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News of religious/ethical change, conflict and/or intolerance

2009-February

Sponsored link:


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

Events:

bullet2009-FEB-05: Iraq: Woman confessed to arranging rapes: Samira Jassam, 51, was arrested by Iraqi police and confessed to organizing the rape of more than 80 women. She then convinced many of them to become a suicide bomber in order to overcome their shame at being raped. She allegedly orchestrating dozens of attacks.  She is allegedly linked to the Ansar al-Sunnah insurgent group. 1
 
bullet2009-FEB-06: Iran: Iranians apologize for abuses of Baha'i believers: Forty two Iranian professions issued a public apology for their theocratic government's long history of abusing members of the Baha'i faith. The government considers the Baha'i faith to be a heresy within Islam; most of the rest of the world regards the faith to be a separate religion that evolved out of Islam much like Christianity did out of Judaism almost two millennia ago. 2 More details
 
bullet2009-FEB-11: Iran: Seven members of the Baha'i faith to be tried: Hassan Haddad, deputy prosecutor for Tehran's theocratic government, is quoted as saying that seven Bah'ai members will shortly be tried on charges such as: "espionage for Israel," and "insulting religious sanctities" and "propaganda against the Islamic republic." A near consensus of world press concludes that this are trumped up charges intended to attack the Baha'i faith generally. 3

bullet2009-FEB-16: Iraq: Eight Muslim pilgrims killed: Roadside bombs destroyed a pair of minibuses filled with Shi'ite pilgrims who were returning to Baghdad from their holy city of Karbala; 8 died. In the previous week, other bombings targeting pilgrims killed 60. These atrocities are fueled by intra-Muslim hatreds of Sunni vs. Shi'ite traditions within Islam. 4
 
bullet2009-FEB-16: Afghanistan: Two men receive 20 year prison sentences: A news report out of Afghanistan recalls the execution of William Tyndale in 1536 CE on the crime of heresy. He had been found guilty a half-millennium ago of translating the Bible into English.

In Afghanistan, Ahmad Ghaws Zalmai and Mushtaq Ahmad were found guilty of modifying the Qur'an -- a crime punishable by death. Each received a 20 year sentence. Zalmai was found guilty of translating the Qur'an into an Afghan language without also including the Arabic verses. Ahmad was found guilty of signing a letter endorsing the translation. Chief judge Abdul Salam Qazizada cited some interpretations of Shariah law and said that" "He who commits such an act is an infidel and should be killed." They did not give any indication of why they "only" gave them 20 year sentences. The owner of the print shop that published the translation received a 15 month sentence. 5
 
bullet2009-FEB-23: North America: Curious terminology noted on many conservative Christian web sites: Over the past few months, we have noted strange terminology appearing on many conservative Protestant web sites. They divide families into two groups:
bulletFamilies consisting of a mother, father, and one or more biological children, and
bulletOther families, presumably including:
bulletAn opposite-sex couple and their adopted children.
bulletAn opposite-sex couple and their children conceived by artificial insemination or in-vitro fertilization using sperm donated by a stranger,
bulletA same-sex lesbian couple and a child conceived by artificial insemination, and
bulletA same-sex male couple and their adopted children.

They generally state, without quoting any supporting studies, that children raised in the first type of family succeed better in life than children raised in the second type of family. Our concern is that these expressions may be the opening salvos in a war against adoption. We have sent Emails inquiring about this new terminology but have not yet received a response.

It might be worth noting that the American Psychiatric Association's  Assembly and Board of Trustees issued a position statement saying:

"Numerous studies over the last three decades consistently demonstrate that children raised by gay or lesbian parents exhibit the same level of emotional, cognitive, social, and sexual functioning as children raised by heterosexual parents.  This research indicates that optimal development for children is based not on the sexual orientation of the parents, but on stable attachments to committed and nurturing adults.  The research also shows that children who have two parents, regardless of the parents? sexual orientations, do better than children with only one parent." 6

bullet2009-FEB-25: UT: U.S. Supreme Court delivers ruling concerning city religious discrimination: A religious group called Summum was denied permission to install a monument containing the Seven Aphorisms -- statements of principles which they believe preceded the Ten Commandments -- in a city park owned by Pleasant Grove, UT. Decades earlier, the Fraternal Order of Eagles had installed a monument containing the Ten Commandments. There are at least ten other monuments in the park. Summum launched a lawsuit that went all the way to the Supreme Court.

The Court unanimously ruled on 2009-FEB-25 that "The placement of a permanent monument in a public park is a form of government speech and is therefore not subject to scrutiny under the Free Speech Clause ..." of the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. Thus, the city of Pleasant Grove, UT could choose to deny permission for the public display of one religious monument even while allowing "at least 11 permanent, privately donated displays, including a Ten Commandments monument" -- to be installed. More information.
 
bullet2009-FEB-25: MD: Financial concerns over cost of executing people: In a speech before the Maryland Senate in mid-2009-FEB, Governor Martin O'Malley argued that the death penalty in the state be eliminated to cut costs. He noted that capital homicide cases cost three times as much as homicide cases in which the death penalty is not sought. He said: "... we can't afford that when there are better and cheaper ways to reduce crime."

Lawmakers in Colorado, Kansas, Nebraska and New Hampshire have made similar arguments in bills launched to repeal the death penalty. The New York Times noted that experts say such bills have a good chance of passing in Maryland, Montana and New Mexico. 7

The Roman Catholic Church opposes essentially all executions. But most conservative Protestants are solidly in the "pro-death" camp when it comes to convicted murderers.

bullet2009-FEB-27: North America: Dobson resigned as chairman of Focus on the Family: James Dobson has resigned as chairperson of Focus on the Family, the fundamentalist Christian organization that he founded 32 years ago. He will continue with his daily program and his monthly mailings that are distributed to 1.6 million people.

The Focus board of directors stated in a statement:

"One of Dr. Dobson's objectives during the last decade has been to help identify the next generation of leadership for the ministry, and to see it established securely before he stepped away from administrative oversight. That purpose has now been fulfilled, and we applaud Dr. Dobson for this concern for the future of the ministry." 8

The Rev. Barry Lynn, executive director of Americans United for the Separation of Church and State commented:

"I do not expect this change to mean we will see any moderation in the rhetoric of Focus on the Family or its arm in Washington, the Family Research Council. For years, FOF has been the leading voice of religious extremism and intolerance in America. It has led the attack on the legal rights of gay and lesbian Americans, worked assiduously to undermine reproductive rights, assaulted the religious neutrality of public schools, and labored to replace science with far-right, fundamentalist dogma."
 

"James Dobson?s vision of America is of a divisive and narrow-minded nation, a country where an exceedingly limited version of Christianity -? the type hewn to by Dobson and his followers -? is welded to the raw power of the state. In his misguided quest for an officially 'Christian America,' Dobson would trample on the rights of millions. I am thankful that so many Americans reject Dobson?s disturbing vision." 9

Curiously, the Family Research Council's website has no announcement of Dobson's resignation.
 

bullet20090FEB-27: USA: Stem cell research bill reintroduced: Senators Tom Harkin, (D-IA) and Arlen Specter, (R-PA) reintroduced the 2007 stem cell bill as S. 487, "A bill to amend the Public Health Service Act to provide for human embryonic stem cell research."The bill would allow federal funding for research using stem cells taken from human embryos that are left over from fertility treatments, and about to be discarded. More details.
bullet2009-FEB-28: World: Ebay refuses to remove derogatory comment on member feedback: "Geeklyboy" sold an item on Ebay. He wrapped it in paper that contained some dummy text called "Lorem Ipsum" in the printing and typesetting industries. "Lorem Ipsum" originated in the 16th century and was based on text from a Latin book on ethics: "de Finibus Bonorum et Malorum" (The Extremes of Good and Evil) by Cicero, written in 45 BCE. 10 A small sample is shown below:

Unfortunately, the buyer was not familiar with Lorem Ipsum, and assumed that the dummy text was in Arabic. He posted a note on Ebay's Feedback Profile: "Seller shipped Islamic/Muslim Documentation with item. Who's side are you on?!?"

Needless to say, the seller is distressed at the loss of business that this derogatory comment will probably cause. Ebay refuses to remove the feedback, allegedly saying that the note: "does not meet the criteria for removal". 11

References used:

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

  1. "Iraqi woman had 80 women raped then recruited as suicide bombers," Agence France-Presse, 2009-FEB-04, at: http://www.news.com.au/
  2. "Iranian professionals post public apology to Baha'is," CNN, 2009-FEB-08, at: http://www.cnn.com/
  3. "Iran: 7 Bahais to face trial," Agence France Presse, 2009-FEB-11, at: http://www.nytimes.com/
  4. "Iraq: Roadside bombs target Shiite pilgrims' vehicles," Toronto Star, 2009-FEB-17, Page A8.
  5. Rahim Faiez & Heidi Vogt, untitled article, Associated Press, 2009-FEB-16, at: http://www.guardian.co.uk/
  6. "Adoption and Co-parenting of Children by Same-sex Couples: Position statement 200314," American Psychiatric Association, 2002-NOV, at: http://www.psych.org/
  7. Ian Urbina, "Citing cost, states in U.S. consider halting death penalty," The New York Times, 2009-FEB-25, at: http://pewforum.org/
  8. "Dr. James Dobson Steps Down as Focus on the Family Chairman," Focus on the Family, 2009-FEB-27, at: http://www2.focusonthefamily.com/
  9. Trina Hoaks, "AU's statement on resignation of James Dobson from Focus on the Family," Examiner, 2009-FEB-27, at: http://www.examiner.com/
  10. "Lorem Ipsum," Lipsum, at: http://www.lipsum.com/ This website contains an Lorem Ipsum generator.
  11. "Feedback Profile for geeklyboy," Ebay, 2008-DEC-07, at: http://feedback.ebay.com/

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Copyright © 2009 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally written: 2009-FEB-05
Latest update: 2009-FEB-28
Author: B.A. Robinson

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