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NEWS OF RELIGIOUS CONFLICT & INTOLERANCE,

2005-MARCH

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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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bullet2005-MAR: USA: Ministry Watch recommends withholding TBN support: Ministry Watch has issued a Donor Alert in which they advise donors to withhold financial from Trinity Broadcasting Network. They estimate that TBN has received $643 million in donations over the past five years. This is the third donor alert in twelve months. 18
bullet2005-MAR-02: USA: House passed bill enabling religious discrimination: The House of Representatives passed "The Job Training Improvement Act" HR27. If passed into law, it would allow religious groups to discriminate against potential employees solely because of their religion, even when the group is using taxpayer money to hire people to operate a job-training center. The law is now being considered by the Senate. If passed, President Bush has indicated that he is eager to sign it.
bullet2005-MAR-06: USA: Dateline NBC analyzes Benny Hinn Ministries finances: Dateline broadcast a follow-up to an earlier episode which had examined Benny Hinn Ministries. They used documents obtained by employees of the ministries, hidden cameras at public meetings, interviews with employees, and interviews with people who claim to have been healed. They focused on the Ministry's practice of not releasing financial statements to the public, Hinn's practice of often laying over at luxury resorts and hotels on his way back from overseas public meetings, the lack of documentation which supports healing claims. The overall impression was overwhelmingly negative.
bullet2005-MAR-07: Report on intra-Christian conflict and violence in Mexico: Worthy News issued a repot on religious tensions in the state of Chiapas in Mexico between evangelical Christians and Roman Catholics. The town of San Isidro Chejilte has voted to wipe out all private property, and convert it to community land under control of the town. Leaders have promised to use this technique to expel the 34 evangelical Christians in town. Town leaders of El Retiro have forbidden the Heaven's Gate Church of Prophecy from constructing a building. In Los Pozos, authorities have threatened evangelicals with expulsion. In 2003, the evangelical church building was destroyed in Los Pozos and dozens of evangelicals have been jailed. 20
bullet2005-MAR-07: USA: Benny Hinn Ministries responds to Dateline episode: The Benny Hinn Ministries issued a news release, stating in part: "Said Pastor Benny, 'As a high-profile religious leader, I know that increased success increases my attraction to cynical press interest from those who specialize in negative portrayals that come close to the point of slander. This is not the first time NBC or CNBC has chosen to air a sensational, negative story on my Ministry.  It was in response to earlier Dateline coverage that compelled me to adopt a policy that I will appear only in television programs that are broadcast in their entireties or, if edited, that I or a representative will approve the edited version. NBC/CNBC have used hidden cameras, purloined documents and other tactics aimed more at sensationalism than facts.' Pastor Hinn continued, 'In response to Dateline's request, I submitted written answers for verbatim use by the network. I offered to do a live, unedited interview.  My representatives have sought appearances for me  on NBC's Meet the Press, Tim Russert or any other television program broadcast live or unedited where I can give my responses to answer honest questions'." Further information is available at www.bennyhinn.org or http://www.thetruthline.com One day later, Benny Hinn filed a lawsuit against NBC and Dateline producer Meade Jorgensen. A copy of the lawsuit is available online. The three claims in the civil suit appear to be mainly related to unauthorized possession of ministry records.  15
bullet2005-MAR-12: WI: Gunman kills four at a church meeting and then kills himself: Terry Ratzmann, 44, of New Berlin, WI fired 22 shots, killing seven attendees and wounding four others. It happened at a regularly scheduled church function at the Sheraton Hotel in Brookfield WI. Ratzmann then apparently killed himself. It was all over in a minute. The group is the Living Church of God, an offshoot from the Worldwide Church of God. There are rumors that the man believed responsible had been distressed about a taped sermon by the church's leader Roderick Meredith. It dealt with an upcoming spiritual war. Church member Don Free commented: "I wanted to know where God was when this happened. He was supposed to be everywhere. He could have at least been there." 12,13
bullet2005-MAR-12: UK: Seven Deadly Sins, updated: Pope Gregory the Great created a list of the seven deadly sins in the 6th Century. They are: anger, envy, gluttony, greed, lust, sloth and pride. A British poll reveals that most adults in that country would prefer a very different list which retains greed but adds: adultery, bigotry, cruelty, dishonesty, hypocrisy and selfishness.
bullet2005-MAR-12: TN: Dell fires/didn't fire thirty assembly line workers: According to Abdi Halane, a Somali refugee living in Nashville TN, he and 29 of his co-workers at Dell Inc. were told to choose between meeting their religious obligation to say a Muslim prayer at sundown, or their job. They handed in their badges and left. According to Dell spokesperson David Frink, ""They absolutely were not fired. What we've got is, frankly, a misunderstanding. We're working with the employees to resolve this." Four of the five prayers that Muslims are expected to give daily have flexible timing. But the prayer at sunset must be completed within a 20 to 30 minute window. 16

On MAR-17, a settlement was announced by
The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) They said that "...the 31 Muslim employees, who left work last month in a disagreement over Islamic prayers, will be reinstated, receive back pay and be granted religious accommodation. Managers will also receive additional training on existing religious accommodation policies and practices. Other terms of the settlement will not be made public." 17
bullet2005-MAR-18: NY: Woman to lead an Islamic Friday prayer service: Professor Amina Wadud is scheduled to lead a Muslim prayer service on Friday, MAR-18. She is an Islamic scholar and author of "Qur'an  and Women: Rereading the Sacred Text from a Woman's Perspective." Women have been prohibited from leading Friday prayers, except in those situations where the congregation was composed entirely of women. She has received many threats including one promising to "blow you up." For security reasons, they have decided to limit attendance to an invited group and to broadcast the event over the Internet and throughout the media. Asra Nomani, an organizer, former Wall Street Journal reporter who has often advocated equal rights for Muslim women, and author of "Standing Alone in Mecca," said: "This is the way that extremists try to shut us up and stop women's progress. Basically we're undeterred, but we want to protect everyone's safety. If you can't protect women's rights in America, then where?" Miki Terasawa of HarperCollins, publisher of Nomani's book,  planned to provide armed bodyguards. She said: "The gallery called and told us that in addition to emailed threats, they've been having people walking in off the street and being aggressive, It became clear that this simply is not the kind of place where an event that has turned out to be a nerve-wracking, high security thing should be located." They considered holding the event in Battery Park within view of the Statue of Liberty. but Police discouraged them. Ahmed Nassef, editor of www.Muslimwakeup.com, a liberal Muslim web site said: "There was nothing specific they shared with us, but the overall picture is there's a lot of tension and anger out there and it made us uncomfortable."

Professor Wadud, said: "If there really exists a threat to my life, if my intentions and my heart remains focused on love of Allah, then I couldn't die in a better state. Life and death are not mine to determine." 14
bullet2005-MAR-20: NC: Pentecostal Church withdraws charitable support: The Central Church of God in Charlotte had decided to pull its financial support from four local charities: Loaves & Fishes, Love INC ("In the Name of Christ"), Charlotte Rescue Mission, and Crisis Assistance Ministry . The reason given was that Roman Catholics were also involved in the charities. They reversed their decision on the first two. However, they will no longer support the rescue mission because three Muslim students had been seen there helping to serve a meal at the mission. They may resume support for the Crisis Assistance Ministry in the future. It provides emergency financial aid and other help to the needy. They welcome assistance from all faith groups and from those of no religious affiliation. 19
bullet2005-MAR-30: USA: "Cover the Uninsured Week" launched: The 36 faith groups that form the National Council of Churches USA has joined with other religious groups in promoting "cover the uninsured week" which will be held from May 1 to 8. They note that "45 million Americans have no health care coverage, including more than eight million children...We cannot afford to remain silent. Speak up for an America where everyone has health care coverage!" Various groups have estimated that between 12 and 14 thousand Americans die each year because they lack health care insurance. The U.S. is the only developed country in the world without insurance coverage for all of its citizens. They have material available that can be downloaded at http://www.CoverTheUninsuredWeek.org/interfaith.
bullet2005-MAR-31: Terri Schiavo died: Terri Schiavo, 41, a seriously disabled woman who has been in a persistent vegetative state for over fifteen years died in a Florida hospice on MAR-31 at about 9:05 AM ET. Her death by dehydration has sparked a major public debate in end-of-life issues. On a positive note, her situation has prompted an increase in interest of living wills by which a person can specify how they wish to be treated if they become very severely disabled and dependent on machines to keep them alive.
bullet2005-MAR-31: Pope John Paul II given last rites: CNN reports that because of the deterioration of Pope John Paul II's health, he has been given the sacrament of extreme unction (a.k.a. the last rites) of the Roman Catholic Church. Like Terri Schiavo, he had a feeding tube installed to aid his nutrition. According to Associated Press, papal spokesman Joaquin Navarro-Valls said that today "The Holy Father was struck today by a high fever caused by a confirmed infection of the urinary tract." On MAR-30, Navarro-Valls confirmed that the pope was receiving nutrition through a feeding tube. "In order to improve the caloric intake and to favor a valid recuperation of strength, enteral nutrition has been started by placing a nasal-gastric probe (tube). All public audiences remain suspended....The Holy Father continues his slow and progressive convalescence. The Pope spends many hours each day in an armchair, celebrates Mass in his private chapel and is in working contact with his collaborators, directly following the activity of the Holy See and the life of the Church." Controversy has been rising recently over whether the pope should resign his office. 21
bullet2005-MAR-31: Plattsburgh for Peace opposes God Hates Gays: Plattsburgh For Peace (PFP) in New York State is a non-profit, non-denominational group who oppose the expected visit to their city by Fred Phelps and other members of the Westboro Baptist Church in Topeka KS. The Church maintains the www.GodHatesFags.com  web site. They are expected to rent a booth at the Mayor's Cup Festival and Regatta and picket a number of local churches. 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. World Faith News "is a data base of full text official news releases and other documents, including policy statements, from the news offices of national and world faith groups." See: http://www.wfn.org/
  12. "Tragedy puts spotlight on small, obscure church," Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, 2004-MAR-13.
  13. "Church Shooter Said Upset Over Sermon," EarthLink, 2005-MAR-13, at: http://start.earthlink.net/
  14. Carol Eisenbert, "Mixed Islamic prayer?," Newsday.com, 2005-MAR-13, at: http://www.newsday.com/. This is a temporary listing.
  15. World Healing Center Church, Inc. v, The National Broadcasting Company, 2005-MAR-04, at: http://www.trinityfi.org/ This is a PDF file. You may require software to read it. Software can be obtained free from: 
  16. Mike Musgrove, "Muslims Say Dell Forbade Them to Pray at Work," Washington Post, 2005-MAR-12, Page E01.
  17. "Muslims reach settlement with Dell, Sperhion on workplace prayer," The Council on American-Islamic Relations, 2005-MAR-17.
  18. "MinistryWatch.com advises donors to withhold support to Trinity Broadcasting
    Network; calls also for new leadership," Ministry Watch, 2005-MAR, at: http://www.ministrywatch.com/ This is a PDF file. You may require software to read it. Software can be obtained free from: 
  19. "Church apologizes for stance on Catholics," Associated Press, 2005-MAR-21, at: http://www.the-dispatch.com/
  20. "Persecution in Mexico," FBIS News Service, 2005-MAR-25.
  21. "CNN reporting pope has received last rights," LifeSiteNews, 2005-MAR-31.
  22. "Plattsburgh for Peace," home page is at: http://www.plattsburghforpeace.com/

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Copyright © 2005 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally written: 2005-MAR-07
Latest update: 2005-MAR-31
Author: B.A. Robinson

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