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Religious change, conflict and/or intolerance

News items during 2007-May

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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:

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2007-MAY: AL: Legislature passed slavery resolution: The Alabama House passed a resolution apologizing for human slavery. It encourages:

"... the remembrance and teaching about the history of slavery, Jim Crow laws, and modern day slavery, to ensure that these tragedies will neither be forgotten nor repeated."

Some white Republicans opposed the resolution fearing that it might lead to a request for the payment of reparations. One representative said: "What I have a problem with is apologizing for something I didn't do." The Senate has passed a similar resolution. Legislatures in Virginia, Maryland and North Carolina have passed similar apologies this year.

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2007-MAY-02: USA: Jack Chick issues hate tract targeting Atheists, Wiccans, etc.: Chick Publications is a fundamentalist Christian publisher of a great variety of comic-book style religious tracts. His latest is titled "Fairy Tales?" and involves a boy named Harry Garner. While a young child, his parents taught him about the existence of the tooth fairy, Santa Claus, Easter bunny, and Jesus Christ. When he found out that the first three were fictional characters, and that his parents had lied to him, he killed a fellow student who was taunting him. He also decided that Jesus was fictional as well. At this point, he is portrayed as being demonically possessed.

One panel portrays six profoundly evil looking individuals: a Muslim terrorist, religious Satanist, Asian army officer, Wiccan, supporter of separation of church and state, and an apparently Evolution-believing paleontologist. The caption reads "The world is filled with evil people: liars, hypocrites, pagans and God haters." Harry rejects God. Ten years after his release from juvenile hall he made the "10 most wanted list" of the FBI beside Osama Bin Ladin. He is caught, executed, judged by God -- who is portrayed as having a male body about 60 feet tall -- and sent to Hell. 1

Personal disclosure: This tract paralleled my own life for a while. As a child, I believed in the tooth fairy, Easter bunny, Santa Claus, boogey man, Jesus, God and, I think, my personal guardian angel. Like Harry, I concluded that my parents were telling fibs and that most of these were fictional characters. My belief in God was sustained until early teens when years of desperate prayers went unanswered. I became an Agnostic which I remain today. My life outcome was considerably more ethical and law-abiding than Harry's.

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2007-MAY-05: World: "Heart of the Beholder" movie available online: "Heart of the Beholder" is a controversial movie based on a true story of religious censorship, intolerance and political corruption. Although the movie has won five Best Feature Film awards, nobody will distribute it. Over 70 scenes from the movie are is now available free online. See: http://www.beholder.com/

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2007-MAY-08: North America: Stir in Starbucks: The disposable cups that Starbucks coffee comes in now contain a quotation printed on the outside. They are intended to promote discussions. Tricia Moriarty, spokeswoman for Seattle-based Starbucks, said that the quotes are inspired by "... the old coffeehouse tradition of thoughtful discussion" on a variety of issues, including religion. A quotation by Bill Schell, a resident of London, ON Canada is one of the almost 300 quotes that will have been printed on cups between 2005-JAN and the end of 2007. It says:

"Why in moments of crisis do we ask God for strength and help? As cognitive beings, why would we ask something that may well be a figment of our imaginations for guidance? Why not search inside ourselves for the power to overcome? After all, we are strong enough to cause most of the catastrophes we need to endure."

Michelle Incanno of Springboro, OH, a Roman Catholic, was distressed by the quote. She said:

"As someone who loves God, I was so offended by that. ... I don’t think there needs to be religious dialogue on it. I just want coffee."

Rather than simply ignoring the quote, she has decided to not go to Starbucks in the future.

Other quotations received negative comments, including one by Rick Warren, author of the best-selling book: "The Purpose-driven life." 2

bullet2007-MAY-09: Al Sharpton accused of bigoted, religiously intolerant remark: Christopher Hitchens, Atheist and author of a recently released book: "God is not great: How religion poisons everything" 3 was debating with Rev. Al Sharpton at the New York Public Library in New York City. At one point, Sharpton said, in an apparent reference to Mitt Romney candidacy:

"As for the one Mormon running for office, those that really believe in God will defeat him anyway, so don't worry about that. That's a temporary situation."

His comment appears to imply that Mormons do not really believe in God.

Candidate Mitt Romney, a Mormon, responded from Iowa, saying:

"It shows that bigotry still exists in some corners. I thought it was a most unfortunate comment to make." 4

More information.

bullet2007-MAY-11: Kazakhstan: Government oppression of Baptists: According to Forum 19:

"Homes, cars, washing machines and even pigs have all been confiscated or subject to bailiff's orders as Council of Churches Baptists refuse to pay fines imposed in retaliation for conducting worship services without registration. Now courts are ordering the money to be automatically deducted from wages. 'We can't do anything about it if they just take the money,' Andrei Penner - who spent 24 hours in prison in March for leading his unregistered congregation - told Forum 18 News Service from Karaganda after officials ordered his pay to be docked. 'Of course it's war, economic war,' Dmitri Jantsen of a Baptist congregation in Temirtau near the capital Astana told Forum 18. 'They want to subject our churches to state control.' No religious affairs official was available to explain to Forum 18 why Council of Churches Baptists are being harassed simply because they wish to worship without state registration and why state officials are pressuring the Baptists to subject themselves to the intrusive reporting procedures which all registered faiths have to endure. 5

bullet2007-MAY-11: India: Canadian diplomats refused status: India has refused to grant diplomatic spousal status to two Canadian diplomats because of their sexual orientation. According to the Calcutta Telegraph, two spouses married to Canadian diplomats -- one gay and the other lesbian -- were refused status. In India, same-sex activities are a serious crime punishable by life sentences. 6
bullet2007-MAY-15: Jerry Falwell died at 73: Jerry Falwell and his twin brother Gene were born in Lynchburg, VA on 1933-AUG-11. He was "saved" on 1952-JAN-20 at Park Avenue Baptist Church in Lynchburg at the age of 18. He was considering becoming a professional engineer or a journalist. However, by March of that year, he determined that God was calling him into some type of full-time ministry. He took classes for two years at Lynchburg College and then transferred to Baptist Bible College in Springfield, MO. He graduated in 1956 and became became a pastor at Thomas Road Church in Lynchburg. He married his wife Macel two years later.

In 1979, he founded a political lobbying group, the Moral Majority. It grew top over six million in membership, raised tens of millions of dollars and campaigned against abortion access, equal rights for homosexuals, pornography and bans on compulsory school prayer. In 1983, U.S. News & World Report named him one of 25 most influential people in America.

The Christian Post notes that his religious empire:

"... includes the 22,000-member Thomas Road Baptist Church, the 'Old Time Gospel Hour' carried on television stations around the country and 7,700-student Liberty University in Lynchburg, [VA] which began as Lynchburg Baptist College in 1971. He built Christian elementary schools, homes for unwed mothers and a home for alcoholics. ... [After] ... the 2004 presidential election, ... he formed the Faith and Values Coalition as the '21st Century resurrection of the Moral Majority,' to seek anti-abortion judges, a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage and more conservative elected officials." 7

He was found unconscious in his office around 10:45 AM on 2007-MAY-15. CPR efforts were unsuccessful. He died at the age of 73. 7

bullet2007-MAY-17: TX: Lawsuit against school district for promoting religion: The American Civil Liberties Union and the People for the American Way Foundation are suing Ector County Independent School District in Odessa, west Texas for allegedly promoting Christianity. 8
bullet2007-MAY-24: USA: "Repent America" called "fundamentalist hate group:" The Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education (PASSHE) gave a mandatory class called "Mediation and Conflict Resolution Skills for Law Enforcement" in Harrisburg, PA under the direction of the U.S. Department of Justice Community Relations Service.

At the class, Timothy Johnson, Sr. Conciliation Specialist for the U.S. Department of Justice Community Relations Service, described "Repent America" as a Christian "fundamentalist hate group." He had some police officers role-play a confrontation a simulated Repent America evangelism team and a group of distressed homosexuals. Another officer attempted to mediate the conflict by removing the "Christians" from the scene.

Repent America director Michael Marcavage stated:

"When I learned of what happened from a police officer who was in attendance and witnessed the dramatization, I was quite taken aback. It is absolutely astounding that federal government officials are now openly classifying Christians who publicly speak the truth of God's Word as 'haters' and wrongfully training law enforcement to remove them from the public square for their obedience to the Great Commission. This truly is a wake up call to the church in America. This remarkable example of government participation in anti-Christian discrimination shows just how aggressively the war is being waged against Christianity, where now our so-called Justice Department is actively working to silence God's people. This alarming development provides even more reason why Christians should be vigorously opposing 'hate crime' laws, which seek to criminalize Christians for their thoughts and beliefs." 9

bullet2007-MAY-31: New Hampshire: A civil unions bill has been signed into law. Governor John Lynch (D) signed a civil unions bill into law. Same-sex couples will be able to enter into civil unions in 2008-January. Episcopal Bishop Gene Robinson will let individual priests decide whether to bless the couples.  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. "Fairy Tales?," Chick Publications, (2007, at: http://www.chick.com/
  2. Debora Van Brenk, "London man causes stir in Starbucks coffee world," London Free Press, 2007-MAY-08, at: http://lfpress.ca/
  3. Christopher Hitchens, "God is not great: How religion poisons everything" Twelve publisher, 2007-MAY. Read reviews or order this book safely from Amazon.com online book store
  4. "Romney: Sharpton remark on faith was bigoted," CNN, 2007-MAY-10, at: http://www.cnn.com/
  5. The Forum 18 website is at: http://www.forum18.org/
  6. "India won't give diplomatic status to same-sex spouses," The Toronto Star, 2007-MAY-11, Page A6.
  7. Sue Lindsey, "Televangelist Jerry Falwell Dies at 73," The Christian Post, 2007-MAY-15, at: http://www.christianpost.com/
  8. "Texas: Suit over bible course," The New York Times, 2007-MAY-17, at: http://query.nytimes.com/
  9. "Repent America Decries U.S. Justice Department's Dangerous Anti-Christian Presentation," Repent America news release, 2007-MAY-29, at: http://www.covenantnews.com/

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Copyright © 2007 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally written: 2007-MAY-03
Latest update: 2007-JUL-03
Author: B.A. Robinson

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