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NEWS OF RELIGIOUS CONFLICT & INTOLERANCE,

2004-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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bullet2004-MAY-1: Orthodox church leader suspends relations with head of Greek Orthodox Church: A dispute arose in late April between Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I, the spiritual leader of about 300 million Orthodox Christians, and the leader of the Greek Orthodox Church, Archbishop Christodoulos.  The latter appointed three metropolitan bishops in Northern Greece and on Aegean Sea islands without the prior approval of Bartholomew. Patriarch Bartholomew directly controls several Greek Orthodox churches, including the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America. He is also considered the head of 14 autonomous Orthodox churches, including those of Albania, Bulgaria, Greece, Romania, Russia and Serbia. He announced that he had severed relations with the after a meeting of 41 international bishops, saying: "We have exhausted all our efforts for peace and unity. So today we have taken this unanimous decision with pain in our souls." Archbishop Christodoulos said: "Our actions have been in accordance with 75 years of peaceful practice -- nothing more, nothing less...Despite my personal bitterness...the Church of Greece will continue to support the Ecumenical Patriarchate just as it always has."
bullet2004-MAY-1: Roman Catholic diocese threatens believers with Hell if they vote Democrat: Michael Sheridan, the bishop of the Roman Catholic diocese of Colorado Springs, CO has announced that anyone voting for a politician who supports same-sex marriage, access to abortion, stem cell research or physician assisted suicide will be denied communion in the church. Since essentially all of the politicians who support one or more of these policies and who stand a chance of being elected are Democrats, this statement effectively prohibits Roman Catholics from voting for Democratic candidates. He wrote in the diocese's newspaper that the 2004 Presidential election will be one of the most imporant in history -- "critical in the battle to restore the right to life of all its citizens, especially the unborn and the elderly and infirm." This may be a reference to the appointment of three or four replacement justices to the U.S. Supreme Court by the next president, which will have a profound effect on the American culture for decades in the future. He continued: "Any Catholic politicians who advocate for abortion, for illicit stem cell research or any form of euthanasia ipso factoplace themselves outside of full communion with the church and so jeopardize their salvation...Any Catholics who vote for candidates that stand for abortion illicit stem cell research or euthanasia suffer the same fateful consequences.

John Kerry, the presumed Democratic presidential nominee is both a Catholic and a supporter of abortion access.

Other bishops have threatened to deny communion to politicians who deviate from the church's teaching in social matters. However, this is the first in the U.S. to threaten voters with sanctions. 18
bullet2004-MAY-7: Muslim organization views prisoner abuse as motivated by religious hatred: The Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC) is a Muslim civil rights organization in the U.S. They conducted a joint press conference with the Arab American Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC). They linked the recently released information on the torture of Iraqi prisoners by American soldiers to religious hatred. They noted: "that the head of military intelligence [in the U.S. Army], Gen. Boykin, is on record as casting the war on terror as a religious war, as saying that the enemy is 'a guy called Satan,' and that Muslims worship 'an idol'." They suggest that: "The President and the Congress should be more concerned with addressing root causes of this hideous behavior by our military rather than the largely [i]neffective damage control we have been witnessing. Only the American people can eradicate this strain of hate. It is time to hold accountable those who are instigating hatred against Arabs and Islam as they are undermining fundamental American values and increasing the threat to our national security. We can no longer allow voices of hate and fear to go unchallenged in our society." 12
bulletWeek of 2004-MAY-2: Nigeria: Christians slaughter up to 600 Muslims: A predominantly Christian group murdered as many as 600 Mulsims in Yelwa, a town in central Nigeria. Thousands of Muslims in Kano Nigeria organized a demonstration on MAY-12 to protest the slaughter. Later, some retaliated with machetes and clubs. Police confirmed that at least 30 were killed. Remi Oyo, spokesperson for President Olusegun Obasanjo said: "The Kano situation is an unfortunate development and just a reverberation of what happened in Yelwa." 13
bullet2004-MAY-11: UK: Woman dies after refusing medical treatment: Doctors testified at Hornsey Coroner's Court Angela Jean Shipperley, 36, would have had a "fighting chance" of survival if she had accepted medicat treatment involving blood products. She was pregnant and suffering from pre-eclamsia which triggered her fetus to be born early. This caused a rare complication called Help Syndrome which lowered her hemoglobin level to undetectable levels. Miss Kerslake testified: "Despite being told a blood transfusion could mean the difference between life or death, the patient refused a blood transfusion. She was an intelligent lady who understood the consequences of refusing the treatment." Shipperley was a Jehovah's Witness which recommends that its members not accept transfusions of blood or some blood products. 14
bullet2004-MAY-12: MI: ACLU helps Christian student avoid censorship: Under pressure from the American Civil Liberties Union, the Utica Community School District settled out of court a dispute with Abbey Moler, valedictorian of Stevenson High School in Sterling Heights, MI. The school's yearbook had profiled Moler and a number of other outstanding graduates. Each student was invited to share their thoughts with the rest of the school. Moler, a devout Christian submitted the comment: "I would like to share a favorite verse that shapes my life and guides me from day to day: 'For I know the plans I have for you,' declares the Lord, 'plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.' Jeremiah 29:11 (New International Bible [sic])." In an obvious violation of her First Amendment rights, he school refused to publish her comment because of its religious content. They did not even have the decency to tell Moler in advance. She only found out after the yearbook had been published. The school district agreed to place a sticker with her original entry in those copies of the yearbook which were still at the school, to send Moler a letter of apology, to instruct the yearbook staff to not censor political or religious speech, and to continue to train school staff on free speech and religious freedom issues.15,16
bullet2004-MAY: Chile: Ministry official fired for endorsing condom campaign: Juan Domingo Silva, the public affairs chief at the Health Ministry's AIDS prevention office was fired because he endorsed a one-time campaign by a state run newspaper to distribute free condoms. The goal was to help combat the transmission of HIV -- the sexually transmitted disease that causes AIDS. Chile is a predominantly Roman Catholic country. The church opposes the use of condoms. 17
bullet 2004-MAY-18: World: DevilThinking and DevilThought domain names available: A woman from Lemon Grove CA, identified as SoulDusties has registered  six Internet domain names: Devilthinking.com, Devilthought.com, and their equivalents in the ".net" and ".org" top level domain. Judging by her Email address, she is concerned with violence against children. Her ad on Ebay states: "These 6 Domain names speak for themselves. They can be used to show the devil's bad or good influence on the world depending on your point of view." Referring to recent news items involving the beheading of an American and abuse of prisoners in Iraq, she concludes that "...the influences of Devilthinking and Devilthoughts are evident all around us. On May-08, she placed an ad on Ebay to sell these six domain names, with a starting bid of $1,000,000. I went to the Ebay site and tried to give them my two cents worth -- i.e. a bid of $0.02. My offer was rejected.  I would personally value devilthinking.com and devilthought.co as slightly more valuable than the same names in the .biz, .us, .tv, .info, .ws, or .cc top level domain. All of these which are available for $35.00 per year from www.Register.com . They are probably available for much less elsewhere. The bidding closes at about 6:30 PM ET. With only eight hours to go, there have not been any bids yet.
bullet2004-MAY: TX: Unitarian Congregation denied tax exempt status: Texas Comptroller Carole Keeton Strayhorn has denied tax exempt status to a Unitarian Universalist congregation in Denison, TX. The Star-Telegram of Dallas states that the "...church isn't really a religious organization -- at least for tax purposes. Its reasoning: the organization 'does not have one system of belief'." Jesse Ancira, the comptroller's chief lawyer, said that the government has applied a consistent standard. For any organization to qualify as a religion, members must have "simply a belief in God, or gods, or a higher power. We have got to apply a test, and use some objective standards. We're not using the test to deny the exemptions for a particular group because we like them or don't like them." Apparently, another reason for denying tax exempt status is the lack of public meetings. The Comptroller denied certification for a New Age group and a Wiccan group because their services were closed to the public. It appears that the government is refusing to recognize religious groups which differ from the traditional pattern. They must have a single system of belief; they must teach that one or more deities exist; they must hold public services. Thus, Pagan, Atheist, Agnostic, Ethical Culture, Buddhist, Mormon, Unitarian Universalist, and similar organizations are not considered religious groups by the state.

Church officials believe that this is the first case in the U.S. where a Unitarian Universalist church has been denied tax exempt status because of its religious philosophy. Dan Althoff, church board president said: "I was surprised -- surprised and shocked -- because the Unitarian church in the United States has a very long history." He noted that father-and-son presidents John Adams and John Quincy Adams were both Unitarians. So was Thomas Jefferson. Other Unitarian Universalist congregations in the state are concerned that their tax exempt status may now be revoked at any time. 19
bullet2004-MAY-25: Massachusetts: Boston Archdiocese to close parishes: Faced with enormous costs as a result of clergy sex abuse scandals, shrinking attendance by members at mass, and reduced donations from the public, Archbishop Sean O'Malley released a list of 70 of its 357 parishes which are to close. Closings will be distributed through the rest of 2004. Five new parishes will be created by mergers, resulting in a net loss of 65 congregations. Another five churches will remain open as worship sites. However, they will be maintained by neighboring parishes and their membership will be merged with existing congregations.

Parishes can appeal the decision to the Archbishop. If unsuccessful, the can appeal to the Vatican, but only on procedural grounds. 20
bullet2004-MAY-26: Group promotes creation of Christian state: ChristianExodus.org proposes that 50,000 or more Christians migrate to one U.S. state and promote the severance of its connection with the rest of the country. They are considering Alabama, Mississippi and South Carolina as possible destinations. They feel that they would enjoy religious freedom in a Christian theocracy. They suggest that they would be free of burdensome taxation, and federal meddling in local affairs. They suggest that "liberties we have lost to liberalism over the past century will be restored in one fell swoop." They list a number of "atrocities" that would be corrected, including: abortion access, school prayer, Biblical instruction in schools, public posting of the Ten Commandments, decriminalization of homosexual behavior, same-sex marriage, freedom to preach. 21
bullet2004-MAY-28: The movie Saved! is released: This United Artists movie was released to 20 theatres; it will be shown at an expanded number at a later date. It is a comedy involving two popular female students at a conservative Christian High School in the U.S.  Mary is played by Jena Malone; Hillary by Mandy Moore. At the start of their senior year, Mary finds out that she is pregnant. Her friend turns against her, as does the most of the rest of the student body. The MPAA rating is "PG-13 - for strong thematic issues involving teens - sexual content, pregnancy, smoking and language." Reviewers:
bulletRoger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times comments: "Saved! is an important film as well as an entertaining one. People are going to think this movie is an attack of Christianity and what it is basically is an attack on intolerance."
bulletClaudia King of USA Today writes: "Subversively funny...unexpectedly sweet. Saved's irreverent take on phony reverence is refreshing."
bulletBrian Dannelly of Christianity Today writes that the movie: "deals with hypocrisy, judgment, intolerance and all the rest. What bothers me is not the content of the movie (I haven't seen it yet) but the Christians going on talk shows to blast the movie without seeing it just ticks me off. Didn't we all complain about people jumping to conclusions about The Passion of the Christ? Well, I'm here to issue that same complaint to my own crowd. At least wait until you see it before blasting away. If the movie is dealing in some of the realities in the Christian Ghetto then let's deal with it. I will be especially interested to see the feedback from Christian teenagers.
bulletThe reviewer of To The Source writes:  "Saved! is a vicious attack on traditional Christianity...Several Christians working on the film quit in production. A Christian rock band that was to perform during prom scenes pulled out. So did a church that was to be used for some shots. Funding for Saved! was cut three times during production....throughout the film there is an absolute corollary between being a Christian and being cruel. Each time someone declares that they’re no longer a Christian or are very angry with God then they become human and acceptable....Saved! is an attack on the concept of orthodox belief. 22,23,24 More details
bullet2004-MAY-30: Alberta: Ex-Mormon bishop runs web site: Bob McCue, (1958-) a tax lawyer in Calgary has Mormon ancestors who helped settle southern Alberta. He had a great-grandmother who was the fourth polygamous wife of a William Paxman, a high-ranking church leader in Utah. He served as bishop for a local ward for five years. He became distressed at what he learned after studying Mormon history. He grew frustrated by what he felt was the 'stifling' reaction of denominational leaders. He resigned as bishop in 2002-DEC, stating in his resignation letter: "I deeply regret that the church's position respecting freedom of speech and the suppression of intellectual inquiry has reached its current low ebb." More details

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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. "Orthodox Church split with Greece," CNN.com, 2004-MAY-1, at: http://edition.cnn.com/
  12. "Iraqi Prisoner Abuse and the Culture of Hate: MPAC/ADC Press Conference," issued 2004-MAY-7. See: http://www.mpac.org
  13. "30 killed as Muslims retaliate for Christian massacre," Chicago Tribune, 2004-MAY-13, at: http://www.chicagotribune.com
  14. "Religious mother turned down life-saving treatment," Local London, 2004-MAY-11, at: http://www.thisislocallondon.co.uk/
  15. "After ACLU Intervention on Behalf of Christian Valedictorian, Michigan High School Agrees to Stop Censoring Religious Yearbook Entries," American Civil Liberties Union, 2004-MAY-11, at: http://www.aclu.org/
  16. A copy of the class of 2001's yearbook entries can be seen at: http://www.aclumich.org
  17. "Chilean fired over condom controversy," Associated Press. Online at: Seattle Post-Intelligencer, 2004-MAY-12, at: http://seattlepi.nwsource.com
  18. "U.S. voters warned by bishop," Los Angeles Times, reprinted in the Toronto Star, 2004-MAY-15, Page A16.
  19. R.A. Dyer, "Unitarian group denied tax status," Star-Telegram, Dallas, TX, 2004-MAY-18, at: http://www.dfw.com/
  20. "Boston Archdiocese to close 65 parishes," Associated Press, 2004-MAY-26, at: http://edition.cnn.com/
  21. "Christian Exodus," at: http://www.christianexodus.org
  22. "Overview," Movies.com at: http://movies.go.com/
  23. "Saved!," at: http://www.savedmovie.com/
  24. "Saved! Director Dannelly's film ridicules the Christian audience he now hopes will save Saved!," To the Source, at: http://www.tothesource.org

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Copyright © 2004 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally written: 2004-MAY-1
Latest update: 2004-JUN-07
Author: B.A. Robinson

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