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NEWS OF RELIGIOUS INTOLERANCE AND CONFLICT

2001-FEB

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We also have a list of religious tolerance news items for this month.

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2001-FEB-2: Turkmenistan: Anti-Christian discrimination: According to Maranatha Daywatch: 1
"Police raided a Bible study being held by a Protestant church in the Turkmen capital Ashgabad in the latest in a series of moves to crush remaining Protestant activity in the Central Asian state, Keston News Service has learned from sources in Ashgabad. Reports say one of the worshippers was beaten by the police."

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2001-FEB-9: Michigan: Landlord can discriminate against unmarried couples: According to Focus on the Family
John Huffius, a landlord in Michigan, disapproves of couples living together without being married. At first, he rented to unmarried couples who planned to marry in the future. But later, "Our kids were getting older and getting up to an age where they realized what we were doing and, at that point, it was like the Lord convicted us that, you know, 'We can't do that anymore.' " Focus explained: "Before long, two cohabiting couples sued John and his wife for discrimination. But the trial judge ruled that unmarried couples don't have the same rights as those who are married. On that basis and under the Michigan constitution, the judge also found that a religious landlord does not have to rent to an unwed couple if his religious beliefs conflict with that." 15 Since most couples in the U.S. live together before marriage, denial of accommodation might be a major problem, at least in Michigan. 

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2001-FEB-14: Indiana: Federal marshals seize church: According to AANEWS:
For the first time in history, U.S. Marshalls seized a church because of  unpaid taxes. Five supporters were carried out on stretchers. The Indianapolis Baptist Temple of Indianapolis, IN refused to pay federal employment taxes worth 3.5 million dollars, from 1984 to the present time. The total debt, with penalties, amounts to six million. The U.S. Supreme Court rejected the church's appeal in 2001-JAN. Pastor Greg Dixon said:  "God's judgment will be on these nine justices at the Supreme Court level.  They will pay a price, and God will deal with that in his own time." Ed Chandler, a member of the congregation, said that the Temple "will have to go on as an underground church now as soon all true...Christian churches in America will."

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2001-FEB-14: Ontario, Canada: High school mascot center of controversy. According to The Toronto Star:
Back in the early 1950's, the football team of Mitchell District High School in Seaforth ON were said to have "played like devils." From this encounter, came the school's mascot, the "Blue Devil" -- an impish looking baby with horns. Five decades passed. Now, some local Christians have complained about the use of a Devil - a term which they equate to Satan. Over the objections of the students, the school board is recommending that the mascot be banished. It may contravene its "anti-racism and ethnocultural policy." 

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2001-FEB-14: India: Fundamentalist Hindus attack Valentine's Day: According to the Toronto Star:
"Hard-line Hindus, bent on stopping love-struck couples from celebrating Valentine's Day, went on a rampage...in many parts of the country, invading gift shops, burning cards and disrupting festivities." They denounced the holiday as a desecration of the country's traditional culture.

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2001-FEB-15: Pennsylvania: Hate speech code overturned: According to Focus on the Family:
The 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Philadelphia declared the State College Area School District's "hate speech" code to be unconstitutional. The ruling applies to schools in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware and the U.S. Virgin Islands. The code banned "unwelcome verbal, written, or physical conduct which offends, denigrates or belittles an individual." Banning denigrating physical conduct is constitutional. Corresponding verbal or written material is protected under the First Amendment. Bryan Brown, an attorney with the Fundamentalist Christian American Family Association Center for Law and Policy said: "Under the code, if a student had said something pleasing about a religion or about sexual conduct, that wouldn't be a problem. But let a student say anything negative and 'offend' someone, and they would be subject to penalties."

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2001-FEB-17: New Mexico: Native inmates sue for religious freedom: According to the Associated Press:
Nine Native American inmates are suing the Wackenhut Corrections Corporation, Department of Corrections Secretary Rob Perry and five other prison officials for allegedly denying them the right to practice their religion while in prison at Hobbs, NM. Lenny Foster, a spiritual adviser and director of the Navajo Nation Corrections Project, says that this "sets back the hope, the positive outlook about life. The trend in this country toward providing or having spiritual services is becoming very strict and stern toward Native Americans because of the misunderstanding and ignorance of Native American practices." The Project provides spiritual counseling for Indian inmates.

"The nine inmates allege that after they formed a self-help group in 1998, Warden Joseph Williams began to dismantle the programs and activities they had set up." 16 

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2001-FEB-19: Afghanistan: Small-scale religiously-motivated genocide: According to Reuters: 4 
From 2001-JAN-7 to 9, Taleban soldiers allegedly rounded up more than 500 boys and men ranging in age from early teenage to the elderly in Yakawlang -- a town in central Afghanistan. Their hands were tied behind their backs; they were allegedly taken to a compound where each was shot in the head. Teleban leader Mullah Mohammed Omar has denied that this took place. However, he banned Journalists from visiting the area. The victims were members of Hazaras, a Shiite Muslim religious group. The Taleban are generally Pustun-speaking Sunni Muslims. 

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2001-FEB-19: Kazakhstan: Proposed law would restrict religious freedom:  According to Keston Institute: 14
Kaxakhstan's law on religion, passed in 1992, is being amended. The new law will be presented to parliament in early March by the Ministry of Culture, Information and Public Accord. Apparently, the changes are motivated by concern over Islamic militancy, and fear by Muslim and Russian Orthodox religious leaders of the increasing numbers of Protestants in the country. President Nursultan Nazarbayev commented recently of the need for "exhaustive measures" to prevent "the radicalization of the religious consciousness of Kazakh citizens." The changes are being resisted by the Association of Religious Organisations of Kazakhstan (AROK) -- a mostly Protestant Christian group. Birgit Kainz, a human rights officer of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) stated on FEB-6: "We are very worried - we have been trying to obtain official texts for a month now."

bullet2000-FEB-20: Virginia: Pat Robinson attacks charitable choice: According to the Washington Post: 17
On his 700 Club television program, Pat Robertson, head of the Christian Coalition, criticized the faith-based initiative of President Bush. He expressed concern that groups of which he does not approve (such as the Hare Krishnas, Church of Scientology, and  Unification Church) "could all become financial beneficiaries of the proposal to expand eligibility for government grants to religious charities...This thing could be a real Pandora's box. And what seems to be such a great initiative can rise up to bite the organizations as well as the federal government." [Pat seems to have left out New Agers, Satanists, and Wiccans]. In response to Pat Robertson's comment, Rev. Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United, said: "This means Bush's plan is in enormous political trouble. When staunch Bush allies like Robertson start jumping ship, the plan clearly appears to be sinking."
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2001-FEB-23: Israel: Death toll from Palestinian uprising: According to the Toronto Star for FEB-20 and Ha'aretz News for FEB-22:
After five months of violence, the death toll consists of about 331 Palestinians, 61 Israelis, and 13 Israeli Arabs. Under labor Prime Minister Ehud Barak, a compromise peace agreement was close to being settled. Conservative Prime Minister Sharon was elected earlier in the month by a landslide vote. He has been denounced as a war criminal within the Arab world for the actions of the Israeli army that he led in Lebanon.  Peace talks have ceased. On FEB-21, the army adopted a new policy which is forbidden by international law: that of attacking Palestinian residential areas with tanks if there is a suspicion that Palestinian gunmen may open fire on the arm in the future. 

The U.S. State Department is scheduled to issue a report on FEB-24 that is critical of Israel's violations of human rights  According to  Ha'aretz News "The human rights report criticizes the measures Israel took in response to the Palestinian uprising in the territories, including assassinating those suspected of planning terror incidents, imposing sieges on Palestinians towns and villages, and other abuses such as damaging Palestinian ambulances. A chapter in the report also deals with the government's handling of demonstrations by Arab citizens of Israel and the deaths of 13 of them in October 2000."

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2001-FEB-23: Russia: Some Russian Orthodox believers reject bar code: According to the Boston Globe:
The Russian government is issuing a computer - generated ID to each taxpayer. The application form contains a standard bar code. "Thousands of Russian Orthodox priests, monks and believers are refusing to accept the new taxpayer identification numbers, claiming the bar code...contains the mark of the Antichrist...Priests have been telling parishioners that they risk eternal damnation if they apply for the identification numbers."

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2001-FEB-24: USA: Presbyterian General Assembly Council rules on minister's freedom of speech: According to PCUSA NEWS:
Rev. Dirk Ficca of Chicago, had delivered a paper at the Presbyterian Peacemaking Conference in Orange, CA, during 2000-Summer. He discussed the criteria for salvation. The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)'s statement of faith affirms that salvation is only possible through belief in Jesus Christ. This implies that four billion humans (two out of every three human beings), who are non-religious, or who follow non-Christian religions like Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam, Taoism etc. will not be saved. i.e they will automatically go to Hell when they die. According to PCUSA NEWS, Rev. Ficca, the director of the Parliament of the World's Religions in Chicago IL "suggested that an omnipotent and merciful God might provide other avenues to salvation for Jews and Muslims and other non-believers in Christ." This suggestion ignited a firestorm of protest from conservative elements within the Presbyterian Church. They regard the suggestion that people other than Christians can be saved and get to heaven to be a heresy. 21 sessions and one presbytery called for the church's General Assembly Council (GAC) to violate the church's Book of Confession and Book of Order by either disciplining Ficca or disavowing the heretical views he expressed. Peter Pizor, chairperson of the GAC said that the council lacks authority to take judicial action against Ficca or to "make theological statements on behalf of the church." He had surveyed opinion of many Presbyterians and had determined that "women and men of good faith disagree on this matter." Neal Presa of the San Francisco Presbytery asked council members to refrain from "divisive assertions and vitriol" and to "rise above the fray" which currently exists between conservative and liberal Presbyterians. [There exists a split in the church between liberals and conservatives which has become most visible over the question of equal rights for gays and lesbians within the denomination]. In a victory for freedom of thought and speech in the church, the GAC approved a document that affirms, "the Lordship of Jesus Christ and our salvation through Christ." However, the GAC did not comment on the salvation status of the other four billion humans on earth.  They also defended "the propriety of open dialogue at GAC-sponsored conferences to explore emerging perspectives."

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References:

  1. DayWatch is a daily service of Maranatha Christian Journal. It provides "a daily summary of news headlines with a Christian perspective..." The newsletter is free on request. Their web site is at: http://www.mcjonline.com 
  2. Newsroom is a service of Worldwide Newsroom Inc. Their articles are written by "a network of journalists, scholars and other professional contacts in country." You can subscribe to their free service from their website at http://www.newsroom.org/ 
  3. ReligionToday provides free newsletters to which you can subscribe at: http://www.ReligionToday.com. These summaries are part of GOSHEN.net, which also includes LiveIt.net, Devotionals.net, ChristianShareware.net, ChristianClassifieds.net, ChristianMessageBoards.net, BibleStudyTools.net, MediaManagement.net, WorldNewsToday.net, WebCastGuide.net, and ChristianCollegeGuide.net
  4. Reuters is "the world's leading financial information and news group. Their web page is at: http://www.reuters.com/ 
  5. Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR): E-mail: cair1@ix.netcom.com
    URL: http://www.cair-net.org To join CAIR-NET, CAIR's read-only mailing list: Send subscribe cair-net in the body of a message to majordomo@cair-net.org
  6. EWTN News carries Roman Catholic news from Catholic World News, Vatican Information Service, ZENIT, CWNews.com. See: http://www.ewtn.com/news/ 
  7. Ecumenical News International (ENI) in Geneva Switzerland distributes news free religious news highlights to subscribers. They can be contacted at PO Box 2100, CH - 1211, Geneva 2, Switzerland. Telephone: (41-22) 791 6087/6515. Fax: (41-22) 788 7244 Email: eni@eni.ch. Their web site is at http://www.eni.ch 
  8. ZENIT.org is "an International News Agency based in Rome. Our mission is to provide objective and professional coverage of events, documents and issues emanating from or concerning the Catholic Church for a worldwide audience, especially the media." Their web site is at: http://www.zenit.org/english/ 
  9. Anglican Communion News Service provides information from an Anglican perspective. See: http://www.anglicancommunion.org/acns/index.html
  10. AANEWS is distributed by American Atheists. 
  11. China Crisis News Bulletin #60, 2000-SEP-25, Falun Dafa Information Center. They publish regular information on the Falun Gong via fax. Their Email is faluninfoctr@nycmail.com. Their web site is at http://www.faluninfo.net 
  12. Covenant News disseminates "Today's news for today's [Christian] church." See: http://www.CovenantNews.com/index.html 
  13. U.S. Newswire is "the leading national wire service for distribution of full text news." They have a web site at: http://www.usnewswire.com/
  14. Keston Institute monitors freedom of religion in communist and formerly communist countries. See: http://www.keston.org/ 
  15. Dave Clark, "Mich. judge affirms rights of religious landlords," Focus on the Family, 2001-FEB-9, at: http://www.keston.org/  http://www.family.org/cforum/fnif/news/A0014723.html 
  16. "Nine N.M. Indian inmates sue for religious freedom," Associated Press, 2001-FEB-17, at: http://www.sltrib.com/02172001/nation_w/72043.htm
  17. Thomas Edsall, "Robertson Joins Liberals in Faulting Bush's 'Faith-Based' Plan," Washington Post, 2001-FEB-22, Page A05

Copyright © 2001 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally written: 2001-FEB-5
Latest update: 2001-FEB-25
Author: B.A. Robinson

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