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NEWS OF RELIGIOUS CONFLICT & INTOLERANCE

2002-MAY

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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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2002-MAY-2: HI: Physician Assisted Suicide bill to be voted upon: The "Death with Dignity Act," HB 2487, was passed by the Hawaii House of Representatives on 2002-MAR-7 by a vote of 30 to 20. The bill then went to the Senate. Senator David Matsuura, the chairperson of the Senate Health Committee, personally disagreed with the bill, and refused to allow it to be voted upon by his committee.  In a surprise move, the Senate overruled Matsuura by voting to pull the bill out of the Health Committee. House Bill 2487 was rejected by the state Senate on 2002-MAY-3 by a slim margin. It will probably be re-introduced during the next term. 11 More details. 

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2002-MAY-8: CA: Newspaper reports anti-Wiccan demonstration: The Antelope Valley Press of Palmdale, CA, reported on what the called "Wiccagate:" a demonstration by Christians against a group of Wiccans who were rededicating the Witches Grove: a store in Lancaster CA which sells Neopagan material. The ritual also involved the celebration of the spring equinox, and honored the Pagan Goddess Brigid and the God Thor. "Store proprietors alleged that Christian protesters bumped participants in the Wiccan ritual, screamed Bible verses and blared Christian rock music in the store's back parking lot, where the rededication ceremony took place." 11 Cyndia Riker, a Wiccan high priestess and owner of the store, said that the Sheriff's Department took five hours to respond to a phone call for help. One of the Christians alleged to have taken part is Billy Pricer, a volunteer sheriff's chaplain and pastor of Life Changers Christian Center. He was reported as saying that the event was "totally blown out of proportion." He said that the protest was not organized. However, Riker said that representatives from three local Christian churches arrived in rental cars at about the same time and that some of the protestors communicated via walkie-talkies. Pricer is reported as saying that the protestors only went there to pray in public for the Wiccans.

The lesson? If you are a non-Christian and plan to hold a public ritual, we suggest that you request police protection in advance. As a minimum, have a member videotape the entire ritual.

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2002-MAY-1: CA: More on Christian interruption of Pagan ritual: About twenty conservative Christians interrupted a Pagan religious service in Lancaster CA. The fifty Pagans were present near the time of the spring solstice to dedicate the Witches Grove gift store. "Words were exchanged. A praying man, who turned out to be a sheriff's chaplain, was blaring Christian pop tunes through his SUV speakers. 'Forgive them, Lord,' he said. 'They don't know what they're doing. The pagans said they felt intimidated and called the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department. Although the Lancaster station is three blocks away, it took deputies 4 1/2 hours to respond. By the time they arrived, everyone was gone." The event triggered intense debate among the locals about First Amendment Rights, hate legislation and the limits of tolerance. The Antelope Valley Interfaith Council has scheduled a day of prayer on MAY-19 in response to the event. Council President, Bishop Bernard Price, of the Orthodox Christian Church of St. Thomas said: "What technically happened was not a crime, but a great deal of hatred motivated the action. The Christians accused [the Pagans] of being Satanists, and [the Pagans] don't believe in that. It's only the religious right that believes in Satan." [Actually, Muslims believe in the existence of Satan as well.] In recent years, valley leaders have attempted to "combat the area's reputation for narrow-mindedness...[they have founded] a hate crimes hotline, a human relations task force and an anger management course for teens drawn to bigotry....The man blaring his stereo was...John Canavello, then associate chaplain at the Lancaster sheriff's station." He has since been suspended because of his involvement in the incident. 12

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2002-MAY-8: Ireland: Dean Furlong of the Church of Ireland avoids heresy trial: Very Rev. Andrew Furlong, former Dean of Clonmacnoise and rector of Trim and Athboy, had written an article on a parish web site. In it, he expressed his idea that Jesus was human, not God. This is a common belief among very liberal Christians. It is shared by some theologians who have investigated the life of the historical Jesus, and by the 1st century Jewish Christians led by James. For his beliefs, Bishop Richard Clarke suspended Furlong 2001-DEC, and initiated a heresy trial in 2002-MAR.  Furlong has resigned both posts. He hopes that he will be allowed to remain a member of the Church of Ireland. The church is part of the Anglican Communion, which is been known for its tolerance of unorthodox beliefs among its clergy and laity. 13

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2002-MAY-10: MI: Mutual discrimination between gay supporters and Christians: In the Fall of 2001, Pioneer High School at Ann Arbor, MI, adopted a non-discrimination policy. Student clubs were asked to sign a policy to not discriminate against members on the basis of race, gender, sexual orientation, etc. The Christian club could wanted to preserve its policy of discriminating against gays and lesbians and so asked and received an excecption. The school's Gay Straight Alliance, which is composed of gays, lesbians and heterosexuals who support an end to discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation complained. The group's faculty advisor said: "Either we have a non-discrimination policy or we don’t." Later in the school year, the annual Diversity Week arrived. Some Christian club students asked to participate in a GSA-sponsored panel on sexuality and religion. They were refused. Instead, the GSA invited local clergy who supported equal rights for gays and lesbians. They justified their decision on the basis that it was their panel, and that the diversity week was all about promoting diversity, not discrimination. It appears that neither group understands the importance of tolerance.

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2002-MAY-10: VA: Christian college refused accreditation: Patrick Henry College in Northern Virginia aims its services at home-schooled children. The college teaches creation science as truth. According to its "Statement of Biblical Worldview," it requires that evolution, 'theistic' or otherwise, will not be treated as an acceptable theory." Its faculty is chosen on the basis of their belief that God created the universe in six 24-hour days. The college was denied accreditation by the American Academy for Liberal Education. According to the Academy, the College failed to meet two standards:
bulletOne standard requires that: "Liberty of thought and freedom of speech are supported and protected, bound only by such rules of civility and order as to facilitate intellectual inquiry and the search for truth."
bulletAnother standard mandates that "The general education requirement ensures a basic knowledge of mathematics and the physical and biological sciences."

Patrick Henry College President Michael Farris is reported as saying: "I think what they are saying is that because we teach creationism we've introduced what to them is faux science into our courses." 14

bullet2002-MAY-17: Australia: Gays and lesbians refused communion: Groups of gays and lesbians who are promoting equal rights for homosexuals attempted to come forward for communion in various Roman Catholic cathedrals on Pentecost Sunday. Included were twenty individuals at St. Mary's in Sydney and twelve at St. Patrick's in Melbourne. They were refused communion. Similar groups in Chicago, Minneapolis, New York, and Rochester were given communion. In Melbourne, Archbishop Denis Hart blessed the group. Archbishop George Pell told the congregation at St. Mary's that "God created Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve. Homosexual acts are contrary to the natural law, they close the sexual act to the gift of life." The group returned to their pews and stood in silent protest. Spokesperson Michael Kelly said: "Refusal to give communion is the second most serious sanction in church life, after excommunication. So it's a very rare and very important sanction that's been imposed on us." Pell later read out a prepared statement regretting that "an ideological demonstration" was mounted during Mass. He said that any Catholic who who publicly defined himself as "supporting or practicing activities contrary to church teaching in a serious matter is not entitled to receive Holy Communion." He said that he would "continue to dialogue privately and publicly with those who think differently." Kelly said that the group had sent church leaders nine written appeals for dialogue over the past five years. All have been ignored. 15
bullet2002-MAY-22: NH & MA: Woman sues church over sexist policies: Susan Rockwell, a lawyer, filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Concord NH, against the Roman Catholic dioceses of Manchester and Boston. She claims that the church's refusal to consider women for the priesthood violates her right to free expression and religion. The suit asks that the church's tax exempt status be revoked, and that the IRS be barred from renewing it until the church agrees to ordain women. The lawsuit reads, in part: ''It is well established in federal case law that religious entities who discriminate against the civil rights of individuals must forfeit their preferential tax status, even when the discriminatory practice is based on 'sincerely held religious belief' if it violates civil rights, public policy, the social norm and the community conscience.'' In 1983, the U.S. Supreme Court ordered the cancellation of the tax-exempt status of Bob Jones University in Greenville SC, because of its long-standing ban on inter-racial dating. She commented: ''They are not going to stop until it really hits them in the pocketbook. If they have to choose between women priests or tax exempt status, they will suddenly decide they got a revelation that women should be priests.'' The implications of this lawsuit are vast. If Rockwell wins her case, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, the Southern Baptist Convention and many other conservative Christian, Jewish and Muslim groups could also be denied tax-exempt status. 16
bullet2002-MAY-23: Vatican: Reports on three major lawsuits: The Cybercast News Service reports that the Vatican is being sued. Three U.S. cases involve alleged money laundering, theft of property in Yugoslavia and sexual abuse by American priests. Total damages, if the lawsuits are proven, could reach one billion dollars.
bulletInsurance commissioners from Mississippi, Missouri, Tennessee, Oklahoma and Arkansas have mounted a lawsuit under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act. They want to recover $200 million from what they say is a scam by a financer who used the Catholic Church as a front.
bulletA second lawsuit alleges that several hundred dollars of gold and other assets were stolen from Serbs and Jews by the Ustashe -- the fascist organization that ruled Yugoslavia during World War II. They further allege that the money was laundered by the Vatican following the war.
bulletA RICO lawsuit against four dioceses and former bishop Anthony O'Connell has been expanded to name the Vatican as a defendant. 17
bullet2002-MAY-23: Jesus' name bleeped out by ABC: Joy Behar, co-host of ABC's program The View was commenting on her success in a dieting program. She said: "Yes, and thank you, thank you Jesus, is all I have to say." ABC has a policy of not allowing Jesus' name to be used in an exclamation. So "Jesus" was replaced by a beep. Fundamentalist pastor Rev. Jerry Falwell, some conservative Christian media watchdogs, and Joy Behar complained. A spokesperson for the Media Research Center said: "It is political correctness run amok."
bullet2002-MAY-23: USA: Dr Laura attacks Muslims: According to the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR): "In an apparent reference to Muslims and Islam, syndicated radio talk-show host Dr. Laura Schlessinger today mentioned people in a 'major part' of the world who teach 'two and three-year-olds' to kill 'infidels.' She said that those killed should be as 'innocent as possible.' She contrasted that part of the world with 'civilized societies.''

"Last month, Dr. Laura claimed that there is a 'Muslim plan' to dominate the world." 4
bullet2002-MAY-27: FL: Massive billboards of aborted fetus on display: The Center For Bio-Ethical Reform has arranged to have gigantic billboards, measuring 100' long and 30' tall, towed behind airplanes in Southern Florida. They will concentrate on beaches and other places where large crowds gather, between the Memorial Day weekend and Labor Day. They recommend parental discretion. 18
bullet2002-MAY-29: CA: School district allows gay & lesbian teachers to reveal their sexual orientation: Heterosexual teachers across North America have been allowed to reveal their sexual orientation freely to their students -- for example by mentioning that they are about to get married, or that their wife had a baby. But Hayward Unified School District has recently passed a resolution extended this freedom to gay and lesbian teachers. The board said that "the resolution is about training students and teachers about tolerance." Conservative Christian groups expressed outrage partly because the school board does not require the teacher to obtain parents' permission in advance. The Family Research Council said: "Educators, of all people, should be able to teach decency and kindness without injecting their personal sexual preferences into the classroom.  This isn't about creating a supportive environment for gays and lesbians. This is about schools usurping the role of parents.  This is about indoctrination, not education.19
bullet2002-MAY-29: VA: Governor distresses conservative Christians: Governor Mark Warner gave a speech at a graduation ceremony at the University of Virginia. He said, in part: "One of the greatest threats facing our world comes from those who believe they are acting out God's will — no matter what their religion." Joe Glover, president of the Family Policy Network in Virginia complained that the governor's remarks were incorrect because they were directed at followers of all religions. Glover felt that they should have been directed only to religious groups who harm others in the name of religion. Glover said that the governor: "... believes that conservative Christians are as much a threat or harm to society as are Islamic terrorists who fly airplanes into buildings full of people." The Family Policy Network is demanding an apology from the governor.  20
bullet2002-MAY-30: World: Conservative Christians act in stealth capacity: An article in Mother Jones magazine criticizes some Evangelical Christians who are entering Islamic countries pretending to be professionals (English teachers, health workers, humanitarian workers, etc/) Once there, they attempt to spread conservative Christian beliefs and make converts. This can produce a backlash against workers in other humanitarian organizations, including those sponsored by Christian groups. 20
bullet2002-MAY-30: NY: Unmarried partners of victims of 9-11 terrorist attack to collect from federal fund: Kenneth R. Feinberg, special master of the Sept. 11 Victim Compensation Fund announced that the fund may give substantial awards to unmarried partners of individuals who were killed in the 9-11 terrorist attack. Awards will be assured in those instances where the family of the deceased are supportive. Otherwise, cases will be reviewed individually. Since Governor George E. Pataki (R-NY) issued an executive order shortly after the attack which extended spousal benefits to gay partners under the State Crime Victims Board, both same-sex couples and opposite-sex couples will be treated equally. There are 22 known gay and lesbian surviving partners among the approximately 3,000 persons killed in the terrorist attacks. Meanwhile, Republicans in the House of Representatives shelved a Senate bill, that would have provided death benefits to the survivors of the Rev. Mychal Judge, a New York City Fire Department chaplain nine other gay public safety officers who died at the the World Trade Center. All were gay. Rev. Louis P. Sheldon, founder of the Traditional Values Coalition complained that that charitable organizations "should be giving priority to those widows who were home with their babies" and that government agencies should not be swayed by gay and lesbian advocates "capitalizing on a national tragedy to promote their homosexual agenda." 22

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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. Kristie Rutherford, "Sneak attack pushes Hawaii to brink of legalizing assisted suicide," Citizenlink News, Focus on the Family, 2002-MAY-1.
  12. Richard Fausset, "Pagans' Presence Tests Tolerance in High Desert," LA Times, 2002-APR-28, at: http://www.latimes.com/editions/
  13. Patsy McGarry, "Heresy trial off after C of I dean resigns," The Irish Times,  2002-MAY-8, at: http://www.ireland.com/newspaper/ireland/2002
  14. Art Moore, "College rejected for teaching creationism: Accrediting group: 'Biblical worldview' inhibits 'basic knowledge'," WorldNetDaily at:
     http://www.worldnetdaily.com/news/
  15. Patrick Goodenough, "Catholic Bishops Refuse Communion To Homosexual Activists," CNSNews.com, at: http://www.cnsnews.com/ViewForeignBureaus
  16. J.M. Hirsch, "N.H. woman sues over Catholic Church's refusal to ordain women," Associated Press, at: http://www.boston.com/dailynews/142/
  17. Lawrence Morahan, "Vatican Lawsuit Liability Could Reach $1 Billion in US," CNSNews.com, 2002-MAY-22, at: http://www.cnsnews.com/ViewCulture.asp?
  18. "Aerial Billboard Photo Over South Florida," PRNewswire, at: http://www.prnewswire.com/cgi-bin/stories.pl?
  19. "California Steamin': Parents Horrified by Pro-Gay Rule," Family Research Council newsletter, 2002-MAY-29.
  20. Bob Kellogg, "Va. Schools to Hang 'In God We Trust' Posters," Focus on the Family, at: http://www.family.org/cforum/fnif/news/a0020913.html
  21. Barry Yeomans, "The Stealth Crusade," Mother Jones, 2002-June, Pages 42 to 49.
  22. Jane Gross, "U.S. Fund for Tower Victims Will Aid Some Gay Partners," New York Times, at: http://www.nytimes.com/2002/05/30

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Copyright © 2002 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally written: 2002-MAY-1
Latest update: 2002-JUN-7
Author: B.A. Robinson

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