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NEWS OF RELIGIOUS CONFLICT & INTOLERANCE DURING 2002-DEC.

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

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bullet2002-DEC-2: CA: New sexual abuse law to take effect for 2003: Most states have laws which impose a statute of limitations on sexual abuse cases. California was one. Its law required that lawsuits against a church or other organization who knowingly employed sexual abusers had to be filed before the plaintiff was 26. This prevented most individuals who recovered memories during therapy from filing lawsuits, because the average age of a RMT client is in the mid 30s. 

The California legislature passed a law in late 2002 which was little noticed by the public and media. It allows civil lawsuits to be filed by persons of any age, but only for the year 2003. On 2004-JAN-1, the previous law will be reinstated. Those individuals whose lawsuits were previously rejected on the grounds of statute of limitations will be able to refile. The bill was sponsored by two Roman Catholic Democrats from San Francisco: Ms. Escutia and John Burton. It was passed unanimously by both houses in 2002-JUN and was signed into law by the governor on 2002-JUL-11.

On 2002-DEC-2, priests at California's 1,100 Roman Catholic Churches, read a letter from the state's bishops alerting parishioners of a wave of sexual abuse lawsuits that could threaten the assets of church schools, parishes and charities. Maurice Healy, director of communications for the Archdiocese of San Francisco said: "There is a gold rush to get into the priest litigation business. While trial attorneys may want to portray the church as a large corporate villain with deep pockets, the resources of the church are not infinite, and come from the people in the parishes." Katherine K. Freberg, a lawyer from Irvine, CA said: "This law has literally changed their lives. I've seen a transformation in clients who felt like they had no control, no options and that in essence the perpetrator won again. This law has given them hope." Lawyers for plaintiffs have said that they are currently preparing over 400 lawsuits against dioceses in the state; they expect many more when the public's knowledge of the law becomes widespread. 11
bullet2002-DEC-4: MA: Boston Archdiocese may declare bankruptcy: According to Best's Insurance News, "A recent proposal by the Boston Archdiocese to seek bankruptcy protection as a way to limit payments in the ongoing sexual abuse scandal will drag insurers along with the church into bankruptcy court. On DEC 4, the finance council of the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Boston voted to allow the archdiocese to 'pursue reorganization under Chapter 11 of the Federal Bankruptcy Code, if the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Boston ultimately deems such action necessary to ensure an expeditious and equitable global settlement for the victims of sexual abuse by priests of the archdiocese,' the archdiocese said in a statement." The Vatican would have to pre-approve such a declaration. Four insurance companies, Kemper, Travelers, U.S. Fire & Marine, and Gulf Insurance, and over 220 plaintiffs are involved. The insurance companies are speculating that because of the Archdiocese's cover-up policies at the time that the policies were taken out, that the companies might not have been adequately informed of the potential risks at the time. The policies may not be fully valid. 12
bullet2002-DEC-6: Kenya: Police arrest 38 members of religious group: An outlawed Mungiki religious group allegedly killed nine persons in Nakuru, Kenya. The police killed two Mugnikis while restoring order. The battle was over control of matatus (minibuses) in two towns northwest of Nairobi. Mungiki allegedly has thousands of members, all from Kenya's largest tribal group, the Kikuyu. They pray while facing Mount Kenya which they believe to be God's home. The group promotes female genital mutilation and the use of tobacco snuff. 22
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2002-DEC-9: Russia: Government and "cult experts" prepare report: According to the Moscow Times: "A group of government officials and religion experts has drafted a report that identifies the Roman Catholic Church and other 'foreign confessions' as potential threats to national security and urges law enforcement agencies to closely monitor their activities." One section of the draft report, is titled "Assessment of Threats to National Security Related to Religious Extremism." It expresses concern over the security threats posed by radical Islam, the Roman Catholic Church, unspecified Protestant faith groups, and what it calls pseudo-religious organizations, including Jehovah's Witnesses, Scientologists and Satanists. Only the four traditional Russian faiths - Buddhism, Russian Orthodox Christianity, non-radical Islam, and Judaism  -- escaped criticism. The report sates that: "A disrespectful attitude toward traditional Russian confessions helps lay the foundation for religious extremism. [This paves the way for] religious hatred and antisocial actions on religious grounds, which in turn affects interstate relations."

Archbishop Tadeusz Kondrusiewicz, the head of the Catholic Church in Russia, commented: "How can a civilized society number a church with 2,000 years of history behind and does its best for resolving conflicts and fights with such frightening phenomenon as terrorism. This is unheard of." Vladimir Ryakhovsky, a lawyer who specializes in religious freedom issues, said that it was "incompetent" to assign blame on religious organizations in the government's fight against extremism. He said: "By pronouncing Catholic and Protestant churches as the main sources of religious extremism, the authors are demonstrating a complete lack of understanding of the related issues." 13

bullet 2002-DEC-10: Anglican Evangelicals meet to oppose new Archbishop of Canterbury: Four of the most conservative groups within the Church of England -- Reform, the Church Society, the Church of England Evangelical Council, and the Oxford Centre for Mission Studies -- are meeting to challenge the new Archbishop of Canterbury. Evangelicals within the denomination had called on Dr Williams either to recant his belief that biblical passages can be interpreted to support committed same-sex relationships, or to resign his office. Figures from the 2000 Church Attendance Survey indicate that the Evangelical movement within the denomination represents over one in three Church of England members, and is growing rapidly. If Evangelicals were to withhold donations in the form of the "parish share" they could drive the Church near bankruptcy.

In a column in The Church of England Newspaper, Andrew Carey, the son of the former Archbishop, wrote: "God always has plenty more work to do, even in the lives of distinguished churchmen. Which is why evangelicals must continue to have a conversation with Dr Williams, to ensure that he understands why we believe him to be utterly wrong on human sexuality." The Rev David Holloway, Vicar of Jesmond said: "At the time of Rowan Williams and gay theology, you don’t only have to teach the truth and refute error, you also have to take action." He quoted Romans 16:17: "Watch out for those who cause divisions and put obstacles in your way that are contrary to the teaching that you have learnt. Keep away from them." The Rev George Curry, chairman of the Church Society, said: "As loyal Anglicans, we are faced with the fact that we have bishops across the world and in the Church of England who are teaching error when their job is to drive away error and teach the Gospel."

Christina Rees, a prominent member of the General Synod who resigned from the Church of England Evangelical Council after some members criticized Dr Williams, said: "I have seen a draft of the statement and, although it does not mention the archbishop by name, it clearly alludes to the Rowan situation. It is intended to be a rallying point. It refers to sexuality....Making a person’s attitude to homosexuality a touchstone of the Christian faith is elevating it to a place it has never held in Christian tradition." 14
bullet2002-DEC-12: CA: Stamford launches stem cell research program:  As a result of an anonymous 12 million dollar grant, medical professor Dr. Irving Weissman, will direct a stem cell research program involving nuclear transfer technology at Stanford university in California. Weissman said: "Our avowed goal is to advance science. For any group to stay out of the action and wait for someone else to do it because of political reasons is wrong." He explained that the project will involve taking human DNA from diseased adult cells, transferring them into ova, and growing them in the lab for a few days before extracting the resultant stem cells for further research. Stanford released a statement saying that: "Creating human stem cell lines is not equivalent to reproductive cloning....The first step in the process of creating a stem cell line involves transferring the nucleus from a cell to an egg and allowing the egg to divide. This is the same first step as in reproductive cloning. However, in creating a stem cell line, cells are removed from the developing cluster. These cells can go on to form many types of tissue, but cannot on their own develop into a human." The American Association of Medical Colleges says that: "Somatic Cell Nuclear Transfer (SCNT) or therapeutic cloning involves removing the nucleus of an unfertilized egg cell, replacing it with the material from the nucleus of a `somatic cell' (a skin, heart, or nerve cell, for example), and stimulating this cell to begin dividing." 15

Ronald Green, chairman of Advanced Cell's ethics advisory committee and a religion professor at Dartmouth University said: "We've been struggling with names for this technology — I've favored 'therapeutic cloning." Other leading ethicists call it "biomedical cloning" and draw a distinction between it and "reproductive cloning," which is intended to produce a newborn.

Wendy Wright, senior policy director at the Fundamentalist Christian Concerned Women for America said that "This announcement shows we've gone from a slippery slope to a free fall." 16 Dr. David Stevens, president of the Fundamentalist Christian Medical Association accuses Stanford of "trying to pull the wool over people's eyes. And Dr. (Irving) Weissman, (who is) heading the project, is just being disingenuous. This is cloning and every scientist out there that is involved in the scientific process knows for a fact that that's what's going on." He is concerned that graduate students who decide to do research in this field may not fully consider the ethical ramifications. He is also concerned that stem cell research might result in cures or treatments for people with cancer, Alzheimer's, diabetes, or other diseases. He urges Congress "to pass a ban on human cloning now. Once the scientists are able to claim that some kind of success has come out of this, it will be too difficult to try and ban it even if that success is trumped up." 15
bullet2002-DEC-18: HI: Westboro Baptist Church to picket in Hawaii: Fred Phelps told the Honolulu Star-Bulletin that "God hates fags." He and his group are planning to visit Hawaii in 2003-JAN "to inject a little gospel truth and sanity into that insane orgy of sodomite lies masquerading as a state." The Westboro Baptist Church of Topeka, KS, which he heads, issued a statement saying that it would protest in Honolulu from JAN-9 to 14. It criticized a brochure distributed to Kihala Middle School students in 2002-NOV which explained how young people mature sexually and summarized research on sexual-orientation. Ken Miller, spokesperson for The Center, a gay-positive support group said: "It's a sad statement that there's someone like this who will come out and denigrate a segment of our community. His message is scary that God hates all fags and that we should burn in Hell. United Methodist minister Rev. Sam Cox said: "It's sort of a Ku Klux Klan type of extreme homophobia...They sanction murder and even say that 9/11 is God's punishment on America for condoning homosexuals." 17
bullet2002-DEC-18: North America: Debate over PBS documentary: The Public Broadcasting System aired the a documentary program titled "Muhammad: Legacy of a Prophet." It portrays both Muhammad and Islam in a positive manner. According to the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR): "A San Francisco Chronicle review of the documentary called it 'riveting, informative and inspiring.' The reviewer said: 'Muhammad: Legacy of a Prophet' should almost be required viewing for non-Muslims. It sets the record straight about a man who has been demonized by those who know little to nothing about the substance of his life or his message. And it makes clear that Islam is a peaceful religion followed by people who are devoted to faith and helping others, even if some adherents (such as Osama bin Laden) distort its teachings...' " 18

CAIR wrote: "that PBS is receiving heavy pressure from those who object to the positive portrayal of the Prophet..."  On the other hand, New York Post columnist Daniel Pipes strongly opposed the documentary. He wrote: "PBS has betrayed its viewers by presenting an airbrushed and uncritical documentary of a topic that has both world historical and contemporary significance. Its patronizing film might be fine for an Islamic Sunday school class, but not for a national audience....On behalf of taxpayers, a public-interest law firm should bring suit against the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, both to address this week's travesty and to win an injunction against any possible repetitions." 19
bullet2002-DEC-24: USA: James Dobson resigns from the National Religious Broadcasters, (NRB): The NRB is an association of Fundamentalist and other Evangelical radio broadcasters. It has been suffering from an internal conflict over whether the organization should emphasize its political or spiritual role. During a 2002-JAN newspaper interview, president and CEO Wayne Pederson said that he regretted the NRB's image as a "far Christian right" organization. During an interview with the Minneapolis Star Tribune, he was quoted as saying: "But what's probably more disturbing to me is that evangelicals are identified politically more than theologically. We get associated with the far Christian right and marginalized. To me the important thing is to keep focus on what's important to us spiritually. We're all entitled to our political views, and evangelicals tend to gravitate toward more conservative politics, but sometimes in taking our stands we've allowed ourselves to be typecast and the effectiveness spiritually has been diminished. There's an element in NRB that wants us to be politically oriented – to take stands on public issues, but that's not in our constitution. Our constitution says we're to make the Christian media as effective as it can be. We need not be pulled into the political arena." A month later, Peterson was fired because of his statement and because of the controversy that it generated. A subsequent review by the NRB ethics committee concluded that those who opposed Pederson had acted in an unethical and un-Christian manner. After the NRB's board refused to challenge the committee's conclusion, James Dobson, president of the Fundamentalist Christian organization, Focus on the Family, resigned from the board.
bullet2002-DEC-26: Pakistan: Extremist terrorists kill six Christians at church: Police arrested six persons in connection with a Christmas Day attack on a church that killed three adults and three girls aged 6, 10 and 15. Eleven worshipers were injured. Two terrorists, dressed in burkas, threw explosives into the midst of some 50 worshippers at a Christmas service in the town of Chianwala. Three days before the attack, one of those arrested -- a Muslim cleric known as Afzar -- allegedly told his congregation, "It is the duty of every good Muslim to kill Christians. You should attack Christians and not even have food until you have seen their dead bodies." Pakistan's new prime minister, Zafarullah Khan Jamali, described the attack as "dastardly" and designed to "foment religious and sectarian strife" in the mostly Muslim country. 21

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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. 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
  3. Reuters is "the world's leading financial information and news group. Their web page is at: http://www.reuters.com/ 
  4. 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
  5. EWTN News carries Roman Catholic news from Catholic World News, Vatican Information Service, ZENIT, CWNews.com. See: http://www.ewtn.com/news/ 
  6. 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 
  7. 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/ 
  8. Anglican Communion News Service provides information from an Anglican perspective. See: http://www.anglicancommunion.org/acns/index.html A companion Episcopal News Service is at: http://www.ecusa.anglican.org/ens/ 
  9. AANEWS is distributed by American Atheists.
  10. CNSNews.com -- Cybercast News Service -- is a conservative news source. Their home page is at: http://www.cnsnews.com
  11. Laurie Goodstein, "California Dioceses Brace for New Abuse Suits as Law Allows Litigation of Old Cases," The NewYork times, 2002-DEC-6, Page A28; Column 1.
  12. John Hillman, "Boston Archdiocese Considers Bankruptcy, Dragging Insurers Toward Court," Best's Insurance News, 2002-DEC-5.

  13. Oksana Yablokova, "Catholics on a List of Security Threats," The Moscow Times, 2002-DEC-9, Page 5, at: http://www.themoscowtimes.com/stories/

  14. Ruth Gledhill, "Evangelicals ready to challenge Williams for the Church's soul,"
    The Times (England), 2002-DEC-10. Online at: http://www.gospelcom.net/
  15. Paul Elias, "Stanford to Develop Human Stem Cells," Associated Press, 2002-DEC-11. Online at: http://story.news.yahoo.com/news?
  16. Bob Kellogg, "Stanford Launches Stem Cell Research Program," Family News in Focus, 2002-DEC-12, at: http://www.family.org/cforum/fnif/news/A0023641.html
  17. "Anti-gay group to picket in isles: The religious group from Kansas will protest in January," Honolulu Star-Bulletin, 2002-DEC-18, Page A3.
  18. Jonathan Curiel, "PBS documentary 'Muhammad' a revelation," San Francisco Chronicle at: http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/
  19. Daniel Pipes, "PBS, Recruiting for Islam," New York Post, 2002-DEC-17, at: http://www.nypost.com/seven/
  20. Art Moore, "Dobson quits NRB board amid politics row. Family advocate sees broadcasters compromising Christian worldview," 2002-DEC-24, at: http://wnd.com/news/article.asp?ARTICLE_ID=30153
  21. "Pakistan arrests 6 in attack on church," Washington Times, 2002-DEC-27, at:  http://www.washtimes.com/world/
  22. "Government says 38 arrested in crackdown on outlawed religious sect," Associated Press, 2003-JAN-6, at: http://yellowbrix.com/pages/newsreal/

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How you got here: Home page > Intolerance news >  here

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Copyright © 2002 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally written: 2002-DEC-6
Latest update: 2003-JAN-30
Author: B.A. Robinson

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