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Religious change, conflict and/or intolerance

News items during 2007-April

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Sponsored link:

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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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Events:

bullet2007-APR-04: UK: Advertising agency messes up: Hayley Booth of the agency Somerfield wrote a news release to promote the sale of Easter eggs. After providing data from a poll that showed increasing ignorance about the meaning of Easter, they wrote:

"Brits will on average be enjoying over 3.5 eggs each over the Easter weekend alone. But over a quarter don’t know why handing them out symbolises the birth of Jesus."

When informed that Easter does not celebrate Jesus' birth, they revised the last sentence to read: "... the rebirth of Jesus." Finally, on the advice of the Church of England, they sent out a second revision ending: "the resurrection of Jesus." 1

bullet2007-APR-04: NY: Anger generated be artistic depictions of Jesus: Cosimo Cavallaro formed a 200 pound, 6 foot tall, sculpture of Jesus made out of chocolate. It is called "My Sweet Lord" and is an accurate portrayal of a crucifixion; it showed a naked, anatomically correct male with arms outstretched and feet overlapped, identical to the appearance of a crucifixion victim from the first century. The only inaccuracy seems to be the sculpture's height; Jesus was probably about 5 ft. 1 inch tall. It was on display at Ranieris Sculpture Casting studio in New York City but was removed after complaints from Roman Catholics. Bill Donahue, president of the Catholic League, said:

"This would rank as one of the worst, most vile, obscene and blasphemous assaults on Christian sensibilities that I have ever seen."

A second statue in Chicago also generated controversy. It features a depiction of Jesus with the face of Barack Obama.  2

bullet2007-APR-05: FL: Man arrested for emulating actions of Jesus: Eric Montanez, 21, was charged with a misdemeanor. His crime was to feed hungry people within two miles of the Orlando city hall. He works for a non-profit group called "Food Not Bombs." In Orlando, it is illegal to feed more than 25 destitute people near the city center without a permit. A group can obtain a maximum of two permits a year. His arrest warrant accuses him of feeding "30 unidentified persons food from a large pot utilizing a ladle." They collected as evidence a sample of the stew being served.

Local business owners support the bylaw, apparently believing that cutting off food supply of starving homeless people will drive the homeless from Orlando and perhaps increase local business. 3
bullet2007-APR-05: NJ: School test of terrorist precautions enrages conservative Protestants: During late March, the  Burlington Township High School in New Jersey scheduled a mock hostage taking to test preparedness against a terrorist attack. They designed a scenario in which a student was expelled because she prayed before class. The test involved two police detectives playing the role of angry religious fundamentalists crashing through the school's front door, pretending to shoot students in the halls, taking ten students hostage and barricading themselves in the media center. The perpetrators were described as "members of a right-wing fundamentalist group called the 'New Crusaders' who don't believe in separation of church and state. Bob Pawson, a Trenton public school teacher, asked

"So what allegedly real condition was imagineered? … A grotesque scenario saturated with Christian-bashing prejudice and bigotry; a scenario which could never possibly occur."

The American Center for Law & Justice is demanding:

 "... an official apology by the Burlington Township School District acknowledging that the story-line for the hostage drill was inappropriate and will not be used again in the future." 4,5

bullet2007-APR-12: USA: Hate Crimes legislation in House: H.R. 1592, the Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act of 2007, (LLEHCPA) is moving quickly. The House Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing on APR-17. A sub-committee markup is scheduled on APR-18. The following week will probably see the bill approved by the full committee and moved to the House for a vote.

The law augments the present federal hate crimes law by adding gender, sexual orientation, sexual identification, and disability as protected classes. Some religious conservatives are fighting the bill because they feel it will criminalize religious speech that deals with homosexuality. Rev. Lou Sheldon of the traditional values coalition wrote:

"Under the cover of fighting so-called 'hate crimes,' H.R. 1592 will be used to fund anti-Christian, pro-homosexual/drag queen materials for children – and divert scarce federal resources away from fighting Islamic terrorism." 6

More information

bullet2007-APR-12: USA: Embryonic stem cell bill passes Senate: Senate bill S. 5 which would authorize embryonic stem cell research on unused embryos passed 63 to 34. President Bush promises to veto the bill when it arrives at his desk. He said:

"...It will be years before researchers know how much promise lies in [embryonic stem cell research]. It is most important to develop ethically responsible techniques, so the potential of stem cells can be explored without violating human dignity... S.5... crosses a moral line that I and many others find troubling. If it advances... through Congress to my desk, I will veto it."

The votes were short of the 67 needed to override the presidential veto. 6

bullet2007-APR-18: USA: U.S. Supreme Court upholds constitutionality of federal anti- partial birth abortion law: By the usual 5 to 4 vote, the Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of the 2003 federal law banning most intact D&X abortions. The court overturned the decisions of all six lower courts. 7 More info.
bullet2007-APR-19: NH: New Hampshire may create civil unions: The House of Representatives has passed a bill, by an almost 2 to 1 majority, to create a system of civil unions in the state. If signed into law, same-sex couples would be granted the same benefits and obligations as married opposite-sex couples.

Governor John Lynch (D) discussed the bill with lawmakers, including most of the 24 state senators. He announced that he would sign the bill if it is approved by the Senate. He told the Associated Press:

"New Hampshire has a proud history and tradition of taking the side of opposing discrimination where it occurs. This bill will go a long way toward ensuring that. ... I believe it is a matter of conscience, fairness and preventing discrimination."

The vote in the Senate is scheduled for the week of 2007-APR-22. More info.

bullet2007-APR-20: World: Catholic Church releases document on Limbo: The Roman Catholic Church has historically taught that embryos, fetuses, and infants who die unbaptized will either go to Hell directly to be tortured forever, or will spend eternity in Limbo -- a rather pleasant place. But lately, belief in Limbo has fallen on hard times. The Church's International Theological Commission has studied the matter and has reported that that there are:

"... serious theological and liturgical grounds for hope that unbaptized infants who die will be saved and brought into eternal happiness [with God in Heaven]. ...these are reasons for prayerful hope, rather than grounds for sure knowledge." 8,9

More details

bullet2007-APR-23: USA: VA caves in and follows U.S. Constitution: For almost a decade, the Veterans Administration had refused to place Wiccan symbols on grave markers of Wiccan soldiers. Faced with a lawsuit brought by Americans United for Separation of Church and State that the VA was certain to lose, the agency arranged an out-of-court settlement. It calls for the Wiccan symbol, a pentacle, to be placed on grave markers within 14 days for all families who have pending pentacle requests with the VA. This will provide the symbols in time for Memorial Day. They also agreed to add the pentacle as #37 in a list of allowable religious symbols so that future requests will be facilitated.

The Rev. Barry W. Lynn, director of Americans United said:

"This settlement has forced the Bush Administration into acknowledging that there are no second class religions in America, including among our nation's veterans." 10

More details.

bullet2007-APR-26: Mexico: Women have limited access to abortion in Mexico City: Against overwhelming opposition from the Roman Catholic Church, lawmakers in Mexico City have authorized abortions on request for women in their first trimester: i.e. less than 12 weeks from conception. Women who are near the first trimester limit will be given abortions immediately; those whose pregnancies are less advanced will have to wait until after the rules are published -- probably during the week of APR-28. More details.

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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. Ruth Gledhill, "Store gets egg on its face over Christ’s Easter 'birth'," The Times, 2007-APR-04, at: http://www.timesonline.co.uk/"
  2. "Jesus sculptures stir controversy," ABC News, 2007-APR-04, at: http://www.abcnews.go.com/
  3. Florida police arrest activist for feeding homeless," Reuters, 2007-APR-05, at: http://today.reuters.com/. This is probably a temporary listing.
  4. "School Alleges Christian Terrorists," American Center for Law and Justice, 2007-APR-05, at: http://www.aclj.org/
  5. Letter to Burlington Township School District from the ACLJ, 2005-APR-04, at: http://www.aclj.org/
  6. "Senate 'Cells' out," Family Research Council mailing, 2007-APR-12
  7. Mark Sherman, "Court backs ban on abortion procedure," Associated Press, 2007-APR-18, at: http://news.yahoo.com/
  8. Nichole Winfield," Pope revised doctrine on limbo," Associated Press, 2007-APR-21, at: http://www.thestar.com/
  9. "Catholic Church buries limbo after centuries," Reuters, 2007-APR-20, at: http://www.religionnewsblog.com/
  10. Scott Bauer, "VA Allows Wiccan Symbols on Headstones," Associated Press, 2007-APR-23, at: http://www.washingtonpost.com/

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Copyright © 2007 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally written: 2007-APR-06
Latest update: 2007-APR-24
Author: B.A. Robinson

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