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CHANGE, CONFLICT AND/OR INTOLERANCE

News items during 2007-January

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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-JAN-02: NJ: The New Jersey Death Penalty Study Commission recommends end to death penalty: The Commission issued a report concluding that executions in the state serves no legitimate penological intent. They recommend that the state abolish the death penalty and replace it with life imprisonment with no possibility of parole. 8 More details.
bullet2007-JAN-10: Canada: Controversy over birth of sextuplets: Six newborns were born into a Jehovah's Witness family on JAN-06 at 25 weeks gestational age, at a time when their survival is in doubt. There is speculation that the parents will not allow blood transfusions for the newborns in accordance with their denomination's teaching. Such treatment is normal in such cases to treat anemia and jaundice. Also, unless they have transfusions, newborns at this stage of development have insufficient blood  to provide the blood samples which are often needed to monitor the infants' health. Most newborns of this gestational age require transfusions; of those that do, the average is five or six transfusions. The Jehovah's Witness' national organization issued a statement saying that there are  alternative treatments that have been used in the past in such situations. These include minimizing the amount of blood sampling, and using the hormone erythropoietin and iron to stimulate production of the newborns' red blood cells.

In Canada, adults are allowed to make medical decisions that threaten their survival. However, courts have generally ordered children to be treated against the wishes of their parents if a safe and effective treatment is available that would save the children's lives but is refused by the parents. 2

bullet2007-JAN-10: India: State passes anti-conversion bill: The state of  Himachal Pradesh in northern India has passed a bill that prohibits religious conversion by fraudulent means. If found guilty, the person can be sentenced to two years in jail and/or a fine equivalent to $560.00 in U.S. funds. Also, any person who decides to change their religion must inform the state 30 days in advance. Failure to do so allegedly will result in a fine of about $22. The bill prohibits the use of "force," "inducement," or "fraud" to persuade a person to covert. Some Christian leaders are concerned that these terms may be interpreted as including Christian services in education, social work and health care.

Similar bills exist in the states of Arunachal Pradesh, Chattisgarh, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh and Orissa. Tamil Nadu passed and repealed an anti-conversion law in 2004. 3
bullet2007-JAN-11: Canada: Angus Reid Internet poll: Angus Reid conducted a poll of Canadian Internet surfers asking them whether they approved of same-sex marriage. Results were 60% in favor and 40% opposed. 1
bullet2007-JAN-12: USA: Controversy over Senate bill S1: There is major concern  being expressed by conservative Christian groups such as Focus on the Family Action and the Family Research Council. Both groups have Emailed their supporters expressing great distress over section 220 of Senate bill S. 1, the Legislative Transparency and Accountability Act of 2007. They seem concerned about interference with their right to conduct grassroots lobbying: motivating their listeners and readers to contact their legislators and urge the latter to vote for or against a bill. This is a common technique used by conservative Christian groups that has paralyzed the Congressional switchboard in the past.

Senator Robert Bennett (R-UT) has introduced an amendment to S. 1 that would remove this section from the bill. However, the bill seems to be applicable only to professional lobbying organizations that are hired by a client to manipulate public opinion and action. It does not seem to reply to conservative Christian organizations that are motivated by their belief and not by money from some outside group who has hired them. More details.
bullet2007-JAN-12: U.S.: Embryonic stem cell research bill passes House: By a vote of 253 to 174, the House passed a bill that would allow federal funding of embryonic research on spare embryos abandoned in fertility clinics. It now goes to the Senate where it is expected to pass. It will probably be vetoed by the president. It is doubtful that the House and Senate will be able to muster a two-thirds majority to override the veto. According to the Catholic News Agency:

"The measure passed in Congress after an emotional debate in which supporters argued that embryonic stem-cell research has the best hope for potential cures for degenerative diseases. Opponents condemned it as unethical and immoral, and pointed to alternative sources for stem cells." 4

bullet2007-JAN-15: ON: Opportunity to prevent a single abortion: A woman in Toronto is expecting to give birth to twins in February. One of the fetuses, a boy, has been found to have a severe case of Spina Bifida and is also hydrocephalic (has water on the brain). He will probably be paralyzed from the waist down. She feels that she cannot face such a daunting challenge and has decided to have a selective abortion. Aid to Women, a crisis pregnancy center is appealing for a family to adopt the boy and is appealing to the pro-life community. To contact Aid to Women, call 416.921.6016
bullet2007-JAN-17: U.S.: Fairness Doctrine may be resurrected: According to CitizenLink, a service of the fundamentalist agency Focus on the Family, the Democrats are considering reinstating the fairness doctrine. This would require radio and TV stations to make time available for "the other side" whenever a controversial issue is discussed. This would make sure that the listening public would hear both sides to every debate. Lies and distortions in a program could then be easily refuted. Rich Bott of Bott Radio Network, a conservative Christian broadcaster, said that this rule would create a special problem for himself and other religious broadcasters. He said:

"The definition of what is considered to be controversial today is just mind-boggling compared with what it was back in the 1980s. For instance, today it is considered to be 'controversial' if a person says it is best for children to have both a mother and a father. It can also be argued that it is very controversial to say that Jesus is the only Way of Salvation -- or that homosexual behavior is a sin. So it would be difficult to hear a Bible-based sermon today that someone or some group didnít feel was 'controversial'." 5

Although it would seem that the fairness doctrine would improve freedom of speech, because it would allow both or all viewpoints to be heard, CitizenLink describes it as a mechanism to chill and restrict speech.

National radio host Michael Medved said that the attempt to resurrect the doctrine is:

"... an outrage. ... The First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States does not protect obscenity. It does not protect pornography -- even the courts have established that. What the First Amendment of the United States protects is political speech. And the idea of the Fairness Doctrine of getting government officials to monitor and evaluate political speech is appalling -- and would bring us much closer to the kinds of limitations and restrictions on public discourse that exist in other nations around world -- which we should not emulate. ... [The Democrats are] "feeling their oats. They are new in power. I think they recognize that radio shows like the Michael Medved Show or Focus on the Family represent a challenge and a change to their traditional dominance of major media." 5

bullet2007-JAN-18: U.S.: Attorney General says habeas corpus does not exist: At a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales stated:

"There is no express grant of habeas (corpus) in the Constitution .. The Constitution doesn't say every individual in the United States is hereby guaranteed or assured the right of habeas corpus .. there's (only) a prohibition against taking it away."

By stating this, he destroyed eight centuries of legal tradition in the English speaking world. More information.

bullet2007-JAN-21: Greece: Neopagans hold ritual to honor Zeus: A group of 20 Neopagans held a ritual in honor of Zeus, the "King of the gods and the mover of things." Its purpose was to promote world peace. The ceremony was held at a 1,800 year old temple in the middle of Athens. This is believed to be the first public pagan ceremony held in Greece since the Roman Empire established Christianity as the official religion, banned all Pagan rituals, seized control of Pagan temples, and exiled or executed Pagan officials. This ritual was illegal because the Culture Ministry bans them to protect the temple remains.

They are members of Ellinais, a group founded in 2006 that currently has 34 members. It won a court battle to attain recognition by the state. They are now asking the government to register its offices as a place of worship. 6
bullet2007-JAN-21: CA: University denies financial aid to Christian group that discriminates: Hastings College of Law -- part of the University of California -- denied recognition and financial support to a chapter of the Christian Legal Society because the group discriminates on the basis of religion and sexual orientation. Hastings' policy is to not recognize or give financial support to groups that deny membership based on race, color, religion, national origin, ancestry, disability, age, sex, or sexual orientation. The CLS has sued asking for an exemption from the law school's nondiscrimination policy, claiming that its religious freedoms are being violated. The CLS lost at trial and has appealed its case to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. In its Amica Curia, Americans United for the Separation of Church and State cited federal court precedent, that state institutions must not treat religious organizations more favorably than non-religious ones. Alex Luchenitser, Americans United's senior litigation counsel said:

"The law school's policy against discriminatory practices does not harm the religious expression rights of the CLS. The school's policy treats all student groups the same. If the Christian Legal Society chapter wishes to receive school financing, it must play by the same rules that other state groups do." 7

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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. Angus Reid poll on same-sex marriage, 2007-JAN-11 at: http://rm.angusreidforum.com/ This is expected to be a temporary link.
  2. Pamela Fayerman, "Dilemma for Jehovah's witness sextuplets. Premature babies often need blood transfusions, MD says," Vancouver Sun, 2006-JAN-10, at: http://www.canada.com/
  3. "Another Indian state passes anti-conversion bill," Catholic News Agency, 2007-JAN-10, at: http://www.catholicnewsagency.com/
  4. "Pro-life groups decry House backing for embryonic stem cell research," Catholic News Agency, 2007-JAN-12, at: http://www.catholicnewsagency.com/
  5. "Democrats Seek to Revive Broadcasting's 'Fairness Doctrine.' Government dictum is neither needed nor wanted, broadcasters say," CitizenLink, 2005-JAN-17, at: http://www.citizenlink.org/
  6. "Zeus makes a comeback in Greece," CNN.com, 2007-JAN-21, at: http://www.cnn.com/
  7. "Student Religious Group That Discriminates Should Not Get Public Funding, Americans United Tells Appellate Court." Americans United, 2007-JAN-22, news release.
  8. "New Jersey Death Penalty Study Commission Report," 2007-JAN, at: http://www.njleg.state.nj.us/ This is a PDF file.

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Copyright © 2007 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally written: 2007-JAN-01
Latest update: 2007-FEB-06
Author: B.A. Robinson

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