASSOCIATED PRESS: November 17, 2010
EGYPT - Muslims set fire overnight to at least
10 houses belonging to Coptic Christians
in a southern Egypt village over rumors that a Christian resident
had an affair with a Muslim girl, security officials said Tuesday.
They said security forces sealed off the village of Al Nawahid in
Qena Province, about 290 miles south of Cairo, to prevent the violence
from spreading, and several people were arrested. The village was
calm by nightfall, after religious leaders from both sides persuaded
their followers to end the confrontation. Coptic Christians make up
about 10 percent of Egypt’s population of 80 million. Coptic
Christians and Muslims generally live in peace, though violence occasionally
occurs in the south, mostly over disputes about land or church construction.
Blogger Angers West Bank Muslims
By ISABEL KERSHNER
The NJew York Times: November 15, 2010
QALQILYA, West Bank — It is hard to imagine
that a dingy Internet cafe buzzing with flies in this provincial Palestinian
town could have spawned a blogger who has angered the Muslim cyberworld
by promoting atheism, composing spoofs of Koranic verses, skewering
the lifestyle of the Prophet Muhammad and chatting online using
the sarcastic Web name God Almighty.
But many people in Qalqilya seem convinced
that this Facebook apostate is none other than a secretive young man
who spent seven hours a day in the corner booth of a back-street hole-in-the-wall
here. Until recently the man, Waleed Hasayin,
in his mid-20s, led a relatively anonymous existence as an unemployed
graduate in computer science who helped out a few hours a day at his
father’s one-chair barber shop. Several acquaintances described
him as an “ordinary guy” who prayed at the mosque on Fridays.
But since the end of October Mr. Hasayin has been detained at the
local Palestinian Authority intelligence headquarters, suspected of
being the blasphemous blogger who goes by the name Waleed
al-Husseini. The case has drawn attention to thorny issues
like freedom of expression in the Palestinian Authority, for which
insulting religion is considered illegal, and the cultural collision
between a conservative society and the Internet.
While Mr. Hasayin has won some admiration and support abroad —
a Facebook group has formed in solidarity, along with several online
petitions — others on Facebook are calling
for his execution.
In his hometown, the reaction seems to be one of uniform fury. Many
here say that if he does not repent,
he should spend the rest of his life in jail.
“Everyone is a Muslim here, so everyone
is against what he did,” said Alaa
Jarar, 20, who described himself as not particularly pious.
“People are mad at him and will not respect
the Palestinian Authority if he is released. Maybe he is a Mossad
agent working for Israel.”
Aside from his Facebook pages, which have now been deleted, Mr. Husseini,
the online persona,
also posted essays in Arabic on a blog called Noor al-Aqel (Enlightenment
of Reason) and in English translation on Proud Atheist, identifying
himself as “an atheist from
Jerusalem — Palestine.”
The essays offer some relatively sophisticated arguments in a blunt
and racy style. In one, titled “Why I
left Islam,” Mr. Husseini wrote that Muslims
“believe anyone who leaves Islam is an agent or a spy for a
Western State, namely the Jewish State.”
He added, “They actually don’t get
that people are free to think and believe in whatever suits them.”
He went on to describe the Islamic God as “a
primitive, Bedouin and anthropomorphic God,” and Muhammad as
“a sex maniac” who bent his own rules “to appease
his voracious desire.”
Mr. Hasayin is to be tried, Mr. Arouri said, it would be according
to a 1960 Jordanian law against defaming religion, still valid in
the West Bank.
BATTLE OVER MURFREESBORO MOSQUE
THE ASSOCIATED PRESS: November 12, 2010
Islam is suddenly on
trial in a booming city south of Nashville, where opponents
of a new mosque have spent six days in court trying to link it to
what they claim is a conspiracy to take over America by imposing restrictive
The hearing in Murfreesboro is supposed to be about whether Rutherford
County officials violated Tennessee’s open meetings law when
they approved the mosque’s site plan. Instead, Joe
Brandon Jr., a lawyer for the plaintiffs, has used it as a
forum to question whether the world’s
second-biggest faith even qualifies as a religion. Mr. Brandon
has repeatedly conflated a moderate version of Sharia
law with its most extreme manifestations. At one point, Jim
Cope, a lawyer for the county, objected during the proceedings,
saying, “This is a circus.”
ABRAHAM H. FOXMAN
Beck’s Attacks on George Soros Draw Heat
By BRIAN STELTER
The New York Times: November 12, 2010
The Fox News host Glenn
Beck was criticized Thursday by the Anti-Defamation League,
a leading Jewish advocacy organization, in response to a televised
segment about the financier George Soros
and the Holocaust.
Throughout three programs this week, Mr. Beck has portrayed Mr. Soros,
a billionaire investor and philanthropist, as a “puppet master”
who is “notorious for collapsing economies and regimes all around
the world” and whose “next target” is the United
States. Citing Mr. Soros’s statements about the decline of the
dollar, Mr. Beck said, “Not only does he want to bring America
to her knees, financially, he wants to reap obscene profits off us
Abraham H. Foxman, national director
of the Anti-Defamation League, took issue with Mr. Beck’s depiction
of Mr. Soros as a “Jewish boy helping sending the Jews to the
death camps,” calling it “offensive” and “horrific.”
On Tuesday on his Fox program, watched by about 2.8 million people,
Mr. Beck said that during the Holocaust, the 14-year-old Mr. Soros
“used to go around with this anti-Semite and deliver papers
to the Jews and confiscate their property and then ship them off.”
Mr. Beck continued: “I am certainly not saying that George Soros
enjoyed that, even had a choice. I mean, he’s 14 years old.
He was surviving. So I’m not making a judgment. That’s
between him and God.” He also said that “many people”
would call Mr. Soros “an anti-Semite,” though “I
Fox stood by Mr. Beck. Joel Cheatwood, a senior vice president at
Fox News, said in a statement Thursday afternoon that the “information
regarding Mr. Soros’s experiences growing up were taken directly
from his writings and from interviews given by him to the media, and
no negative opinion was offered as to his actions as a child.”
Still, Mr. Foxman asserted that Mr. Beck’s invoking of the childhood
experience was “unacceptable,” adding, “To hold
a young boy responsible for what was going on around him during the
Holocaust as part of a larger effort to denigrate the man is repugnant.”
Writing on The Daily Beast, the author Michelle Goldberg said Mr.
Beck’s Tuesday and Wednesday programs were a “symphony
of anti-Semitic dog whistles.”
Mr. Beck has stirred controversy in the past for repeatedly invoking
the Holocaust and Nazi Germany. But some Jewish leaders have backed
him up in the past, and on Tuesday, Mr. Beck said he was “probably
more supportive of Israel and the Jews than George Soros is."
Arrested Over Posts Seen as Heresy for Satirizing Koran
THE ASSOCIATED PRESS: November 11, 2010
West Bank -- An atheist blogger whose postings
satirizing the Koran set off an uproar in the Arab world has been
arrested by the Palestinian authorities and faces
a possible life sentence if convicted of heresy, officials
said. The blogger, Walid Husayin, 26,
a barber from Qalqilya, is suspected of posting atheistic rants on
English and Arabic blogs and creating three Facebook groups where
he spoofed the Koran, including by declaring himself God and ordering
his followers to smoke marijuana. Mr. Husayin has been detained but
not charged, a Palestinian security spokesman said.
Freedom from Religion
Groups Promote a Holiday Message: Join Us
By LAURIE GOODSTEIN
The New York Times: November 9, 2010
Just in time for the holiday season, Americans
are about to be hit with a spate of advertisements promoting the joy
and wisdom of atheism.
Four separate and competing national organizations representing various
streams of atheists, humanists and freethinkers will soon be spreading
their gospel through advertisements on billboards, buses and trains,
and in newspapers and magazines.
The latest, announced on Tuesday in Washington, is the first to include
spots on television and cable. This campaign juxtaposes particularly
primitive — even barbaric — passages from the Bible and
the Koran with quotations from nonbelievers and humanists like Albert
Einstein and Katharine Hepburn.
The godless groups say they are mounting this surge because they are
aware that they have a large, untapped army of potential troops. The
percentage of American adults who say they have no religion has doubled
in the last two decades, to 15 percent, according to the American
Religious Identification Survey, conducted by researchers at Trinity
College in Hartford and released in 2008. But the ranks of the various
atheist organizations number only in the tens of thousands.
Relying on the largess of a few wealthy atheists, these groups are
now capable of bankrolling efforts to recruit and organize a population
that mostly has been quiet and closeted.
Laurie Gaylor, co-president of the Freedom
from Religion Foundation in Madison, Wis., one of the groups
running advertisements, said, “We feel the only way to fight
the stigma toward atheists and agnostics is for people to feel like
they know them, and they’re your neighbors and your friends.
It’s the same idea as the out-of-the-closet campaign for gay
groups’ leaders say they are trying to marshal secularists at
a time when the religious right and politicians who say America is
a “Christian nation” are on the march, thanks to the recent
midterm elections when not only deficit hawks won seats in Congress,
but many religious conservatives as well.
Several of the campaigns are pitched not just to nonbelievers, but
also to liberal believers who might be alarmed about breaches in the
wall of separation between church and state. The atheist groups believe
that people who are religious and politically liberal have more in
common with atheists and seculars than they do with religious conservatives.
“We must denounce politicians that contend
U.S. law should be based on the Bible and the Ten Commandments,”
said Todd Stiefel, a retired pharmaceutical
company executive who is underwriting most of the ad campaign that
cites alarming Scripture passages. “It
has not been based on these and should never be. Our founding fathers
created a secular democracy.”
United States Attorney
Says Holocaust Fund Was Defrauded
By MOSI SECRET
The New York Times: November 10, 2010
While fleeing the Nazis in 1941, an 11-year-old
girl dodged airplane bombs as she crossed the Dnieper River in Ukraine,
ultimately finding refuge in Donetsk, where she and her mother lived
in hiding until the liberation of 1944.
A 13-year-old boy escaped from Kiev with his mother and younger sister,
shuttling from basements to barns and sometimes the forest, where they
often stayed for weeks.
These tales were among thousands of similar accounts given in the name
of elderly immigrants who were seeking reparations from the German government
through a fund established to provide help to survivors of Nazi persecution.
But many of the stories were works of fiction or embellishment of facts,
perpetrated by a group that included six employees and custodians of
the fund, which is based in New York, federal prosecutors said on Tuesday.
Eleven other defendants were outsiders who recruited and funneled applicants
to the programs.
Over 16 years, the suspects used fake identification documents, doctored
government records and a knowledge of Holocaust history to defraud the
fund of more than $42 million, according to an indictment unsealed Tuesday
by the United States attorney in Manhattan, Preet
The defendants, the indictment says, would recruit applicants —
many of them from Brighton Beach, Brooklyn — through Russian-language
newspapers, offering help to people applying for compensation from the
Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany. In many cases,
the immigrants’ actual experiences would be manipulated or tailored
to fit the requirements of the fund; once the payments were approved,
the defendants would receive kickbacks from the applicants, according
to the indictment.
LADY OF SALVATION
Grief and Defiance, Baghdad’s Christians
Return to Scene of Attack
By JOHN LELAND
The New York Times: November 8, 2010
BAGHDAD — To get to Mass at Our Lady of
Salvation Church on Sunday, worshipers had to pass
through a blockade of police trucks, past armed sentries on the rooftop,
and through a security checkpoint where they were frisked for weapons
and explosives. Some came in mourning black, many in tears, most in
a spirit of quiet defiance.
“This gives us more strength,” said Sama Wadie, 32, a
teacher, his hand wrapped in a bandage. “We’re not afraid
of death because Jesus died for us. Of course we cry, but they’re
tears of happiness, because we die for God.”
One week ago Our Lady of Salvation, a Syrian Catholic church, was
the scene of the worst attack on Iraqi Christians since the American-led
invasion in 2003. Gunmen in explosive suicide vests jumped the church’s
security wall and took more than 100 worshipers hostage, identifying
themselves as members of the Islamic State of Iraq, a Qaeda-linked
terrorist group. It began a night of bloodshed in which 51 worshipers
and two priests were killed. The terrorist group promised more attacks,
declaring Christians everywhere “legitimate targets.”
an emotional service interrupted twice by applause, the Rev. Muklis
Shisha told the congregation, “The church is a martyr,”
adding: “The cross needs blood, and the blood is happiness because
Jesus is our happiness. I congratulate our country and ourselves for
many Christians here, the attack underscored a bitter irony of the
American-led invasion. It opened the door for warfare on one of the
world’s oldest Christian communities.
don’t think the American people care about this,” said
the Rev. Meyassr al-Qaspotros of the nearby Sacred Church of Jesus,
whose cousin was one of the priests killed at Our Lady of Salvation,
adding, “The Americans are the cause of all this.”
his sermon to his own congregation, he said, he planned to stress
the existential meaning of human suffering and the need for forgiveness,
even in the face of horrific bloodshed. “God allowed man to
torture Jesus, he will allow this as well, because he gave freedom
to all people,” Father Qaspotros said.
Sikh American Legal Defense
and Education Fund
Sikhs Decry Screenings
By KEN MAGUIRE
The New York Times: November 7, 2010
— Three national Sikh advocacy and civil rights organizations
have said federal transportation officials plan to always search turbans
at airport screening stations, even if wearers pass through state-of-the-art
body imaging scanners.
The groups are calling on their constituents to lobby Congress and the
Transportation Security Administration to overturn what they said was
an “unjust policy.”
Officials from the Sikh Coalition, United Sikhs and the Sikh American
Legal Defense and Education Fund went public on Friday about their meeting
several weeks ago with representatives of the Department of Homeland
Security and the T.S.A.
“All of us jointly feel there are definitely some elements of
racial profiling here,” said Jasjit Singh,
associate director of the legal defense fund, a civil rights group in
Washington. “While you’re spending that much time on Sikh
Americans, who have absolutely no incidents of terrorism in the country,
other people are getting through,” Jasjit Singh said.
Sikhs and T.S.A. officials previously worked out a protocol for removing
turbans in private.
“In our faith, it’s the equivalent to being forced to be
naked, effectively,” Mr. Singh said.
School Efforts to End Bullying, Some See Agenda
By ERIK ECKHOLM
The New York Times: November 7, 2010
HELENA, Mont. — Alarmed by evidence that
gay and lesbian students are common victims of schoolyard bullies, many
school districts are bolstering their antiharassment rules with early
lessons in tolerance, explaining that some children have “two
moms” or will grow up to love members of the same sex.
But such efforts to teach acceptance of homosexuality, which have gained
urgency after several well-publicized suicides by gay teenagers, are
provoking new culture wars in some communities.
Many educators and rights advocates say that official prohibitions of
slurs and taunts are most effective when combined with frank discussions,
from kindergarten on, about diverse families and sexuality.
Angry parents and religious critics, while agreeing that schoolyard
harassment should be stopped, charge that liberals and gay rights groups
are using the antibullying banner to pursue a hidden “homosexual
agenda,” implicitly endorsing, for example, same-sex marriage.
Last summer, school officials here in Montana’s capital unveiled
new guidelines for teaching about sexuality and tolerance. They proposed
teaching first graders that “human beings can love people of the
same gender,” and fifth graders that sexual intercourse can involve
“vaginal, oral or anal penetration.”
A local pastor, Rick DeMato, carried his
shock straight to the pulpit. “We do not want the minds of our
children to be polluted with the things of a carnal-minded society,”
Mr. DeMato, 69, told his flock at Liberty Baptist Church.
Palin defends 'favoriting' Ann Coulter's anti-Obama tweet:
It was an accident
BY NINA MANDELL
DAILY NEWS::Saturday, November 6th 2010
being slammed for appearing to list a controversial tweet from Ann
Coulter's as a "favorite" on her Twitter account, Sarah
Palin defended herself Friday by saying she didn't even know
how to tag Twitter posts.
On her account, Palin had appeared to list a Coulter tweet with a photograph
of a sign outside of a church that said "The blood of Jesus against
Obama history made 4 Nov 2008 a Taliban Muslim illegally elected president
Palin, however, said it was simply a case of technology mismanagement.
/ GYPSIES |
Roma Expelled From Church
By STEVEN ERLANGER
The New York Times: November 6, 2010
About 13 Roma were expelled Friday from a church just south of Paris,
the third expulsion of Roma in the past few days. The 13, including
two adolescents, had been in France for a decade and had been moved
from a squat. They took refuge in the church of St.-Nicolas de St.-Maur-des-Fossés
(right) hoping for better lodging, but were removed after
the priest there signed an expulsion order.
Debate Echoes an Old Clash of Faiths
By RACHEL DONADIO with Lucía Magi
The New York Times: November 4, 2010
CÓRDOBA, Spain — The great mosque
of Córdoba was begun by the Muslim caliphs in the eighth century,
its forest of pillars and red-and-white striped arches meant to convey
sense of the infinite. With the Christian reconquest of Spain in the
13th century, it was consecrated as a cathedral.
Today, signs throughout this whitewashed Andalusian city refer to the
monument, a Unesco World Heritage site, as the “mosque-cathedral”
of Córdoba. But that terminology is now in question. Last month,
the bishop of Córdoba began a provocative appeal for the city
to stop referring to the monument as a mosque so as not to “confuse”
For now, the matter is largely semantic because the mayor says the city
will not change its signs. But the debate goes far beyond signs. It
is the latest chapter in the rich history of the most emblematic monument
in Christian-Muslim relations in Europe — and a tussle over the
legacy of “Al Andalus,” when part of Spain, under the Muslim
caliphs, was a place of complex coexistence among Muslims, Christians
The debate takes on greater weight ahead of Pope Benedict XVI’s
planned visit this weekend to Spain, which he has identified as an important
battlefield in his struggle to shore up Christian belief in an increasingly
secular — and implicitly Muslim — Europe.
The polemic in Córdoba began in mid-October, when Bishop
Demetrio Fernández published an opinion article in ABC,
a Spanish center-right daily newspaper. “There’s no problem
saying that the Muslim caliphs built this temple to God,” the
bishop wrote. “But it is completely inappropriate to call it a
mosque today because it has not been one for centuries, and to call
it a mosque confuses visitors.” “In the same way, it would
be inappropriate to call the current mosque of Damascus the Basilica
of St. John or to expect that it could be both a place of Muslim and
Christian worship,” Bishop Fernández added, referring to
the Syrian site where an Umayyad mosque was built in the eighth century
above a fourth-century church said to contain the remains of John the
Mount Olivet Baptist pastor
Harlem Churchgoers, Marathon Is a Nuisance
By TRYMAINE LEE
The New York Times: November 4, 2010
There is dancing along the streets. Gospel, soul
and salsa music blare from speakers and bandstands. Spectators jockey
for position on sidewalks and side streets, while thousands of runners
pass in dribbles and waves. Crowds cheer.
The Rev. Charles A. Curtis of Mount Olivet
Baptist, at Lenox Avenue and 120th Street, says, “It hurts us
in many ways.”
At Mile 21, the New York City Marathon cuts through Harlem, and runners
enter the home stretch, down Fifth Avenue from 138th Street. Here many
runners “hit the wall” and drop out, or begin a slower hobble
toward the finish line in Central Park.
And here, with Harlem essentially divided east and west at Fifth Avenue,
life is seriously disrupted, especially during the midday churchgoing
Attendance at many churches is cut in half on race days, ministers and
congregants said. Preachers and their choirs have to compete with the
whir of helicopters, the screaming of crowds and loud music. The elderly
and the infirm have trouble negotiating crowded sidewalks, and even
ministers have to head down to 96th Street to get to their churches
across town. Finding parking nearby is virtually impossible. And with
the congregations so slimmed down, tithes and church offerings are minimal,
“What is so bothersome is that this event is always held on our
day of worship,” said the Rev. Charles A. Curtis, of Mount Olivet
Baptist Church at Lenox Avenue and 120th Street, a grand sanctuary a
block west of the marathon route.
Adding to the inconvenience, many other street events during the year
are held on Sunday, he said. “If it’s not the marathon it’s
a walkathon, if not a walkathon then it’s a bikeathon,”
he said. “And they are always held on our holy day.”
CHURCH and STATE
Crack in the Wall
The New York Times: November 5, 2010
the Supreme Court took up a case about a school choice program in
Arizona this week, Justice Elena Kagan said she had been “puzzling
and puzzling” over it. Why, she asked the state’s lawyer,
instead of providing families with vouchers, is Arizona’s program
“so much more complicated and complex and unusual”?
The short answer is that the state’s Constitution prohibits
direct aid to private schools. A more important one is that the convolutions
hide a problem we’re not supposed to see. The program appears
to be unconstitutional. As the United States Court of Appeals for
the Ninth Circuit ruled, it appears to violate the First Amendment’s
by disbursing state funds on the basis of religion.
Last year in Arizona, $52.1 million in scholarships helped support
more than 27,500 students at private and parochial schools. The money
came from letting people who owe state income taxes take a credit,
up to $500. They can contribute the amount to 50 or so nonprofit tuition
organizations that give money to parents who want to send their children
to schools they serve.
Arizona boasts that it gives taxpayers an incentive to take part in
the program, and why not? It’s a use-it-or-lose-it, free-money
scheme. They can give up to $500 to a school tuition organization
or add exactly that amount to their tax payment. What the state calls
voluntary cash contributions are really redirected tax payments. They
have to be made when a taxpayer files a state tax return.
In the first year of the program in 1998, 85 percent of the scholarship
money went to students attending religious schools. By last year,
when the program had grown much bigger, an estimated 70 percent went
for that sectarian purpose.
The choice offered parents and children through the program sounds
great but is often restricted. Most scholarships are awarded by school
tuition organizations that choose students on the basis of religion,
to go to religious schools. Handing out the funds on the basis of
religion is unconstitutional. It is a government spending program
directed by tens of thousands of taxpayers.
When Paul Bender, the lawyer for the program’s challengers and
a former dean at Arizona State University’s law school, presented
his argument, Justice Anthony Kennedy said dryly, “I have some
difficulty that any money that the government doesn’t take from
me is still the government’s money.” Justice Antonin Scalia
made the point with exasperation. Justice Samuel Alito did so impatiently,
as if Mr. Bender didn’t fully grasp the issue.
At 77, Mr. Bender has been around the court for more than 50 years,
since the days he was a law clerk to Justice Felix Frankfurter. He
is among the country’s experts on the tax-credit issue at the
heart of the case.
If the court resolves the case on the merits, a split along ideological
lines will not be surprising. But Mr. Bender ably exposed the Arizona
program as a crack in the wall between church and state. The court
should mend it by calling for the program to stop discriminating on
the basis of religion.
Revisit Tax Credits for Religious Schools
By ADAM LIPTAK
The New York Times: November 3, 2010
— The Supreme Court on Wednesday returned to a subject that produced
a major and closely divided decision eight years ago: how far may the
government go in aiding religious schools?
In 2002, in a 5-to-4 ruling, the court upheld a school voucher system
in Cleveland that parents used almost exclusively to pay for religious
Four new justices have joined the court since then, but there was nothing
in Wednesday’s arguments to suggest that the issue has become
any less polarizing.
The program at issue on Wednesday gives Arizona taxpayers a dollar-for-dollar
state tax credit of up to $500 for donations to private “student
tuition organizations.” The contributors may not designate their
dependents as beneficiaries. The organizations are permitted to limit
the scholarships they offer to schools of a given religion, and many
The program was challenged by Arizona taxpayers who said it effectively
used state money to finance religious education and so violated the
First Amendment’s prohibition on the official establishment of
Honorary Oscar Revives a Controversy
By MICHAEL CIEPLY
The New York Times: November 2, 2010
LOS ANGELES — Late last week, the Academy
of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences was still coming to terms with
that most deeply confounding of European filmmakers, Jean-Luc Godard.
No one had yet signed on to present an honorary Oscar to Mr. Godard,
who has said he will not be on hand anyway at the academy’s
awards banquet in Hollywood a week from Saturday. But there was also
the touchy question of how to deal with newly highlighted claims that
Mr. Godard, a master of modern film, has long harbored anti-Jewish
views that threaten to widen his distance from Hollywood, even as
the film industry’s leading institution is trying to close the
Over the last month, articles in the Jewish press — including
a cover story titled “Is Jean-Luc Godard an Anti-Semite?”
in The Jewish Journal — have revived a simmering debate over
whether Mr. Godard, an avowed anti-Zionist and advocate for Palestinian
rights, is also anti-Jewish.
Runs Photos of Gay Ugandans
THE ASSOCIATED PRESS: November 1, 2010
KAMPALA, Uganda (AP) — A newspaper in
Kampala on Monday published photographs, along with the names and
home addresses, of gay Ugandans. This was the second time the newspaper
so, prompting a human rights group to seek a legal injunction against
The newspaper’s managing editor, Giles Muhame, said he planned
to continue publishing photographs of gay men so that he could “help
them live responsible lives.” Earlier this month the newspaper,
called Rolling Stone, published a front-page story featuring a list
of what the newspaper said were Uganda’s 100 “top”
homosexuals. Rights activists said the article prompted attacks against
at least four gay Ugandans.
An organization called Sexual Minorities Uganda has asked the country’s
highest court to issue an injunction against publishing the faces
of homosexuals in future editions.
Halifax Chronicle-Herald: October 31, 2010
Call for Sanity
and KHALID |
Boy, 5, Engaged to Girlfriend, 3
CBS News: October 25, 2010
Two Syrian children may be the youngest couple ever to get engaged.
The families of both children are not only taking the betrothal seriously,
they insist the school children are in love and are already planning
a wedding for 10 years down the road -- when Khalid will be 15 and
The parents arranged the engagement ceremony in their home town of
Homs, about 100 miles north of Damascus. They invited family friends
and even bought rings which the prepubescent couple exchanged in adult
According to Syria's English-language Forward Magazine, Syrian marriages
are traditionally arranged at an early age for both males and females.
When a boy reaches puberty, his female relatives begin searching for
a suitable wife, who generally will be a few years younger than him.
ROBERT A. SCHULLER
Over Succession Clouds Megachurch
By LAURIE GOODSTEIN
The New York Times: October 24, 2010
GROVE, Calif. — The 10,664 windows did not get washed this year
at the Crystal Cathedral, the iconic glass church founded by the Rev.
Robert H. Schuller, one of the original religious broadcasters.
Volunteers are tending the church’s 40 landscaped acres, now
that the gardeners have been laid off. And its renowned Christmas
pageant — with live camels and horses, and angels flying overhead
on cables — has been canceled for now.
The empire that Mr. Schuller built may be in jeopardy, tarnished by
an unseemly family feud and a $43 million debt that even by megachurch
standards is serious.
When the Crystal Cathedral, which many church historians call the
nation’s first modern megachurch, filed for bankruptcy protection
last week, Sheila Schuller Coleman, the
senior pastor and Mr. Schuller’s eldest daughter, blamed the
But the church was in trouble long before the economic downturn, according
to church insiders and family members interviewed last week. It was
already suffering from the botched succession of Mr. Schuller, one
too many vanity building projects and changes in the religious broadcasting
Mr. Schuller announced in 2006 that he was turning over the pulpit
to his only son, the Rev. Robert A. Schuller,
the church was already carrying a huge debt from its last lavish building
project. But in a little more than two years, the son was pushed out
before he ever really took the reins, and some of his sisters and
their husbands stepped in.
family feud left the church without clear leadership, just when its
programs badly needed a makeover to attract a new generation of followers.
FROM RELIGION |
By JOHN SCHWARTZ
The New York Times: October 24, 2010
On Tuesday, during a debate, Ms. O’Donnell
asked her opponent, Chris Coons, “Where in the Constitution
is the separation of church and state?” The question drew gasps
and laughter from
the law school audience.
When Mr. Coons pointed out that the first words of the First Amendment,
“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion,”
are the foundation of the concept, she replied, “You’re
telling me that’s in the First Amendment?”
She was, she later said, attempting to point out that the actual words
“separation of church and state” do not appear in the
text of the Constitution. This is true in the strictest sense, and
has become a popular argument among religious conservatives who believe
that courts have gone too far.
Still, the moment has been held up as a flub of the first order.
Yet in her comments, Ms. O’Donnell may have been, to an extent,
fulfilling a catchphrase from one of her campaign ads: “I’m
you.” Because Americans really don’t know a lot about
the founding documents of our republic. Later in the debate, Mr. Coons
himself could not recite the five main freedoms protected by the First
How much do we need to know? Clearly, many of us are lacking even
the basics. The First Amendment Center at Vanderbilt University has
looked at Americans’ familiarity with its eponymous portion
of the Bill of Rights, and the results would make Thomas Jefferson
weep. While 61 percent of those surveyed this year knew that the First
Amendment protects freedom of speech, just 23 percent volunteered
that it also supports freedom of religion
blamed as girls faint in Cambodia
AFP: October 24, 2010
Teachers of 10 teenage girls who collapsed one
after another at their rural Cambodian school blamed the mysterious
ailment on angry spirits on Saturday.
The girls, aged between 14 and 18, were treated in hospital after
fainting but doctors could
not ascertain why the youngsters were struck down, said Ruos Lim Chhee,
head of the high school in Pnov, northern Cambodia. He said that all
of the girls were found to be healthy, with no signs of food poisoning,
although two were a little low on glucose.
"We are afraid we are under a spell because we didn't offer any
traditional dancing and music to the spirits on the opening day this
year," he said. "But we have just offered fruits, boiled
chickens and wine to the spirits today, and we hope the students will
get better and the spirits will take care of us."
Mil Khim, a teacher who witnessed the string of incidents on Thursday,
said one of his students
started to complain of chest pains early in the morning and then suffered
convulsions before falling unconscious. "The strange phenomenon
lasted only a few hours, as eight seventh graders and two from eighth
and ninth grade fainted subsequently," he said.
Cambodians in rural areas often believe supernatural forces are behind
"We think that perhaps the spirits are angry because the doctors,
teachers and even police found no trace of poison or physical weakness,"
said district governor, Pech Sophea.
Prayer Dispute In NJ Town Could Continue
October 23, 2010
TOMS RIVER, N.J. (AP) — A dispute in a
southern New Jersey town over the saying of the Lord’s Prayer
at public meetings could take on a new life.
Point Pleasant Beach Borough’s council has already agreed to
discontinue saying the prayer at the start of meetings, a practice
that dates back to the mid-1990s. The action came after the American
Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit last month after a borough resident
objected to the reading, saying it was an unconstitutional endorsement
Earlier this month, the council agreed to hold a moment of silence
to replace the prayer at the start of meetings. But a group of parishioners
from a local church recited the prayer during that time.
Last week, the council approved a resolution that allows council members,
on a rotating basis, to begin meetings with a nonsectarian prayer.
An attorney representing the ACLU told the Asbury Park Press of Neptune
that the resolution could lead to another lawsuit.
The two sides attended a hearing in state Superior Court on Friday.
Borough attorney Kevin Riordan told state Superior Court Judge Vincent
Grasso that, although he could advise council members not to say the
Lord’s Prayer when their turn arose, he could not stop them.
Say Beer’s O.K.,
but Lose the Fire and Stake
By MARK OPPENHEIMER
October 23, 2010
She was not looking for controversy. Vicki Noble was just looking
for a fine ale.
Ms. Noble, who is famous in the pagan and Wiccan communities for her
astrology readings, shamanic healing and writings about goddess spirituality,
says she discovered Witch’s Wit last week on one of her regular
excursions to 41st Avenue Liquors, in Capitola, Calif.
“I like beer,” Ms. Noble said, and as a practitioner of
religious traditions that revere the earth and women’s special
powers, she also feels a special connection to brewing. “It
was the women who brewed beer from ancient times right up to the Reformation,”
she says. She thinks some were burned as witches to destroy “the
ancient traditions of shamanistic medicine, which in every indigenous
culture includes the brewing of medicinal fermented beverages.”
But one does not have to agree with Ms. Noble’s interpretation
of history to share her offense at a picture on the label of Witch’s
Wit, a limited-edition pale ale — “wit” means “white”
in Dutch — produced by Lost Abbey, a division of the Port Brewing
Company of San Marcos, Calif.
It was a painting of a witch being burned at the stake.
Ms. Noble went home and wrote to her e-mail list. “Can we stop
this brewer from their hate imagery?” read the subject line,
in all capitals. “Can you imagine them showing a black person
being lynched or a Jewish person going to the oven?” she wrote.
“Such images are simply not tolerated in our society anymore
(thank the Goddess) and this one should not be, either.
“We have been accused of inspiring violence against women, and
we have been compared to the violence in Darfur,” said Sage
Osterfeld, a spokesman for Port Brewing. “It has run the gamut
from people saying politely, ‘This is offensive to pagans,’
to people saying we are responsible for all that is wrong in the world.”
And far from being an attack on women, Mr. Osterfeld said, Witch’s
Wit is in a line of Catholic-themed beers, like Inferno Ale and Judgment
Day, conceived in the spirit of gentle satire by Tomme Arthur, another
of the brewery’s owners. Mr. Arthur says he is “a recovering
Fires Analyst Over Comments on Muslims
By BRIAN STELTER
The New York Times: October 21, 2010
NPR has terminated its contract with Juan Williams,
one of its senior news analysts, after he made comments about Muslims
on the Fox News Channel.
NPR said in a statement that it gave Mr. Williams notice of his termination
on Wednesday night.
The move came after Mr. Williams, who is also a Fox News political analyst,
appeared on the “The O’Reilly Factor” on Monday. On
the show, the host, Bill O’Reilly, asked him to respond to the
notion that the United States was facing a “Muslim dilemma.”
Mr. O’Reilly said, “The cold truth is that in the world
today jihad, aided and abetted by some Muslim nations, is the biggest
threat on the planet.”
Mr. Williams said he concurred with Mr. O’Reilly.
He continued: “I mean, look, Bill, I’m not a bigot. You
know the kind of books I’ve written about the civil rights movement
in this country. But when I get on the plane, I got to tell you, if
I see people who are in Muslim garb and I think, you know, they are
identifying themselves first and foremost as Muslims, I get worried.
I get nervous.”
Question of Appearances:
Obama Will Bypass Sikh Temple on Visit to India
By LYDIA POLGREEN
The New York Times: October 20, 2010
NEW DELHI — The Golden Temple, a sprawling
and serene complex of gleaming gold and polished
marble that is the spiritual center of the Sikh religion, is one of
India’s most popular tourist attractions. Revered by Indians
of all faiths, it is a cherished emblem of India’s religious
diversity. So it was no surprise when the gold-plated marvel was promoted
as the likely third stop on President Obama’s visit to India,
scheduled for early November.
The United States has ruled out a Golden Temple visit, according to
an American official involved in planning. Temple officials said that
American advance teams had gone to Amritsar, the holy city that is
the site of the temple, to discuss a possible visit. But the plan
appears to have foundered on the thorny question of how Mr. Obama
would cover his
head, as Sikh tradition requires, while visiting the temple.
“To come to golden temple he needs to cover his head,”
said Dalmegh Singh, secretary of the committee that runs the temple.
“That is our tradition.”
Mr. Obama, a Christian, has struggled to fend off persistent rumors
that he is a Muslim, and Sikhs in the United States have often been
mistaken for Muslims.
caps are not considered appropriate.
Sikh scriptures require that men tie a piece of cloth on their heads,
not simply put on a hat that can be easily taken off, because the
act of tying has spiritual significance. Most non-Sikh visitors tie
on kerchiefs sold by vendors outside the temple.
Crystal Cathedral Files for Bankruptcy
By REBECCA CATHCART
The New York Times: October 19, 2010
Crystal Cathedral, the landmark megachurch in Orange County, Calif.,
where the “Hour of Power” is taped, filed for bankruptcy
protection, church officials announced Monday.
“Budgets could not be cut fast enough to keep up with the unprecedented
rapid decline in revenue due to the recession,” Sheila Schuller
Coleman, the church’s senior pastor, said in a statement. In a
news conference on Monday, church officials said ministry outreach and
programs, including the weekly broadcast, would continue. But the church,
which is $55 million in debt, has reduced the number of stations that
it pays to broadcast the program.
in Nigeria Are Linked to Islamic Sect
By ADAM NOSSITER
The New York Times: October 18, 2010
MAIDUGURI, Nigeria — A rash of mysterious
killings by gun-wielding motorcycle assassins of policemen, politicians
and others in this city near the desert has led authorities to declare
that a radical Islamic sect thought to have been crushed by Nigerian
troops last year has been revived.
Soldiers have been deployed here again, a curfew has been imposed and
many residents worry about bold daylight attacks that officials call
a renewal of the anti-Western sect’s strikes on police stations
and soldiers that took place last year.
Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness
Stay the ‘Don’t Ask’ Ruling
The New York Times: October 17, 2010
President Obama and the Pentagon’s top leaders have all said
they want the law repealed, the Justice Department on Thursday asked
Judge Phillips to stay her injunction while it files an appeal.
As justification, the administration made overheated claims that a
precipitous change in wartime would have adverse effects on morale,
good order, discipline and unit cohesion. Those are the same specious
arguments used to justify the benighted policy in the first place.
The administration wants to leave it in place while it finishes a
study on how to carry out a repeal.
Clifford Stanley, the under secretary of defense for personnel and
readiness, said in a court filing that ending the antigay policy would
require training, and reworking regulations on issues like housing,
benefits and standards of conduct. He said the Army had to consider
the “rights and obligations of the chaplain corps.”
Debate How Pushy to Be
By MARK OPPENHEIMER
The New York Times: October 15, 2010
LOS ANGELES — Energized by a recent Pew
Research Center poll showing that atheists are more educated about
religion than religious people, 370 atheists, humanists and other
skeptics packed a ballroom at the Millennium Biltmore Hotel last weekend
to debate the future of their movement.
They agreed on two things: People can be good without religion, and
religion has too much influence. But they disagreed about how stridently
to make those claims.
The conference, sponsored by the Council for Secular Humanism, drew
members from all the major doubters’ organizations, including
American Atheists and the American Humanist Association. The largely
white and male crowd...came to hear panels that included several best-selling
atheist pamphleteers, like Richard Dawkins, author of “The God
Delusion,” and Sam Harris, who wrote “The End of Faith”
and is a rock star in the atheist world (he traveled with bodyguards
because he receives death threats from both Christians and Muslims).
The conference came on the heels of a change in leadership at the
council and a rumored rift there, which some described as a standoff
between atheists, who focus on God’s nonexistence, and humanists,
who are also nonbelievers but seek an alternative ethical system,
one that does not depend on any deity.
Some of the weekend’s speakers alluded to the turmoil at the
council, where several longtime employees have resigned or been laid
off. But in general they emphasized unity: They shared common enemies,
like religious fundamentalism and “Intelligent Design.”
And they believed morality was possible without God.
The disagreement was not, then, between atheism and humanism. It was
about making the atheist/humanist case in America. A central question
was, “How publicly scornful of religion should we be?"
trying to find common ground with religious people were called “accommodationists,”
while the more outspoken atheists were called “confrontationalists”
and accused of alienating potential allies, like moderate Christians.
PZ Myers [a biologist and blogger — a confrontationalist, to
put it mildly. In 2008, to make a stand for freedom of speech, he
publicly desecrated a Communion wafer, a Koran and (for good measure)
a copy of Mr. Dawkins’s book “The God Delusion.”
He likes to say that he tries to commit blasphemy every day.] is way
out of the closet as an atheist — proudly, outrageously so.
"We’re here, he’s saying. And we don’t believe.
And we have science and reason on our side. Get used to it."
a Vision, Anointing Himself a Saint, if Not Exactly Assuming the Lifestyle
By COREY KILGANNON
The New York Times: October 14, 2010
It was easy to miss, a small advertisement in
The New York Times on Aug. 30 in the lower right-hand corner of Page
B7: “Anthony Carpentier now entering 49 years of ‘sainthood.’
The item included a West 108th Street address, and it seemed worth a
trip to see what sainthood looked like in New York City today. A superintendent
at the building led the way up to a third-floor apartment; the occupant
answered the door in his underwear.
“There’s your saint,” the superintendent said.
Anthony Carpentier, the self-anointed saint, wrapped a towel around
himself and sat at a kitchen table crowded with bills and prescription
bottles. He lighted a Newport and explained his claim to sainthood.
“I had a miraculous vision, simple as that,” Mr. Carpentier,
This vision occurred 49 years ago in the emergency room of the Hospital
of Saint Raphael in New Haven, where Mr. Carpentier grew up and where
he still has relatives. He was in the hospital for a minor stomach ailment,
he said, and saw the face of Jesus on the ceiling, framed by colorful
rays of light.
“I knew it was Jesus because it was just like in all the paintings,”
Mr. Carpentier said. “He pulled me up from the hospital bed by
my eyes, almost pulled them out of the sockets.”
“It only lasted about three minutes, but it was great,”
he added. “When you have a vision like that, you’re qualified
to be a saint.”
YEHUDA LEVIN |
Breaks With Paladino Over Apology
By ELIZABETH A. HARRIS
The New York Times: October 14, 2010
Well, that didn’t last long.
MultimediaThe alliance between the Republican Carl P. Paladino and an
Orthodox rabbi from Brooklyn has fallen apart, with the rabbi denouncing
Mr. Paladino on Wednesday for his apology over remarks he had made about
homosexuality on Sunday.
The rabbi, Yehuda Levin, who helped write those remarks, said Mr. Paladino
“folded like a cheap camera” because of the uproar they
had set off. And the rabbi said he could no longer support Mr. Paladino’s
candidacy for governor of New York.
“Which part of the speech that you gave in Brooklyn to the Orthodox
Jewish community are you apologizing for?” Rabbi Levin asked at
a news conference in front of St. Patrick’s Cathedral, on Fifth
Avenue. “Will we see you next year with your daughter at that
gay pride march?”
Dov Hikind snaps, lunges at inflammatory protestors from Westboro Baptist
BY MIKE MCLAUGHLIN
NEW YORK DAILY NEWS: Tuesday, October 12th 2010
A small protest outside a Brooklyn synagogue turned
heated Monday when an enraged assemblyman burst through a police barrier
and screeched "You're a whore!" at a demonstrator.
Assemblyman Dov Hikind lunged at members of the Westboro Baptist Church,
a fringe group known
for inflammatory anti-gay and anti-Semitic rhetoric.
He ran from a counter-protest section outside Chabad Lubavitch of Kensington
and charged at the small pen holding the five Westboro members demonstrating
outside the synagogue.
Hikind screamed "You're a whore!" at Westboro member Shirley
Phelps and warned her, "Just be careful the rest of your day in
Police pulled him away but did not arrest him.
Westboro also brought its message to a Midwood yeshiva, and later, a
gay and lesbian support group in lower Manhattan.
Hikind said he was incited by a vulgar sign waved by Phelps that said
"Thank God for dead soldiers," a reference to the group's
belief that soldiers die as punishment for America's tolerance of gay
people."It was an emotional moment," Hikind said. "I
just wanted to take that sign from her. They're a despicable group."
Phelps said Hikind "needs to get over himself." She said she
wouldn't press charges.
for being a Muslim
SI kid's school horror
By IKIMULISA LIVINGSTON and LEONARD GREENE
The New York Post: October 12, 2010
They called him a "terrorist," relentlessly taunted him and
beat him so hard that he bled -- all because he was a Muslim.
But this nightmare didn't unfold in some seamy torture chamber in a
far-off place -- it happened in the hallways of a Staten Island middle
During the 2009-10 school year at Markham Intermediate, Kristian suffered
nine months of abuse from callous classmates who ripped him for his
As much as the taunting and teasing in the cafeteria and classroom hurt
him, nothing was as painful as being kicked to the head and punched
in the groin so hard he was left reeling.
A day after police arrested the four teenagers -- three are 14 and one
is 15 -- who allegedly mocked his faith and rearranged his face, Kristian,
16, recounted the chilling campaign of psychological and physical torture
unleashed by his tormentors.
"They punched me. They spit in my face. They tripped me on the
floor. They kicked me with their feet and punched me," he said,
asking that his last name not be used. "And as they were kicking
and laughing, they kept saying, 'You fucking terrorist, fucking Muslim,
you fucking terrorist.' "
Once, after a blow to his groin, he saw blood in his urine.
The suspects were arrested Sunday and charged as juveniles with assault
and aggravated harassment as a hate crime, according to police.
Image of Christ Sets Off a Debate Punctuated With a Crowbar
By DAN FROSCH
The New York Times: October 11, 2010
LOVELAND, Colo. — For once, the quaint
museum on Lincoln Avenue was all quiet. A sign inside
was the only indication of the recent trouble.m “This piece
was destroyed by an act of violence and is no longer on exhibit,”
the sign read.
For weeks now, this bucolic northern Colorado city of just over 60,000,
which has a vibrant arts community, has been bitterly divided over
the controversial artwork that once sat in the empty display of the
Loveland Museum Gallery where the sign now rests.
Some here interpreted the small image, which was part of a lithographic
print exhibition by
the San Francisco artist Enrique Chagoya, as showing Jesus Christ
engaged in a sex act with another man, and demanded its removal. Others
argued that Mr. Chagoya, an art professor at Stanford, had the right
to create what he pleased.
Last Wednesday, amid heated public debate over the exhibit and daily
protests in front of the museum, a 56-year-old Montana truck driver
named Kathleen Folden (left) walked into the gallery. Wearing a T-shirt
that read “My Savior Is Tougher Than Nails,” Ms. Folden
strode up to the exhibit, took out a crowbar and proceeded to smash
the plexiglass casing. To the horror of visitors, she then ripped
up the print, just as police officers arrived.
“People were asking her, ‘Why’d you do this?’
” recalled Mark Michaels, a Colorado art dealer, who witnessed
the event and grabbed Ms. Folden. “She said, ‘Because
it desecrates my Lord.’
week, a local deacon began to help organize protests outside the museum,
and last Tuesday people packed a City Council meeting to speak out
on the exhibit. Mr. Klassen estimated that most in attendance were
opposed to the image.
The Rev. Ed Armijo, a deacon at St. John the Evangelist Catholic Church
in Loveland, said: “It is deeply offensive to see our Lord depicted
that way. It is our position that this is not art. It’s pornography.”
for New York State
Attacks Gays in Brooklyn Speech
By ELIZABETH A. HARRIS
The New York Times: October 10, 2010
The Republican candidate for governor, Carl
P. Paladino, told a gathering in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, on Sunday
that children should not be “brainwashed” into thinking
that homosexuality was acceptable, and criticized his opponent, Attorney
General Andrew M. Cuomo, for marching in a gay pride parade earlier
Addressing Orthodox Jewish leaders, Mr. Paladino described his opposition
to same-sex marriage.
not how God created us,” he said, reading from a prepared address.
“I just think my children and your children would be much better
off and much more successful getting married and raising a family,
and I don’t want them brainwashed into thinking that homosexuality
is an equally valid and successful option — it isn’t.”
Newsday.com reported that Mr. Paladino’s prepared text had included
the sentence: “There is nothing to be proud of in being a dysfunctional
homosexual.” But Mr. Paladino omitted the sentence in his speech.
Paladino is simply expressing the views that he holds in his heart
as a Catholic,” his campaign manager, Michael R. Caputo, said
in a telephone interview.
Paladino is not homophobic, and neither is the Catholic Church.”
Your Savvy on Religion
By NICHOLAS D. KRISTOF
The New York Times: October 9, 2010
The New York Times reported recently on a Pew
Research Center poll in which religious people turned out to be remarkably
uninformed about religion. Almost half of Catholics didn’t understand
Communion. Most Protestants didn’t know that Martin Luther started
the Reformation. Almost half of Jews didn’t realize Maimonides
was Jewish. And atheists were among the best informed about religion.
So let me give everybody another chance. And given the uproar about
Islam, I’ll focus on extremism and fundamentalism — and,
as you’ll see, there’s a larger point to this quiz.
Note that some questions have more than one
correct choice; answers are at the end.
1. Which holy book stipulates that a girl who does not bleed on her
wedding night should be stoned to death?
b. Old Testament
c. (Hindu) Upanishads
government recognizeS Druidry as an official religion
By TIM PERONE
POST WIRES: October 3, 2010
government bureaucrats have recognized Druidry as an official religion
because its practice of worshipping natural spirits can be considered
an act of faith.
It's the first pagan belief to be given such status in Britain.
Druids are growing in numbers because of increasing concern over environmental
issues, the BBC said.
of India Verdict Will Lie in Public Reaction
By JIM YARDLEY
The New York Times: September 29, 2010
NEW DELHI — The case has existed almost
as long as independent India itself. Dating from 1950, the legal battle
between Hindus and Muslims over a religious site in the city of Ayodhya
began as a little-noticed title dispute. With a ruling finally expected
on Thursday, the case has become something altogether different: a
test of India’s secular soul.
The test is not so much in the verdict, which will deal with a handful
of issues, including the central question of which side controls the
site of a 16th-century mosque known as the Babri Masjid. Rather, the
test will come in the public reaction. In 1992, an enraged mob of
Hindu extremists destroyed the mosque, asserting that the site was
the birthplace of the Hindu deity, Ram. Riots erupted, claiming about
2,000 lives, mostly Muslims, and horrifying a nation founded on the
ideal of religious tolerance.
Babri Masjid mosque destroyed in 1992 by a mob of 75,000 hindu extremists
Religion Test Stumps Many Americans
By LAURIE GOODSTEIN
The New York Times: September 28, 2010
Americans are by all measures a deeply religious
people, but they are also deeply ignorant about religion.
Researchers from the independent Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life
phoned more than 3,400 Americans and asked them 32 questions about the
Bible, Christianity and other world religions, famous religious figures
and the constitutional principles governing religion in public life.
On average, people who took the survey answered half the questions incorrectly,
and many flubbed even questions about their own faith.
Those who scored the highest were atheists and
agnostics, as well as two religious minorities: Jews and Mormons.
The results were the same even after the researchers controlled for
factors like age and racial differences.
“Even after all these other factors, including education, are
taken into account, atheists and agnostics, Jews and Mormons still outperform
all the other religious groups in our survey,” said Greg Smith,
a senior researcher at Pew.
That finding might surprise some, but not Dave
Silverman, president of American Atheists, an advocacy group
for nonbelievers that was founded by Madalyn Murray O’Hair.
“I have heard many times that atheists know
more about religion than religious people,” Mr. Silverman said.
“Atheism is an effect of that knowledge, not a lack of knowledge.
I gave a Bible to my daughter. That’s how you make atheists.”
GERALD COPE, JR.
The New York Times: September 27, 2010
A state appeals court in Florida toppled a monument
to bigotry last week, declaring unconstitutional a 33-year-old state
law that prohibited gay people from adopting children. The animus
behind the ban is unmistakable. Its sponsor in the Florida State Senate,
Curtis Peterson, declared in 1977 that
its purpose was to send a message to the gay community that “we’re
really tired of you” and “we wish you’d go back
into the closet.”
The unanimous decision by three judges on Florida’s Third District
Court of Appeal — Republican appointees — found “no
rational basis” to the state’s approach of banning adoption
by gay men and lesbians while allowing them to be foster parents.
The court said it
violated the State Constitution’s equal protection clause.
The case was brought by Martin Gill,
a gay man seeking to adopt two brothers he took in as foster children
more than five years ago. When they arrived, at ages 4 years and 4
months, they were in bad shape. Both had ringworm; the younger brother
also had a raging ear infection while the older one did not speak
for a month. Today both boys are thriving.
Mr. Gill’s side provided extensive evidence at trial to show
there is no difference in the well-being of children raised by loving
gay parents versus loving heterosexual parents. Reviewing that evidence,
as well as Mr. Gill’s efforts, the appeals court agreed, and
praised Mr. Gill for being “an exceptional parent.”
The state had nothing credible to offer to justify the adoption ban.
It presented only two expert witnesses, noted Judge
Gerald Cope Jr., who wrote the main opinion. One witness undercut
the state’s case by saying adoption decisions should be made
on a case-by-case basis. Opposing experts quickly discredited the
state’s second witness, Dr. George Rekers,
a Baptist minister and clinical psychologist
caught up in a sex scandal*) whose pseudo-scientific
research was laughable.
The court’s decision is a victory for Mr. Gill and his family
and for many hundreds of foster children in Florida in need of a good
home. In recent months, there have also been several major federal
court rulings voiding other discriminatory laws against gay people
on equality grounds. That is heartening progress.
Christian right leader
George Rekers takes vacation with "rent boy"
Miami New Times: May 6, 2010
For The New York Times coverage of Dr. George Rekers'
"rent-boy" story, click on photo at left, bottom.
EDDIE L. LONG
Pastor Pledges to Fight Accusations
By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS: September 26, 2010
LITHONIA, Ga. (AP) — The famed pastor of
a Georgia megachurch said Sunday that he will fight
allegations that he lured young men into sexual relationships, stressing
that he'd be back to lead the church the next week.
Addressing a New Birth Missionary Baptist Church sanctuary packed with
thousands, Bishop Eddie Long neither discussed specifics of the lawsuits
filed against him nor flatly denied the accusations. But he drew thunderous
applause when he addressed his flock publicly for the first time since
the first lawsuits were filed several days ago.
"There have been allegations and attacks made on me. I have never
in my life portrayed myself as a perfect man. But I am not the man that's
being portrayed on the television. That's not me. That is not me,"
he said as applause interrupted him during the first of two services
Four young men have filed lawsuits in the past week — three who
live in Georgia and one from Charlotte, N.C., who attended one of Long's
satellite churches there. Two claim they were members of the church's
LongFellows Youth Academy, a program that taught teens about sexual
and financial discipline, when Long gave them gifts and took them on
trips to seduce them.
Long — who has been an outspoken opponent of gay marriage and
whose church has counseled gay members to become straight — has
been named as a defendant in the lawsuits, which claim the pastor abused
his "spiritual authority." But federal and state authorities
have said they will not investigate the allegations because all four
men said they were 17 or 18 years old when the relationships with Long
began — older than Georgia's age of consent, which is 16.
"We are all subject to face distasteful and painful situations.
Bishop Long, Eddie Long — you can put your name in that blank
— will have some bad situations," he said. "The righteous
face painful situations with a determined expectancy. We are not exempt
from pain, but He promises to deliver us out of our pain."
Long's final remarks during the service invoked the biblical story of
the small David doing battle with the gargantuan Goliath. "I've
been accused; I'm under attack. I want you to know, as I said earlier,
I am not a perfect man," he said, briefly pausing for effect. "But
this thing I'm going to fight."
"I want you to know one other thing, I feel like David against
Goliath. But I got five rocks, and I haven't thrown one yet."
Church members who heard Long's speech pledged to stand by their pastor.
"We know and we love bishop," said Annie
Cannon, who has attended New Birth for seven years,
referring to Long. "We love our place of worship. My son goes to
school here. We do everything here."
Cheryl Barnett has attended New Birth since Long became senior pastor
more than 20 years ago. She said she agreed wholeheartedly with his
remarks. "I was very much fulfilled with what he had to say,"
she said. "It was simple. It was direct. He's standing in the scriptures.
That's what we would expect from our minister."
About 100 people waited at the doors of the church more than an hour
before the first service. Some held signs of support, while others prayed
for their embattled leader. A small group sang the hymn "White
as Snow" while outside.
Members in their seats clapped and swayed as the first service began,
with several people with microphones singing on stage. Later in the
service, hundreds began dancing and chanting, "Jesus, Jesus."
A small group of young people held Apple iPads high over their heads,
with the screens scrolling white letters against a black background
reading, "It's time to praise him."
EDDIE L. LONG
Scandal Threatens a Georgia Pastor’s Empire
By JAMES C. McKINLEY and ROBBIE BROWN
The New York Times: September 26, 2010
LITHONIA, Ga. — Over the last two decades,
Bishop Eddie L. Long has built a religious and financial empire from
scratch, transforming a small, faltering church into a modern cathedral
with one of the largest and most influential congregations in the
message that God wants people to prosper has attracted celebrities,
professional athletes and socialites, swelling the membership to 25,000.
The church hosted four United States presidents for the funeral of
Coretta Scott King in 2006.
The rapid expansion of the church — often called “Club
New Birth” because it attracts so many young black singles —
has also made Bishop Long a powerful political player, especially
in DeKalb County, home to one of the wealthiest black communities
in the country. The church has become a mandatory stop for many politicians
— local, state and national — and Bishop Long supports
candidates of both parties.
But Bishop Long’s reputation and sprawling enterprises now stand
threatened by a sex scandal.
Four former members of a youth group he runs have accused him of repeatedly
coercing them into homosexual sex acts, and of abusing his considerable
moral authority over them while plying them with cash, new cars, lodging
and lavish trips.
The accusations are all the more explosive because Bishop Long styles
himself a social conservative, rails against homosexuality and calls
for a ban on same-sex marriage. His church even holds seminars promising
to “cure” homosexuals.
accusations center on the LongFellows Youth Academy, an exclusive
group of teenage boys handpicked by Bishop Long for spiritual mentoring.
The boys went through a bonding ritual, known as a “covenant
ceremony,” in which Bishop Long
gave them jewelry and exchanged vows with them while quoting from
Scripture as ceremonial candles burned, according to court complaints
filed against the pastor. Reciting Bible verses, the pastor promised
to protect them from harm and called them “spiritual sons.”
But four former members of the group now say the real purpose of the
academy was to provide Bishop Long with young men whom he could lure
J. Bernstein, a lawyer for the four young men who claim to have been
coerced into sexual affairs with Bishop Long, said the pastor exerted
a paternalistic and, at times, autocratic influence over young men.
The four complaints filed in court describe how Bishop Long arranged
for the church to provide cars to the young men and put them on the
church payroll. Two of them also said they received free lodging in
church-owned houses, where, they said, Bishop Long visited them for
sessions of kissing, oral sex or masturbation. He also took them on
trips to other cities and abroad, sharing rooms with them, with the
knowledge of several church officials, the complaints say.
“There are biblical and spiritual passages that were given to
them to make them comfortable and make them believe that they were
not gay,” Ms. Bernstein said.
Will Not Ask Israel to Sign
Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty
REUTERS : September 24, 2010
The United Nations nuclear watchdog narrowly
rejected an Arab-sponsored resolution Friday calling on Israel to
join the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. The vote by the International
Atomic Energy Agency was a victory for the United
States after a tough diplomatic battle. Washington
had urged countries to vote down the symbolically important but non-binding
resolution, saying it could derail broader efforts to ban nuclear
warheads in the Middle East and threaten the current Israeli-Palestinian
time anyone says that Israel is our only friend in the Middle East,
I can't help but think that before Israel, we had no enemies in the
~ JOHN SHEEHAN, S.J.
Secretary of the Army
Protests Planned Religious Rally at Fort Bragg
By LAURIE GOODSTEIN
The Neww York Times: September 23, 2010
North Carolina -
United for Separation of Church and State has sent a letter
to the Secretary of the Army [John McHugh] saying it is unconstitutional
for the military to hold an evangelistic rally scheduled for Fort
Bragg this Saturday. The event is sponsored by the base’s chaplains,
local churches and the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, now
led by the famous evangelist’s son, the Rev. Franklin Graham.
The Rev. Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United, said,
“It is not the Army’s job to
convert Americans to Christianity.”
Charged in Cabby Attack Ranted to Police, Documents Show
By JOHN ELIGON
The New York Times: September 22, 2010
A 21-year-old film student accused of trying to
kill a Muslim cabdriver called himself a “patriot” while
in police custody, and accused an officer of allowing “them to
blow up buildings in this country.”
A more detailed picture of the mental state of the student, Michael
Enright, emerged in jumbled rants he gave to the police after his arrest,
statements contained in documents that prosecutors filed during his
arraignment on Wednesday in State Supreme Court in Manhattan.
When the police apprehended Mr. Enright shortly after 6 p.m. on Aug.
24, at 43rd Street and Third Avenue, he told them that the driver, Ahmed
H. Sharif, had attacked him and that he was only trying to defend himself.
“I was in the military,” Mr. Enright told the police, according
to the court filing. “I have to go home and see my mother. A friend
of mine who works for the M.T.A. is going to help me out. My aunt is
dying. You’re persecuting me because I am
About 7:20 p.m., Mr. Enright, while riding in a police car, told the
officers: “What ya going to do? Beat me up?” the documents
“You are a stupid broad,” Mr. Enright continued, according
to the prosecution’s filing. “You allow them to blow up
buildings in this country. Are you going to bang my head on the door?”
Later, at the 17th Precinct station house, Mr. Enright contradicted
an earlier statement about his religion. “I’m
Jewish,” he said, according to the filing. “You
are going to ruin the entire Jewish race by locking me up.”
He added, “I drank a pint of Scotch starting at 2.”
In an ambulance, Mr. Enright offered an Arabic greeting and then said,
“Do you like salami and bacon?” according to the court documents.
He also said to a police officer in the ambulance: “Have you ever
left the country? You are a coward. You weren’t over there.”
After arriving at Bellevue Hospital Center, he announced, “I
am a patriot and I want representation.”
one of eight women imprisoned on homicide charges
States in Mexico Crack Down on Abortion
By ELISABETH MALKIN
The New York Times: September 22, 2010
GUANAJUATO, Mexico — The woman came into
the hospital, bleeding, scared and barely out of her teens. But before
anyone would treat her, the authorities had to be called.
Doctors believed that she had had an illegal abortion, so first, a man
from the prosecutor’s office had to arrive and ask her about her
sexual history. Then, after she was treated but still groggy from the
anesthesia, another investigator showed up and took her statement.
The investigation is still open two months later. Prosecutors are seeking
medical records to determine whether they will charge the young woman,
who asked that her name not be used, as well as the person they suspect
Here in the state of Guanajuato, where Roman Catholic conservatives
have controlled government for more than 15 years, it is standard procedure
to investigate suspected cases of abortion. But Guanajuato is no anomaly,
women’s rights advocates and some health officials say, since
a broad move to enforce antiabortion laws has gained momentum in other
parts of Mexico.
One reason is a backlash against Mexico City’s decision three
years ago to permit legal abortion to any woman in the first 12 weeks
of pregnancy. After the Supreme Court upheld that law in 2008, 17 states
passed constitutional amendments declaring that life begins at conception,
even though abortion was already illegal everywhere but Mexico City,
except in cases of rape or to save a mother’s life.
EDDIE L. LONG
Accuse Megachurch Leader of Sexual Misconduct
By ROBBIE BROWN
The New York Times: September 21, 2010
ATLANTA — Two young men in Georgia said Tuesday that the pastor
of a 33,000-person Baptist megachurch, Bishop Eddie L. Long, had repeatedly
coerced them into having sex with him.
In two lawsuits filed in DeKalb County, the men said that Bishop Long,
a prominent minister and television personality, had used his position
as a spiritual counselor to take them on trips out of state and perform
sexual acts on them.
Bishop Long is the pastor of New Birth Missionary Baptist Church in
Lithonia, an Atlanta suburb. It is one of the largest churches in
“Defendant Long has a pattern and practice of singling out a
select group of young male church members and using his authority
as bishop over them to ultimately bring them to a point of engaging
in a sexual relationship,” said a suit filed by one of the men,
Maurice Robinson, 20. The other man who filed suit is Anthony Flagg,
Allegation Against Church Leader
By ROBBIE BROWN
The New York Times: September 22, 2010
A third man said Wednesday that he had been molested by Bishop Eddie
L. Long, the prominent pastor of a Baptist megachurch in suburban
Atlanta. A lawsuit filed by Jamal Parris, 23, a former member of the
church’s congregation, alleges that Bishop Long gave him gifts
in exchange for sexual acts while Mr. Parris was a teenager. Bishop
Long is a nationally known author, the pastor at New Birth Missionary
Baptist Church in Lithonia, Ga., and an outspoken critic of homosexuality.
On Tuesday, two men who also claim that Bishop Long sexually abused
them when they were teenage members of his 25,000-person congregation
filed suits against him.
"Dressed Up as a Boy”
Afghan Boys Are Prized, So Girls Live
By JENNY NORDBERG
The New York Times: September 20, 2010
Afghanistan — Six-year-old Mehran Rafaat is like many girls her
age. She likes to be the center of attention. She is often frustrated
when things do not go her way. Like her three older sisters, she is
eager to discover the world outside the family’s apartment in
their middle-class neighborhood of Kabul.
But when their mother, Azita Rafaat, a member of Parliament, dresses
the children for school in the morning, there is one important difference.
Mehran’s sisters put on black dresses and head scarves, tied tightly
over their ponytails. For Mehran, it’s green pants, a white shirt
and a necktie, then a pat from her mother over her spiky, short black
hair. After that, her daughter is out the door — as an Afghan
There are no statistics about how many Afghan girls masquerade as boys.
But when asked, Afghans of several generations can often tell a story
of a female relative, friend, neighbor or co-worker who grew up disguised
as a boy. To those who know, these children are often referred to as
neither “daughter” nor “son” in conversation,
but as “bacha posh,” which literally means “dressed
up as a boy” in Dari.
MARISOL CHICAS |
search for missing 'cult' members who were
awaiting the Rapture
ASSOCIATED PRESS: September 19, 2010
Calif. — Deputies searched a wide swath of Southern California
early Sunday for a break-off religious sect of 13 people that included
children as young as three and left behind letters indicating they
were awaiting an apocalyptic event and would soon see Jesus and their
dead relatives in heaven, authorities said.
The group of El Salvadoran immigrants, described as “cult-like”
by sheriff’s officials, was led by Reyna Marisol Chicas, a 32-year-old
woman from Palmdale in northeast Los Angeles county, sheriff’s
Captain Mike Parker said.
The group left behind cell phones, identifications, deeds to property,
and letters indicating they were awaiting the Rapture.
This undated photo provided by Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department
shows Reyna Chicas, leader of the "cult-like" group missing
in Southern California.
“Essentially, the letters say they are all going to heaven to
meet Jesus and their deceased relatives,” sheriff’s spokesman
Steve Whitmore said. “Some of the letters were saying goodbye.”
The items came from a purse that a member of the group had left with
her husband Saturday and asked him to pray over. He eventually looked
inside and he and another member’s husband called authorities,
The men told investigators they believe group members had been “brainwashed”
by Chicas, and one expressed worries that they might harm themselves,
Group Found Alive in California
By IAN LOVETT
The New York Times: September 20, 2010
PALMDALE, Calif. — The frantic search began after police issued
an alert: Members of a cult on the edge of the Mojave Desert had disappeared,
leaving behind handwritten notes that raised fears they had planned
a mass suicide.
Members of a breakaway religious sect prepared to leave after they
were located by Los Angeles County officers at Jackie Robinson Park
in Littlerock, Calif., on Sunday.
But Sunday afternoon, the search ended when the women from a small
breakaway religious sect were found praying with their children on
a blanket at a local park.
The police had been searching the region for the five women and eight
children since Saturday afternoon, after the husbands of two of the
missing women brought letters their wives had left behind, in purses
filled with cellphones, identification and legal papers, to the Los
Angeles County Sheriff’s Office.
The letters mentioned “taking refuge,” “going to
heaven” and wanting their families to join them. One of the
husbands told the police that his wife and others were part of a cultlike
group who had been “brainwashed” by the presumed leader,
Reyna Marisol Chicas.
“Based upon the contents of the letters found in the purse,
the missing people are possibly awaiting the rapture or some other
type of catastrophic event,” Capt. Mike Parker of the sheriff’s
office said. Though the letters made no specific reference to suicide,
and the group has no history of violence, the apocalyptic talk incited
fears of the worst in a part of the country that has seen cult suicides
in the past.
O'Donnell: "I Dabbled Into Witchcraft"
CBS News: September 18, 2010
Republican Senate nominee Christine O'Donnell
doesn't need Facebook to dredge up her controversial past statements.
As a sometime conservative pundit a decade ago on Bill Maher's former
show, "Politically Incorrect", O'Donnell said (in an appearance
that wasn't aired) that she dabbled in witchcraft.
In the clip shown last night on Maher's current show, "Real Time,"
"I dabbled into witchcraft -- I never joined a coven. But I did,
I did. ... I dabbled into witchcraft. I hung around people who were
doing these things. I'm not making this stuff up. I know what they
told me they do. . . . "
"One of my first dates with a witch was on a Satanic altar, and
I didn't know it. I mean, there's little blood there and stuff like
that. ... We went to a movie and then had a midnight picnic on a Satanic
GOP Candidate: Ask Liberals Why They're Nazis
CBS News: September 17, 2010
Delaware GOP Senate candidate Christine O'Donnell
may be getting all the attention these days, but Glen Urquhart, the
Republican candidate for the state's open House seat, apparently doesn't
want to get left out of the action.
The Tea Party-backed candidate appears in a video in which he says:
"Next time your liberal friends talk about the separation of
Church and State ask them why they're Nazis." Democrats have
seized on the comments and labeled Urquhart an extremist, The Hill
Urquhart's full comment:
you know, where does this phrase separation of Church and State come
from? Does anybody know? ... Actually, that's exactly, it was not
in Jefferson's letter to the Danbury Baptists. He was reassuring that
the federal government wouldn't trample on their religion. The exact
phrase 'separation of Church and State' came out of Adolph Hitler's
mouth, that's where it comes from. Next time your liberal friends
talk about the separation of Church and State ask them why they're
in Hiding After Death Threats
By BRIAN STELTER
The New York Times: September 16, 2010
cartoonist in Seattle who promoted an “Everybody Draw Mohammed
Day” last spring is now in hiding after her life was threatened
by Islamic extremists. The cartoonist, Molly Norris, has changed her
name and has stopped producing work for a local alternative newspaper,
Seattle Weekly, according to the newspaper’s editor, Mark D. Fefer.
Fefer declined an interview request Thursday, citing “the sensitivity
of the situation.” But in a letter to readers about Ms. Norris
on Wednesday, he said that “on the insistence of top security
specialists at the F.B.I., she is, as they put it, ‘going ghost’:
moving, changing her name, and essentially wiping away her identity.”
The F.B.I. declined to comment on the case.
Ms. Norris attracted attention after she published a poster on the Internet
in April satirically proposing that people draw figures of the Prophet
Muhammad on May 20.
She indicated that the proposal was a protest of censorship by Comedy
Central, which edited out references to Muhammad from an episode of
“South Park” that month. That episode also triggered threats
from extremists. Islam forbids depictions of the Prophet Muhammad.
In 2005, a Danish cartoonist named Kurt Westergaard published a depiction
of Muhammad that led to multiple death threats and alleged assassination
attempts. He was presented an award this month for freedom of speech
by Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany.
The poster by Ms. Norris spread on the Internet and spawned Facebook
groups both for and against the idea. She quickly tried to tamp down
the controversy, apologizing to Muslims and at one point joking that
the event should be renamed “Everybody Draw Al Gore Day.”
The protest movement continued in the spring largely without her involvement.
In July, Anwar al-Awlaki, the radical Yemeni-American cleric who is
accused of ties to Al Qaeda, said in a document published on the Internet
that Ms. Norris “should be taken as a prime target of assassination,”
according to the NEFA Foundation, a private group that monitors extremist
Web sites, which translated the document.
Mr. Awlaki stated that Ms. Norris and other unnamed people in the United
States and Europe “are expressing their hatred of the Messenger
of Islam through ridicule.”
Passes Bill on Facial Veils
By STEVEN ERLANGER
The New York Times: September 14, 2010
The French Senate on Tuesday overwhelmingly approved
a bill barring women from wearing the full facial veil anywhere in public.
If the law is approved by France’s constitutional council, it
will go into effect next spring and set a range of fines for women,
including tourists, who wear the full veil. It also provides criminal
penalties for those who force women to wear it. The vote was 246 to
1, with many abstentions from left-wing legislators; the bill passed
the lower house in July.
Critics say that the measure stigmatizes one sex of one religion, but
the law is very popular with the public and proponents say it defends
traditional French values like women’s rights and secularism.
guy fowls out
By REUVEN FENTON and KATE SHEEHY
The New York Post: September 15, 2010
It's getting less kosher to wave a chicken over
your head to take away your sins.
A Brooklyn man said the ASPCA all but forced him to stop the controversial
tradition at his feather-strewn business yesterday.
"[The ASPCA workers] were ready to call the Health Department,"
said the man, who runs the seasonal "Satmar Kapparos Center"
out of a parking lot at 12th Avenue and 48th Street in Borough Park.
"They asked me what I was feeding [the birds]. I said challah and
water," said the man, who refused to reveal his name. "They
said, 'No, you have to feed them grain.' "
According to Jewish tradition, people wave a bird
over their head to "transfer" their sins to it. It's
An ASPCA rep said the agency "visited the center . . . to investigate
a cruelty complaint and found no violation of . . . laws. The man decided
to remove the chickens on his own."
Speaks of Plot to Abuse Koran
By ROBERT F. WORTH
The News York Times: September 13, 2010
DAMASCUS, Syria — Iran’s supreme leader,
Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, delivered a fiery address on Monday accusing
the United States government of orchestrating desecrations of the Koran
by right-wing American Christian groups last weekend, Iranian state
The speech appeared to be part of an effort by Iran’s hard-line
leaders to amplify Muslim outrage over scattered gestures to burn or
tear pages of the Koran, in the wake of the threat — later withdrawn
— by Terry Jones, a Florida pastor, to burn the Koran on the anniversary
of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
In Tehran, about 1,000 protesters chanting “Death to America”
and “U.S. pastor must be killed” clashed with the police
and threw stones at the Swiss Embassy, Reuters reported. The Swiss have
handled American interests in Iran ever since the United States severed
diplomatic relations with Tehran after the 1979 Islamic Revolution.
In his speech, Ayatollah Khamenei said “the leaders of the global
arrogance” — a code for the United States among Iranian
conservatives — had engineered the plot to desecrate the Koran,
Press TV and other agencies reported. He added that “Zionist think
tanks which hold the most influence in the United States government
and its security and military organizations” were also involved.
Ayatollah Khamenei warned people not to believe that isolated right-wing
American Christians were to blame, calling them “puppets”
of the government. “This incident and previous incidents clearly
show that what the global arrogance is attacking today is the foundation
of Islam and the Holy Koran,” he said.
High Across Kashmir After Koran Protests
By JIM YARDLEY
The New York Times: September 14, 2010
NEW DELHI — The authorities expanded a strict
curfew across Kashmir on Tuesday and sent more security officers across
the restive Himalayan region after bloody protests erupted there a day
earlier, fueled partly by a report of Koran desecration in the United
The bloodshed, which rippled across different districts in the region,
deepened the crisis that has steadily worsened in Kashmir since protests
against Indian rule began in June. In New Delhi, the Indian government
called for leaders of the country’s major political parties to
meet on Wednesday and seek consensus on how to quell the unrest and
stabilize Kashmir, a disputed region claimed by both Pakistan and India.
The authorities said that at least 18 people and one security officer
had been killed on Monday, with more than 70 people injured, as separatist
protesters clashed with Indian paramilitary officers. Minor clashes
also took place on Tuesday but police reported a tense calm late in
the afternoon. Air links to Srinagar, the state’s summer capital,
were suspended for three days.
The Monday violence was ignited by a report on an Iranian state television
channel, Press TV, allegedly showing a protester in the United States
tearing pages out of a Koran.
Beninois Priest Seeks New Respect, and New Practitioners,
By ADAM NOSSITER
The New York Times: September 14, 2010
COTONOU, Benin — This is not about secretive
mutterings in the dead of night or freakish eccentrics, explained Dah
Aligbonon Akpochihala, an eminent voodoo priest who has taken to the
airwaves to preach the old messages of faith, fidelity and obedience
integral to his religion. It is about bringing a younger generation
“Voodoo is sabotaged, demonized, as if there was nothing good
in it,” Mr. Aligbonon said in his austere office — a bare,
whitewashed room, with a cracked linoleum floor and disused fan.
A slight, mild-mannered aristocrat in a blue robe, Mr. Aligbonon maintains
his modest cinder-block temple on a busy commercial street in this bustling
commercial capital, one of the continent’s major ports. The temple
sits between a beauty parlor and a hardware stall, and offers spiritual
consultation and ceremonies to Mami Wata (a water divinity) —
along with photocopying, binding services and CDs in the Fon language
of Mr. Aligbonon’s broadcasts. Chickens peck in the courtyard
— they have multiple uses, food and sacrifice — laundry
hangs on the rack and a baby bawls from within.
This mundanity is testimony enough to the integration of voodoo, or
vodoun, into daily life in Benin, the country that claims to have given
birth to the religion. Underneath the Christian and Muslim surface,
the old-time faith persists for many here, experts on voodoo say.
Even though voodoo is widely followed in Benin — “The double
practice persists, even among university people,” says Mr. Iroko
— an unjustified stigma still comes with it, Mr. Aligbonon says
“Voodoo is not the devil, and still less Satan,” he writes
emphatically in one of the pamphlets for sale in his storefront, a detailed
guide to the religion’s principal divinities. On the contrary,
he says, voodoo is “based on natural law” and existed before
Buddha, Christ and Muhammad.
Court Forbids Forcing Children to Beg
By ADAM NOSSITER
The New York Times: September 13, 2010
DAKAR, Senegal — The judge spoke quietly,
and decades of custom were quickly rolled back: the Muslim holy men
were to be punished for forcing children to beg.
The sentence handed down in a courtroom here last week was gentle, only
six months’ probation and a fine for the seven marabouts, or holy
men. Yet the result could be a social revolution, in the eyes of some
commentators. By government decree, and under international pressure,
Senegal has forbidden the marabouts to enlist children to beg on their
Outside the crowded courtroom, a dozen or more white-robed marabouts
sat in an anxious conclave on the ground to discuss their colleagues’
predicament. More than 40 had shown up in support, and they knew the
stakes. If the government here follows through, thousands of children
could be released from a practice that human rights groups condemn as
exploitation under the guise of education but that religious leaders
defend as essential for keeping their enterprises afloat.
“Very sad, really heavy; this is a custom from our ancestors,”
Chérif Aïdara, an Islamic lecturer in the group, said later.
“This is how we teach the Koran.”
mosque rallies rage at Ground Zero
Cops keep order amid a raucous battle
By AMBER SUTHERLAND, DOUGLAS MONTERO and SABRINA FORD
The New York Post:September 12, 2010
Thousands of chanting, jeering protesters with
dueling agendas converged on lower Manhattan yesterday in a bitter and
sometimes violent clash over the planned Ground Zero mosque.
Rival demonstrations over the Islamic center were kept apart by a phalanx
of cops -- though there were flare-ups between the groups even as relatives
of 9/11 victims mourned just a few blocks away.
"I don't care if they build a mosque, but I don't want to hear
their Islamic prayers wafting over the [Ground Zero] grave site . .
. I saw the carnage of 9/11," fumed a retired firefighter who waved
his middle finger at those who supported the mosque, which would sit
two blocks north of the World Trade Center site.
BOTH SIDES DESECRATE VIGIL: KIN
The estimated 3,000 pro-mosque demonstrators outnumbered the mosque
opponents by about 500. A crowd 15 to 20 deep packed into City Hall
Park to listen to speakers including former US Attorney General Ramsey
Clark before marching from City Hall to the Federal Building. The march
stretched three blocks, followed by a heavy contingent of police.
Beating drums and ringing bells, the crowd chanted, "Bigots go
home." The demonstrators also carried signs reading, "Tea
party bigots funded by corporate $," and, "Our grief is no
excuse for bigotry and racism."
A few blocks away, the mosque protesters were in full fury.
Protests Against Koran Burning Turn Violent
By ROD NORDLAND and SHARIFULLAH SAHAK
The New York Times: September 10, 2010
KABUL, Afghanistan — Numerous protests broke
out in Afghanistan on Friday and two of them turned violent in response
to plans by a Florida pastor to burn copies of the Koran, even after
the pastor announced he had suspended those plans.
In western Afghanistan, one civilian was killed and three were wounded
by gunshots at a protest outside a NATO base in Bala Buluk in Farah
Province, according to a hospital official there.
In northern Afghanistan, five Afghan protesters were wounded by gunshots,
three of them critically, when hundreds of men tried to force their
way onto a NATO reconstruction base in Faizabad, the capital of Badakshan
Province, Afghan officials said.
There were few details on what happened regarding the death in western
Afghanistan, except that it was the result of a protest over the threat
to desecrate the Koran.
PASTOR T. JONES
Wavers on Plans to Burn Koran
By DAMIEN CAVE and ANNE BARNARD
with Helen Cooper
The New York Times: September 10, 2010
GAINESVILLE, Fla. — First, Terry Jones,
the Florida pastor who set the world on edge with plans to burn copies
of the Koran on Sept. 11, said Thursday that he had canceled his demonstration
because he had won a promise to move the proposed Islamic center near
ground zero to a new location.
Then, hours later, after learning that the project’s leaders in
New York had said that no such deal existed, Mr. Jones backed away from
his promise and said the bonfire of sacred texts was simply “suspended.”
The sudden back and forth suggested that the controversy — the
pastor drew pointed criticisms from President Obama and an array of
leaders, officials and celebrities in the United States and abroad —
was not yet finished even after multiple appearances before the news
media on the lawn of his small church.
Mr. Jones seemed to be struggling with how to save face and hold on
to the spotlight he has attracted for an act that could make him a widely
But Mr. Jones seemed to have been wrong or misled from the start. Minutes
after he announced the cancellation alongside Imam Muhammad Musri, a
well-known Islamic leader in Florida who had been trying to broker a
deal, Mr. Musri contradicted Mr. Jones’s account. He said that
Muslim leaders of the project in New York had not actually agreed to
find a new location. “The imam committed to meet with us but did
not commit to moving the mosque yet,” Mr. Musri said.
Even that may not be accurate. Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, the leader of
the New York project, said in a statement that he had not spoken to
Mr. Jones or Mr. Musri, who said later that he received the pledge of
a meeting from a staff member in Mr. Abdul Rauf’s office.
The saga of Mr. Jones appeared likely to continue — with more
pressure likely to come as well. In just the past
week, the list of his critics had come to include Mr. Obama, the Vatican,
Franklin Graham, Angelina Jolie, Sarah Palin, dozens of members of Congress
and Gen. David H. Petraeus, who was among the first to declare
that the burning of Korans would put Americans soldiers and civilians
Koran Burning Drew International Scorn
By JACK HEALY and STEVEN ERLANGER
The New York Times: September 9, 2010
Before a Florida pastor canceled his plans to
burn copies of the Koran on Sept. 11, the international outcry intensified
Thursday, drawing vocal condemnations from world leaders and touching
off angry protests in corners of the Muslim world.
Although some protests in Afghanistan and Pakistan rippled with scenes
of burning American flags, the outrage in the streets seemed largely
isolated. Officials in Muslim countries urged restraint, seeking to
head off any violent reactions if the Florida church went ahead with
its plans to set fire to several copies of the Koran on the ninth anniversary
of the Sept. 11 attacks this Saturday.
President Obama joined a litany of high-ranking American officials to
condemn the Koran burning, saying that the act, amplified by a global
media, would put American troops at risk and fan anger against the United
States. Mr. Obama called the planned event “a destructive act”
and said it would be a “recruitment bonanza for Al Qaeda.”
American embassies and consulates were reviewing their security policies,
and several diplomatic missions in the Muslim world posted statements
prominently on their Web sites condemning the planned event. The State
Department issued a travel alert on Thursday saying the burning could
catalyze violent anti-American demonstrations.
Florida pastor will cancel plans if Obama calls as 2nd pastor plans
NEWSCORE: September 9, 2010
As U.S. President Barack Obama condemned a Florida
pastor's proposed public Koran burning, another minister planned a similar
demonstration to mark the anniversary of Sept. 11, The Tennessean reported
Rev. Bob Old of Springfield, Tenn. -- just 30 miles (48 km) north of
Nashville -- said he intended to set fire to a Koran at his home Saturday
and post a video of the burning Muslim holy book online.
"If they want to have their religion, they can have it somewhere
else," Old reportedly said of Muslims. "I believe that other
religions are a threat to our faith and our beliefs," said Old,
who heads an evangelical ministry called Disciples of Christ, though
he was once pastor of two Baptist congregations in Tennessee. "People
may say that I am crazy, but I am not."
Back to School. Then Back to Vacation
By JENNIFER MEDINA
The New York Times: September 8, 2010
quirk in the calendar is giving the first week of school the feeling
of an on-again-off-again relationship, with many students in the New
York area having more days of vacation than instruction.
For decades, school systems throughout the region have begun just
after Labor Day and have been closed in honor of Rosh Hashana, the
Jewish New Year.
For the first time in recent memory, Rosh Hashana is coming just as
the new school year has begun, falling on Thursday and Friday this
So in New York City, more than a million students will enter and exit
the classroom Wednesday, their only day of school this week. And for
thousands of students in the suburbs who went to class on Tuesday,
two days of school will be followed by two days off before the weekend.
Holy Days Collide With Fashion’s Big Event
By LAURA M. HOLSON
The New York Times: September 8, 2010
Jewish families gather to celebrate the New Year on Wednesday night,
there are sure to be some fashion designers whispering prayers of their
This year New York Fashion Week is colliding with Rosh Hashana. As a
result, some designers have asked to switch dates to ensure front-row
seats are filled. Others are making do, frantically scheduling private
appointments with buyers and editors after Rosh Hashana, which begins
at sundown Wednesday and ends at sundown Friday. One synagogue, Chabad
of the West 60s, has even offered to hold services for fashionistas
who are stuck at Lincoln Center and can’t get away.
DAVID H. PETRAEUS |
Warns Against Planned Koran-Burning
By ADAM B. ELLICK
The New York Times: September 7, 2010
KABUL, Afghanistan — The top American commander
in Afghanistan has warned that plans by a small Florida church to burn
copies of the Koran on Saturday, the anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks,
could play into the hands of the very extremists at whom the church
says it is directing that message.
Burning copies of the Koran, the Muslim holy book, “would undoubtedly
be used by extremists in Afghanistan — and around the world —
to inflame public opinion and incite violence,” the commander,
Gen. David H. Petraeus said in an e-mail message to The Associated Press
Echoing remarks the general made in an interview with The Wall Street
Journal published Tuesday, he said: “It could endanger troops
and it could endanger the overall effort. It is precisely the kind of
action the Taliban uses and could cause significant problems. Not just
here, but everywhere in the world we are engaged with the Islamic community."
Woman Said to Be Lashed Over Photo
By RAVI SOMAIYA
September 6, 2010
LONDON — A mix-up over a photograph led
to a sentence of 99 lashes for the Iranian woman whose earlier death
sentence by stoning from Iranian authorities caused an international
outcry, a lawyer for the woman said
The lashing of the woman, Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani, 43, was carried
out in the northern Iran prison where she is being held, according to
the lawyer, Javid Kian. But another lawyer for Ms. Ashtiani disputed
latest episode began on Aug. 28, when The Times of London published
a photograph on its front page of a dark-haired woman wearing earrings
and what appeared to be pink lipstick. The headline with the photograph
said, “Revealed: true face of the woman Iran wants to stone.”
Five days later, The Times published an apology, saying the photograph
“was not of Ms. Ashtiani, but of Susan Hejrat, an Iranian exile
who lives in Sweden.” It blamed the mistake on confusion among
journalists; another of Ms. Ashtiani’s lawyers, Mohammed Mostafaei;
and her son Sajad Ghaderzadeh, 22.
But Mr. Kian said that one of two women who had been held with Ms. Ashtiani
in the Tabriz prison and recently released “told me that Ashtiani
said she had received 99 lashes” for “indecency” after
the photograph appeared.
and Politics, Together Again
By SAM TANENHAUS
The New York Times: September 4, 2010
The rally at the Lincoln Memorial on Saturday,
Aug. 28, organized by Glenn Beck and held on the 47th anniversary
of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream”
speech, was billed as a strictly religious affair, untainted by any
keeping with the spiritual message, Mr. Beck omitted his customary
attacks on President Obama and Congressional Democrats, who he has
implied, more than once, are socialists (or worse) in disguise. But
in an interview taped after the event and shown the next day on Fox
News, which also broadcasts his popular nightly program, Mr. Beck,
a Mormon, was back on the attack, this time criticizing Mr. Obama’s
“He is a guy who understands the world through liberation theology,
which is oppressor and victim,” Mr. Beck said, adding, “People
aren’t recognizing his version of Christianity.”
The episode was further evidence that Mr. Obama, who once looked as
if he might be able to end the nation’s ideological polarization,
has instead become engulfed in it, just like his two predecessors,
George W. Bush and Bill Clinton.
the Other Side of Ground Zero, Anti-Muslim Venom
By FERNANDA SANTOS
The New York Times: September 5, 2010
The Internet evangelist Bill Keller moved toward
the dais in tiny, quick steps on Sunday, exhibiting the anticipation
of a man ready to address a crowd. Roughly 60 people stood before
him in a hotel meeting room in Lower Manhattan, temporary quarters
of his Christian center, his response to the mosque planned for an
empty building nearby.
“If we’re going to do something in New York City, we’re
going to do something that’s not just bold and visible, but
something that has a lasting presence,” said Mr. Keller, who
is from the Tampa Bay area of Florida.
Later, he told reporters that Muslims “can go to their mosque
and preach the lies of Islam and I’ll come here to preach the
truth of the Gospel.”
Since its organizers attended a community board meeting four months
ago, the mosque — part of a Muslim community center that would
offer a day care center, an auditorium and a pool — quickly
became fodder for a national debate. Much of the opposition is over
its location: two blocks north of ground zero.
Mr. Keller promoted his center, which he called the 9/11 Christian
Center at Ground Zero, as a religious counterweight to the mosque,
which he repeatedly called a “victory mosque” or a monument
to “a great Muslim military accomplishment,” as he explained
it at the inaugural service at the New York Marriott Downtown Hotel
on West Street, two blocks south of ground zero.
career arc makes him a somewhat unusual standard-bearer: Mr. Keller
became a preacher after serving a sentence in federal prison for insider
He has also appeared on Howard Stern’s satellite radio show
and once had a program on national television, which was canceled
after he called Islam a “1,400-year-old lie from the pits of
hell.” The program is now carried by a small station in Florida.
Keller also described the conservative broadcaster Glenn Beck, who
is a Mormon, and Feisal Abdul Rauf, the imam who is behind the Muslim
community center, as followers of false faiths.
Solidarity With Islamists Ends at Home
By KAREEM FAHIM
The New York Times: September 4, 2010
DAMASCUS, Syria — This country, which
had sought to show solidarity with Islamist groups
and allow religious figures a greater role in public life, has recently
reversed course, moving forcefully to curb the influence of Muslim
conservatives in its mosques, public universities and charities.
The government has asked imams for recordings of their Friday sermons
and started to strictly monitor religious schools. Members of an influential
Muslim women’s group have now been told to scale back activities
like preaching or teaching Islamic law. And this summer, more than
1,000 teachers who wear the niqab, or the face veil, were transferred
to administrative duties.
The crackdown, which began in 2008 but has gathered steam this summer,
is an effort by President Bashar al-Assad to reassert Syria’s
traditional secularism in the face of rising threats from radical
groups in the region, Syrian officials say.
Charged with disrupting a religious service
Mosque Invisible to Many Is a Target
By SHARON OTTERMAN
The New York Times: September 4, 2010
WATERPORT, N.Y. — The small congregation
established a mosque here three decades ago in a 19th-century farmhouse
surrounded by apple orchards and cornfields. In the farmhouse’s
simple prayer room, they prayed for many things, including peace and
quiet that has never fully come.
The local sheriff said some in his county did not even know that the
mosque was there. Nevertheless, over the years, burglars have stolen
prayer rugs and religious tapestries from the small sanctuary, the only
Islamic place of worship in rural Orleans County, which hugs the shore
of Lake Ontario between Buffalo and Rochester. Vandals have shattered
car windows and thrown beer bottles on the lawn. One night about five
years ago, the wooden fence in front of the mosque was set afire.
And then, this week, a car filled with local teenagers sideswiped the
29-year-old son of one of the mosque’s founding members, said
Joseph V. Cardone, the Orleans County district attorney. One teenager
was charged with firing a shotgun into the air near the mosque a few
days earlier, after driving by and shouting epithets.
The details of the harassment and the arrests on Tuesday of five teenagers
brought reporters and cameras; the ugliness seemed consistent with a
number of other suspected anti-Muslim attacks around the country amid
an emotional and often-bitter public discussion about whether an Islamic
community center should be built in New York City near the site of the
World Trade Center.
The events here have left the congregants of the mosque — which
practices a form of Islam that emphasizes simple living, prayer and
meditation — searching for answers about why the periodic harassment
M. BLOW |
By CHARLES M. BLOW
The New York Times: September 3, 2010
With all of the consternation about religion in
this country, it’s sometimes easy to lose sight of just how anomalous
our religiosity is in the world.
A Gallup report issued on Tuesday underscored just how out of line we
are. Gallup surveyed people in more than 100 countries in 2009 and found
that religiosity was highly correlated to poverty. Richer countries
in general are less religious. But that doesn’t hold true for
the United States.
Sixty-five percent of Americans say that religion is an important part
of their daily lives. That is compared with just 30 percent of the French,
27 percent of the British and 24 percent of the Japanese.I used Gallup’s
data to chart religiosity against gross domestic product per capita,
and to group countries by their size and dominant religions.
The cliché goes, “a picture is worth a thousand words.”
Assuming that this holds true for charts, here is mine.
Niche of the Unreal in a World of Credulity
By MARK OPPENHEIMER
The New York Times: September 3, 2010
Since 2008, ChristWire.org has emerged as the
leading Internet site for ultraconservative Christian news, commentary
and weather reportage.
“Hurricane Earl Projected Path, Gay East Coast of America,”
ChristWire opined on Monday. One headline in late August proclaimed,
“Warning! Black Music Infiltrates the Minds of Future Homemaking
White Women.” Last week, referring to Ken Mehlman, the former
Republican Party chairman who came out of the closet last month, ChristWire
asked, “Why does Ken Mehlman think that choosing the homosexual
lifestyle is more important to him than the Republican values he once
held so dear?”
ChristWire has lately reached new levels of popularity, in part thanks
to an Aug. 14 column, “Is My Husband Gay?” Written by
Stephenson Billings, the piece is a 15-point checklist to help wives
detect possibly closeted husbands. “Gym membership but no interest
in sports” is one warning sign. So is “Sassy, sarcastic
and ironic around his friends” and “Love of pop culture.”
“Is My Husband Gay?” was picked up on The Huffington Post
and mentioned by Ryan Seacrest on his radio show; so far it has been
viewed 8.3 million times.
Oh, by the way: ChristWire is all one big joke.
Not the readership — which hit a high of 27 million page views
in August — but the content, the opinions and the fake authors
who write the stuff. (There is no “Stephenson Billings.”)
Neither of the two founders is a conservative Christian. They are
just like-minded 28-year-olds who met on the Internet, have never
seen each other in person, and until this week had never given their
real identities to a reporter.
Bryan Butvidas is a software developer who works out of his house
in Southern California. Kirwin Watson is a former Pepperdine student
who moved back home to Kansas, where he now works “on the patient-care
staff” of a local hospital.
Newspaper Says Carla Bruni-Sarkozy ‘Deserves to Die’ for
Objecting to Stoning
By ROBERT MACKEY
Reuters: August 31, 2010
Carla Bruni-Sarkozy, the wife of the French president,
at the Élysée Palace in Paris in July.
An Iranian newspaper with close ties to the country’s supreme
leader has responded to a campaign by French celebrities to save the
life of an Iranian woman sentenced to death by stoning by calling its
most prominent member, Carla Bruni-Sarkozy, a “prostitute”
who “deserves to die.”
Kayhan, the Tehran daily, first denounced the French president’s
wife on Saturday, after she published an open letter in support of Sakineh
Ashtiani, the Iranian woman given a death sentence for the crime of
adultery. The official position of the paper’s editor is representative
of the supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
The fact that Kayhan called Ms. Bruni-Sarkozy, and the French actress
Isabelle Adjani, the author of a previous open letter, “prostitutes”
on Saturday led Iran’s foreign ministry to distance the government
from the remarks. Ramin Mehmanparast, a foreign ministry spokesman,
told reporters in Tehran on Tuesday, that “insulting the officials
of other countries and using inappropriate words, this is not approved
of by the Islamic Republic of Iran.”
On Tuesday Kayhan responded to criticism of its first attack by going
even further in a second volley against Ms. Bruni-Sarkozy, calling her
“the singer and decadent actress who managed to break [up] the
Sarkozy family.” The newspaper added:
Studying Carla Bruni’s record clearly shows the reason why this
immoral woman is backing an Iranian woman who has been condemned to
death for committing adultery and being an accomplice in her husband’s
murder and, in fact, she herself deserves to die.
Lincoln Memorial, a Call for Religious Rebirth
By KATE ZERNIKE and CARL HULSE
The New York Times: August 28, 2010
WASHINGTON — An enormous and impassioned
crowd rallied at the steps of the Lincoln Memorial on Saturday, summoned
by Glenn Beck, a conservative broadcaster who called for a religious
rebirth in America at the site where the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King
Jr. delivered his famous “I Have a Dream” speech 47 years
ago to the day.
“Something that is beyond man is happening,” Mr. Beck
said in opening the event as the crowd thronged near the memorial
grounds. “America today begins to turn back to God.”
in the crowd said they had never been to a Tea Party rally, but they
described themselves as avid Glenn Beck fans, and many said they had
been motivated to come by faith. Becky Benson, 56, traveled from Orlando,
Fla., because, she said, “we believe in Jesus Christ, and he
is our savior.” Jesus, she said, would not have agreed with
what she called the redistribution of wealth in the form of the economic
stimulus package, bank bailouts and welfare.
Beck made a surprise visit on Friday to a convention held by FreedomWorks,
a Tea Party umbrella group, for Tea Party supporters. He received
a thunderous welcome from a crowd of about 1,600 in Constitution Hall.
He told the crowd that he had begun planning his march on Washington
a year ago, thinking “it was supposed to be political.”
“And then I kind of feel like God dropped a giant sandbag on
my head,” he said.
“My role, as I see it, is to wake America up to the backsliding
of principles and values and most of all of God,” he said. “We
are a country of God. As I look at the problems in our country, quite
honestly, I think the hot breath of destruction is breathing on our
necks and to fix it politically is a figure that I don’t see
From Ground Zero, Obscure Pastor Is Ignored No Longer
By DAMIEN CAVE
The New York Times: August 25, 2010
GAINESVILLE, Fla. — If building an Islamic
center near ground zero amounts to the epitome of Muslim insensitivity,
as critics of the project have claimed, what should the world make of
Terry Jones, the evangelical pastor here who plans to memorialize the
Sept. 11 attacks with a bonfire of Korans?
Mr. Jones, 58, a former hotel manager with a red face and a white handlebar
mustache, argues that as an American Christian he has a right to burn
Islam’s sacred book because “it’s full of lies.”
And in another era, he might have been easily ignored, as he was last
year when he posted a sign at his church declaring “Islam is of
OBAMA PRAYS |
House aghast over 'secret Muslim' poll
By AMBER SUTHERLAND and CARL CAMPANILE
The New York Post: August 20, 2010
The White House was forced yesterday to reaffirm
President Obama's Christian faith after shocking polls found that 1
out of every 4 or 5 Americans falsely believe he's a Muslim -- a considerable
increase from last year.
"The president is obviously a Christian. He prays every day,"
White House spokesman Bill Burton told reporters.
"He communicates with his religious adviser every single day. There's
a group of pastors that he takes counsel from on a regular basis. And
his faith is very important to him, but it's not something that is a
topic of conversation every single day."
A separate White House statement stressed that Obama's "strong
Christian faith is what guides him" in facing the nation's challenges.
"But he doesn't wear it on his sleeve," the press office added.
The president's flacks also complained that Obama's faith is "often
maligned and distorted by critics."
The White House discussed the matter after a Time magazine survey found
that 24 percent of Americans -- about 1 in 4 -- believe the president
is Muslim. That poll questioned 1,000 respondents on Monday and Tuesday
after Obama's comments on the proposed Ground Zero mosque.
Hindu goddess of
Festival, Hyderabad, India
REUTERS: 17 August 2010
A devotee takes part in the annual Hindu religious festival of Bonalu
in the southern Indian city of Hyderabad. The word "Bonalu"
is derived from the Telugu word "Bhojanalu", which refers
to the food offered to Goddess Kali, the Hindu goddess of power. The
main ritual in the month-long festival consists of offering cooked
rice, jaggery, curd, water and other dishes brought by women in earthen
pots to Goddess Kali. Devotees believe that the offerings will ward
off evil and epidemics during the monsoon period.
Nation, Mosque Projects Meet Opposition
By LAURIE GOODSTEIN
The New York Times: August 7, 2010
While a high-profile battle rages over a mosque
near ground zero in Manhattan, heated confrontations have also broken
out in communities across the country where mosques are proposed for
far less hallowed locations.
In Murfreesboro, Tenn., arguments broke out over a planned Muslim
center. In Murfreesboro, Tenn., Republican candidates have denounced
plans for a large Muslim center proposed near a subdivision, and hundreds
of protesters have turned out for a march and a county meeting. In
late June, in Temecula, Calif., members of a local Tea Party group
took dogs and picket signs to Friday prayers at a mosque that is seeking
to build a new worship center on a vacant lot nearby. In Sheboygan,
Wis., a few Christian ministers led a noisy fight against a Muslim
group that sought permission to open a mosque in a former health food
store bought by a Muslim doctor.
do believe everybody has a right to freedom of religion. But
Islam is not about a religion. It’s a political government,
and it’s 100 percent against our Constitution.”
~ DIANA SERAFIN
one time, neighbors who did not want mosques in their backyards said
their concerns were over traffic, parking and noise — the same
reasons they might object to a church or a synagogue. But now the
gloves are off.
In all of the recent conflicts, opponents have said their problem
is Islam itself. They quote passages from the Koran and argue that
even the most Americanized Muslim secretly wants to replace the Constitution
with Islamic Shariah law.
These local skirmishes make clear that there is now widespread debate
about whether the best way to uphold America’s democratic values
is to allow Muslims the same religious freedom enjoyed by other Americans,
or to pull away the welcome mat from a faith seen as a singular threat.
group sues to stop ground zero mosque
By Jennifer Peltz
The Associated Press: August 5, 2010
NEW YORK - The debate over a planned Islamic community
center and mosque near ground zero became a court fight Wednesday, as
a conservative advocacy group sued to try to stop a project that has
become a fulcrum for balancing religious freedom and the legacy of the
Sept. 11 attacks.
The American Center for Law and Justice, founded by the Rev. Pat Robertson,
filed suit Wednesday to challenge a city panel's decision to let developers
tear down a building to make way for the mosque two blocks from ground
The city Landmarks Preservation Commission moved too fast in making
a decision, underappreciated the building's historic value and "allowed
the intended use of the building and political considerations to taint
the deliberative process," lawyer Brett Joshpe wrote in papers
filed in a Manhattan state court. The Washington, D.C.-based group represents
a firefighter who responded to and survived the terrorist attack at
the World Trade Center.
City attorneys are confident the landmarks group adhered to legal standards
and procedures, Law Department spokeswoman Kate O'Brien Ahlers said.
A spokesman for the planned Islamic center, Oz Sultan, declined to comment
on the lawsuit but said organizers were continuing to work toward choosing
The mosque has become a national political flashpoint, pitting several
influential Republicans and the nation's most prominent Jewish civil
rights group against New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and others. In
one of the latest signs of the issue's political reach beyond Manhattan,
Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick expressed support Wednesday for the
Plan Clears Hurdle in New York
By MICHAEL BARBARO and JAVIER C. HERNANDEZ
The New York Times: August 3, 2010
As New York City removed the final hurdle for
a controversial mosque near ground zero, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg
forcefully defended the project on Tuesday as a symbol of America’s
religious tolerance and sought to reframe a fiery national debate over
With the Statue of Liberty as his backdrop, the mayor pleaded with New
Yorkers to reject suspicions about the planned 13-story complex, to
be located two blocks north of the World Trade Center site, saying that
“we would betray our values if we were to treat Muslims differently
than anyone else.”
“To cave to popular sentiment would be to hand a victory to the
terrorists — and we should not stand for that,” the mayor
said. “The attack was an act of war — and our first responders
defended not only our city but also our country and our Constitution,”
he said, becoming slightly choked up at one point in his speech, which
he delivered on Governors Island. “We do not honor their lives
by denying the very constitutional rights they died protecting. We honor
their lives by defending those rights — and the freedoms the terrorists
But even as the mayor called for the mosque to be embraced, those opposed
to the project pledged to aggressively fight it, using both litigation
and public pressure. A prominent Republican and foreign policy analyst
said he was working with business, civic and political leaders to organize
a campaign to persuade architects, contractors and donors to steer clear
of the project. He said they would also aggressively scrutinize any
donors who supported it.
Plea for Asylum for Iranian Facing Stoning
Seems to Fail
By ROBERT F. WORTH
The New York Times: August 3, 2010
WASHINGTON — Iran’s conservative
establishment appears to have reacted coldly to an entreaty by Brazil’s
president to allow an Iranian woman convicted of adultery to take
asylum in Brazil rather than face execution by stoning at home.
The reaction to the plea over the weekend by President Luiz Inácio
Lula da Silva may introduce a strain into what has been an increasingly
cordial relationship between Iran and Brazil. It also reinforced what
critics of Iran view as a barbaric form of justice that is especially
repressive toward women.
While no Iranian government officials commented on the Brazilian president’s
plea, that it was a “clear interference in Iran’s domestic
Jahan News, an ultraconservative news service in Iran that is regarded
as credibly reflecting the government’s thinking, said Sunday
that the Brazilian offer was made “under the influence of foreign
media” and that the defendant, Sakineh Ashtiani, 43,
not be stoned to death because Iran’s judiciary was reviewing
the lower court’s sentence.
could be hanged instead.
Divided on Deporting Children
By ISABEL KERSHNER
The New York Times: August 2, 2010
JERUSALEM — Deep divisions emerged here
on Monday over the fate of about 400 children of foreign workers who
have no legal status in the country and are slated for deportation.
The issue has touched on sensitive nerves in Israel, which sees itself
as a nation of Jewish refugees and defines itself as a Jewish and
government decision was widely seen here as reasonable, though many
said it would be more humanitarian to let the 400 remain. Others saw
the decision as a bad precedent that could encourage more foreign
workers to put down roots in Israel and threaten the Jewish character
of the state.
PROTESTORS: Sick Perverts,
Get Out of Jerusalem
of Anti-gay Protestors: Sick Perverts
Get Out of Jerusalem
Vos Iz Neias: July 29, 2010
Jerusalem - Anti-gay protesters gathered Thursday
next to several hundred gay activists preparing
to march in the eighth annual Jerusalem Gay Pride parade, calling them
to “get out of Jerusalem.”
The protesters, led by extreme rightist activists Baruch Marzel and
Itamar Ben Gvir, hoisted banners reading “sick perverts - get
out of Jerusalem.”
“It is a disease of choice, and a man can change his taste and
his ways,” Marzel said, adding “when someone has AIDS they
tell them not to infect others, so why are these people allowed to march
here in Jerusalem and infect us with their disease?”
The parade, which for the first time is expected to march all the way
to the Knesset building, marks a year since the deadly shooting at the
Tel Aviv Gay youth center, in which two people were killed and 13 were
Meanwhile, rightists from the United Torah Judaism party organized a
“donkeys’ parade,” expected to gather outside the
Supreme Court, under the banner “the marchers who do what beasts
Reality Show Where Islam Is the Biggest Star
By LIZ GOOCH
International Herald Tribune: July 28, 2010
KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia — Bright studio
spotlights illuminated the faces of four nervous young men, arms linked
as they anxiously awaited their fate. Cameramen stood poised, ready
to capture the climactic moment. Finally, the chief judge broke the
Reality show contestants had their hair and make up done before the
filming of the show in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
Two of the contestants had been eliminated. The other two had taken
a step closer to their dream. Winners and losers, each clad in crisp,
dark suits and formal black hats, took turns hugging each other.
The competition is called “Imam Muda,” or “Young
Leader” — a Malaysian venture into religious-themed reality
Aims at TV and Sex Changes
July 28, 2010
JAKARTA, Indonesia (Agence France-Presse) —
Indonesia’s highest Islamic authority has followed up a series
of contentious edicts with a new one barring Muslims from watching
television gossip shows or having sex-change operations.
The authority, the Indonesian Ulema Council, said gossip shows about
the intimate details of people’s private lives — a popular
genre on Indonesian television — were immoral and threatened
society. Gossip shows are allowed only if they “uphold the law,
warn the public and help people,” the council said.
While the council’s edicts are usually ignored, they can be
cited by religious hard-liners to justify vigilante-style crackdowns
on “un-Islamic” activities. It has recently issued a steady
stream of edicts including bans on interfaith marriages, smoking and
It was forced into an embarrassing apology recently when it corrected
an edict ordering Muslims to pray toward the west, when in fact the
holy sites in Saudi Arabia are northwest of Indonesia.
By DAVID BROOKS
The New York Times: July 22, 2010
Where does our sense of right and wrong come from?
Most people think it is a gift from God, who revealed His laws and elevates
us with His love. A smaller number think that we figure the rules out
for ourselves, using our capacity to reason and choosing a philosophical
system to live by.
Moral naturalists, on the other hand, believe that we have moral sentiments
that have emerged from a long history of relationships. To learn about
morality, you don’t rely upon revelation or metaphysics; you observe
people as they live.
This week a group of moral naturalists gathered in Connecticut at a
conference organized by the Edge Foundation. One of the participants,
Marc Hauser of Harvard, began his career studying primates, and for
moral naturalists the story of our morality begins back in the evolutionary
past. It begins with the way insects, rats and monkeys learned to cooperate.
Camouflage or Moral Monkeys?
By PETER RAILTON
The New York Times: July 19, 2010
the great show we make of morality just a civilized cover for our
After being shown proudly around the campus
of a prestigious American university built in gothic style, Bertrand
Russell is said to have exclaimed, “Remarkable. As near Oxford
as monkeys can make.” Much earlier, Immanuel Kant had expressed
a less ironic amazement, “Two things fill the mind with ever
new and increasing admiration and awe … the starry heavens above
and the moral law within.” Today many who look at morality through
a Darwinian lens can’t help but find a charming naïveté
in Kant’s thought. “Yes, remarkable. As near morality
as monkeys can make.”
So the question is, just how near is that? Optimistic Darwinians believe,
near enough to be morality. But skeptical Darwinians won’t buy
it. The great show we humans make of respect for moral principle they
see as a civilized camouflage for an underlying, evolved psychology
of a quite different kind.
This skepticism is not, however, your great-grandfather’s Social
Darwinism, which saw all creatures great and small as pitted against
one another in a life or death struggle to survive and reproduce —
“survival of the fittest.” We now know that such a picture
seriously misrepresents both Darwin and the actual process of natural
selection. Individuals come and go, but genes can persist for 1000
generations or more. Individual plants and animals are the perishable
vehicles that genetic material uses to make its way into the next
generation (“A chicken is an egg’s way of making another
egg”). From this perspective, relatives, who share genes, are
to that extent not really in evolutionary competition; no matter which
one survives, the shared genes triumph. Such “inclusive fitness”
predicts the survival, not of selfish individuals, but of “selfish”
genes, which tend in the normal range of environments to give rise
to individuals whose behavior tends to propel those genes into future.
Moves to Enforce Water Pipe Ban in Gaza
By FARES AKRAM
The New York Times: July 18, 2010
GAZA — In its latest attempt to try to
impose a conservative Islamic way of life on Gaza, Hamas started this
weekend to enforce a ban on smoking water pipes in public.
A spokesman for the Hamas police, Ayman al-Batniji, said that the
ban applied only to women and that it was in line with “the
Palestinian people’s customs and traditions.”
But many cafe owners said they had been ordered to ban water pipes
for both men and women.
Smoking large water pipes called shisha, usually with bowls of flavored
tobacco, is a longstanding pastime here.
have also been orders for female lawyers to wear Islamic head scarves
in courthouses, men not to work in hairdressing salons catering to
women, and girls to wear long Islamic robes at schools, but these
orders either have not been enforced or were quickly reversed.
targets Death Saint popular with criminals
The Associated Press/1010WINS: July18, 2010
By Olga R. Rodriguez
Mexico City - Mexican authorities are cracking
down on an icon worshipped both by drug dealers and by the terrified
people who live in drug-torn neighborhoods: the Santa Muerte, or Death
A skeletal figure of a cloaked woman with a scythe in her bony hand,
the Santa Muerte has
become more popular in Mexico even as its drug wars have become more
violent. Mexican law enforcement won't say outright it is targeting
Santa Muerte, but last month soldiers stood guard while government backhoes
crushed more than 30 public shrines to the saint in Nuevo Laredo, across
the Rio Grande from Laredo, Texas. In the two weeks before, several
altars in Tijuana and an altar built on the highway between Reynosa
and Rio Bravo were razed.
"The government's line is that it promotes narco-trafficking and
is a symbol to which children in particular should not be exposed,"
said Mexico expert George Grayson at the College of William and Mary
in Virginia. "This is a marginal step against traffickers. But
no doubt the government wants to take a holistic approach."
The move has drawn anger from Santa Muerte followers who say their religion
is under attack. Hundreds of Santa Muerte followers protested in Mexico
City during Holy Week and on Easter Sunday marched to the Basilica of
the Virgin of Guadalupe, the country's widely revered Roman Catholic
"There are a lot of legends about us, but none of them are true,"
said David Romo, founder of a Santa Muerte church, at a Mass on the
first day of the month, when the Death Saint is celebrated. Romo, who
calls himself an archbishop but was not appointed by the Catholic Church,
urged the Santa Muerte's estimated 5 million followers to take to the
streets to fight "religious intolerance."
to consider banning burqas in public
By HAROLD HECKLE
Associated Press: July 18, 2010
MADRID -- Spain's leading opposition party said
Sunday the country's parliament will debate a proposal to bar the use
of burqas in public, joining other European countries considering similar
moves on the grounds that such garments are degrading to women.
The Popular Party tabled a motion to debate total body-covering Islamic
veils in the lower house on Tuesday or Wednesday. She spoke on condition
of anonymity in keeping with party rules.
The Spanish government favors barring the wearing of burqas in government
buildings, Justice Minister Francisco Caamano has said. The minister
said garments like the burqa are "hardly compatible with human
dignity" or with identifying a person in public spaces such as
town halls or public schools.
Caamano said an upcoming bill on religious issues would seek to restrict
the wearing of full-body Islamic veils, which he said demean women.
Good News About Mel Gibson
By FRANK RICH
The New York Times: July 18, 2010
FOR Fourth of July weekend fireworks, even Macy’s
couldn’t top the spittle-spangled eruptions of Mel Gibson. A
true showman, Gibson offered vitriol for nearly all tastes, aiming
his profane fusillade at women, blacks and Latinos alike. The invective
was tied together by a domestic violence subplot worthy of “Lethal
little we enjoy more than watching a pampered zillionaire icon (Gibson’s
production company is actually named Icon) brought low. The story
would end there — just another tidy morality tale in the profuse
annals of Hollywood self-destruction from Fatty Arbuckle to Lindsay
Lohan — were it not for Gibson’s unique back story.
years ago he was not merely an A-list movie star with a penchant for
drinking and boorish behavior but also a powerful and canonized figure
in the political and cultural pantheon of American conservatism. That
he has reached rock bottom tells us nothing new about Gibson. He was
the same talented, nasty, bigoted blowhard then that he is today.
anyone remember 2004? It seems a civilization ago. That less-than-vintage
year was in retrospect the nadir of the American war over “values.”
The kickoff fracas was Janet Jackson’s breast-baring “wardrobe
malfunction” at the Super Bowl, which prompted a new crackdown
against televised “indecency” by the Federal Communications
Commission. By December Fox News and its allies were fomenting hysteria
about a supposed war on Christmas, with Newt Gingrich warning of a
nefarious secular plot “to abolish the word Christmas”
altogether and Jerry Falwell attacking Mayor Michael Bloomberg for
using the euphemism “holiday tree” at the annual tree-lighting
ceremony at Rockefeller Center. In between these discrete culture
wars came a presidential election in which the Bush-Rove machine tried
to whip up evangelical turnout by sowing panic over gay marriage.
It was into that tinderbox of America 2004 that Gibson tossed his
self-financed and self-directed movie about the crucifixion, “The
Passion of the Christ.” The epic was timed to detonate
in the nation’s multiplexes on Ash Wednesday, after one of the
longest and most divisive promotional campaigns in Hollywood history.
Gibson is in such disgrace today that it’s hard to fathom all
the fuss he and his biblical epic engendered back then. The commotion
began with the revelation that his father, Hutton, was a prominent
and vociferous Holocaust denier and that both father and son were
proselytizers for a splinter sect of Roman Catholicism that rejected
the reforms of the Second Vatican Council, including the lifting of
the “Christ-killers” libel from the Jews. Jewish leaders
and writers understandably worried that “The Passion”
might be as anti-Semitic as the Passion plays of old. Gibson’s
response was to hold publicity screenings for the right-wing media
and political establishment....
“The Passion” could be seen by ticket buyers — who
it with a $370 million domestic take (behind only “Shrek 2”
and “Spider-Man 2” that year) — the truth could
no longer be spun by Gibson’s claque. The movie was nakedly
anti-Semitic, to the extreme that the Temple priests were all hook-nosed
Shylocks and Fagins with rotten teeth. It was also ludicrously violent
— a homoerotic “exercise in lurid sadomasochism,”
as Christopher Hitchens described it then, for audiences who “like
seeing handsome young men stripped and flayed alive over a long period
of time.” Nonetheless, many of the same American pastors who
routinely inveighed against show-business indecency granted special
dispensation to their young congregants to attend this R-rated fleshfest.
It seems preposterous in retrospect that a film as bigoted and noxious
as “The Passion” had so many reverent defenders in high
places in 2004. Once Gibson, or at least the subconscious Gibson,
baldly advertised his anti-Semitism with his obscene tirade during
a 2006 D.U.I. incident in Malibu, his old defenders had no choice
but to peel off. Today you never hear conservatives mention their
embrace of “The Passion” back then — if they mention
Gibson at all. (Fox News has barely covered the new tapes.) But it
isn’t just Gibson who has been discredited. Even as he self-immolated,
so did many of the moral paragons who had rallied around him as a
First Female Elected Lutheran Bishop Quits in Handling of Abuse Complaint
By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
July 16, 2010
The first woman ever elected as a Lutheran bishop
said Friday that she had resigned from her post in northern Germany
amid accusations that she failed to thoroughly investigate reports
of a sexually abusive pastor. In a statement, Bishop Maria Jepsen,
65, said that questions about her credibility had led her to feel
that she was no longer able “to spread the good word, as I vowed
to do at my ordination.” She was elected bishop of the Lutheran
church in northern Germany in 1992, the first woman worldwide to hold
the post. She insisted that she could not recall being told of the
abuse by a priest in the northern town of Ahrensburg. Hundreds of
people claiming sexual and physical abuse of children by Protestant
and Roman Catholic clergy have come forward in Germany since January.
Rises From Twin Suicide Bombings at Iranian Mosque
By WILLIAM YONG and ROBERT F. WORTH
THE NEW YORK TIMES: July 16, 2010
TEHRAN — A Sunni militant group whose leader
was recently executed by Iranian authorities claimed responsibility
on Friday for one of the deadliest terrorist attacks Iran has seen in
years: a double suicide bombing outside a mosque that killed 26 people
and wounded 300.
The bombing underscored the continuing threat of religious and ethnic
violence in Iran, which is unrelated to the political upheavals of the
past year. The victims included members of the powerful Islamic Revolutionary
Guards Corps, officials said, which the militant group Jundallah has
singled out repeatedly in the past.
The group claims to be fighting on behalf of Sunni Muslim members of
the Baluch ethnic group in Iran and Pakistan and has been a thorn in
the side of Iran’s security services for years, repeatedly bombing
Zahedan and other southeastern cities. It claimed responsibility for
an attack in October 2009 that killed 40 people, including 15 members
of the Revolutionary Guards.
Diaspora Need Not Apply
By ALANA NEWHOUSE
The New York Times: July 15, 2010
is a Jew? If developments this week are any indication, the Israeli
parliament, the Knesset, might soon offer an official, surprising answer:
almost no one.
On Monday, a Knesset committee approved a bill sponsored by David Rotem,
a member of the nationalist Yisrael Beiteinu party, that would give
the Orthodox rabbinate control of all conversions in Israel. If passed,
this legislation would place authority over all Jewish births, marriages
and deaths — and, through them, the fundamental questions of Jewish
identity — in the hands of a small group of ultra-Orthodox, or
The move has set in motion a sectarian battle that is not only dividing
Israeli society but threatening to sever the vital connection between
Israel and the American Jewish diaspora.
The problem is not simply that some of these rabbinical functionaries,
who are paid by the state and courted by politicians, are demonstrably
corrupt. (To take the most salacious of a slew of examples, an American
Haredi rabbi who had become one of the most powerful authorities on
the question of conversion resigned from his organization in December
after accusations that he solicited phone sex from a hopeful female
convert.) Rather, it is that the beliefs of a tiny minority of the world’s
Jews are on the verge of becoming the Israeli government’s definition
of Judaism, for all Jews.
It is hard to exaggerate the possible ramifications, first and foremost
for Jewish Israelis. Rivkah Lubitch, an Orthodox woman who is a lawyer
in Israel’s rabbinic court system, painted a harrowing picture
of the future in a recent column on the Israeli Web site Ynet.
“Even if you didn’t go to register for marriage, and even
if you didn’t go to a rabbinic court for any reason, and even
if you didn’t pass by a rabbinic court when you walked down the
street — the rabbinic court can summon you, conduct a hearing
about your Jewishness and revoke it,” she wrote. “In effect,
the entire nation of Israel is presumed to be Not-Jewish — until
Why are the rabbis doing this? What is driving this process is the desire
of a small group of rabbis to expand their authority from narrow questions
of conversion to larger questions of Jewish identity. Since what goes
for conversion also goes for all other clerical acts, only a few anointed
rabbis will be able to determine the authenticity of one’s marriage,
divorce, birth, death — and every rite in between.
Strike in Uganda at Gatherings for World Cup
By JOSH KRON
The New York Times: July 12, 2010
Uganda - At least three bombs exploded Sunday in a synchronized attack
on large gatherings of World Cup soccer fans watching the finals on
outdoor screens in this normally peaceful capital, turning a boisterous
night of cheering into scenes of death and panic. The police and witnesses
said more than fifty people were killed.
bombs exploded Sunday in a synchronized attack on crowds watching
the televised final on outdoor screens in this normally peaceful capital,
police officials said on Monday.
police officials said they suspected that the
Shabab, a militant Islamic group in nearby
Somalia, might have been behind the bombings. If so, it would be that
group’s first attack outside Somalia. But the police said it
was premature to draw conclusions.
The Shabab, one of the more fearsome
militias vying for power in Somalia, ban music, dancing and sports,
have links to Al Qaeda and have repeatedly threatened targets in Uganda
as well as in Burundi because both countries contribute to the African
Union peacekeeping mission in Somalia, a lawless nation in the Horn
'Son of Sam'
Give ‘Son of Sam’ Image Makeover
By SERGE F. KOVALESKI
The New York Times: July 12, 2010
During a yearlong string of shootings before his arrest in the summer
of 1977, David Berkowitz, known as the Son of Sam, killed six people
and wounded seven others in New York City.
RoxAnne Tauriello, host of a Christian TV show, with letters from Africa.
She says correspondence of David Berkowitz’s led her to set up
a ministry that has sent thousands of Bibles to Ghana.
Upon his confession to the shootings, the portrait of the serial killer
that emerged was of a deeply disturbed loner, a man with a .44-caliber
handgun who said he took orders from a demonic black Labrador retriever
owned by a neighbor.
But in the years Mr. Berkowitz has been serving a 25-year-to-life sentence,
he has been anything but alone. He has, it turns out, attracted an array
of individuals from outside prison who, though they deplore his murderous
past, have become friends, acquaintances and in some instances a kind
of ad hoc set of assistants.
This circle of admirers, to a great degree, is made up of evangelical
Christians, including a Town and Village Courts judge in upstate New
York and a financial adviser in Manhattan, who have been moved by Mr.
Berkowitz’s story of becoming a born-again Christian 23 years
ago, and many of them have sought to publicize his account of redemption.
to Work Within Schools of Iran’s Capital
By NAZILA FATHI
The New York Times: July 12, 2010
Iran’s educational authorities will send
1,000 religious clerics into schools in Tehran to tamp down Western
influence and political opposition, newspapers reported on Sunday.
The newspapers quoted the deputy director of Tehran’s education
department, Mohammad Boniadi, as saying that the clerics would start
work at schools in the capital in September to make students “aware
of opposition plots.”
Mr. Boniadi did not say what grade levels would be affected, but a
similar plan was put into place in elementary, middle and high schools
immediately after the 1979 revolution. At that time, thousands of
were sent to schools to promote the government ideology.
month, the government reinstituted its ban against teaching music
in schools, which was imposed after the revolution but had been lifted
in recent years, the semiofficial ILNA news agency reported. Cultural
authorities have also issued guidelines for permissible male haircuts.
year’s protests, Ali Akbar Mousavi Khoini, a former reformist
member of the Iranian Parliament, said, showed that despite efforts
to Islamize universities for several years, youths had already developed
their own political and cultural views.
Trial Reveals Clash of Russian Cultures
By SOPHIA KISHKOVSKY
The New York Times: July 8, 2010
MOSCOW — Two prominent intellectuals, facing
a verdict of up to three years’ imprisonment over a museum exhibition
in 2007, issued dire warnings on Thursday that Russia was starting to
resemble Nazi Germany, contemporary Iran and the Soviet Union in the
harshness of its growing nationalism, dominance of the Russian Orthodox
church and fear of modern art.
Yuri Samodurov, former director of Moscow’s Sakharov Museum, and
Andrei Yerofeyev, a former curator of the Tretyakov Gallery, have been
on trial for nearly two years on charges of fomenting ethnic and religious
Mr. Yerofeyev opened a news conference on Thursday by showing a video
against contemporary art produced by Narodny Sobor, or People’s
Council, a nationalist organization that he said was the driving force
in the charges against him and Mr. Samodurov.
“We have the classic situation of a fascist party that is attacking
contemporary culture,” he said. “Through destruction it
is trying to get attention, your attention.”
“The verdict will be a verdict on our whole future, on our current
authorities,” Viktor Yerofeyev, a writer and the older brother
of the curator, said. He defended the works shown at the exhibition,
(right) by Alexander Kosolapov, which depicts an icon of the Mother
of God made out of caviar, is an indictment of post-Soviet materialism
and a call to spirituality rather than an attack on the Russian Orthodox
The prosecutor stated during oral arguments that he regarded Mr. Samodurov’s
and Mr. Yerofeyev’s activities as extremist and directed at inflaming
religious strife, and that they intentionally sought to offend believers.
Mr. Samodurov was convicted and fined on similar charges in 2005 for
a 2003 exhibition at the museum called “Caution, Religion!”
which he said was meant to provoke discussion about religion and modern
society, but enraged the Russian Orthodox Church and was vandalized
by fundamentalists, who damaged some of the art on display.
The trial, held in Moscow’s Tagansky District Court, has become
almost a site of pilgrimage for fundamentalist Russian Orthodox believers.
Women attend in head scarves and with prayer books to express support
for the prosecution.
He warned that Russia had not shed the shackles of Soviet ideology and
called for some understanding among liberals toward the Kremlin, where
some officials, he said, are just as concerned about the nationalists.
“We have the grounds for a spiritual leader to take power here,”
Mr. Yerofeyev said. “According to our canons, you know who this
Mr. Yerofeyev did not name Patriarch Kirill of the Russian Orthodox
Church, but he and the influence of the church were constantly referenced
at the news conference.
Mohammadie Ashtiani, Iran Mother, Could Be Stoned To Death At Any
By Nicholas Sabloff
Huffington Post: 07-6-10
A 42-year-old mother of two faces the punishment
of death by stoning in Iran after authorities convicted her of adultery.
And according to Mina Ahadi, who heads the International Committee
Against Stoning and the Death Penalty, only international pressure
can help save her.
As Ahadi told CNN: "Legally it's all over. It's a done deal.
Sakineh can be stoned at any minute."
The woman, Sakineh Mohammadie Ashtiani, who is from Tabriz, was convicted
of "adultery while being married" in 2006 and has already
received a punishment of 99 lashes. Should the execution go forward,
Ashtiani will be buried up to her chest (for men it is to the waist)
and then pelted with stones that are large enough to inflict severe
damage but no so large as to kill the person instantly, says Amnesty
International, citing Article 104 of Iran's Penal Code.
Here's how Ashtiani's case reached this point, as reported in the
Sakineh already endured a sentence of 99 lashes, but her case was
re-opened when a court in Tabriz suspected her of murdering her husband.
She was acquitted, but the adultery charge was reviewed and a death
penalty handed down on the basis of "judge's knowledge"
- a loophole that allows for subjective judicial rulings where no
conclusive evidence is present.
Mohammad Mostafaei told CNN last week that Ashtiani may not have been
fully capable of understanding the court proceedings due to the fact
that she speaks Turkish and not Farsi.
Her son Sajad told the Guardian recently, "She's innocent, she's
been there for five years for doing nothing."
Amnesty International, citing Ashtiani's case among others, called
for Iran to halt all executions last week.
priest commits '$1.3M sin'
By JOE MOLLICA in Waterbury, Conn., and DAN MANGAN in
The New York Post: July 7, 2010
A Catholic priest stole $1.3 million from his
Waterbury, Conn., parish to finance a gay old time in New York, authorities
The Rev. Kevin Gray allegedly blew the money he looted from his financially
struggling parish over seven years on male escorts, rooms at hotels,
including the Waldorf, designer clothes, trendy restaurants and tuition
for several young studs.
Gray, 64, regularly shacked up in an Upper East Side apartment that
he rented for a 35-year-old man, court documents charge.
The priest not only paid for the apartment, but also the Harvard tuition
for his male friend, authorities said. Gray told that man for years
he was a Catholic Charities lawyer and was suffering from colon cancer
-- both of which he later admitted were lies, cops said.
He "was leading a double life," said Waterbury Police Capt.
Christopher Corbett. "People are shocked by this news . . . He
was a well-respected priest."
Little Off the Top? Only
if Tehran Approves
By ROBERT F. WORTH
The New York Times: July 6, 2010
WASHINGTON — The photos, disseminated on Iran’s semiofficial
news sites, look ordinary enough:
young men with short haircuts, some with 1950s-style quiffs and a
touch of gel on top.
But these haircuts are not just a summer fashion. They
are being promoted by Iran’s Ministry of Culture and Islamic
Guidance as Islamically permissible models, part of an effort “to
halt the spread of unconventional styles and promote Islamic culture.”
More styles are set to be unveiled Sunday as part of the ministry’s
Veil and Chastity Day festival.
The haircut catalog is part of the Iranian government’s long-running
battle against Western cultural influence. Every summer, the country’s
morality police renew their crackdown on “un-Islamic”
dress and styles, including loose veils on women and long hair or
ponytails on men.
Say God Is Dead? There’s an App for That
By PAUL VITELLO
The New York Times: July 3, 2010
An explosion of smart-phone software has placed
an arsenal of trivia at the fingertips of every corner-bar debater,
with talking points on sports, politics and how to kill a zombie.
Now it is taking on the least trivial topic of all: God.
Publishers of Christian material have begun producing iPhone applications
that can cough up quick comebacks and rhetorical strategies for believers
who want to fight back against what they view as a new strain of strident
atheism. And a competing crop of apps is arming nonbelievers for battle.
“Say someone calls you narrow-minded because you think Jesus
is the only way to God,” says one top-selling application introduced
in March by a Christian publishing company. “Your first answer
should be: ‘What do you mean by narrow-minded?’ ”
For religious skeptics, the “BibleThumper” iPhone app
boasts that it “allows the atheist to keep the most funny and
irrational Bible verses right in their pocket” to be “always
ready to confront fundamentalist Christians or have a little fun among
The war of ideas between believers and nonbelievers has been part
of the Western tradition at least since Socrates. For the most part,
it has been waged by intellectual giants: Augustine, Spinoza, Aquinas,
Yet for good or ill, combatants entering the lists today are mainly
everyday people, drawn in part by the popularity of books like Richard
Dawkins’s “The God Delusion” and Christopher Hitchens’s
“God Is Not Great.”
fierceness of their debate reflects the fractious talk-show culture
unintentionally described so aptly in the title of the Glenn Beck
best seller “Arguing With Idiots.”
be better off if these people were studying Nietzsche and Kant,”
said Michael Beaty, chairman of the philosophy department at Baylor
of 'Harry Potter' actress charged with threatening to kill
her over boyfriend
Muslim fury over beau
By ANDY SOLTIS
The New York Post: July 3, 2010
The strict Muslim father and brother of "Harry
Potter" actress Afshan Azad have been charged with threatening
to kill her because she has a boyfriend.
Azad, 22, fled the suburban English home she shared with her father,
Abdul, 54, mother, Nilofar, and three brothers after the bizarre incident
on May 21, authorities said.
A spokesman for prosecutors said her brother Ashraf, 28, physically
attacked her and both he and their father threatened to kill her because
of her relationship with an unidentified Hindu man.
They confronted her in her bedroom and left her "badly bruised"
when she refused to stop seeing the man, the Daily
Afshan, who appeared in four Potter movies is believed to have taken
refuge at the London home of friends.
Mel Gibson unleashed racist tirade against his baby mama: report
POST WIRE SERVICES: July 1, 2010
In a series of expletive-laced outbursts caught
on tape, actor Mel Gibson reportedly told his baby mama that the way
she was dressed would get her "raped by a pack of n------,"
according to a new report.
The jaw-dropping tapes, obtained by RadarOnline.com, are the latest
chapter in the couple's bitter legal feud. Gibson's vile comments,
caught on audio tape, are a mix of racist and misogynist statements
aimed at former girlfriend Oksana Grigorieva, RadarOnline reported.
"You're an embarrassment to me," Mel told her at one point.
"You look like a f---ing pig in heat, and if you get raped by
a pack of n-------, it will be your fault."
self-styled conservative Catholic thought that she was going out in
a too-revealing outfit.
then warned her: "I am going to come and burn the f---ing house
down ... but you will blow me first," according to RadarOnline.
charges Somali who attacked prophet cartoonist with terrorism
By JAN M. OLSEN
Associated Press: Jul
COPENHAGEN, Denmark (AP) -- Denmark's top prosecutor on Friday charged
a Somali man with terrorism for allegedly trying to kill a cartoonist
who caricatured the Prophet Muhammad.
Joergen Steen Soerensen said the man, who cannot be named under a court
order, wanted to "seriously frighten the population" and destabilize
Denmark in the January attack on Kurt Westergaard.
The 28-year-old allegedly forced himself into Westergaard's home - armed
with a knife and an ax - trying to break into the panic room where the
Danish cartoonist was hiding.
Police, who had been alerted to the scene, shot the attacker in the
hand and leg as he tried to escape. Westergaard, age 74, was not hurt
in the attack.
GOV. BOB RILEY
GOV. BOBBY JINDAL
GOV. HALEY BARBOUR
GOV. RICK PERRY
God’s Help for a Wounded Gulf
By DAN BARRY
The New York Times: June 27, 2010
SECOUR, Ala. — In a small white building along the baptizing Bon
Secour River, a building that once housed a shrimp-net business, the
congregation of the Fishermen Baptist Church gathered for another Sunday
The assistant pastor at the Fishermen Baptist Church in Bon Secour,
Ala., asked the men of the congregation to come forward for a prayer.
After the singing of the opening hymn, “Ring the Bells of Heaven,”
and the announcement that an engaged couple was now registered at Wal-Mart,
the preacher read aloud a proclamation from Gov.
Bob Riley that declared this to be a “day of prayer”
— a day of entreaties to address the ominous threat to the way
of life just outside the church’s white doors.
Whereas, and whereas, and whereas, the proclamation read. People of
Alabama, please pray for your fellow citizens, for other states hurt
by this disaster, for all those who are responding. And pray “that
a solution that stops the oil leak is completed soon.”
In other words, dear God, thank you for your blessings and guidance.
And one other thing, dear God: Help.
The governor’s words hung a moment in the fan-turned air. Then
the preacher, Shawn Major, summoned the men of the church to the front
to “ask God to do something special.”
Two dozen men, many of them wearing short-sleeve shirts in summery colors,
knelt and sat with heads bowed and eyes closed, while a half-mile down
the street, other men — and women — underwent training in
the use of a more secular form of hope, the laying of boom.
wall between church and state came a-tumbling down on Sunday,
as elected leaders from the five states on the Gulf of Mexico issued
proclamations declaring it to be a day of prayer.
the two months since the deadly Deepwater Horizon explosion began a
ceaseless leak of oil into the gulf, damaging the ecosystem and disrupting
the economy, the efforts by mortals to stem the flow have failed. So,
then, a supplementary method was attempted: coordinated prayer.
In Texas, Gov. Rick Perry encouraged Texans
to ask God “for his merciful intervention and healing in this
time of crisis.” In Mississippi, Gov. Haley
Barbour declared that prayer “allows us an opportunity
to reflect and to seek guidance, strength, comfort and inspiration from
Almighty God.” In Louisiana, Gov. Bobby
Jindal invoked the word “whereas” a dozen times —
as well as the state bird, the brown pelican — but made no direct
mention of God. In Florida, Lt. Gov. Jeff Kottkamp
asked people to pray that God “would guide and direct our civil
leaders and provide them with wisdom and divinely inspired solutions.”
The suggestion by government to beseech God for help — to petition
a power higher than any elected official — rang out in churches
and halls from Pensacola, Fla., to Galveston, Tex., as well as here,
in Bon Secour....
race-rant Rev. rages on
'White folk done took this country'
By MAUREEN CALLAHAN
The New York Post: June 27, 2010
CHICAGO -- During a five-day seminar Rev. Jeremiah
Wright taught last week in Chicago, he was back at it, claiming that
whites and Jews are controlling the flow of worldwide information and
oppressing blacks in Israel and America.
"White folk done took this country," Wright said. "You're
in their home, and they're gonna let you know it."
The course, advertised as focusing on politics and public policy in
South Africa and America, was taught in a small, ground-floor room at
the Chicago Theological Seminary, where Wright's voice echoed out an
open window. The class was composed of about 15 to 20 students, mainly
older African-American women who would arrive early and giddily linger
during lunch breaks and after class, looking for the reverend's attention.
(The course cost a little over $1,000 if taken for college credit and
$300 if taken without.)
The absence of young people was telling: The lectures seemed ossified,
relics of a pre-civil-rights America -- a point that Obama himself made
during his famous speech on race in March 2008, prompted by the incendiary
comments ("God damn America!") made by his former pastor and
"Not once in my conversations with him have I heard him talk about
any ethnic group in derogatory terms, or treat whites with whom he interacted
with anything but courtesy and respect," Obama said.
Yet during this course -- which was described as asking, "What
is the response and public witness of persons of faith to ongoing developments
in both countries?" -- Wright made many statements about what he
believes are the true aims of whites and Jews.
"You are not now, nor have you ever been, nor will you ever be
a brother to white folk," he said. "And if you do not realize
that, you are in serious trouble."
Wright referred to Italians as "Mamma Luigi" and "pizzeria."
He said the educational system in America is designed by whites to miseducate
blacks "not by benign neglect but by malignant intent."
He said Ethiopian Jews are despised by white Jews: "And now the
Knesset [Israeli parliament] is meeting with European Jews, voting on
whether or not these African Jews can get into [Israel]."
The civil-rights movement, Wright said, was never about racial equality:
"It was always about becoming white . . . to master what [they]
do." Martin Luther King, he said, was misguided for advocating
nonviolence among his people, "born in the oven of America."
Jews Who Reject Zionism Say Events Aid Cause
By SAMUEL G. FREEDMAN
The New York Times: June 26, 2010
One day nearly 20 years ago, Stephen Naman was
preparing to help the rabbi of his Reform Jewish temple in South Carolina
move the congregation into a new building. Mr. Naman had just one
request: Could the rabbi stop placing the flag of Israel on the altar?
Stephen Naman, president of the American Council for Judaism, which
was formed in 1942.
“We don’t go to synagogue to pray to a flag,” Mr.
Naman, 63, recalled having said in a recent telephone interview.
That rabbi acceded to the request. So, after being transferred to
North Carolina and joining a temple there six or seven years later,
Mr. Naman asked its rabbi to remove the Israeli flag. This time, the
reaction was more predictable.
“The rabbi said that would be terrible,” recounted Mr.
Naman, a retired paper company executive who now lives outside Jacksonville,
Fla., “and that he’d be embarrassed to be rabbi of such
arguments that the council has consistently levied against Zionism
and Israel have shot back into prominence over the last decade, with
the collapse of the Oslo peace process, Israel’s wars in Lebanon
and Gaza, and most recently the fatal attack on a flotilla seeking
to breach the naval blockade of the Hamas regime. One need not agree
with any of the council’s positions to admit that, for a certain
faction of American Jews, they have come back into style.
“My sense is that they believe that events are proving they
were right all along,” Jonathan D. Sarna, a historian at Brandeis
University and author of the seminal book “American Judaism,”
said in a telephone interview. “Everything they prophesied —
dual loyalty, nationalism being evil — has come to pass.”
the 1967 and 1973 wars shoved the council toward obsolescence, then
Israel’s controversial wars since 2000 have brought it back
from the grave.
Web to Be Watched for Anti-Islamic Content
By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS: June 25, 2010
Pakistan will monitor seven major Web sites,
including Google and Yahoo, to block anti-Islamic links and content,
an official said Friday. Seventeen lesser-known sites are being blocked
outright, said Khurram Mehran, a spokesman for the government’s
Telecommunication Authority. In May, Pakistan placed a temporary ban
on Facebook for the same reason. That ban and the move announced Friday
were in response to court orders. The sites to be monitored are Yahoo,
Google, MSN, Hotmail, YouTube, Amazon and Bing.
link to offensive content will be “blocked immediately without
disturbing the main Web site,” Mr. Mehran said.
Court Liberalizes Rules for Right to Die Cases
By VICTOR HOMOLA and NICHOLAS KULISH
The New York Times: June 25, 2010
BERLIN — In a landmark ruling that will
make it easier for people to allow relatives and other loved ones to
die, Germany’s highest court ruled Friday that it was not a criminal
offense to cut off life-sustaining treatment for a patient.
The court overturned the conviction of a lawyer who last year was found
guilty of attempted manslaughter for advising a client to sever the
intravenous feeding tube that was keeping her mother alive, although
in a persistent vegetative state. The mother had told her daughter that
she did not wish to be kept alive artificially.
The verdict is likely to spur significant changes in the practice of
assisted suicide and is certain to restart the debate over euthanasia
and the right to die in Germany.
In its decision, the court clearly distinguished between “killing
with the aim of terminating life” and an action that “let
a patient die with his or her own consent.” The ruling strengthens
an individual’s right to die with dignity, since terminating life-sustaining
treatments will no longer be a crime if patients have declared their
The lawyer, Wolfgang Putz, an expert in patient rights at the Ludwig
Maximilians University in Munich, called the decision “outstanding.”
“It protects against abuse and it sets down clear boundaries,”
Mr. Putz said in a telephone interview on Friday after the verdict.
“It helps the patients and it helps the doctors. It takes away
at last the fear of punishment.”
Bans a Satirical Play on the Burqa
The New York Times: June 22, 2010
some, "Burqavaganza" is a funny love story in the time of
jihad. For others, it mocks Islam. The government's recent ban on
the play highlights Pakistan's liberal-conservative divide.
A love Story in the Time of Jihad
of the Past Remains on Tap in Egypt
The New York Times: June 20, 2010
ALEXANDRIA, Egypt — These two women were
veiled, true. They are religious, too, or at least as religious as
their community expects them to be. But do not tell them they cannot
stop into Sheik Ali’s bar and sit at a table and eat fried calamari
and laugh over a glass of juice while surrounded by men drinking beer
bar is officially called Cap d’Or, and is described by the hand-stenciled
words over the storefront as a “Touristic Restaurant.”
is a lot of pressure out on the street, here and around Egypt, to
at least appear pious. For women to wear a veil. For men to have a
prayer bump, a dark callus in the middle of the forehead from bowing
to the ground five times a day. And definitely, especially for women,
to stay away from alcohol, and especially in a bar filled with men.
“It’s not a Muslim tradition,” Muhammad Suleiman,
32, complained as he sat in a barbershop next door to the bar. “It
should not be there. I don’t like it. It’s not our religion.
I’d like it closed.”
is not so much the case anymore, though it still remains a place where
people go who want a break from the demands of the community and to
find like-minded friends.
“This is a community center for the open-minded,” said
Karim, 49, who also said he did not want to reveal his family name
because outside of that community it is not considered so respectable
to be in a bar.
the city around it, the bar’s better days are behind it, a fact
that has done little to diminish the loyalty of the remaining long-timers.
“Life outside these doors is difficult,” said Osama Tantawi,
40, an accountant who said he visited Sheik Ali’s the day he
turned 21 and has been a regular ever since. “The advantage
to coming here is it separates you from life out there.”
Wisconsin woman kept a nonworking freezer filled
with 100 dead cats.
Weird but true
The New York Post: June 19, 2010
Gabriella Bernabei said she is a Wiccan and has
been collecting the cats with the intention of "returning them
to Mother Earth" as soon as the time is right.
The police were apparently not in touch with nature and seized the carcasses
-- which she called a violation of her religious freedom.
sued over Coney Island concert series
By Rich Calder
The New York Post: June 18, 2010
Local synagogues and worshipers filed a lawsuit
filed today that threatens to pull the plug on Brooklyn Borough President
Marty Markowitz’s longtime Coney Island summer concert series
– along with his $64 million plan to expand them with a new
The suit, filed in Brooklyn Supreme Court, contends that the existing
series violate a city law prohibiting amplified sound within 500 feet
of religious institutions when they are in session. It seeks a court
order to block future concerts.
Two synagogues -- Sea Breeze Jewish Center and Temple Beth Abraham
– are across the street and about 300 feet away from the existing
band shell used for concerts at Asser Levy Park. Both say they host
however, fired back, saying “The show will go on!”
“These popular concerts have been happening for 32 years, since
1991 at this location with the synagogue’s blessing,”
he said. “The synagogue’s own members regularly come to
the shows to enjoy acts like Neil Sedaka, Gladys Knight and the Pips,
Liza Minnelli, the Beach Boys, and so many more. I never would have
thought that in my lifetime a Jewish synagogue would try to take away
joy and happiness from tens of thousands of Brooklynites out of spite.
“They are shamefully using religion to hold these concerts hostage
in a misguided attempt to stop renovations that will only make this
park even better for the community, for nearby residents and families,
and enhance Coney Island as a fun-filled destination. They should
be ashamed. As we say in Yiddish it is a ‘shonda.’”
Island Church Reconsiders Deal to Sell Vacant Convent for Use as a Mosque
By PAUL VITELLO
The New York Times: June 17, 2010
A plan to sell a Roman Catholic convent on Staten
Island to a Muslim group for use as a mosque is faltering in the face
of community opposition.
In a letter sent on Thursday to Archbishop Timothy M. Dolan, the Rev.
Keith Fennessy, the pastor of St. Margaret Mary Church, which owns the
convent in the Midland Beach neighborhood, said he had given the deal
a second look and “concluded that the contemplated sale would
not serve the needs of the parish.”
Many members of the parish joined other community residents last week
in loudly expressing disapproval of the sale at a heated public meeting
that drew about 400 people. Many of them expressed distrust of Muslims
and fears that the mosque would harbor terrorists.
Ultra-Orthodox Protest Schools Ruling
By ISABEL KERSHNER
The New York Times: June 17, 2010
JERUSALEM — Tens of thousands of ultra-Orthodox
Jews took to the streets of this city on Thursday to accompany dozens
of Hasidic parents who were on their way to prison for two weeks after
refusing to comply with a Supreme Court ruling against ethnic segregation
in their children’s school.
This latest battle in Israel’s simmering culture war, pitting
ultra-Orthodox Ashkenazim of European origin against their slightly
less stringent ultra-Orthodox Sephardic peers from Arab and North African
backgrounds, has raised accusations of racism on one side and infringement
of religious freedom on the other.
But on Thursday, most ultra-Orthodox were united in protest against
what they see as the state’s meddling in their religious affairs
and in their conviction that the religious law of the Torah —
or at least their interpretation of it — transcends that of any
Is Urged to Ban Genital Cutting
By NAMO ABDULLA and TIMOTHY WILLIAMS
The New York Times: June 16, 2010
SULAIMANIYA, Iraq — Human Rights Watch
urged Kurdistan’s government on Wednesday to ban genital cutting
of women and girls, a practice the organization said is widespread
and dangerous there, but which they said Kurdish officials had failed
to move aggressively to stop.
Human Rights Watch, an advocacy organization based in New York, interviewed
31 girls and women last year and combined its findings with recent
surveys by other organizations that found that at least 40 percent
of girls and women in Iraq’s Kurdistan region had undergone
the procedure, which typically involves cutting off external genitalia
with a dirty razor blade.
One of the studies, of about 1,400 girls and women interviewed during
2007 and 2008, found that almost 73 percent of women 14 years and
older said that at least a portion of their genitals had been removed.
Naqshbandi, a spokesman for Kurdistan’s Ministry of Endowment
and Religious Affairs, dismissed the study, saying that it had distorted
reality and that Kurdistan had “issues far more important”
“The report is extremely exaggerated,” he said. “It
is so unfair. It relied solely on some local reports. It relied on
He added: “Circumcision exists as an isolated occurrence, rather
than as a phenomenon in Kurdistan. It only exists in certain places.”
Boring Speech Policy
By GAIL COLLINS
The New Yourk Times: June 17, 2010
On Monday night in Ohio, a 62-foot-tall statue
of Jesus got hit by lightning and burned to the ground. (The adult
bookstore across the street was unscathed.) Less than 12 hours later,
Gen. David Petraeus — who is not God, although certain members
of Congress have been known to worship at his altar — semifainted
at a Senate Armed
Then Bravo announced that the White House gate-crashers were getting
a TV show. Al and Tipper remained in Splitsville. And the oil kept
we got from President Obama was a vague call
for some sort of new energy policy. Plus a Gulf Coast Restoration
Plan, an oil spill study commission, a reminder that the secretary
of energy won a Nobel Prize in physics
17 references to God, prayer, blessings or faith.
Lightning Destroys 6-Story Statue of Jesus
By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
June 15, 2010
A six-story statue of Jesus Christ was struck by lightning and burned
to the ground, leaving only a blackened steel skeleton and pieces
of foam that were scooped up by curious onlookers on Tuesday. The
“King of Kings” statue, one of southwest Ohio’s
most familiar landmarks, had stood since 2004 at the evangelical Solid
Rock Church along Interstate 75 in Monroe, just north of Cincinnati.
Lightning set the statue ablaze around 11:15 p.m. Monday.
sculpture, about 62 feet tall and 40 feet wide at the base, showed
Jesus from the torso up and was nicknamed Touchdown Jesus because
of the way the arms were raised, similar to a referee signaling a
touchdown. It was made of plastic foam and fiberglass over a steel
frame, which is all that remained Tuesday.
shalt not make thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing
that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that
is in the waters beneath the earth.”
Insurgents Detain Soccer Fans
By MOHAMMED IBRAHIM
The New York Times: June 15, 2010
MOGADISHU, Somalia — As South Africa proudly held the continent’s
first World Cup, a Somali insurgent group, Hizbul Islam, detained dozens
of fans for watching the tournament in recent days south of Somalia’s
capital, residents said.
“They have arrested 25 people on Saturday and Sunday nights from
their homes during World Cup games on television screens,” said
Abdulle Mayow, a resident in Afgooye. “They are still in prison.
We are really scared.”
In some rebel-held areas, Somali soccer fans, mindful of the insurgents’
threats, have been compelled to watch the games in a clandestine manner,
using makeshift satellite dishes or tuning in to local FM televisions.
“Its really horrible; you cannot even do anything in your home,”
Mr. Mayow said.
of Women’s Rights Divides Saudi Arabia
By KATHERINE ZOEPF
The New York Times: June 12, 2010
JIDDA — Roughly two years ago, Rowdha Yousef began to notice a
disturbing trend: Saudi women like herself were beginning to organize
campaigns for greater personal freedoms. Suddenly, there were women
asking for the right to drive, to choose whether to wear a veil, and
to take a job without a male relative’s permission, all using
the Internet to collect signatures and organize meetings and all becoming,
she felt, more voluble by the month.
The final straw came last summer, when she read reports that a female
activist in Saudi Arabia’s eastern province, Wajeha al-Huwaider,
had been to the border with Bahrain, demanding to cross using only her
passport, without a male chaperon or a male guardian’s written
permission. Ms. Huwaider was not allowed to leave the country unaccompanied
and, like other Saudi women campaigning for new rights, has failed —
so far — to change any existing laws or customs.
But Ms. Yousef is still outraged, and since August has taken on activists
at their own game. With 15 other women, she started a campaign, “My
Guardian Knows What’s Best for Me.” Within two months, they
had collected more than 5,400 signatures on a petition “rejecting
the ignorant requests of those inciting liberty” and demanding
“punishments for those who call for equality between men and women,
mingling between men and women in mixed environments, and other unacceptable
Opposition to a Proposed Mosque
By PAUL VITELLO
The New York Times: June 11, 2010
A church may be a church, and a temple a temple, but through the prism
of emotion that still grips many New Yorkers almost a decade after
9/11, a mosque can apparently represent a lot of things.
In the last few months, Muslim groups have encountered unexpectedly
intense opposition to their plans for opening mosques in Lower Manhattan,
in Brooklyn and most recently in an empty convent on Staten Island.
Some opponents have cited traffic and parking concerns. But the objections
have focused overwhelmingly on more intangible and volatile issues:
fear of terrorism, distrust of Islam and a linkage of the two in opponents’
“Wouldn’t you agree that every terrorist, past and present,
has come out of a mosque?” asked one woman who stood up Wednesday
night during a civic association meeting on Staten Island to address
representatives of a group that wants to convert a Roman Catholic
convent into a mosque in the Midland Beach neighborhood.
tenor of the inquiry became so fraught that the meeting eventually
collapsed in shouting around 11 p.m., prompting the police and security
guards to ask everyone to leave.
But just 20 minutes earlier, as Bill Finnegan stood at the microphone,
came the meeting’s single moment of hushed silence. Mr. Finnegan
said he was a Marine lance corporal, home from Afghanistan, where
he had worked as a mediator with warring tribes.
After the sustained standing ovation that followed his introduction,
he turned to the Muslims on the panel: “My question to you is,
will you work to form a cohesive bond with the people of this community?”
The men said yes.
Then he turned to the crowd. “And will you work to form a cohesive
bond with these people — your new neighbors?”
The crowd erupted in boos. “No!” someone shouted.
Diocese Wins a Battle Over Property
By LAURIE GOODSTEIN
The New York Times: June 10, 2010
The State Supreme Court ruled Thursday against
nine conservative congregations that split from the Episcopal Church
and tried to take their church properties with them. The Episcopal
Church and the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia fought hard in court
to retain the properties, worth tens of millions of dollars, in part
to deter other breakaway parishes from running off with their assets.
The Supreme Court unanimously dismissed the ruling of a lower court
that had sided with the conservatives in applying a law on how to
divide church property when congregations fracture. But the battle
is not over. The Supreme Court sent the case back to a lower court
to decide a different legal question: whether the denomination or
the parish actually owns the properties.
EMPIRE STATE BUILDING
State Building: No Lights for Mother Teresa
THE ASSOCIATED PRESS : June 9, 2010
NEW YORK -- When the Empire State Building lights
up, reaching 102 stories into the Manhattan sky, people lift their
eyes and guess what that night's colors might mean -- a holiday, a
charitable cause, maybe a Yankees win or a birthday. But sometimes,
color turns to controversy.
Tens of thousands of people are in an uproar about the building owner's
refusal to light New York City's tallest skyscraper in blue and white
to honor Mother Teresa in August on what would be her 100th birthday.
"The Empire State Building celebrates many cultures and causes
in the world community with iconic lightings, and has a tradition
of lightings for the religious holidays of Easter, Eid al Fitr (marking
the end of Ramadan), Hanukkah, and Christmas," owner Anthony
E. Malkin said in a statement Wednesday.
But the real estate mogul said the privately owned building "has
a specific policy against any other lighting for religious figures
or requests by religions and religious organizations."
• • •
not a social worker. I don’t do it for this reason.
I do it for Christ.
I do it for the church."
Suspends Two Aid Groups
By ROD NORDLAND and ABDUL WAHEED WAFA
The New York Times: May 31, 2010
KABUL, Afghanistan — The Afghan government suspended the operations
of two church-based relief groups on Monday over suspicions that they
were involved in converting Afghans to Christianity, even though the
evidence against them apparently consisted of nothing more than a
listing in a telephone directory.
An Afghan television station, Noorin TV, broadcast photographs that
it claimed showed Westerners’ baptizing Afghans, both men and
women, and other Afghans’ praying to Jesus at private prayer
meetings. It mentioned the two groups in the same report, although
it had no evidence tying them to such activities, officials at Noorin
Converting to any religion from Islam is a crime in Afghanistan, and
proselytizing is also outlawed.
The suspended groups, Church World Service, an American organization,
and Norwegian Church Aid, say they do not proselytize.
• • •
is a story, which is fairly well known, about when the missionaries
came to Africa. They had the Bible and we, the natives, had the land.
They said 'Let us pray,' and we dutifully shut our eyes. When we opened
them, why, they now had the land and we had the Bible."
~ DESMOND TUTU
Least 10 Are Killed as Israel Halts Flotilla With Gaza Aid
By ISABEL KERSHNER
with Mark McDonald in Hong Kong, Sebnem Arsu in Istanbul, Alan Cowell
and Steven Erlanger in Paris
The New York Times: May 31, 2010
JERUSALEM — Israeli naval commandos raided
a flotilla carrying thousands of tons of supplies for Gaza in international
waters on Monday morning, killing at least 10 people, according to
the Israeli military and activists traveling with the flotilla. Some
Israeli news reports put the death toll higher.
The confrontation drew widespread international condemnation of Israel,
with Israeli envoys summoned to explain their country’s actions
in several European countries.
criticism offered a propaganda coup to Israel’s foes, particularly
Hamas, the militant group that holds sway in Gaza, and damaged Israel’s
ties to Turkey, one of its most important Muslim partners and the
unofficial sponsor of the Gaza-bound convoy. Turkey recalled its ambassador
to Israel, and Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan cut short a visit
to Latin America to return home.
The killings also coincided with preparations for a planned visit
to Washington on Tuesday by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
The Israeli Defense Forces said more than 10 people were killed when
naval personnel boarding the six ships in the aid convoy met with
“live fire and light weaponry including knives and clubs.”
The naval forces then “employed riot dispersal means, including
live fire,” the military said in a statement.
Greta Berlin, a leader of the pro-Palestinian Free Gaza Movement,
speaking by telephone from Cyprus, rejected the military’s version.
“That is a lie,” she said, adding that it was inconceivable
that the civilian passengers on board would have been “waiting
up to fire on the Israeli military, with all its might.”
footage from the flotilla before communications were cut showed what
appeared to be commandos sliding down ropes from helicopters onto
one of the vessels in the flotilla, while Israeli high-speed naval
vessels surrounded the convoy.
A military statement said two activists were later found with pistols
they had taken from Israeli commandos.
Named the Freedom Flotilla and led by the Free Gaza Movement and a
Turkish organization, Insani Yardim Vakfi, the convoy was the most
ambitious attempt yet to break Israel’s three-year blockade
of Gaza. About 600 passengers were said to be aboard the vessels,
including the 1976 Nobel Peace Prize laureate, Mairead Corrigan-Maguire
of Northern Ireland (above left), and a Holocaust survivor, Hedy Epstein
(above right) , 85.
we have seen this morning is a war crime,” said Saeb Erakat,
the chief Palestinian negotiator for the government in the West Bank.
“These were civilian ships carrying civilians and civilian goods
— medicine, wheelchairs, food, construction materials. “What
Israel does in Gaza is appalling,” he added. “No informed
and decent human can say otherwise.”
President Pardons Gay Couple
By BARRY BEARAK
The New York Times: May 29, 2010
JOHANNESBURG — A gay couple in Malawi sentenced
to 14 years in prison for “unnatural acts” was pardoned
Saturday shortly after Secretary General Ban Ki-moon of the United Nations
met with that country’s president.
“These boys committed a crime against our culture, our religion
and our laws,” President Bingu wa Mutharika said at a news conference
in Lilongwe, the capital, before adding that he nevertheless was ordering
the couple’s unconditional release on “humanitarian grounds.”
The two men, Tiwonge Chimbalanga, 33, and Steven Monjeza, 26, were arrested
Dec. 28, two days after holding an engagement party in Blantyre, the
nation’s largest city.
defends Ground Zero mosque as freedom-of-faith issue
By DAVID SEIFMAN, City Hall Bureau Chief
The New York Post: May 29, 2010
In his fiercest defense yet of the mosque proposed near Ground Zero,
Mayor Bloomberg declared yesterday that it must be allowed to proceed
because the government "shouldn't be in the business of picking"
one religion over another.
"I think it's fair to say if somebody was going to try, on that
piece of property, to build a church or a synagogue, nobody would
be yelling and screaming," the mayor said. "And the fact
of the matter is that Muslims have a right to do it, too."
Placing the proposed mosque two blocks from the World Trade Center
site has led to an outcry from opponents, including family members
of 9/11 victims, who contend the holy place at 45 Park Place would
defile the memories of those who perished in the worst terror attack
in US history.Read more:
Hit Mosques of Islamic Sect in Pakistan
By WAQAR GILLANI and JANE PERLEZ
The New York Times: May 28, 2010
Pakistan — Hafeez Malik heard the gunfire outside the mosque,
then shots inside the prayer hall.
“People were dying one after the other,” said Mr. Malik,
a 55-year-old architect. “I could count more than 20 people
dead around me.”
From inside another mosque several miles away near the central train
station, his brother, Abdul Rashid Malik, 65, an engineer, called
his family on his cellphone. He was a hostage and had been shot in
the leg, he said. He has not been heard from since, Hafeez Malik said.
More than 80 worshipers of a minority Muslim sect, the Ahmadis, were
killed and more than 110 wounded Friday in a coordinated assault by
seven well-trained attackers on two mosques in Lahore, Pakistan’s
second largest city, the authorities said.
target was the Ahmadis, a group of about two million Muslims in Pakistan
who are considered heretical by many mainstream Muslims because the
Ahmadis believe that Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, who founded their movement
in 1889, was the messiah foretold by Muhammad, the prophet of Islam.
assault, which began during Friday Prayer and lasted more than three
hours at the Dar-ul-Zakir Mosque, and about an hour at the Bait-ul-Noor
Mosque, occurred amid a surge of sectarian violence in Pakistan in
the last two years.
Minority sects like the Ahmadis and the Shiites and have come under
increasing pressure as religious extremism has taken hold, fomented
by sectarian groups like Jaish-e-Mohammad and Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, formerly
Ahmadis were declared a non-Muslim minority in the 1970s during the
rule of the military dictator Muhammad Zia ul-Haq, a period during
which jihadist ideology became ingrained in Pakistan’s state
and religious education system.
By NICHOLAS D. KRISTOF, OP-ED COLUMNIST
The New Yoprk Times: May 26, 2010
We finally have a case where the Roman Catholic
Church hierarchy is responding forcefully and speedily to allegations
But the target isn’t a pedophile priest. Rather, it’s
a nun who helped save a woman’s life. Doctors describe her as
The excommunication of Sister Margaret McBride in Phoenix underscores
all that to me feels
morally obtuse about the church hierarchy. I hope that a public outcry
can rectify this travesty.
Sister Margaret (right) was a senior administrator of St. Joseph’s
Hospital in Phoenix. A 27-year-old mother of four arrived late last
year, in her third month of pregnancy. According to local news reports
and accounts from the hospital and some of its staff members, the
mother suffered from a serious complication called pulmonary hypertension.
That created a high probability that the strain of continuing pregnancy
would kill her.
this tragic case, the treatment necessary to save the mother’s
life required the termination of an 11-week pregnancy,” the
hospital said in a statement. “This decision was made after
consultation with the patient, her family, her physicians, and in
consultation with the Ethics Committee.”
Sister Margaret was a member of that committee. She declined to discuss
the episode with me, but the bishop of Phoenix, Thomas Olmstead, ruled
that Sister Margaret was “automatically excommunicated”
because she assented to an abortion.
“The mother’s life
cannot be preferred over the child’s,”
the bishop’s communication office elaborated in a statement.
Let us just note that the Roman Catholic hierarchy suspended priests
who abused children and in some cases defrocked them but did not normally
excommunicate them, so they remained able to take the sacrament.
statement from the bishop’s office did not dispute that the
mother’s life was in danger — although it did note that
no doctor’s prediction is 100 percent certain. The implication
is that the church would have preferred for the hospital to let nature
take its course.
Curriculum in Texas
The New York Times: May 25, 2010
The social conservatives who dominate the Texas
State Board of Education backed down last week from a few of their most
outrageous efforts to tilt the state’s social studies curriculum.
They dropped a proposal that President Obama be referred to as “Barack
Hussein Obama” and lost in their efforts to rename the “slave
trade” the “Atlantic triangular trade,” a clear attempt
to downplay slavery’s horror and spread the blame.
The changes they did force into the standards for such subjects as history,
government and economics were bad enough and bear no relationship to
neutral pedagogy. The original curriculum standards were drawn up by
teams of teachers and scholars who spent nearly a year on the huge undertaking.
The board eagerly exercised its power to amend those requirements.
In what looks like an effort to justify injecting more religion into
government, it voted to require students to examine why the founding
fathers protected religious freedom — and how that approach contrasts
of church and state.”
vs. Saudi zealots
Tackling morals cops
By JAMES HIDER
Times of London: May 22, 2010
It has not been a good week for Saudi Arabia's
morality police, defenders of the kingdom's strict Islamic values and
the scourge of young men and women who dare to meet in public out of
The zealous, all-male volunteer force from the Commission for the Promotion
of Virtue and Prevention of Vice patrols shopping malls, harassing unescorted
women and arresting others for not wearing suitably modest dress, their
religious authority unchallenged.
This week, however, two separate reports emerged of Saudi women not
just fighting back but besting the intimidating guardians of public
Veil is anti-woman
By LINDA CHAVEZ
The New York Post:May 22, 2010
The French government this week decided to fine
Muslim women who wear a full-face veil in public -- and France is only
the latest in a series of European countries seeking
to ban the religious garb. Is this an infringement of religious liberty
intended to discriminate against Muslims? Or is the measure necessary
to protect the security of others? The answers are a lot more complicated
than you might think.
A minority of Muslim women actually wear the burqa or niqab in Muslim
countries or the West. The garb consists of a gown and headdress that
covers the woman head to foot, revealing only her eyes. Obviously, it
is impossible to determine who is under the veil -- even whether the
person is male or female.
In Paris recently, a group of armed robbers pulled a heist wearing burqas,
which made it not only impossible to identify them but easy for the
criminals to conceal their weapons when entering the bank
As Jean-Francois Cope, majority leader in the French National Assembly,
wrote in a recent New York Times op-ed, the burqa "is not an article
of clothing -- it is a mask, a mask worn at all times, making identification
or participation in economic and social life virtually impossible."
And that is also its intent: to isolate the wearer from all aspects
of public life.
School Board Set to Vote Textbook Revisions
By MICHAEL BRICK
The New York Times: May 20, 2010
AUSTIN, Tex. — After facing months of protest,
conservative members of the Texas Board of Education were expected Thursday
night to vote to teach schoolchildren a version of American history
that emphasizes the roles of capitalist enterprise, the military, Christianity
and modern Republican political figures.
The scheduled vote was a preliminary tally, with the final vote by the
same group planned for Friday. The decision, expected to fall largely
along the party lines — the board has 10 Republicans and 5 Democrats
— followed tens of thousands of public comments, a protest rally
and a daylong hearing where about 200 speakers addressed the board.
By sheer force of its population size, Texas has long held outsize influence
on national textbook publishers, some of whom sent curriculum writers
to take notes in the boardroom. That influence has waned somewhat in
recent years, with the digital age allowing editors to tailor versions
of their textbooks to individual states. But Texas has only increased
in stature as a symbolic battleground over the politicization of education,
largely because of the emergence of a conservative voting bloc on the
Widens Online Ban to Include YouTube
By SABRINA TAVERNISE
The New York Times: May 20, 2010
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — Pakistani authorities
broadened what started as a ban on a social networking site on Thursday,
blocking YouTube and about 450 individual Web pages over what they
described as “growing sacrilegious content.”
The Pakistan Telecommunication Authority blocked YouTube after a special
Internet monitoring unit within the agency determined that “objectionable
content” was increasing, according to a spokesman, Khurram Mehran.
“Earlier we were blocking the links,” he said of YouTube,
“but when content increased we had to block the whole Web site.”
The ban, which also included certain pages on the Flickr and Wikipedia
sites, occurred a day after access to Facebook was suspended on orders
from a Pakistani court. A group of Islamic lawyers won that injunction,
arguing that a contest, started by users for drawings of the Prophet
Muhammad and called “Everybody Draw Muhammad Day,” was
offensive. Depiction of Muhammad is considered blasphemous by some
The ruling demonstrated the power of hard-line Islamic groups in Pakistan
. Although they rarely garner many votes in elections and represent
a minority of the country’s population, the groups are often
able to impose their will on the more peaceful majority by claiming
a defense of Islam.
Newark Pastor Made Teens Tape Sex Acts
Associated Press/ 1010 WINS
Wednesday, 19 May 2010
N.J. -- Union County prosecutors say the pastor of a Newark
church and one of his congregants forced teenage girls to videotape
them engaged in sexual acts at a motel.
The Rev. Moises Cotto, a 55-year-old East Orange resident who leads
the Congregation of Yahweh Templo El Candelero in Newark, and 37-year-old
Brenda Pabon of Middlesex County both face kidnapping and child endangerment
charges. Cotto also was charged with aggravated assault and attempted
aggravated sexual assault.
Prosecutors say Cotto and Pabon began an affair after she sought counseling
was being held Wednesday on $1.3 million bail at the Union County
Jail, while Pabon was being held on $750,000 bail. Prosecutors were
not sure if either had retained a lawyer.
Museum’s Angels Fail to Save It
By KEVIN FLYNN and ALISON LEIGH COWAN
The New York Times: May 18, 2010
In many ways, the opening of the National Museum
of Catholic Art and History in East Harlem was a kind of miracle.
The closed National Museum of Catholic Art and History.
It was founded by a single mother without a college degree, much experience
in arts administration or any affiliation with the New York Archdiocese.
But the woman, Christina Cox, had a deep passion for the project and
a number of powerful friends.
2001, a year before the state began aiding the museum, The Village
Voice published articles that questioned her credentials. But she
defended them in an interview several weeks ago. “I know how
to write a press release, how to hang, have a fund-raiser and how
to manage,” she said. “I have a passion, a personal concern
for what to do with all this Christian art.”
the outset, the museum was an improbable pursuit. Its collection was
spotty, Ms. Cox’s training was slim, and the chosen site, in
an old parish school building, was far from the culture world’s
the building opened to the public in 2003, visitors found an eclectic
collection held together by its mission of illustrating Roman Catholic
influence on art and history: bronze angels by Salvador Dalí
; a portrait of John F. Kennedy ; a collection of 17th- and 18th-century
Latin American paintings; a gallery of works that depicted nuns, including
one of Sally Field as the Flying Nun.
the money and the promises, “we end up with nothing,”
said Rafael Merino, director of marketing for the nonprofit East Harlem
Business Capital Corporation. The Catholic museum was never a prominent
cultural attraction. But its short life in New York is a parable of
what can go wrong in the distribution of public funds for the arts.
By Preston L. Allen
By JULIA SCHEERES
The New York Times: May 16, 2010
What is it about church that is so damn sexy?
The question has bugged me for a long time.
An erotic current runs just below the displays of rectitude and purity,
despite the hard pews and organ repertory. I suspect it has to do with
the congregants’ concerted effort to suppress carnality in favor
of distant heavenly rewards. Denying the flesh only makes it throb harder.
It’s tricky to defeat one’s own biology, especially when
young. It bubbles up during sermons as eyes and thoughts wander. The
nape of a boy’s neck sitting two rows up — that modest strip
of naked flesh between hairline and suit jacket — can surprisingly
Sixteen-year-old Elwyn Parker, the protagonist of Preston L. Allen’s
novel “Jesus Boy,” is smitten by something just as banal:
the glimpse of a twice-pierced, yet unadorned earlobe. The ear belongs
to Elaine Morrisohn, 42, a freshly widowed member of his black community’s
church, Our Blessed Redeemer Who Walked Upon the Waters. The widow’s
earlobes lend credence to rumors that she lived a life of “singular
wickedness” before she accepted the Lord. As Elwyn boasts to his
high school principal, in this church “we don’t drink, don’t
smoke, and our women don’t wear pants.” Jewelry is forbidden,
as is coffee, dancing, secular music and most forms of fun.
But these strictures do nothing to repress the congregation’s
primal urges, and generations of illicit sex run through this clever
and wide-ranging book in which the flesh always triumphs.
(Moreira De Melo)
Decries Gay Marriage in Portugal Visit
By RACHEL DONADIO
The New York Times: May 14, 2010
FÁTIMA, Portugal — Pope Benedict
XVI used a famous Portuguese shrine to the Virgin Mary on Thursday
as a stage to denounce abortion and gay marriage, just days before
Portugal is expected to join five European countries that have legalized
Although it is 90 percent Catholic, Portugal has seen a notable shift
away from Catholic teaching in recent years. The country legalized
abortion in 2008 and its Parliament recently approved a bill permitting
same-sex marriage . President Aníbal Cavaco Silva is expected
to sign the bill into law in the coming days.
would be the sixth country in Europe to legalize same-sex marriage,
after the Netherlands, Belgium, Spain, Norway and Sweden. France and
Denmark recognize same-sex unions, which convey many but not all of
the rights enjoyed by married couples.
The church has opposed the measure, but Portuguese society appears
to be largely supportive.
In a speech here to Catholic social service groups, Benedict called
for initiatives aimed at protecting “the family based on the
indissoluble marriage between a man and a woman, help to respond to
some of today’s most insidious and dangerous threats to the
He also said he expressed his “deep appreciation for all those
social and pastoral initiatives aimed at combating the socioeconomic
and cultural mechanisms which lead to abortion, and are openly concerned
to defend life and to promote the reconciliation and healing of those
harmed by the tragedy of abortion.”
The audience in a chapel at the shrine gave the pope a standing ovation.
Constitution Opens New Front in Culture Wars
By JEFFREY GETTLEMAN
The New York Times: May 14, 2010
NAIROBI, Kenya — The push to pass a new
constitution in Kenya , a cornerstone of the effort to correct longstanding
imbalances of power and prevent the kind of upheaval that followed deeply
flawed elections here, has attracted some unexpected interference —
from more than 7,000 miles away.
Before Kenyan lawmakers had even finished drafting the proposed constitution,
American Christians organized petition drives in Kenya against it, objecting
to a provision recognizing Islamic courts.
Now that the draft is done, three Republican members of Congress --
Christopher H. Smith of New Jersey, Darrell Issa of California and Ileana
Ros-Lehtinen of Florida --contend that it significantly expands abortion
rights, and are accusing the United States Embassy in Kenya of openly
supporting it in violation of federal rules.
It is the latest battle in the American culture wars playing out in
Africa. Last year, American Christians helped stoke antigay sentiments
in Uganda; later, Ugandan politicians proposed the execution of some
gay people. That debate is still raging, though it looks as if the Ugandan
government is backing down and will not pass the antigay bill after
Catholic school won't admit lesbians' son
By JAY LINDSAY
Associated Press: May 13, 2010
BOSTON — A Roman Catholic school in Massachusetts
has withdrawn its acceptance of an 8-year-old boy with lesbian parents,
saying their relationship was "in discord" with church teachings,
according to one of the boys' mothers.
It's at least the second time in recent months that students have not
been allowed to attend a U.S. Catholic school because of their parents'
sexual orientation, with the other instance occurring in Colorado.
The Massachusetts woman...said she planned to send the boy to third
grade at St. Paul Elementary School in Hingham in the fall. But she
said she learned her son's acceptance was rescinded during a conference
call Monday with Principal Cynthia Duggan and the parish priest, the
Rev. James Rafferty.
"I'm accustomed to discrimination, I suppose, at my age and my
experience as a gay woman," the mother said. "But I didn't
expect it against my child."
Rafferty said her relationship "was in discord with the teachings
of the Catholic Church," which holds marriage is only between a
man and woman, the woman said. She said Duggan told her teachers wouldn't
be prepared to answer questions her son might have because the school's
teachings about marriage conflict with what he sees in his family.
Rafferty and Duggan did not respond to requests for comment.
IN THE NIGHT
at Center of Legal Dispute Disappears
By RANDAL C. ARCHIBOLD
The New York Times: May 12, 2010
— A seven-foot-tall Latin cross in the middle of both the Mojave
Desert and a Supreme Court case on the separation of church and state
has been stolen, federal officials said Tuesday.
The cross , made of metal tubing reinforced with concrete and bolted
to a base on a rock, about 200 miles east of here, was discovered missing
cartoonist 'head-butted' during lecture
By MALIN RISING
Associated Press: May 11, 2010
STOCKHOLM (AP) -- A Swedish artist who angered
Muslims by depicting the Prophet Muhammad
as a dog was assaulted Tuesday as furious protesters interrupted his
lecture about the limits of artistic freedom.
Lars Vilks told The Associated Press a man leaped from the front row
and head-butted him as he was delivering his speech, breaking Vilks'
glasses but leaving him uninjured. Two people were arrested but it
wasn't immediately clear whether the attacker was among them.
A video clip of the incident by a Swedish newspaper showed police
using pepper spray and batons to hold off an angry crowd shouting
"God is great" in Arabic after Vilks was escorted out of
the lecture hall.
Vilks has faced numerous threats over his controversial drawing of
Muhammad with a dog's body, [was temporarily moved to a secret location
after al-Qaida in Iraq put a $100,000 bounty on his head in September
2007] but Tuesday's incident was the first time he has been physically
we at NOOSE & NAIL respect Lars Vilks' artistic integrity we must
that we, as
find the depiction of Muhammad as a Dog offensive to Canids worldwide.
Path From Condemning Terror to Preaching Jihad
By SCOTT SHANE and SOUAD MEKHENNET
The New York Times: May 8, 2010
— In the weeks after the Sept. 11 attacks, the eloquent
30-year-old imam of a mosque outside Washington became a go-to Muslim
cleric for reporters scrambling to explain Islam. He condemned the
mass murder, invited television crews to follow him around and patiently
explained the rituals of his religion.
“We came here to build, not to destroy,” the cleric, Anwar
al-Awlaki , said in a sermon. “We are the bridge between Americans
and one billion Muslims worldwide.”
At first glance, it seemed plausible that this lanky, ambitious man,
with the scholarly wire-rims and equal command of English and Arabic,
could indeed be such a bridge. CD sets of his engaging lectures on
the Prophet Muhammad were in thousands of Muslim homes. American-born,
he had a sense of humor, loved deep-sea fishing, had dabbled in get-rich-quick
investment schemes and dropped references to “Joe Sixpack”
into his sermons. A few weeks before the attacks he had preached in
the United States Capitol. Nine years later, from his hide-out in
Yemen , Mr. Awlaki has declared war on the United States.
year Mr. Awlaki became the first American citizen on the C.I.A.’s
list of terrorists approved as a target for killing, a designation
that has only enhanced his status with admirers like Shahidur Rahman,
27, a British Muslim of Bangladeshi descent who studied with Mr. Awlaki
in London in 2003. “He said suicide is not allowed in Islam,”
Mr. Rahman said in an interview, “but self-sacrifice is different.”
He was a nonviolent moderate until the United States attacked Muslims
openly in Afghanistan and Iraq, covertly in Pakistan and Yemen, and
even at home, by making targets of Muslims for raids and arrests.
He merely followed the religious obligation to defend his faith, he
MOTHER AND SON
Mother and Son Are Killed in Continuing Violence
ASSOCIATED PRESS: May 8, 2010
BURUNDI - Attackers chopped off the limbs of
a 5-year-old albino boy and pulled out his mother’s eye, killing
them in the belief that their body parts would bring wealth and success,
human rights activists said Friday. Those deaths and other attacks
in Tanzania are part of a long pattern of violence against African
albinos. At least 10,000 have been displaced or gone into hiding,
and 71 have been killed in Tanzania and Burundi since attacks against
them spiked in late 2007, according to the International Federation
of the Red Cross.
A. WILD, S.J.
Marquette University President
Rescinds Offer to Sociologist
By SAM DILLON
The New York Times: May 7, 2010
Marquette University on Thursday abruptly rescinded
an offer to a sociologist to serve as dean of one of its colleges,
angering some students and faculty members who said the university
did so after learning she was a lesbian who wrote about sexuality.
Marquette, a Roman Catholic university run by Jesuits in Milwaukee,
said the professor lacked “the ability to represent the Marquette
mission and identity.”
The professor, Jodi O’Brien , who teaches sociology at Seattle
University, is openly gay and writes frequently about sexuality in
Nancy E. Snow , a professor of philosophy at Marquette, said of the
decision,“This is discrimination based on sexual orientation,
and is a complete betrayal of our commitment to human dignity and
The Rev. Robert A. Wild , the Marquette president, denied in an interview
that the decision to revoke the offer was based on the candidate’s
sexual orientation. Instead, Father Wild said, the decision came after
he and other university leaders read academic writings by the candidate.
“We found some strongly negative statements about marriage and
family,” Father Wild said.
Religious Immigrant Is Linked to a Militant
By SCOTT SHANE and MARK MAZZETTI
The New York Times: May 7, 2010
WASHINGTON — The Pakistani-American man
accused of trying to detonate a car bomb in Times Square has told investigators
that he drew inspiration from Anwar al-Awlaki , a Yemeni-American cleric
whose militant online lectures have been a catalyst for several recent
attacks and plots, an American official said Thursday.
The would-be bomber, Faisal Shahzad , was inspired by the violent rhetoric
of Mr. Awlaki, said the official, who would speak of the investigation
only on condition of anonymity.
“He listened to him, and he did it,” the official said,
referring to Saturday’s attempted bombing on a busy street in
Friends of Mr. Shahzad have said he became more religious and somber
in the last year or so, and asked his father’s permission in 2009
to join the fight in Afghanistan against American and NATO forces.
Woes, Long Silences and a Zeal for Islam
By JAMES BARRON and SABRINA TAVERNISE
The New York Times: May 5, 2010
Theirs was an arranged marriage: two well-educated
children of prominent Pakistani families set up through a mutual friend.
He was the quiet one; she was the one who laughed at parties.
The husband, Faisal Shahzad , put photographs of his wife, Huma Mian,
on his desk at the Arden office in Stamford, Conn. They bought a brand-new
house for $273,000, 35 miles away on Long Hill Avenue in Shelton.
By the time they moved in, she was pregnant, the neighbors recalled.
As another day passed with Mr. Shahzad talking to investigators about
the car bomb he had admitted driving into Times Square on Saturday,
details emerged on Wednesday about the couple and their life together,
along with speculation about his radicalization. People who knew them,
both in Connecticut and in Pakistan , said he had changed in the past
year or so, becoming more reserved and more religious as he faced
what someone who knows the family well called “their financial
Last year, one Pakistani friend said, he even asked his father, Bahar
ul-Haq, a retired high-ranking air force pilot in Pakistan, for permission
to fight in Afghanistan.
a newlywed, the wedding guest said of Mr. Shahzad by e-mail from Pakistan,
“there was no sign of him being extremist or, for that matter,
he wasn’t a bit religious.” But in the past couple of
years, after changing jobs and fathering two children, Mr. Shahzad
“started talking more of Islam.”
Woman in Italy Is Fined for Wearing Veil
REUTERS: May 4, 2010
MILAN — A 26-year-old Tunisian woman has
been fined for wearing a face veil while walking to a mosque in northern
Italy , adding to the growing debate on the integration of Muslim
minorities in Europe.
The police in the city of Novara, a stronghold of Italy’s anti-
immigration Northern League, stopped the woman on Friday while she
was walking with her husband to prayers. The woman, who is Muslim,
was wearing a black niqab that covered her face but left her eyes
house of Belgium’s Parliament voted last week to outlaw veils
and France said it would start debating a possible ban soon.
JEAN~FRANÇOIS COPÉ |
Away the Veil
By JEAN-FRANÇOIS COPÉ
The New York Times: Paris , May 4, 2010
MOMENTUM is building in Europe for laws forbidding
the wearing of garments that cover the face, like the Islamic burqa
and niqab, in public. Just last week, the lower house of the Belgian
Parliament overwhelmingly passed a ban on face coverings. And next week,
the French Assembly will most likely approve a resolution that my party,
the Union for a Popular Movement, has introduced condemning such garments
as against our republican principles, a step toward a similar ban.
Amnesty International condemned the Belgian law as “an attack
on religious freedom,” while other critics have asserted that
by prohibiting the burqa, France would impinge upon individual liberties
and stigmatize Muslims, thereby aiding extremists worldwide.
This criticism is unjust. The debate on the full veil is complicated,
and as one of the most prominent advocates in France of a ban on the
burqa, I would like to explain why it is both a legitimate measure for
public safety and a reaffirmation of our ideals of liberty and fraternity.
SCOUTS OF AMERICA
Court declines to hear Lesbian couple's suit against Boy Scouts
By Warren Richey
CS Monitor: May 3, 2010
A lesbian couple and an agnostic couple are
suing to prevent the Boy Scouts from using public land. The Supreme
Court refused to hear an appeal in the case, which returns to the
[The two couples in San Diego have legal standing to sue the Boy Scouts
to force the group to stop using prime city land for camping and other
The US Supreme Court on Monday let stand an earlier ruling by the
Ninth US Circuit Court of Appeals, which sided with the two couples.
The couples object to Boy Scout policies that exclude boys and adults
who are atheists, agnostics, or homosexuals.
In refusing to take up the Boy Scouts’ appeal, the high court
action returns the case to the San Francisco-based Ninth Circuit.
Uganda, Push to Curb Gays Draws U.S. Guest
By JOSH KRON
The New York Times: May 3, 2010
KAMPALA, Uganda — As storm clouds brewed in the near distance,
about 1,300 people gathered at the grassy Makerere University sports
grounds here for a special Sunday afternoon rally and prayer service
that, its organizers said, was to discuss homosexuality, witchcraft,
corruption and the fear of violence leading up to the country’s
presidential election next year.
The guest of honor, Lou Engle, an American evangelical from Kansas
City, bowed up and down from his knees at the front of the stage.
Mr. Engle, who helped found TheCall Ministries, a prayer group that
focuses on moral issues, arrived last week in Uganda , where TheCall
has opened a new chapter. His trip comes amid a heated debate throughout
the country over a bill that would ban advocacy of gay rights and
suggests the death penalty for homosexuals who have AIDS and engage
in sexual relations.
arriving here last week, Mr. Engle came out with a statement condemning
the harsh penalties proposed in the bill, and said that his ministry
could not support it. But when he took the stage late on Sunday afternoon,
with Ugandan politicians and pastors looking on, he praised the country’s
“courage” and “righteousness” in promoting
“NGOs, the U.N. ,Unicef , they are all coming in here and promoting
an agenda,” Mr. Engle said, referring to nongovernmental organizations.
“Today, America is losing its religious freedom. We are trying
to restrain an agenda that is sweeping through the education system.
Uganda has become ground zero.”
Counsels Women Addicted to Pornography
By JOHN LELAND
The New York Times: May 2, 2010
LENEXA, Kan. — It was the final session
for the women at Westside Family Church ’s Victory Over Porn Addiction
group, and the youngest member, a 17-year-old named Kelsie, had not
had a good week.
“I slipped two nights this week,” she said, to nods of support
from the other women in the group. “I decided that every time
I’m tempted I’ll just let everything out to God,”
The group’s leader, Crystal Renaud, offered gentle counsel. “Pray
for yourself, too,” she said. To the wide array of programs offered
by evangelical megachurches like Westside, the group adds what Ms. Renaud
says is something long overdue.
“In the Christian culture, women are supposed to be the nonsexual
ones,” said Ms. Renaud, who also runs an Internet site called
Dirty Girls Ministries , choosing the name to attract people searching
for pornography. “It’s an injustice that the church is not
more open about physical sexuality. God created sex. But the enemy has
LAWRENCE E. BRANDT
of the Sisters
The New York Times: April 30, 2010
In the fierce closing debate over health care
reform, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops charged that
the legislation didn’t do enough to restrict insurance coverage
of abortions. Many Catholic nuns and the Catholic Health Association
of the United States, which represents hundreds of Catholic hospitals,
looked at the same bill and concluded that it would have no effect
on abortion financing. They signed a letter urging its passage, saying
the reform was “life-affirming” and consistent with Catholic
Now one bishop is punishing the nuns who supported reform. Bishop
Lawrence E. Brandt of Greensburg, Pa., has decreed that “any
religious community” that signed the letter would be forbidden
to use the diocese’s offices, parishes or newspaper to promote
programs that encourage young people to consider the religious life
Ruling Blocks Cross Removal
By ADAM LIPTAK
The New York Times: April 29, 2010
WASHINGTON — A badly fractured Supreme
Court , with six justices writing opinions, reopened the possibility
on Wednesday that a large cross serving as a war memorial in a remote
part of the Mojave Desert may be permitted to remain there.
The 5-to-4 decision provided an unusually vivid glimpse into how deeply
divided the court is on the role religious symbols may play in public
life and, in particular, the meanings conveyed by crosses in memorials
for fallen soldiers.
“A Latin cross is not merely a reaffirmation of Christian beliefs,”
Justice Anthony M. Kennedy wrote in a plurality opinion joined by
Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr.
“It evokes thousands of small crosses in foreign fields marking
the graves of Americans who fell in battles, battles whose tragedies
would be compounded if the fallen are forgotten.”
Justice John Paul Stevens rejected that view. “The cross is
not a universal symbol of sacrifice,” he wrote in a dissent
joined by Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sonia Sotomayor . “It
is the symbol of one particular sacrifice, and that sacrifice carries
deeply significant meaning for those who adhere to the Christian faith.”
Stevens said he had no quarrel with war memorials. But a “solitary
cross,” he said, “conveys an inescapably sectarian message.”
“Making a plain, unadorned Latin cross a war memorial does not
make the cross secular,” he added. “It makes the war memorial
Abortion Measures Enacted in Oklahoma
By JAMES C. McKINLEY Jr.
The New York Times: April 27, 2010
HOUSTON — The Oklahoma Legislature voted
Tuesday to override the governor’s vetoes of two abortion measures,
one of which requires women to undergo an ultrasound and listen to
a detailed description of the fetus before getting an abortion.
Though other states have passed similar measures requiring women to
have ultrasounds, Oklahoma’s law goes further, mandating that
a doctor or technician set up the monitor so the woman can see it
and describe the heart, limbs and organs of the fetus. No exceptions
are made for rape and incest victims.
A second measure passed into law on Tuesday prevents women who have
had a disabled baby from suing a doctor for withholding information
about birth defects while the child was in the womb.
Opponents argue that the law will protect doctors who purposely mislead
a woman to keep her from choosing an abortion. But the bill’s
sponsors maintain that it merely prevents lawsuits by people who wish,
in hindsight, that the doctor had counseled them to abort a disabled
Gov. Brad Henry, a Democrat, vetoed both bills last week.
new law says that the monitor must be placed where the woman can see
it and that she must listen to a detailed description of the fetus.
“The goal of this legislation is just to make a statement for
the sanctity of human life,” State Senator Todd Lamb, the majority
floor leader, said in an interview after the vote. “Maybe someday
these babies will grow up to be police officers and arrest bad people,
or will find a cure for cancer.”
African Jews Relent on Bar Mitzvah
By BARRY BEARAK
The New York Times: April 24, 2010
JOHANNESBURG — Richard Goldstone, the South
African judge who had said threatened protests at his grandson’s
bar mitzvah would keep him from attending , has reached an agreement
with Jewish groups here that will allow him to go to the ceremony after
all. “I am delighted that I will be able to attend the bar mitzvah,”
the judge said in an e-mail message on Saturday.
A day earlier, the South African Jewish Board of Deputies , which represents
most of the country’s synagogues, issued a statement that outlined
something like a quid pro quo: a promise of no protests on the bar mitzvah
boy’s big day, in exchange for a meeting between the judge and
leaders of the South African Zionist Federation and other Jewish organizations.
Judge Goldstone, a former member of this country’s highest court,
led a United Nations investigation into Israel’s invasion of Gaza
that concluded that Israel and Hamas had taken actions amounting to
Though the findings rebuked both sides, the sharper criticism was aimed
at Israel. The Israeli government disputed the conclusions, and many
Jewish groups argued that the report was not only wrongheaded but that
it was also part of vicious international efforts to defame Israel and
deny its legitimacy.
HUSSAIN SIBAT |
Mystic Lingers in Saudi Jail
By MICHAEL SLACKMAN
The New York Times: April 24, 2010
CAIRO — The sorcerer still has his head.
The execution of Ali Hussain Sibat, shown here with his wife, Samira
Rahmoun, has been postponed several times.
But for how long?
For more than two years, Ali Hussain Sibat of Lebanon has been held
in a prison in Saudi Arabia , convicted of sorcery and sentenced to
death. His head is to be chopped off by an executioner wielding a long,
His crime: manipulating spirits, predicting the future, concocting potions
and conjuring spells on a call-in television show called “The
Hidden” on a Lebanese channel, Scheherazade. It was, in effect,
a Middle Eastern psychic hot line.
Wants Ban of Full Veils
By STEVEN ERLANGER
The New York Times: April 22, 2010
PARIS — President Nicolas Sarkozy of France
told his cabinet on Wednesday that he would put forward a bill in May
to ban the wearing of the full veil in public places in France, despite
a warning from senior legal authorities that the bill may be unconstitutional.
Mr. Sarkozy wants a bill that goes farther than initial proposals, including
a ban on wearing the full veil — the niqab,
which leaves only the eyes uncovered, and the burqa...
from streets, markets and shops, according to his spokesman, Luc Chatel.
The full veil “hurts the dignity of women and is unacceptable
in French society,” Mr. Chatel quoted Mr. Sarkozy as telling the
An earlier proposal from a panel of the National Assembly suggested
a bill banning the full veil in public places belonging to the state,
like schools and public buildings, and in areas where facial recognition
is vital for security reasons: airports, banks and even public transport.
In 2004, France banned the wearing of head scarves in public schools
but at the same time banned all signs of religious affiliation.
Belgium is also preparing to vote on legislation to ban the full veil....
ANTI BLASPHEMY LAW IN JAKARTA |
Banning Blasphemy Is Upheld in Indonesia
By PETER GELLING
The New York Times: April 20, 2010
JAKARTA, Indonesia — Indonesia ’s
Constitutional Court ruled 8 to 1 Monday that a controversial 45-year-old
law banning religious blasphemy was constitutional.
The law allows the attorney general’s office to ban religious
groups that “distort” or “misrepresent” official
faiths and calls for up to five years in prison for anyone found guilty
Church Mary Can Love
By NICHOLAS D. KRISTOF
The New York Times: April 18, 2010
I heard a joke the other day about a pious soul
who dies, goes to heaven, and gains an audience with the Virgin Mary.
The visitor asks Mary why, for all her blessings, she always appears
in paintings as a bit sad, a bit
Mary reassures her visitor: “Oh, everything’s great. No
problems. It’s just ... it’s just that we had always wanted
That story comes to mind as the Vatican wrestles with the consequences
of a patriarchal premodern mind-set: scandal, cover-up and the clumsiest
self-defense since Watergate. That’s what happens with old boys’
It wasn’t inevitable that the Catholic Church would grow so
addicted to male domination, celibacy and rigid hierarchies. Jesus
himself focused on the needy rather than dogma, and went out of his
way to engage women and treat them with respect.
The first-century church was inclusive and democratic, even including
a proto-feminist wing and texts. The Gospel of Philip, a Gnostic text
from the third century, declares of Mary Magdalene: “She is
the one the Savior loved more than all the disciples.” Likewise,
the Gospel of Mary (from the early second century) suggests that Jesus
entrusted Mary Magdalene to instruct the disciples on his religious
St. Paul refers in Romans 16 to a first-century woman named Junia
as prominent among the early apostles, and to a woman named Phoebe
who served as a deacon. The Apostle Junia became a Christian before
St. Paul did (chauvinist translators have sometimes rendered her name
masculine, with no scholarly basis).
Yet over the ensuing centuries, the church reverted to strong patriarchal
attitudes, while also becoming increasingly uncomfortable with sexuality.
The shift may have come with the move from house churches, where women
were naturally accepted, to more public gatherings.
The upshot is that proto-feminist texts were not included when the
Bible was compiled (and were mostly lost until modern times). Tertullian,
an early Christian leader, denounced women as “the gateway to
the devil,” while a contemporary account reports that the great
Origen of Alexandria took his piety a step further and castrated himself.
BEGGING FOR ISLAM
Urged to Rein in Religious Schools
By ADAM NOSSITER
The New York Times: April 16, 2010
Senegal — Thousands of children in Senegal are forced to beg
on the streets under the pretext that they are receiving religious
instruction, Human Rights Watch said in a report Thursday that urged
the government to crack down on the long-established phenomenon.
At least 50,000 such children are on the streets of this impoverished
West African nation’s cities, the report said, “subjected
to conditions akin to slavery.”
Brandishing begging bowls and tin cans at passers-by and motorists,
they collect coins for religious leaders who have promised their parents
that they will be given instruction in the Koran. In fact, the children’s
principal duty is often to support the religious leaders, the report
Ban School Bells in a Town in Somalia
By MOHAMMED IBRAHIM
The New York Times: April 15, 2010
MOGADISHU, Somalia — The Shabab ,Somalia ’s most powerful
Islamist insurgent group, outlawed school bells in a southern town on
Thursday after deciding that they conflicted with Islam, residents said.
School principals in the town, Jowhar, about 55 miles north of Mogadishu,
the capital, had been summoned to a meeting and informed that the bells
could no longer be used because they sounded like church bells, according
to one principal.
Radio Stations Halt Music
By MOHAMMED IBRAHIM
The New York Times: April 14, 2010
MOGADISHU, Somalia — At least 14 radio stations
here in the capital stopped broadcasting music on Tuesday, heeding an
ultimatum by an Islamist insurgent group to stop playing songs or face
The threat left radio stations scrambling to scrub even the briefest
suggestion of music from their daily programming. “Bam! Bam! Bam!”
— the sound of gunshots that Somalis in Mogadishu have grown accustomed
to hearing — was played by Radio Shabelle on its news broadcast
to replace the music it usually uses to introduce the segment.
Similarly odd sounds — like the roar of an engine, a car horn,
animal noises and the sound of water flowing — were used to introduce
programs on some of the other radio stations that stopped playing music.
“We have replaced the music of the early morning program with
the sound of the rooster, replaced the news music with the sound of
the firing bullet and the music of the night program with the sound
of running horses,” said Osman Abdullahi Gure, the director of
Radio Shabelle radio and television, one of the most influential stations
“It was really a crush,” he said. “We haven’t
had time to replace all the programs at one time; instead, we have chosen
The insurgent group, Hizbul Islam, issued its ultimatum 10 days ago
and set Tuesday as the deadline to comply, saying that music was “un-Islamic.”
In other parts of the country, insurgents have taken over or shut down
some radio stations. Last week, the Shabab , the country’s most
powerful insurgent group, said it was banning foreign programs like
those broadcast by the BBC and Voice of America , calling them Western
propaganda that violated Islam.
7, 1294 to
December 13, 1294
By DANIEL J. WAKIN
The New York Times: April 9, 2010
VATICAN CITY - He is elected for life, by a
group of elderly men infused with the will of God. People address
him as Holy Father, not Mr. President. After bishop of Rome, his second
title is vicar of Jesus Christ.
A smattering of voices suggest that Pope Benedict XVI can, and should,
as outrage has built in recent weeks over clerical abuses in the Catholic
Church. The calls — from some lay Catholics, bloggers, secular
publications like the German magazine Der Spiegel and street protesters
— have been fueled by reports that laid blame at his doorstep,
citing his response both as a bishop long ago in Germany and as a
cardinal heading the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which
handles these cases. In the most recent disclosure, on Friday, the
news emerged that in 1985, when Benedict was Cardinal Ratzinger, he
signed a letter putting off efforts to defrock a convicted child-molesting
priest. He cited the priest’s relative youth but also the good
of the church.
Vatican officials and experts who follow the papacy closely dismiss
the idea of stepping down. “There is no objective motive to
think in terms of resignation, absolutely no motive,” said the
Rev. Federico Lombardi, the Vatican spokesman, in an interview before
Friday’s disclosure. “It’s a completely unfounded
course, popes have resigned before — the last a mere 595 years
ago, when Gregory XII stepped down to heal a schism. Before that,
Celestine V, a fiercely ascetic former hermit who wore his temporal
power heavily, resigned in 1294 (Dante consigned him to hell for cowardice,
some interpreters of the “Inferno” believe).
Preacher Guilty in Freezer Murder Trial
RightJuris.com: April 10, 2010
Anthony Hopkins, a traveling pastor, has been
found guilty in the freezer murder trial. He was found guilty on all
counts including murder, rape, sodomy, sex abuse and incest. He is scheduled
for sentencing on May 6.
jail sentence upheld for UK kissing couple
By BARBARA SURK
Associated Press: Apr 4, 2010
DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) -- A Dubai appeals
court on Sunday upheld a one-month prison sentence for a British couple
convicted of kissing in a restaurant.
The pair landed in court after an Emirati woman complained about the
public kiss, which the couple insisted was just a peck on the cheek.
They were arrested in November and convicted of inappropriate behavior
and illegal drinking.
No image available
Vatican abuse shocker
Associated Press: April 3, 2010
The future Pope Benedict XVI took over the abuse
case of an Arizona priest, then let it languish at the Vatican for years
despite repeated pleas from a bishop for the man to be removed from
the priesthood, according to church correspondence.
Documents reviewed by The Associated Press show that in the 1990s, a
church tribunal found that the Rev. Michael Teta of Tucson, Ariz., had
molested children as far back as the late 1970s.
The panel deemed his behavior -- including allegations that he abused
boys in a confessional -- almost "satanic." The tribunal referred
his case to then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, who would become pope in
But it took 12 years from the time Ratzinger assumed control of the
case in a signed letter until Teta was removed, a step only the Vatican
Archbishop of Canterbury
Says Irish Church Has Lost Credibility
THE ASSOCIATED PRESS: April 3, 2010
LONDON -- The Roman Catholic church in Ireland
has lost its credibility because of its mishandling of abuse by priests,
the leader of the Anglican church said in remarks released Saturday.
A leading Catholic archbishop said he was ''stunned'' by the comments.
It was the first time Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams , the
spiritual leader of the Church of England, has spoken publicly on the
crisis engulfing the Catholic church. The remarks come ahead of a planned
visit to England and Scotland by Pope Benedict XVI later this year.
''I was speaking to an Irish friend recently who was saying that it's
quite difficult in some parts of Ireland to go down the street wearing
a clerical collar now,'' Williams told the BBC . ''And an institution
so deeply bound into the life of a society, suddenly becoming, suddenly
losing all credibility -- that's not just a problem for the church,
it is a problem for everybody in Ireland, I think.''
Preacher of the Papal Household
Priest Likens Criticism Over Abuse to Anti-Semitism
By DANIEL J. WAKIN and RACHEL DONADIO
The New York Times: April 2, 2010
ROME — A senior Vatican priest, speaking
before Pope Benedict XVI at a Good Friday service, compared the world’s
outrage at sexual abuse scandals in the Catholic Church to the persecution
of the Jews, prompting angry responses from victims’ advocates
and consternation from Jewish groups.
The Vatican spokesman quickly distanced the Vatican from the remarks,
which came on the day Christians mark the Crucifixion. They underscored
how much the Catholic Church has felt under attack from recent news
reports and from criticism over how it has handled charges of child
molesting against priests in the past.
in St. Peter’s Basilica, the priest, the Rev. Raniero Cantalamessa,
took note that Easter and Passover fell during the same week this
year, and said he was led to think of the Jews.
“They know from experience what it means to be victims of collective
violence, and also because of this they are quick to recognize the
recurring symptoms,” said Father Cantalamessa, who serves under
the title of preacher of the papal household. Then he quoted from
what he said was a letter from a Jewish friend he did not identify.
Into Russian Jihad, 17-Year-Old Avenges Slain Husband
By CLIFFORD J. LEVY and ELLEN BARRY
The New York Times: April 2, 2010
MOSCOW — Baby-faced, she looks barely a
teenager. But the pistol she is holding in the photograph suggests the
violent destiny that she would choose: blowing herself up in a subway
station in Moscow during the morning rush on Monday.
In this photo distributed by Newsteam, a Russian news agency, and published
in Kommersant, a Russian daily newspaper, Dzhennet Abdullayeva is identified
posing with her husband Umalat Magomedov. Russian investigators have
said that Ms. Abdullayeva, 17, was one of the suicide bombers who blew
themselves up in the Moscow subway on March 29, and Mr. Magomedov was
a militant Islamist who was killed in 2009. The agency did not give
a date for the photo or explain the circumstances in which it was taken.
And posing with his arm around this 17-year-old woman is the man who
would put her on this path, a 30-year-old militant leader who lured
her from her single mother, drew her into fundamentalist Islam and married
her. He was killed by federal forces in December, driving her to seek
On Friday, as the photograph circulated widely, the couple turned into
an unsettling symbol of Islamic militancy in Russia — deeply repugnant
to most people but also likely to be embraced by other extremists as
a propaganda coup, a kind of Bonnie and Clyde of the insurgency.
EL DIOS VIVO
(the living god)
Hires Hundreds, but Doubts Surround Project
By DAVID GONZÁLEZ
The New York Times: March 29, 2010
In December, the pastor of a fledgling storefront
church in Red Hook, Brooklyn, began spreading word among several dozen
evangelical Christian congregations that he was hiring employees for
a huge new social service program. Hundreds of applicants packed meetings
where, many people say, the pastor declared that he had a grant from
World Vision , the international relief agency, to help the poor and
spread the Gospel.
Since then the pastor, the Rev. Isidro Bolaños, has told several
hundred people that they have been hired. He has collected their Social
Security numbers, their birth dates and other personal data. And after
several delays, he has told them that the program will open on Wednesday,
in 150,000 square feet he is renovating in Building 3 of the Brooklyn
But there is no Building 3. World Vision says it does not know of
any such project. Nor do city officials or several heads of other
Lombino, a spokesman for the city’s Economic Development Corporation
, which oversees rentals at the terminal, said his agency had never
heard of Mr. Bolaños, his project, his church or any benefactor.
The city agency, he said, had to turn away 100 people who showed up
this month to inspect their new, nonexistent office.
spokesman for the project, the Rev. Carlos Torres (right), said there
unusual about a small, recently formed church receiving a large grant.
“Man cannot comprehend what is of God,” he said. “God
does what He wants, with whom He wants and how He wants.”
what the church was doing with the trove of personal data, Mr. Torres
asked if the conversation was being recorded, then suggested meeting
the reporter later that night. An hour later, he called to cancel
the meeting, saying he was not authorized to speak.
Militia Charged With Plotting to Murder Officers
By CHARLIE SAVAGE
The New York Times: March 29, 2010
WASHINGTON — Nine members of a Michigan-based
Christian militia group have been indicted on sedition and weapons
charges in connection with an alleged plot to murder law enforcement
officers in hopes of setting off an antigovernment uprising.
In court filings unsealed Monday, the Justice Department accused the
nine people of planning to kill an unidentified law enforcement officer,
then plant improvised explosive devices of a type used by insurgents
in Iraq to attack the funeral procession.
The defendants were identified as members of
described by federal prosecutors as an anti-government extremist organization
based in Lenawee County, Mich., and which advocates violence against
local, state and federal law enforcement. The group saw local and
state police as “foot soldiers” for the federal government,
which it viewed as its enemy, along with participants in what they
deemed to be a “New World Order.”
A Web site for the Hutaree group talks about a coming battle against
the putative forces of the Antichrist but does not appear to focus
explicitly on recent political events. The Web site, which describes
the group as “preparing for the end times,” featured video
clips of people running through woods in camouflage gear and firing
assault rifles, along with links to gun stores and far-right media.
It also features an elaborate system of military ranks for its members.
The site says it coined the term Hutaree, intended to mean Christian
“Jesus wanted us to be ready to defend ourselves using the sword
and stay alive using equipment,” the Web site says, adding,
“The Hutaree will one day see its enemy and meet him on the
battlefield if so God wills it.”
From top left, David Brian Stone Sr.,
of Clayton, Mich,;
David Brian Stone Jr., of Adrian, Mich,; Jacob Ward, of Huron, Ohio;
Tina Mae Stone; from bottom left, Michael David Meeks, of Manchester,
Kristopher T. Sickles, of Sandusky, Ohio; Joshua John Clough, of Blissfield,
and Thomas William Piatek, of Whiting, Ind.
by Mike Luckovich
The New Kork Post: March 28,2010
FULL ARTICLE -
Nope for Pope
By MAUREEN DOWD
The New York Times: March 28, 2010
Yup, we need a Nope.
A nun who is pope.
The Catholic Church can never recover as long as its Holy Shepherd
is seen as a black sheep in the ever-darkening sex abuse scandal.
Now we learn the sickening news that Cardinal
Joseph Ratzinger, nicknamed “God’s Rottweiler”
when he was the church’s enforcer on matters of faith and sin,
ignored repeated warnings and looked away in the case of the Rev.
Lawrence C. Murphy, a Wisconsin priest who molested as many as 200
The church has been tone deaf and dumb on the scandal for so long
that it’s shocking, but not surprising, to learn from The Times’s
Laurie Goodstein that a group of deaf former students spent 30 years
trying to get church leaders to pay attention.
It was only when the sanctity of the confessional was breached that
an archbishop in Wisconsin (who later had to resign when it turned
out he used church money to pay off a male lover) wrote to Cardinal
Ratzinger at the Vatican to request that Father Murphy be defrocked.
The cardinal did not answer. The archbishop wrote to a different Vatican
official, but Father Murphy appealed to Cardinal
Ratzinger for leniency and got it, partly because of the church’s
statute of limitations.
when does sin have a statute of limitations?
Order Admits Its Founder Abused Boys Over Decades
By RACHEL DONADIO
The New York Times: March 27, 2010
ROME — A powerful Roman Catholic religious
order acknowledged in a statement on Friday that its founder, a close
ally of the late Pope John Paul II , molested seminarians and fathered
several children, and it expressed “sorrow and grief” to
anyone “damaged by our founder’s actions.”
The statement was the first official admission by the Legionaries of
Christ that its charismatic Mexican founder, the Rev. Marcial Maciel
Degollado, who died in 2008, was responsible for many “grave acts.”
Around two dozen people had claimed that Father Maciel’s molesting
of boys continued for decades.
The statement was viewed as an important development because Father
Maciel was a beloved friend of Pope John Paul, and the accusations of
abuse against him were vetted personally by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger
, now Pope Benedict XVI.
Years, Deaf Boys Tried to Tell of Priest’s Abuse
By LAURIE GOODSTEIN and DAVID CALLENDER
The New York Times: March 26, 2010
They were deaf, but they were not silent. For
decades, a group of men who were sexually abused as children by the
Rev. Lawrence C. Murphy at a school for the deaf in Wisconsin reported
to every type of official they could think of that he was a danger,
according to the victims and church documents.
They told other priests. They told three archbishops of Milwaukee.
They told two police departments and the district attorney. They used
sign language, written affidavits and graphic gestures to show what
exactly Father Murphy had done to them. But their reports fell on
the deaf ears of hearing people.
This week, they learned that Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger , now Pope
Benedict XVI, received letters about Father Murphy in 1996 from Archbishop
Rembert G. Weakland of Milwaukee, who said that the deaf community
needed “a healing response from the Church.” The Vatican
sat on the case, then equivocated, and when Father Murphy died in
1998, he died a priest.
disrupt Ann Coulter speech in Canada after 'camel' joke*
Associated Press: March 24, 2010
OTTAWA — A protest by hundreds of students
led organizers to cancel a Tuesday night speech by American conservative
commentator Ann Coulter at the University of Ottawa.
A spokesman for the organizers said Coulter was advised against appearing
after about 2,000 "threatening" students crowded the entrance
to Marion Hall, posing a security threat.
A protest organizer, international studies student Mike Fancie, said
he was pleased they were able to stop Coulter from speaking. "What
Ann Coulter is practicing is not free speech, it's hate speech,"
he said. "She's targeted the Jews, she's targeted the Muslims,
she's targeted Canadians, homosexuals, women, almost everybody you
academic vice-president Francois Houle...had written Coulter to warn
her that Canadian laws make provisions for hate speech. "Promoting
hatred against any identifiable group would not only be considered
inappropriate, but could in fact lead to criminal charges," he
warned her in the letter, which Coulter quickly leaked to the media.
[ During an appearance Monday at the University of
Western Ontario in London, Ontario, a female Muslim student noted
that Ms. Coulter had once said that Muslims should be banned from
airplanes and should use flying carpets instead. Ms. Coulter responded
by telling the student that she could “take a camel.”
(no, he's NOT a priest)
Duty for Bart?
By MAUREEN DOWD
The New York Times: March 20, 2010
Angry nuns have been calling Congressman Bart
Stupak’s office to complain about his dismissive comments on
their bravura decision to make a literal Hail Mary pass, break with
Catholic bishops and endorse the health care bill.
As a Catholic schoolboy, the Michigan Democrat had his share of nuns
who rapped his knuckles when he misbehaved, like the time he crashed
a kickball through the school window.
got in hot holy water when he told Fox News, “When I’m
drafting right-to-life language, I don’t call up nuns.”
He followed that with more scorn for sisters, telling Chris Matthews
that the nuns were not influential because they rarely try to influence
— which makes no sense — and because “they’re
not the recognized spokesperson for the Catholic Church.” He
listens to the bishops, he said, and antiabortion groups.
Priest in Church Abuse Case Is Suspended
By NICHOLAS KULISH
The New York Times: March 15, 2010
MUNICH — The priest at the center of a
German sexual-abuse scandal that has embroiled Pope Benedict XVI continued
working with children for more than 30 years, even though a German
court convicted him of
The priest, Peter Hullermann, who had previously been identified only
by the first letter of his last name, was suspended from his duties
only on Monday. That was three days after the church acknowledged
that the pope, then Archbishop Joseph Ratzinger, had responded to
early accusations of molestation by allowing the priest to move to
Munich for therapy in 1980.
Hundreds of victims have come forward in recent months in Germany
with accounts of sexual abuse from decades past. But no case has captured
the attention of the nation like that of Father Hullermann, not only
because of the involvement of the future pope, but also because of
the impunity that allowed a child molester to continue to work with
altar boys and girls for decades after his conviction.
Benedict not only served as the archbishop of the diocese where the
priest worked, but also later as the cardinal in charge of reviewing
sexual abuse cases for the Vatican . Yet until the Archdiocese of
Munich and Freising announced that Father Hullermann had been suspended
on Monday, he continued to serve in a series of Bavarian parishes.
Who Didn’t Report Abuse Won’t Quit
THE ASSOCIATED PRESS: Published: March 15, 2010
Cardinal Sean Brady, left, the leader
of Ireland ’s Roman Catholics, said Monday that he would not
resign, despite admitting that he helped the church get evidence against
a child-molesting priest but never told the police about it. He said
that as a priest in 1975, he interviewed two children who said they
had been abused by the Rev. Brendan Smyth, who was eventually accused
of molesting and raping scores of children in Ireland, Britain and
the United States. Both children were required to sign oaths promising
not to tell anyone outside the church of their accusations, Cardinal
Brady said. He said that church officials had not notified the police
because of “a culture of silence about this, a culture of secrecy.”
FULL ARTICLE -
WARRIORS: A Modern History of the Crusades
By Jonathan Phillips
Review by ERIC ORMSBY
The New York Times/Book Review: March 14, 2010
The villains of history seem relatively
easy to understand; however awful their deeds, their motives remain
recognizable. But the good guys, those their contemporaries saw as
heroes or saints, often puzzle and appall.
did the cruelest things for the loftiest of motives; they sang hymns
as they waded through blood.
perhaps, is this contradiction more apparent than in the history of
the Crusades. When the victorious knights of the First Crusade finally
stood in Jerusalem, on July 15, 1099, they were, in the words of the
chronicler William of Tyre, “dripping with blood from head to
foot.” They had massacred the populace. But in the same breath,
William praised the “pious devotion . . . with which the pilgrims
drew near to the holy places, the exultation of heart and happiness
of spirit with which they kissed the memorials of the Lord’s
sojourn on earth.”
It’s tempting to dismiss the crusaders’ piety as sheer
hypocrisy. In fact, their faith was as pure as their savagery. As
Jonathan Phillips observes in his excellent new history — in
case we needed reminding at this late date — “faith lies
at the heart of holy war.”
the rigid, polarized mentality of the holy warrior, any deviation
can signify a dangerous otherness. This is the best recent history
of the Crusades; it is also an astute depiction of a frightening cast
exec says the Lord told her to cancel singer's deal
Record exec's holy excuse in contract
By STEFANIE COHEN
March 14, 2010
It was an immaculate rejection.
A gospel-music exec had a divine reason to cancel a contract with
one of her singers -- God told her to. Label boss April Washington-Essex
allegedly refused to put out a second CD with singer Isaiah D. Thomas,
saying, "God has not confirmed His approval."
"I have been seeking God about the timing of your next recording.
To date, God has not confirmed His approval for Habakkuk Music to
participate," she wrote to Thomas, according to a lawsuit he
filed last week in Manhattan federal court.
Thomas' attorney, Chris Brown, said he had never seen a "God
clause" invoked to end a contract.
was a Nazi. So's your preacher"
By Roger Ebert
Chicago Sun-Times: March 14, 2010
Pretty near everything Glenn Beck says strikes
me as absurd, but he scored a perfect 10 when he warned his viewers
against the dangers of Christianity. You already know all about it.
Well, maybe not, because the usual defenders of Christianity, like
James Dobson and Pat Robertson, were very quiet on the topic. Not
even a peep from Pat about this man who showed every sign of having
hired the best lawyers to draft his pact with Satan.
were Beck's unifying words? "I beg you, look for the words social
justice or economic justice on your church web site," he told
his audience. "If you find it, run as fast as you can. Social
justice and economic justice, they are code words. Now, am I advising
people to leave their church? Yes! If you have a priest that is pushing
social justice, go find another parish. Go alert your bishop and tell
them, 'Excuse me are you down with this whole social justice thing?'
If it's my church, I'm alerting the church authorities: 'Excuse me,
what's this social justice thing?' And if they say, 'yeah, we're all
in that social justice thing'--I'm in the wrong place."
L. FRIEDMAN |
Drunk in Jerusalem
By THOMAS L. FRIEDMAN
The New York Times / Op Ed: March 13, 2010
I am a big Joe Biden fan. The vice president is
an indefatigable defender of U.S. interests abroad. So it pains me to
say that on his recent trip to Israel, when Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu’s
government rubbed his nose in some new housing plans for contested East
Jerusalem, the vice president missed a chance to send a powerful public
signal: He should have snapped his notebook shut, gotten right back
on Air Force Two, flown home and left the following scribbled note behind:
“Message from America to the Israeli government: Friends don’t
let friends drive drunk. And right now, you’re driving drunk.
You think you can embarrass your only true ally in the world, to satisfy
some domestic political need, with no consequences? You have lost total
contact with reality. Call us when you’re serious. We need to
focus on building our country.
SAUD al-FAISAL |
Non Grata in Mecca
By MAUREEN DOWD
The New York Times: March 9, 2010
I was tempted to turn my abaya into
a black masquerade cloak and sneak into Mecca, just hop over the Tropic
of Cancer to the Red Sea and crash the ultimate heaven’s gate.
on my odyssey to Saudi Arabia, I tried to learn about the religion
that smashed into the American consciousness on 9/11 in a less sneaky
way. And that’s when the paradox sunk in: It was nearly impossible
for me to experience Islam in the cradle of Islam.
and his brother
on Defense as Sex Scandals Build
By RACHEL DONADIO and NICHOLAS KULISH
The New York Times: March 9, 2010
ROME — Defending itself against a growing
child sexual abuse scandal in Europe, one that has even come close
to the brother of Pope Benedict XVI , the Vatican said Tuesday that
local European churches had addressed the issue with “timely
and decisive action.”
Pope Benedict XVI, right, with his brother, Monsignor Georg Ratzinger,
in Regensburg, Germany in 2006.
In a note read on Vatican Radio , the Vatican spokesman, the Rev.
Federico Lombardi, cautioned against limiting the concerns over child
sexual abuse to Roman Catholic institutions, noting that the problem
also affected the broader society.
A wave of church sexual abuse scandals has emerged in recent weeks
in Germany , Austria, and the Netherlands , adding to the fallout
from a broad abuse investigation in Ireland .
of the Westboro
Marine Lance Cpl.
God for dead soldiers': Supreme Court to rule on free speech in case
of soldier's funeral
Anti-gay church sparks free-speech
Associated Press: Mon, March 8, 2010
WASHINGTON – The Supreme Court
is getting involved in the legal fight over the anti-gay
protesters who show up at military funerals with inflammatory messages
like "Thank God for dead soldiers ."
Members of a Kansas-based church picketed military funerals to spread
their belief that U.S. deaths in Afghanistan and Iraq are punishment
for the nation's tolerance of homosexuality.
funeral for Marine Lance Cpl. Matthew Snyder in Westminster, Md.,
was among many that have been picketed by members of the fundamentalist
Westboro Baptist Church in Kansas. Westboro pastor Fred Phelps and
other members have used the funeral protests to spread their belief
that U.S. deaths in the Iraq war are punishment for the nation's tolerance
Signs carred by members of the Topeka, Kansas-based church said, "America
is Doomed," "God Hates the USA/Thank God for 9/11,"
"Priests Rape Boys" and "Thank God for IEDs,"
a reference to the roadside bombs that have killed many U.S. troops
in Iraq and Afghanistan.
FAITH BASED INITIATIVE
to Hear Case of Protest at Marine Funeral
By ADAM LIPTAK
The New York Times: March 8, 2010
WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court
on Monday agreed to decide whether the father of a Marine killed in
Iraq may sue protesters who picketed his son’s funeral with
signs that read “God Hates You” and “Thank God for
County Times, via Associated Press:
A motorcyclist supporting the family of Lance Cpl. Matthew A. Snyder
drove by protesters at his funeral in Westminster, Md., in 2006.
Toll From Nigeria Violence Hits 500
By ADAM NOSSITER
The New York Times: March 8, 2010
DAKAR, Senegal — Officials and
human rights groups in Nigeria sharply increased the count of the
dead after a weekend of savage ethnic violence, saying Monday that
as many as 500 people — many of them women and children —
may have been killed near the central city of Jos, long a flashpoint
for tensions between Christians and Muslims.
The dead were Christians and members of an ethnic group that has been
feuding with the Hausa Fulani, Muslim herders who witnesses and police
officials identified as the attackers. Officials said the attack was
a reprisal for violence in January, when dozens of Muslims were slaughtered
in and around Jos, including more than 150 in a single village.
Early Sunday, the attackers set upon the villagers with machetes,
killing women and children in their homes and ensnaring the men who
tried to flee in fishnets and animal traps, then massacring them.
Mass grave in Dogon Na Hauwa, Nigeri, 8 March 2010
Clashes Kill Dozens in Central Nigeria
By ADAM NOSSITER
The New York Times: March 7, 2010
Senegal — Dozens of villagers in central Nigeria were killed
early Sunday, victims of apparent reprisal attacks over recent clashes
between Christians and Muslims. A government spokesman said there
were more than 300 dead, but that figure that could not be independently
The killings took place near the city of Jos, for years a hotbed of
ethnic and religious violence near the dividing line between the country’s
mainly Christian south and Muslim north. Hundreds on both sides were
killed as recently as January, though the victims this time were Christians,
according to the information commissioner for Plateau State, Gregory
Yenlong, and a local human rights organization.
A portrait of founder
L. RON HUBBARD
in a church retreat center in Clearwater, Fla.
Say Church of Scientology Hides Abuse
By LAURIE GOODSTEIN
The New York Times: March 6, 2010
CLEARWATER, Fla. — Raised as Scientologists
, Christie King Collbran and her husband, Chris, were recruited as teenagers
to work for the elite corps of staff members who keep the Church of
Scientology running, known as the Sea Organization, or Sea Org.
They signed a contract for a billion years — in keeping with the
church’s belief that Scientologists are immortal. They worked
seven days a week, often on little sleep, for sporadic paychecks of
$50 a week, at most.
But after 13 years and growing disillusionment, the Collbrans decided
to leave the Sea Org, setting off on a Kafkaesque journey that they
said required them to sign false confessions about their personal lives
and their work, pay the church thousands of dollars it said they owed
for courses and counseling, and accept the consequences as their parents,
siblings and friends who are church members cut off all communication
oath, no conviction, Mich. court says
LUKAS I. ALPERT
The New York Post/Wire Srevices: March 6, 2010
Ann Arbor, Mich. - What happened to the
separation between church and state?
A Michigan court tossed out an assault conviction after the judge in
the original case failed to make the jury swear to God to return an
Timothy Becktel will now get a new trial, instead of 15 years in jail
for nearly beating a man to death.
Enmeshed in Gay Sex Allegations
By RACHEL DONADIO
The New York Times: March 4, 2010
ROME — A singer in an elite Vatican
choir and a jailed Italian public works executive who served as a papal
usher were let go by the Vatican this week amid allegations that they
were involved in what prosecutors believe was an organized network of
gay prostitution, Italian news media reported.
Ghinedu Ehiem, a Nigerian who sang in a choir that performs at St. Peter’s
Basilica, was dismissed after the center-left daily newspaper La Repubblica
reported Wednesday that he had procured men, including seminarians,
for Angelo Balducci, a former member of the board of Italy’s public
works department who was arrested and jailed last month on corruption
home in Lindale, TX
Churchgoer to Charges as Church Burner
By JAMES C. McKINLEY Jr.
The New York Times: March 1, 2010
Tex. — Jason R. Bourque grew up in a house full of crosses.
At his grandparent’s spacious home here, where he was raised,
a small forest of crosses stands on a table by the front door, and
one wall of the living room is filled with more than a dozen decorative
crosses of wrought iron, ceramic and wood.
was not his character — he was raised Christian,” his
mother, Kimberly Bourque, said.
On the streets of the small towns around Tyler, where the two young
men grew up and lived, people are trying to fathom how boys who had
been raised in religious families and, until recently, were regular
churchgoers could end up accused of such a crime.
were several signs that Mr. Bourque, described by many people as a
bright student and a voracious reader in high school, was rebelling
against the strict Christian upbringing he had been given by his grandparents,
Bob and Brenda Steele.
McAllister’s mother, Wanda, was extremely devout and ran the
nursery at the church, members of the congregation said. Mr. McAllister
was schooled at home, along with his younger sister, for religious
reasons, they said. He never went to high school....
Men Charged in Texas Church Fire
By DERRICK HENRY
The New York Times: February 21, 2010
Two men were charged Sunday morning
with setting fire to a church in east Texas and federal authorities
said the men may face charges in nine other church fires.
men, Jason Robert Bourque, 19, of Lindale, Tex., and Daniel George
McAllister, 21, of Ben Wheeler, Tex., were arrested and charged with
arson of a building in the Feb. 8 fire at Dover Baptist Church, located
15 miles northwest of Tyler, Tex.
the building was a church, the charges were elevated to a first-degree
Phone Calls, 2 Big Checks, and Rabbi Is Charged
By ALAN FEUER
The New York Times: February 19, 2010
Rabbi Milton Balkany, the director of a Brooklyn
Jewish day school, was on the phone last month with a proposition for
a man he had never met, the president of a giant Connecticut hedge fund,
SAC Capital Advisors.
The matter required tact. The rabbi, who often counsels Jewish inmates,
had recently met a prisoner at the Otisville Federal Correctional Institution,
a prison in Orange County, N.Y., who had told him that the hedge fund
had been trading on illegal information. Rabbi Balkany was calling now,
the government contends, to make a deal: $4 million for two religious
schools in Brooklyn — one of them his own — in exchange
for the prisoner’s silence.
cleansed' out of 10G
By DAREH GREGORIAN
The New York Post: February 18, 2010
Greenwich Village fortune teller is actually a fortune taker, a client
In a suit filed in Manhattan Supreme Court, a woman says Sylvia Mitchell
conned her out of over $10,000 with schemes to cleanse her of "impurities."
Dane Chan only caught on to Mitchell's act after the psychic got her
to fork over $9,000 for items from a Polo Ralph Lauren store that the
supposed seer said were needed for a "ritual."
The 36-year-old Upper West Side woman says she first went to Mitchell's
lair -- Zena Psychic on Seventh Avenue South at Bleecker Street -- in
October 2008, when she was down in the dumps over problems at work and
a recent breakup.
Go to Haiti, Followed by Scrutiny
By MARC LACEY
and IAN URBINA
The New York Times: February 15, 2010
Haiti — Their holy books vary widely and so does their disaster
apparel. Devotees of Supreme Master Ching Hai, a Vietnamese spiritual
leader, wore fluorescent yellow vests on their way into quake-damaged
Haiti . Mormons wore their trademark white shirts and ties. And an array
of others — Scientologists , Presbyterians, Lutherans, Jews and
Muslims — each printed T-shirts of a different hue declaring which
faith had inspired them to help save Haiti.
Moved by awful images of the Jan. 12 earthquake , a broad band of religious
groups has swept down here in recent weeks. But rather than fostering
a universal spirit of interfaith cooperation, the hasty assemblage of
religious organizations has sometimes created tensions among them.
Is a Harem Scare 'em
By TODD VENEZIA
The New York Post: February 11, 2010
An Arab ambassador lifted his "beautiful" bride's veil to
find that she was really as ugly as a camel's behind.
The unnamed envoy from the United Arab Emirates -- who immediately demanded
an annulment -- had only seen his wife before their wedding while she
was wearing a niqab , a veil that completely covered her face.
The powerful Arab was enticed to marry the falafel-faced woman after
her mom had showed him what appeared to be a pretty picture of her.
But he now claims that the woman in the photo turned out to be the homely
bride's beautiful sister.
at the Capitol Hill house of
Prayer Breakfast Draws Controversy
By LAURIE GOODSTEIN
The New York Times: February 3, 2010
For more than 50 years, the National Prayer Breakfast
has served as a prime networking event in Washington, bringing together
the president, members of Congress, foreign diplomats and thousands
of religious, business and military leaders for scrambled eggs and supplication.
Usually, the annual event passes with little notice. But this year,
an ethics group in Washington has asked President Obama and Congressional
leaders to stay away from the breakfast...
The objections are focused on the sponsor of the breakfast, a secretive
evangelical Christian network called The Fellowship, also known as The
Family, and accusations that it has ties to legislation in Uganda that
calls for the imprisonment and execution of homosexuals.
The Family has always stayed intentionally in the background, according
to those who have written about it. In the last year, however, it was
identified as the sponsor of a residence on Capitol Hill that has served
as a dormitory and meeting place for a cluster of politicians who ran
into ethics problems, including Senator John Ensign, Republican of Nevada,
and Gov. Mark Sanford, Republican of South Carolina, both of whom have
admitted to adultery.
More recently, it became public that the Family also has close ties
to the Ugandan politician who has sponsored the proposed anti-gay legislation.
Missionary Ordered Freed
REUTERS: March 5, 2010
A judge signed an order on
Friday to free one of two American missionaries imprisoned
on child kidnapping charges. The order will allow Charisa
Coulter to leave Haiti but the leader of the group of missionaries,
Laura Silsby, is to remain in jail pending further investigation.
Releases Eight Americans Jailed in Haiti
SIMON ROMERO and IAN URBINA
The New York Times: February 17, 2010
Haiti — A Haitian judge on Wednesday ordered the release
of 8 of the 10 Americans arrested here on child abduction
charges but decided that two members of the group, including
its leader, would remain in jail for additional questioning.
The judge, Bernard Saint-Vil, told lawyers for the Americans
that he freed the members of the group, five of whom were
from a Baptist congregation in Idaho, after parents of some
of the 33 children with the Americans testified that they
had voluntarily handed over their children to them. The Americans
said they were planning to house the children in an orphanage
across the border in the Dominican Republic.
While Judge Saint-Vil’s ruling allows eight of the Americans
to leave Haiti on the condition that they return to the country
to answer further questions in the case, it requires that
Laura Silsby , the Idaho businesswoman who led the group,
and her live-in nanny, Charisa Coulter, remain in jail to
answer questions about traveling to Haiti before the Jan.
Some of the freed Americans had already contended this month
that they were misled by Ms. Silsby , who had faced more than
a dozen legal complaints connected to her online shopping
business before she persuaded fellow Baptists from Idaho to
assist her in setting up an orphanage for Haitian children
Charges for Adviser to Jailed Americans
MARC LACEY and IAN URBINA
The New York Times: February 15, 2010
Haiti — As the 10 Americans imprisoned in Haiti for
trying to remove children from the country awaited a decision
on their fate Monday, the legal woes of the man who falsely
portrayed himself as the group’s lawyer mounted.
Jorge Puello falsely portrayed himself as a lawyer in Haiti
and is now at large.
The one-time legal adviser, who calls himself Jorge Puello,
now acknowledges that he faces sex trafficking charges in
El Salvador under the name Jorge Anibal Torres Puello. He
remained at large on Monday, as Dominican, Salvadoran and
American law enforcement officials worked with Interpol to
interview his relatives and search border and immigration
records to find him.
Mr. Puello is wanted by the police in at least four countries
in connection with charges including sex trafficking of girls
and women, and making counterfeit documents and violating
Monday, Bernard Saint-Vil, the Haitian judge who is handling
the case of the detained Americans, said he intended to further
question Laura Silsby , the group’s leader, about any
connection she might have with Mr. Puello.
to Detained Americans in Haiti Is Investigated
By MARC LACEY
and IAN URBINA
The New York Times: February 12, 2010
Haiti — The police in El Salvador have begun an investigation
into whether a man suspected of leading a trafficking ring
involving Central American and Caribbean women and girls is
also a legal adviser to many of the Americans charged with
trying to take 33 children out of Haiti without permission.
In Idaho, Questions on How Aid Mission Went Awry (February
When the judge presiding over the Haitian case learned on
Thursday of the investigation in El Salvador, he said he would
begin his own inquiry of the adviser, a Dominican man who
was in the judge’s chambers days before.
The inquiries are the latest twist in a politically charged
case that is unfolding in the middle of an earthquake disaster
zone. A lawyer for the group has already been dismissed after
being accused of trying to offer bribes to get the 10 Americans
out of jail.
Daniel in the Babble
Jailed in Haiti Plead for Aid From U.S.
By IAN URBINA
The New York Times: February 9, 2010
PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti — The 10 Americans detained on
kidnapping charges are pleading for the United States government
to do more on their behalf and for the news media to focus
on them less.
“Help us,” one of the detainees, Carla Thompson,
said Monday as she lay on a bed in a scorching Port-au-Prince
jail cell of about 8 feet by 5 feet, her ankles bandaged from
infected mosquito bites. “That’s the message I
would give to Mr. Obama and the State Department. Start helping
Sitting on a dirty concrete floor in the cell, another detainee,
Corinna Lankford, nodded in agreement, a frustrated look on
her face. “I have faith in God,” Ms. Lankford
said. “But maybe the U.S. government could help a little
officials have said they intend to let the Haitian justice
system take its course. Judge Saint-Vil has said he intends
to investigate the case fully.
For Laura Silsby , the leader of the group of Americans, that
process began on Monday. Sitting on a brown tattered couch
in Mr. Saint-Vil’s office, she waited to discuss her
fate. A Bible lay on her lap, and her hands shook. “I’m
nervous,” said Ms. Silsby, 40, furtively glancing at
were passing the time reading the Bible, napping, praying
and snacking on sugared cereal and potato chips provided to
them by missionaries.
Held in Haiti Are Divided Over Leader
By MARC LACEY and IAN URBINA
The New York Times: February 7, 2010
PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti — Divisions emerged within the
group of 10 Americans jailed in Haiti on child abduction charges,
with eight of them signing a note over the weekend saying
that they had been misled by Laura Silsby, the leader of the
group.“Laura wants to control,” said the scribbled
note handed to a producer for NBC News. “We believe
lying. We’re afraid.”
The infighting came amid a shakeup in the legal representation
of the Americans, who have been charged with trying to remove
33 Haitian children from the country without government permission.
The note signed by the group, which is affiliated with a Baptist
church in Twin Falls, Idaho, made clear that they were emotionally
distraught and divided. “We fear for our lives here
in Haiti,” said the letter, which was signed by everyone
except Ms. Silsby and Charisa Coulter, Ms. Silsby’s
former nanny and co-founder of the group.
Charges Americans With Child Abduction
By MARC LACEY
The New York Times: February 4, 2010
PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti — Ten Americans who tried to take
33 Haitian children out of the country last week without the
government’s consent have been charged with child abduction
and criminal conspiracy, as Haitian officials sought to reassert
judicial control after the Jan. 12 earthquake.
The Americans, most of them members of a Baptist congregation
from Idaho, had said they intended to rescue Haitian children
left parentless in the quake and take them to what they described
as an orphanage across the border in the Dominican Republic.
But they acknowledged failing to seek approval to remove the
children from Haiti, and several of the children have at least
one living parent.
The Americans will face a potentially extended legal proceeding
in Haiti and could, if convicted, face prison terms of up
to 15 years.
Ms. Silsby, who had helped organize the group’s mission,
sounded a hopeful note as she waited to be taken into court,
saying, “We’re just trusting God for a positive
Ms. Silsby asked the prosecutor not only to release the group,
whose members range in age from 18 to 55, but also to allow
them to continue their work in Haiti.
“We simply wanted to help the children,” she said.
“We petition the court not only for our freedom, but
also for our ability to continue to help.”
was given by her parents to a group of Americans
Tell of Children They Entrusted to
By GINGER THOMPSON and SHAILA DEWAN
The New York Times: February 3, 2010
FERMATHE, Haiti — Guerlaine Antoine pushed aside a tub
full of laundry, wiped her soapy hands on her T-shirt and
rushed barefoot to bring out photos of the 8-year-old boy
she entrusted to 10 American Baptists.
As a Haitian judge on Tuesday questioned five of the 10 Americans
who were detained after trying to exit the country illegally
with 33 children, the questions swirling around the case threw
this town high in the mountains overlooking Port-au-Prince
The Americans said that the children had been orphaned in
the earthquake, and that they had authorization from the Dominican
government to bring the children into the country.
But it became clear on Tuesday that at least some of the children
had not lost their parents in the earthquake.
And while the Americans said they did not intend to offer
the children for adoption, the Web site for their orphanage
makes clear that they intended to do so.
Stokes Haiti’s Fear for Children, and Itself
By GINGER THOMPSON
Reuters: February 2, 2010
PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti — “God
wanted us to come here to help children, we are convinced
of that,” Laura Silsby, one of 10 Americans accused
of trafficking Haitian children, said Monday through the bars
of a jail cell here. “Our hearts were in the right place.”
Whatever their intentions, the Americans who were detained
late Friday at the Dominican border with 33 children struck
a deep emotional chord in this earthquake-ravaged country.
Minister Jean-Max Bellerive angrily denounced them as “kidnappers”
who “knew what they were doing was wrong.” Justice
Minister Paul Denis said, “We may be weakened, but without
laws the Haitian state would cease to exist.” And the
chief of the National Judicial Police, Frantz Thermilus, said:
“What surprises me is that these people would never
do something like this in their own country. We must make
clear they cannot do such things in ours."
group was founded by [Laura] Silsby, 40, and Charisa Coulter,
24, Ms Silsby's live-in nanny, who was also among those jailed
in Port-au-Prince. Most of the group who went to Haiti belonged
to Eastside Baptist Church or Central Valley Baptist in Meridian,
Idaho, while others came from Texas and Kansas, Ms. Silsby
Coulter, Ms. Coulter’s father, said of the group, “It
was never their intent to establish an adoption agency or
anything similar to it. I can’t at all question where
they went and what they did because I’m really convinced
it was at God’s direction,”
he said. “They were acting in
faith. That may sound trivial, but they
were acting not only in faith but God’s faith.”
isn't she, Ms Silsby (second from left)?
head of the the
Baptist church group
Detain Ten Americans
Accused of Kidnapping 33 Children
NPR/AP: January 31, 2010
The Haitian government was
largely missing in action immediately after the Jan 12 earthquake
because of the heavy toll the disaster took on its own workers
and ministry buildings.
But it is finally able to exert itself as ten U.S. missionaries
now in Haitian police custody are learning firsthand and the
The Baptist missionaries from Idaho have been accused of attempted
kidnapping for trying to take 33 Haitian "orphans"
across that nation's border with the Dominican Republic.
Minister Max Bellerive on Sunday told The Associated Press
that the group was arrested and is under judicial investigation
"because it is illegal trafficking of children and we
won't accept that."
is an abduction, not an adoption," Haitian Social Affairs
Minister Yves Christallin said Sunday.
aka Omar Hammam
Jihadist Next Door
From a Bible camp in America
to Terrorist training camps in Somalia
The New York Times Magazine: ANDREA
January 31, 2010
ON A WARM, cloudy day in the fall of 1999, the town of Daphne, Ala.,
stirred to life. The high-school band came pounding down Main Street,
past the post office and the library and Christ the King Church. Trumpeters
in gold-tasseled coats tipped their horns to the sky, heralding the
arrival of teenage demigods. The star quarterback and his teammates
came first in the parade, followed by the homecoming queen and her
court. Behind them, on a float bearing leaders of the student government,
a giddy mop-haired kid tossed candy to the crowd.
Omar Hammami had every right to flash his magnetic smile. He had just
been elected president of his sophomore class. He was dating a luminous
blonde, one of the most sought-after girls in school. He was a star
in the gifted-student program, with visions of becoming a surgeon.
For a 15-year-old, he had remarkable charisma.
• • •
Yet for all of his social triumph, Hammami was consumed with a profound
internal conflict. He didn’t know whether to be Muslim or Christian.
On rare trips to Damascus when they were little, Omar and Dena were
warned by relatives that they would go to hell if they weren’t
Muslim, Dena recalled. In Perdido, their mother’s family insisted
that hell was reserved for non-Christians.
have become a Somali you could say,” he wrote in the December
e-mail message. “I hear bullets, I dodge mortars, I hear nasheeds
” — Islamic songs — “and play soccer. Sometimes
I live in the bush with camels, sometimes I live the five-star life.
Sometimes I walk for miles in the terrible heat with no water, sometimes
I ride in extremely slick cars. Sometimes I’m chased by the
enemy, sometimes I chase him!”
“I have hatred, I have love,” he went on. “It’s
the best life on earth!”
"They could not look at women, listen to
music, be photographed...."
Adopts ‘Purity’ Pledge After Revisions
By ADAM NAGOURNEY
The New York Times: January 30, 2010
HONOLULU — The Republican National Committee on Friday approved
a watered-down resolution designed to deal with a demand by conservative
committee members that candidates agree to support a list of conservative
positions as a condition of receiving financial support from the party.
group slams Mother Teresa stamp
The Freethinker: 29 January 2010
AMERICA’S Freedom from Religion Foundation has blasted the US
Postal Service for its plan to honour soon-to-be-sainted Mother Teresa
– aka The Albanian Prune – with a commemorative stamp.
The FFRF insists that the plan violates postal regulations against honouring:
Individuals whose principal achievements are associated with religious
The atheist organisation is urging its supporters to boycott the stamp
— and also to engage in a letter-writing campaign to spread the
word about what it calls the “darker side” of M T.
The stamp — set to be released on August 26, which would have
been the wizened old fraud’s 100th birthday — will recognise
the 1979 Nobel Peace Prize winner for her “humanitarian work”,
the Postal Service announced in a press release.
The Foundation is encouraging its supporters to purchase the new stamp
honoring the late actress Katharine Hepburn, who was an atheist, instead
— or any of the other 2010 stamps, which include cartoonist Bill
Mauldin, singer Kate Smith, filmmaker Oscar Micheaux, painter Winslow
Homer and poet Julia de Burgos.
Dr. George Tiller
Reahes Guilty Verdict in Murder of Abortion Doctor
By MONICA DAVEY
The New York Times: January 29, 2010
WICHITA, Kan. — It took jurors 37 minutes on Friday to convict
Scott Roeder , an abortion opponent, of first-degree murder in the
death of George R. Tiller , one of the few doctors in the country
to perform late-term abortions.
Killer Puts Abortion on the Stand
By MONICA DAVEY
The New York Times: January 28, 2010
WICHITA, Kan. — Scott Roeder , the man
charged with murder in the shooting of George R. Tiller , one of the
few doctors in the country to perform late-term abortions, took the
witness stand in his own defense on Thursday, and said that, yes,
he did it.
Yes, he bought a gun. Yes, he took target practice. Yes, he had learned
about Dr. Tiller’s habits, his home address, his security precautions.
And, yes, he shot Dr. Tiller last May 31 as Dr. Tiller stood inside
“That is correct, yes,” Mr. Roeder told the jurors, in
But there was a twist.
Outside the courthouse, Randall Terry, founder of Operation Rescue,
demonstrated in favor of the man accused of the killing.
PAUL II |
Paul II Whipped Self
By NICOLE WINFIELD
AP: January 27, 2010
VATICAN CITY -- Pope John Paul II whipped himself with a belt, even
on vacation, and slept on the floor as acts of penitence and to bring
him closer to Christian perfection, according to a new book by the Polish
prelate spearheading the late pontiff's sainthood case.
With Bible Divides Ohio Town
By IAN URBINA
The New York Times: January 20, 2010
MOUNT VERNON, Ohio — Most people in this
quiet all-American town describe themselves as devoutly Christian, but
even here they are deeply divided over what should happen to John Freshwater.
Mr. Freshwater, an eighth-grade public school science teacher, is accused
of burning a cross onto the arms of at least two students and teaching
creationism, charges he says have been fabricated because he refused
an order by his principal to remove a Bible from his desk.
John, Chapter 8,
Bible verses on
combat rifle sights
to Remove Bible References From Gun Sights
By ERIK ECKHOLM
The New York Times: January 22, 2010
Bowing to Pentagon concerns and an international outcry, a Michigan
arms company said Thursday that it would immediately stop embossing
references to New Testament Scriptures on rifle sights it sells the
Defense Contractor Has God in Its Sights
THE ASSOCIATED PRESS: January 19, 2010
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Army officials said
Tuesday they will investigate
whether a Michigan defense contractor violated federal procurement
rules by stamping references to Bible verses on combat rifle sights
used by American forces to kill enemy fighters in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The Marine Corps, another major customer of the telescoping sights
that allow troops to pinpoint targets day or night, says service acquisition
officials plan to meet with the contractor, Trijicon of Wixom, Mich.,
to discuss future purchases of the company's gear.
Who Shot Pope in 1981 Is Freed
By SEBNEM ARSU
The New York Times: January 18, 2010
ISTANBUL — Almost three decades after he
shot and wounded Pope John Paul II, Mehmet Ali Agca walked free from
prison on Monday, heading to a luxury hotel and proclaiming himself
to be “Christ eternal.”
Quiz: Is Every Pontiff a Saint?
By DAVID GIBSON
The New York Times: January 17, 2010
any pope be made a saint?
The church counts less than a third of all 264 dead popes as saints,
and most were canonized by popular acclaim in the first centuries
of Christianity, often because they were martyrs. Only five were canonized
in the entire second millennium, and when Pius X, who died in 1914,
was made a saint in 1954 — by Pius XII — he was the first
pope so honored in nearly 400 years.
Now nearly every recent pope is on the canonization track. John Paul
II beatified Pius IX, the 19th-century pope who is a polarizing figure
because of his belief in the power of the papacy and his views on
Judaism. But like Benedict, John Paul did a little ticket-balancing.
He simultaneously beatified the popular John XXIII, who convened the
liberalizing Second Vatican Council in 1962. The canonization process
for Paul VI, who followed John XXIII, is underway, and there is a
campaign to beatify John Paul I, who reigned a mere 33 days before
his death in 1978.
By NICHOLAS D. KRISTOF
The New York Times: January 9, 2010
Religions derive their power and popularity in
part from the ethical compass they offer. So why do so many faiths help
perpetuate something that most of us regard as profoundly unethical:
the oppression of women?
It is not that warlords in Congo cite Scripture to justify their mass
rapes (although the last warlord I met there called himself a pastor
and wore a button reading “rebels for Christ”). It’s
not that brides are burned in India as part of a Hindu ritual. And there’s
no verse in the Koran that instructs Afghan thugs to throw acid in the
faces of girls who dare to go to school.
Yet these kinds of abuses — along with more banal injustices,
like slapping a girlfriend or paying women less for their work —
arise out of a social context in which women are, often, second-class
citizens. That’s a context that religions have helped shape, and
not pushed hard to change.
Attacked in Malaysian ‘Allah’ Dispute
By SETH MYDANS
The New York Times: January 8, 2010
KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia — Three Christian
churches were attacked with firebombs Friday as tensions rose in a
dispute over whether Christians could use the word “Allah”
in this largely Muslim nation.
Later in the day, small crowds rallied outside two major mosques in
the capital, in a growing protest over a court ruling that overturned
a government ban on the use of “Allah” by Roman Catholics
as a translation for God.
Government Appeals Ruling on ‘Allah’ Use
By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
January 4, 2010
The government filed an appeal on Monday to fight a court ruling that
allows non-Muslims to use the word Allah to refer to God, a decision
that set off protests in the Muslim-majority country. The government
says that Allah is an Islamic word and that its use by others could
mislead Muslims into converting. Authorities recently confiscated
10,000 Malay-language Bibles containing the word Allah. An Arabic
word, Allah predates Islam and is used by Arabic-speaking Christians.
Anti-Homosexuality Bill of 2009
Role Seen in Uganda Anti-Gay Push
By JEFFREY GETTLEMAN
The New York Times: January 3, 2010
KAMPALA, Uganda — Last March, three American evangelical Christians,
whose teachings about “curing” homosexuals have been widely
discredited in the United States,
arrived here in Uganda’s capital to give a series of talks.
theme of the event, according to Stephen Langa, its Ugandan organizer,
was “the gay agenda — that whole hidden and dark agenda”
— and the threat homosexuals posed to Bible-based values and
the traditional African family.
For three days, according to participants and audio recordings, thousands
of Ugandans, including police officers, teachers and national politicians,
listened raptly to the Americans, who were presented as experts on
CHRISTIAN HATE MONGERS
LEE BRUNDIDGE International
the Family International
to Kill Danish Cartoonist Fails
THE ASSOCIATED PRESS: January 1, 2010
(AP) — The police foiled an attempt to kill an artist who drew
a cartoon depicting the Prophet Muhammad that sparked outrage in the
Muslim world, the head of Denmark’s intelligence service said
in Denmark Calls Attack ‘Really Close’
By JOHN F. BURNS
The New York Times: January 2, 2010
LONDON — A heavily bandaged 28-year-old
Somali man was wheeled into a Danish court on a stretcher on Saturday
and was charged with attempting to kill a Danish artist whose 2005
cartoon of the Prophet Muhammad was one of a series that ignited riots
across the Muslim world, as well as firebombing attacks on Danish
and other Western diplomatic missions.