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CHANGE, CONFLICT AND/OR INTOLERANCE

News items during 2006-December

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We also have a list of religious tolerance & information news for this month. 
Sad to say, these are usually much shorter lists.

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Note:

This is the time of the year when the "Christmas wars" heat up. As Chris Ortiz posted to the Chalcedon Blog: "I used to know Christmas was around the corner when stores put up their holiday decorations. Now I know it's Christmas when everyone starts fighting about it." 1 See our " 'Tis the season to be' in conflict" section.

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Events:

bullet2006-DEC-01: Canada: Software released to combat Internet censorship: Professor Ronald Deibert, director of the Citizen Lab at the University of Toronto, announced the availability of new software to attack Internet censorship. About 40 countries worldwide prevent their citizens from accessing the Internet freely. Saudi Arabia prevents their citizens from accessing this web site, for example. The new software is called Psiphon and is freely available at http://psiphon.civisec.org/ Any person can download the program to their home computer. They then send a unique web address to anyone suffering from Internet censorship; the latter can connect to the Psiphon program and surf the net freely via an encrypted link. Deibert said:

"There’s been an alarming increase in Internet censorship and surveillance practices worldwide, most of it in secret without any public accountability or transparency. Psiphon is meant to address that problem and restore the original promise of the Internet as a forum for free expression and access to information." 9

bullet2006-DEC-01: Canada: Same-sex marriage legislation to be reconsidered: LifeSiteNews reported that the Conservative Government will introduce a motion to Parliament during the week of DEC-03 to prevent future same-sex couples from marrying in Canada. The wording of the motion is:

"That this house call on the government to introduce legislation to restore the traditional definition of marriage without affecting civil unions, and while respecting existing same sex marriages." 2

This wording is curious for a couple of reasons:
bulletTo our knowledge, legislation creating civil unions as a state separate from marriage does not exist in Canada. That is, no Canadian couples have ever been civil unionized.
bulletThe Federal Marriage Act defines "for civil purposes, ... the lawful union of two persons to the exclusion of all others" as the definition of marriage. [Emphasis ours] So a civil union is marriage for any two persons, whether of the same or opposite sex.
bulletIf the government wished to respect existing same-sex marriages, then they would allow other loving, committed same-sex couples to marry in the future. 2

More info.

bullet2006-DEC-02: ND: Native tribe to bar religious group from interrupting funeral: Members of the Westboro Baptist Church of Topeka, KS, believe that American soldiers are dying because of a punishment from God for the tolerance of homosexuals in the U.S. They often attend soldiers' funerals with virulently anti-gay signs. Tribal leaders passed a resolution on DEC-01 that prohibits the group from demonstrating on the reservation during the funeral of Goodiron, 25, of Mandaree, (a.k.a. Young Eagle) who died in Afghanistan. Marcus Wells Jr., chairman of the Three Affiliated Tribes issued a statement saying:

"We recognize and respect the right to free speech and the public's right to assemble, but we want everyone to know that the Three Affiliated Tribes, as a sovereign tribal government, has the right to regulate any person or persons who harass and show disrespectful conduct towards our members, within our boundaries."

Wells said that the tribal police will prevent the protestors from entering the reservation. 4

bullet2006-DEC-06: USA: Thomas Nelson publishing imposing theology test on authors: Thomas Nelson is consolidating all 21 of its imprints in its "One Company" initiative. Further, they will require all authors entering into future contracts to signal their agreement both with the Nicene Creed and Philippians 4:8:

"Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things."

This "content filter" applies even to non-religious books, like those dealing with business topics. Benny Hinn, other Charismatic authors, and Church of Christ authors like Max Lucado who reject creedal formulations may be left out in the cold. 3

bullet2006-DEC-06: MI: University student organization may make history: Young Americans for Freedom (YAF) may have the honor of becoming the first university-funded group in the U.S. to be listed as a hate organization by the Intelligence Project for the Southern Poverty Law Center. The Center also lists some Christian Identity churches, neo-Nazi organizations, Ku Klux Klan groups, the Nation of Islam, and Black Panther organizations. The YAF has sponsored a number of recent minority-bashing events including "Catch an Illegal Immigrant Day." On NOV-20, they protested a proposed civil rights ordinance that would protect persons of all sexual orientations (heterosexuals, homosexuals, bisexuals) and transgender person from discrimination. They held signs with slogans like "Straight Power" and "End Faggotry." 8
bullet2006-DEC-06: USA: The Jewish Conservative tradition Judaism accepts gays and lesbians: The 25-member Rabbinical Assembly Committee on Jewish Law and Standards issued a series of advisory reports that both recommended acceptance and discouraged acceptance of gay and lesbian candidates for ordination as rabbis. They recommended that "committed gay relationships" should be recognized, but not blessed. They retain the interpretation of Leviticus 18:22 that prohibits anal intercourse between two men. The result is a type of local option for synagogues and rabbinical schools. Liberals and conservatives in the movement can each adopt conflicting policies. More details.
bullet2006-DEC-07: Canada: Government motion defeated: Same-sex marriage had been available across Canada, with the exception of Prince Edward Island, since 2005-JUL-20. That province capitulated later in the year, but only after the threat of a lawsuit.

On 2006-DEC-07, at 3:21 PM ET, a vote was concluded on a motion by the ruling Conservative Party which would have reopened same-sex marriage for debate. The motion was rejected 175 to 123. Various commentators had earlier predicted a spread of 30 to 40 votes. The actual spread was an impressive 52! Some observers speculate that some Liberals who are religious and/or social conservatives were expected to vote for the motion, but decided to vote against it because it respected existing same-sex marriages and accepted civil unions which would have given some or all of the benefits of marriage to same-sex couples. Their preference would have been to reduce same-sex couples, including married couples, to the status of roommates.

The matter is now at least temporarily settled for the over 12,000 same-sex couples who have married since same-sex marriage became available across the country. Of course, it may be dusted off by some future government, who may wish to force same-sex couples to go through the agony of not knowing if one of their most fundamental rights -- the right to marry the person that they love and have made a commitment to -- will be again terminated by a extreme conservative government. More details.
bullet2006-DEC-11: Iran: Government sponsored conference of Nazi Holocaust deniers: The Iranian government sponsored a two-day conference "Review of the Holocaust: Global View." It was attended by 67 assorted Holocaust deniers, minimalist Holocaust scholars, and white supremacists from a total of thirty countries. 1 Ironically, the conference was held during International Human Rights Week, which renews the pledges of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Rasoul Mousavi, head of the Foreign Ministry’s Institute for Political and International Studies, gave a welcoming speech. He said that the conference provided an opportunity to discuss the Holocaust "away from Western taboos and the restriction imposed on them in Europe." It was intended to include participants who affirmed, denied, and minimized the reality of the Nazi Holocaust. However, the New York Times reported that:

"... none of the speeches collected in the ministry’s book or any of the exhibitions spoke of the reality of the Nazi killing. A CD with the stories of 12 Holocaust survivors was said to be available."

More info.

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bullet2006-DEC-12: MD: Baptist Church fined for picketing: The Westboro Baptist Church of Topeka KS teaches that U.S. soldiers are dying in Iraq because America is excessively tolerant of gays and lesbians. They maintain the well known hate website "GodHatesFags." The Church has been demonstrating at recent funerals of armed forces personnel. Albert Snyder of York, PA, sued the church because of their picketing at his son's funeral, Lance Corporal Matthew Snyder, who was killed in Iraq during 2006-MAR. The lawsuit stated that church members violated the family's right to privacy, and defamed both the Marine and his family. The church has been ordered to pay in excess of $3,000. 5
bullet2006-DEC-14: FL: Hate web site suspended: "WrightWingHowler.com" was an anti-Muslim web site whose webmaster lives in the Tampa, FL area. Some examples:
bulletOn the topic "Love Your Kids? Fear For Their Future? Kill All Muslim Kids!!!!," the author wrote: "Makes sense to me. After all, if Muslims are raising their little crumb-snatching, curtain climbing, ankle biting rug rats to strap on bombs in order to kill us, it is logically correct to assume that in order to stop that from happening we need to kill all Muslim kids. Starting now."
bulletThe office of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-Tampa) states:
"Other entries on the site contain obscene and hate-filled attacks on Islam and Muslims, as well as support for violent actions. One entry states: 'It's bad enough some [expletive deleted] in Minnesota elect a Muslim to Congress but the people in Michigan might have done them one better. . .Start sticking [sic] up on guns and ammo. The war will start soon'."

When we checked on the web site, we received a notice from the web hosting service: "This Account Has Been Suspended." 6

bullet2006-DEC-14: MN, DC: Representatives-elect swearing-in ceremony: Members of Congress are initially sworn in as a group who raise their right hands. Afterwards, some repeat the oath in private. Of these, some place their hand on a Christian Bible, some on the Torah, and some on no book at all. The second swearing in has no legal meaning. There is no requirement that a member of Congress use any holy book. Keith Ellison (D-MN), a Muslim, plans to take the private ceremony while holdin a Qur'an.

Dennis Prager, a columnist and talk radio host from Los Angeles, CA, has said that Ellison should take the oath on a Bible:

"not because of any American hostility to the Koran, but because the act undermines American civilization."

He later wrote:

"Keith Ellison's freedom to openly believe and practice Islam and to run for elective office as a Muslim is a direct result of a society molded by the Bible and the people who believed in it, a fact he should be willing to honor as he is sworn in."

Edward Koch is a former Representative, a former mayor of New York City and a member of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Council. He says that there is no room for a "bigot" on the Council. He plans to ask the Council's advisory board to remove Prager from its membership.

Prager replied: "The centrality of the Bible as the repository of our values is the main issue." 7 More info on the oath and controversy

bullet2006-DEC-14: NJ: New Jersey legislature approves bill to create civil unions: In an unprecedented move, the seven justices of the state supreme court had voted unanimously in 2006-OCT that equal rights must be granted to same-sex couples. By a 7 to 0 vote, the court determined that the state constitution's equal treatment clause requires that all citizens have the right to access the protections of marriage regardless of sex, and that their children must enjoy equal rights whether their parents are of the same or opposite sexes. They left the decision whether to create same-sex marriage or same-sex unions up to the legislature. 7 On 2006-DEC-14, both chambers of the New Jersey legislature passed a bill to legalize civil unions for same-sex couples. More details.
bullet2006-DEC-17: VA: Eight Anglican churches vote to leave the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia: Concerned about the Episcopal Church, USA's policies on sexual orientation, eight congregations in northern Virginia voted to leave the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia. In the 275 year old Falls Church, the vote was 1,228 to 127 to leave the diocese, and 1,279 to 77 to try to keep control of the congregation's property. The Rev, John Yates said: 

"God is going to lead this church forward in ministry. This whole situation isn't about us. It's about the next generation and the next and the next ... For the sake of the children, we must be faithful to Christ."

Kim Cooke, a former vestry member, said:

"I wasn't at all surprised. This church has always made a point of being faithful to the Scriptures and God. When faced with a choice between man and God, it was an easy choice."

The Washington Times reports:

"Most of the departing churches will affiliate with the Convocation of Anglicans in North America (CANA), a Fairfax-based organization under the Anglican Diocese of Nigeria, headed up by Archbishop Peter J. Akinola. Martyn Minns, the rector at Truro Church in Fairfax, was appointed its bishop and will head its approximately 25 U.S. congregations."

Tom Wilson, senior warden at the Falls Church said of Mr. Yates and Bishop Minns:

"This was the fruit of those two rectors tending their vineyards. By standing in their pulpits for many years, teaching the Bible to their congregants, when it came to this crisis, their congregants responded with an overwhelming vote." 10

bullet2006-DEC-19: USA: The lucrative business of keeping Christ in Christmas: Daniel Burke of the Religious News Service wrote an article about the financial benefits to conservative Christian groups who are fighting the Christmas War. He wrote:

"The Mississippi-based American Family Association (AFA) says it has sold more than 500,000 buttons and 125,000 bumper stickers bearing the slogan 'Merry Christmas: It's Worth Saying'."

"The Alliance Defense Fund, a Christian legal aid group that boasts a network of some 900 lawyers standing ready to 'defend Christmas,' says it has moved about 20,000 'Christmas packs.' The packs, available for a suggested $29 donation, include a three-page legal memo and two lapel pins."

"And Liberty Counsel, a conservative law firm affiliated with the Rev. Jerry Falwell, says it has distributed for free 16,000 legal memos on celebrating Christmas."

"Leaders say demand for the goods—which are pitched online and through e-mail to supporters—is driven by what they view as a coordinated effort to secularize Christmas."

The AFA found the Christmas outreach so successful that they plan to make Easter buttons available this spring. 11

bullet2006-DEC-29: Iraq: Saddam Hussein executed: Saddam Hussein, the former dictator of Iraq was executed by hanging just before 6 AM local time on Saturday, DEC-30 (10 PM Friday DEC-29 ET). Details about world reaction to his execution.

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Links to religious news sources:

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

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References used:

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

  1. Chris Ortiz, "Grow Up, America!," Chalcedon Blog, 2006-NOV-28, at: http://www.chalcedon.edu/
  2. John-Henry Westen, "BREAKING - Conservative Party Marriage Motion Wording Revealed," LifeSiteNews.com, 2006-DEC-01, at: http://www.lifesite.net/
  3. Jana Riess, "Nelson Tightens Editorial Standards for Authors," Religion BookLine, 2006-DEC-06.
  4. James McPherson, "N.D. tribe barring church protestors," Associated Press, 2006-DEC-02, at: http://my.earthlink.net/
  5. "Hate Groups: Westboro Baptist Church To Pay Marine Funeral Costs," Associated Press, 2006-DEC-12, at: http://www.religionnewsblog.com/
  6. "FL web host asked to drop 'Kill all Muslim kids' site, CAIR, 2006-DEC-14.
  7. Jacqueline Trescott. "Ed Koch Calls For Ouster Of 'Bigot' On Holocaust Board," Washington Post, 2006-DEC-14, at: http://www.washingtonpost.com/
  8. Todd Heywood, "MSU student group likely to get ‘hate group’ status," City Pulse, Lansing, MI, 2006-DEC-06, at: http://www.lansingcitypulse.com/
  9. W.D. Lighthall, "U of T tool circumvents Internet censorship. Software allow citizens to access information currently blocked by their governments," 2006-NOV-28, at: http://www.news.utoronto.ca/
  10. Julia Duin, "8 Virginia flocks break away," The Washington Times, 2006-DEC-18, at: http://www.washtimes.com/
  11. Daniel Burke, "Christmas Wars Prove Lucrative Fundraising Opportunity for Advocacy Groups,"
    posted on 2006-DEC-19 to: http://www.christianitytoday.com/

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Copyright © 2006 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally written: 2006-DEC-02
Latest update: 2007-JAN-06
Author: B.A. Robinson

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